The more I have delved into dungeons, the more amazed I am at the power and majesty found in the deep ones. And more I wish I had time enough to see the small and simple ones grow.
-Heastjack, the Researcher
Caden had felt something inside him gradually shift over the last hour. Apparently touching someone else's soul had consequences. He looked at the various traps he had created with a mixture of pride and horror. He would hate to deploy some of these against anyone, but he honestly did not know what kind of power to expect from the people who came to the dungeon. Touching Exsan's soul had apparently given him a portion of his ruthlessness temporarily. That was not entirely a bad thing; the traps he had created were effective looking. However, now he could see that his focus had been stolen away towards the lethal end of the spectrum. There was an entire slew of traps that were non-lethal and could be very effective. Water, mud, wind, nets, he had so many ways to delay and trip up an opponent.
His biggest concern at the moment, however, was information. He was a part of the system, but he did not know how dangerous the people coming were going to be. There was an entire range of difficulty that he could prepare for, but he had no idea what was appropriate, so how was he supposed to present a dungeon of the right type.
As he was considering this, Caden came up with an idea. There was no reason that he had to create the dungeon blind. He kept making that assumption. However, he could test the adventurers in non-standard ways. He already wanted his dungeon to be different, he should capitalize on that. With that in mind he got to work.
A little later and Caden was getting the basics prepared. Now that he had proper lighting available, he had decided that he would ultimately add a better lit area. To keep the areas separate he decided to call the current area he had made the Starlight Grotto. He was even able to make it official with his dungeon menu. Upon designating a name for it he had gotten an unexpected surprise.
New area created: Starlight Grotto
Two subsection types available:
Please choose a type.
He had happily chosen the safe zone and gotten another notice.
You have created your first safe zone. Please note:
Mutation and monster-spawn disabled in this area. Lethal traps will not function. Plants and animals will still experience growth that is faster than normal, though it will be slower than dungeon zones. Monsters under your control will not enter this zone under normal circumstances.
It is recomended that you create safe zones in sections, as you may not disband any safezone while a humanoid sentient is within.
This was actually a great relief. Caden had worried about the various species of plants and animals that he was working with, since he wanted to be able to work with wildlife without everything trying to kill people. This also meant he could create an actual rest area. He diverted himself from his task for a moment to prepare new areas with this information.
He made a new extremely large area that was isolated from the rest of the dungeon. He had to reroute a few streams out of the way, but he was able to work with an area that was mostly just stone to start with. He made it very tall. He made various sections with very deep dirt, sandy soil, clay, silt, and more. He needed to know what the plants he was going to grow actually prefered for their environment. He divided all the sections up and also used varying amounts of simulated rainfall, sunlight, etc...
When he was done with the basic environmental factors he named it The Greenhouse, and made it another safe zone. Then he planted all the species he had originally been working with. Hopefully now he would not need to worry about monstrous plants too much.
He created a similar series of aquatic environments that he called The Aquarium. He then made one for all the other subterrainian environments he had yet to cover, such as the mud pots, basic moist caves, and more. He put this one under the unimaginative name of The Cave. He was fairly certain he could rename it if he needed to later.
These were breeding areas. They would breed non-monstrous stock that he could use in safe areas. He could also re-introduce anything he grew into the monstrous environments to see if new variations would show up. He had watched the various mutations, but he had yet to detect any rhyme or reason to what changed. He knew that his aura was helping it happen, but knew little more than that.
As it was, any area he had not declared a safe zone, or part of his normal aura instead of the dungeon, was becoming a continual war zone of creatures growing, killing, attacking, eating, and reproducing. It was madness, but it was a madness that was focused on becoming more powerful and dangerous. Even the snotties in the sulfuric caves looked like they were starting to take on a life of their own. If he waited long enough he might end up with Darwin's ideal creature.
There were a few creatures he had yet to recreate, but he was uncertain what kind of environment they liked. He shrugged mentally and created a few micebugs, ratbugs, coackroaches, and other miscellaneous creatures whose corpses had been drowned in sewers. He released them in a cave system that did not have any unique life. For good measure he grew a bunch of the moss and other plants and planted them on rocks and soil in the area. They might all die, but he might also get something special.
Caden got back to his original objective. The Starlight Grotto was massive, and even with all his statues, fountains, and lights, it had large areas that were simply blank stone hidden in the darkness. Caden decided that before anyone got into his dungeon, they were going to be tested. This way he could figure out what was appropriate.
