Real-Life C.H.U.D.s!

Well, not really (these too look way too ill-fed, for one thing), but this article over at The Sun got me thinking, quite naturally, to my gaming-addled brain, about those who live in underground environments.

Are these not the orcs and goblins of which our games spin tales, who dwell within the nameless darks, venturing forth to plunder from the surface world in order to drag their loot into their subterranean dwellings?

In all seriousness, it’s a tragic thing that folks need to live like this, but it did give me a game-related idea. What if there were ordinary folks who just lived in the dungeons because they chose to? What if there were just first-level shmoes who had a room tucked away in the dungeon, off the beaten track, who knew some of the ins and outs and called some abandoned storage room home? No monsters, no rakshasa or wererat trying to lull the player characters into a false sense of security. Just people. Villagers in the dungeon, but not all conveniently put together where the PCs can figure out who is most likely friend or foe.

Think Newt from “Aliens”, or Marvin in “Die Hard 2”, or any number of characters from “Beauty and the Beast”.

Oh… it makes the rakshasas and wererats all the worse, because the players won’t know when they should or shouldn’t trust the “nice, ordinary folks” they find in the tunnels. Friend? Foe? I can’t tell!

It gives much more meaning to the “parley” option. Such dwellers would know at least the local topography, beasties, etc. and might be inclined to share their information for some loot, or food, or news, or whatever. Or they could turn out to be a nest of doppelgangers and kill off the party one by one. Muhahahaha…

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

6 thoughts on “Real-Life C.H.U.D.s!

  1. I like it! In the original Castle Greyhawk, there were dwarves, elves, and that orge living in there, so PCs presumably woudn't want to attack the "good" races: adding humans into the mix is spot-on, Joe. (Relatedly, Robilar, Tenser, and Teric took up residence in the first level, too, after they cleared it out: all the easier to a) delve deeper, and b) charge entry/exit fees from their competitors 😀


  2. Definite possibilities there. You oould expand it slightly for 'mega-dungeons' to include forward camps of a sort, kind've like when mountain climbers set up climb camps to cache supplies for major ascents.

    In one dungeon I recall playing through (an actual dungeon, meaning it was designed as the lower levels of a long ruined castle), there was a similiar NPC, but he was a benign undead creature. Sort of like a mellow reverant, he was the former caretaker of the lower levels and was trapped there when the original castle was destroyed and the entrance collapsed.

  3. Nifty! I'm reminded of something similar I saw on the History Channel's Cities of the Underworld – the Edinburgh Vaults under South Bridge:

    Mark – the NPC undead caretaker you describe reminds me a lot of the Crypt Thing, which had a neutral alignment, from the original Fiend Folio. It was one of my favorite creatures from that book. 🙂

  4. I have a couple of places where actual people live in my megadungeon. Just in Level One, there are four denizens. The PCs actually opted to partner up with a barbarian and an expat dwarf that laired in an old barracks and armory. Of course, they managed to get both NPCs killed a few weeks later – One fell down a 200' mine shaft, and the other was knocked unconscious and dragged away by mushroom men to be mashed up into their nutritious blue fertilizer paste.

    Apart from the feral wererat in room 106, the party hasn't yet met Lyria yet either, which I'm rather looking forward to. She's not a monster either, just a normal human woman – who happens to secretly be an unrepentant sociopath. She keeps several gardens near one of the side entrances: Carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, hemlock, nightshade…

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