High Level Shortcuts

November 30, 2023 dnd

I’m obsessed with two things in dnd: giant campaign spanning megadungeons and vast wildernesses to journey through. These often seem at odds with each other.

One thing I’ve been considering is to have dungeons with big locks” between levels. As everything else in ttrpgs, these are soft locks. Obstacles essentially, that can be beaten a number of ways, rather than hard locks like in video games where you literally can’t progress unless you get the exact key the game wants.

A good example would be a part of the dungeon that you can’t enter unless you can fly. This soft locks the players from that part of the dungeon and forces them out into the wilderness theoretically to find a solution. Maybe they just need to level up until they can cast fly and come back. Or maybe just hire someone to do that. Or maybe there’s a magic item, magic carpet, Pegasus, or any number of other things that can solve that problem for them.

Soft locks seem like they’d lend themselves naturally to Sages, which I’ve never really used before and have been wanting to try. Whenever the players hit something like this they can be like We should just go ask the Sage” and the Sage can be like Flying, eh? Well you could ask Rupert the Bold, he could teach ya’… course you’d have to go through the Forest of Bleem.” (I am not good at naming things). I like Sages as just like We’re stuck, where do we go?” type dudes.

The other thing I think these soft locks work really well for is encountering megadungeons later in your campaign. You can just give players a chance to skip some levels if it’s important by making lower levels feasible to get to… provided you have the right gear / abilities / equipment / etc. (or by simply just making it open but deadly to all who come), this means you don’t have to worry about sticking some published megadungeons into random places on your hexmap worried that if players find them they’ll have levels and levels to crawl through before getting to the stuff that they really want.

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