The Nature of the Beast Edit
Under reality lay realms so strange they defy scientific explaination. Someone -- or something -- built tunnels, chambers, traps, lairs. But they also filled it with wonders and treasures. Including objects and devices which can, quite simply, do the impossible.
The dangers from the cruel and arbitrary traps (and the constant minefield stress they engender in the humans exploring the Dungeon) is bad, but the inhabitants of the dungeon are worse. There's no other word for them but monsters. Alright, there IS another word -- "Xenofauna" -- but nobody uses that except in reports. Most monsters don't live long when brought Upstairs, weakening and dying in minutes, days, weeks. Some of the more impossible creatures just evaporate when they cross the threshold. Others are more insidious in their efforts to escape the Dungeon.
Compromised agents were first studied (for "studied" read "vivisected"), but some proved relatively stable psychologically, and demonstrated an intuitive understanding for the Dungeon and its ways. Attempts have been made to use these hybrids as trackers and guides in the hostile new frontier, and teams accompanied by them show dramatically higher success and lower mortality rates. The hybrids are stuck between upstairs and downstairs though -- if they spend too much time in either world, they'll start to degenerate or sicken, go mad, or transform into something worse. They need to delve to survive.
Mapping The DungeonEdit
Efforts to map the Dungeon prove difficult and extraordinarily dangerous for the survey teams sent down. The place changes, slowly but inexorably, and entirely unpredictably. Maps go stale, get rancid. Space-time collapses faster the deeper you go: if you survive the hazards of the journey, you can reach other parts of the world Upstairs in significantly less time than it would take you in the real world.
Traditional cartography is ill-equipped for dealing with a complex, enclosed environment on such a scale. Adding in the possibility of geography rearranging itself makes it an even greater challenge. Early efforts at three-dimensional plotting were quickly overwhelmed by LONG STAIR explorers.
LONG STAIR eventually arrived at the following system. Locations would be classified by architectural style and given a number in the order of discovery. The ninth area that matched the Radial A style would be designated Radial A #9. Locations within the "complex" would then be identified using three sets of numbers, indicating X,Y, and Z coordinates from an "entry" point designated by base cartographers. These numbers are seldom used though as positions have been known to shift and are of little use to delvers trying to navigate a maze of twisty, little corridors, all alike.
The layout of The Dungeon is tracked in the Map Room on First Landing, with additional stations on other levels. The name is ironic since instead of maps LONG STAIR cartographers use frequently-updated white boards. The boards list known complexes and connect them with arrows depending on survey results. Computers are also extensively used, but are little better than the white boards at mapping the Dungeon.
Nicknames are frequently used to refer to stable areas. Nicknames are often taken from popular music and include "The Hall of the Mountain King" "Stairway To Hell" and "Heartbreak Hotel."
Other nations are known or suspected of using similar ad-hoc cartographic methods in their exploration.
Needless to say, the laws of physics in the Dungeon do not match those of the "real world." A commonly used phrase amongst scientists studying it is "almost exactly identical." However almost exactly leaves a lot of leeway. One constant seems to be a damping of energy. Radio signals die out faster than absorption or distance should indicate. Attempts to trigger fission or fusion reactions meet with failure. Before acclimation new recruits report that the Dungeon appears "dark and mysterious." Attempts to verify the last point via light meter have failed, but the meter is undoubtedly corrupted by the Dungeon environment. Efforts to understand and delineate the precise rules under which the Dungeon operates is an ongoing project of the science staff.
Purely chemical reactions (organic life, explosives, gunpowder) do not seem to be affected by this phenomenon.
The Breadcrumb Theory This theory states that physical matter from our universe has a stabilising effect on the Basement material, and vice versa. This includes liquids, gasses, and solids, naturally. The most common test for this theory has been to lay out "sandbagged" rows down several long corridors leading off of First Landing, and checking their morphology at intervals - to see if they move, simply put.
The Standard Observer Theory There's an ongoing theory that states that observation stabilises the Basement. Simply having a bunch of people walking around areas and looking at stuff prevents geographical shifting, and enforces "regular world" physics. Eggheads have occasionally requested that their most unusual lab equipment be moved to "fresh" sites, citing this theory.
The Dark Observer Theory The converse of the standard observer theory assumes that microbial life and other such minutiae "count as observers", and that the changes go both ways - that even the bugs in our air stabilise their physics and terrain... And that the even the bugs in theirs will fuck with the physics of the world. Truly cynical believers in the Dark Observer theory believe that it's already too late to stop our world from becoming just another annex tacked on to the Basement.
The Lab Rat Theory A recent and controversial hypothesis, the Lab Rat Theory rejects that Dungeon shifting is related to quantum mechanics. Starting from the statistical unlikelihood of the Dungeon existing to begin with, and that all Gates would connect to it, it assumes a priori that the Dungeon is an artifact created by an unknown intelligence. Shifting is then assumed to not be a natural phenomenon, but a variable introduced by that intelligence for the purpose of studying human reactions.
With no solid evidence, plus the leaps of logic inherent in this theory, it is charitably referred to as "bug-nuts crazy" by science and command staff. However it does have a small following amongst the XTTs who are collecting anecdotal evidence in support of it.
Earth after the Dungeon Edit
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council each have at least one portal to the Dungeon. Following on the heels of nuclear proliferation, India, Pakistan, and North Korea (operational between 2006 and 2009 only) have all created their own entrances, while Eastern Europe and the terrorist organisation Al Quadim have inherited gateways created by other nations. Australia and Brazil have gained acess to (presumed) naturally occuring breaches. Other nations have formed alliances with those possessing portals in order to gain access the Dungeon
The secret proliferation of subterrestial technology (dungeon devices, monster tech, xenotech or "magic items") has flowed out into the world through the military industrial complexes and intelligence communities of the nations controlling Dungeon access: scrying bowls guide missile strikes, rings of invisibility hide black-ops wetworkers. The collapse of the Soviet state saw the huge stockpiles of Dungeon artifacts broken up, looted, stolen, sold off. Now keeping a lid on the stuff is getting harder and harder, and more is leaking out all the time.
Perhaps worse, every breach into the Dungeon has been followed by an increase in so-called Fortean phenomena. Nothing as overt as monsters in the street, but probable hauntings, psychic events, missing time, UFO sightings, and even some semi-credible cryptozoology. The most common are the voices -- weird, semi-audible hallucinations which almost makes sense. Those who hear them are usually labeled schizophrenic, but they don’t respond to medication. And every year, the voices get a little louder, and a little more intelligible. Those who recognize them as a dungeon-linked phenomena are extremely worried.
The world is getting stranger, with every indication that the Dungeon is encroaching further into our reality with every passing moment.
Artifacts of the Dungeon Edit
- Main Article: Xenotech Artifacts
Geology of the Dungeon Edit
Lifeforms of the Dungeon Edit
- Main Article: Xenofauna