The ideas below come from a chat with MoonHunter. They may be strange, they may be even sick in some ways. Enjoy them.
At the beginning was the dungeon
A dungeon as we often know it, is a confined place usually underground, existing for the sole purpose of being visited and massacred through heroical adventurers. But is it not too strange for so many dungeons to exist, with monsters and traps and treasure just waiting on you?
Perhaps all the dangers are no chance... someone created the dungeon with much care. Someone looks at what happens, and creates a new one. Why, you ask?
The Dungeon Master is a powerful being, long living, maybe immortal. He seeks action like few others do. If computers would exist, he would play the games forever. But he must create his games with his bare hands, usually through magic.
He creates all the traps, lures or summons the monsters, and hides the treasure. He enjoys the game, observing what the mortals do and how they survive. Maybe he is behind every wall and door, and deciding what happens if they push the switch. Or maybe he just observes, stays fair in not-intervening.
- The Art of Necromancy can revive monsters over and over.
- The Art of Illusions can even substitute traps, creates the results when someone presses the red spot. It can even create monsters anew, with 'Phantasmal Force'.
- A way to observe is necessary at all points.
Option 1: The Conflict
But what if there is more than one such Dungeon Master? You guess it, sooner or later one sentence will sound... 'Hah, I bet the Juggernauts can take on any of your silly dungeons!'
Maybe they are two friends. Maybe they have been rivals for long years. Maybe there is a whole race of long-living beings, which play the Game as a ritual or entertainment.
Ever got invited into a dungeon? Yes, THAT mysterious guy in the hooded cloak in the bar. If you pass this test, you may get 'invited' again. Maybe you are being 'prepared' without knowing, for the time when all will be decided. Both Masters choose a favourite dungeon, and let the parties of heroes inside.
It's time to tell you the truth: you are sponsored. Did you think all the gold and magical weaponry just lies around waiting for you? Did you not notice all those 'Random Encounters'? 'Trolls on that road? But it is completely safe. Caravans pass it easily every day!'
What's more, the heroes may feel a slight push at times they don't cooperate. It may become downright forcing into action. Much time and care has been invested into them.
On the positive side, the heroes occasionally get information they should not get easily. Maps fall in their hands, mysterious notes and signs warn them of traps and monsters. They shall survive afterall.
You should at least double all the unnatural goings-on if The Final Dungeon is in sight. Maybe the Masters have an agreement, but a bit of cheating or attempted sabotage can be expected.
Did you ever seen rats bred and trained to cross their little mazes faster? Imagine something bigger...
Option 2: TV
Now it gets sick.
The Dungeon Masters are from another dimension, where your exploits are used as 'reality entertainment'. And since reality is 'boring' they would use magic to 'spice it up'. Maybe there is no magic in their world.
This means that you will meet more bizzare creatures and effects, often without relevance to the 'real life'. And you will be more rewarded if you use flashy 'special effects', and cool combat maneuvers. And the more the better.
But you don't know you are on TV... espeically since your reality does not have TVs. Wounds and death feel real enough. This is Surivivor + Fear Factor + Real World all rolled into one! A fantastic show by all accounts. You have to be prepared on some people to cross the border. Your teenager fan may want to get pregnant with you. The guy that lost all his money on bets is out on revenge. People will try to manipulate the results. The company will try to hinder them, but may have their own plans. Someone lucky wins a chance to operate a monster, so you find a mindless worm to behave surprisingly intelligent...
Some people will cross the border permanently, and become inhabitants of your world. Some may enjoy the simple life of a farmer, but some could seek to dominate the world, not that hard with superior technology. The hooded guys in those bars are of course just talent-seekers, to find more talents for the show. What if they like it here? Who will be sent after them?
High-Level Option: The show lost popularity, and was abandoned. The heroes are suddenly left on their own. No dungeon seems to have the challenges it used to. But some old locations can reveal strange artifacts of unknown powers, abandoned by their users. What if you get into their world?
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? Responses (24)-24
This is a cool idea. I also could imagine if the Dungeon Masters weren't immortal, new ones would be rising to power. Perhaps the players are approached by the newbie to ask as consultants. They just need to enter some of the dungeons already in place and get the feel for it, so they can tell the newbie what challenges work or don't work. That could be a very stragne situation.
You could make them, nearly immortal...
They are nearly impossible to kill. Beyond the players ability to do it anyways. Perhaps they die when the run out of ponds of energy, 'dungeon juice' so to speak, the units of energy used to create dungeons.
