The Dungeon

If one were to take a look at the ground beneath their feet, they would surely conclude that the foundation of the world is a solid and unyielding thing. An impression that would only grow stronger if they tried to dig deep into the earth and stone, for most of our planet is indeed composed out of hard, solid material.

And yet, this initial impression would be mistaken. Beneath the surface of our planet, there lies a vast network of caves and tunnels that extend into seemingly every corner of the planet. Some places contain denser concentration of the caves and tunnels than others, but no one has ever found a land that was entirely free of them. People call it the Underworld, the Dungeon, the Labyrinth, and countless other names. It connects to the surface world though openings both large and small, and it descends into unfathomable depths below, creating a habitat full of dangers and wonders beneath our feet.

The Dungeon had captivated humanity since the beginning of recorded history. It is the source of magic. It is the birth place of monsters. It contains inconceivable wealth and cosmic secrets. A thousand expeditions had been launched into its depths – to plunder it, pacify it, make sense of it, or simply try and reach its bottom. Many of these had disappeared without a trace, never to be heard from again. Many more had returned with little to show for it. And no one had ever found a bottom. The interest never waned, however, and where there is a will there is a way.

This document is designed to give the reader some basic facts about the topic and dispel common misconceptions about the Dungeon. It is my hope that it will spark interest in the reader about this part of our world, which is so influential in how we live our lives and yet is so often taken for granted.

The Dungeon and Mana:

Probably the most obvious trait of the Dungeon is the relationship it has with ambient mana. The Dungeon is very rich in ambient mana, and the deeper one goes the higher the concentration of ambient mana becomes. This effect doesn’t appear to ever actually stop. No matter how deep one descends, the levels of ambient mana keep growing. It is rumored that if someone goes deep enough, the levels of ambient mana become high enough to passively induce mana poisoning in human beings, regardless of whether they try to draw in ambient mana into themselves or not. Reports relating to such deep expeditions are often highly confidential, however, so confirmation is hard to find.

Ambient mana in the Dungeon is rarely static – instead, it flows from some unreachable place deep underground and gradually rises towards the surface, thinning out as it is absorbed by the walls of the tunnels and the life forms that make their home in them. The bigger and straighter the tunnels, the less mana is lost during its flow towards the surface. This can create localized areas of atypically high ambient mana density, if a large vertical shaft connects a deeper portion of the Dungeon with areas near the surface.

This flow of mana is also usually accompanied by air currents that keep dungeon air from growing too stale and make the entire underworld far more livable than it would otherwise be. Since air is constantly moving upward from the Dungeon depths but never runs out, there is presumably a source of it somewhere in the depths. This source, much like the source of ambient mana itself, has never been found.

The Dungeon is connected to the surface in many places. These kinds of Dungeon openings are very easy to detect, because they invariably raise the ambient mana levels on the surface by their very presence. Even shallow portions of the Dungeon have significantly higher levels of ambient mana than most areas on the surface, so a Dungeon opening constantly spewing plumes of mana-infused air into the area is bound to raise its mana levels. Places where the Dungeon connects to the surface like this are called mana wells.

In fact, it is widely believed by mages that all ambient mana ultimately originates from the Dungeon. The main proof for this is that if one compares the map of known mana wells with a map of ambient mana levels, it immediately becomes obvious they match almost perfectly to one another. In the rare few cases where a high level of ambient mana is not matched by an appropriately-sized mana well in the center of it, there are usually traces of a mana well that collapsed (or was forcibly closed) sometime in the past.

The Dungeon and Magical Creatures:

The Dungeon has plenty of inhabitants. One might think that the number of living beings would be highest near the surface and then gradually grow thinner and smaller as one descended into the depths, but this isn’t the case. Every corner of the Dungeon is teeming with life. It just gets progressively more powerful and alien the deeper one descends into the tunnels below.

All dungeon creatures are magical in some way. Mundane creatures sometimes colonize new mana wells before Dungeon denizens become aware of them, but they are inevitably outcompeted and driven out by magical creatures in time. After all, magical creatures can do everything a mundane creature can, but with additional advantage of magic on top, and the only limitation is that they need a certain level of ambient mana to survive. Since the ambient mana levels in the Dungeon are high, even in very shallow portions of it, they can support very powerful magical creatures that outclass mundane ones in every conceivable way.

The shallowest portions of the Dungeon – those closest to the surface – are often inhabited by magical creatures that are clearly based on mundane animals. This is where one may find things like fire-breathing beetles, hyper-agile bats, spear-like worms, and so on. Some of them may be very unusual animals, however. For instance, land dwelling octopuses that can masquerade as rocks and mushrooms, or a type of flightless bats twisted into a small humanoid form. Although dependent on high levels of ambient mana to survive, most of these creatures can survive on the surface for a brief period of time, and will sometimes raid the surface if they are desperate or driven from their homes by other threats.

Near mana wells, many magical creatures that live on the surface will adopt a hybrid lifestyle, moving freely between the surface and shallower levels of the Dungeon. Large mana wells may also have specialized species that rely on this kind of lifestyle and cannot survive without the presence of both in the area.

Finally, there are creatures that live in different area depending on the stage of their life. Some magical creatures live their initial stages on life on the surface, where there are fewer things to threaten them, but descend into the Dungeon when they grow older and the levels of ambient mana on the surface can no longer support their existence.

The biosphere of the surface layer is not uniform across the world, and in fact greatly varies from place to place. Due to the great number of bottlenecks in the local landscape, as well as other factors that are poorly understood, dungeon denizens are often localized inside their own small areas. Entering a brand new section of the Dungeon is always a dangerous undertaking, because one can never be certain what kind of creatures they would find there.

The shallow, surface layer of the Dungeon is the one more extensively explored and exploited by humanity. Although no part of the Dungeon can be said to be truly safe or totally understood, this level of the Dungeon is considered fairly accessible and even non-magical people feel confident making limited forays into it. Sections of it are routinely pacified and section off from the Dungeon as a whole to serve as storage spaces, dumping grounds, experimental chambers, mining areas, and so on.

There are a number of sapient races making their home in the shallow portions of the Dungeon, though none possess the technical or magical sophistication of humanity. Their relationships with humans are complex, but surprisingly peaceful. Though humans are interested in exploiting the Dungeon, they have no ambition to outright colonize this space and are wary of sending significant forces into subterranean tunnels. As such, unless Dungeon races raid human communities on the surface, most humans would prefer to leave them alone or engage in trade.

Deeper into the Dungeon, in what is known as the middle layer, creatures become more and more removed from the surface, both in terms of appearance and in terms of behavior. They never venture out into the surface unless some major disturbance has occurred, and would not survive there for long even if they are displaced there. Their appearance is difficult to place among standard classifications of life on the surface. Many of them are recognizably bestial in basic structure, but do not correspond to specific known animals. A middle layer denizen can be said to resemble a frog or a crab, but they are also clearly not those things when studied in detail. Vivisections often produce bizarre results, such as a weasel-like creature that entirely lacks a spine, a jellyfish being that contains a bizarrely human-like brain in its cap, or a mass of pink gel covered in eyes.

Middle layer is viewed with great fear and caution by humans, since even experienced mages could easily perish here. Dungeon denizens that make their home here are powerful and poorly studied. Information about specific species is scarce, and what little of it exists in publicly-available libraries is often useless outside of very specific sections of the middle layer. The middle layer, just like the surface one, often has a unique species and variants living in different sections of it. This means that anyone wishing to go there will be faced with a plethora of strange magical abilities that are difficult to plan and prepare for. Only an archmage, armed with a wide selection of spells and mastered magic types, can reliably take on an environment like this and emerge victorious. These people are in short supply, so forays into the middle layer are rare.

Some of the dungeon denizens on the second layer are confirmed to be sapient, but none of them seem to form large organized societies. Most of them are highly territorial and aggressive, and will not respond to human attempts at communication – they are only known to be sapient due to mind magic. The few species that are willing to communicate are difficult to talk to, as their understanding of the world is entirely alien to humans. These creatures have never left their tunnels, don’t live in civilized societies, and often make references to magical perceptions that not even mages can make sense of. They often perceive humans as both weak and stupid, and are not shy about letting them know that. No long-term trade or productive interaction has been accomplished between humanity and middle layer dungeon denizens.

