I’m working on making keys for three dungeons right now. Because I have ADD and can’t just do one thing at a time, LOL.
Anyway, I saw a tweet this morning:
@goatmansgoblet's Rakehell: The Battlefield is a spectacular take on making a 'dungeon crawl' feel dynamic and inventive, by turning it into a literal field of battle the PCs move in and out of. One of the best takes on re-inventing the dungeon crawl.https://t.co/v8avzsoYsW
— Monkey's Paw Games (@nicholasmasyk) April 28, 2020
And just reading it made me think of something that hadn’t occurred to me before:
The “Jaquays” style dungeon has multiple loops, connecting different areas of the dungeon, rather than being (essentially) in a straight line. This style also includes multiple connections between levels, both consecutive (between levels II and III) and otherwise disconnected (between, say, levels III and V). There is an excellent article at the Alexandrian about this style of non-linear dungeon design.
Something about the tweet also reminded me of the Dungeon as Mythic Underworld article and pdf that changed my entire viewpoint on dungeons and design. (Sorry about all the background, but I wanted to share where the parts of this idea came from). There are a bunch of links on that blog post, I encourage you to check them out.
This is what I came up with:
The Underworld is a semi-sentient, supernatural, multi-dimensional organism/ecosystem that creates and populates cave and dungeon complexes from below. There are Underworld creatures that will never be seen or encountered on the surface. These creatures and caverns and traps are created by the Underworld Entity. We do not (and perhaps cannot) understand its purpose in creating and/or consuming denizens and explorers of the Underworld. It may or may not be related to the entities of the Outer Dark.
Every Mythic Underworld Dungeon should have an oozing, semi-organic orifice (A Darkswell) that generates monsters to populate the dungeon. Likewise, there should be a crevasse or pit or other opening that functions as a Darkmouth to consume invaders, whether directly or through being fed to it by the dungeon’s denizens. (This could explain why there are rarely any middens or other ‘waste-receptacles’ in dungeons, monsters don’t eliminate what they eat, their digestions are connected to the Mythic Underworld!)
The same power or force or energy that motivates the Mythic Underworld to create dungeons and their denizens is the same force that closes dungeon doors and re-sets traps behind a group of adventurers. This is why dungeon-bound creatures can see in the dark, rather than being blind, like “cave” versions of many creatures are. The Mythic Underworld itself acts like a “refresher”, cleaning, purifying and oxygenating the air, so the creatures can breathe fresh air. Of course, a bad fire can damage this capability, rendering areas unlivable and impassable for days/weeks/months, while it regenerates. Perhaps the Underworld even provides food and sustenance to otherwise trapped creatures.
A Detect Magic spell cast deep in the depths of the Underworld will reveal a subtle, distinctive aura, or signature, for all Underworld-powered artifacts (doors, traps, statues, pits, etc). This aura will be the same world-wide and instantly recognizable, once one knows what to look for. A similar, though distinctly different aura would be found to surround creatures/places/artifacts with power sources that originate from a different Outer Plane.
This Mythic Underworld not only connects all dungeons with magical similarities, but it could also create (temporary or permanent) connections between dungeons, even those separated by vast distances on the surface. This could allow tribes or factions of the Underdark to communicate, collaborate, even to reinforce one another. It’s unlikely these connections would be found by PC adventurer parties, but they could, and it would create even more opportunities for adventures.
The Mythic Underworld will sometimes even pull down a surface structure, indeed whole towns or villages, if the conditions are favorable, sucking it right into a cavern or even into the Darkmouth itself!
That should be enough for you to think about today. I look forward to your Comments and discussion!