TDL BK I, CH 10: Dungeon Building

Chapter Ten: Dungeon Building

Locked in his room, the first thing Dunstan did was dive into a meditative state. Then, he reached for Felix’s memories. Holding his past life in his mind made him all the more aware of how incredible this all was. Meditation existed on Felix’s earth but nothing like this. Even here, in a world filled to the brim with magic, it was not easy. It was crazy how far he had come. As a child, getting into a proper mental state had been difficult. In many ways, this kind of meditation was a form of self-hypnosis that allowed a person to invert their consciousness, focusing it inward. 

In this state, you became hyper-aware of yourself and your immediate surroundings. Your pulse thundered in your ears, you could literally feel the pressure in your blood vessels, and sense the actions of the bacteria in your gut. Dunstan had read accounts of masters who could reverse their blood flow or control the pores in their skin in this state. All of these were incidental effects. The primary use of this state was the monitoring and control of energy flows. In this state, the flow of world essence into and through the body became a hundred times easier to sense. The second use involved the mind. This was a meditative state after all.

Right now, Dunstan was using it to dredge up every bit of knowledge and experience his past life had involving games and game design. Felix Dupont may not have been an outstanding individual but he was passionate about games and his memories were particularly inundated with game-related trivia. Professionally, he got his start working in a minor role on an MMORPG for a large company. The hours were terrible and the pay was nothing to speak of but with that work experience, he was able to get in on several other games culminating in a large role on a mobile game. High on success, he and a few friends got together to start an indie company. 

That decision was simultaneously the best and worse of his professional career. Starting a game development studio was nowhere near as easy as it sounded. Funding was nonexistent, staffing was an issue. He found himself taking on multiple roles from art design to story writing and even coding. That’s even neglecting the marketing and financing. The work saw Felix grow a lot as a person and a developer but the stress and debt he got in return were difficult to manage. 

It took its toll on Felix Dupont, wrecking his already poor health and social life. Eventually, it led to his death.

Thankfully, he was later reborn as Dunstan Kaguri in a world of might and magic. Better still, he had unlocked a power reminiscent of video game design. For days, this was what he focused on. Of course, Dunstan could not re-experience thirty years of life in a few days but he succeeded in absorbing great portions of Felix’s game knowledge, enough that he was relatively confident in his next step. 

It began with wide stone steps descending into a grand vestibule. The room was about ten metres long and ten metres wide. Stone benches lined walls of simple masonry that were covered in tattered, faded tapestries. Off in the upper left stood a broken drinking fountain, still tricking water into a worryingly large puddle. Smack dab in the middle of the room was a statue of a warrior holding his sword aloft, thrusting it into the air in a victory pose. 

As Dunstan walked through the dungeon space, he began making changes. Given that this was his second time walking through his new template, he had a better idea of what he wanted to do with it. The template delivered everything it promised and more. Everything came pre-generated and there were lots of extra assets to use. The customisation was as-you-will-it. He loved it! It meant he could change how things looked and functioned by will alone, no redesigns or coding necessary. 

Of course, he had to work within the template itself and the changes had to be within reason but that still left a lot of room to explore. He could not say make room 3 into a greenhouse jungle. At least, not without coughing up an uncomfortable amount of precious AP. He could still change the size and order of the rooms. He could also style the door handles so they looked like curled snakes. He just couldn’t make them animated without paying AP first. Plus, even if he paid, he could not make them come to life. For that, he would need a creature template and then modify it so the monsters attached themselves to the doors as handles. Despite seeming convoluted at first glance, the whole thing was surprisingly intuitive.

That meant after half an hour of messing about wall fixtures, Dunstan had a good grasp of how things worked and what the system was capable of. For example, he was the one to break the drinking fountain. It provided some justification for the mold he was now liberally spreading everywhere. It also helped make the room feel clammy, cold and damp. The plan was to make any who entered the room feel uncomfortable and out of place. Such discomfort would lay the foundation of the horror elements later on. 

Building on this design philosophy, he shifted the room. The stairs now came in from the right and the statue in the middle now faced the wall left of the stairs. That and the giant metallic doors behind it meant that visitors had to turn right to orient themselves. Dunstan considered for a moment before going back to the drinking fountain and giving the water a bitter taste. It was still perfectly potable and any spells or scans would say so but it would taste off and bitter. He wanted everyone who entered to get the urge to leave immediately, either back the way they came or through the doors into the dungeon itself.  

For that reason, there were no traps, no monsters and no real threats of any kind. Despite everything, this was a safe room. His focus was creating the atmosphere of the dungeon, a sense of wrongness and unease. For a moment he considered changing the lights. By default, the place came with standard, dungeon-esque wooden torches but the template came with other options. He could go with candles, oil lamps, lanterns or magical light crystals. He could also change their colour. 

Dunstan eventually decided to keep the fiery lights but opted for dim oil lamps instead. Working quickly, he modified simple lanterns, their glass stained with soot and dust. Sure they provided light but only up to about three metres everything outside that was dim or dark, perfect for shadows to thrive. They would light up as visitors approached or entered a new room. A nasty thought came to him then and he resolved that once he was done with the first design he would go over the dungeon and intentionally snuff a few lanterns out so as to have a few areas of complete darkness.

Absentmindedly applying his new changes to the entirety of the dungeon, he went back to the statue in the centre. The triumphant warrior had to go. It clashed with his gloomy design. After a few changes, Dunstan was left with a sombre-looking older man. No longer did he hold his sword aloft. Instead, he held it before him so its tip rested on the ground or in this case, his plinth. 

‘Yes!’ Dunstan remarked to himself as he walked around the statue admiringly. The warrior’s eyes tracked his movement in a move straight out of a horror film. 

‘This will do nicely.’ he told himself. ‘On to the next room!’

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