What lies beyond the middle layer is shrouded in mystery. Past a certain point, the monsters become so dangerous that even the best human mages wouldn’t last long against them. Their appearance is utterly alien as well, and they can no longer be described as weird animals but instead assume utterly alien forms that rarely resemble anything familiar. Like literal monsters conjured out of speculative horror stories, these strange entities increasingly challenge one’s common sense as one delves deeper into the depths. There are rumors of beings that can exist in two different places simultaneously, creatures that can trap people inside their own private pocket dimension that they can conjure and dismantle at will, elephantine-sized predators that are totally soundless and invisible regardless of what detection magic one uses, and eel-like parasites that can phase straight through unprotected flesh so they can slowly feed on the person’s insides. Truth is hard to distinguish from fanciful tales when it comes to the Dungeon depths.

Fortunately for humans (and other surface dwellers), magical creatures that dwell in these depths are such massive mana hogs that they wouldn’t be able to survive more than an hour on the surface and would never willingly ascend that high.

Beliefs and Theories:

As stated, the Dungeon and its place in the world is a mystery. Humans have only scratched its surface and can hardly unravel its deepest mysteries at this point in time. The gods rarely gave a definitive answer about what it represents, and many of their explanations conflict with each other. That is not to say that there is a lack of theories and supposed divine wisdom preserved from before the Silence. Most cultures and religions have an explanation about the Dungeon, and many scholars have put forward various theories about the place. Until someone is able to actually reach its greatest depths and return alive, however, it is likely that it will all remain speculative.

As noted earlier in this document, something in the depths of the Dungeon is responsible for producing nearly all ambient mana in the world. Since the only other thing capable of producing mana is souls of living beings, many people believe there is something alive down there. Some people believe the world itself has a soul, which reside in the center of it. Others believe the creator god that fashioned the world sacrificed his own heart to bring life to the otherwise barren soil. One group thinks the gods built the world around the body of a sleeping giant, and that the world is doomed to ruin once he finally wakes up.

In Ikosian mythology, the dungeon is a remnant from the time the world was created, when the gods took the last Primordial Dragon and fashioned her body into the land we live in. The tunnels are dragon veins, and they all converge at the very center of the world. There, bound in divine chains but still very much aware and seething in hatred, lies the still-beating heart of the primordial dragon. This is the Heart of the World, or the Heart of the World Dragon, and is supposedly the source of all the ambient mana gushing upwards from the depths, as well as the source of monsters that stalk the tunnels.

Many people have raised doubts about this story. Unlike ancient Ikosians, we have a pretty good idea about how big our planet is, and it’s big. Very big. The amount of distance the tunnels would have to cover in order to reach the center of the planet is mind-boggling. Furthermore, some of the scientific theories are suggesting that a large portion of our planet’s interior is actually in a molten state – a giant mass of lava upon which the continents float, basically. That would seem incompatible with the idea that there are tunnels crisscrossing the entire planet all the way to the very center of it.

Many people have raised questions about how the Dungeon can even exist in its current state. They claim that natural forces should have collapsed most of the tunnel network by now, citing both scientific models and the observed rate at which human-controlled sections of the Dungeon deteriorate. The simple answer to this is that we don’t know how this works. Magic is the obvious answer, but no mage can identify the actual mechanism by which the Dungeon maintains itself. Sections of the Dungeon do collapse from time to time, but it is clear that the Dungeon is both far more resilient to structural damage than it should be, and that it has some kind of unknown mechanism for creating brand new sections to replace the destroyed ones.

There is a persistent rumor among delvers that there is a gigantic cavern somewhere deep beneath Altazia, forming what is effectively a small underground continent. Such a place has never been found, and it is unclear where the rumor originates from.

Origin of Dungeon Denizens:

There are two main theories in regards to where the monsters that inhabit the Dungeon come from: the hybrid theory and deep origin theory.

The hybrid theory states that dungeon denizens come both from the surface world and the unidentified depths below. The deeper, more alien creatures are said to have no relations to surface creatures. They originate from the bottom of the Dungeon, whatever it is, and have gradually extended their influence upwards. The inhabitants of the shallow and middle layer, however, are clearly just magical animals. They are surface creatures that have colonized the Dungeon and gradually developed magical powers due to long exposure to mana. At certain depths, these two ecologies meet, though the exact point at which this happens is in dispute. The hybrid theory is currently the more popular of the two theories.

The deep origin theory states that all dungeon denizens originate from the depths of the dungeon. The more animal-like creatures in the surface layers of the dungeon are just monsters that learned to mimic the creations of the gods to better infiltrate the surface and lure the unwary into a false sense of security. This was once the more popular of the two theories, but it has fallen in disrepute in recent times, since greater exposure to the surface dungeon denizens has shown that these creatures just aren’t that hateful and duplicitous. They’re most just vicious animals with magical powers. The spread of magic and firearms has also made dungeon denizen raids on the surface a much rarer thing than it was in the past, which makes people a lot less negative about the place.

Dungeon Journeys:

One question that is often asked is whether travel through the Dungeon can be used to circumvent surface obstacles. The answer is yes, but with some caveats.

Surface sections of the Dungeon are often poorly connected to each other. Thus, if one wants to travel large distances through the dungeon, then at the very least they need to descend into the middle layer from time to time. This means that any person or group that wishes to travel through the dungeon must be uncommonly powerful and experienced. Because large sections of the Dungeon are poorly mapped and many dungeon denizens are fond of ambushes, progress is bound to be slow. If speed is desired, traversing large stretches of the Dungeon is a poor choice of action. Finally, although the Dungeon is teeming with life, very few of it is safe to eat by human beings. Dungeon denizens, especially ones from the deeper reaches, have highly magical flesh that has strange, usually negative effects on human that eat it. Thus, you will have to ensure a steady supply of edible food throughout the journey.

Finally, a question of whether it’s possible to travel beneath the ocean to another continent through the Dungeon is sometimes raised. Such a feat would require one to descent into the deep dungeon and stay there for a long time, which is suicide for just about anyone. No one has been reported to have even attempted it, much less succeeded.

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56 thoughts on “The Dungeon

      • And my to be done fanfiction where Zorian returns to the beginning again.

        The odd and strange creatures, are they generally categorized into species or are they all unique? E.g. would there be a race of eels that phase into you and eat you slowly, or is there a single phasing eel monster? In my fanfiction I intend there to be a fair amount of dungeon delving, and was wondering whether the middle and deep layers have races of unpleasant and powerfully magical creatures or singular unique entities that wander around.

        Since if they are unique, and you have a time loop, you could theoretically design wards to counter the deep creature’s magical abilities.

        Also, do you have any preferred inspiration for the deep and middle level monster creatures? Horror films, as you said.

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      • Middle layer creatures are generally categorized into species. Most of them are animal-like in behavior and basic nature, even if they cannot be placed neatly on the animal classification list, though observing their life cycle is very difficult. However, since entities have only been sighted as individual members and have never been encountered since… and this happens pretty often. Most people assume they are simply members of a rare species or wanderers from other underground areas where they are more common, but who knows.

        Deep layer is very much a mystery and generally reports speak of unique monsters that have never been seen before or since. However, there are very few reports from the deep layer and they generally did not dwell there long. Additionally, there are a few mentions of multiple instances of the same kind of creature (usually smaller, weaker ones), so clearly at least some monsters down there are a species rather than a unique individual. It’s impossible to reach a conclusion with such sparse information.

        In regards to inspiration, I mostly get my inspiration from DeviantArt and ArtStation. Some examples: Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4, Pic 5, Pic 6, Pic 7, Pic 8, Pic 9, Pic 10, Pic 11, Pic 12.

        Some other inspirations are Dwarf Fortress’s Forgotten Beasts, various obscure D&D/Pathfinder monsters, MtG artwork, and so on. As far as horror movies go, I can’t think and don’t think they were that much of an inspiration… though Alien remains one of my all-time favorite horror movies. It’s one of the few horror films that the kid me was actually scared of.

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      • You don’t have to answer this, but like in your head/notes do you have a solid answer for the Core? Kind of like how Sleeper’s power in Worm is unknown, but wildbow does actually have a set power for him

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  1. Sounds like there are probably Morlocks living in that big open cavern. Maybe cannibalism speeds up the process of being transformed by dungeon mana.

