A Campaign Dump for The Dungeons of Quarn
Originally Published at Rob.BearSwarm.com on 2010-06-22.
You are a Criminal
The sentence is the same for all convicted criminals within the Imperium.
You are to be cast into the dungeons to fight for your innocence.
Five miles of monster infested prison lay between you and freedom.
Only those strong enough to survive will emerge from…
The Dungeons of Quarn
About the Dungeons of Quarn
The Moran Imperium has conquered the known world. From the snow-capped peaks of the Tarnfall Mountains to the jungles of the Loa Isles all that is known belongs to Kings of Moran. The War of the Kingdoms ended over a thousand years ago when the banners of Man marched into Hammerfaust, the great Keep of the Dwarves, and put the last resistance for the Human empire to the sword. It was thousands of years before that when Man burned the forests of the Elven Nations and in time out of memory the strength of Mankind has extinguished the tribes of the Dragon. The only kingdom that remains from the Fishmongers Coast to the Green Sea is the Human kingdom, known as the Moran Imperium after the last great King and General Moran the Lionhearted.
With no enemies left mankind fell to decadence. Soldiers turned to mercenaries while politicians grew fat and the distance between the rich and poor grew vast. This was exemplified in the capital city of Quarn, nestled in the Raftridge Mountains and bordering the Trollfingers Forest. The nobles of Quarn dug into the mountains, building the great city up into the peaks. They cut out vast swaths of mountain side and constructed walls of clear crystal. Inside they stored pets, exotic and dangerous creatures captured from all across the Imperium. They dug deep and built pits and dungeons to store the growing criminal element of Quarn. The Council of Wizards learned binding magics to ensure safety and the Circle of Divinity saw that everything was blessed with the numerous Gods of Quarn.
A hundred years ago there was a great disaster. The soil under Quarn shook and chambers in the mountain collapsed into each other. Thousands watched as a dozen criminals spilled into the cell of a manticore. They were torn to pieces except for one man. Frathion Balikster, a former leader of the mercenary troupe Violence in Action, slew the great beast and the crowd cheered. When the nobles saw the potential in these dungeon fights Frathion became the first to ever be pardoned for his crimes in the history of Quarn. Frathion helped construct, organize, and run the first Dungeons of Quarn.
Chambers were dug out connecting the dozens of dungeons and zoos together and nobles pay hundreds of dollars to sit by glass walls for a day on the chance of seeing a helpless criminal fight a monster. Quickly the laws were changed in Quarn and now there is only one penalty for all crime; to the Dungeons. Murder, to the Dungeons. Theft, to the Dungeons, Littering, to the Dungeons. Every criminal convicted is escorted the Peak of Quarn and thrown into the top of the Dungeon. Everyone knows that there is only one way out, to fight down the Mountain and walk out of the gates at the Base of Quarn. Any criminal that can fight the five-mile descent is free to walk the streets of Quarn again.
Except not every criminal is willing to risk the journey. Everyone knows that the nobles cart in creatures from all across the world to put into the Dungeons. Animals are tested and graded before they are introduced to the Dungeons. The nobles ensure that the strongest, toughest, and deadliest creatures are closer to the base while nuisance creatures and put to the top. To descent the mountain is to fight continuing greater challenges and those cast into the Dungeons have, at various points, decided that enough is enough. Underground cities have cropped up through out the Dungeons, like Beginner’s Luck a sprawling underground metropolis that criminals find just below the Peak of Quarn. Deeper down there is The Rest, a small stop over village a mile down the mountain, and deeper still is Rubicon, a community of criminals who have braved half of the Dungeons but haven’t moved on yet. There are rumored to be dozens, if not hundreds, of small cities, villages, and communities tucked away through out the Dungeons but no one can know for sure.
