“Well if it isn’t Basil Thorn, the Dungeon Maker.” The last words were dripping with scorn. I sighed looking up. It was, of course, Brock Baro, a Senior like me, but from the Warrior course. Like most Warriors, he towered above those around him. He had a couple of cronies with him, no doubt hoping to get in the good graces of the future heir of the Baro family.

Most people, even if they look down on Dungeon Makers, still at least maintain a polite surface with us in case they ever need to hire one of us in the future. But the Baro family was so wealthy that they could hire practically any Dungeon Maker they wanted. That’s what happens when your father patents the design for holophones. Consequently, Brock had enough money that he didn’t feel the need to maintain the veneer of politeness that others afforded me.

I ignored him. I knew it wouldn’t make him go away, but I just couldn’t be bothered to waste energy responding. It wouldn’t change anything. Brock stood in front of me sneering while his cronies threw invectives at me through their teeth. The usual insults came through, asking why I didn’t go to the dungeon with them, was I too scared, that sort of thing.

Truthfully, I was scared. I had no combat potential at all. And because of that I’d always avoided dungeons. But as a result, I hadn’t leveled my class at all. Every time I checked my status screen, the Level 1 that showed up mocked me.

A nearby clock chimed the hour, and Brock and his cronies quickly gave their parting remarks as they left to class. No doubt they’d be going to some combat class, learning how to use yet another weapon with their skills. I sighed.

“It would really be great to have a combat class.” I thought to myself. But wishing was pointless. I forced myself, yet again, to direct my attention to this ancient book in front of me. And that’s when a passage in it caught my eye.

I looked at the passage with sudden interest.

“Theory of renewable dungeons: Dungeons are essentially an ecosystem. The dungeon core creates life, and feeds off mana. The reason dungeons die is a lack of mana due to adventurers killing an excess of monsters and rarely dying. Thus, if you could find a way to generate mana to make up for the lack of adventurer death, you could compensate for the expenditures needed to create more monsters.” The author postulated.

I nodded thoughtfully as I read. It wasn’t really so unusual. Plants, at least those that hadn’t been altered by Janus, consumed carbon dioxide and released oxygen. Humans consumed oxygen and released carbon dioxide. The cycle was stable. It was logical for dungeons to have a cycle as well.  I felt an idea niggling at the back of my mind, but I couldn’t quite bring it to the forefront.

“Mr. Thorn.” A voice called. I looked up and saw the Department Head of the Dungeon Maker department. He looked at me impatiently and tapped his watch. I sighed and shut the book, putting my thoughts aside.

I walked over to him and followed him as he led me into his office. “Well then, Mr. Thorn. You know why I called this meeting I assume.”

I nodded my head, but he continued as if I hadn’t. “You are the only one in the department that hasn’t begun interning. What’s the issue? You know that in order to develop as a Dungeon Maker you’ll need someone with resources to invest in your future. The cost of creating a dungeon is immense. In order to level and gain the ability to create the more valuable monsters that well paying clients will want, you need to start grinding levels. If you don’t you’ll have to venture into the Public Dungeons to level. Is that what you want?”

I just nodded and shook my head at the appropriate places as he continued to lecture me. He wasn’t wrong. I really should have done an internship. I wasn’t trying to fight in the Public Dungeons. With my ability I’d probably get myself killed. It’s just the restrictions on internships bothered me.

In order to convince a company, government, or private individual to invest money in your development as a Dungeon Maker, they had to be assured they’d get a return on their investment. After all, what if you just used all their materials and then went to work for their rival? It would be a total waste. That’s why they all required that interns sign contracts locking them into a 10 year employment deal. The deal was profitable enough, but it was also extremely restrictive.

The other side knew they had all the power, so they included unfair terms demanding obscene hours, allowing for abusive treatment, and even terms that made it so if your dungeon didn’t make money for them they’d be able to take back some of the money they paid you. All of the risk was put on the Dungeon Maker. Plus, any dungeon you made in those ten years automatically belonged to them, even if you used your own materials to create it. They could choose to buy it from you at a fixed price. It wasn’t until those ten years were up that Dungeon Makers typically saw a major increase in pay when they either renegotiated for a better contract, or left for a better offer.

It was a truly unfair system, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. Dungeon Makers were a minority of society. It was hard to convince a politician to push through a bill giving them better employment rights when the voters and major campaign donors were the same people taking advantage of the Dungeon Makers' work.

After 15 minutes of being lectured, I finally interrupted the teacher. “Mr. Jones, I appreciate your advice. I’ve already made a decision though.”

Mr. Jones looked startled at the interruption but then grew excited. Honestly, I’d started to suspect that part of his deal with the government when he assumed this position was that he’d get a bonus for every student that entered an internship. He was just a bit too enthusiastic about that aspect of the job.

“Well, who have you decided to intern with? I can make a recommendation if you’re not sure.” He flicked his finger causing holograms of a bunch of different company logos to appear. I suspected the first one he’d recommend would be the government.

I shook my head and held out a hand stopping him. “No, I’ve decided not to do an internship. I’m going to freelance. I’ll offer to build dungeons for adventurers. I can advertise on the mission boards outside of the Public Dungeons.”

Mr. Jones looked at me with a horrified look on his face. “No, no, you musn’t do that! That’s career suicide. You won’t get hardly any clients, and those you do get will be so low level you won’t get paid practically anything. Plus, you’ll level so slowly that you’ll quickly fall behind your peers. Look, how about you consider this government positi--” He began, but I quickly cut him off. “Thank you for the concern, but I’m set on pursuing this.” I quickly made my excuses and bid him farewell. He had a sour look on his face as he watched his potential bonus walk out the door.

I quickly fled down the hallway before he could follow me to try and change my mind.

A note from Andrew Reise

To celebrate the release of the novel, I decided to do daily releases until 7/24, at which point I'll return to one per week.  Enjoy!

Support "Dungeon Ecology"

About the author

Andrew Reise

  • United States

Bio: Author. My novels at the moment include Luxury Cafe Owner, Dungeon Ecology, and Grave of Heroes. Luxury Cafe Owner is complete at 57 chapters and available to read on Amazon. The first book in the Grave of Heroes series, Evil Star, is on the back burner. I hope to pick it back up once I finish Dungeon Ecology. My latest LitRPG novel, Dungeon Ecology, is currently being released chapter by chapter here and on Moonquill! There will be sequels, but they will not feature the same characters (think Magic of Recluse if you're familiar with that series). After Dungeon Ecology is complete it will be put on Amazon, and all future novels in the series (The Book of Janus) will not be released on RoyalRoad.

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