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A Dungeon Is You

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Greetings, new Dungeon Core! I am your friendly Dungeon Helper, here to get you started!

What's that, you say? You're from another dimension and have no idea how you got here? Don't worry, that happens all the time! We blame the Gods.

(Popular ways to become a Dungeon include Divine Recruitment, summoning rituals Gone Horribly Wrong, Necromancy Gone Horribly Right, reincarnees getting misfiled by the Celestial Bureaucracy, or simply people dying while in contact with the right kind of magical rock. Usually all those are done as First-Episode Resurrection and usually Reincarnate in Another World. Oh, and occasionally some Dungeon Cores are just created without any soul shenanigans at all, but those guys are kinda stupid and uninteresting.)

Where was I? Yes, from now on, you are the Genius Loci of a dungeon. Inside your domain — which you can expand, with effort — you can rearrange your corridors and place traps for unwary intruders! You can also summon monsters to guard yourself, evolve them into new forms and promote some of them into Bosses.

As you grow in power, you will be able to unlock more Floors in your Dungeon, each of which can be given its own theme. A high-level number may unlock additional options. As you dig down, the increasing Mana concentration will allow for placing ever-better traps and monsters. Remember to keep your vulnerable Dungeon Core in the very bottom of your Dungeon, guarded by your most powerful Boss Monster, to keep it safe!

The downside is that your editing power fizzles out in the vicinity of intruders, and also you will be metaphysically unable to wall your core off — there must be a traversable path from the surface to your core. (Of course, it can be made arbitrarily unsafe to travel...)

Now, typically, the three resources of a Dungeon is your Mana, which is absorbed passively from the world and used to perform work, your Mass, the elements you absorb from the world and used to build with, and your Dungeon Points, which grow as you absorb items and bodies, and can be used to research new creation options.

Dungeons often have particular overarching themes; this can affect the type of monsters, loot, and challenges available — and naturally, the type of adventurers they attract. Picking a starting monster type is usually the first step toward picking a theme, though sometimes Titles and Skills the Dungeon Core earns via consistent effort will be just as important. Note that picking Undead or Demonic starter monsters — or just starting to expand on the surface instead of digging straight down — is a good way to be marked as a threat and purged by the local inquisition!

You're probably going to be at odds with Adventurers, but don't go thinking you're some kind of Absolute Evil because of that. See, Dungeons are important structures in the world, essential for proper Mana circulation, and they are also convenient places for humans to practice adventuring. Well, the humans you don't manage to kill and recycle into Dungeon Points. It's a symbiotic relationship, kinda. Dungeons provide vital resources, and attract adventuring tourists, so expect a city to form around your Dungeon, and surrounding countries to try to claim or conquer that city!

There are ancient and powerful Dungeons in the world, with uncountable floors, able to take human shape to interact with visitors, and change the laws of physics themselves within their corridors. Some say that the sapient races were originally created as Dungeon monsters, escaping and multiplying. Others say that the world itself is but a floor in such an ancient Dungeon, the Gods its Mini-bosses.
This is what you can aspire to — but that is only if you don't get crushed by a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits with rusty swords in your first week of existence!

So, be sure to keep the traps ready, the chests of gold filled, and the monsters hungry!

Originally pioneered by Dungeon Keeper and similar games, A Dungeon Is You is by now a staple literature genre on Royal Road, and also occurs in various Quest Threads. The concept shows up in Light Novels as well, but there the MC is usually a Dungeon Master controlling the Core, rather than the Dungeon Core itself, and as such these stories fall under the Dungeon Maintenance trope.

The genre is generally referred to in the LitRPG community as DungeonCore, a pun on the characters being Dungeon Cores, and on terms like "hardcore".

Dungeons are usually a Fantasy Trope, especially prevalent in LitRPG settings, but there have been the odd one here and there based on alien technology or nanobots.

Sub-Trope of Dungeon Maintenance, Soul Jar, Genius Loci - and in case of games, Construction and Management Games and Space-Management Game. Compare to Tower Defense.


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    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami places Ami from Sailor Moon in the world of Dungeon Keeper, where she is forced to take on the job of a Dungeon Keeper. She still has her own body, but gains substantial powers over her claimed territory, in exchange for dying if all her Dungeon Hearts are destroyed. Unfortunately, dungeons in this world aren't considered to be important parts of the ecosystem, but rather manifestations of the dark gods, to be terminated with extreme prejudice...
  • Dungeon Hulk centers on a Dungeon Core reincarnate that suddenly appears on a chaos-infested shipwreck pile-up in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
  • I Woke Up As a Dungeon, Now What? has Taylor, after the events of Golden Morning, wake up as a dungeon all of a sudden. It turns out that bug control and terrain control have excellent synergy.

