The debut LitRPG series from Dakota Krout.
So far the series contains three books: Dungeon Born, Dungeon Madness, and Dungeon Calamity.
Dungeon Born (2016)
For eons, conquering dungeons has been the most efficient way to become a strong adventurer. Although, not everything is as straightforward as it seems. Several questions have always plagued the mind of those that enter these mythical places of power: Why are there so many monsters? Where does the amazing weaponry and heavy gold coins come from? Why does the very air fill with life-giving energies?!
Cal has all of the answers to these age old questions, for a very simple reason. He is a Dungeon Heart, a soul forced against his will into a magical stone. After several lonely years, Cal was able to regain sentience, allowing him to form new memories while slowly growing a dungeon around himself. With help from a friend, Cal learned how to create monsters and traps, increasing his power and size quickly.When a threat to his existence rears its head, Cal decides that he will do anything to stay alive and become stronger. Unfortunately for treasure-seekers, the fastest way for Cal to achieve his goal... is to eat anyone that enters his depths.
Dungeon Madness (2017)
Both Cal and Dale have become stronger, each in spite of the other.The dungeon - Cal - knows exactly how much their strength has increased, and is working hard to become exponentially more powerful. His schemes are becoming more complex, and his dungeon - his body - more deadly.
Dale has a nasty surprise waiting for him as he works to thwart the plans of the devious dungeon. Hearing a voice in his head that distracts him in critical moments, he must fight his mind as he battles deadly creatures.
Unbeknownst to both, they are in for the fight of their lives as madness threatens the land...
Dungeon Calamity (2017)
Powerful necromancers are on the move and Cal is caught in the crossfire. Without his faithful Wisp, Dani, Cal's mind slips and he begins creating traps and monsters that go against his already loose morals. After a direct threat from an unexpected force causes Cal's mind to stabilize, he throws all of his resources into keeping his thoughts clear while he funds searches for his lost companion. When others fail him again and again, Cal decides to take matters into his own hands.
Deadly occurrences remind Dale that no matter how well he does in his small community, he is still considered a weakling in the greater world. Though he continues his physical and mental training, he decides to gain strength by any means necessary even if these decisions are killing him.
The Divine Dungeon contains examples of:
The series as a whole:
- Anatomy of the Soul: All living things have a metaphysical core that absorbs essence, and 12 paired meridians that direct essence through their bodies. Essence cultivators make a chi spiral to purify and help absorb essence before it enters their core and are capable directing essence through their meridians.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: The leaders of each nation also tend to be the highest ranked cultivators of that nation.
- Dale runs afoul of this frequently, as those in power are unused to having to pay attention to someone of such low cultivation rank.
- Berserk Button: Go on... just trying telling Dale you're his "better".
- Bond Creature: Dungeons bond wisps to help direct their development and keep them sane.
- Chastity Couple: Cal is a formerly human gem. Dani is a floating ball of light. They have a magically conceived child by the end of book 3.
- The Corruption: A more benign example than most. Here corruption is the term for essence with a muddled imprint of its previous existence that can't be incorporated when cultivated. High levels of it are the usual cause of the negative effects of old age and can prevent someone from raising their cultivation rank. There are ways to get rid of absorbed corruption, but they are either slow and require advanced techniques or quick but dangerous and unpleasant, so smart cultivators are very sure to purify any essence through their chi spiral before they absorb it.
- Cal's ability to manipulate corruption and directly purify his core is just another thing that makes him unique.
- Deuteragonist: Dale. About half of each book focuses on the trials and tribulations he goes through setting up and developing a city around Cal.
- Elemental Powers: The series has the traditional earth, air, water, and fire, in addition to celestial and infernal. These are combined in different combinations and proportions to generate different effects.
- Fantastic Racism: In addition to the usual prejudices against other races, half-breeds (of any combination) are particularly looked down on, since unrestrained racial mixing is what created the goblins.
- Ironically, the brutal and savage Orcs are the most tolerant race. They don't care who someone's parents are as long as they're strong.
- Fictional Currency: The basic economic system is: 100 copper coins = 1 silver coin (about a week's wages for a normal person); 100 silver coins = 1 gold coin (enough to live in luxury for a year); and 100 gold coins = 1 platinum coin.
- Genius Loci: Dungeons have almost complete control over their area of influence. Unfortunately, their control is somewhat diffuse and a person's aura can supress it in about a 15 foot radius.
- Green Aesop: The only naturally occurring source of chaos essence? Crude oil.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Cal unapologetically does his best to kill people, using treasure to lure them in. To his credit, he also does his best to give people a fair chance if they are smart and don't try to break his rules.