This energy is used by them to augment their formitable powers. The various Dungeon Masters could compete with each other for ponds of energy (I bet you 100 ponds that The Tholcrom group could tear through your measily dungeon) or years of life.
You do realize that is utterly sick. I love it.
The problem with that is there would be no new energy flowing into the system. What if they earned energy from things like: Spells cast in their dungeon, HP lost, Kills, things like that. Think of the energy as like a 50/50 ticket, where the adventurers who complete the dungeon recieve experience, the Dungeon Master recieves energy.
I like that. The DM needs the players to go through the dungeon to survive. The players need to go through the dungeon to get all that cool loot. Nice tidy ecology there.
They get energy into the system, in the TV option. All those commercials and ads are paid for in energy....
There may be X amount of Ponds (Dungeon Master Cosmic Energy ) in the world. There is probably a fixed number of DungeonMasters as well. (A new one is called only after another decides to retire and become a cosmic entity.) So yes, it is possible for a bad DM to 'die' running out of energy, but then again.. they deserve it.
Just seen some Star Trek, featuring a muse that brought inspiration to artists, and was feeding of their energy, when they were creating the best works. Of course, they were getting weaker in this way, and died early after accomplishing works of great mastery.
The Dungeon Master may feed of those action, combat, etc, but they hopefully don't feed on the heroes themselves... adventurers dieing often young anyway...
Another option: the DM is a powerful spirit of a former adventurer, and enjoys the dungeoneering even after his death. And if nothing happens for too long... he becomes bored and leaves where his spirit should go long ago...
What happens when one of these guys goes rogue? His show was cancelled due to political reasons, rather than his ratings. He still has his portfolio of heroes and monsters, and now he is going to wreck the shows of every other GM in the world. Lets say there are five or so other Dungeon Masters running around, planning adventures and creating monsters.
Players might find themselves allied with people they never would of thought of as allies (because they have the same DMs) in an attempt to stop the rogue.
heck they may even be PCs in the rogue's portfolio, screwing up the rest of the world.
Strong meta-gaming element I sense here ... making fun of ourselves we are. A most interesting thought this is, and my notes add I shall:
Like say you did - to play nicely they do not have to, as big stakes in the game are. A foreigner approach the PCs could, telling them: 'A bag of gold if Alandra the Cleric does not survive to the end of the dungeon, or even: wizard, make sure Alandra's clothes fall off as often as possible, and you get a nice staff...do we have a deal?' The latter of course to please the publicum meant was.
Hard to differentiate between DungeonMaster meddling and real-life occurences it be could. Is it that Lulamiru the efreet reaally like you does, or paid by the DungeonMaster to like you as you lack a S.O. to care about she is?
Now, the PCs that play the truth know may not, or the fun spoilt will be.
If it all on TV is, what about adding a wrestling element? The DMs by names as 'The Trapper' or 'The Reanimator' go could, each a brand ouf unique and stylish dungeon has!
(Grishnakh, there will be no green blobs in this dungeons. Why? You saw the undead priests? Apparently he who raised them thought green blobs suck, and there are none in the Yucky Really Undead Crypts, and period)
(Ladies and gentlemen, once again ,the CritterEater manages to slaughter a high-level party with naught but rats, kobolds, goblins and a few bugs! Applaud, applaud!'
The original idea(meaning the beginning of the thread) of the Dungeon Master being somewhat malevolent, taking adventurers from other dimensions and depositing them into his dungeons and entertainment or profit sounds like a Q from Star Trek. All but omnipotent, very arrogant, short on morals. I can imagine a being like this using powerful adventurers almost as pro wrestlers, taking them and making a show out of watching them get through this dungeon and potentially die.
Hmm.... This sounds like an adventure waiting to happen.....
Had not thought of Q, nor the Gamers of Trikeron (STOS), but I can see the parallels.
The world the characters are on is the world the dungeon is on. The Dungeon Masters are from another reality... where a television like entertainment exists ('Stay tune to those orbs, the best is yet to come' or 'don't crack those mirrorscreens, Battle of Turgon Deep will be right back')
There is a matrix like arrangement. Maybe Dungeon Masters are programmers/ gamers who are playing a sim-esk adventure game (Sim-Realms or SimD20) on a larger mutli user server. Your world is a VR program. I know, I know, get your science fiction out of my fantasy... but with the Matrix, 13th floor, dot/hack and so on... it is hard when the examples are so there.
Stay tuned to your wave-screens, the Dooming Delve will be right back, after these messages!
