No one knew where the Dungeons came from. Many treatises were written, many debates were held and some of the most brilliant scholars through the ages had all ventured educated guesses - but no one really knew. How did they form? What purpose did they serve? What rules governed them?
To the common masses, they were deadly treasure troves. Underground wonderlands that obeyed a different set of rules to the reality above. They were both carrot and stick for those brave and foolhardy enough to venture into their depths.
The stick? They harboured unimaginable evils; Ingenious traps, deadly terrain and inhabited by creatures ranging from the most mundane of animals to the epitome of power. All of it seemingly designed to do one thing, and one thing only - to kill all who enter.
Ah, but the carrot… the carrot!
What has always driven the most ambitious of men? Power. Wealth.
And Dungeons offered both in a manner that no man could resist.
Wealth from resources that made gold and diamonds seem like pebbles. What value do those hold compared to mana cores that could let a man control nature itself? To hides as light and soft as a feather yet sturdy enough to halt a blow from a common dagger or even sword? To herbs and plants and ores that are miraculous in their properties?
And Power. Oh, the power. Dungeons lure those who crave power by giving them Experience, and Levels, slowly turning those (who survive) into something truly transcendent. Superhuman in every way imaginable.
In a dark, dusty corner of an unremarkable cellar, hairlike tendrils slowly appeared on the surface of a small, coin shaped stone. Growing longer, these tendrils spread out to penetrate the nearest section of the cellar wall and floor...
It had been a week since Fletcher had been short paid for the half dozen loaves of bread, and he could still feel the heat from where his Da had cuffed him around the ear when he’d found out. And the hole in his pocket left by the copper that had been deducted from the pittance that made up his pay as a baker’s apprentice.
To add insult to injury, here he was once again turning the cellar upside down in search of the rat that had found its way into yet another bag of flour. His Da had personally inspected every bag that had been delivered yesterday, so there was no question of blaming the miller this time. And his Da hated apologizing, which put him in an even darker mood.
Apron off, lamp swinging gently from the hook in the center beam, he huffed and puffed as he moved the heavy bags around in search of the culprit.
“Aha!” he exclaimed on moving yet another bag to reveal a hole just big enough for a rodent where the floor and wall met. And telltale droppings. Neither sight nor sound of the little devil that was ruining good flour, but it was nothing that a carefully placed and baited rat trap wouldn’t take care of.
Job done for the moment, he dusted the flour and dirt off his hands and headed upstairs to where he and his Da shared a small apartment above the bakery, to drop off his apron and head out in the late afternoon sunshine - tasks done for the day.. One of the few benefits of being a baker’s apprentice was that his days started very early indeed, but he got to finish early as a result.
Despite how little is known about the origins and purposes of Dungeons, we know one indisputable fact: They Evolve.
It is not uncommon for a previously blank wall to sport a new doorway the next day, leading to new areas to explore, discover and exploit. Physical features change often enough for it to be unremarkable.
Less commonly, new denizens may come to inhabit well explored areas of a dungeon, sometimes displacing the existing creatures. This can be cause for alarm when a well known foe is replaced by something new, requiring new tactics to deal with and increasing the danger of that area until people adapt to it.
What else is known, but not often discussed in public, as that Dungeons seem to feed.
Many attempts have been made over the years to simply overwhelm a dungeon with numbers, suppressing the denizens to try and maximize the resources harvested. But such tactics are always accompanied by casualties, and as the casualties mount the Dungeons spawn larger numbers of tougher prey. Leaving the would be conquerors with a Dungeon that only the most powerful of Adventurers dare enter.