The majority of the dungeon is sealed and unseen by the outside world. There are only five viewing chambers, one positioned every mile down the mountain side, where nobles from the outside sit and watch for any would be heroes to do battle with the minions of the mountains. The nobles ensure these chambers always have beasties and monsters to the convicted to face and the Wizards have even gone as far as trapping criminals in the chambers until the nobles can be given a show. The Wizards have also invented a couple interesting magics in use within the Dungeons. The first they call “In Doors”, which are rooms with only two doors. One door leads into the Dungeons and the other to the exterior of the mountain. To ensure the criminals can’t escape via the In Doors the exterior door can only be opened until the chamber is cleansed in fire. Once everything has been burned to a crisp the door is opened and creatures are herded into the room. The second invention is called “Crime Marks” and they serve only one function, to keep the criminals in the Dungeon. The entire Dungeon is enclosed in a sort of magical aura and if anyone with a Crime Mark attempts to pass beyond that aura they are crippled with pain. The pain isn’t fatal but it is incapacitating. Escapees then are left to starve to death at the point of the attempted exit unless pulled back into the Dungeon. The only way to nullify the mark is to pass through the Gate at the Base of Quarn.
The outside world is vastly overpopulated, Quarn itself is home to three billion humans, and while over crowding is a problem in parts of the Dungeons the survival rate is so abysmally low that you can always find an open room or three. Many inhabitants of Quarn find that the Dungeons allow far more freedom then Quarn Proper. Most communities are more compassionate then topside, but don’t think that altruism is a primary motivator. If you prove yourself useful, the communities of the Dungeons will try to keep you around. Many who live in the Dungeons come to prefer the concrete fear of monsters eating their young to the nebulous fear of the Moran Imperium arresting them for unknown crimes.
The Geography of the Dungeons of Quarn
There are only two parts of the Dungeons that are considered part of the City of Quarn, the Peak and the Base. While not technically part of the Dungeons they are still commonly mentioned by those within the Dungeons. The rest of Quarn isn’t relevant to those living in the Dungeons, just the Peak and Base.
Peak of Quarn
The Peak of Quarn is a single tower built on the highest part of the Raftridge Mountain. It is at the Peak where criminals are escorted to be placed into the Dungeons.
Base of Quarn
The Base of Quarn is a four-wall fortress that houses the Dungeon Gate, where all criminals who have fought the Dungeon must pass before being allowed back into Quarn. It is at the Base where survivors are held for a fortnight, interviewed, examined, and treated before being released.
Many introduced into the Dungeons don’t have the courage or skill to make their way into the Dungeon. Some travel miles before finding themselves unable or unwilling to go any further. Many are wounded and crawl back to other travelers they passed for help. From the sprawling city of Beginner’s Luck to the way stations of the Dungeon Merchants there are numerous small communities that have cropped up inside the Dungeons.
Beginner’s Luck is easily the largest community within the Dungeons. Starting just on the other side of the entrance at the Peak, Beginner’s Luck stretches down through he first three levels of the vast dungeon.
The Rest is a small community that formed between the First and Second Mile viewing chambers.
The Rubicon formed outside of the Third Mile viewing chamber and is known as the Point of No Return. If you enter the Third Mile chamber and survive it is a shorter distance to the Base then the Peak.
Not so much a single community but a scattering of nooks and crannies where various Merchants have set up shop to buy and sell goods from travelers. Small communities tend to crop up around these shops and they have taken the collective name as Dungeon Merchants, though no official network exists between them.
The Viewing Chambers are the choke-points of the Dungeons. There is no way to reach the base of the mountain without passing through all five chambers. While all five are uniquely designed they all share a few common features. First is the giant crystal ceiling where spectators watch the condemned do battle with whatever creatures are shepherded into the chamber at that time.
Nicknamed the Beginner’s Mile the First Mile is located just outside of the city named Beginner’s Luck. This first chamber is almost always a slaughter, either the criminals stand no chance or the monsters are dispatched almost as quickly.
Nicknamed the Separation Mile the Second Mile features the criminals that were strong enough to survive the Beginner’s Mile and give a good show to the noble audience above them.
Nicknamed the Mid-Mile the Third Mile is point of no return chamber. While it is fairly common for criminals to be seen over and over again in the first two chambers from the Third Chamber forward it grows less and less common to see repeat performances.
