I've been wanting to revisit Old School D&D for some time now, but resurrecting any of my old fantasy campaigns seems relatively wrong in the absence of my old players* (as the worlds are as much theirs as they are mine). But the recent Doctyor Dee movie has me wanting to do so again.
One option I've been working on and and off over the years is based on one of the ideas one of the players had for escaping the Demon War. He built a fleet of magical golden ships which could sail the Sea of Stars, and took his followers East of the Moon and West of the Sun, and into Faerie. There his followers founded three settlements the cities of Haven, Sanctuary, and Refuge and battled the attempts of the denizens of Faerie to evict these mundane intruders from their world. Meanwhile the player and his party of companions ventured into the heart of Faerie in order to plea to the Lords of Faerie for a place in the land. After numerous trials and tribulations they succeeded and the player was named a Lord of Faerie and the Emperor of Mankind, and the Exiles had a place to call their own on the very edge of Faerie. After all, there was precedent. The Kingdom of Avalon was established well before them by the High King.
The benefit of this is that a lot of the world-building is already established. In some places, such as Ostgard, the cultures and geography are well enough evolved that I can taste them. The down side of this is that it is all well established, which means that I have to extract the world from where it lies in my head and place it down on paper for players to subsequently ignore. <grin> And any disharmony between what I see and what player's present will tend to shatter the illusion of reality.
The other thing I could do is, of course, the megadungeon that is only loosely connected to the surrounding world. I've run two of these before.
One, which goes by the unfortunate name of Darkmoor Dungeon (it needed a name in a hurry and I'd just described the dark and desolate bramble-ridden moors over which the castle dominates, and well...). This was a competition dungeon, in that each of the players was also the gamemaster of their own dungeon, with the overall theme that each of the dungeons hid the thing that could be used to destroy them. My gamemaster character (who wasn't actually "played," I should add), was the Lich King, who, being something of a traditionalist, hid his heart in the dungeon. The rule was that the object had to be readily accessable to the builder of the dungeon (who knew how to get through all the tricks and traps), and could not be guarded by a creature powerful enough to seize the object on their own behalf and use it for their own ends. I my case my heart was wrapped in linen cloth and placed in a cavity behind a loose stone above the doorway into the dungeon (on the inside), satisfying all the requirements and thereby making the entire dungeon a deathtrap. With T-shirts and badges and guide books and (mostly accurate) maps available at the concession stands run by my orc palace guards in the small fairground outside the entrance (as well as more serious adventuring supplies and services, one must admit).
The other was situated on an island paradise inhabited by extremely beautiful and long-lived people (the former servants of the wizard lord who built his place there and were evicted when the disaster happened). It was a fairly unknown place, yet to be extensively looted. Whilst the entire mountain that dominated the island was the wizard's palace, very few people realised the true extent of the dungeon. I was quite amused that having found one entrance, nobody went looking for any others, despite the inconvenience of the entrance (the villagers had sunk a well shaft into the #3 cistern; adventurers would lower themselves into the water and trudge to the doorway leading into the #3 pump room and the facilities beyond).
But I don't really feel like resurrecting either of these either. In the first case a lot of fun was the competition aspect, to see whose dungeon would fail first, and whose people would be "liberated from their oppressor" first. The second doesn't really rock my boat. Despite having a consistent design element, it was still as haphazard as any traditional dungeon design.
However I recently had an idea for a third megadungeon that might be viable, and suitably organic in design. The Crater is a large crater located in the Plains of Thun. It is considered by many to be the source of magic in the world. Despite the difficulties of maintaining an outpost at the Crater (given the inhospitable attitude of the nomadic barbarian tribes who view the crater has a holy/unholy site), the Empire feels it is important to maintain a presence there. The reason is that the crater is a source of magestones, essentially crystallised magic. As one enters the Crater itself, the presence of magic is palatable and overwhelming. Day and night are replaced by the pale radiance of the ghostlight that is emitted from the very heart of the crater. As one descends, the radiance grows stronger, and the more unnatural creatures one is likely to encounter, but also the more valuable the magestones one can find. The Empire has established an outpost on the edge of the crater, and a small settlement some distance down the crater wall (as well as a deeper fort called Last Hope). There are many strange creatures there, including some sentient races seen nowhere else (such as the Empire's Skraling allies, pictured in the icon above). And time runs slower down there. Even at the middle levels a century passes for every year that passes above, so some of the inhabitants have been down there a long time (the fact that they age only a year helps). And some magicians have chosen to live down there because the ambient magic is free to use (releasing them from the bondage of needing magestones, and incidentally, Imperial control).
Do you think this might work?
* It's sad to realise that most of them are dead now. And the few that aren't are separated by continents and oceans. I'm not that old, am I?