He started with a small building dedicated to traps. He was able to set it up so that only one person could go through it at a time. The traps here were very simple. They were all pitfall traps that were only a foot deep. What changed was the difficulty of seeing the traps. At first everything was well lit and the traps were painfully obvious. Then the lighting grew dimmer and the traps became ever more difficult to spot. He also changed the terrain, so that the adventurers would be traveling through stone corridors, then over a dirt path, then grass, sand, and more. He mixed up everything as much as he could, until eventually the room became very narrow, pitch black, and the traps were indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain. Caden as a human would not have been able to spot almost all of these, but he needed to know what adventurers were capable of.
When an adventurer had gone through the trap area they would be issued a token that said how well they did. That token was bound to them and would be needed to get through the primary door. Caden also made it so that the adventurers would not be able to repeat a test for some time. That should give him enough time to make changes as he learned about any visitors.
His second testing area was a measure of strength. This one had individual sections where people would go through and would need to move various weights from one location onto a button. The weights started off fairly light and became heavier and heavier. He was going to watch this one personally if he could, simply because they might use magic to move the weight and that would be interesting too.
After the individual portion, the strength test had a group section where weights with multiple sets of handles would need to be moved by multiple individuals. The weights in this section started from heavy up to the ridiculous. By reinforcing and strengthening the stone, Caden was able to create stones that must have weighed at least twenty tons that could still theoretically be lifted by the handles.
If they managed to lift that much weight then he would need to reconsider everything.
The third section was a test of dexterity and mobility. It started as simple climbs over objects with small jumps between them. These were sections that Caden could have done himself when he was human. From there the difficulty grew. He placed the later sections over nets or water, so that falling would not be dangerous. Eventually the adventurers would need to be able to push off a wall with their hands from a single hand hold over and around brightly colored obstacles to grip another single hold which would crumble away within moments to reach even more precarious perches. Overall various sections of this testing area reminded him of some ridiculous Japanese gameshow that was always playing when he went to sushi. He could not wait to watch people try it out.
The fourth area was a test of magical sensing. He honestly had no idea what people's mana senses were like. However, Tam had seemed unable to see magic directly. The test first had tons of objects that was completely mundane and another that practically vibrated with magic. The mana crystals used for this were covered so no light would escape. The amount of mana grew gradually less and less, to see exactly what they could detect.
What else could he make? He considered various options. A puzzle room. Actually... he could create an entire series of puzzle rooms if he wanted. He was fairly certain that the vast array of puzzles from Earth would serve him in good stead with that. He could also create rooms with math puzzles and try to figure out the mathematic system of this world. He inscribed the ideas into stone for the moment. What he really needed was to find some kind of balance in the dungeon between himself and Exsan. He pulled up the ability point menu. He had been meaning to look through this anyway.
He took his time. He had far more options now than ever before. He discarded the various options for living creatures of any kind. Slowly he went through the options looking for anything that might work. There were things that altered survival points, including an ability that decreased the survival points needed to level. It was a small difference, but it was also rather cheap, so he marked it down as something to buy.
However, what he really wanted, was not there. There was no skill that would passively generate survival points. It had been a long shot. If it had been there, well, some dungeon would probably already cover the entire world. Okay, so that meant he would need to get them the normal way. There was an ability that made him think a bit though. It would grant more survival points for when an adventurer left the dungeon. That meant that survival points did not need to come from killing adventurers. Apparently having them enter the dungeon was sufficient. Caden was not an idiot, he was sure that this method had drawbacks, but it suggested a way to compromise.
He looked again. Exsan was not going to just accept a non-lethal dungeon. There needed to be a good reason. The adventurers would need to offer something. The first thing he thought of was mana, but if the survival points slowed down the mana would not be enough. They would have too much mana and not enough points in the balance. He thought about all the things he had gained before teleporting here. He had turned Tam's wooden chair into what he needed to make a tree. What he really needed was variety. New items, new plants, and animals. For that he could offer protection. He would need a way to make it automatic though. He could not watch every individual and save them just in the nick of time. The dungeon system had some options, but not what he was currently looking for.
He sorted back through the abilities again. Eventually he found an ability called rule of law. He could create rules for the dungeon that would happen automatically. It said the laws were supposed to start out simple, but hopefully the abilities automatic promotion to level II would be enough for this. Well, it was time to go see if he could make a deal.
Exsan? We need to talk.