log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General Justifying dungeons for the modern age

Aging Bard

Canaith
Dungeons have been a mainstay of our favorite game. More than that, some commentators have argued that dungeons in OD&D and AD&D were a key component of the game's success, namely a laser focus on a specific kind of play. Enter the dungeon, kick open doors, kill monsters, loot treasure. A formula for fantasy gaming excitement.

As the game matured, the dungeon concept became more strained. Why is that dungeon there? How has it not been discovered before? Isn't it dead once cleared? And so on.

I would like to present an alternate theory for dungeons that makes them more logical and sustainable in the modern era.

Dungeons are Underdark strongholds used for surveying or invading the surface races.

This interpretation meshes with many old school assumptions. Doors are hard to open (and keep open) for non-residents by design. Because dungeons are connected to the Underdark, denizens can be replenished. Traps and tricks are used to ward off intruders but are known to denizens. The deeper one goes, the closer one gets to the more dangerous forces of the Underdark. Dungeons are therefore valuable property that need to be defended and resupplied, Dead dungeons that have been abandoned by the Underdark will be re-occupied by some new set of monsters.

I think this is a sound modern concept for dungeons that believably allows for some old school megadungeon whimsy. I'm interested in how others might use this framework, or if they would reject it and why. Thanks!
 

log in or register to remove this ad


I'd suggest the following references:

Eyes of the Stone Thief: by Gareth Ryder Hanrahan Thirteenth Age (Shows what can be done with the living dungeon and how it intersects with the mythic underworld idea.)
The Parlainth Boxed Set (Earthdawn) or Vor Rukoth (4e): The Parlainth boxed set is Robin Laws take on how to explore a ruined city (a ruined city is obviously easily justifiable). He shows how you can break the ruined city up into abstract zones based around factions. Vor Rukoth is a much smaller 4th edition take which follows Laws' earlier work like a formula and shows how you can too.
Symbaroum: A whole setting based around a ruined civilisation in a corrupted overgrown forest, feels very real,; treasure hunters have to purchase licenses to go into the forest and explore the ruins.
Ptolus and the Banewarrens (Monte Cook 3rd Edition): Cooks shows how to interweave a megadungeon into a large fantasy city, and how to use factions to have competing stories over entrance into the dungeon.

Basically one thing all of these takes have in common is that you don't choose between story and dungeon exploration - the two are completely intertwined throughout.
 
Last edited:


The other thing I'd add is that a dungeon doesn't even have to be a physical place.

It could be:
  • The palace of a dead or sleeping god on a demi-plane entered by an appropriate ritual, the palace is collapsing slowly into a more and more labyrinthine structure as the magic that sustains it runs amok without the god's will to keep it in check.
  • A demi-plane labyrinth created by a maze spell, the monsters are the physical embodiment of the nightmares of the prisoner trapped at the heart of the maze.
  • The memory palace of a powerful sorcerer sunk into senescence.
  • A functioning extra-planar set of corridors and pathways created by a lost civilisation for fast transport across the world, now infested by monsters.
 
Last edited:

Aging Bard

Canaith
I'd suggest the following references:

Eyes of the Stone Thief: by Gareth Ryder Hanrahan Thirteenth Age (Shows what can be done with the living dungeon and how it intersects with the mythic underworld idea.)
The Parlainth Boxed Set (Earthdawn) or Vor Rukoth (4e): The Parlainth boxed set is Robin Laws take on how to explore a ruined city (a ruined city is obviously easily justifiable). He shows how you can break the ruined city up into abstract zones based around factions. Vor Rukoth is a much smaller 4th edition take which follows Laws' earlier work like a formula and shows how you can to.
Symbaroum: A whole setting based around a ruined civilisation in a corrupted overgrown forest, feels very real,; treasure hunters have to purchase licenses to go into the forest and explore the ruins.
Ptolus and the Banewarrens (Monte Cook 3rd Edition): Cooks shows how to interweave a megadungeon into a large fantasy city, and how to use factions to have competing stories over entrance into the dungeon.

