Of all the strange places that an adventurer might explore, none is deadlier than the dungeon. These labyrinths, full of deadly traps, hungry monsters. and priceless treasure, test every skill a character possesses. These rules can apply to dungeons of any type, from the wreck of a sunken ship to a vast cave complex.
Types of Dungeons
The four basic dungeon types are defined by their current status. Many dungeons are variations on these basic types or combinations of more than one of them. Sometimes old dungeons are used again and again by different inhabitants for different purposes.
Once occupied, this place is now abandoned (completely or in part) by its original creator or creators,
and other creatures have wandered in. Many subterranean creatures look for abandoned underground constructions in which to make their lairs. Any traps that might exist have probably been set off, but wandering beasts might very well be common.
This type of dungeon is still in use. Creatures (usually intelligent) live there, although they might not be the dungeon’s creators. An occupied structure might be a home, a fortress, a temple, an active mine, a prison, or a headquarters. This type of dungeon is less likely to have traps or wandering beasts, and more likely to have organized guards both on watch and on patrol. Traps or wandering beasts that might be encountered are usually under the control of the occupants. Occupied structures have furnishings to suit the inhabitants, as well as decorations, supplies, and the ability for occupants to move around. The inhabitants might have a communication system, and they almost certainly control an exit to the outside.
Some dungeons are partially occupied and partially empty or in ruins. In such cases, the occupants are typically not the original builders, but instead a group of intelligent creatures that have set up their base, lair, or fortification within an abandoned dungeon.
When people want to protect something, they sometimes bury it underground. Whether the item they want to protect is a fabulous treasure, a forbidden artifact, or the dead body of an important figure, these valuable objects are placed within a dungeon and surrounded by barriers, traps, and guardians.
The safe storage dungeon is the most likely to have traps but the least likely to have wandering beasts. This type of dungeon is normally built for function rather than appearance, but sometimes it has ornamentation in the form of statuary or painted walls. This is particularly true of the tombs of important people.
Sometimes, however, a vault or a crypt is constructed in such a way as to house living guardians. The problem with this strategy is that something must be done to keep the creatures alive between intrusion attempts. Magic is usually the best solution to provide food and water for these creatures. Builders of vaults or tombs often use undead creatures or constructs, both of which have no need for sustenance or rest, to guard their dungeons. Magic traps can attack intruders by summoning monsters into the dungeon that disappear when their task is done.
Natural Cavern Complex
Underground caves provide homes for all sorts of subterranean monsters. Created naturally and connected by labyrinthine tunnel systems, these caverns lack any sort of pattern, order, or decoration. With no intelligent force behind its construction, this type of dungeon is the least likely to have traps or even doors.
Fungi of all sorts thrive in caves, sometimes growing in huge forests of mushrooms and puffballs. Subterranean predators prowl these forests, looking for weaker creatures feeding upon the fungi. Some varieties of fungus give off a phosphorescent glow, providing a natural cavern complex with its own limited light source. In other areas, a daylight spell or similar magical effect can provide enough light for green plants to grow.
Natural cavern complexes often connect with other types of dungeons, the caves having been discovered when the manufactured dungeons were delved. a cavern complex can connect two otherwise unrelated dungeons, sometimes creating a strange mixed environment. A natural cavern complex joined with another dungeon often provides a route by which subterranean creatures find their way into a manufactured dungeon and populate it.