Chapter 16: How to build your dungeon
Brandr was born on the DunBlaze world to a small noble clan. His name meant ‘sword’ and ‘fire’. Fittingly, he was born with innate attributes of metal and fire and they formed the root of all his cultivation.
Growing up, the most popular resource for cultivation in the qi condensation stage was tinder fescue. It was one of the most common and useful mystic herbs. It could be refined into pills to restore fire essence, used for meditation incense, as feed for animals and even as a filler for higher tiered pills and medicines.
More than half of Brandr’s cultivation during the qi condensation stage could be attributed not to his talent or method but to supplements made from this mystic herb. If there were any mystic plants that had left traces in his essence and were safe for him to handle in his current state, tinder fescue would rank first. Hence his choice to recreate it. Still, to see some again after all these millennia filled him with nostalgia and caused him to remember his tumultuous youth.
Regrettably, he had no time for reminiscing. Planting the tinder fescue in a random patch of dirt, he summoned a rock into his hand. Oblivious to the looks of awe and curiosity he was getting from the remaining sprites, he worked on the rock, slowly changing it into a mystic ore that he hadn’t worked with since his early days at the forge. Following that, he poured his essence into a sapphire, creating his first essence stone. He didn’t stop there. More herbs and materials followed.
Brandr stood back and looked at his work. He ignored the panels asking him to name his creations or even the one that told him his item creation skill had ranked up. All he did was stare at his successful experiments and smile expectantly as to what this meant.
In the meantime, the sprites were done getting together their hunting parties. Seeing Thorn leading them out, Brandr stopped him.
“Not you!” he told his guide. “You stay! You’re going to help me build this dungeon!”
Thorn flew towards his master. His wings beat slowly, giving him more time to think as he advanced on the dungeon core. It was time he desperately needed. He had known the creature was powerful from the first moment he set eyes on it but the events he’d seen went beyond that. Dungeons were powerful. No one contested that but this one was a league of its own.
It started with the strange heat wave that turned the entire chamber into a furnace for a split second. The scariest thing was how it, like the first rays before sunrise, heralded the true surge that was to come. Thorn had already asked all his subjects to step back but thanks to the heatwave and the vague premonition he received, he succeeded in pushing them back further before Brandr started steaming and everything around him melted in a flash. Mercifully, the heat only seemed to stay around the dungeon core and did not spread but the presence it came with it?
Thorn had genuinely never felt anything like it. Not in any temple, not before any idol or priest, not when confronting any beast or lord, not in front of the rank six adventurer who had taken everything from him in his youth and not even when he and his party had faced the dark invoker whose defeat gave him the hero title. This presence was eight parts power, one part holy and one part terrifying.
Due to the connection he now shared with the dungeon, he could vaguely sense what it was and had even sensed it before it made its appearance. That was why he could identify the strange manifestation. It was Brandr or whatever the thing wanted to call itself. That energy, that presence had been him. It sounded impossible. It should be impossible and yet, as mindboggling as it was, it was him.
For the first time, Thorn was the one to receive images via their mind link. He saw fire, bright golden fire that could set the world alight and put the sun to shame. He saw a god working his forge. The god, while flesh and blood, was the spitting image of the dungeon core. He worked his forge, creating treasures that frequently caused wars among the gods. Wielding fire that could burn down the sky as well as an array of weapons whose powers Thorn could not begin to fathom, he was nigh unchallenged. When he did go to war, legions flocked to his banner. Gods, men, magical beasts, enough to blot out the sky marched into battle for the glory of the Goldfire!
It was understandable then that he was now hesitant to approach the dungeon core. Even ignoring his vision, the things the dungeon core had done; those lightstones, the plants and rocks. Just that was enough. Thorn knew that not only did his people’s survival depend on his new master but also any chance they had for greatness. And to think this was all from a being who barely reached the height of his waist.
“How do you suggest we start?” Brandr asked him as soon as he arrived.
