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Video Game: Dungeon Keeper

It's Good To Be Bad

Old and truly excellent pair of management games by Bullfrog Productions which put the player in the role of a fantasy Evil Overlord responsible for constructing a dungeon, recruiting an army of monsters and seeing off RPG style hero invasions.

Dungeon Keeper put RTS in a surprisingly small-scale setting — the player runs a dungeon full of monsters, treasure and other goodies, and must defend it from incoming heroic adventurers. It was also one of the first games to include a "first person" mode, in which the Keeper could "possess" one of his creatures.

A third installment was planned but never produced. The series has quite a few Spiritual Successors in Evil Genius, Overlord, Startopia, Dungeons, and (arguably) Dwarf Fortress and Badman. There is also a board game called Dungeon Lords that is a non-video game Spiritual Successor. A Spiritual Successor by the name of War for the Overworld, appeared on Steam Early Access after a successful funding through Kickstarter, and is looking like the closest thing to a third DK installment that will ever see the light of day. Cyanide Studios (Famous for the Blood Bowl videogames) and Paradox Interactive have released another spiritual successor titled Impire and set in Ardania, the setting of the Majesty series and its spinoffs.

There is also an MMORPG being produced, to be released exclusively in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Western fans of the original games have responded to the news with a quick cycle through elation, confusion, anger, despair, and finally apathy. At this point very little is known about Dungeon Keeper Online, with the only thing being seen of it is some concept art and a video showing what's apparently some gameplay.

In 2013, a mobile version of the game was released for iOS and Android. It almost immediately became the subject of online rage due to its requirement for extremely frequent in-game purchases to actually do anything.

Both games in the series have been made available for purchase at GOG.com.

A Fan Expansion of the first game, titled KeeperFX, is available here. It features better compatibility with modern systems, and additional fanmade campaigns.


This game provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Grenade and Missile spells in the first game fired living projectiles that exploded in a shower of blood. the sequel added a 'Dwarf-chucking' mechanic which allows a bile demon or giant to pick up an imp or dwarf and hurl it at foes.
  • Adorable Evil Minions: Imps.
  • Anti-Poop Socking : A whole series of comments, in the sequel.
    "Your nocturnal perseverance has unlocked a hidden gaming tip: GO TO BED!"
  • All There in the Manual / Guide Dang It: The Prima guides contain a lot of the establishing fiction and monster characterisation.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The first game has quite a bit of this:
    • Unpatched, the AI as a whole has issues, including every assistant AI (with the potential exception of the "Move-Only" AI, which does a good job of keeping creatures where they are most productive).
    • The first non-tutorial level, Snuggledell, is the peak of this, as a GameFAQs walkthrough and a playthrough video both note that the AI has a particular tendency to not build any sort of army. Indeed, by the time you reach the enemy keeper, they'll most likely only have an imp and a fly. That's right, the enemy keeper expects to win with a level 1 fly and a level 1 imp.
    • The first game's method of trap and door production is horrendous and unpredictable. The sequel massively remedies this, along with other complaints.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The Lord of the Land is always the strongest hero, and the Avatar is even tougher.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Horned Reapers (In DK1). Incredibly fast, monstrously powerful, and capable of reducing all but the mightiest of heroes to shreds, but he's so damn touchy that he's every bit as likely to turn on you, kill your other minions and start trashing your dungeon if you do anything, anything to annoy him. Since you can easily win without him, it's just not worth it, except maybe on the final level.
    • Dark Angels in DK 2. Again, they're fast and powerful, with an arsenal of deadly and destructive spells at their disposal, but they only appear when you build a 5 by 5 temple, which is incredibly expensive, and what's more it only summons two of 'em. You need to build more incredibly expensive temples to get any more. Also, the temple's large water pool has a tendency to trap imps and other creatures which regularly traffic through the area. It seems they are 'pushed in' when there are too many people around.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Wizards and Warlocks are ineffectual and squishy at Level 1. They are amazingly powerful ranged support units once they reach the later levels.