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  2. I have to say considering the huge number of countries and continents so far left unexplored – or only lightly explored I really hope that you can come up with a second book for Zorian. In particular, I’d like to meet some of the other people around the same level as him, Quatach-Ichl and Zach. Maybe meet the magi of Hsan or go exploring for long lost Morlock colonies. Fight the Immortal 11 or other secret and not so secret groups.
    Hell, he could even breach dimensional boundaries and find new worlds although this is a bit of an overdone trope.
    I think the main place with potential is Hsan. Because they are so isolationist what if it turned out that they were secretly the most powerful race on the continent. Or that they had a far more interesting and unique system of magic. Or if they lived alongside defy humans and that revelation sparked an intercontinental specist holy war because the church united countries to purge the Hsan’s heretical beliefs.
    Another possibility for me is if we finally got to meet the people that build the Bakora gates. They could live on another undiscovered continent or be a people/empire that lives in the dungeon. Or maybe they are the race that the Morlocks turned to and were assimilated by when they fled Altazia.
    The third and final thought was what if we didn’t move away from Altazia as the main focus but had the next novel there. Yeah, Zorian wins but now as one of the continents most powerful archmages, he has a whole new world he has to navigate and find his place in. At the same time tensions are increasing between the major powers and war could break out at any time. Or perhaps even has broken out. How would Zorian handle being drafted? On the one hand, I could see it being the perfect reason for him to go explore Hsan – to avoid getting caught in a massive war. Also, I doubt he would find favour with Eldemars Royal family. As a non-Noble usually such mages side with the guild and the royal family but I seriously doubt Zach & Zorian will just meekly kowtow to Eldermars Royal family.
    Anyway I hope if the author reads this that it helps spark something

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    • I am actually considering a possible sequel that explores what happens with Zach and Zorian in the aftermath of the main story. That’s still in the planning phase and very fuzzy at the moment, but the idea was to have no dramatic plot like the story so far and focus more on the way they fit into the world around them. With the rumblins of war on the horizon and whatnot. So kind of like that last idea of yours, I guess.

      I wouldn’t make Hsan the most powerful region in the world, to be honest. Mostly because they’re not that isolated – if they were that good, the other humans would know about it and would be constantly going there to see what makes them so special. I definitely intended for them to have a unique way of doing magic, though – one which isn’t necessarily superior than the Ikosian one in all ways, but one that works in very different manner and has it’s own benefits and drawbacks. Exploring a new system of magic and trying to combine it with the Ikosian one does seem like something Zorian would be interested in, in all honesty.

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  3. How do dragons fare against dungeon denizens? Are they most powerful beings?
    Because I think we finally got the missing link between humans and dragons and now we have the base for fanatics about Zorian’s ascension to godhood. I get that you aren’t excited about that part, it’s just the way rational crowd is. We need transhuman immortal heroes to escape the reality where the singularity isn’t coming fast enough

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    • Dragons are weaker than the most powerful creatures encountered in the Dungeon depths. The most powerful of human mages can take on a dragon and win, but denizens of the Dungeon exceed them in power if one delves deep enough.

      It’s not that I’m not excited about the idea of a character ascending to godhood (in power and understanding, if not in status), it’s just that I don’t think I could meaningfully write a story about such a character. I read plenty of stories where the character is absurdly powerful (Xianxia, mostly) and I always felt they made godhood seem underwhelming in the process of making their story. If Zorian became a transhuman god that can control time and space, has an unkillable distributed body, and can edit his own body and soul to improve himself, his character, the story, and the setting itself are effectively over.

      I actually like transhumanist ideas, but I don’t think it’s an accident that virtually all transhumanist stories cheat when setting up their plot to make sure the story is still grounded in human limitations and foibles in some way.

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      • I’m glad that you never power leveled them that high, Zorian and Zach already are ridiculously strong, there’s no need to push them to the point where they outdo entire countries by themselves after all.

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      • One of the reasons why I am so excited about your story is because of Zorian’s mental abilities. I really love the idea of ​​modifying the mind, but MoL is the only story I know that makes it truly convincing. So much so that for me Zorian already sometimes gives the impression of not quite human. A little more, and writing about it can be quite difficult … Although, I still like to think about how it can go: D
        For example, Zorian could build a supercomputer for himself, to which he could be constantly connected. He could dump huge amounts of data there (including everything that he and his simulacrums see) and process the most time-consuming calculations. The coolest thing here is that no interfaces are needed. Thanks to magic, Zorian will have a brain-computer. And also make an incredibly complex animation core: Long live the AI ​​helper! Yes, that was pretty pointless in the loop, but now such a data center might be a pretty cool idea.
        I was also thinking of something like a “shell of the mind.” Like the blessing of the reserve, this would allow more data and augmentations to be stored in memory. Or about a divine databank attached directly to the soul, just like a shell. But like all divine magic, this is a rather vague prospect.

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      • When I was planning the story, I toyed with the idea of a brain-computer like that. 🙂 Another idea was to rip out the memory bank from the imperial bank in one of the restarts and have Zorian use it as extra memory space, under the notion that even if divine magic cannot be replicated it can be repurposed for one’s own use. As a bonus, this would also allow Zorian to take out all of the knowledge he and the rest of the temporary loopers amassed in the time loop. But the idea was dropped in the end.

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  4. How does mana feeding work? I was under the impression that ambient mana is toxic for humans, but magical creatures need it to survive.

    Does it mean if you are a shifter of a magical creature, you become immune to mana poisoning?

    Are liches immune to mana poisoning?

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    • Yes, ambient mana is toxic to humans… as well as to everything else, unless it is attuned to you first. Humans don’t assimilate ambient mana naturally and must train in order to make use of it, but magical creatures assimilate ambient mana into their bodies automatically and without having to train or consciously act on it. They’re still vulnerable to mana poisoning, but since they are not mages they aren’t even capable of drawing in raw ambient mana into themselves like humans do – their mana feeding is totally automatic and subconscious.

      Liches aren’t immune to mana poisoning. Their bodies will not sicken, but their minds will. Then you’re have an insane lich running around, and nobody wants that. Not even a lich. And since liches have a really potent way of saving their life, it’s not likely they will often be pushed into a corner and absorb raw ambient mana out of desperation.

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  5. The Dungeon (and whatever lies at its heart) is such an intriguing ongoing mystery in this setting. I really do love this particular piece of worldbuilding.

    I do have a couple questions: how do normal animals become magical creatures? Like, do they evolve over multiple generations of proximity to the dungeon, or does a single animal change and transform due to exposure?

    Can humans become magical the same way animals can? (I can imagine that being how some bloodlines came into existence…)

    Other than Morlocks, have humans ever tried colonizing the dungeon? It seems like there would be a lot of advantages to just expanding down slowly.

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    • They evolve over multiple generations, yes. Humans can acquire magical traits in the same way, yes, but this is considered too slow and directionless by most people.

      Small groups have tried living in the Dungeon for long periods of time, but they all failed to garner much interest and failed in time. Humans don’t do well underground and the Dungeon had an even more sinister reputation in the past than it has in modern times. Humans generally make small settlements in the Dungeon (much like the Dungeon town under Knyazov Dveri) to support their underground activities, but most people don’t stay there permanently and instead the population constantly cycles out over the years, with people coming and leaving while the place place as a whole remains for a time. Such places may eventually end up attracting permanent settlers and then extend into wider areas of the underworld, but so far this hasn’t happened much. There is lots of uninhabited wilderness on the surface that is considered far more attractive to people looking to start a new life than the Dungeon.

