Node-Based Megadungeon: The Abandoned Tower

Greetings, readers-of-roleplayingtips! I see I’ve been mentioned again in one of Johnn’s notes, I’m happy to see you. I just thought I’d let you know that while this was the page linked, Node-Based Megadungeon provides a much better view of the megadungeon as a whole, along with links to all the regions, some theory posts, and even some play session reports. Oh, and a link to a ‘tourist map’ a friend drew of the place that does a wonderful job of conveying some feel of the location, without actually giving away any important detail — I love it.

I quite like Lionel Di Giacomo’s addition of ‘Transitions to the diagram and plan to write a longer response to it, exploring the idea a bit more.


The Abandoned Tower

Scenario Role

Surface-level entry point to the megadungeon.


Abandoned, broken-down wizard’s tower.


Various scavengers and other vermin.  Unstable and hazardous areas by nature of it being an abandoned building.  Some minor magical effects left over from when it was occupied, lingering environmental effects.


Most of the good stuff has been looted already, but it might be possible to find something worthwhile.  Entrance to the megadungeon.


Note that each of the nodes in the tower could themselves be broken down into multiple nodes, if there were reason.  In a larger tower I might do that, but because this one is relatively small (narrow, with few rooms) and mostly abandoned I would treat each node as an ‘area of interest’ and present as a piece.

  • Wolves from the Wolf Den regularly hunt here.  There will be signs of recent kills and wolf tracks leading back to their den.  They sometimes go through the area around the tower, but favor a path leading through a particular outbuilding.
  • The tower used to have clockworks to drive some mechanism in the tower.  The mechanism was functionally destroyed with the tower, but it is still possible to navigate the clockwork into the Clockwork Hell.
  • A tunnel leads down into the Fungoid Cavern.  Originally this was used as an alternate means to get to the base of the Clockwork Hell, without climbing through possibly malfunctioning clockwork.  A musty smell climbs the tunnel, and as you travel down the walls become progressively covered in fungus (optionally: glowing fungus).

Description and Identification


A broken-down wizard’s tower at the top of a hill in the forest.  It used to stick out above the trees, now only a few levels remain, and only the first two are stable enough to hold even a single human’s weight.  It is not entirely certain what would happen if someone tried to climb higher, or if more than one person climbed to the second floor, but it’s pretty easy to guess.  Most of the outbuildings have been reduced to mere shells, if there is that much remaining.

The region is generally cooler than usual, and anything downstream for a mile or two tends to be somehow warped, but seemingly very robust.


Anything taken from the tower is likely to be ravaged by time, weathered by the elements, and/or touched with corrupted, failing magic.  Animals from nearby (including the wolves of the Wolf Den) tend to be changed somehow.


Top of a hill in the forest, surrounded by heavy vegetation that may be difficult to pass through.  [In practice I would place this somewhere specific in my campaign.]


No actual mechanics yet, but I’ll include notes for later.

  • On the third floor, stepping on the floor more than ten feet from a load-bearing wall (outer or inner tower) causes that section of the floor to collapse.  A Balance check could prevent the collapse, a Reflex save can prevent falling with the floor.  If the person falls, the section of floor immediately below may go as well.  There will likely be pieces already missing.
  • The clockwork tower is difficult to move around because the clockworks have shifted.  Dex checks (penalized by Armor Check Penalties) to get around, DC increases as you go up.  There is likely something salvageable at the top of the clockwork tower, nobody has ever made it up there.  Probably smallish vermin, maybe automated repair constructs? roaming around in here.
  • The water downstream of the tower is corrupted.  Anyone taking a drink must make save or risk disease (or physical taint, if you have rules for that.  I’ve been meaning to write some).
  • Areas of Interest:
    • Ground Floor: ‘Public area’, such as it was.  Entrance, meeting area, and so on.
    • Second Floor: ‘Living area’.  Sleeping quarters, food preparation, and so on.  Fairly well lit because of the holes in the floor above, floor here is covered in broken stone (rough terrain).
    • Third Floor: Library.  Almost nothing remains, but it might be possible to find a mouldering book with some information of interest.  Floors are very unstable and easily broken (I really need to write down my ‘ruins’ guidelines).
    • Fourth Floor and higher: Laboratory and Observation rooms.
    • Outbuildings: the shells of buildings that had previously surrounded the tower.  The stone walls have generally held up well, pretty much everything else is gone.
    • Clockwork Tower: full of gears and broken clockworks.  Increasingly difficult to navigate the higher you go.  At the top may be a salvageable device.  Populated by repair automatons, more the lower you go.
Megadungeon: Abandoned Tower
Megadungeon: Abandoned Tower



  1. Pingback: Node-Based Megadungeon: Clockwork Hell | Keith Davies — In My Campaign - Keith's thoughts on RPG design and play.

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  10. Random ideas time:

    The tower’s most reliable spells are the security-related ones which guard the front door. A magic mouth interrogates visitors, and an array of forcefields and evocations prevent brute-forcing through it. I mean, the gaping hole in the collapsed wall a few metres left of the door means you don’t need to worry about any of it, but it’s a nice piece of construction and the fireworks display when an unwitting squirrel wanders through a forbidden zone is rather pretty.

    While most of the upper levels have collapsed, one of the higher levels contained an immovable rod or similar magic item; part of the top structure of the tower is now hanging off this in mid-air, pinned in place. It is dangling at an upside-down angle due to gravity so navigating it will be tricky even if you can find a way up there. On the plus side, it’s less likely to have been fully looted yet.

    This is magic clockwork we’re dealing with, so if part of the mechanisms in the Clockwork Hell can be fixed up, the tower aboveground can begin clanking around extruding new parts to replace the damage: some antique automatic repair magic. However, faltering spells combined with still-not-quite-right clockwork down below mean that it doesn’t quite work properly. Instead of growing a nice orderly tower according to the built-in ancient blueprints, the structure starts organically sprouting rooms and corridors in all directions… some of them non-Euclidean. Exploring the Escher-like maze is a challenge, but perhaps some of the corridors pass through into more… interesting dimensions.

    • I like these ideas. My view of the Abandoned Tower swings back and forth. Yours is closer to my original image, that there are bits of broken sparky magic still lingering. When I was doing my megadungeoncrawl I ended up treating it as more or less entirely defunct, and I kind of regret that. The idea of ‘unwitting squirrels’ (or goblins) being markers that there are hazards are rather more interesting than what I did.

      I don’t know about fully upside-down, but I could imagine the top two or three floors leaning rather drunkenly against the clockwork tower part — or perhaps the top of the clockwork tower leaning against the main body, and can’t be fully restored to service until correctly oriented… or perhaps tied into your third suggestion where the tower starts to correct itself, perhaps sprouting a “new top” rather than straightening itself.

      Whether this explains the bizarre new geometries or not, I do like the effect. It is entirely possible that the influence of the Fane of Baalshamoth actually did affect the Clockwork Hell, and the effect has spread.

      I say again, one of the things I am really coming to appreciate about stopping where I did is the range of options that I am seeing with it. What you are writing is rather different than how I was playing it. For that matter, it is more consistent with what I originally wrote! I can easily see this framework being adapted in a number of different ways to suit different play styles and groups, while remaining true to the initial structure, at least to start.

      Right now the megadungeon is scattered over a couple dozen web pages. Maybe I should polish it a little, add some detail (or ways to simulate detail, as Gus suggested), and see what people do with it.

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