Saturday, 28 October 2017

Dungeon Crawler as an urban tribe

Something I had on my mind for a while; I'll try to put it into words in case I can make something with it later.

The game/story centers around school kids on a modern town; and how they come in contact with the guild of dungeon crawlers: a mysterious gang of kids that speak about spooky, awesome underworld. Their stories are actually true. They've heard about a dungeon hiding somewhere. Just take any One Page Dungeon and put it on one of this:

(1. right under your school - 2. On a nearby forest, where the whole school is going next week on a trip - 3. Beyond your weird grandma's cellar - 4. On one of your uncles car junk lot. - 5. On the town's supposedly abandoned mansion - 6. Under a lost bridge, behind the industrial part of town)

Not all dungeons have to be under earth; every spooky or abandoned place is likely to have dungeon-like propierties: that's why they're abandoned or unconsciously avoided by normals. Also, some portals to dungeons might open in common places if one finds out how

You get your class at the start; just like that: fighter (though you depend on a specific kind of weapon depending on your background, because kids aren't usually trained on swordmanship), specialist (that kid that knows a lot about a certain thing, you can produce things from your bag that are related to your specialty) or mage (if you're a wizard, you'll probably discover it the first time you get in a dungeon). Use the rules of any dungeon game you normally use, but for the sake of tone, getting to 0 hp means that kids are unconscious and might need to be rescued.

Magic exists, but it only works in dungeons. When attempted on the surface, it acts dulled at best; and is easily dismissed by non-dungeoneers as tricks or sleight of hand. This happens to magic objects and, to a lesser degree, to any kind of treasure you recover from there. When a monster manages to escape from a dungeon, it's powers get subtler and must rely more on invisibility/stealth/cunning.

Normal people treats dungeon crawlers like they did with Goth Kids, Bronies, Emos, etc IRL: they mock them and despise their stories; attributing them to imagination. They're outcasts among kids, while the fashion trends awkwardly tries to appeal to them making artists and clothes about dungeons that miss entirely the point of what dungeons are about.

PC party getting back to the underworld after recovering HP

The underworld raw power of dungeons prevents cellphones and cameras from working, and jams most electronical devices. This prevents you from taking a selfie with a wight to prove your adventures to your friends. The most complex devices might even get hostile towards their wielders (your spotify list is suddently filled with hate messages from your loved ones; a GPS will lead you to the nearest chasm. Lanterns are usually OK, but you can never be sure if they're going to treacherously shut down right as you get into the troll's lair)

Dungeon subculture spreads mainly through drawings (mistaken by kid's edgy art), logs (mistaken as fanfic), grimoires (mistaken as new age books) and chansons de geste about their expeditions (mistaken for incredibly deep metaphors for teenage angst). Due to the inevitable impossibility of talking about dungeon experiences with normal people, there is a strong sense of comraderie between dungeoneers; though of course there are dicks who try to prevent new people from getting into it ("this kids only delve because they want to be cool, we old school delvers have been delving all the summer break and we know what dungeoning it's about"), tricksters ("treasure inspector, may I see your treasure?") and phonies ("Have you been to dungeon X?" yeah. "Dungeon Y?" yeah. "Dungeon Z?" yeah. "I've actually made up the last two" y- y- yeahhhhh of course I knew that)

* Beware: Deep speech ahead! *

Dungeons may appear anywhere; and they do not have any kind of supernatural cover up or anything (In fact, most of them might want to be noticed in order to grow). The only thing that prevents common people from knowing the magical reality is their very own drive to deny everything that clashes with their confort zone. The very zealotry of modern science (understood as denying weird options rather than acknowledging the unknown in order to investigate it) and the importance given to what society thinks we must instead of embracing the mystery of life is what keeps normal surfacers from the twisted horrors and treasures of the underworld. The importance of seeing the truth for oneself is a good theme to be enforced here.

Should a mountaineer discover the tomb of an atlantean king; the headlights on the news would be "Mountaineer goes crazy, pics from the madhouse on page 49" and handwave the whole tomb location automatically, is not like anyone is going to double check it; except dungeon delving kids who know where to read between the lines. No matter how many half-assed proofs you'll present or how good you are convincing people: No one will ever ever believe that dungeons exist unless they either see something strange with their own eyes (and cannot succesfully deny it using a weak pseudoscientific explanation) or really, really want to see a dungeon for some reason.

(If you're using a system that tracks sanity, maybe you need to be under a certain threshold to be operative on a dungeon)

there are those who have trouble adapting to a normal world after they've found the hobby

unexpected twists:

1 - you find out your mother never left you; she was in fact a fairy unable to escape the dungeon, but left you on the surface world to be raised as a human by your father.
2 - you're arranged in matrimony with a merfolk king of the underground sea. He'll whisper love letters to you through any kind of sink you visit.
3 - That mysterious fire that burnt the sawmill that year? a giant fire salamander. That earthquake? a troll
4 - proofs that one or many from this shirt are false.
5 - Goblins kidnap you or somebody you love in order to force you to become their king.
6 - An evil force wants to destroy the whole town in order to expand the dungeon into the surface.

example adventure hook

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Troll trifle at the Goatherd Inn

A storm is about to rage, and the PCs are on their way to a nearby Inn.

They find a man riding on the opposite way. If asked, he had a room booked back there, but he isn't spending the night under that roof; not after what they've just brought in. The baron and his men, who had went hunting deers, have hunted a troll instead and they've hung its head on the wall; like a trophy. But that thing still looks alive.

"I don't care if you laugh at me" Says the hurried man. "They all did already. I'm fine with getting soaked"

Night is upon you as you reach the tavern's light. Around the fire, some drink and make jokes under the sight of the hairy, growling head. The young Baron and his hunting party are celebrating, and being cliché dicks in general.

The inn's keeper isn't very pleased with this, but hey, It's money. His wife actually wants to burn the head on the fireplace as soon as the baron is drunk enough.

How will the baron's men react when this happens? Could the baron be persuaded the morning after that actually he did it, last night, in a brave intent for defending everybody when the head started moving and attacking them all?

Merchants and their families, pilgrims and shepards take turns to watch it from afar; some of the bravest kids touching it even, trying to impress their audience.

A lone hunter (a local, not one of the baron's thralls) doesn't drink. He's tense and crossed. Should you befriend him he'll tell you about that one time that he found a troll's hand in the woods. It crawled and stumbled around just like a big, wounded bear would; until it jumped and tried to reach him. He shot his arrows in awe until the thing stopped, just like it had to catch some breath. Then he actually saw something bigger approaching: the very troll had followed the trail of his hand, and he grabbed it with the other and put it back on the stump; and the wound magically sealed in a whim. Later he found out that the troll had got his hand cut off by a bear trap he had set.

Will you believe him? Would you spend the night in there? Which measures would you take if you did?

The troll is actually watching the scene, and concentrating all his might into trying to drive his massive body towards the inn (he'll succeed at some point!); tear the roof apart and get his head back. Then eat everybody out of spite and anger.

Did the baron really cut the troll's head, or did he just found it at the base of a canyon? How will he react when this happens? What about his hunting party?

What do you know about trolls? Do you know what injures them, what repels them, how they track you? How tall do you think the troll was, based on the head size?
Will it be able to smell you in the forest, in the darkness and under a raging storm?
Will you stand to protect the innocent when the troll comes?

credits: the troll severed hand story is taken straight from arnold K's bestiary! the picture from the Trollhunter movie.