View Full Version : Living Dungeons(Thinktank Thread)

2007-08-17, 12:55 PM
Everyone knows that D&D has a lot of dungeons. One could even say they spring up like weeds. However, while lurking on RPG World, I came across a theory for this prevalence that piqued my interest:

It hypothesized that dungeons have another commonality with weeds; that dungeons are alive. That they grow!

Now my question to the board is this:

Would it make sense, in your campaign world, for dungeons to be living creatures?

And if so, how would they grow? Do they spawn or seed? How do monsters fit into this? And are adventurers a curse or a blessing to a dungeon?

My only rule for the board: Do NOT say some variation of "A wizard did it."
If you do so, bad things will happen to you. You don't want bad things to happen to you, now, would you?
Exception: There is an explanation as to why the wizard did it, other than "He/She felt like it".

Let the groupthinking(sorry, only way to describe this activity) begin!!!!!!

2007-08-17, 01:39 PM
Maybe a wizard DID do it. Maybe they were an epic level wizard, who wanted to build themselves a dungeon but without all that bother with digging and maintenance. SO they created an epic level spell that created a living dungeon that grew and self-repaired, over time slowing growing more and more defences, and pushing the important rooms deeper and deeper into the earth.

What they didn't realise is that life is strong willed and likes procreation, and the dungeon would create small items that would be attractive to whoever went inside. These items have limited mobility (tortoise speed or less), and once they have travelled a certain distance from the mother dungeon, they escape their "host" and move to a suitable location, where they gestate into a simple dungeon of just a few rooms. At this point, the dungeon grows a door/cave opening (dependant on the subspecies), and forms a symbiotic relationship with whatever creatures move in.

The creatures defend the dungeon, stopping it from taking too much damage; the dungeon houses the creatures, providing them with a home that grows along with their population.

Everyone is happy.

Except the dwarves, and some other tunnelling races, who consider the dungeons abominations, and hate all those species who inhabit them. Which are mainly goblinoids.

SO, a wizard did it, but indirectly.


Citizen Joe
2007-08-17, 01:52 PM
Almost all dungeons are living organisms, insomuch as they are an ecosystem. Of course, if you just use it as a random encounter location, then no, its just some random space. But if you can apply logic and explain why and how creatures live there, you can get a very interesting ecosystem.

Of course, the PC's are there to destroy it, so I wouldn't put TOO much effort into it.

2007-08-17, 01:55 PM
perhaps, in a particular setting, the first dungeon became sentient due to the memories of those who had passed through it. the dungeon has a regenerative quality (can repair itself over the centuries) and houses the monster and items in order to lure creatures (and the monsters themselves) to gain more memories and thoughts, and therefore "grow". the dungeon could possibly gain more rooms (actually physically growing) but the growth that the dungeon craves is more of an intellectual, or spiritual one. that is why dungeons are houses for treasures, or great individuals or historical events. this also reinforces to the logical assumption that the dungeon "lures" monsters, which in turn "lure" adventures, or even powerful villian types. the whole cycle perpetuates itself, and the dungeon becomes greater and more powerful over the eons (hence epic dungeons, and the power of the creatures and items that inhabit them).

the dungeon supports life within itself to gain experiences and knowledge, and adventurerers go into dungeons to gain the treasure and fight the monsters inside them. the cycle is never ending, and beneficial to both parties.

2007-08-17, 01:57 PM
I like goat's idea.

Are dungeons invaded just because they are filled with creatures that most of the locals find unpleasant? If so, then there wouldn't be any problem with dungeons being used regularly as housing--they repair themselves, slowly get bigger, and their spawn would make great vacation homes.

Or is there something more sinister afoot? Hmm...

Perhaps dungeons, being living creatures, require sustenance in order to survive--perhaps they need a steady supply of magic in order to stay alive, and thus require magic items or similar sources of magical power. Perhaps they act like gigantic Venus Fly Traps: they form a symbiotic relationship with a small group of organisms in order to attract adventurers, who often have magic items. Then they use the traps and these organisms to kill the adventurers--and the organisms that live in it get their gold, treasure, the experience from killing adventurers, and a safe place to live, while the dungeons themselves gets most of the magical items.

Perhaps this is why adventurers often find useful magical items in locked chests, when those that were guarding the chest were only using cheap clubs. Perhaps these 'locked chests' are actually part of the dungeon--like the dungeon's mouth, where it keeps magic items as it slowly drains their energy.

Edit: Blast. Simu-posted.

2007-08-17, 03:09 PM
Yeah, the "really huge mimic" thing is the obvious answer. :) Kind of like the living shopping mall in that Terry Pratchett book, whichever it was. Reaper Man?

2007-08-17, 07:58 PM
Thread, I give thee....LIFE!


2007-08-17, 08:56 PM
Do you know how many people a Wood Monster shaped like a tavern could eat?

Adventurers would throw themselves into its maw!

