Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Murder-Hobo Treatise

The Murder-Hobo Treatise

Pity the poor adventurer.  Call them whatever you like, whether it be desperado, scallywag, dungeon hobo, Murder-Hobo, Barbarians, Brutes, Savages, Plunderer, Colonizer, Monster-Abuser, label them anything you want, from murderous to greedy to abusive to evil.  But Murder-Hobos are people who despite all the hate they receive, seem to survive everything.  They exist in every society.  And while the costumes change- what is the difference between a Shaman and a Witch-Doktor, after all- the true goal doesn't.  But do not despair, my civilized friends.  Follow me, and you learn the truth about Murder-Hobos, and why you should thank them for all the work they do.

Part 1: The Truth About Dungeons

As Pearce Shea said in his revolutionary article on Dungeons, Dungeons are not composed of brick and mortar.  They appear to be abandoned places full of monsters and traps, but this is directly opposite.  A dungeon is not made when a place is abandoned, a place that is abandoned gives birth to a Dungeon.  This explains many inconsistencies, such as the complaint raised by Joseph Manola, when he said that he found death-traps and trap dungeons unrealistic.  And if you are working from naturalistic principles, his critique makes perfect sense.  Yet this is an incorrect way to view Dungeons.

But back to Shea, who says "Abandoned buildings left unused for too long grow grow weedy, dusty, strange. The angles twist and the geometry buckles under the barometric pressure of anti-life."  Dungeons are places where primordial chaos infiltrates our reality, infusing a structure with a strange sort of life of its own.  This chaos then twists and warps a Dungeon into a maze of death and bones.  All Dungeons have the same goal- to expand.  A Dungeon that begins in the basement of a long-abandoned building will spread out through similar avenues, so other basements will begin developing secret doors and tunnels that lead deep into the earth.  This primordial chaos approach explains Dungeons much better than naturalistic reasons I find.  Dungeons are like fungi, except instead of blooming in rotting organic matter and waste, they grow in places mired in secrecy and isolation.  A building that is frequently used, well-lit and known by its inhabitants will never grow a Dungeon.  But a building full of unused rooms or a strange, rambling layout can keeps inhabitants in their rooms or in low numbers is at risk for Dungeon emergence or growth.

And if you use the primordial chaos lens, other illogical aspects of Dungeons make sense.  Traps are a Dungeon's passive defenders, like eyelashes or dead skin cells.  Treasures are its precious organs, and monsters its defenders and children. And like any living thing, killing a Dungeon is equally similar.  First, smash through any defenses than strip out the essential bits, the treasures and strange magickal devices that have fermented out of lesser metals and discarded spellbooks. Then, if you feel especially slighted by the place, you can tear the dressed stone from its walls and collapse the whole thing.  However, if this approach is too extreme, simply convert the Dungeon into a store or some other place of Order.  Make sure people become familiar with it, and inspect it regularly. 

Monsters perhaps deserve a bit more of a mention.  Some people say that the creatures found in Dungeons are just normal beings like us, who have inhabited the Dungeon.  This is incorrect.  However, the people who also say that they are just manifestations of the Dungeon's Will are also wrong.  Studies, such as one done by the aforementioned Shea, have proven that if you take a Goblin from a Dungeon and place it civilized environs, after several weeks it will snap back to sanity, and can even become a normal member of society.  Other creatures take longer, such as several months for Orcs, and even longer for other things.  Some creatures, such as Dragons, are so enthralled to a Dungeon that they are almost never freed from its spell, with certain notable exceptions.  But these creatures do not grow out of the cave dirt, as many speculate.  Instead, like the mass that the Dungeon develops as it grows, they are pulled from other worlds.  But Dungeons also have other ways of recruiting servants.  Those near a Dungeon, whether those trapped inside it when it forms or brought there by its servants, or those around a nascent Dungeon will be affected by its song. 

An Dungeon's song is the warble of the initial chaotic energy that gave birth to it- a great, inhuman lifeforce.  A Dungeon's song, if listened to, can tell you what its thinking, if such a thing can think.  In truth, much of what a Dungeon thinks is incomprehensible to a mere mortal, but certain things can be derived from listening to it, such as where threats (to the Dungeon) are, where valuable things (to the Dungeon) are kept, and where its servants should be going.  However, one should be careful, as listening to a Dungeon's constant singing is hazardous to ones' health, and can lead to becoming Dungeon-bent.

