Why a Dungeon?
Early in the campaign, the governor of Wall broke the seals and undid the chains that kept shut the well in the center of town. She did this because Wall was flagging; it had no major exports, and the wars that had led to the town’s creation had ended long ago. The local adventurers’ guild was home to bums and thugs, and she wasn’t going to take it anymore. She believed the town’s redemption was in those caves: rich mines, lost treasures, and new magics.
I love a good dungeon. When done right, it’s a frontier, a mythic underworld, and an ecosystem all at once. A dungeon usually has rules, but the rules are different; there’s a sense that what happens in the dungeon stays in the dungeon (and that it might be impossible outside of the dungeon).
I wanted the governor’s choice to open the well to be understood (if not necessarily agreed with). Why have a cave full of dangerous things open to whoever stumbles in?
So I tried to have NPCs talk about the dungeon the way people in our world talk about nuclear power, fracking, or building a dam: there was danger, sure, but if it was systematized and managed, it could be harnessed. And if one of the adventurers expressed some concerns, why, the best way they could deal with the danger was to go down there and tame it.
How a Cave Becomes a Dungeon
The tunnel complex beneath the well had been overrun in Hell’s war against the mortal world. Beasts and devils burst from a gate far below, and the Demon Wars raged. After a long fight, the demons were driven back, the gate was sealed, and the caves were abandoned. 60 years passed. What could be down there now?
- things left over by the human armies: weapons, armor, buildings, and a group of humans who decided to stay down there and protect the gate
- things left by the demons: a lab, traps, and the effects of their tainted magic seeping into things
- the natural inhabitants of the cave: animals, myconids, and elemental things
- a mine famed for its black iron but judged an acceptable loss to keep the gate blocked
- the gate itself, protected by modrons, sealed by magic and iron and the vegetable love of an alien god
How do all these factors interact, and what do those interactions produce? How have they changed each other across 60 years? And how can they reveal the story of the Demon Wars and the adventurers, a group known as the King’s Men, who sealed the gate in the first place?