Maximizing Minion Core Competency and Optimizing Available Dungeon Real Estate:
A Fiendish Seminar
Thank you for coming to our seminar today. By the door you’ll find coffee and donuts, please help yourself. By coming here today you’ve taken the first step toward really being the evil mastermind of Dungeons & Dragons that you’ve always wanted to be.
The dark catacombs filled with unspeakable horrors, the room of portals that lead only to acid and death, even the floor trap that makes invaders naked and vulnerable… sure, we all wish we had Acererak’s Tomb of Horror budget. But don’t let your lack of resource dissuade your dreams of inflicted evil schemes upon the masses from the comfort of an armchair made of elf bones. Today we’re going to walk you though the finer details of managing dungeon ecology, décor, and design in these trying economic times.
First off, ask yourself what do you need in a lair? Maybe you want to be lurking in the backroom of your dungeon, relaxing in a game room or sacrificing a maiden at your leisure. Perhaps you simply need to staff a storage tomb for your infernal bowling trophies or that unspeakable artifact which you need to ditch before more angels with flaming swords show up. We understand your needs as an Evil Mastermind (or Controller, we’re not picky), and we’re here to help.
So if you’re going to be spending time in your dungeon on a regular basis, ask yourself some of the following questions:
- Am I immune to fire/toxic fumes/drowning (to clarify: do I need to breathe)?
- Do I mind the smell of rotting flesh? (If you’re into that kind of thing, we have the perfect minions for you!)
- Can I speak Goblin/Deep Speech/Giant/Draconic/Primordial?
- Am I powerful enough to prevent an uprising of my own servants?
- Do I have family members I could conscript without having to pay them?
- Will friends help you move?
These questions and more (please see handout 3B) will help you focus your attention in the right place. For instance, having an underwater lair is brilliant… but not if you require oxygen and plan on living there.
While we’re on the topic of underwater dungeons: Several of our critics have pointed out how nonsensical it might be to store magic ritual scrolls that allow one to breathe in our dungeon in the foyer, the first room invading adventurers might find. While some of our clients have had a bit of bad luck with this ascetic choice, we stand by this recommendation. The secret location of your lair is infinitely more valuable than the hired staff that will be working for you.
If an adventuring party discovers your lair, there’s a high chance if they leave that they’ll inform anyone they meet where to find your until-now-incredibly-secret domicile. By giving them the key to go deeper into your own homemade death trap/vacation spot, you’re giving yourself the chance to re-capture the mystery of your secret location—by having them slaughtered. It is dangerous, but if you’ve built your dungeon wisely then you should have no problem. This advice applies to not only underwater lairs, but dungeons in the Elemental Chaos (made of fire, in particular) or any complex requiring a key to the inner sanctum.
Back to the topic at hand.
Prime Real Estate vs. Middle of Nowhere Charm
As stated, secrecy is important when designing your lair. Out-of-city contractors are a must and overtime is to be expected.
The advantage of a prime location is that you’ll have easy access to whatever you might need. Maybe your dungeon is beneath a city street or just off the side of the road. The downside, of course, is the likelihood of you being found. If you’re living underneath a mountain, you’re rather immune to the pesky bard using his streetwisdom to ask if anyone’s seen you and which way you were headed.
The alternative—having a lair in an obscure location—means there’s less chance of a random adventuring party finding you, but also that it’ll be harder to get replacement goblins if yours break or some of the finer things, like fresh food or +2 toilet paper (See Adventurer’s Vault 3, Wondrous items).
Following are two cost-cutting suggestions; with a touch of motivation, you can make them both work for you. They do weaken the stability of your location but broaden your budget for new options.
1. Do your research. The villain marketplace is rapidly fluctuating. Many out in the field find themselves victims to hostile takeovers (typically at the hands of heroes). It happens to the very best of us and it’s just negotiated risk in this line of work. The upside is that almost every time a party reduces our ranks, they leave behind a relatively ideal dungeon. Few adventurers repeatedly return to old lairs to make sure that no new tenants have taken up residence. The problem is that the location has been compromised. Perhaps this could fixed with a magical door of some sort, but really for the small cost of interior redesign, you’re getting a bargain on a fully built lair.