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  6. Good night

    Great post, that’s the topic i was waiting for the most to hear about, the idea of some place deep beneath my feet where all sorts of terrors dwell really appeal to my sense of curiosity. One of the most fascinating issues to me is the idea of magical parasites, in the real world there are many examples of creatures such as the toxoplasm, the rabies virus or even some fungus, that are capable of manipulating the behavior of the host in such a way as to maximize it’s own proliferation. For reference of how much a problem this is in the real world, in this post (updated in 2018) by the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention(CDC) from the USA it is stated that: “In the United States it is estimated that 11% of the population 6 years and older have been infected with Toxoplasma. In various places throughout the world, it has been shown that more than 60% of some populations have been infected with Toxoplasma.” source:https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/epi.html .
    I would imagine in a world where magic and more specifically mind magic exists, the presence of such creatures would be even more threatening, in the wilderness as well as in some human population centers. Would magical parasites be capable of feeding from the mana of the host and therefore survive for longer outside the Dungeons than normally possible by other magical creatures?
    What sort of parasites are the most prominent in Eldemar, and how does the authorities (state, church or guilds) deal with such cases. How vast are the differences in the effective combat to such diseases from urban areas to more rural ones. And in case the church is the one who usually deals with such matters, how did the weeping affect the propagation of such diseases by killing so many priests.
    Have there been any cases of say a “magic rabies-like”, outbreak in human civilizations? Dawn of the Dead style.
    Last and only tangentially related, but how often do necromancers get sick because of their less than sanitary practices, are they the butt of many jokes? Actually now that i asked it, what are the ways in which normal people socially mock, ridicule and make fun of necromancers, demon summoners and the like. Or is it a taboo to even make jokes about then.

    Thanks for your time.

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    • I haven’t thought much about parasites in all honesty, beside thinking that magical ticks could get pretty nasty in some of the more magical forests. And this mostly because I have personal experience with ticks, unlike with most other parasites. I imagine the nastiest parasites would prey on magical creatures rather than humans, and would find humans unappealing as targets, but there would surely be parasites that would be happy to attach themselves to good old humanity. It would be one more reason why eating the flesh of magical creatures might be seen as highly risky – you might pick up some magical tapeworm that will really ruin your week (or even kill you). And yeah, it would be possible for a magical parasite to feed on the host’s mana instead of absorbing it from the environment.

      I’m not sure what kind of parasites would be prominent in Eldemar – ticks, lice, and the like I guess – but they would deal with them by trying to alchemically poison them or use alteration spells to kill/disintegrate them. Alchemical treatment is likely to be cheaper, since detecting and surgically killing small parasites would be a challenging feat for most mages – especially if the parasite is inside the body and not attached to the skin. In serious cases, a priest might be called in to attack the soul of the parasite to get rid of it. Or a necromancer if one is desperate and can’t find a priest.

      The death of so many priests during the Weeping had huge effects on medicine, but I don’t think it would cause massive outbreaks of parasites. I don’t imagine this was something they regularly deal with – it was probably the alchemists who tackled parasite infestation even in the past.

      Though necromancers constantly deal with corpses, mature ones are probably wealthy enough to afford treatment for whatever ails them. I’m not sure how that would play out exactly, but I’m guessing they are only slightly more likely to fall prey to some serious sickness than a poor commoner that can’t afford expensive treatment. As for mockery of them, I’d guess that goes along the lines of giving them the role of creepy, insane hermit out in the wilderness and similar. Someone who is amusing because of their strange ticks and shocking things they say, but is clearly a pathetic loser madman you wouldn’t want to be when you grow up. I’m imagining a hunched old man dressed in rags, one eye milked over and useless, talking to his favorite picked head while the heroes stand on the side, looking scandalized. Demon summoners are more likely to be portrayed simply as raging psychopaths, and any humor would come from making them incompetent and over the top like a cartoon villain. Maybe they’d invert the summoner-summoned dynamic and have him be ordered around by his summoned demons.

      It’s not taboo to make fun of them, and I imagine it’s done all the time in stories. In some contexts it might even be considered scandalous to treat them with too much solemnity, since it could be seen as ‘glorifying’ them.

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      • On the topic of soul attacks on parasites, do even smaller life forms like bacteria and protozoa also have souls that can be attacked, is it harder to do that than more complex organisms? Also what about virus which are arguably not even alive, do they have souls?

        If microorganisms have their own souls, is it a single one per cell or is it on a much more broad scale, sort of a hive-soul.

        If they have a soul do they also have a life force like humans, and what sort of implication would there be in having billions of life forces, living inside a mage’s body, are they trained to ignore or separate the mana produced by these microorganisms from their own?

        Also on another topic entirely, what are the popular sports in altazia, are there sports that are magic based or are all sports common between mages and non-mages. How good was Zach in these sports before the time loop, and how does he compare now. Taiven for example strikes me as the type of person who is big on athletic pursuits.

        What are the martial arts that are most common in altazia, how much importance combat mages give to them considering they can ideally kill several enemies from a safe distance with well cast spells. What about mercenaries such as marksman, who aren’t mages but make a living out of combat situations.

        Is Quatach Ichl body heavy because the magic material of the bones or light like a normal skeleton, without the armor on.

        I assume that the zigurat where the Sulruthun live have some sort of magic energy that makes it easier for they to communicate with the angels, but what sort of advantages they obtain from this relationship that they are willing to fight a war on another continent for their sake. Can demonic possession happen in this world allowing for a powerful demon to walk for an undetermined amount of time pretending to be a human wrecking havoc and ruining lives, do they even have maliciousness and sadism, as opposed to merely different perception of right and wrong?

        And finally what are vampires exactly. Do werewolves exist or do they fall in the scope of a shifter, if they exist is it something related to their soul, is it transmissible?

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      • Below a certain size, soul mages can detect no evidence of a soul. This might indicate that very tiny creatures don’t have a soul or that it’s too weak to be detectable. In-setting nobody knows for sure, and out of setting I’d say no because the smaller and simpler the animal is, the less complex and powerful their soul is. At some point it would get so rudimentary it wouldn’t be recognizable as a soul anymore.

        Animals, and even magical creatures, rarely vent their mana reserves into their surroundings. One has to be specifically trained to do such a thing. Magical creatures use their reserves purely as fuel for their abilities, so even if tiny magical creatures were living inside a mage, they would not have ignore/seperate their mana from their own.

        I haven’t thought about sports much, not being that interested in sports that much myself. There are surely magic-based sports, but I imagine the most popular sports would still be non-magical ones. Even among mages. My reasoning for this is that most people get enthusiastic about sports when they’re children, and magic-based sports wouldn’t be something that you could teach a child to play. Plus, sports are a strongly social phenomenon and if the majority of people prefer a non-magical sport, I imagine even sporty mages would gravitate towards what is popular.

        Mind you, modern sports in their current form are a rather recent phenomenon. I don’t think MoL-verse even has the technology to support that kind of thing. There are no transnational tournaments in Altazia, and I imagine most sport are made out of ‘dedicated amateurs’ that don’t do sports as their one and only thing in life and instead have some other job and the sport is more like a hobby they really care about than anything else.

        In regards to the specific sports, I don’t want to make new sports up entirely from scratch (even though realistically that’s would would be the case here), so I will just note that I live in Croatia and the sports that immediately come to mind are football/soccer, basketball, volleyball, hand ball, water polo, tennis and table tennis. These are the sports that get any kind of traction here, not counting things like athletics and such, and if I had to decide on specific sports to put into the setting I’d probably pick some combination of these.

        Martial arts considered still useful for combat mages, both only as a supplementary skills. The focus is on combat magic, while martial arts are meant to develop one’s body and provide emergency self-defense when one has exhausted their mana or is otherwise unable to use magic – being poisoned, spells not working on this particular opponent for some reason, losing your wands and spell-staff, etc. Being of secondary importance, not every combat mage bothers with them, but a lot of battle mages do know at least the basics of some self-defense arts. Maybe not enough to really qualify as a real practitioner, but they do know a few simple moves. This is especially true of anyone trained in the actual military, since they often give greater emphasis on making their battlemages physically fit.

        Non-magical mercenaries are a mixed bunch with differing levels of dedication and talent. Some would invest time into martial arts, some wouldn’t. I suspect more of them wouldn’t, because training martial arts is hard and yields limited results.

        Quatach Ichl body is pretty heavy. I’ve alluded to it in the story itself, but his ‘bones’ are actually just a metal sculpture of his skeleton. His original bones got destroyed a long time ago.

        Sulrothum are very religious. They get to see another continent, win trophies and exotic loot in glorious battle, and obey the will of the heavens… what other advantages do they need? That said, the angels do give them cryptic advice on regular occasion, and allow the sulrothum priests to summon angels if the circumstances are right.