But back to the Dungeon itself.  As mentioned above, all Dungeons grow.  Dungeons expand along similar lines as the initial seed.  For example, a Dungeon in a Caldera might burrow down near the magma chamber, or a Dungeon on an abandoned boat might simply enlarge the boat, filling it with hallways that go nowhere and windows that lead to internal tanks full of sharks and seawater.  But all Dungeons also link to each other.  As such, all Dungeons are in theory, endless.  The furnace room on an ocean-going Dungeon can lead you to the caldera Dungeon.  And of course, as the priesthood has lectured for many centuries, the bottom of every Dungeon is Hell.      

Part 2: The Truth about Adventurers, Murder-Hobos, and the like

You should pity the Adventurer, not fear them.  For while some possess great power and knowledge that would break a lesser man's mind, they are also among the most disenfranchised in our society.  Adventurers are consistently count among their ranks those too dysfunctional to do anything else.  Those who become Adventurers are taken from several pools.  Firstly, those who are so ostracized they have no connection to their community, whether because of their own actions or some other factor.  These can be deserved isolations, such as one who has killed a kinsman and escaped justice through some legal means, or someone simply so unlikable they cannot hold a conversation without stuttering for a half hour, then fleeing into the night.  The second most common group an Adventurer can come from is the insatiable curious or the insatiable courageous.  Those who cannot leave a stone unturned or a challenge unmet, those who thrive when the pressure is greatest and the stakes are highest.  And the third most common group Adventurers come from before their change in vocation is the insane.  Many asylums train there more stable patients in the art of Dungeon-craft, teaching them basic combat, how to tie knots, forage for food and sign language in the hopes of one day getting the patient into a somewhat stable, if dangerous field.  other  

Also, many non Adventurers insist that those with no real skills or desire to improve themselves could also be counted among the Adventurers, but most slackers and Adventurers dispute this.  The former say they know how dangerous Adventuring is, and have no desire to endanger themselves for such a lopsided risk to reward ratio.  On the other hand, the latter insist that slackers and layabouts could never make it as Adventurers, due to the enormous amount of work needed to keep oneself in fighting shape.  

But to get back on topic, most Adventurers are social outcasts or dysfunctional in some way.  These are the type of men who tear up bars and get into duels, who make stupid decisions and find it difficult to string together two sentences without mumbling.  They are utterly unsuited to a safe, comfortable life.  This is why you see aging Adventurers, their hair graying and their muscles no longer as strong as they once were, still strapping on their armor to plunge into the depths.  They cannot live a life of peace, of farming or husbandry or a desk job.  They were born for war, for blood and heat and the thunderous red heart of war.  This is also why there are so few old Adventurers.

Additionally, not only are most Adventurers ill-suited to the life you probably live, but most are also very unsuccessful.  Most Adventurers die young, this is known.  Plunging into the depths of Chaos, into a Dungeon, is very often fatal.  Even those who emerge safely often have little to show for themselves, for if another party of Adventurers was just here, their may be few, or no treasures left.  Dungeons that are not destroyed will slowly replenish themselves, but their ability to produce treasures is far less than the Adventurer's thirst for them.  So many Adventurers are only more successful than a middling merchant, and sometimes not even that.  This is why so many Adventurers are eager to go as deep as they can, to spend days, if not weeks, if not longer underground, in a Dungeon.  It is known that the deeper one goes in a Dungeon, the stiffer the resistance becomes.  But as the danger grows, so does the potential reward.

Finally, there are two issues that Adventurers deal with that we should discuss.  The first is becoming Dungeon-bent.  The Second is the Curse of the Dungeon.

