I’m participating in the A-Z April Blogging Challenge and my theme of choice is Dungeons & Dragons.
Dungeons are serious business in D&D. It is a room or complex where someone or something is held, usually underground. We could be talking about constructed complexes, caverns, mines, burrows, tunnels, or even vast underground realms like The Underdark. Either way, every good dungeoneer knows that the Places Below are hazardous to our health. Some examples of these are easy to overcome, but others not so much.
A dungeon is a room or cell in which prisoners are held, especially underground. Dungeons are generally associated with medieval castles, though their association with torture probably belongs more to the Renaissance period. An oubliette is a form of dungeon which is accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling.
Although many dungeons are simply a single plain room with a heavy door or with access only from a hatchway or trapdoor in the floor of the room above, the use of dungeons for torture, along with their association to common human fears of being trapped underground, have made dungeons a powerful metaphor in a variety of contexts. Dungeons, in the plural, have come to be associated with underground complexes of cells and torture chambers. Many chambers described as dungeons or oubliettes were in fact storerooms, water-cisterns or even latrines.
When entering an environment like a dungeon, one must consider hazards beyond the monsters that might lurk in the dark places of the earth. One concern will be weak spots and eroded surfaces that lead to sink holes and cave ins. Whether this is caused by age, damage, or a stray fireball … tons of rock falling on my head is not my idea of a good time. Many portions of a dungeon can be unstable. Watch for the tell-tale signs of weakened ceilings, cracks in support beams or pillars, or dirt raining down from the ceiling. Loud noises can even shake things loose. Make sure to carry a shovel, crowbar, and plenty of rations. If you survive the cave-in then you’ll need to dig yourself out.
There is also the concern of water … either too much or too little. If you didn’t bring food and water for your Expedition Below, then you may be out of luck. Also, if there are sources of underground rivers there is always the chance that water may be diverted for some reason and start filling up the place where you are investigating. Flash floods in a dungeon can be mighty annoying to say the least.
Thirdly, we have fire. Fires not only steal your precious oxygen but also have the chance to set things on fire which would be best left not on fire. Since a torch seems to be commonly used by the novice dungeoneer as a source of light, one would do well to make sure that the environment is oxygen rich and free of debris that will catch fire when you drop your torch to fight that Beholder who is going to eat you.
And frankly, while we’re talking about light, that’s an issue too. Nothing sucks more than trying to explore a dungeon without a light source. It’s easy to get lost, and even easier to get really lost in the dark.
We also have to consider poisonous gases. No, we’re not talking about the after effects of those iron rations you bought at the local shop before going down down to Goblin Town. Sulfur Dioxide can be rather annoying to your typical band of dungeoneers who are looking for a trove of gold coins.
Oh, and traps. These keep intruders – or adventurers – out of dungeons. Worse than that, some traps are designed to keep things inside. Consider the reason for a trap when you find one. Is it there to threaten death and dismemberment for thieves and intruders … or is it there to discourage denizens from wandering away from this area? Whether the trap is mechsnical or magical, it’s there for a reason. Figure it out.
So there you have it. Dungeons are serious business. If you’re coming on down to the underground, you better be ready. Put on your big boy pants and bring your toughest friends. Cuz otherwise … you’re going to die down there, alone in the dark, crying like a baby.