Five for Friday 16: Loving the Dungeon

The original plan was for me to GM a one-shot on a Monday that Rob (Bat in the Attic) was unable to GM our current Majestic Wilderlands GURPS campaign. I just threw some orcs with human prisoners into a previously created very large dungeon level and turned the players loose. Now, lo and behold, we have an actual dungeon delving campaign going on Monday nights (scheduled around our MW GURPS sessions).

The last time I ran a dungeon-based campaign was in the late 1970s. I had a blast back then and I am having a blast now. Here is five things making the Montporte Dungeon work so far:
  • The Guys at the Table: Our Monday Night gaming group is awesome and they are bringing it all to the virtual table top.
  • Don't Ask Why: If you start thinking about rational or realism, you are done for. Of course, the existence of a multi-level complex in a medieval setting is absurd. I acknowledge the absurdity of it before I start and my worries about realism go away. I am not anti-realism and I like the idea of simulation in play, but I have to let that go to run a dungeon.
  • The Encounter Is King: Nothing is as important as running an encounter. Not the dungeon design. Not the backstory. Not the planning of rumors, hooks, and secrets. 
  • Go With It: There is a lot of improvisation in our sessions. Good improvisation in music requires a structure (melody/harmony/rhythm) as the base. The dungeon has the physical structure of, well, the dungeon. It makes it for all of us to improvise. When you have a solid structure, it is easy to wing it and still have it work for everyone.
  • It Is About Fun: A few years ago, there were a lot of blog posts about megadungeons...What is a megadungeon? What are the keys to designing a good one? What is the old school philosophy behind the megadungeon? All good stuff. But in the end, it isn't about the philosophy or the design or being old school. It is about playing and having fun. The dungeon is a great reminder that good play by the DM and the players trumps philosophy, design, school, and rules.
I do not have any grand plans for our dungeon campaign. I am finding that just staying a little ahead of the players is working best for all of us, so while I have been jotting ideas down in my Red Notebook, I have been intentional about not doing too much details prep work.