Review: Dwimmermount

Dwimmermount is 414 pages of Old School megadungeon, derived from James Maliszewski’s campaign notes at Grognardia and published by Autarch. I got the PDF, which set me back ten bucks. My version is for Labyrinth Lord, but you can also get an ACKS version and it looks easy to port to any retroclone.

I’ll abandon my normal review approach because Dwimmermount is so big. Let’s just hit the highlights.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

It’s big. The dungeon itself has 13 levels, each with about 60 rooms. It’s set in a wilderness roughly 200 x 200 miles, with 40-odd surface locations described in varying degrees of detail, some of which have entrances to smaller dungeons (these are left for the GM to map and populate, however).

It’s detailed. There is a secret history, and the characters are rewarded for figuring it out. There is a publicly-known history. Humans and the demihuman races each have different beliefs about what’s going on and why. There are rival adventuring parties, each with a patron and a purpose, and there are rules for what they get up to in the dungeon when the players are not around. There are notes on the system of water pipes in case the PCs find some magic to shrink themselves to rat size and go exploring in them. There are tables showing which level was built when, why, and by whom; which dungeon levels each of the numerous factions operates on; how other dungeons might be connected to Dwimmermount; where the entrances to the megadungeon are and how to get through them. There are new monsters, new character classes, new magic items, new spells; to be fair, many of these are converted from other editions of D&D. There are four other planets the party can visit using the secrets they find in the dungeon. There is a substance called azoth with mysterious properties, some of them useful and some deadly.

It’s tied to the setting. Every significant event in the world’s history is connected to the dungeon in some way, and vice versa. The demihuman races (especially the dwarves) are modified, the better to fit the setting’s secret history. There are specific gods. In theory you could modify it to fit your own homebrew setting, but that would be a lot of work, quite possibly more than making your own megadungeon.

It’s science-fantasy. There are all the usual mediaeval trappings of a fantasy setting, but then you also have giant machines, spacecraft, golems, androids, interplanetary portals and what have you.

OPINIONS

The good:

  • The way the rooms interact with each other and the dungeon’s secret history.
  • It’s complete in itself, a whole campaign in one book. I’m ambivalent about this; you wouldn’t need anything else, but by the time you’ve fully familiarised yourself with the contents, you could have created your own world.
  • The dungeon is released under the OGL so you can tinker with it in public if you like, thus removing any worries about copyright infringement on your blog, for example.

The bad:

  • Most of the individual rooms are not very exciting. Yes, they’re well-thought out and they fit logically into the setting, but they’re not very exciting.
  • It’s not that easy to fit into a setting other than its own.

REFLECTIONS

In the actual 1970s, dungeons were big and contained homages to whatever fantasy and science fiction the GM had read in the last few years, and for the most part didn’t make a lot of sense. I, at least, yearned for something like Dwimmermount; a huge dungeon with a consistent backstory that could be worked out by sufficiently clever and motivated players, and ventilation shafts and sewer pipes PCs could crawl through. In 1977 I would’ve been all over Dwimmermount like a rash in a cheap suit.

But now? This is all stuff I’ve seen before, if not all in the same place. It’s well-executed, certainly; it’s rare to see a campaign so carefully crafted and fitting together so well; but it’s not vibrant or exciting. I guess you can’t go home again.

I must resist the siren call of the published megadungeon; I keep buying them, and then not using them. Perhaps I should build one just to scratch that itch and get it out of my system.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Dwimmermount

  1. I feel your pain about megadungeons. My only published work was an overview and background sketch of an uber-megadungeon. Imagine the world-sized Death Star from the new Star Wars movie, except instead of getting vaped it gets beaten all to Hell and back, has it’s star-drive disabled, has it’s major (apparent) weapon systems detonated and then is abandoned by it’s crew to drift in the outskirts of a backwater system. Several thousand years pass, during which it is periodically scavenged by assorted scoundrels who stumble across it, periodically settled/abandoned/resettled/fought-over, etc, etc, etc . . . until finally the PCs happen across it and the races/factions/criminal elements which are currently calling it home. I called it Dragonmoon.

  2. I have never seen the appeal of megadungeons, unless you call the Metamorphosis Alpha generation ship a megadungeon. But I do like cities, and maybe that scratches that itch for me. A huge place with hundreds of houses, all potentially full of different NPCs, many with interconnected plotlines, allegiances and potential for adventure. Basements, sewers, castles, strange social customs, legal complications, conspiracies..

    Yup, cities have it all for me.

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