        Yes, demonic possession is a thing. But more than that – once a demon is summoned into the material plane, it doesn’t go back to the spiritual realms until its current vessel is destroyed. A demon in a ectoplasmic shell or a puppet can stay and cause chaos as long as they wish, they just need to find enough mana to power their vessel and avoid anyone powerful enough to banish them back to their home plane.

        Most demons don’t understand human norms and culture well enough to mimic humans, but yes, it’s entirely possible. Possession of a body by a soul that doesn’t match causes the body to degrade, though, so there is an upper limit to how long such a charade can go on. Though I suppose illusions and shapeshifting magic can prolong that period indefinitely.

        Some demons are malicious, but mostly they’re just really violent, selfish, and domineering. A demon generally has little empathy for people they don’t share a personal bond with, tends to act on a whim rather than consider wider ramification on the future or society as a whole, considers preying on those weaker them them to be perfectly right and justified, and are obsessed with being the top dog and thus free to do whatever the hell they want. Having grown up in the violent, dog-eat-dog world of their demonic realms, they see virtually every social interaction as a struggle for dominance and are prone to attack people for slightest of reasons.

        Of course, to the humans and other natives of the material realm, there is little difference between this and Evil with the capital E. Even a troll would consider demons to be bloodthirsty maniacs. Set a demon loose in the material world, surrounded by a multitude of beings too weak to stop it from taking whatever it wants, and it will create a trail of atrocities in its wake. Humans in MoL are aware of this, that demons have a… ‘different perception of right and wrong’, as you call it, but that only makes demons that much more evil and heinous in their eyes.

        Vampires are a topic I’ll leave for an actual article about intelligent undead that I plan to do in the future. Mainly because I still haven’t finalized all the details about them in my head. But in short: they’re people that preserved their intelligence while converting themselves into an undead state, making themselves ‘eternally young’ and difficult to kill, at the cost of needing to periodically feed on the life force of other humans.

        Werewolves don’t exist in MoL-verse. Wolf shifters kind of replace them, except they’re not that werewolf-like in their traits. They’re just normal non-diseased people who can turn into a wolf or take on wolfish traits at will, with no moon phases required.

        Liked by 1 person

      • the reply button isn’t showing on your latest reply to my comment so i will ask here instead as a follow up to that one, on the topic of spirit morality, if i remember well you mentioned in a previous comment that angels, demons, elementals and (fairies?) are kinda the same sort of spirit, and differences arised later on when they which went their own way. What can we know then about the sense of morality of the angels, do they have closer values to humans and other sapient species than other spirits or it’s simply a matter of following their constraints imposed by the gods. How would they be different from say an ultra-utilitarian who is ruthless and methodical or a deeply sensitive person who is caring and empathetic, can they even manifest emotions and desires the same way humans and other sapients do (or are they more AI like, having become unable to express a will of their own apart from the gods). How would their (alien)biology affect how they perceive the world i assume a lot of this is related to the soul, but i imagine the mind and body play a role too (are their bodies even the same in the spirit world?).
        Also what are the fairies exactly. And is the spirit world made out of ectoplasm or some other magical component? Can spirits still be born in the absence of the gods? Can humans enter the spirit world, even temporarily, how would that work, if they can’t then how about sending a simulacrum or a golem?

        Also sorry for the long ass questions i always start with one and end up following that up with a dozen more as i go along… are there fallen angels, do angel’s have to “work” and have jobs like material beings, if so do they have worker unions and legal courts( as seemingly implied with the Zach scenario) to protect weaker angels from more powerful ones. Are the gods jackass programmers from the future running a simulation in their laboratory? Have you heard of Made in Abyss, it’s a pretty cool story about dungeon delving, it’s overall a solid show even for people who don’t like animation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • >What can we know then about the sense of morality of the angels

        Very little. Angels are deliberately very mysterious when interacting with material beings, supposedly because they are under a lot of restrictions about what they can and cannot say to them. They’re clearly not human in mentality, because they clearly care more about obeying the rules, listening to their superiors, and staying true to their morals, and in general take their jobs far more seriously than 99% of humanity does theirs. They care about the ideals they are supposed to embody and the duty they have to the angelic hierarchy on a deep, instinctual level that humans would find next to impossible to grasp. As far as the angels are concerned, humans and other material beings are severely lacking in dedication, thoughtfulness, and selflessness.

        Angels definitely try to live up to their virtues. It’s not just a matter of them being forced to behave as they do by divine restrictions. However, it is debatable how well their virtues line up with that of humanity and other material species. Angels rarely explain their philosophy and thoughts on ethics to people, and when they do it’s always somewhat cryptic and curt.

        >How would they be different from say an ultra-utilitarian who is ruthless and methodical or a deeply sensitive person who is caring and empathetic

        Hard to say. I guess a ruthless and methodical angel would be far more concerned about not crossing certain invisible lines than a human, who would see laws and ethical restrictions that get in the way of their ‘utility maximization’ as annoying and onerous, and try to weasel out of them in any way they can. A caring angel would be far more thoughtful and long-term about it than a caring human, who would be far more likely to be swayed by purely emotional appeals, short-term emergencies, and so on.

        >can they even manifest emotions and desires the same way humans and other sapients do

        Yes.

        >Also what are the fairies exactly.

        A type of native spirit. Unlike elementals, who build themselves bodies made out of soil, water, fire, magma, and other relatively simple materials, fey crafted themselves bodies made out of ectoplasm. They generally loom more lifelike and biological, and often take on forms of animals… but their ectoplasmic bodies are extremely maleable and they’re extremely proficient shapeshifters. They can mimic just about anything if they set their minds to it.

        >And is the spirit world made out of ectoplasm or some other magical component?

        No idea. I haven’t fleshed out the spirit world that much.

        >Can spirits still be born in the absence of the gods?

        Yes.

        >Can humans enter the spirit world, even temporarily, how would that work

        They can, but it’s difficult and very dangerous. It involves separating one’s soul from their body and traveling there in soul form. Since it requires superb soul magic skills, the spirit world is mostly a savage land inhabited by demons, and angels don’t allow these kind of soul travelers into their strongholds, almost nobody does it.

        >are there fallen angels

        No. A ‘fallen’ angel is simply classified as a demon that used to be an angel by both angels and material races.

        >Are the gods jackass programmers from the future running a simulation in their laboratory?

        I don’t like this theory, personally. I feel it cheapens the whole setting.

        >Have you heard of Made in Abyss

        I heard about it, but haven’t watched/read it yet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good night

        In the airship heist arc Zorian fought a sword wielding enemy mage, given that martial arts is mostly considered of secondary importance to mages, is it correct to assume that man was an outlier, rather than a part of magical tradition in aranhal (northern miasina) or an protocol for indoors fighting when you are trying to avoid collateral damage on the structure of a building and objects. Speaking of Xlotic is the architecture in there similar to the one in altazia, due to the ikosian roots or have it diverged significantly since the Cataclysm. Outside of the Altazian Central Valley (wich i asume takes a lot of Croatian influences) what are the architectural inspirations for the key locations in the world.

        What are the biggest forms of entertainment in Altazia, and how they diverge from non-mages to mages, or is it more pronounced along class lines. What sort of technological and industrial advantages Falkrinea have over Eldemar and Sulammon, as in both civil and military inventions (analogous to non-magical ones we have in reallity). I would imagine something like mass produced machine guns would be not that difficult to create and upgrade with the use of magic.

        What were the bloodline magic of some of the most powerful Ikosian Figures like general Orklo, could he actually fight Quatch Ichl on somewhat equal footing, or was he just a good commander. Do the royal family have a bloodline magic of their own? Did Zach recover his space warping blood increment after leaving the loop, or he never had the time? Is he planning to? What is the coolest bloodline magic you have though of (your favorite).

        Floating islands and archipelagos, are they a thing? Has soda been invented yet? Which beverage is more popular, coffee, tea, or beer, wine, juice?

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      • Yes, that man was an outlier. That method of fighting would be considered rather exotic, though quite useful for airship boarding actions for reasons you state.

        The architecture of Altazia and Xlotic differ greatly, due to climate if nothing else. Even the livable parts of Xlotic are relatively hot and arid, much like the Mediterranean coast. Xlotic and Ikosians are inspired heavily by the middle east and bronze age cultures of the Mediterranean, and they are remnants of the local Ikosian civilization, so I imagine their cities as full of historical buildings and sites, with tight streets that can only be navigated on foot, rather overcrowded and constantly busy. Much of Altazia, on the other hand, had only recently been colonized and/or civilized, and they are the epicenter of the technological revolution. So I imagine their buildings would be relatively new and more utilitarian, and cities would be more specious and spread out.