- Humans Advance Swiftly: Or human cored dungeons advance swiftly. Normally a dungeon cores contain Beasts and so they have to learn everything as they go along. Since Cal starts off sentient he only has to relearn concepts he knew at one point and is able to rank up much more quickly than any other dungeon.
- I Know Your True Name: Bonding with an Ideal's True Name is a requirement of the mage ranks and above.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Cal loves to make them.
- Instant Expert: Memory stones. They only transfer the academic aspects of a topic, so the physical aspects still need to be trained and practiced to be usable.
- Mad Scientist: Cal quickly becomes one. The Bobs are slightly too grounded to count.
- Morality Pet: The basic function of dungeon wisps. A dungeon without a wisp is a very bad thing, as they tend to go insane from isolation. A dungeon that loses its wisp is even worse.
- Mundane Utility: People quickly take to dumping refuse into the dungeon where it will be broken down by Cal.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The usual fantasy dwarves with a love of mining and metalwork. They tend to focus on earth cultivation.
- Our Elves Are Better: They come with the standard mix of cultural and physical traits. Oddly, their long lives are the result of each of them being powerful cultivators instead of an inherent part of their race. There are 5 types.
- High elves: The largest nation, they tend to be merchants, artisans, and thinkers. They like to think they're better than the other types of elves.
- Dark elves, or Drow: They are feared mercenaries and assassins. They lack a silverwood tree of their own, and so are kept in quasi-slavery by the high elves to maintain their population. They make a deal with Dale to gain exclusive control of the silverwood tree at the heart of the dungeon and in exchange they keep order in the burgeoning city.
- Wood elves: Similar to the High elves, but with a stronger connection to nature. They rarely leave their forests.
- Sea elves: Elves who spend their entire lives as traders at sea.
- Wild elves: A catchall term for outcasts from the other 4 races. They have an even worse reputation than the Drow and live wherever they can. They tend to practice dark arts and summon demons.
- Our Goblins Are Different: They are the end result of mixing all of the sentient humanoid races and are the main reason half-breeds have such a hard time. They are typically small misshapen things that are treated as slaves when they aren't killed off as a matter of course.
- A small band of them eventually finds Cal and start worshiping him as their Great Spirit. He makes copies of them and alters them into Dungeon Goblins with the best features of each race instead of the worst.
- Our Werebeasts Are Different: Beasts (capital B) are animals that are old and powerful enough to have developed a Beast Core that allows them to cultivate essence and grants an almost human degree of intelligence. They're mostly used as a source of beast cores, as they are incredibly useful as sources of power for enchantments.
- Power Levels: The Cultivation Ranking System, starting at G and going to Godly. Each Rank has 10 sub ranks that go from 0 to 9.
- G - Inanimate objects and most plants.
- F - Mundane animals. Humans start at F0 when they're born and usually end up at F4 or 5 as adults unless they actively cultivate their essence. Derisively called 'fishies'.
- E - Beginning cultivators who are still improving their cultivation techniques in preparation for higher ranks. Usually only noble families bother with this rank as their advanced cultivation techniques are much more intensive than more commonly available techniques. Also known as 'echoes'.
- D - The rank where cultivators actually start becoming dangerous, capable of fighting ten F ranks single handedly. Characterized by a fractal chi spiral.
- C - The highest rank of essence cultivators, capable of fighting 10 D ranks or 100 F ranks. Usually have all of their meridians open.
- B - Mages, those who have sworn themselves to an ideal and are capable of cultivating Mana and releasing it through their ideal.
- A - High Mages, usually several hundred years old, who have mastered the basic understanding of their ideal.
- S, SS, and SSS - The Saintly ranks that have mastered their ideal and are capable of cultivating Spiritual Energy.
- Heavenly - Not much is known about the requirements for this rank.
- Godly - Not much is known about the requirements for this rank.
- Beast cores also have their own ranking system. In ascending order it goes: flawed (low F rank), weak (high F rank), standard (D rank), strong (low C rank), beastly (high C rank), immaculate (B and A ranks), luminous (S ranks), and radiant (Heavenly or Godly ranks).
- Rags to Riches: Dale goes from being a shepherd on the edges of civilized land to the de facto ruler of a boom town and minor nobility pretty much overnight.
- Really 700 Years Old: Cultivating essence purifies and heals the body. Someone at the top of the F rank will be healthy and fit well into typical old age, with lifespans only going up from there. Mages can be several hundred years old, and people S rank and above are essentially immortal.
- Running Gag: Dale seems to always forget something he is supposed to do when he visits the Dark Elves.