    • Vampires. Very good researchers, excellent combat units due to spells and good melee, easy to create (you just need corpses) and will resuscitate one level lower when killed ... excepted when they meet Monks. There's a reason the graveyard building is so expensive. You just need to train them properly.
  • Bad Boss:
    • It's up to the player, but it is one of the most stupid things to do in the game. Disrespect your minions, do not pay them enough, or just be cruel to them and they will desert you. Considering how limited your minions' numbers are, this is a very bad thing.
    • Played straight with imps, which are your magical slaves and which will never rebel. You can slap them to make them work harder.
    • The Dark Mistress likes being slapped and tortured. In fact, she won't even show up if you don't have a good enough torture chamber.
  • Bag of Spilling: You lose all of your spells, room plans and your entire army between levels - except if you get a special bonus item which allows you to carry over a single creature (in the first game only). If you didn't lose everything though, things would probably be a bit too easy.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • The method of torturing enemy wizards involves the torturer stealing the wizard's staff and rapidly turning them into a frog and back over and over.
    • The game's ending cutscene features the Avatar shackled to a wall while trolls party it up and loot the castle. One of them finds a magic staff and tests it out on the captured foe, turning the Avatar into a comely female troll wearing nothing but lipstick and a pearl necklace. While the former god of all that's good tries to cover her new bust, the trolls laugh and make gestures to indicate that she's in for a rough night. "Baleful" indeed...
    • The Chicken spell, an excellent counter in some versions against enemies with overcrowded lairs, because the chickens can be fatally eaten by their own creatures.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Keep people in the torture chamber long enough and they will work for you. This includes The Avatar in the first game. A great way to build up your army if creature supplies are otherwise limited, or you've exceeded the maximum number of creatures you can bring out of your portals. Plus you get the satisfaction of seeing the heroes get hacked down by the last party they sent down...
  • Berserk Button: The Horned Reaper in the second game hates chickens... Well, slightly more than he hates everything else, at any rate.
  • The Berserker:
    • Horned Reapers in the first game.
    • Mistresses in both games. High-level Mistresses are very intelligent about it, instead of engaging in melee combat, they love to "kite" the enemy, attacking from a safe distance with their lightning attack and retreating just a bit when the enemy comes too close, but still facing the foes and dishing out ranged attacks.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: Wizards and similar creatures get turned into a frog and back while being tortured.
  • Big Bad: You. Yes, YOU.
  • Big Good:
    • The Avatar.
    • King Reginald in the second game.
  • Black Comedy: Tons and tons of it, especially in the second game.
  • Black Knight: A simple but powerful troop. But he's more of a...
  • Blood Knight: Because they love nothing more than beating the everloving shit out of anything that gets in their way.
  • Bonus Stage:
    • Both the first game and the sequel have about five each, give or take. They usually have non-standard challenge themes, such as only using a horde of Level 10 imps to beat the level, or having to carefully guide boulders to a target using slaps to keep them from rolling into lava.
    • If you beat the Lord of the Lands in DK1 and imprisoned him, keep him around (that is, alive and unconverted to the good cause). When you finish the level, you'll get another kind of bonus stage entirely, Keeper...
  • Booby Trap: Poison Gas, Spikes, Electricity, Giant Rolling Boulders of Doom, and more.
  • Bread and Circuses: You will have to do this in order to successfully keep your (non-skeleton) army. Yes, you may be EEEVIL, but it's not a reason to treat your Mooks like dirt. You will have to provide at least decent payment, enough food and lodging, as well at having at least the most basic care about their happiness, else they will leave you forever and you will lose the money invested in their salary and training. Hopefully, most creatures are not too difficult. It's all Pragmatic Villainy though : after all, treat your soldiers as you treat your most beloved sons, and they will follow you into the deepest valley.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The player, and all his little evil minions.
  • Catch Phrase: "Beware, keeper".
