Dungeons are the convenience food of adventuring: all the necessary perils and treasures in one neat package. There's even a type of gameplay, Dungeon Crawling
, which consists of little but rooting through them. If you play Role-Playing Games
at all, you've certainly encountered them. Most likely you've never stopped to wonder why the treasure chests
are always full, or what the wandering monsters
eat when they can't get adventurers. Have you?
You sheltered sod. Some of us have to work our butts off to keep those things together. Did you think that dungeons just grow out of the ground, like plants or dwarfs? Fantasy economies may be royally screwed up
, but they could never handle a constant influx of high-powered magical artifacts. Or being eaten by the endless streams of monsters!
Oh yeah, the monsters. Your average dungeon is balanced, challenging, and themed. Nowhere in there is the word "ecosystem." We have to keep the place brimming with top predators - main diet: each other. All of them are pissed off, either to begin with, or from the things we have to do to stuff the treasure in them
. Turn your back at the wrong moment, and a chaos ooze
gets into the landshark pens and you've got two hundred extra blobs of ooze on your hands. When they're not fighting, they're sick, hibernating, or otherwise busy being animals. Many's the time the chimeras all went into heat, and the guys in Procurement had to do an all-nighter to paint spiders red
and stick in some new spells.
The worst part is the clean-up. Light
forbid that the heroes miss the Key to Eternity because it's covered in moulted gryphon feathers, right? Some of these beasts crap things that catch fire and try to kill you, so just try to imagine our mops. Go on. And the big chest at the end needs another Guthbrand, the Sword That Smites All That is Impure, so you find yourself carrying the thing through the corridors trying desperately not to think of tits, so that it's actually a relief if you can focus on the sounds a rock mole makes when it chews through the walls and steps on the Pressure Plate
that releases the boulder that you now have to roll up the slope for the twenty-second time
I don't need this, you know. Most of the firm may be tied up underground, but I could get a transfer to restocking villagers' houses
, maybe replanting the grass
- The entire premise behind Dungeon Keeper and What Did I Do To Deserve This My Lord is spotlighting that being an evil overlord and having a dungeon created to slaughter hapless adventurers is hard work.
- There is also a Spiritual Successor to DK known simply as Dungeons which plays with the same themes, while also having to satisfy the adventurers with their dungeoneering experience before you kill them and harvest their souls (which are richer for being more fulfilled by the experience).
- In Adventure, the progenitor of the Adventure Game and Interactive Fiction genres, completing the main quest causes the cave system to close for the evening. The player is stranded behind the scenes.
You are at the northeast end of an immense room, even larger than the giant room. It appears to be a repository for the "Adventure" program. Massive torches far overhead bathe the room with smoky yellow light. Scattered about you can be seen a pile of bottles (all of them empty), a nursery of young beanstalks murmuring quietly, a bed of oysters, a bundle of black rods with rusty stars on their ends, and a collection of brass lanterns. Off to one side a great many dwarves are sleeping on the floor, snoring loudly. A sign nearby reads: "Do not disturb the dwarves!"
- Dragon Fable has a starter level quest that lampshades this. You meet Robina, who takes you to distribute gold on wild animals for adventurer purposes. Of course, the animals don't see any reason to carry gold, so they need to be knocked unconscious first...
- Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle : Our heroine can get to an empty treasure chest before the government official responsible for refilling them. She's outraged by this lapse in standards.
- In Leisure Suit Larry, many of our hero's deaths cause a sequence where his body is lowered into Sierra On-Line's underground workshop ("Where Adventurers Are Made, Not Born!") and dumped into a giant bit bucket. The machinery recycles it into several Larry bodies. The commander attaches a head from a rack to one of them, and raises Larry back to the game's starting position. Subordinates repair a Graham from King's Quest and a droid from Space Quest, and a dragon is down for maintenance.
- In Leisure Suit Larry 3 the characters visit Sierra studios. This involves damaging the props for Police Quest and being caught in the antigravity generator they use for Space Quest. Larry is hired to make the Leisure Suit Larry series, and they all live happily ever after.
- Recettear: A race of golems is in charge of refilling treasure chests, distributing monsters and changing the pathways.
- Planescape: Torment has the Modron maze - a construction intentionally built to be a dungeon to crawl. It contains monsters that acknowledge they lack a motive for being there, and such items as "A Clue!". And there are Modron who maintain the dungeon. Modrons are beings of pure Law, from a plane that is all mechanical. They are living robots and can't go outside their programming. The dungeon is an attempt to figure out why adventurers constantly risk their lives to explore dungeons, but they haven't quite figured it out.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion, there's a quest where you get to man a control booth for the dungeon Xedilian. A party of three adventurers enters, and for each one, you are given the choice of using a deadly trap or a sanity-destroying trick.
- In Fallout Tactics, there's a guy whose job it is to go around restocking all the Nuka Cola machines. In Fallout: New Vegas, there's apparently a robot out there doing the same for the Sunset Sarsaparilla machines.
- Illbleed: In the Killerman level the player goes "backstage" and sees all the props and costumes and stuff from earlier levels of the game. Which makes a certain amount of sense because the whole thing is supposed to be an amusement park (except that it really kills you? And Killerman is
Killerman real? ... Okay, nothing in ILLBLEED makes sense).
- The Interactive Fiction game Janitor is based on this premise: you're the janitor who has to reset the dungeon to its initial state after an adventurer has defeated it.
