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TDL BK I, CH 11: Design Choices

Chapter Eleven: Design Choices

One of the most prosperous cities in the Eastern Province was the aptly named Eastern Jewel Citadel. A major reason for this was the fact that it was the headquarters of the Myriad Treasures Pavilion, the most successful merchant guild in the province. Dunstan could still remember his first visit to their main branch and how it took his breath away. A sprawling complex consisting of eight floors, each with more items, artefacts, materials and treasures than the young Dunstan had ever seen. 

Dunstan would always remember it as the first time he felt embarrassed by his own empty pockets. While he had wanted for little in his life, the Vast Heaven Palace was still one of the weaker and poorer major powers. He would never forget accompanying the provisions elder to the sixth floor and catching the glimpse of a display case with contents that cost nearly twice as much as his family manor. The knowing smirk the sales manager shot him haunted him to this day. Thankfully, it was behind him now. He had finally seen something that topped that; the Dungeon Store!

The sheer breadth and variety nearly put him in a stupor. It was more of a question of what it did not have. There were five categories to the system store; Materials & Resources, Stages & Facilities, Flora and Fauna, Items & Armaments and Techniques & Abilities. Each was pretty self-explanatory. For example, the wooden chest he just bought was in the Items & Armaments category. That category also held weapons and armour and was where he had spent most of his time. The pricing was where things became tricky. 

Everything was priced by tier of relevance. For example, anything relevant to cultivators at the Initiate tier was priced in tens of achievement points or less. If it was intended for Exultants, it would be priced in the hundreds. Items meant for Aurous tier cultivators cost thousands of achievement points. While he only had access to those three tiers at the moment, Dunstan could easily predict just how the trend would continue.

That was not all. For each tier of items, one-use consumables were often the cheapest, followed by multiple-use consumables. Weapons and other continuous-use artefacts came next, followed by plants, then creatures, then facilities and then stages. Whiles the most expensive things in the shop were the techniques and abilities, they had contenders in the stage templates. The system offered materials and resources for sale as well but the prices varied too widely. Some were dirt cheap whilst others were so expensive they put everything else to shame. Dunstan was completely inundated with choices. This was shopping in the Myriad Treasures Pavilion all over again. He had come here for dungeon monsters and ended up spending hours browsing things he couldn’t afford. Now, he had items he didn’t need in the form of a sturdy wooden chest, a bag of gold and an honest to god magical apricot. 

Those three items cost him 7 achievement points altogether. He was tempted to buy a sword or some armour to test them out but ultimately, he decided not to. If the points were worth what he suspected they were then he had already made the worst deal in his life. No need to compound it. Going back to his original plan he bought the skeleton warrior template for 10 AP, the skeleton mage template for 15 AP, a pitfall trap template for 5 points and a spike trap template for 5 –all common grade. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do yet with regard to loot but that could come later. Once he had the setting and encounters planned out, he could think of some thematic loot to give his victi–err adventurers.

Dunstan didn’t have much in terms of AP to spend. The 1450 points he had burning through his pockets no longer seemed enough now that he had gotten a look into the store. That was less than four hundred apricots. Not even enough to be shared with the meals at the dining hall. If loot costs were calculated each time they were generated, and he was willing to bet they did, then his actual budget was far less than initially estimated. He would need an AP reserve just to ensure the loot supply.

A sudden thirst for more AP overcame him. More and more, his apricot purchase felt like a huge mistake. In fact, Dunstan was regretting not taking the time to hunt more daemons before exiting the desolate fields. His only sources of AP were system rewards, personal kills, dungeon visits and dungeon kills. Now that he was back in the sect and stuck in the limelight, running out to nab kills had become impossible. That brought his only source of AP down to the dungeon. Visitors would provide him with 1 AP per level when they crossed the threshold and 10 AP per level if his dungeon succeeded in killing them.

Jaw set in a stony expression, Dunstan reaffirmed his resolution to never let his sect members into the dungeon until he found a way to make it safe. There was no way he was sacrificing his own sect to grow his dungeon abilities. The Phantoms on the other hand… they were more than fair game. He would give them the authentic dungeon experience.

That brought him back to the pressing issue of just what he doing with this dungeon. Right now, he only had the tomb template. Tomb levels were perfect for horror themes and he had been developing in that direction. However, cultivators did not scare easily. Given the promise of a reward, they would be perfectly willing to sacrifice themselves or more likely each other no matter the cost or risk of personal harm. Did they even have a sense of personal danger? The idiomatic saying “danger and opportunity are two sides of the same coin” was so widely spread and accepted that every year thousands threw themselves into forbidden areas on the premise that there had to be a reward in there somewhere.

The more that Dunstan thought about it, the more he realised that skeletons and a spooky atmosphere might not cut it. Wasn’t there an undead plague a few counties over a few decades ago? Scrunching his face, he tried to remember the details before giving up. They didn’t matter. The facts were that he needed more if he wanted his dungeon to have a lasting impression. Practically every known tomb in the Eastern Province had been claimed and cleared out by eager cultivators. If he was going to stand out he need something special.  

Staring up at the statue of the old warrior, Dunstan felt the proverbial light bulb go off in his head. He had it! He knew what cultivators were afraid of. Better still, he knew how to work it into his dungeon. 

Looking around the room at the tattered, mouldy tapestries, he got to work. Soon, they all featured faded images of battles and more importantly a simple family coat of arms, a sable sword imposed on an argent castle set on a crimson field. Anyone brave enough to closely examine them would soon notice that the gallant figure leading the battle depicted on the tapestries bore a striking resemblance to the statue in the centre of the room. 

Humming to himself, Dunstan continued leaving the coat of arms anywhere he felt was appropriate. For example, the double doors that led into the main dungeon. Finally, moving on to the next room, he let his creativity loose. Within minutes, a temple scene began to appear. 

Dunstan made the second room larger than the first, the largest he was allowed to make with this template. This resulted in a room that was close to 12 metres wide and 17 long with a ceiling five metres high. He then styled it like a baroque church. Stone pews lined up in four columns, beautiful stucco patterns and ornaments. At the head of it all was a high dais and on it, a stone altar surrounded by dozens of candles flickering quietly in the solemn atmosphere. It took Dunstan nearly an hour to fill the room with all the touches it needed but when he was done it looked incredible. The small temple truly invoked the awe and atmosphere that the baroque style was renowned for. Pleased with his work, Dunstan then savaged it.

Within minutes, it looked like robbers had gone through the place which was precisely what he wanted. The gold marquetry that he had placed so carefully was ripped out with uncaring, inexperienced hands leaving tiny bits and pieces stuck in the stone. The ornaments were smashed or pulled off their places leaving gouges in the styling. Worse, he took his time to simulate a brawl in the chamber smashing pillars and pews. Combined with a few dried pools of blood, stains of unknown fluids and other simulated scars of battle, the small temple looked like it had been thoroughly violated. Above the altar, the holiest place in the temple, Dunstan painted the words, “Mutley’s Wyverns Undefeated!

Standing on the dais, Dunstan took the time to appreciate his work, his eyes roving over the ruined temple.

“This is perfect!”

With a skip in his step, he took his 4 AP apricot and leapt off the altar dais. Mumbling “This thing better be tasty,” to himself, he began placing his skeletons.

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