        Definitely more pronounced along class lines. I didn’t consider it much, but entertainment would largely consist of music, stories (both spoken and written), plays, and festivals. The poor would likely simply listen to street musicians and entertainers hired for weddings and other special occasions, while the rich would go to actual music halls, opera houses, and other fancier places. Stories would consist of short, spoken tales for the poor, and only the rich and the middle class would be able to effort books. Plus, in many areas the poor wouldn’t even be literate enough to enjoy reading, even if they had the money for books. Festivals and occasions like weddings would be big. Theaters and street plays are a thing, enjoyed by both the poor and the rich. Sports are still in rudimentary state, and competitions wouldn’t be considered some grand event.

        In bigger cities, illusionists would make magic-aided performances, using magic to conjure images and scenes for the amusement of the audience.

        >What sort of technological and industrial advantages Falkrinea have over Eldemar and Sulammon

        Nothing too extreme. Falkrinea simply has a denser railway network, more factories, as well as better access to advanced mining equipment, textile machines, and so on. They sit on very fertile and flat land, and have a massive population, which is generally more literate and urban than ones in Eldemar and Sulamnon. Eldemar and Sulamnon immediately copy every truly revolutionary invention Falkrinean engineers come up with, but they cannot truly match their scale and there are indications they may be left in the dust in the future if something doesn’t change and Falkrinea keeps growing.

        >could he actually fight Quatch Ichl on somewhat equal footing, or was he just a good commander

        Mostly just a good commander.

        >Do the royal family have a bloodline magic of their own?

        No. And they’re not especially amazing mages, either.

        >Did Zach recover his space warping blood increment after leaving the loop, or he never had the time?

        He never had the time.

        >Is he planning to?

        Probably not. It’s a neat ability, but it ties up his mana reserves and he already has a wide variety of spells to chose from.

        >What is the coolest bloodline magic you have though of?

        I like unusual abilities that aren’t necessarily the strongest or most epic. With that in mind, my favorite would probably be the one that lets the user create autonomous constructs of green slime. A slime summoner bloodline, if you will, though it’s not really summoning as MoL mages would classify it.

        >Floating islands and archipelagos, are they a thing?

        No. They’re cool but they don’t really fit into the MoL universe well. Here, things get weirder as you go down, not up.

        >Has soda been invented yet?

        As in, carbonated drinks? No, I don’t think so.

        >Which beverage is more popular, coffee, tea, or beer, wine, juice?

        Hard to say. All of these exist in the setting, but I never thought about which would be more prominent. Wine would probably be the drink of choice for fancier occasions, much like it is in our world, but it would probably be too expensive for most people to consume it regularly. Beer would probably make up the bulk of people’s alcohol consumption. Various forms of tea (not necessarily made from familiar ingredients) would be the most common non-alcoholic drink.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. The Dungeon will always be something I wonder about, but at times it’s nice to have an enduring mystery in a story like this, although I’ve always been surprised that Zach never tried to go a lot further when he didn’t remember dying cut the time loop short, but then it may just literally be more fulfilling to be fighting the same challenge and learning from it aka a dragon vs a completely new challenge every time. Or it’s possible that Red Robes put a week compulsion to avoid things that would kill him to often perhaps? Weak enough that he would mistake it for himself growing bored with the same task?

    Then again I may just be overthinking it.

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  8. Thank you for these posts, I love the worldbuilding in your story and I’m eagerly wating for the next chapter!

    Now for the question (which is completely unrelated to this post): I’m a shipping bastard and I have read somewhere your answer about Tinami’s parents (un)willingness to accept a marriage between her and Zorian and wanted to know what would happen in Raynie’s case. Would the tribe be against it because of shifter reasons (?) or would they allow it without problems since marrying outsiders would put Raynie even more distant from leadership?

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    • They would probably allow it for reasons you stated. They would be unhappy, but they would understand they’ve put her into a very poor position and that it isn’t reasonable for them to try and push her away from the clan while forbidding her to get involved with them at the same time. The fact Zorian isn’t an actual noble or obviously connected to an existing power group would help, as it would make him seem less threatening to them. If they warmed up to him, they would eventually try to talk him into becoming a wolf shifter, just to bind him more firmly to the family.

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  9. Is the world of MOL more feudalistic than was portrayed in the story? Given by what we know so far, magic as we know it is usually concentrated in the hands of greats houses or clans. Reason being that it takes alot of “magic infrastructure” such as instructors, knowledge & sometimes bloodlines to be proficient in magic in the past.

    I always imagine that outside of cyoria and eldemar, the country will be much much more feudal with clans and houses holding their own territory. A historical representation will be the feudalistic Japan.This explains the origin of the splinter wars which mirrors the sengoku period.

    My only question so far will be what is the key to eldemar royalty power to hold the remaining powerful families into their sphere of influence. Great houses that could break away will already declare independence during the splinter wars. However great houses such as House Aope which have no loyalties towards eldemar given their witches heritage roots did not do so. Which begs the questions what is it that eldemar royalties holds that give them their legitamacy to rule over altazia?

    Another related question will be the future of eldemar itself. Its pretty much given that the next round of splinter wars is going to happen in the near future. Mage guild will probably overshadows the aristocracy & the clergy faction due to their growing might during the war(and the weeping). Adding to the fact that Eldemar government is being perceived as selfish, corrupted and extremely arrogant by its own common citizen. It seems to me that the politics of eldemar & altazia to an extend, is heading towards a revolution where the power will rest among mages (Be it democratically or popularism). Unless Eldemar royalties holds a certain key to their power which the other factions cannot replace, it seem that their demise is practically set in motion be it a victory or loss of the 2nd splinter war.

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    • I’m not sure if you would call it feudalistic exactly, but Houses and Noble Houses are given a lot of leeway in how they govern themselves. They get to police their own ranks as they see fit and they can often field a small number of independent forces loyal to them. In theory their status can be taken away at any time by the Crown, but in practice this is not going to happen without a dramatic upheaval and (most likely) a civil war. Because Houses already govern themselves in a way, they have a lot easier time breaking off from their parent state than an organization in our world would have.

      Houses don’t really hold territory in the same way a duke or a count did historically. They are given monopoly over certain sites and activities in exchange for providing some kind of benefit to their parent state, and this gives them a lot of leverage to amass power with, but they don’t have legal right to vast swaths of land as a rule. You’re right that this state of having independent and powerful Houses in your territory is what caused the fragmentation in the wake of Splinter Wars, but it’s also a consequence of the Old Alliance never having been a strongly centralized state anyway. Even the name is suggestive – it was more like HRE, except that the Eldemar Emperor didn’t have to get elected and his children automatically inherited the position. In fact, it was an attempt by the last emperor to change this and centralize the state more that caused the initial civil war and the resulting collapse of the Old Alliance.

      Eldemar Royalty are direct descendants of the lineage that ruled over Old Alliance in the past, and ultimately claim descent from the last Ikosian dynasty before they were forced to flee to Altazia. For a most of other rulers of Altazia, this is not enough for them to acknowledge their superiority and submit themselves to Eldemar’s dictates, but great Houses like Aope do have loyalty towards Eldemar royals. They might not think they’re perfect, and some might even harbor treasonous intentions, but if the current royals did not rule over them, they would have to decide amongst themselves who would replace them. None of them have as good of a claim as the current royals, none of them feel they are powerful enough to just seize the whole thing through force of arms and damn the legitimacy concerns, and none of them fancy going independent with Sulamnon and Falkrinea constantly growing stronger. Whatever their beef with current rulers of Eldemar is, they have no doubts that foreign rulers would give them even less privileges. If they even allowed them to exist at all, that is.

      As for revolutions, I won’t speculate on that. The future will indeed be a turbulent time to be alive in Altazia. 🙂 However, I will note that Falkrinea is kind of a revolution of the existing system. They’re a republic, but one where only Houses get to vote. A sort of noble republic. Houses kind of like the idea, since it gives them even more power than they wield in a classical IKosian-style monarchy, but I don’t think modern people would recognize it as ‘democratic’. In fact, many of the non-nobles actually perceive this type of government as worse than a monarchy, since it removes the most important check on the power of the Houses.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for the reply!