Anyone ever played Dungeon Keeper, the totally badass game by Bullfrog studios? Well, you're an evil overlord, build a dungeon, recruit beasties, amass treasure, torture helpless people, smash hopes and finally kill/imprison/convert all the heroes.
While this gives you a possibility of meeting the Dungeon keeper in person, provided you play a beastie, it sure could get bad for you if the PCs need to kill you - they should succeed from time to time, right? So, the players could be powerful henchment of the Dungeon Keeper intent on tempting and schooling the heroes through ordeal, ordered not to kill any if they aren't stupid, and, if they have the power to rise from the dead/regenerate, they could sure even let the PCs get a kill... all while leading them towards Durnholme Castle, where the showdown will take place.
'So, Serravielle, we finally have cornered you, and there is no escape to continue your vampiric rampage!' 'No, kids, it was I who lead you here in the first place, made you chase me through the Ascaran desert, the Deadlands and Sorrowwind Glacier, so that you be ready to face *FANFARE* Drywzhych, the dracolich!' *turns to mist, chuckling ... 'enjoy!'
This could make a really cool campaign. It is a little like Dream Park crossed with Mojo from the X-men.
X-Crawl done right?
Another possibility is to let the characters meet 'you' while your sending them through for better ratings.
Okay. This is a really evil idea.
That is why I love it.
It sounds sooo odd, but it begins to make sense for your traditional game fantasy world. By putting a clean spin on it, you can utilize this in a variety of ways.
I like the Extra-Dimensional Reality TV show idea.
I also like the idea that these are game guides and your characters are really just VR characters filling it in.
X-Crawl/ American Gladiator/ and Dream Park do come to mind as well.
What I really like is when two or three of these guys clash for a variety of reasons. It could start out small, but eventually someone with the power to wreck your world now has a mad on for someone else on your world. And your PCs are the favorite pawns....
What other interesting options are there out there?
Now, it can be easily imagined that a Keeper gets local, and sires some progeny. With magic and/or technology (traps and monsters programmed to not harm their creator, knowing him perhaps on a genetical base), you could get an adventurer that has a shockingly easy time at cracking dungeons!
Except for the dungeons of the opposing side, where he will be the primary target. Ouch.
What if the PCs are just avatars in some constructed world, and that everything in the world is devised some how to relate to them. And then the PCs discover this, would they continue to behave as themselves? Would Paladin still be a Paladin if he realized he was computer generated contruct or would he still have faith in his God even though the DM admits to making it up?
Welcome to the Matrix. Do you want the red pill or the blue pill.
There is so much you can do these these beings. You are the playthings of the mighty after all. Unlike most mighty, these have cosmic powers to effect you.
I'm not a big fan of the reality TV show concept myself, but I can easily see these beings as demons or lesser-deities. My guess is that the challenge would be to design a dungeon which the other DM could try to crack with their own set of personal heroes. Each DM would have their own "style" -- one loves dragon-motifs and cults, another loves puzzles and nigh-impossible traps. And a third designs dungeons that are swimming with undead and unspeakable horrors! When your adventuring party cracks another DMs latest design, you win. But if your players bite it . . .
The only problem would be in the spawning of monsters and creation of other baddies to populate your dungeon, without at least some god-like abilities. Perhaps the DMs have to lure the monsters in with food or ideal habitats, or spread rumors around a local village to encourage the formation of a cult within the "ancient" temple . . . I would have to think about how much I'd limit their powers.
Spawning tons of ideas, which means that this is a fantastic post, and the previous comments are all equally thought-provoking. In fact, I will be using this in a game soon -- it's perfect for one I'm running right now. 5/5
I really like this idea. As was mentioned, I think it brings reason to the chaos. It answers the question about why a monster would sit in a room miles underground waiting hours, days, weeks, months, or years for the PCs to come along. If I were to use this (which I probably will, just not in the foreseeable future) , I would probably go with the reality 'tv' option. I would create a list of all things entertaining about a reality tv show and grade the PCs' popularity by it. Such as inter-party conflict, romantic tension, moral dilemmas, eating something disgusting, flashy moves, battle cries, coolness, etc. Then a PC with a high popularity rating would be more likely spared from death, given the coolest treasure, or placed in the most awkward situations for the benefit of the viewing public.
Nice... sick in many ways but usable. I wonder how much the PCs will groan when they find out.
Fascinating idea, with all kinds of twists and turns! I'm going to look into adapting it to my campaign sometime. Perhaps as a Fae encounter?
I like this, though would be hard pressed to use this. In some ways it would make more sense to use it outside of a fantasy campaign, as otherwise it really seems too meta.