Thorn did his best to answer honestly. “I do not know anything about dungeon building.”
“I am aware of that”, the crystalline figure told him. “We went over this already. What I want is your experience as an adventurer. We need a dungeon. The best possible dungeon. Something that will certainly lure people in but ensure that we remain protected. Something that if need be, will allow us to slaughter all invaders but not pose so much a challenge that your adventurer ilk fear to come in.”
“You don’t have to worry about that”, Thorn tried to tell it. “It doesn’t matter how dangerous a dungeon is. So long as the loot is worth it, they will swarm the entrance.”
His master sighed. “You mentioned that already. You also made sure I knew that I could not afford to offend certain powers in the land if I wanted to live long. I intended to live long sprite. Concentrate! Tell me what needs to be done. What should I avoid and what must I have?”
Thorn suppressed the urge to be offended at the core’s tone. He did not like the way it spoke down to him. Thankfully, all he had to do was think back to that presence and the vision of the god of fire and metal and all his indignation vanished.
“How the dungeon is set-up doesn’t matter much”, he began. “There are some similarities but rooms and layouts change from dungeon to dungeon and floor to floor even in the same dungeon. The only things you truly need to have a good dungeon are space, monsters, traps and loot. Space for people to roam in and loot to give them a reason to come in. You make sure that they have to go past your obstacles to get the loot; Monsters, traps, dangerous terrain, anything you want.”
“Frequent choke points, misleads, monster ambush zones are very good but the entire dungeon cannot be a death trap. There should be zones for hunting and or gathering behind some of these protections. You can place them in the middle or intentionally have these profitable zones lead away from your core or boss room. It’s all you.”
“The things you need to avoid are; diseases, undea…”
Interrupting him, the core asked incredulously, “Diseases? I can’t have diseases?”
“Not as a dungeon mechanic”, picking up some irritation at his words, Thorn tried to explain it better. “You can’t rely on diseases to kill adventurers and you can’t promote the ones in your dungeon to affect adventurers either. There was a dungeon int he kingdom of Formith that came up with this nasty lung disease spread by the spores of some strange mushrooms. It affected so many people, creating a plague that caused a lot of turmoil and earned the dungeon nothing since twenty-one out of two dozen victims died outside the dungeon.”
“A wide-scale call went out and adventurers from half a dozen kingdoms lay siege to the dungeon until it was destroyed”, Thorn ended, stressing the last word. “For the same reason, the undead are outlawed. Enough people hate the fact that dungeons eat corpses and souls. No afterlife is an accepted job risk but an eternity as a slave? The minute you start reanimating them and having them attack their fellows, churches of the light will come cleanse this entire mountainside. The fact that undead are also vectors of blights will simply add to their list of reasons.”
“I mentioned earlier but demons spread corruption. They also act as advance guards for the infernal armies. Everything the infernals do is horrific. I’m not talking about the blood drinking, the sacrifices or the soul trades, Their mission is to corrupt souls and bring hell to earth”, Thorn told him, making sure to convey the importance of what he was saying. “Even you would not be spared. You will be corrupted as well and end up as a base for demons, that’s if some demon lord doesn’t rise topside and become your master.”
“I see”, the core told him in a voice that sounded more curious than cautioned.
“Lots of space. Lots of loot. No diseases. No undead. No demons!” it listed in a monotone voice. “I chose beasts for the starting race and I doubt we’ll run out space soon. Tell me about loot and your magical beasts.”
“You…?” Thorn tried to ask. He was stopped by a finger that pointed upwards. Looking up, Thorn gasped in shock. The very same ceiling that had been a metre high was now at least a hundred away!
So the link between a dungeon and its assistant/guide works both ways. That’s cool. At least, Thorn is finally getting a sense of just what his master is. I, for one, am impressed with his mental fortitude. Had it been me, I would not be able to approach Brandr or speak with him so casually after the vision. But then again, we do what we have to I guess.