Messages Overheard on the Dungeon PA System

3, 4, 5, test test. Can you hear me? Well, don't answer, because I can't hear you. This is your benevolent underlord, the Plated Mage. I wanted to let you all know that I have returned from my unplanned tour of the Inner Planes and will now be resuming my position as manager of the dungeon. The interim manager has been consumed by the machine. That is all.
This is a fun idea I came up with in my Stonehell megadungeon campaign.

Around the one-year mark, I noticed that my players' enthusaism for dungeon exploration was lagging, and they were starting to fall into a monotonous rhythm of systematically clearing rooms rather than delving forwards with excitement into new areas. They didn't seem that interested in finding out what lay at the bottom of the dungeon, despite my attempts to lay interesting clues.

So, I decided to use a more direct approach and give one of the villains near the bottom of the dungeon a magic intercom. Once per session or so, usually when the players were resting after a fight, I would put on my best megalomaniacal robot voice and read off some ridiculous announcement to the denizens of the dungeon.
Hello, Stonehell! This is your benevolent underlord speaking. It has come to my attention that several areas of the dungeon are experiencing advanced structural deterioration. Cave ins, obstructions, et cetera. Therefore, I would like to remind everyone to refrain from eating and enslaving the kobolds faster than they can reproduce. If you see a kobold slacking off, give him a good kick. And if you *are* a kobold, then get back to work, you lazy dog! That is all.
My obvious inspiration was the similar messages in the video games Portal and Portal 2. For anyone who is not familiar with them, these games are basically puzzle games, where the player has to solve a series of increasingly difficult physics puzzles in an abandoned laboratory. Throughout the game, a psychotic AI speaks to the player over the PA system, offering a mix of advice, encouragement, insults, and death threats. This greatly enhances the atmosphere of the game and adds interest to puzzles that might otherwise become tedious and repetitive at times.

I realized exactly the same technique could work pretty well in D&D.

I soon found quite a few uses for these announcements. The simplest use was to provide tantalizing hints about things deeper in the dungeon, to draw the players further downward towards the really fun levels I wanted them to see.
Hello there, Stonehell! This is your friend, the Plated Mage. I wanted to let you know that I am looking for volunteers to undergo arcanatech conversion. You may have already seen some of my prototypes roaming the dungeon. They were the monkeys. That shot lightning. If that sounds like what *you* want to be, then come on down to my lab. You know where it is, just one floor down from the casino. That's if you want to shoot lightning. If you want to be a monkey, I can't help you.
May I have your attention, everyone? This is the Plated Mage and I have an important safety announcement. Do not go messing around in my old lab, the one near the giant cube. There is nothing interesting in there. Most likely you'd set off one of the magic traps and die. And if there were anything interesting, you'd never figure out all the spells to make it work. Talking to you, Fulkth. Leave my toys alone. That is all.
Often I would use the messages to refer obliquely to things the players had done in the dungeon, to show how their actions were having an effect beyond what they could see.
Hello again, everyone! I was thinking about what I said earlier, and I realized that none of the creatures I have mind-drained since I got back have seen any kobolds in the past few months. I am beginning to suspect that they have been wiped out completely by predation, incineration, or something else that rhymes with vacation. If you know anything about what happened or who is responsible, please send word with your next sacrificial tribute. I'm re-instating that, by the way. One live victim per week. Thanks.
Attention, denizens of Stonehell. This is your benevolent underlord, the Plated Mage. So far, no one has come forward to take responsibility for the disappearance of our kobold work crews. Rest assured that my spies and minions will soon get to the bottom of this mystery. In the meantime, if your area of the dungeon looks especially unstable, try to find some slaves with construction experience. I hear there's a bunch of hobgoblins upstairs. Good luck!
Of course, my Plated Mage was a bit of a moron, so more often than not he misunderstood exactly what had happened or built up the players' deeds to have been far more impressive than they really were.
Attention, Stonehell. I have some good news. We've figured out who killed the kobolds. One of my divination experts revealed under torture that it was a party of adventurers led by Sir Bobbin of Blackmore and the elf priest Caramel. If you know anything about these troublemakers, please send your best assassins. Aside from that, if anyone knows where we can get some new kobolds, that would be helpful. Thank you.
Hey there, Stonehell. This is your invincible underlord speaking. My spies have uncovered a few more clues about those rogue adventurers. It seems they are financed by local farmers. One of them is a local wrestling champion. Another one is a miniature owlbear. Or possibly a crocodile. And there might be either a bard or a wizard. I'll be honest, these reports are pretty unclear. One thing that's not unclear is that these people are highly dangerous. If you see them, please exercise extreme caution as expressed through reckless violence and unchecked aggression. That is all.