- Also from the world of Interactive Fiction is (the far less in-depth) "Wandering Monster Ready Room", where you play a wandering monster waiting for hapless adventurers to happen across you. (Turns out it's a pretty tedious and thankless job.)
- Augmented Fourth has a hidden control room, and it's full of gnomes. Lenny the Head Gnome shouts orders, approves NPCS, oversees puzzle construction, and gets irritated at you for entering a restricted area. You can do so ten times and watch him get ever more disgusted.
Lenny: "D'you put that music in the volcano yet, Larry?"
- One of the playable characters in Eternal Darkness is an architect who is forced into doing a little dungeon maintenance for the Big Bad. That probably explains why this dungeon stays in relatively good state for over two millenia until another character finally blows it up.
- Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel: This gem about Inexplicable Treasure Chests, which makes you wonder just how many times Tyria has restocked them.
Aoto: Hey, there are treasure chests in the Tower right?
Tyria: Well, no one would bother to come if there were no treasures.
Aoto: Actually, I think the fact that there are treasure chests inside the Tower is surprising in the first place. Who the hell put such a thing inside the tower anyway?
Tyria: Why, of course it was me. They were created at the same time as this Tower's creation.
- Hellboy: One strip has a bunch of animated skeletons setting themselves up to provide the appropriate dungeon atmosphere before Hellboy shows up fighting some forgotten thing from beyond the stars. After the fight, they pick themselves and start leaving like actors after a show (a skull mentions he might be picked to play a part in Hamlet).
- A story in Knights of the Dinner Table focused on the care and effort B.A. takes into making a dungeon not only challenging and fun, but self-sufficient as well. On that particular dungeon, of course, the players end up scoring a Total Party Kill within five minutes down the dungeon's waste disposal system.
- Nodwick explored this several times. At one point the heroes explore a dungeon that's been revamped and put under new management, complete with brochures touting it like one would promote a beach resort. It turns out the dungeon's "managers" are professional kidnappers who are hired to abduct embarrassing nobility and use transformation and enraging magics to turn their victims into monsters, then letting adventurers dispose of them. Later on, the heroes end up owning their own dungeon and end up facing foreclosure because they're not keeping it up to community standards of sufficient vileness, given their "community" consists of other dungeons with names like "AAAIIIEEE!" that Piffany describes as being worse than a kitten cannery.
- Carolyn Cushman's Witch and Wombat novel has the titular witch escort tourists through staged encounters and dungeons in her real magical world, with them thinking it's a virtual reality program, in order to siphon off magical energy from them.
- In Dark Lord of Derkholm, a Corrupt Corporate Executive takes people from our world to a fantasy world and forces the locals to stage typical high fantasy quests for them. The book's main focus is on what said locals have to do to prepare for the tourists — and how disastrous the effects are for the world as a whole.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The Tomb of Horrors has a host of fiends bound to it and forced to repair any damage done and clean up whatever is left of the latest adventurers.
- Short story "Search for the Forbidden Chamber" in Dragon magazine #1. The protagonists encounter barricades labeled "Greyhawk Construction Co., Ltd.", a reference to Gary Gygax's famous dungeon.
- BD&D module IM3 The Best of Intentions has a 36 level dungeon created by an Immortal (deity) and intended to train adventurers up to 36th level. One of the Immortal's avatars spends his time restocking the dungeon with monsters and treasure.
- Module WG7 Castle Greyhawk (the "joke" version). In the lowest level of the dungeon below Castle Greyhawk is the Random Monster Generator, which creates and distributes all of the monsters that infest the dungeon.
- Forgotten Realms has Undermountain, the territory of ancient Halaster Blackcloak, also known as "the Mad Wizard" — and it takes a lot to deserve such a nickname on Faerūn. So he set up the vast cave complex as a dungeon giving adventurers some good Mind Screw, mostly just for fun. Start with a piece of art in dynamic Malevolent Architecture genre, littered with refuse of his and his apprentices' experiments. Except for various unsavory beings he just allowed to live there, Undermountain was maintained in this shape by Halaster's spells, his pre-programmed spells, his own gate network, his custom magic items, overlapping fields of his permanent enchantments — you get the idea: Detect Magic discerns only the strongest auras in all the statics.
- The dungeons' improbability became a subject of both serious study and parody by the game's makers. For example, Dragon Magazine, had a series of articles called "The Ecology of..." that explored the life cycle of a fictional creature and how it fit in with others. (The oddest monsters were explained as inventions of mad wizards created precisely to serve as living deathtraps). And of course it also made fun of the concept in its comic strips, with characters often lampshading the facts.
- It's hinted that Elminster, the Old Mage, has, on occasion, gone round dungeons just planting magical items for adventurers to find. Admittedly he has a purpose for it - it's in furtherance of his duty to his goddess, Mystra, who promotes the spread of magic.
- Paranoia adventure Orcbusters. The wizard's dungeon has a "Wandering Monster Ready Room", where wandering monsters wait until it's time for them to go out and wander around the dungeon. This is a parody of the "wandering monster" tables in early editions of Dungeons & Dragons.
- Oddly enough this is played in Antrhos and Dungeons, of course it's played in such a way that it would drive most people navigating the dungeon Completely Insane
- Apparently the dungeon's maintenance crew cleans up every room after you leave it, which can cause some massive headaches if you have No Sense of Direction
- Eario in Brawl in the Family has this job in relation to the Super Mario Bros. series.
- The day-to-day job of the main cast in Dungeons & Denizens, as pertaining specifically to their boss's dungeon. Which isn't even run all that differently from an amusement park for the occasional
tourists adventuring party passing through.