Basically one thing all of these takes have in common is that you don't choose between story and dungeon exploration - the two are completely intertwined throughout.
Some of these are a bit closer to what I am talking about. But my proposal gives a reason why dungeons are NOT unusual or ruins. They are underground strongholds like above ground castles. They are more permanent and justifiable.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I have not played 13th Age, but from what I can research, this seems the opposite of what I'm proposing. Dungeons as staging areas for the Underdark are the opposite of "out there".
Sorry... understatement is hard to get across in typing. Yes it is a totally different way of explaining how dungeons stay stocked.

I like yours much better.
 

Aging Bard

Canaith
The other thing I'd add is that a dungeon doesn't even have to be a physical place.

It could be:
  • The palace of a dead or sleeping god on a demi-plane entered by an appropriate ritual, the palace is collapsing slowly into more and more labyrinthine structure as the magic that sustains it runs amok with the gods will to keep it in check.
  • A demi-plane labyrinth created by a maze spell, the monsters are the physical embodiment of the prisoner trapped at the heart of the maze.
  • The memory palace of powerful sorcerer sunk into senescence.
  • A functioning extra-planar set of corridors and pathways created by a lost civilisation for fast transport across the world, now infested by monsters.
I actually love all these ideas! But they are not what I am talking about.
 

Some of these are a bit closer to what I am talking about. But my proposal gives a reason why dungeons are NOT unusual or ruins. They are underground strongholds like above ground castles. They are more permanent and justifiable.
Are they? Is the existence of an Underdark really any more justifiable then any other D&D trope?
 

Aging Bard

Canaith
Are they? Is the existence of an Underdark really any more justifiable then any other D&D trope?
A valid point, but if we accept the existence of Underdark races, then they should have tactics relevant to their domain, Underground strongholds seem believable and thematic.
 


Dungeons have been a mainstay of our favorite game. More than that, some commentators have argued that dungeons in OD&D and AD&D were a key component of the game's success, namely a laser focus on a specific kind of play. Enter the dungeon, kick open doors, kill monsters, loot treasure. A formula for fantasy gaming excitement.

As the game matured, the dungeon concept became more strained. Why is that dungeon there? How has it not been discovered before? Isn't it dead once cleared? And so on.

I would like to present an alternate theory for dungeons that makes them more logical and sustainable in the modern era.

Dungeons are Underdark strongholds used for surveying or invading the surface races.

This interpretation meshes with many old school assumptions. Doors are hard to open (and keep open) for non-residents by design. Because dungeons are connected to the Underdark, denizens can be replenished. Traps and tricks are used to ward off intruders but are known to denizens. The deeper one goes, the closer one gets to the more dangerous forces of the Underdark. Dungeons are therefore valuable property that need to be defended and resupplied, Dead dungeons that have been abandoned by the Underdark will be re-occupied by some new set of monsters.

I think this is a sound modern concept for dungeons that believably allows for some old school megadungeon whimsy. I'm interested in how others might use this framework, or if they would reject it and why. Thanks!

Having dungeons be an entrance to hells of your campaign setting could also work here
 




ccs

41st lv DM
I would like to present an alternate theory for dungeons that makes them more logical and sustainable in the modern era.

Dungeons are Underdark strongholds used for surveying or invading the surface races.
Sure, that could explain some of them. But I'd never adopt it as the de-facto explanation for all of them.
 


Reynard

Legend
A) I don't think dungeons need any justification. They exist primarily as a gamist concept, but so does the world threatening BBEG and the magic shop and the cleric. D&D is a game. It is full of gamist stuff.

B) If you want to explain dungeons, a singular explanation is just, well, boring. Give EACH dungeon an explanation if you must. This one was once a prison for a mad God and is now occupied by all manner of horrors drawn to the residual foul energy. This one was a living fortress from three Ages past that finally died and ossified in place, now occupied by a cult that believes they can resurrect it. This one is a old keep with some orcs in it.
 



Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top