- Spark Fairy: Wisps, such as Dani. They're little balls of sentient essence in the center of an extremely efficient cultivation technique. The details of their creation are lost to time and are of intense interest to them as a race.
- Soul Jar: Cal was turned into a dungeon by his soul being forced into specially prepared beast core.
- Squishy Wizard: Averted. A basic perk of the B rank and above is that mana saturates the body and gives someone Nigh-Invulnerability to physical damage.
- Tree of Life: Silverwood trees. They have potent supernatural properties that promote fertility and are useful for when people break into the B ranks.
- Achievements in Ignorance: Cal being able to remove corruption from his own core is something he just does despite everyone else thinking it was impossible.
- And Then John Was a Zombie: At the climax of the story Dale is severely injured and thought dead, until Cal intervenes. He save's Dale's life by giving him a Beast core and turning him into a Dungeon Born.
- Berserk Button:
- Cal hates necromancers! Even if he doesn't remember why.
- Dale hates anyone who thinks they're better than him based solely on age and not achievement.
- Blessed with Suck: Rose has a dual affinity which is normally a great advantage. Unfortunately, hers is for Celestial and Infernal essence, better known as Chaos essence. Each are difficult to cultivate on their own, and given Rose's low rank she has to cultivate both at the same time, effectively crippling her ranking until Cal shows up.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Cal rationalizes him taking advantage of other people's greed to lure them into deadly situations as being part of his nature. No one is forced into the dungeon, he's a living creature that needs to eat, and he gives everyone an honest chance to make it out alive as long as they're cautious and smart.
- Floating Continent: Cantor, an S ranked Dungeon that floats wherever the wind takes it. He helps out young Dungeons such as Cal and directs wisps to them.
- Hair-Raising Hare: Bashers - large rabbits with a small horn on their heads that fight by jumping at their targets. They're Cal's go-to mob once it is apparent the shroomish aren't effective against even low ranked adventurers.
- Identity Amnesia: Cal remembers nothing of his life as a human except that he hates necromancers.
- Insistent Terminology: Evan the half-orc/half-dwarf is a Dworc, thank you very much.
- Light Is Not Good: Celestial aspected dungeons have a bad habit of summoning angels and starting holy wars in the surrounding area because it's a fast way to cultivate celestial essence.
- Line-of-Sight Name: Cal is short for calcium, due to the abundance of lime stone in the cave where Dani found him.
- Mercy Kill: In addition to helping young dungeons, Cantor also kills celestial and infernal dungeons as a matter of course for all the trouble they cause the rest of the world.
- No Inside Voice: The camp cook. He's a former drill seargent with some hearing damage whose default volume is a loud bellow.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Hans stops making jokes and starts to take the situation with the displacer cat seriously Dale knows something is going wrong.
- Panthera Awesome: The distortion cat Cal accidentally summons during one of his experiments. It's larger than a tiger, has three eyes, parasitic tentacles, and actively takes pleasure in killing.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Barbarians, such as Tom.
- Team Killer: Tom accidentally killed an injured teammate when he delivered an unnecessary blow to the second floor boss with a new weapon after it was already dead. After that his party disbands and no one is willing to take him on except for a desperate Dale.
- Time Skip: About 10 years go by between Cal's talk with Cantor and Dale stumbling across his dungeon.
- Ye Olde Butchered English: Tom likes to talk like this. It seems to be a barbarian thing.
- Blood Knight: Dani really likes to possess dungeon mobs and take a hands on role in fights. By the end of the book she's got a custom made goblin body to act as the third floor boss.
- Cargo Cult: Minya tries to set one up for Cal. It doesn't go all that well.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Rupturing a chi spiral will release all the cultivated essence it contains in a large explosion. If a mage does it, in addition to the colossal explosion it will also cause mana storms.
- Death Is Cheap: The dungeon goblins are regularly resurrected as needed.
- Ignored Expert: Minya is the foremost expert on dungeons but is ignored by pretty much everyone.
- King Incognito: Turns out Tom is a disgraced crown prince of the Barbarian Kingdom.
- Mistaken for Prostitute: Between his inexperience with women and Minya's recent make over curtesy of Cal, Dale initially thinks Minya is a prostitute offering her services. She is not amused when her tells her he's not interested.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The zombie plague was started by one of Cal's experiments with monster design going wrong and getting out into the wild.
- During the battle with said zombies, Frank uses his mana to freeze the hoard in place, accidentally triggering their suicide technique and breaching the wall. And if that weren't bad enough, it also triggers a mana storm on the mountain, forcing everyone into the dungeon.