Becoming Dungeon-bent is a very real danger, but one that is easily fixed.  A Dungeon's song is its thoughts, but it is also a weapon.  Many Adventurers have difficulty sleeping in Dungeons without warded campsites or magical protections, as their thoughts mingle with the Dungeon while they sleep, leading to strange, surreal nightmares or waking hallucinations.  They can feel a Dungeon's contempt, its wrath frozen into icicle blades, which it prepares to drive into the psyche of those who dare invade it.  But Dungeons also use Adventurers, seeking to recruit those they feel are too useful to kill or easily manipulated.  A Dungeon's minions may kidnap an Adventurer and drag them deep into the Dungeon's heart, where it can coo over them, slowly breaking the Adventurer's will.  If not rescued, the Adventurer will be shaped by the Dungeon's will, turned into a willing servant for the Dungeon.  This is also what happens to the creatures Dungeons take from other worlds or from those who are trapped inside a Dungeon.  Like the Dungeon itself, they become freakish and weird, devolving and becoming less than human.  And like any other creature trapped in a Dungeon, they can be saved, though this is rarely done.  This is, incidentally, why the slave trade should be encouraged, as it incentivizes Adventurers to keep those captured in Dungeons alive, if only to sell.  Becoming a slave is a cure for being Dungeon-bent, as the antidote to the Chaos in a Dungeon is order, and the only person who lives surrounded by more order than slaves are Kings and Priests.  Other common cures for being Dungeon-bent include, for major cases, being sent to an asylum, a labor camp, or living alongside monks for some time. More minor cases can be cured by managing a store, serving drinks in a tavern, or prayer and fasting.    

But while being Dungeon-bent is curable, if inconvenient, the Curse of the Dungeon is something far more serious.  You see, when in a Dungeon, you can descend as far as you want with no trouble, barring the usual difficulties.  But if you turn around and start ascending, you develop problems very quickly.  The Curse of the Dungeon affects those who try and leave it, and return to the surface.  The Curse can start out relatively minor, depending on what level of a Dungeon you are on.  Leaving the first level can prompt nausea and dizziness, which can be hazardous if you are rock-climbing, but are otherwise perfectly survivable.  But the lower you go, the worse it gets.  Effects can range from madness to mutation to blood gushing from every orifice to far, far worse.  As such, some of the most powerful Adventurers, having gone too deep, never return to the surface, usually setting up bases in Dungeons, little islands of Order in a sea of Chaos.  These Living Legends can be great assets, but they are also capricious allies, and many no longer recognize any ties that might have once bound them, such as nation, faith, creed or law.  Maybe in their long stay in the dark they have become irrevocably Dungeon-bent?  Or maybe a life of horror and pain has twisted them, making them hard and cynical.  However, whatever explanation you feel is more convincing, you should still be very careful around these Adventurers.  They can be as dangerous as anything down there, and just as cruel.

Part 3: Becoming Odd vs. Becoming Complicated

As the critically unappreciated Chris McDowall once said, "Becoming Odd is great.  Becoming Complicated is awful."  Now for those of you not up with the latest Adventurer lingo, let me unpack that phrase.  Odd in the Adventurer parlance means to be become stronger, better, faster.  Someone who is Odd can hit harder and survive more than someone who is not.  Additionally, there is a depth to Oddness.  The greater an Adventurer becomes is generally correlated with how Odd they are.  Complicated, on the other hand, is what happens to an Adventurer as a side-effect of their line of work.  This is the stuff that makes it into penny-dreadfuls.  Adventurers who return home with cannibal desires, no longer men, but monsters wearing human skin.  But other Complications are far less subtle.  Some Adventurers return home a shambling wreck, mutated beyond belief or any other number of unfortunate effect.  These Complications are usually what drive Adventurers into either retirement or a shallow grave.

Part 4: Conclusion

The life a Murder-Hobo lives is not one to be envied.  They live in squalid conditions and near universal poverty, their rich contemporaries only serving to emphasize how difficult it is to be one of them and make money.  Even those that do make some money spend it all on donations to the Church in the hope of securing a good afterlife, or squander it on women and wine.  Yet the life they live is one that is desperately needed.  Someone must enter the darkness and confront Chaos man to man, and they are the people to do it.  So next time you see a Murder-Hobo, you should thank them for what they have done for you.  For in their tireless and selfless pursuit of gold and glory, they are unintentionally preserving the civilization that spawned them.

Part 5: Works Cited

Pearce Shea's "Other Frontiers (Dungeons, Megadungeons and Monsters)"

Joseph Manola's "Confessions of a realist"

Chris McDowall's "Foreground Growth and Becoming Odd"
Emily Allen's "In which I am a weeb"



1 comment:

  1. I like the concept, it suggests that the dungeon is something akin to a chaotic in-between for every location there is an entrance, and that this likely extends to other worlds, dimensions, and universes. A single location that can be easily accessed from anywhere in any world, and that is seemingly at the very bottom of all things.