Décor is important if your previous tenant had a man-eating fish theme; try repurposing those swimming pools into, say, sleeping quarters for your kobold henchmen or just lava tubes will help you put your stamp on a location that is now yours. This is doubly important when you steal a location. Now we only recommend this to clients who are well-staffed already. By finding a suitable lair (perhaps visiting it discretely while posing as the arcane trap service repair man or exchange student minion), you might overpower the homeowner and make their lair your own.
Of course, this does mean banishing the old tenants to a dimension of abyssal darkness as they will betray the location. (We do take this seriously, many thwarted homeowners—dwarves kicked out of their mine for instance—immediately turn to hiring heroic assassins to help speedily reclaim their property.) Scorched earth, ladies and gentleman. That is… unless you’ve counted on the economy of the adventurer.
2. Incorporate a tourist trap aspect into you lair. First: Expect visitors. How you get them to visit doesn’t matter so much. Brag about a magical item you don’t have. Perhaps you’ve found a location around a rejuvenating well. Or you just have the world’s fattest owlbear in a cage next to a two-headed guard drake. It doesn’t matter. The advantage of having adventurers constantly invading your tomb is that each one brings money, magic items, and food for your staff. If your choice of inhuman resources requires food and sustenance, having the prey come to you will save you from having to order out when the orcs get hungry.
Secondly: Your dungeon is going to need a reset button. The value of a reset button is even more valuable if you yourself will not be dwelling in the dungeon. That statue that explodes, poisoning and blinding intruders? That’s great. Now what happens a month later when another team of lookie-loos wants to hunt for treasure? While this really is a matter for your dungeon contractor (see our handout for coupons to Crazy Kaleph’s Discount Trap Emporium), keeping your defenses rechargeable or at least minimally in need of maintenance is important. Are you hiring kobolds or undead? One of those has the necessary skills to maintain the most complicated death trap, but at the cost of needing to be fed and occupied for the months/years when they’re not being attacked.
A self-sustaining dungeon is almost impossible without an incredibly large (and expensive) expenditure of magic. While the Tomb of Horrors is a prime example, we’ll throw out some suggestions as to how to accomplish this on a budget. The key: maintenance monsters.
While a Dire Sanitation Crew seems odd to some, almost any dungeon is going to require… certain upkeep. Remember all those questions about breathing? If you want to seal up your dungeon, you’re going to need dwarven engineering for air flow, underdark foliage that can create oxygen without sunlight, or you’re going to need to have a lair close to the surface. Air ducts require maintenance, spiderflowers of Lolth need tending, and someone has to take out the trash regularly.
Unless you hire a normal staff, here are a few options our customers have been able to rely upon (besides the once a month cleaning sessions by a trained Dire Maid service).
Warning: A succubus in a revealing costume is not a maintenance monster. (See reference photo 8a in our handout.)
The Gelatinous Cube or Ooze
This option is rather spot-on for cleaning up your lair. The downside? Slimes don’t have brains. This means you don’t have to pay them, but you do have to be prepared for them to come after you if they’re not well-fed. And, just to be clear, you want them to be hungry so they can double as a guard monster of some sort.
We recommend choose vermin as your monster of choice if you choose to heavily rely on oozes. By stocking up on several different varieties of bugs, rats, spiders, etc., you can create an ecosystem that isn’t too invasive but gives the cube something to clean up. Also cobwebs and dead insects often add just the right touch to the décor. If you’re the alchemist type-mastermind, the ooze solution is key to creating a self-sustaining BioDungeon.
The Carrion Crawler
Don’t change what isn’t broken. The carrion crawler lives off dead bodies, is highly mobile, and is easily trained—even to the point of acting as a mount for a brave kobold or derro.
Living off of “humanoid” filth and dead bodies, you might think that the otyugh is a tempting alternative, what with its more intimidating appearance and lower price point. The key here is, however, while a crawler will simply eat a dead body, an otyugh will submerge it in offal for a few days to let it “soften”. If you’re interested in seeing what/how-well-equipped interlopers are into your affairs, then mostly likely you do not wish to burrow through piles of dung. Thus, we endorse carrion crawlers over otyughs.
