August Blog Carnival: Contemplating Devious Dungeons

As I begin to start looking through the 5th Edition D&D Player’s Handbook and have played through a bit of the 5th Edition Starter Set, I wonder at all the various dungeons being conceived for upcoming games. (Yes, I have 5e on the brain.) But more than that, what kinds of dungeons are there? I can only guess at the myriad available¬†or what evil other GMs are cooking up…

But the August Blog Carnival hosted over at Mind Weave has given me the perfect excuse to explore a few ideas out loud…

knightingoldenarmorOf course we have the classic dungeon that may or may not still exist beneath a castle. On one level, dungeons were meant as medieval prisons for political prisoners or those few criminals you didn’t just want to have killed outright. If you watch Game of Thrones, you know Tyrion has spent some time in a few dungeons in Westeros so far. The Eyrie was a far cry from the prison beneath King’s Landing, offering one heck of a view. The fun part is when you start considering time as a factor. Perhaps the dungeon beneath an old castle or keep is all that’s left after the above-ground structure was destroyed by war, neglect, or the elements. The old hallways beneath may be barely hanging together, but offer a tempting prize to delvers across the lands.

But why? What’s down there? A monster’s lair? Kidnapped victims? A lost fortune in coin and gems? If the castle above is gone, I would figure that most of the good stuff beneath it has already been looted. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been taken over by any number of creepy crawlies or unfriendly beings intent on doing civilized folks harm. Or perhaps it’s a band of folks simply trying to stay out of trouble and off the beaten path, living day to day and seeking shelter where they find it. The options are fun to contemplate, so you should choose your dungeon denizens carefully for story potential as well as consistency. We want our PCs enticed to go where mere mortals fear to tread, right?

It’s also possible that a cult seeking the attention of some forgotten deity has sprung up in an ancient ruin and discovered the entry to a temple complex thought lost long ago… In that case, time is still a factor but the dungeon itself may be in much better shape. Perhaps there was a caretaker (the always fun Gelatinous Cube comes to mind) keeping things neat and tidy until its owners came back. And those original owners may have planted hidden traps for anyone silly enough to invade their home while they were away. Wouldn’t want anyone making off with that 2 ton statue of Cthulhu, would you? The interior decorators in the cult would be very annoyed. They had it specially made for that room…

Or perhaps it’s not a lost place at all and is instead an active complex buzzing with activity. Perhaps the PCs are asked to go to a prison to locate a particular prisoner with information their employer needs urgently. Or maybe it’s the PCs themselves who are in cells, waiting for the opportunity to escape.

Lastly for now, it might be a mine built hundreds of levels deep into a mountain with veins of gold, silver, platinum, and other precious stones and metals. At the bottom of the deepest shaft, the miners broke into the lair of a creature sleeping for eons, now awakened, hungry, and annoyed it has to navigate the many twists and turns.

These are but a few of the ideas I’ve been toying with. I look forward to seeing with other mad GMs are coming up with to toy with their PCs in the rest of the carnival!!


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