  • Clucking Funny: You hatch these to keep your monsters fed, and can transform enemies into chickens with a spell. It serves as a contrast to the evilness, and as a form of entertainment when you slap them.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: Leaving the game paused or idle for too long will lead to the Mentor chiming in with:
    "The very rock yawns in anticipation of your next fascinating move."
  • Convection Schmonvection:
    • Played with in the second game. Wooden bridges will burn down when placed on lava, but stone bridges are just fine.
    • Any level in the first game (e.g. Nevergrim) that has lava on a snow/ice level.
  • Crapsack World: Your job is to turn the disgustingly peaceful and idyllic world into this.
    • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: When the Dungeon Keeper has had his way with the territory, the names tell you straight out that they're places for any decent person to avoid. Not that there will be very many decent people left alive after all's said and done...
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In the second game, keeping the camera over Mistresses "working" in your torture chamber for too long will result in the Mentor warning you that "You'll go blind, you know."
  • Dominatrix: The Dark Mistresses are an entire species of this.
  • Dug Too Deep: In many balanced scenarios, digging too much too early is a recipe for disaster, as this usually uncovers zones patrolled or inhabited by powerful and numerous creatures that easily outmatch your puny and untrained forces.
  • Dungeon Maintenance: The entire point of the game.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: Your end goal.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The more elaborate you make it, the better.
  • Electric Torture: One of several ways of torturing captured heroes in the second game.
  • Endless Game: My Pet Dungeon mode in the second game, which essentially gives you a patch of land to build your dungeon on, a couple of imps, a hero dispenser where you can dole out enemy attacks as you please, and then leaves you to your own devices. Each area has a preset goal which, when met, unlocks a new area to build another dungeon on, but the player can still stay and take care of his old dungeon at his leisure.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Mentor, when briefing you about the land above in the first game, seems both revolted and amazed at the peaceful, happy, non-violent lives the peasants are able to lead.
  • Evil Counterpart: In both games, but especially in the second many of your minions are this to the heroes, e.g. Wizards and Warlocks, Knights and Black Knights, Elves and Dark Elves, Thieves and Rogues, etc.
  • Evil Feels Good: Right there in the tagline : "It's good to be bad"
  • Evil Is Cool: A core concept invoked by its designer; the point of the game is having fun while doing all those exciting wicked things that have to be prevented in most traditional games.
  • Evil Is One Big Happy Family: Solidly averted. Other Keepers may gather in an alliance occasionally, but every single one is trying to conquer the world. They will crush each other if given the chance.
    • Minions also avert the trope. Most minions will have a species that they despise and vice-versa. There will be constant homicide attempts if they're forced to mingle.
  • Evil Mentor : The Narrator, which has a deep bass voice, supplied by Richard Ridings.
  • Evil Minions
  • Evil Overlord
  • Evil Versus Evil: Now and then you'll also have to take on other Keepers in their own dungeons.
  • Expansion Pack: "Deeper Dungeons" for the original, featuring additional levels and an improved AI.
  • Expy: The final boss of the first game is The Avatar. Well, not that Avatar or those Avatars.
  • Face-Heel Turn: You can torture heroes into joining your cause.
  • Fartillery: A Bile Demon's main form of attack.
  • Fastball Special: Giants and Bile Demons have a 'dwarf-chucking' ability in the second game.
  • Fixing The Game: In the second game, the keeper can rig the casino or make it fair. A jackpot is a sight to behold.
    Burn baby burn, Disco Inferno!
  • Fog of War: The map shows the overall layout of the scenario, the portals and the resources, but the rest has to be discovered. A spell can remove the fog for a while and an area becomes perpetually visible after it gets physically uncovered by a creature. Keepers can also hear what transpires under undiscovered zones.