Comments

  • Other times, I used the messages to provide hints about changes occurring in the dungeon: areas that had been restocked, corridors that had blocked off, or new monsters that had been added to my wandering monster tables.
    Hello out there, all you creepie crawlies. It's me again. A big thank you to everyone who volunteered for arcanatech conversion. Most of them came out really well. They should be up and about shooting lightning in no time. On an unrelated note, sacrificial tributes are due in 12 hours. Please have your tribe's least valued members ready for collection by my new army of electric automatons. That is all.
    Hello, Stonehell. This is your old friend and invincible ruler, the Plated Mage. I have an update on the troublemakers who killed the kobolds. That update is that they are still at large. So if you know anyone who knows anything, just send them down here and I'll suck the knowledge out of their brain. Thanks.

    Also, I have been informed that some areas of the dungeon are not receiving my messages. Please vacate these areas. I will be filling them in with gravel as soon as I determine where they are. That is all.
    Hi, everybody. It's me, the Plated Mage. There's been a lot of concern lately about the dungeon's ooze population. I know you all need enough oozes for nutrition, sanitation, interrogation, and cosmetic scarring. So you will be delighted to hear we have increased ooze production by 65%. That's 65% more of favourite oozes like the black pudding and the apple jelly, plus all new oozes like the bouncing acid blob and the stacking super-jelly. No, you don't have to thank you me, I do this for fun. Plated Mage out.
    Hello everyone. This is the Plated Mage speaking. That was quite the earthquake, wasn't it? Sorry about that. Let me reassure you that the machine is perfectly fine and nothing is wrong. That is all.
    All right, everyone. This is old Platey again. I'm going to level with you. The truth is, things are getting pretty serious down here. We are at war with chaos, and chaos is winning. Conventional tactics are not going to cut it here. Therefore, I have decided to open a portal directly to the Plane of Law. This is your advance warning that you might be seeing a lot of ant-men soon. Or maybe modrons. It's tough to say. Either way, take care out there.
    And of course, some of the announcements were pure nonsense.
    Hello there, everyone. This is your benevolent underlord speaking. I have received reports that several areas of the dungeon are leaking a mysterious orange substance. I asked my chief engineer about it, and he said, "The star of discord is ascendant; her dominion will endure without ending." He's been repeating that for days. I'm not sure what it means. If I learn anything more, I'll let you know. Until then, I wouldn't eat the orange stuff without testing it on slaves or prisoners first. That is all. (pause) Technically, I wouldn't eat it anyway. I don't need to eat. I don't even have a mouth. But that's not the point.
    Attention, everyone. I have an update on the mystrious orange fluid leaking from the dungeon walls. The fluid is harmless and our concerns were completely without merit. Go ahead and eat the stuff. That is all.
  • This is both hilarious and very clever! Lovely - great examples.

    This kind of breaking of the fourth wall (though very mild in your case) can be really fun in games, and something I’d like to experiment with further.

    Have you seen JDcorley’s Star Wars Arrested Development thread? It’s great. (I linked to it in the “what to read at Story Games” thread.)
  • Thanks! And yes, I have! I loved that thread.
  • I was just gonna say that I like this a lot more than Starwarrested Development because it's diegetical♥
  • It seems to me you could interpret the “documentary” concept as “diegetical@, as well, whereas this one is more obviously a caricature and therefore might not be taken as seriously.
  • Paul_T said:

    It seems to me you could interpret the “documentary” concept as “diegetical"

    Well, stance issue and temporal dislocation and all that

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