For our “deep earth” clients, we do suggest the fungusman or myconid option. While there is rudimentary thought found in the species, the myconids are often interested in exactly the things that you want to throw away. Create enough trash, and you’ve got a symbiotic relationship with well-armed mushrooms. (See our pamphlet for how to order your very own myconid spores.)
The Rust Monster
This infamous fellow is often clumped together with maintenance monsters. We’re hesitant to do so, as it’s more of a novelty inclusion in your dungeon, and one that—like baby basilisks flushed into the sewer—will come back to bite/petrify you one day. Even keeping rust monsters is difficult… the steel cages that many rely on simply aren’t feasible. A rust monster is only practical if you’re living in an area with an abundant source of metal. Constructs and weapon-wielding servants are out of the question, naturally.
The reason rust monsters are maintenance monsters is because you can—once you’ve acquired a used lair through whatever means—simply release a swarm of them into the dungeon, sealing the door behind you. A few weeks later, the rust monsters will have starved themselves, but not after devouring every metal surface in the lair. Need to start from scratch but don’t know how to clean up? Go rust monster. Or stone-eating cockatrices for those hard-to-move dwarven statues you just don’t have room for.
And while the topic of sanitation is here: Please remember to install toilets in your dungeons, if there is anything living there. We’ve all seen too many “repurposed sarcophagi” in our time to want to repeat that mistake.
This brings us to the wrap-up of today’s seminar: A walkthrough of minions and dungeon guards and how they might be right for you.
Minion turnover is a large problem in our industry. Many of our servants will never meet an adventure more than once in their life, and that’s probably only in their final minute of breathing (if they breathe). To offset this, we recommend incentive pay for any sentient employee. While rewarding a goblin every time he damages an intruder can get costly, if the reward is great enough your employee will be motivated to madly throw themselves at danger. A dead goblin doesn’t need to be paid… and you can always get more. Just keep your monster vault well-stocked and you’ll be golden. Also if you must offer your employees a retirement plan, we recommend Necromancy 401(k).
Now to the breakdown.
Mercenaries: Human, Tiefling, Shadar-Kai Preferred
Pro: Intensely varied, well-experienced, not prone to panicking when a raging barbarian breaks down the door.
Con: Requires regular pay. Having relatable histories with adventurer makes mercenaries highly vulnerable to something called “roleplaying,” which adventurers may exploit by talking instead of attacking.
Pro: If your investors (Patron God, Dark King, whatever) are going to visit your lair, nothing makes you look like a professional quite like an enslaved unspeakable creature.
Con: It is very dangerous to both life and bank account to keep these kinds of creatures on staff. Once you’ve “hired” one of these, we advise never releasing them from the contract.
Special: The following does not apply if you are one of those things. If you qualify as a demonic being, more power to you.
Pro: Cheap and easily trained. Comes in a variety of sizes and colors.
Con: Your lair will easily become a no-petting zoo, complete with smell. Requires food and walkies.
Pro: Excellent trap-making/maintenance skills, breed quickly, brand name recognition.
Con: Are you a dragon? Do you know one? Because hiring them will be difficult otherwise. Require food. Known for getting easily killed in large numbers.
Pro: The Cadillac of the Inhuman Resource department. No need for food or sleep. Often mindless and never question orders. Easy to refresh/recruit by making more.
Con: Oh Kord, the smell. It’s horrible. Divine home invaders have specialty equipment to counter undead.
Pro: No need for food or sleep, never breaks without abuse. Robots and Frankensteins are trendy.
Con: Oil can. Very expensive, requiring handiwork not often found in this Age. There’s a reason we’ve seen armies made of zombies and very few battalions make steel golems.
These are just a few of the options available on the market today. Please visit our seminar tomorrow for a more complete, detailed list.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to building a better dungeon and tomorrow together. With the information provided you should be on your way to taking the first few steps into your dream lair, be it onyx spider-themed or simply an old warehouse filled with boxes that explode. We here at D&D Outsider wish you the best of luck in all your dark endeavors!
Oh and seriously, don’t forget to put a toilet in your dungeon. We’re evil, but not that evil.