  • Gladiator Games / Training from Hell: In the second game, you can build a "Combat Pit" which is essentially a spiky arena. Putting creatures in it (any creature) will make them fight to unconsciousness. The good side is that it trains the creatures who fight (up to level 8), attracts Black Knights (your strongest melee unit) and provides amusement for the ones who do not fight (and for the player, if he is so inclined). The bad side is that a creature KO'd in the arena will appear unconscious next to it, and if an Imp does not pick it up and brings it back to it's lair, it will die. Ironically, you will probably be forced to care for your creatures by picking up imps and dropping them next to them so they may not die.
  • Glass Cannon: Wizards and Warlocks. Mistresses in the sequel.
  • Guide Dang It: In the sequel, certain room arrangements attract an elite version of a monster, but the prerequisites for the elite Vampire and Dark Angel are so counter-intuitive that someone actually had to e-mail the developers to finally reveal the answer to the world.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper- How can you piss off the Horned Reaper? Let's count the ways...
    • Not paying him on time.
    • Forcing him to mix with your converted knights.
    • Forcing him to mix with your other converted heroes.
    • Forcing him to mix with any of your other minions - even other Reapers... Especially other Reapers, actually.
    • Slapping him.
    • Picking him up.
    • Holding him in the Hand of Evil.
    • Dropping him.
    • Make him go hungry.
    • Force him to waste his valuable time looking for something to eat.
    • Trying to make him toil in the workshop.
    • Trying to make him research.
    • Trying to make him train.
    • Leaving him with nothing to do.
    • In short, doing *anything* except fighting, praying, and sleeping makes the Horned Reaper angry. On the other side, give him something hostile to fight and he'll instantly leap to maximum mood.
  • Holiday Mode: Actually a full moon mode.
  • Improbable Weapon User: In the first game, monks beat people to death with their rosaries. In the second this is changed to All Monks Know Kung-Fu.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Killing a keeper means killing off their dungeon heart; it doesn't matter how awesome his dungeon or how numerous or deadly his creatures is as long as it falls.
  • The Juggernaut: The Horned Reaper, in the second game.
  • Killer Game Master: The player is pretty much obliged to act this way towards adventurers, as throwing the toughest monsters and deadliest traps possible at them is the quickest way to victory.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The Knight, naturally. Subverted with the Black Knight, whose armour is rather dull, and fights for you.
  • Leeroy Jenkins:
    • Skeletons in the second game are completely without fear. This means that a level one skeleton won't retreat when faced with say, a gang of level ten Knights.
    • Everything in the first game (except imps, who still will if the first thing they fight is an imp and other creatures join the fight without it noticing) will happily fight against odds where they could not possibly win. At least they retreat when the option -represented by a chicken- is checked.
    • Warlocks and Vampires tend to cast their "wind" spell without any sense when your minions are engaged in tight melee combat, making your concentrated army wind up anywhere, often in a bad tactical spot. Heroic casters have the same problem.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Horned Reapers and high-level Orcs in the first game.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Traps are a key part of any good dungeon.
  • Meaningful Name: Lord Avaricious in the sequel, who must be tempted out of his fortress by accumulating a suitably large stockpile of Filthy Lucre.
  • Mighty Glacier: Bile Demons, plain and simple. The Hero side has the Giant taking up this role.
  • Mooks: Played with:
    • Your minions aren't that expendable, and once they get trained up it's a good idea to keep them alive.
    • Imps are pretty expendable, especially in the sequel, since they only cost mana and level up simply from performing their usual tasks like digging, rather than having to take up training room space and money.
  • No Fourth Wall: The Mentor in the second game:
    • "Keeper, there is something nasty under your fingernail."
    • (After playing through until Stupid O'Clock in the morning) "Your nocturnal perseverence has unlocked a hidden gaming tip... GO TO BED!"
    • "Your minions demand cable."
    • "Your dungeon floor is lumpy. Order your minions to jump up and down!"
    • "Your lair has been recarpeted."
    • "Your dungeon is on an incline - angry creatures cannot play marbles!"
    • "Micro Piglets stalk your Dungeon. Beware..."