  • Ancient Dreams: The main character, a summoned demoness, is bound into a crystal by a summoner with a grudge and left to slowly fade away. Hundreds of years later, she manages to make herself a Dungeon Core, having only dim memories of her previous life.
  • Bio Dungeon: A sickly young thief inadvertently swallows a lost dungeon core, which begins fighting off the surprisingly intelligent disease that has been ravaging his body in its attempts to take it over.
  • Blue Core: The protagonist is mysteriously transported to a fantasy world with explicit RPG elements as a Dungeon Core. The concept takes a more organic twist here with dungeons literally growing rather than popping rooms into existence or having them carved out by minions.
  • Bunkercore is a science fiction example, with the main character expanding his base with nanobots following LitRPG rules.
  • The Concubine's Tomb is set in Fantasy Egypt, where the MC toils for ten years on building a tomb, only to be killed by the Emperor afterwards. Resurrected as a Dungeon Core by the God of Retribution, he sets out to get revenge... Released as a commercial novel as Tomb: Stone and Blood by Michael McClung in 2019.
  • Core of Fear has Clive Logan, a prolific serial killer, sent up from Hell as a "Spirit Core" to torment the living in the form of a haunted house. Unlike most examples of the genre, he does not have a single place which may be attacked, but rather needs to be banished room by room (and he tries to avoid his targets even being aware of his existence). Also unlike most cases, he does not have direct control of the house itself.
  • A Dearth of Choice: The protagonist is reincarnated as a dungeon core and wants to peacefully coexist with humans, but he keeps inadvertently stacking up bonuses to death magic and necromancy...
  • The Discarded, Half-Eaten Apple Core New Life: The world is invaded by demons, and the protagonist has his soul sucked out, before being accidentally reincarnated into an apple. And then the System finally catches up with him and tries to figure out what to do with him.
  • The Divine Dungeon sees a victim of necromancy bound in a crystal develop Dungeon Core powers and become a Dungeon core.
  • Doomed Dungeon: The main character is made by a high-level Necromancer intending to come back and harvest him for materials in a few years. If he wants to escape that fate, he needs to power up A LOT before then...
  • The Dungeon Calls For A Sage: The one reincarnated as a Dungeon is... a former Dungeon Core. Disillusioned with existence, the core decides to make itself attractive to wise men and sages, so as to meet someone qualified to solve its philosophical dilemma and find a purpose to its life.
  • Dungeon Core Chat Room: A dungeon core awakens and quickly finds that it isn't alone. The other dungeons are sometimes helpful, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes downright dangerous, but when you're facing the world, it's good to have friends.
  • Dungeon Core Trilogy focuses on a wizard who has been transformed into a Dungeon Core.
  • Dungeon Engineer features a reincarnated engineer, who uses his Genius Loci powers to build interesting dungeon structures, design deadly creatures, and start a major rock quarry operation supplying the nearby city with building stones.
  • Dungeon Heart sees a dying Dwarf's soul merging with a Dungeon Core crystal, inhabiting it after death, and starting a Dungeon with the intent of making sure his exquisitely crafted items will only go to the worthy from now on.
  • "Dungeon Life" Reincarnated soul takes up the title/name of "Thediem" and does his best to develop a friendly symbiotic relationship with the town the dungeon spawned in.
  • Dungeon Robotics: After he dies, Regan's soul is sent to another world and lands in a dungeon core. He then moves his core to the mountains and sets about building automation and eventually robots as he expands his dungeon.
  • In Factory of the Gods, and the coreverse in general, dungeons are source herocores and the mana they need to replenish and rank up. When a soul combines with a mana core it becomes a dungeon core and must set about building a dungeon to lure adventurers in so they can also grow stronger, generating mobs for them to fight. This happens to Pholma when he dies, which causes him to lose most of his memories. Later Julain has a dungeon core implanted in him while he is still alive, becoming a weird version of a dungeon.
  • I Was Reincarnated As A Magic Academy: A Magic Academy experiments with making an artificial Dungeon Core from core shards, in order to lower maintenance costs. The main character's soul somehow ends up inside.
  • Lair For Rent is a rules-light superhero universe example, with Walter controlling the resources of a former office building largely built underground, and in the middle of a prominent supervillain's territory.
  • Lazy Dungeon Master has a lazy young man who becomes co-opted into being a Dungeon Core, and succeeds largely through his laziness leading to him finding the most expedient solution to any problem so that he can go back to sleep.
  • The Misplaced Dungeon has irresponsible Gods clone human souls and mindwipe them to function as Dungeon Cores. The main character manages to escape the mindwipe and establish a link to her clone-self on Earth, making her a Patient Zero for infectious LitRPG magic, with global consequences.
  • Saga Of The Soul Dungeon: The main character's soul is summoned and fused with a Dungeon Core as part of a magical experiment, meaning that, in order to found a Dungeon, he must first escape a Wizard's laboratory.
  • Silverglade, a Dungeon tale has an extreme introvert reincarnate as a Dungeon Core, decide that this is the life — she never has to leave her room again — and then proceed to screw up in interesting ways.
  • There Is No Epic Loot Here, Only Puns: A girl is reincarnated as a dungeon core, and after having a serious Freak Out, settles on creating a place of learning and adventure instead of a murder machine. Just be nice to the spiders, leave Waddles the duck well alone, and remember, the giant Abyss Worm is actually quite friendly! Have fun!
  • Travelers (BlueCoffeeJava): A group of friends are transported to a Fantasy setting by a Scrying spell gone wrong, and one of them is made into a Dungeon Core.
  • No Need for a Core?: One ancient dungeon core, recently unsealed to get a Do Over. One kitsune girl recently reincarnated as a new dungeon core. One half-elf warrior monk. And an unusual relationship to bind them as a single dungeon.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Sword World RPG: The second edition of the game has an interesting variation: In the world of Raxia, there exists an untold number of powerful sentient magical swords who are capable of creating their own dungeons to hide themselves away in, filled with traps and monsters that are attracted into living there, specifically to test the worthiness of any adventurers who might enter to find someone strong enough to wield them. They can do this because they were originally cloned from the Swords of Genesis, the three (or maybe four) magical swords that created the world of Raxia itself centuries ago. Being swords doesn't mean they don't have personalities either. In the city-state of Granzale, there's one particular Sword Labyrinth that is used as both a form of execution and a final chance for the convicted to prove their innocence because the sword at the center of it hates injustice so much that those it finds guilty of crimes will disappear never to be seen again if they wander its halls too long.

