- All of the players loved the simplicity of the B/X-LL combat system, and so did I. That we could successfully manage combats with a dozen-plus participants several times over the course of an evening was a great change of pace from 3E.
- The deadliness of the environment, but the ease with which it could be negotiated once the players had learned a bit about an area's logic, was a big draw. This is an aspect of megadungeon settings just generally, but the concept of "mastering" an area, even if it isn't truly tamed, gave the players a real sense of accomplishment.
- Some of the monsters and encounters in the gatehouse area and first level are really interestingly and well-crafted, despite being "generic" on paper, and the maps contribute very well to establishing a good mood for the delving.
- An early high mortality rate really contributed to a lot of the value players put on specific characters and their accomplishments as the game went on. Hale the Flail's maniac pursuit of a band of skeletons into an unexplored region of the dungeon hoping to slay them (but without backup from the party) will be a legend for some time in my group, as will the epic struggle against the Death Ferret, a perfectly normal 2 HD giant rodent that killed half the party after the rest of its companions had been dispatched easily (wandering monster encounter gone horribly wrong). It says something that the party spent money to have the Death Ferret's hide turned into trophies to carry along with them on future excursions--something that hasn't happened in my 3E campaign in over two years.
- The deadliness of the dungeon contributed to hyper-cautiousness on the party of the players. Not that they worked hard to avoid monsters (they ALWAYS fought except in two cases when there was an encounter), but that after an encounter or two they decided to head back to town and regroup rather than press on. They were burned by this early (pushing on when too weakened to make more progress), but held on to that caution to an extent that they either didn't push far enough into areas to really see rewards or stayed away long enough to allow the monsters time to regroup and repopulate. This was perhaps the ultimate killer, because too many times the party would make an expedition and not return with any loot, then pursue a different path half-heartedly, not come home with any loot, etc., bringing in only one really major haul in their entire Stonehell careers. Eventually they were demoralized by their ongoing lack of real success.
- Stonehell's room descriptions are an odd mix. Some have relatively detailed contents (or contents at all) or suggestions of contents, and others have very little. The presence of rooms with material inside suggests that more sparely-described rooms have little or no additional furnishing. If I ran the dungeon again, I would certainly spend more time up front adding extra dressing to the areas that are not so fully fleshed-out.
- Given how dense the dungeon is, the overall design aesthetic on the first level is a bit more homogeneous than strictly necessary. It took about eight sessions before any of my players made it to the first really interesting map feature on the first level, other than one way doors, portcullises and pit traps. This is really a function of the overall pace of exploration involved--and at least part of the fault for that lies on me and on the players for our caution and deliberateness of exploration, but part of it also has to do with the regularity of the construction. About 80% of the rooms in the first section have the same dimensions, just with exits leading out from different points.