    • "Your dungeon is damp. Install central heating."
  • One-Hit Kill: Keepers should beware boulder traps, they are usually around a dark corner or behind a locked door and in a second, any surprised minions will be reduced to a pulp, even elite ones.
  • Our Monsters Are Different:
  • Psycho for Hire: The Horned Reaper in the first game. Literally for hire - the best way to keep him happy is to throw gold at him every so often. If he gets even slightly upset, he's liable to start breaking things. Namely your dungeon and minions.
  • The Remnant: In the sequel the Sylvan Elves formerly under the command of Lord Ronin continue to fight against Keeper Asmodeus. Interestingly, and very unusually for this trope, if left to their own devices they'll actually win. Granted it won't resurrect their commander, but they'll get their territory back. Of course, the mission objective is to kill Asmodeous yourself in order to prevent this, with the assumption being that the player has destroyed the remaining Elves in the process. Later, the remainder of Lord Bramble's forces don't give up either, but they're more interested in surviving in what remains of his fortress than actually aggressing against the two Keepers in the area.
  • RPG Elements: Creatures level up with training and combat, becoming more powerful.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Once you destroy an enemy Keeper's Dungeon Heart, his minions bail and head for the portal.
  • Set Swords to Stun: How you capture enemy creatures and heroes — in the first one, you have to explicitly tell your minions to stun rather than kill, while in the second it's automatically set this way for you.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The second game is riddled with them in the form of bonus voice clips from your Mentor. The Wizard Needs Food.
    • Monks are the only unit able to kill a higher leveled vampire permanently without them resurrecting, and they use whips in the first game. Sound familiar?
    • The most powerful hero in the first game is the Avatar.
    • Vampires are modelled after the good ol'Count from Bram Stoker's Dracula.
  • Sinister Scythe: The Horned Reaper wields one of these, obviously.
  • Shock and Awe: Some creatures gain the very powerful lightning strike after reaching a high level and keepers can learn and use the spell.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: In the first game, humans are a minority among other mammals as well as insectoids and reptiles. This is inverted in the sequel, where most of the creatures are humanoids.
  • Sliding Scaleof Idealism Vs Cynicism : Guess where. Hint : you're the bad guy, and not one of these anti-villain softies.
  • Sliding Scaleof Silliness Vs Seriousness : Way down the silly end. Evil Is Cool, after all.
  • Spiritual Successor: Plenty, DK has a very unique and charming gameplay, it's fondly remembered by many gamers and it lacks an official sequel after the first one.
    • Dungeons by Kalypsonote , to a certain extent. While thematically similar to Dungeon Keeper, the gameplay itself is more of a cross between the Theme Park series and Tower Defence games.
    • Dungeon Keeper 2 qualifies as a precursor to Minecraft; you could possess an Imp and dig out 3D pixellated blocks with your pick. Sure it was only on a 2D plane with no up or down, but there were minerals to find and enemies!
    • War For The Overworld, a similarily-styled game by Subterranean Games funded on Kick Starter, is shaping up to be a true Dungeon Keeper sequel in all but name, even using the very same name as the third installment in the series would have had in it's title before it was cancelled. The original Dungeon Keeper developers have even shown their support for the project, and the narrator in the trailer is the very same person who was your mentor in both games.
  • Squishy Wizard: Warlocks, as well as heroic Wizards.
  • Stone Wall: Dragons in the first game.
  • Summon Magic: How you "recruit" Horny in the second game, after collecting all 4 pieces of the Talisman.
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: The sequel assigns each creature a type: Flanker (weak individually, best used in groups for a Zerg Rush), Blocker (Mighty Glacier, chooses one spot and stops the enemy getting past it), Support (Glass Cannon, poor in melee but generally has some kind of ranged attack), and Blitzer (Lightning Bruiser, good with melee attacks and generally has a few spells to boot, likes charging enemy lines). Blockers can stop Blitzer charges, Flankers can overwhelm Blockers if given enough support, Supports can whittle Flankers down before they close the gap, and Blitzers will target Supports first.