Nicknamed the Veteran’s Mile the Fourth Mile is widely regarded as the best show in the entire Dungeon. The criminals that reach this point are true warriors and deliver true spectacles.
Nicknamed the Last Mile the Fifth Mile is where the big, bad, boring creatures are housed. The criminals that hit the Fifth Mile are either unstoppable, dealing swiftly with the last real threat, or in over their head, delivering a long slow fight stretched out over days.
Outside the Dungeons
While talk of the world outside of the Dungeons is rare there are a handful of historic locations that are well-known to everyone in the Moran Imperium.
The northernmost mountain range known as Tarnfall runs from west to east and is home of the last fallen Dwarven Keep of Hammerfaust.
A mountain range that separates the Fishmongers Coast from the Trollfingers Forest runs north to south and is home to the Human capital city of Quarn.
The Golden Fields are vast plains that separates the Trollfingers and Feywood Forests.
The Trollfingers Forest boarders the Raftridge mountains in the west and breaks into the Golden Fields in the east.
The Feywood Forest begins where the Golden Fields end and carries the continent to the Green Sea.
The Hasara desert gives a southern border to the forests and plains before it opens up to the waters of the Green Sea.
The Fishmongers Coast is the westernmost coast of the main continent and is named for the superb fishing that can be found all along its waters.
The Green Sea is the largest sea known to the Moran Imperium and surrounds the main continent.
To the south of the main continent lay the jungles of the Loa Isles.
The People of the Dungeons of Quarn
While the Human empire known as the Moran Imperium rules the known world there are a handful of historic cultures that existed before being crushed under the boots of man.
The Human empire spans the known world and is considered home to over ten billion humans. From their humble beginnings on the Fishmongers Coast the Moran Imperium has proved itself time and time again as capable and willing to rule the world. Espousing a Human Supremacy doctrine they managed to over power, undermine, and eliminate every threat to their expansion.
Dwarven Clan Keeps
The former Dwarven Clans were crushed and forced into slavery over a thousand years ago by the Human Empire. While the Humans expanded across the world the Dwarves maintained a strict policy of isolation. After conquering every other race they encountered the Human Empire turned to face the last remaining threat, the Dwarven Clans. At first they attempted diplomacy but every envoy was turned away. Growing wary and outraged the Humans declared war on the Dwarves, to which the Dwarves responded by barricading their doors further. Like ticks dug deep into the skin the Human Empire slowly and painfully pulled the Dwarves from their Keeps. Most Dwarves chose to die fighting but some were captured and enslaved. It has been over a thousand years since the last Dwarven Keep, Hammerfaust, fell and while the Dwarves are still some of the most common races to see they are regarded as the most suspicious. Clannish by nature it was declared illegal for more than five Dwarves to gather in a single location without Human supervision.
Gnomish Sailor Union
Of the races enslaved by the Human Empire, the Gnomish Sailor Union was the most bizarre. Operating along with but outside of the Human Empire since before the war with the Tribes of the Dragon, the Gnomish Sailor Union was more of a corporation than a nation or civilization. Every Gnome was, by birthright, part of the Sailor Union and they worked their trade on river, lake, or ocean. The saying was that, “Where there is water and coin, there are Gnomes.” For hundreds of thousands of years the Human Empire worked with the Gnomish Sailor Union and it wasn’t until the war with the Dwarven Clans that they finally conquered them as well. While no two Gnomes will tell the same story about the event they all agree that it started as a simple business deal, one they failed to read the fine print of. Slowly the Humans Empire bought out the Sailor Union and slowly the eliminated its Gnomish influence. By the time the last Dwarven Keep fell there was no Sailor Union left, but no one can say exactly when it vanished.
