Lore: Ecology Of Planar Dungeons

Ecology of Planar Dungeons

by Sung-Woo Ryo, Argent Sage of Hwangjin
Year 2375 of the 4th Age

Throughout recorded history, archeologists and adventurers have come across self-contained ruins, typically underground, that lack any clear origin or purpose. The labyrinthian structures we call 'dungeons' today lack the sense of intent that we would normally apply in how we construct say the dungeons of a castle, where the latter would be deesigned sensibly to detain prisoners and serve the duty of its guards. However, the engimatic dungeons we will examine in this text appear to be assemble haphazardly, with maze-like corridors that would baffle any sense of direction, doorways with overelaborate and bizarre locking mechanism, numerous traps and hazards, random pockets of treasure, and a population of so many different types of creatures that fit no natural ecology.

After a lifetime of far-reaching research of delving into numerous dungeons and consulting powers from beyond the material plane, I, the Sage Sung-Woo Ryo of Hwangjin, have determined the true nature of these mysterious dungeons.

Nature of Planar Dungeons

Planar dungeons are pocket dimensions struck off from the collisions of the cosmological planes. At their core resides a planar shard composed of concentrated aetherite. Dungeons float among the cosmic aether until they intersect with Midrealm, the Prime Material Plane, whereupon they become anchored to it via a portal. Over time, the dungeon merges with the material plane to become an actual physical location in Midrealm. Dungeons are particularly dangerous because they often contain hazards and deadly creatures from other planes. These dangers continue to spawn into existence due to the dungeons unstable morphic state as long as the dungeon continues to exists. Yet, these are not the real dangers of a dungeon.

Once anchored to the material plane, the dungeon seems to have an unnatural thirst to consume the materials of Midrealm, including Midrealm's native inhabitants. Once the dungeon's portal is open, its monsters will pour out onto the material plane to roam and retrieve creatures and magical objects for the dungeon to consume. Fortunately, dungeon portals are not stable, at least not initially. The portals open at intervals of time that depend on the power of the dungeons, opening more often the more powerful the dungeon is. However, eventually the dungeon becomes so acclimated to the material plane that the portal remains open constantly, and eventually merge with the material plane, warping the area already there into one great infestation of constantly spawning monsters and hazardous environment. Although dungeon portals open and close at intervals, and sometimes randomly, people have discovered ways to force them open or close, or stabilize their state. Once a planar dungeon merges with the material plane, its core eventually dissipates as it becomes absorbed by the natural environment. This process may take years, even centuries, to complete.

Dungeon Denizens

Dungeons naturally spawn creatures within it. Like the malleable nature of the dungeon, the forms of these creatures vary wildly, from resembling Midrealmian beasts, to haphazardly assembled monstrosities with no clear purpose. However, all monsters fulfill the ecology of the dungeon. Most dungeon denizens areeither mindless or have animalistic intelligences, but some more powerful creatures gain self-awareness and self-determination. The latter type of dungeon denizens may attain full intelligence, able to communicate and determine their own goals. All dungeon denizens have a growing orb of concentrated aetherite within their hearts. Extracting these aetherite orbs results in the creature's death, though they can be harvested after killing them as well. The older or more powerful the creature is, the more concentrated their aetherite heart becomes.

If a dungeon has merged with the material plane and its core has dissipated, the area the dungeon merged with no longer spawns dungeon creatures. Dungeon denizens still present retain their cores, but their offspring do not. Often, these aliens mate with native creature to produce mutant offspring and new breeds of monsters.

The Dungeon Master

The most powerful creature in a dungeon is the dungeon master. Not only is the dungeon master the most powerful creature in the dungeon, but depending on their level of power, they can have limited or complete mental influence on the rest of the dungeon's denizens, and possibly also control over the dungeon's environment. Killing the dungeon master subdues the spawning of monsters and dangers for a variable time. The dungeon master is naturally inclined to hide and protect the dungeon's core, and automatically gains abilities to do so. The nature of dungeon masters varies wildly, and in some cases of ancient dungeons, the dungeon itself gains self-awareness and the ability to act on its own.

Once the dungeon master is destroyed, the dungeon's core becomes vulnerable. The amount of aetherite that can be harnessed from the core depends on the age and natural power of the dungeon. Correspondingly, the level of danger of the dungeon's creatures and hazards also rises with the value of the core. The older the dungeon, the more potent the core becomes. The more potent the core is, the more dangerous the dungeon becomes. Once the core is destroyed, the dungeon crumbles out of existence. This does not happen instantly, but gradually over time depending on the dungeon's potency, though it stil remains a very short period.

Dungeon Types

Planar dungeons come in two forms: natural and crafted.

Natural dungeons arise naturally without outside interference. Their terrain mimics the natural environment of other planes. This includes Midrealm, which can result in artificial structures or even cities. These structures are naturally formed by psychic echoes of historical events or important locations of Midrealm, and resemble those locations to varying degrees. Inhabitants of natural dungeons are often have animal-levels of intelligence, though more intelligent creatures may arise over time, and the most powerful creature evolves to become the dungeon's master.

Crafted dungeons are purpose built by an outside intelligence. They can either be a natural dungeons that was taken over by an outsider, or directly crafted from the planar shard itself by the intelligence. The dungeon is then molded by the intelligence to suit its needs, and they can determine the dungeon's environment, structures, hazards, and inhabitants. The intelligence can even determine when and where the dungeon can intersect with the material plane. They can even later change locations, albeit doing so requires an amount of power beyond that which the dungeon naturally has. The intelligence need not become the dungeon's master, and may designate another creature in its place. However, the powers granted by the dungeon as its master is often well worth the price of becoming bound to the dungeon. The intelligences behind crafted dungeons need to be extremely powerful, such as demon lords or infernal magnates. Their purpose in crafting such planar dungeons vary as well, from building a private lair, to an experimental ecology, to simple sadism of luring mortal within and toying with their lives.

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