An evil prohibitionist druid did it!

2007-08-17, 09:05 PM
A great demon lies trapped in the middle of the earth. He is slowly digging tunnels with his powers. These tunnels attract evil creatures that guard these dungeons. If you managed to fight through all the monsters, you would reach an unspeakably evil demon. In some places these tunnels have collapses creating separate dungeons that still house monsters. Heroes often purge these dungeons while searching for treasure in the tunnels.

2007-08-17, 09:10 PM
Yeah. But what about dungeons inhabited by good creatures?:smallbiggrin:

2007-08-17, 09:28 PM
Yeah. But what about dungeons inhabited by good creatures?:smallbiggrin:

Who ever stopped the good creatures from making their own dungeons?

2007-08-17, 09:28 PM
"A wizard did it."

Now, I amy be wrong in this, as I'm no Forgotten realms savvy person, but I thought this was the guiding light behind Elminster and even the Underdark.

Again, I could be waaaay off kilter here iwth initial thoughts...

2007-08-17, 09:33 PM
Yeah. But what about dungeons inhabited by good creatures?:smallbiggrin:

Solar: *Gasp* My fellow celestials, what are you doing!? This dwelling was crafted by a demon!

Hound Archon: Eh...the Rent is cheap...

2007-08-17, 10:51 PM
I had a thought about this a while ago. The Dungeon itself would just be stone, but it would behave as if alive, because at the center, surrounded by thousands of protections and illusions, it this large block of brain matter. The Brain can reconfigure the dungeon, do easy battle field control, illusion, and is guarded by both undead and simple constructions, which it itself made and animated.

Adventurers are of course not welcome, and are killed as fast as possible to stop danger, and the threat of death, and to provide for more bodies to animate.

2007-08-18, 10:49 AM
A couple random thoughts and musings...

*Dungeons are ponderous and calculating, but are by no means stupid. Many fall into the 6-12 Intelligence range. Younger dungeons start off slow and learn more and more as they age and pick up information from the outside. As for alignment, many dungeons are neutral, but exceptions are not uncommon.

*Treasure in dungeons serves as its "blood." The entire reason living dungeons exist is to protect and hide the loot inside. If all the loot is taken away, the dungeon ceases to "live." Dungeons love and hate adventurers for this reason. Adventurers always bring lots of tasty magic items and hoards of coins and gems with them, but also have the ability to kill the dungeon. Each is dependant on the other. Monsters (more on them in a minute) are created by the dungeon to go out and find more treasure to stock it up and fortify their "parent".

*Dungeons can reconfigure their internal structures at will. This process takes a long time but is useful if the dungeon spawns so many guardians or aquires so much loot that it needs a few new rooms or hallways. It is also useful if the dungeon is expecting a raid by adventurers and needs some emergency defenses. This is also used if the dungeon has just survived a raid and wants to change around its structure, so you never fight the same dungeon twice.

*You ever wonder why that random beholder was just hanging out inside that treasure room? How did he survive without food or air? It's because he, like all monsters that "live" in dungeons are actually guardians spawned by the dungeon itself to protect itself, much like an antibody system in true living beings. The dungeon and the creature share a close mental link that lets the dungeon perceive the world through the monster's eyes.

The youngest dungeons have not learned how to properly defend themselves and can only spawn weak creatures like hobgoblins or darkmantles. As the dungeon gets older, it learns and makes tougher monsters to defend itself. Sentient creatures understand that they exist sheerly to defend their "parent," but are happy with this bond and never leave unless the dungeon commands them to do so.

*"How did that lava get into the pit if we are in the middle of a forest?" Because, much like creatures, traps are a natural part of a dungeon's "antibody" system. When it is first created, it simply throws together some things it thinks are lethal. As it gets older and fights off adventurers, it learns better ways to fend them off.

*Dungeons need to reproduce to ensure the continuance of the...species. They do this by mutating their most valuable treasure into "seeds," like a plant (dungeons lack gender). It would seem counterintuitive for a dungeon to make its most precious possesions the biggest target of outsiders, but this is done for a good reason. Adventurers come in and take all the valuable gems and coins and bring them to the outside world. The thousands of coins are brought into circulation, thus ensuring that some will take root somewhere and grow a new dungeon.

*Some unscrupulous individuals take advantage of the dungeon's treasure spawning abilities and set up organizations devoted to "farming" dungeons for their treasure.

*Dungeons do age and die. Usually, the strength of the monsters, lethality of the traps, and value of the treasure hoards inside is an indicator of how old the dungeon is, but this is not always so. When the dungeon is in its dwindling hours, it releases all of the monsters inside and tells them to scatter all the treasure as far away as they can, and to plant them in the ground so a new dungeon can grow. Many of these seeds will not survive, but some will germinate into a mature dungeon to begin the process over again.