    Video Games 
  • Dungeon Keeper: The player controls a "Keeper", a bodiless Sorcerous Overlord whose only physical presence is an immobile stone Dungeon Heart that sustains your life. Your minions claim territory in your name, which you can instantly furnish into various dungeon rooms that attract and support a force of evil minions. You can build rooms and traps, cast spells within your territory, and relocate your own forces, but otherwise rely on your minions to accomplish your goals. Some levels pit you against rival Keepers.
  • Dungeon Maker Hunting Ground and its sequel Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War both subvert the trope, casting the player as an architect who builds and furnishes a dungeon specifically to hunt the monsters that are attracted to it, with the goal of eventually luring in the most powerful and dangerous monster in the setting.
  • EarthBound (1994): Dungeon Man is a strange and humorous Unbuilt Trope take on this. It's a dungeon with a vaguely humanoid outer façade that was built around a dungeon-obsessed man named Brick Road with help from Dr. Andonuts. Brick Road himself serves as the "Dungeon Core" in the sense that he has embedded himself in the center of the dungeon with his head sticking out of a wall — and once the player finds him there, the Dungeon Man will follow the party as a powerful Guest-Star Party Member. The dungeon itself is a Breather Episode as far as difficulty, being full of weak enemies and numerous hint signs; Brick Road was more concerned with showing off his creativity than challenging adventurers.
  • Suzukuri Dungeon: Karin in the Mountain, a loose spin-off of the Koihime†Musou series, features an adventurer tasked with building dungeons to finance the Demon Queen's resurrection, mainly by luring and shaking down adventurers, alongside romance with the female characters and eroge elements.
  • War for the Overworld: As a Spiritual Successor to the venerable Dungeon Keeper series, it uses the same format as that game (as well as the originally planned name for the third game in the Dungeon Keeper series).

  • Dungeoneer: An ancient Dungeon Core finds herself forced to start a new Dungeon from scratch, recruiting partners from a nearby city to do so. She has ongoing problems with her damaged core but it has allowed her to embed a shard of herself into a golem body and in the process is slowly learning how to be a better person.