  • Themed Cursor: Your pointer is pretty much your own ungodly hand, which you can use to pick up and drop stuff, throw things, pet, slap. Infact, it can possess said creatures and become their minds. The Dungeon Keeper series example would be one of the most extreme examples of this trope.
  • Timed Mission: The further you get in your evil career, the more likely you're going to come under fire from those pathetic do-gooders. Early levels let you take your time about setting up and training; later levels have you come under attack after a certain time limit. If you're not prepared by the time the Heroes/other Keeper shows up, you're very dead.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: The Dark Mistress like it. A lot. You have to throw them out (or lock them out) if you want to use the torture chamber on your enemies. Even then they'll probably sneak in and use it again when you're not looking, or they'll show up and "help" with the torturing. Interestingly, when you're converting enemy Mistresses in the torture chamber they still don't lose health. The implication is that they join you because you're so nice to them, based on that! They also like it when you slap them with the mouse cursor/hand. Downplayed in a patch for Dungeon Keeper 2, which made them less obsessed with the torture chamber.
  • Torture Always Works: Torturing heroes is a surefire way to boost your numbers.
  • The Undead: Captured enemies who starve to death in your dungeon become skeletons and corpses taken to the graveyard eventually combine to form vampires. The first game also has ghosts that result from someone dying in the torture chamber.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential:
    • Ooh, I know! Let's capture all of the good guys, starve them to near-death in the prison, make them fight over a couple of chickens, mass-heal them, throw them in the arena to entertain our minions and boost their morale. But before they die, heal them and drag them back to the prison, maybe make them fight over food again, slap them around a bit, then torture them, whilst healing them repeatedly to stop them from dying... in order to ensure that they convert to our side! Genius!
    • Considering how your numbers are limited, it is in fact a very good idea to torture good guys, to both boost your numbers and decrease theirs. However, you will probably have to give them different living quarters, or they might start fighting with your own evil minions.
    • Capturing a Lord of the Land alive and winning the level in the first game makes room for a lot of this. You'll be treated to a bonus scene, displaying quite a number of doors. Behind each and every one, you can listen to the Lord being subjected to inquisition-level tortures. His screams and the various noises made throughout leave painfully little to the imagination.
  • Villain Override: You can assume direct control of a minion through magic. This tends to make them much tougher and stronger in addition to them obeying your commands, due to casting multiple spells and being able to side-step enemy attacks.
    • This is required in one of the bonus levels in the first game, as it's the only way to navigate the large enemy maze.
  • Villain Protagonist: The game's selling point is that you're the Big Bad.
  • Villain Teleportation: Some minions gain it after reaching higher levels. Excluding the tunneler, the heroes don't.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Keepers are the dark lords of the underworld, combining ruthless strategy with managing the forces of darkness to combat both the forces of good and other Keepers. Think of a voice that suits such a being. Now discard it, as other Keepers in the first game sound like hamsters that treat helium like water.
  • We Have Reserves:
    • Nope. Unlike in Evil Genius (which is Dungeon Keeper meets James Bond), minions are not exactly expendable, because they come in limited numbers. You'd best train them well and not send them to a pointless death.
    • Feel free however, to send your own converted good guys to death at the hand of the forces of good. Why? Because it's funny and ironic!
    • Played straight with imps, goblins, skeletons, and to a lesser extent vampires, that can be used as Cannon Fodder without too much fuss.
  • What the Hell, Player?: "Your dungeon has an excess of Mistresses. There's a word for Keepers like you..."
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: You'll be burning through mana like a skinny kid through cake in the second game. Which is nice, because spending gold on spells in the first game was a bit rough on one's bank account. Once you gain access to the money conjuring spell in DK 2, you can have as much gold as you want if you're willing to wait for your mana to recharge.

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alternative title(s): Dungeon Keeper
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