A1. Slave Complex of the Under There


Panel from Trondheim & Sfar's Dungeon

Beyond the Borderlands and beneath the Misty Mountains lie the caves and caverns of the Under There. The Under There is an archetypal megadungeon, a subterranean labyrinth of evil humanoids, accursed undead, and eight flavors of sentient ooze. There are dark passages, cramped lairs, and secret doors, all constructed on a weirdly regular 10’ by 10’ grid. But the PCs are not adventuring heroes, they are monsters, the put-upon inhabitants of this deadly and dysfunctional underworld.

Yes, yes, you’ve had this idea before. Read on…

Black Tunnels descend from the surface world to the Crimson Caves of Blood. Below lie the Ochre Delves, the Azure Sepulchre, and the Temples of Elemental Indigo. The descending levels of the Under There represent a kind of, let’s say, “security clearance” for the pecking order of the dungeon. Under constant surveillance by unblinking beholders, ogres bully hobgoblins who bully goblins who bully bootlicking kobolds, who get stuck cleaning elf-gunk out of the death traps. It’s like high school with gelatinous cubes.

In the glittering ultra-white ice of the dungeon’s deepest cavern, an ancient, addlepated dragon guards a truly mammoth hoard of treasure. Decades ago, a band of stout adventurers caught it napping and cut off one of its seven heads. The dragon’s remaining heads fret constantly that the adventurers will return to steal its treasure. They give crazy, contradictory orders and demand impossible tests of loyalty from the other inhabitants of the dungeon. A ring of evil illithid act as the dragon’s chief advisors, playing on the ancient wyrm’s paranoia to keep it pliant and confused. This leaves them to rule the dungeon, siphon off its gold, and plot constantly against one another. Since the ultraviolet illithid can all read each other’s minds, their intricate schemes inevitably come to naught, but their infighting keeps the dungeon’s beleaguered denizens in a constant state of agitation. Evil is mandatory! Adventurers are everywhere! Keep your crossbow handy!

(Even at 15, Orcbusters struck me as kinda stupid. And redundant: in its original incarnation, PARANOIA was already a kind of satire of early 1980s D&D. But the very cute and fun French comic Dungeon illustrates how a D&D + PARANOIA mashup might cleverly be done.)

CR-20+ Clearance Only: Um, actually, adventurers are not everywhere. Fun as it might be to have a bunch of Lawful Good clods stumble in and stir up the joint, if this is PARANOIA, the big reveal almost has to be that some cataclysm has destroyed the world above. What the illithid can’t let the dragon find out is that the paladins, the elves, the surface-dwellers are all dead. Sauron won, the Kingpriest called down the wrath of the gods, Mordenkainen and Elminster torched the joint in a drunken brawl. The adventurers are never coming.


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3 Responses to “A1. Slave Complex of the Under There”

  1. Brant Says:

    Love it. I’ve been playing a lot of Overlord for the PS3 this vacation, and so this concept strikes a perfect chord with me.

  2. TheCleverMonkey Says:

    I am imagining troupes of red-skinned goblins being given test spells or body-part grafts from other monsters to test during their next trouble clubbing mission.

    Ogg the ogre being given the task of taking care of patching up his allies, as he needs the most practise with the healing arts.

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