So you see, dungeons and adventurers both love and hate each other. Adventurers are always trying to kill dungeons and their guardians, but dungeons are dependant on them to take their treasure seed to new locations, like bees taking pollen to other flowers. Similarly, adventurers are dependant on dungeons to give them treasure and XP, but such attempts frequently cost them their lives.

2007-08-18, 11:04 AM
Thats a pretty neat idea actually.

Without having read other answers:
Maybe a dungeon that consists mainly of a gargantuan plant with a big and deep structure of hollow roots. And monsters living inside should be picked carefully though. The idea would be that they live in like a symbiotic relationship with the plant in some way. As we know animals and plants actually do live in symbiosis in some kind of way (plants convert CO2 to O2 and animals convert O2 into CO2 and both is needed for them to survive) also animal excrements help plants grow because they provide important nutrients, on the other side there might also be creatures inside eating parts of the plants, this way they would be taking from the plant-dungeon but still giving back parts of it through excrements and there could also be predators hunting and thus controlling those creatures.
Some might even be eating decayed, or diseased parts and help the plant stay alive by that.
Also there could be solely parasitic creatures (maybe even other plants or fungus inside the plant)

Something similar might be possible with a titanic animal (or animalic creature) and some symbiotic and/or parasitic monsters inside it

Or you go with something in the style of the alien hives from the ALIEN movies (Aliens, Alien Resurrection and Alien vs Predator exactly). Not particularly filled with aliens but creaures that might build similar living hives.

2007-08-18, 03:03 PM
Anyone here ever read House of Leaves? The book is very relevant to this thread (and very good, for that matter). The house is much larger on the inside than on the outside.

I was in a campaign based (very loosely) on the book actually. We entered a flat, one story stone building (that covered a fair bit of space) searching for some missing children that had gone in on a dare. The place had a reputation for being haunted, or cursed, depending on who you asked.
Before we went in, the rogue gave the building a quick circle and mapped out the perimeter, the usual behavior before we tackled something like that. Then we set out exploring. The building was like living entropy. It was deserted, but hostile in a way we had trouble placing exactly. It was cold enough inside that we actually had to leave and re-supply ourselves with warmer outfits despite it being the middle of summer. Something about the place also actively extinguished light (even magical light), muffling it, dimming it slowly, and finally blinking it out entirely over time (torches, continuous light, you name it). Our magic started operating weaker and weaker, our energy was being sapped... we kept expecting to find some horrible encounter while our magic faltered and our supplies ran low, but it never came. There was no big monster, it was the place itself that we were struggling against.

Finally our rogue admitted that he'd mapped us outside the perimeter of the building, even though we were in a maze of pitch black hallways and going upwards on a slant. He had us placed 300 feet to the west and 3 stories straight up, which wasn't physically possible. We (and he) assumed it was a mistake, until we entered a massive cavern which was larger than the perimeter of the building itself, and so high we couldn't illuminate the ceiling.

At first we were intensly curious about what the place was and how it came to be. But as we kept trecking on, running low on oil to burn, watching our magic last shorter and shorter durations and produce weaker and weaker effects, our clothes starting to fray and come apart at the seems despite not touching anything, and finally the color starting to fade from the few things we managed to keep lit...
well, we just wanted to find the kids and get the hell out.

It was actually a releif when we did find em, because we were thoroughly freaked out at that point, and the kids were a little comic releif. They were a little 10-year old version of an adventuring party, a brainy bookworm who realized he knew how to cast cantrips, a tough kid with a bad temper, a girl who helped her mom work as a nurse, ect Was fairly adorable :smallsmile:


Well anyway, I mention that campaign cause it makes me think of what Sajek was saying. A normal dungeon is full of monsters and traps, and thinking of them as a naturally occuring "immune system" is intriquing.
But what if a dungeon didn't need monsters and traps? What if the dungeon itself sought to purge any intruders (ANYTHING inside of it) one way or another. Using the campaign idea of "A cold and desolate maze of nothingness" as a seed, and build up from there. What if doors slammed shut behind you and walls melted away or sprang up when you weren't looking? The dungeon trying to lead you further and further from escape, floors falling through, ceilings caving in, never revealing anything but more black dungeon.
Well, that, and monsters and other terrified (but hostile) adventurers who were clearly close to the breaking point themselves. It might even be an itneresting chance to throw higher-level monsters at a party than they should normally be facing, if the monsters are weakened by the hostile dungeon and not the threat they might have otherwise been.

2007-08-18, 03:23 PM
Hmmm....Intresting. Keep the ideas comin' folks!

2007-08-19, 03:36 AM
Anyone here ever read House of Leaves? ...as we kept trecking on, running low on oil to burn, watching our magic last shorter and shorter durations and produce weaker and weaker effects, our clothes starting to fray and come apart at the seems despite not touching anything, and finally the color starting to fade from the few things we managed to keep lit...
well, we just wanted to find the kids and get the hell out.

Darn. Now I wanna dig out my copy and start planning something for my group.