ust as race and class help to define who your character is in the world, theme adds an optional third component to refine your story and identity. The themes presented in the Dungeon Survival Handbook: Into the Unknown explain what your character knows about adventuring in dungeons and provide story hooks that you can use to roleplay him or her.
A theme generally embraces characters of many different classes. A few more narrowly focused themes are limited to a small selection of classes or races—for example, the Underdark outcast must belong to a subterranean race. Any such restrictions are noted in the theme's entry.
Each theme's entry includes a sample character. These characters' background stories can give you some ideas for playing that theme; in a pinch, if you have no character prepared, or if a character's backstory appeals to you, you can roleplay him or her.
This book presents the following themes:
Bloodsworn go into a dungeon to kill a specific enemy, who defines the character's life and quest for vengeance. The eladrin Meliera changed from a peace-seeking diplomat into a bitter hunter after a drow betrayed her.
Deep delvers expertly explore underground environments, preferring the dark tunnels of the Underdark to the sunlit hills above. Karl Deepwalker saw his companions slain by grimlocks, and now the human youth searches for the traitor he's sure was in their midst.
Escaped thralls tore themselves free from the mental control of other creatures. They still bear the physical and mental scars of their imprisonment. Mord lost his childhood memories but sees flashes of his enslavement while he dreams. The half-orc has found some measure of peace as a servant of Ioun.
Trapsmiths create deadly and debilitating devices. They get by on ingenuity, adrenaline, and elbow grease. Thorry the Unlucky lost a couple of fingers to a kobold trap when he was a young svirfneblin. He left his people to pursue safer work but keeps getting pulled back into the dungeon-delving life.
Treasure hunters seek glory and wealth, setting their sights on specific items of considerable worth. Ella the halfling was saved by the mysterious Green Man, along with her siblings—at a price. Unless she finds his crown, scepter, and armor, she'll never see her brother and sister again.
Underdark envoys act as diplomats for Underdark societies. They might be spies, delegates for dark masters, or merchants. Khiira the bard uses her wiles, honed as the seventh daughter of her house, to hide both from the other drow who hunt her and from the topsiders who fear and hate her kind.
Underdark outcasts are disgraced exiles from their societies, forced to wander the lightless realms in a struggle to survive. Through his hubris, Korag made it possible for grimlocks to slaughter many of his dwarf clan, and he was cast out in shame.
"X never, ever marks the spot."
Attaining wealth and glory might be a shallow and selfish goal, but treasure hunters are fine with that. They take on great risk and danger to dig up great riches. Treasure hunters also enjoy the thrill of the chase when seeking out valuable finds, sometimes to the point of addiction, and this adventurous spirit can be contagious.
Finding lost or buried treasure is much harder than it appears at first. Treasure hunters constantly crave more wealth. They generally learn just enough to find their quarry and care nothing for confirming legends or ancient texts—other than to plunder whatever they refer to. Some, though, learn to love the unique history of the antiquities they seek. Those without a formal education might study a subject related to their quest on their own, even becoming specialists on specific topics.
Treasure hunters are typically self-sufficient. Occasionally several work together to meet similar goals, but they do not trust each other. Each views the others as brigands and mercenaries out to steal their finds.
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll).