As I work on a first level adventure for Mazes & Perils, I was struck by this odd thought… Why do we never seem to see NPCs in a lot of the dungeons we crawl? Sure, occasionally we have to rescue a damsel in distress or break a friend out of jail, but usually it’s just the riffraff we seem to find in the dark… monsters, criminals, or cultists.
Do we smell bad as adventurers? Or is it that only foul creatures who desire to live in the dark?
Why don’t we run into the occasional fellow adventurer in these ruined places? Why shouldn’t someone else have gone first. Perhaps all that’s left of them is a pile of bones or ash, but wouldn’t their sacrifice matter somehow? Or maybe as the PCs arrive, another group is leaving with a few heavy bags of goodies in tow. That might make things interesting, wouldn’t it? Or what if there’s nobody there when the PCs get there but they find a note in the final room that acts as the calling card for the second group…
Or perhaps there’s a group of Lost Boys who have turned an old cave system into a Lord of the Flies arrangement? What fancy noble wouldn’t want to see their son or daughter again after they’d been missing for days, months, or years? Or even a single lone child who has been raised by a group of wolves (or goblins) might make for an intriguing plot twist. Can you imagine an Elf situation where a human was raised by a clan of goblins or orcs and thought of as just the ugliest of their kind anybody’s ever seen?
There’s always the ancient hidden temple tucked away in a secret grove in that old, creepy, blackened forest that nobody goes into. Maybe there are some monsters laying in wait, but maybe they’re being ministered to by a disgraced priest who found a new flock and is serving their needs for a change? Sure, gnolls are probably evil – but wouldn’t they like to be absolved of their sins too?
I’m not saying that every dungeon needs a human sacrifice (or even a non-human one), only that we consider that perhaps the PCs aren’t the only ones skulking around looking for fame, glory, and riches. What happens when the PCs storm into that old dungeon only to find a cult basking in the glow of their god and not harming anyone?
And why are our adventuring destinations only filled with things that go bump in the night? Wouldn’t it be funny to have your PCs go into a dungeon only to find a rave party going on somewhere at the bottom with a skill challenge where they have to come up with the password to get in? 🙂
Just a few wacky thoughts to kick off your week…