The Dungeon Prison, first notes and details

This old idea, plus Dreams in the Lich House’s cool blog post about mega-dungeon creation technique and the D&D news are rattling around in my head.

The dungeon as prison complex and dungeon built below a teeming metropolis are not a new ideas and I’m fine with that. The idea is that when prison becomes an industry that is profitable to those in power laws become unjust, designed to feed the machine (can’t imagine where I’m drawing inspiration for that). This is a mess piled haphazardly on other ancient disasters.

The dungeon is built above a sprawling city and its tunnels and labyrinths stretch out beyond its walls. Using the dungeon as a prison sentence is an arch-mage’s plan, a way to control the delving and claim rights to anything found within it, having freedom to offer any delver who comes up for air with something good to offer. Prisoners are marked, tattooed and characters will continue to gather tattoos as they gain levels and descend and explore. The tattoos are also markers, recognized in this world (lesser so in others) that they are not to be trusted. In some bandit and thieves guild circles, though, the arcane marks could easily be used as intimidation or status. The tattoos be player-authored, something fun to think about as they roll up their new hit points.


Guards: These are brute apprentices of the arch-mage, Fighter-Mages who patrol the nexus points and most populated areas, checking for new findings that could knock time off an inmate’s sentence or even give them freedom. Of course they are corrupt and embroiled into the politics between levels, out for their own gain, hoping to get the arch-mage’s favor. They have acess to the arch-mage’s personal wraiths, the Hanged Men, for dealing with riots or convicts who become too powerful to be easily controlled.

Guild: The arch-mage and the thieves’ guild had a vicious feud a decade ago that came to an uneasy peace accord. Most of the guild’s officers were put underground, where they live quite well in their little holds. They get information in and out through guards and they feed the prison guild thieves, especially guild thieves who get too powerful or ambitious.

Monster Inmates: I ran a game set in a prison under the Rock of Bral years ago and love prison inmate monsters. I’d have a table with some of my favorites to roll on in a pinch.

  1. Ogre Magi
  2. Slaadi Refugee
  3. Githyanki Warlock
  4. Illithid
  5. Drider
  6. Death Knight
  7. Gnoll Murder Priest
  8. Goblin Assassin
  9. Vampire
  10. Wizard on the verge of Lich-dom
  11. Gentleman Ghoul
  12. Beholder

Blood Hungry Gods: In olden times, these dungeons were altars for human sacrifice. The flow of inmates has awoken their blood-hunger. I’ll roll on a few tables to come up with a new diety.

Ghouls: They live off the dead, be it bones or flesh. The hungrier they get, the more feral they become. Folks either become ghouls through an untreated infected bite or through ritual.


  1. Cobra
  2. Hawk
  3. Bones
  4. Summoning Circles
  5. Eye
  6. One of the player’s tattoos


  1. Harvest
  2. Death
  3. Justice
  4. Money
  5. Freedom
  6. Hearth and Home

Dwarven Ghosts: A dwarven clan mined here, well over a thousand years ago. A bitter feud with the elves ended the mining operation but there are tunnels to be found here and there. [This bores the shit out of me…something odder more Vance/more Leiber/less Tolkien will likely replace this.]

Accessibility and Vertical Transit

The guards will have some teleport-capability for emergencies and knowledge of gates in and out. I’ll look to insert stuff into it and make sure it isn’t one long tunnel as I sketch up rough maps.

Campaign Events

  1. Feuding Factions
  2. Guild Civil War
  3. Feuding Guards
  4. The Arch-Mage is on this level, overlooking some shit!
  5.  Named, bad-ass adventuring company is on the level, flipping tables.
  6. Newly reborn god
  7. High holy day
  8. Convict found their freedom…waiting for guard.
  9. Rampaging Beast
  10. Flood
  11. Guards are in force, looking for someone.
  12. Wake for a well known convict
  13. Plague
  14. Faction domination – a faction just gained firm control of this area
  15. Slavers (1-4 Drow, 5 Illithid, 6 Neogi)
  16. OK Corral style wizard battle
  17. Earthquake
  18. Simmering tension
  19. Something new was recently summoned.
  20. Someone powerful was just robbed.
  21. Bard(s), tellin’ lies, putting on a show
  22. Pit Fights, place yer bets.
  23. Owlbear baiting, place yer bets.
  24. Delvers are in the middle of triggering a brutal trap.
  25. A recently convicted former noble is being useless.

 More to come: Dungeon Areas, Riot Countdown Timers, Random Encounter Tables for different areas and more thoughts on levels…

One thought on “The Dungeon Prison, first notes and details

  1. Pingback: Dungeon Prison, part II | The Githyanki Diaspora

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