- And a little later on when the survivors are trying to go unnoticed, the camp cook congratulates Dale on his plan in his habitual booming voice, drawing the hoards attention.
- Shout-Out: At one point Dani tries to get Cal's attention by shouting Hey! Listen!. He notes that this annoys him more than it should.
- Other Me Annoys Me: The dungeon goblins are understandably contemptuous of their original selves. Copies of the same individual also tend to get weirded out if they're around each other too long. Except for the Bobs, who like working together.
- Plague Zombie: The zombie hoard was created by infectious spores that have spent the last few weeks ravaging the countryside.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Dani's opinion of Snowball, the third floor boss monster, especially as a kitten.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The crown prince of the Lion Kingdom and crown princess of the Phoenix Kingdom care for their people and actively work for their betterment.
- Unstoppable Rage: Tom has a condition that causes him to go into one whenever he tastes blood. It's a rare but not unheard of problem for fire cultivators and runs in his family. It's the indirect cause of his team kill from the first book and the reason he was disinterested by his family.
- Addictive Magic: While cultivation feels good, it is fairly slow and requires concentration to maintain, so it's usually not a problem. Dale, on the other hand, has a weapon that lets him directly absorb essence when he shatters Beast cores, giving him an instant rush. He becomes more and more addicted to it as the book goes on.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Cal and Dani make one upon their reunion.
- Archnemesis Dad: Egil Nolson, the Xenocide, is one to his son, Kere, the High Inquisitor of the Church.
- The Bus Came Back: The elf from the second book who was upset at the slaughter of the bashers makes a comeback. Turns out she just so happened to have an aneurysm just as she entered the dungeon and Cal made a copy of her mind moments before she died. Cal ressurrected her to be a floor boss in exchange for getting to frolic with her precious bunnies.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Beast core Dale gets from the celestially charged golem.
- Does Not Like Men: The Tigress Queendom of amazons keep their menfolk as slaves.
- It is later revealed that The Master is the reason for this, as he was from the Queendom and they faced the brunt of his attention during the previous war.
- Floating Continent: Cal finally achieves his dream of becoming a flying dungeon. Unlike Cantor, he can direct his movement and leads the search for Dani himself.
- For the Lulz: The Xenocides entire goal in life.
- Godzilla Threshold: The Master is quickly established as a huge threat when he's revealed to be the one who killed the S ranked Cantor.
- Ley Line: There are natural flows of essence centered around areas with large concentrations of essence. Cal's Grand Ritual creates a self perpetuating system of runes to map them and channel some of the excess power to himself.
- Mystical Pregnancy: Upon their reunion and declaration of love, the silverwood tree magically conceives a baby wisp for Cal and Dani.
- Names to Run Away From: Egil Nolson, the Xenocide, the world's one and only Insanity Cultivator. He earned the name when he killed an entire race on a whim, and then liked the name so much he did two more times to make sure it stuck. The reason he's the world's only Insanity cultivator is because he kills or otherwise interferes with everyone else who attempts to become one. This works out for Cal as he somehow fixes Cal's Sanity Slippage.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Dale breaking a core provided enough essence to stabilize the portal the necromancers were fleeing through... then it turns out that the core was full of celestial essence, and when it mixed with the infernal essence in the room it created chaos essence. This caused the portal destination to jump to the past, giving the heroes another chance to stop their plans.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: At the start of the book a disturbing old man somehow snaps Cal out of his Sanity Slippage. This is later revealed to be the Xenocide acting on one of his mad whims.
- Not Afraid to Die: The Bobs have become a little too comfortable with regularly resurrecting if experiments go wrong. By the end of the book they have ascended to the mage ranks as a Death Mage.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Cal starts the book acting incredibly dangerous and uncaring, creating unbeatable traps and handing out loot out of all proportion to the difficulty of the area.
- Other Me Annoys Me: Turns out that Cal and Dale never got on because they are in fact the same person.
- Our Manticores Are Spinier: Manny the Manticore, Cal's first creation after binding to Acme.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Cal's efforts to rescue Dani form the main plot of the book.
- The Master is revealed to be on one against the other human nations for their systematic persecution of Infernal cultivators.
- Sanity Slippage: Very bad things happen to Cal's mental state after Dani is taken in the second book. Luckily the Xenocide is there to snap him out of it.
- Stable Time Loop: During the climax, a large explosion of chaos essence alters a portal's destination to the same point in space in the past. The necromancers who are fleeing are the ones from the very start of the first book, and Dale is the one who was sacrificed to create Cal.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: A minor flaw in a single rune of Cal's Grand Ritual destroys the city state of Asgardia over night.