        So a summary of the complex political environment of Eldemar will be that the Eldemar royalty derive their power from their lineage to the Ikosian Empire from the past, sort of like Rome for Charlemagne.

        The current political factions within the Eldemar will be 1.) Eldemar’s royalty faction, backed by the military & mage guild that numbers mainly consist of the commoners & common-born mages. 2.) Various Mage houses both great and small, which may allied or fight among themselves & holds allegience towards eldemar due to past loyalties, political maneuvering (by Eldemar) or inability/ not feasible to declare independence during the last splinter war. 3.) The Church & Clergy faction(?), which are mainly neutral within politics due to relations within other countries. (Do other countries such as Falkrinea shares the same religion with Eldemar?) 4.) Various Cities, autonomous groups, business, interest & people’s representations. which may side with whichever that gives them the most benefit.

        Both the Houses & Church were greatly affected during the last Splinter wars and the Weeping which reduces their Political & Military influence within Eldemar. Mage guild have largely overtaken their role during the vacuum and empowers the Royalty factions, giving them more power over the affairs then before. This emboldens the royalty faction to plan for the next war and expansion for the next splinter war that was bound to happen soon.

        For Falkirnea, aren’t they a rich and successful state? Which shows that the noble republic can work and is working out well for them. Unless i imagine that country behaves more like a corporate than a country (Robber baron Era) with people exploited for success for the oligopoly of houses & the military is mostly mercenary fighting for gold. The next war will probably split them apart.

        The description of Sulamon so far resembles early modern Prussia in the 19th century, “a Military with a country”. The country survival will probably depends on their ability to achieve victory. If they were to lose or end the war with nothing much to show/gain, the whole country will lose its ability to govern itself due to lack of political will.

        Please do correct me if i’m wrong on the interpretation of the story, this is just my take on the different political environment of the nation within altazia. It seems to me none of the country listed will be making out of the next war intact if it ended with a stalemate again. Maybe some of the smaller fish will be the winner of the next war.

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      • >Do other countries such as Falkrinea shares the same religion with Eldemar?

        Yes, they’re all aderents of the old Ikosian faith, and acknowledge the authority of the Triumvirate Church in religious matters. The church’s influence has been slowly waning ever since the Silence, and the Weeping didn’t help that, but they are still too influential to ignore.

        >For Falkirnea, aren’t they a rich and successful state? Which shows that the noble republic can work and is working out well for them.

        Falkrinea is indeed rich and successful. They are the center of the continent’s technological revolution, and they’re the only one out of the three main contenders for continental superiority that gets small countries to join them willingly sometimes. However, this is the big picture view. A successful/ambitious mage or merchant with no House background actually has less opportunities for advancements than the one in Eldemar – Falkrinea is a state made by the Houses, for the Houses. And yes, they definitely have a bit of a ‘robber baron’ thing going on, since they’re ground zero for new technologies and there is a lot of new, never-seen-before things going on that are not well regulated yet. Still, they’re not a dystopia, the regular citizens are content for now, and none of their problems are unsolvable. Their biggest problem is that they arose from a ‘peaceful’ unification many Houses, and one of the compromises involved there is hampering their effort to build a strong and competent military (many of the individual Houses don’t like the idea of the united government wielding large, loyal armies they could suppress them with). As such, no matter how well Falkrinea is doing economically, it remains to be seen if it can survive an actual clash of arms against Sulamnon and Eldemar.

        >The description of Sulamon so far resembles early modern Prussia in the 19th century, “a Military with a country”. The country survival will probably depends on their ability to achieve victory.

        Pretty much. Sulamnon is very well aware of it, too. They’re staking out their everything in this new, upcoming war.

        >It seems to me none of the country listed will be making out of the next war intact if it ended with a stalemate again.

        Both Eldemar and Falkrinea could easily survive a stalemate. Falkrinea is prospering right now, so unless the next war completely ruins their economic position they will continue on just fine. Eldemar’s monarchy is entrenched enough that a a stalemate isn’t going to hurt them. They might weather the aftermath even more easily than Falkrinea, actually, since they’re not as reliant of economic prosperity as much as them, and actually have an intensely loyal core that would stick with them through any amount of hardship. As for Sulamnon, a stalemate would be devastating for them, but it would not necessarily mean the end of the state as such. It would merely mean the end of their bid for continental supremacy, and pprobably result in power changing hands at the top. But unless Eldemar and Falkrinea literally march their soldiers into Sulamnon’s capital and defeat them utterly, the state as a whole is probably going to survive in some form.

        Yeah, all of the states might fall apart in time, but I don’t think any of them are inherently unstable in the short term.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m wondering how much damage a mind mage could do if they could drag some of the nastier critters up from deeper in the dungeon than the hook goblins and rock worms that Zorian’s weaponised before.

    Assuming, of course, that they can establish and maintain sufficient control…

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    • They would only have a few hours to cause damage, in the cast of more powerful dungeon denizens, before they started to suffer from mana starvation… but a lot. However, mind mages on the level of Zorian are not terribly common. The sort of mind mage powerful and skilled enough to drag a powerful dungeon creature to the surface is probably very specialized in mind magic and would be ill suited to survive in an environment like the Dungeon where everything has high magic resistance. This is the same reason that aranea usually stick to shallower portions of the dungeon and rarely venture deeper into the tunnels.

      It’s possible, though, and would do a lot of damage is one pulls it off successfully. It’s just a ballsy move that could easily end up with the mind mage in questions dead.

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  11. I’m also wondering how much the deep ocean is affected by exposure to deeper levels of the dungeon, and vice versa. Are much of the depths flooded? Are there monsters that regularly pass between the deeper levels and the deep sea? Enquiring minds want to know 🙂

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    • Nobody knows about the situation in the deep ocean in-setting, since humans aren’t terribly well adapted for life under water. Out own science, today, knows very little about stuff living more than a 100m underwater. Inhabitants of MoL-verse would only be verse at this.

      Out-of-setting, I struggle to figure out how the oceans relate to the Dungeon and ambient mana. As such, I have decided to be cheap for now and make it one of the setting mysteries that are open to interpretation.

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      • On a similar note, it might be illuminating if the Dungeon were different in the mountains. If it tended to have less of a presence/less mana/ more natural gribblies there, it might reflect distance from whatever deep source all the mana etc is coming from. Could be kind of thing an academic expedition might look into, comparing the most shallow layer of the dungeon at different altitudes within a mountainous region… although who would fund such work?

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      • I did think of that. Based on how mana works in the setting, high mountains should have noticeably thinner levels of mana than lowlands – both in the local dungeon and the actual mountain surface (the latter is both because less mana reached the mountain top and because the winds would scatter a lot of it into the surrounding atmosphere). However, I hadn’t really decided on whether it’s true or not. Much in the way that the state of the oceans is giving me headaches. I’m content to leave it as a minor mystery in the setting for now.

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      • Hm. If mana were thinner on mountaintops, it might have some interesting ramifications:
        – Mountains could become a favoured home for those who mistrust magic
        – They might have religious significance as havens from dark powers
        – They might work as a refuge from monsters that required a certain baseline level of background mana
        – Militarily, they might be a location where mundane means of combat (firearms etc) have a bit more of an edge.
        – They might be locations that mages generally avoid, making it more problematic to deal with such hazards as are to be found there (perhaps including Yeti).

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  12. You should really advertise the updates here, I didn’t even know that there was a dungeon update on this site until recently. I’ve always imagined ambient mana as the mana that the primordial dragon was emitting, since souls created mana, and presumably entities with stronger souls creates more mana. I’ve always wondered thou, how deep is the mana well in Cyoria? If you just, jump down, how far into the Earth can you get? How wide is it? And how come dragons don’t die of mana deficiency?

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    • I don’t want to be too aggressive with pushing these worldbuilding posts, since I know a good portion of the readers doesn’t care about them. I figure anyone who is interested will eventually find their way here.

      To be fair, the inhabitants of Altazia and Miasina think the exact same thing – at the center of the Dungeon is the imprisoned heart of the primordial dragon, emitting all this mana. For much the same reason you outlines.

