On the nature of dungeons in your campaign.


First Post
PapersAndPaychecks said:
In my world, Law is in the sky. The heavens, planes of ultimate law, lie beyond the clouds and birds are the messengers of Law. The piercing rays of the sun are represented by spears and arrows, which are the weapons of Light and Law, the arrows fletched with bird feathers for symbolic as well as practical reasons.

Chaos is underground, gnawing like a worm at the heart of the world. When you descend into a dungeon, you leave the realms of Law behind and venture into the realms of Chaos. The spreading tendrils of chaos are represented by flexible weapons such as flails and chains and whips.

Chaos being what it is, it can pervert anything -- including the Law itself (hence creatures like orcs, which are Lawful, but live in Chaos' realms of dungeons and darkness and work to serve it). And Law being what it is, it can regulate anything -- including Chaos itself (hence creatures like elves, which are Chaotic, but live in Law's realms of the surface and light and work to serve it).

Err, there are a lot more implications which aren't germane to the subject, but basically, if you go underground, things stop having to make sense -- and the deeper you go, the less sense they make.

Sound a bit like some of Michael Moorcock's works.

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Clangador said:
Sound a bit like some of Michael Moorcock's works.

There's a strong mythological connection Law-Light-Sky-Rigid-Male and Chaos-Darkness-Underground-Flexible-Female; especially in the western tradition, you get a lot of Sun Gods and Earth Goddesses, the sun god conquering the earth goddess, and such. All very Jungian and Freudian. :)

Shades of Green

First Post
Similarly to mcrow, I see "dungeon" as a game term rather than a game-world term; in a nutshell, a "dungeon" means an enclosed adventure environment. These could actually be very diverse and different things:

- A natural cavern
- A dense forest with the few paths becoming "corridors" and the clearings "rooms"
- The veins of a gigantic monster (think the Many level in System Shock 2)
- A magical maze built in a pocket dimention by a wizard to hide a powerful item
- A tyrant's fortress
- A series of narrow interconnected ravines
- A crypt or catacomb
- The tunnel-system of a large digging creature
- A Dwarven settlement
- A mine
- Winter-tunnels beneath a monastry
- The sewers of a city
- A thieve's hideout
- Ancient tunnels of the horrible Aboleths
- The bowels of a large sailing ship
- An abandoned temple
- An isolated inn under attack by bandits
- A prison
- A wizard's laboratory
- A dragon's den
- Goblin warrens
- A vampire's mansion
- A series of trenches under an enemy attack
- A crowded city overrun by Zombies
- A maze built to imprison a monster
- A maze built by a mage guild as a test for their apprentices' intellect
- the corpse of a dead god, with tunnels dug by otherwordly maggots feeding on that corpse
- and so on

In short, if it is a series of interconnected closed spaces (rooms, tunnels, corridors, or whatever) in which the adventure takes place, it is a dungeon.

Dungeons could exist in many games that aren't D&D. Sneaking through a devil-rat infested sewer in Shadowrun or fighting against a boarding party onboard a Traveller starship are both dungeon adventures.

In the past, I have used dungeons as a "test" to reach a treasure but forgotten kings and wizards whom enjoyed the "sport" of seeing others try to out trick / fight / or just get lucky.

I have used old and lost underground civilizations where sections of streets and buildings remain while other sections have partically collapsed.

The first "dungeon" I ever created was a magically reinforced fort. No one could breach it so a very powerful mage instead buried it by collapsing the hillside near it. Small creatures / humanoids tunneled through the earth to windows creating a safe home that held dark secrets in the basements. I am very proud of this one.

The current dungeon origins I am doing involve a "master" dungeon builder of years long gone. Drogan.

He was the greatest dungeon builder / designer and created dungeons of all sorts for money. Sometimes to imprison things, sometimes just there to challenge people. Some were designed to be "non-lethal". Unknown to my players, it is a rogue Aspect of the Trickster (god of mischief) which allows a limitless design. He has planar traps, mechanical traps and of course magical traps. Never the same, each is unique.


First Post
I went through a phase were the dungeon had to be logical w/eco systems and monsters in logical places and proximity-The players never cared,never comented on it .So the hell with it I put fun stuff in it and give ita somewhat logical framework but dont sweat the details-my players dont so why should I.
I make them small usually 1-3 nites long and about half the time dont even have a map and wing the layout


First Post
Dungeons have always been where creatures that once ruled now lurk, where hoards of treasure and magic wait for those able to seize them, where hideous and terrible creatures eke out a miserable existence before gaining in power to conquer the world, where fantastic and secretive creatures laugh and love waiting for contact with the mundane, where forgotten and forbidden lore is hidden by magical and mundane traps, where outlaws of law, chaos, magic and the planes hide from those that will hunt them down, where the gates to other worlds lie, where that which exists just past a man's nightmares or dreams exist.

That which exists just outside mortal men's existence, to challenge, frighten and inspire them, that is what a dungeon is, was and forever shall be.

In other words, where adventurers kill sh*t and take their stuff.


Well, my current Dungeon campaign has the Dungeon created by Celestials to imprison hordes of chewy evil badness. After thousands of years of housing these evils, the prison has been cracked by massive earthquakes and whatnot, unleashing most of the inmates.

Works pretty well for me.


First Post
Another source:
Once an above ground complex/city now buried by time. volcanic ash, etc. Passages have remain or have been carved to acess teh old structures.

IMC one justification for the underground structures is it provides excellent protection against divination and such. So "dungeons" can be built for nefarious activities (evil cults, monster breeding) or to protect state secrets (evil cults, monster creation). :)

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