Elven and Eladrin Alliance
The former Elven and Eladrin alliances were put to the sword and slavery thousands of years ago by the Moran Imperium. After Humans crushed the Dragons they began their march down the mountains and encountered the Elves of the Trollfingers Forest. At first they were mistaken for Humans themselves and when a threat greater than both races emerged from the northern forest the two races allied against the Troll Hoard. For thousands of years the Elves and Humans worked together, even working to “purge” the demonic desert dwelling Tieflings, “relocate” the nomatic plains dwelling Shifters and “civilize” the backwards island dwelling halflings. It wasn’t until the expansion into the Feywoods Forest and the first encounters with the Eladrin that the Elves questioned what they were doing. The Elves were beginning to question the Human’s treatement of Halflings and the Eladrin showed the Elven Nations a better way. Eventually they turned on their former Human allies and launched a war that raged across the Golden Plains and Feywoods Forest. It was thousands of years ago that the Humans battled the Elven\Eladrin Alliance. After a long protracted battle the use of slave forces won the war for the Humans. While the Elves were either enslaved or killed, most of the Eladrin fled back into the mysterious planes they originally came from.
Halflings Loa Circles
The former Halfling communities were officially enslaved and outlawed by the Human\Elven Empire thousands of years ago but pockets of worship and resistance were active up until the first Dungeons of Quarn. Rumors of the strange ancestor worshiping small men of the Southern islands have been part of Human history for as long as the Gnomes sailed the seas. It wasn’t until after the Tiefling were purged and the Shifters were relocated that Human and Elven explorers decided to investigate these claims. South of the Hasara Desert they found jungle islands that were home to a race dubbed Halflings. They conducted rituals to bring the spirits of their ancestors into their bodies and were regarded as harmless but uncultured. Missionaries began working to convert the Halflings to proper Human or Elven religions but when that proved inefficient their religion was outlawed. Humans ordered their enslavement and the first division arose in the Human\Elven Empire.
Tiefling Desert Compact
The Hasara Desert gave birth to the Tieflings helped them survived until Human\Elven Empire launched a crusade against what they viewed as demon worshipers. During the relocation of the Shifter Packs the first contact was made between the Elves and the Tieflings. News about demons living in the southern desert reached the Human\Elven Empire and sparked a Holy Crusade to rid the world of these monsters. The Crusades raged for years and the Divine Church wouldn’t rest until every single demon spawn was eliminated. Tiefling towns were burned and fell back into the sands. Few were enslaved, most were killed. The records of the Tiefling Desert Compact are few and vague, as everything about the Tieflings was deemed heretical.
The Golden Fields were home to roving nomadic packs of Shifters until the Human\Elven Empire offered to trade them their freedom for a few shiny bobbles. Upon viewing the great Golden Fields for the first time the Humans knew that this fertile farm land must be theirs if they hoped to support their ever-growing empire. The Elves had little contact with the various packs of Shifters that lived on the Golden Fields and went along willing with the Human’s relocation program. There was no war against the Shifter Packs, most were quietly pushed off their land as Human farms began to expand. Over the course of several hundred years Shifters were slowly relocated into slavery in the Human empire. Today the few remaining Shifters weep for the ignorance of their ancestors, always assuming the Humans had good intentions.
Tribes of the Dragon
The former Empire of Arkhosia was the first to fall to the boots of Humans and the race of dragon men were driven into extinction as they resisted enslavement. When the Humans first entered the Raftridge Mountains they encountered creatures that walked like men but looked like Dragons. There was no diplomacy as the Humans feared those dubbed Dragonborn and the war between the first Human Empire and the various Tribes of the Dragons only ended with the total destruction of the Dragonborn culture. Many historians credit the victory to the fact that the Dragonborn were divided into small tribes that followed a single Dragon elder. The Empire of Arkhosia was more of a loose confederation of tribes and castes and when the Humans marched they did so with a unified front. The last known free Dragon was slain over six thousand years ago, though many have been bred in captivity since then.
A collection of martial rulers control the Moran Imperium. A dozen kings have the land divided up and meet regularly in Quarn to discuss politics.
Council of Wizards
The collection of arcane advisers work with the Kings’ Court to help ensure the survival of the Moran Imperium and the subjugation of non-Humans.
The Circle of Divinity
The collection of divine advisers bridge the gap between the Gods and the Kings. The advisement of the Circle is highly prized and respected by both the Kings’ Court and the Council of Wizards.