      Nobody knows just how deep the mana well in Cyoria is. Very deep. Far deeper than is healthy to delve into. If you just jumped down, you would never be heard from again, most likely.

      Dragons have to live around mana wells in order to support themselves. Their flight gives them ability to range far and wide, however, so they are less constrained by this than other powerful magic creatures. There is an article on dragons that goes into a little more detail about them.

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  13. Heh, this is not quite on the topic of the article, but I have a number of questions that I would like to ask …

    The size of your reserve affects how much mana you can drain every second. I mean power, in watts.

    Blessings instantly doubles your reserve? Or is it raising the growth ceiling, so you still need a decade to develop the reserve?

    I saw how the magic of alteration decomposes alcohol into sugar. If altration can manipulate molecules, does this mean that many valuable materials like diamonds can be obtained quite easily? A lot of organics also has a not too complex structure. You could get some drugs this way. And … I don’t even want to think about what might happen when someone thinks of enriching uranium in this way. All you need is one magician, uranium ore and a few days or maybe one week of work to accumulate a critical mass. MOL-verse can be a really dangerous place when science moves a little further.

    What are spell formulas? The characters used here are proxies like gestures? Can you use several different symbol for one effect or one symbol for several effects? Kanji can help with this?))

    What is magic material? This seems important in craft or alchemy, but we never received an explanation from history about what it really is.

    How does golem animation work? I imagine this as a system of three things: a sensor, a trigger, and memory. The sensor receives information from the outside and gives it to the trigger. The trigger must turn to the memory that stores the skills, to find out how to respond to incoming information. Nektomancy seems to use the soul as a memory bank, and the finished body as a sensor, but you still need to set up the trigger because the creature’s brain is actually dead.

    I wonder how plausible a golem can be made. What happens if you copy ALL your memory and skills into a golem? How difficult was he able to accomplish? We leave behind the scenes the question of how to create an animation core of sufficient power. Well … it still doesn’t have to have a full mind. Without a soul, he could not have thrown a new animation on himself in order to change or gain new opportunities.

    You can call the spirit from the spiritual plane, but can they get here on their own? If so, why don’t they do it? I mean a whole world that can be colonized. Can a called spirit call another one?

    Destroying a person’s body will send his soul to the afterlife only if you are not a lich. But the destruction of the shell of the spirit will return it to the spiritual plane. What about the local spirits who were born here?

    Can spirits get into the afterlife? What are the death criteria for them?

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    • >Blessings instantly doubles your reserve?

      Yes. It’s like applying the x2 modifier to your mana reserves, now and in the future. Basically, you become twice as good at mana-related things.

      >If alteration can manipulate molecules, does this mean that many valuable materials like diamonds can be obtained quite easily?

      Yes. Well, I’m not sure I would call it ‘quite easily’, but it’s within the means of a capable alteration expert to produce diamonds from coal and such. I imagine gems are a lot less valuable in MoL-verse than in our own world, though anything that has to have a master wizard produce it is still bound to be very expensive.

      >A lot of organics also has a not too complex structure.

      Yes. Those could conceivably produced with alteration too, provided the mage actually has the knowledge of relevant chemistry.

      >What are spell formulas? The characters used here are proxies like gestures?

      Yes.

      I still have to finish the article about that…

      >What is magic material?

      No one knows what exactly they are, but they can recognize one because magic materials resist magic in the same manner as living beings and cannot be reproduced through alteration. Molecularly, alchemically-treated steel is still steel, but it now has anomalous properties.

      >How does golem animation work?

      That would require answering how animation works, and nobody really knows that. They just know they can imbue things with some of their skills and intentions if they cast the right spells.

      >What happens if you copy ALL your memory and skills into a golem?

      No one can do that. Even the most capable animation experts don’t come close. Simulacrum, which does something similar, is tapping into the mysterious properties of the soul to produce the recreation, and even those copies are fundamentally imperfect… though a well-made simulacrum is admittedly extremely similar to the original, to the point one might consider the imperfections irrelevant.

      In any case, what you’re talking about doesn’t seem to be possible with animation magic. When people make golems they are effectively assembling a rudimentary mind from various snippets of their own being. However, something crucial appears to be missing from these threads of thought and no matter how many you weave together you will not get a fully-functional being with actual agency. Just an increasingly fancy machine.

      >You can call the spirit from the spiritual plane, but can they get here on their own?

      No. They need to be summoned by somebody.

      >Can a called spirit call another one?

      No.

      >What about the local spirits who were born here?

      They stay here. You have to either seal them in something or use soul magic to mutilate their actual souls (their bodies are easily replacable) to actually get rid of them.

      Mind you, native spirits are a fairly mysterious part of the setting. It’s unclear under what limitations they’re actually functioning under, but it’s clear they do have them, or else it would not have been possible for humans to supplant them to an extent they did. Most people suspect they either can’t reproduce here on the material plane or are extremely limited in their ability to do so.

      >Can spirits get into the afterlife? What are the death criteria for them?

      The afterlife was created by the gods, and only things they chose can enter it. This doesn’t include spirits, but spirits never die of old age and can only be killed through soul warfare. Demons (and other spirits) are extremely proficient in soul warfare for this reason, in a way no human can really be. Humans neither perceive souls as clearly as spirits do, nor do they depnd so heavily on their soul magic skills just to survive on a daily basis.

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      • Thanks for the answer.
        If spirits do not go to the afterlife, does this mean that their soul cores remain here forever and produce mana?

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      • Souls of spirits are a little different from those of material creatures, and I haven’t quite finalized how, but I’m going to go with a tentative yes on that one. Well, at least for the native spirits. Demon soul cores would just get pulled into the spiritual realms if not specifically bound to the material plane.

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  14. Are there famous dungeon divers? Like nationally or internationally recognized celebrity mages that are famous for things like deepest documented dungeon dive, or most tunnels mapped, or fastest time traveled from one dungeon entrance to another on some known route that is famous for being especially dangerous? If Damian can be famous for treasure hunting, surely one can be famous for dundeon exploration.

    Also, how famous is Damian? Is he known outside of Eldemar besides the Taramatula house?

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    • There are surely such famous dungeon divers, but they would be exceedingly rare. Dungeon delving records are hard to prove, unless you bring a mountain of evidence with you, so only the most exceptional ones could achieve fame this way. There is no systematic tracking of such thing on the international scale, though, so you’d have many competing claims and a lot of exaggeration as people and states seek to upstage one another.

      Daimen is hunting for ‘famous historical artifacts’ rather than seeking to establish some nebulous record, and proving he had done what he says he did is easy – just present the object in question or bring people to the location of the ruin or whatever it is he found. As such, it’s easier for him to achieve fame than for a good dungeon diver.

      He is very much known outside Eldemar, but not to the same extent.

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    • We saw a lot of Zach and Zorian making connections with secretive mages, but I feel like there was comparatively little attempt to connect with very famous or prominent mages. Some of this is understandable as many of those would have been a part of the very compromised mage guild, and it’s the secretive ones that have secrets worth pursuing, Silverlake being a prime example in this case.

      But I do think there must have been quite a few very prominent and well known mages that would have been worthwhile to pursue. I’m sure the church has mages of greater skill than Alanic for instance. Perhaps one of the higher ranking church officials could also be one of the most knowledgeable and skilled mages on the continent, it seems like a reasonable assumption.

      Quatach Ichl seems to be the most famous mage Zorian ever learned from.

      It occures to me that some of the other mages Zorian learned from may have been fairly well known, but you didn’t really go into it much other than saying they were contacts he was able to connect with due to Xvim or his brother’s reputation or whatever. It would have taken a lot of unnecesarry space in the story, so that makes sense. . . But the comments are free game! Were any of Zorian’s many teachers particularly famous?

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      • Eh, as you said, I didn’t have them meet any famous people ‘on screen’ because of narrative reasons. It would mean introducing a bunch of new characters for a single scene, or have them briefly mentioned in an info-dumpy way.

        The thing is, since I already decided I wouldn’t describe any famous people in the story I also… didn’t really design that many of them. So describing them in the comments would be kind of hard. I’d be basically inventing characters on the spot, and I’d rather not do that. So yeah, Zach and Zorian did seek out famous people to learn from, but I’m going to have to disappoint you and won’t describe any of them here.

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