Over on How to Start a Revolution in 21 Days or Less, Odyssey asked for some inspiration for her megadungeon project. My contribution tickled me, so I thought I’d expand on it a bit.
Years ago, the city was overrun by a wave of madness. We are still unsure of its origins. Some say it was an arcane experiment gone awry, others say that there was a breach to one of the Outer Planes – maybe even the intervention of a mad god. Still others say it was intentional. The problem isn’t that there’s no one to pin it on. Rather, we had too many suspects.
The madness gave rise to The Madmen. We didn’t know what else to call them. At first, we thought they were just eccentrics. A local businessman started acting like a bird. An investigator with the Watch turned his house into an elaborate maze, offering a prize to the person who could figure out its riddle.
Then a gardener poisoned a man for stepping on one of her flowers. The investigator’s house evolved into a deathtrap. The bird-man began staging elaborate thefts from his former business partners. Other Madmen (and women) appeared: a burglar who thought she was a cat, a man who claimed to live forever, a former magistrate with a scarred visage, and more. They all had their goals… and the means to pursue them. The city was on the brink of chaos. It was the personification of chaos itself – the man who dressed as a Jester – who pushed things over the edge. He was rode the wave of chaos, seeming to direct it by instinct. If there was a single man who was truly responsible for all that happened, it was he… but he was practically the only one of them who never did claim responsibility.
One man rose up to stop the madness. We don’t know who he was – or even if he was a man at all. He would come from the sky, his cloak stretched behind him like the wings of some giant bird – or bat. Some called him the spirit of the city. He was known by many names, the Dark Knight, the Grey Hawk, the Bat, and others. He was feared… and praised.
He disappeared once his task was finished. Those he defeated were locked away, underground, in a special dungeon built to hold them. A statue to him was built to mark the entrance.
The Madmen are all long-dead now, but whatever madness infected them lasted beyond death. Laughter can be heard from the dungeon. Recently, there have been… sightings: a skeleton in a top hat; a ghostly, red-hooded cloak; a walking corpse surrounded by the cold of the grave, a shrived figure – looking more like a scarecrow than a man – who brings terror to the heart of all who see him; and, more than sightings, there is the mad laugh that people know is the laugh of the Jester…
The death toll is climbing. People have reported things stolen and there seems to be patterns in the thefts. Some say that the Dead Madmen are using their dungeon as a base of operations. . .
Who will take up the mantle of the Dark Knight? Who will stop them?