Sunday, August 16, 2015

Reasons for Dungeons

I have to admit that I hate the idea of dungeons. Maybe it’s an adult gamer thing, but I find it increasingly difficult to accept the concept of a “dungeon”. You know what I mean, an underground complex filled with monsters and traps where you can go from room to room slaughtering them. With or without a dragon at the end, I can’t suspend belief that these creatures can survive within a dungeon with concepts of feeding, cleaning (excrement), and simply not killing each other while they sit around and do nearly nothing. So having stated my bias - I know how much some gamers love the concept of a dungeon. I mean they are so easy to run - funneling the players down narrow halls, etc. So I have to justify the use of a dungeon. Here’s one:

What if the reason the dungeon has not been explored is that it collapsed? But there are all sorts of rumors, and some guy with some money determined that this site could be the location of the lost artifacts/treasure. So he brought out a crew, and they started digging - digging out the tunnel entrance. The digging crew was astonished when some of their people were killed as they were about to breech the gate.

This “lair” was a strange point of contact between the forces of evil (underground monsters, demons, stuff like that) and the surface world. I like to think of it as the fantasy “dark net”. There is something about this place that allows the evil guys to come into physical contact, and it was here that they were trading things back and forth. Now that the gateway (both the gates that were dug out and the lair itself) has been exposed, the evil guys are going to try and break out. It was some of the little ones who killed the first diggers, but now bigger, tougher guys are coming.

So the rich guy with the diggers first has to try and re-secure the gate. He’s going to start with brick and mortar, but that won’t work for very long. He’s going to need to bring in the party - super toughs who can handle these types of things. But what will they find? A smugglers’ den of the blackest type. There will be meeting rooms, store houses, and security check points. There might even be some manner of temples or chapels that some of the folks were using to communicate with dark forces “on the other side”. There will likely be some dead folks here, but they’ve probably been “affected” by the demons over the centuries. Bad guys include demons coming through as well as some undead and possibly some golem types.

But this will not be all. After they find a way to defeat the bad guys who came through, they will have to stick around for a little while so the gate can be locked up again. Yeah - evidence should show pretty quickly that the entry way didn’t just collapse but was sealed. But while exploring the lair, there may be some tunnels that don’t do what is expected. They might lead to some of the more established manor houses in the city, showing that at least their ancestors had some questionable dealings. Maybe some tunnels to the temples too. Probably some evil doers lurking within the city, and they’ve been here a long time.

Good hunting!


  1. I happen to live n an area that was heavily exploited for its resources during the 1600s-1900s; everything from ship masts of great white pines, to gold and other minerals. I was driving back an old logging / mining road the other week, and saw the many century old manganese / gold mines that have been flooded and left for many decades now. The topsoil here is very thick,; glaciers just ground the Appalachians and dumped it here. Dig a few feet and you are standing in water, even on the hills. However, the experience lead me to thinking about this blog entry about dungeons.
    I thought to mysself; of course! successive explorers, settlers, resource hunters, would have set up mines throughout the aeons of the fantasy worlds we create; they probably follow a cycle of seeing and old hole, digging in to see what the fuss was about, maybe find a nugget, and keep going, until whatever happened to the last poor souls hits them, and so on. Mining tunnels by various races would be different in shape, size, safety and construction...they might cross an underground lake, where the spring water river running in is wearing the sediment from the denser minerals, Bingo! large cavern around the underground lake!
    It makes sense that a savvy adventurer might build himself a fort over the entrance to the mineshaft; over the years, now a thriving trade town has been sitting atop it and maybe the shaft has been forgotten; maybe it leads to the monastery out of town, maybe it collapses.
    Here, in our old manganese mines, the operations released a lot of uranium into the water supply, and arsenic. Unintended consequences that don't really show up right away, but suddenly a curse has befell the town in it's greed for gold! Can an alchemist figure it out before the zealots hang the miners?
    I know I'm not into original territory here, but I just wanted to share that even us old gamers can get rejuvenated by asking some tough questions and observing the world around us. Now, I know that is what BE is all about, and I am glad that it is rubbing off a bit!
    BTW, picked up D1000 pockets!! I think it is my favourite BE product yet. Now I know how to make those ancient miner's corpses very interesting indeed...

    1. First off - Glad you liked Pockets!
      Second - I love the way you mentioned that different races are crafting different mines. I have a massive, underground city inhabited by the dwarves. It started out as a titan mine thousands of years ago. But they got to a point where they couldn’t get enough jewelry quality diamonds out of it for the amount of money/resources it was costing them. (It was on a distant continent from their home city, the mine actually ran under the sea, etc.)
      But then the dwarves came along. This was their home country, so they had better support. They were smaller so they could make smaller, more easily braced tunnels. They utilize a more earth magic based magic, and so were better able to manage the tunnels and the diamonds. Probably most importantly, the dwarves were using the uglier diamonds in tools and were therefore happy to have the non-jewelry grade gems, though they have found some jewelry grade as well.
      So how does this mesh with his points? One of the main points of this city is that the main tunnels into the city and in some of the larger caverns are huge - big enough for carts and wagons or titans. No, they do not have livestock this deep down, but they have dwarven powered carts. Then you get into the newer areas, and they are dwarven sized - only about 4’8” and nowhere near as wide. So I agree completely!