Home > Uncategorized > Real dungeons are the best dungeons

Real dungeons are the best dungeons

Zenobia is a straight-up archaeology blog, but occasionally it seems to be working the RPG aisle.

no sooner had Alexander Severus — and his mother, Julia Mamaea — been murdered by mutinous soldiers far away in upper Germany… than a freedman named Aurelius Felicissimus began to build an elaborate and ambitious tomb for himself (235-240 CE) in Rome.  

evocative plan and elevation

The richly decorated tomb consists of three rooms, two of them underground, which were used for burials… the space was intended for use by a select group of religious ‘brothers’, seemingly some kind of alternative cult community.  Scholars have never been able to decide on the identity of this group.  Were they Gnostics, Pythagorian Gnostics, heretical Christians, or even a pagan syncretic burial club? 

This describing a real 3rd century Roman tomb that contains religious symbolism from all over – a pagan buffet that includes Jesus and Orpheus and who knows what else interacting in mysterious pictures on the wall that defy interpretation. And then there’s the obligatory horse-fish devouring a small human figure while a naked man looks on, lying relaxed in a bower, a lamp at his side.

So I see inspirational material for dungeon mapping, weird murals and scenes full of symbols you have to interpret, but can’t unless you figure out what cult they apply to. Campaign seed!

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  1. June 17, 2011 at 6:26 am

    Real life archeology is always inspiring. Just a shame no one ever built a real life megadungeon. Even the minotaur’s labyrinth is mostly myth. .

    • R Grenville
      June 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      Kaymakli, Turkey is pretty phenomenal, but yes, still a far cry from Moria.
      …of course Trey has a great post on Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. Why am I not surprised.

      I sorta like this ant farm view too.

      Then there’s the Mogao caves in Dunhuang, western China.

      Both of these make me want to write a Silk Road game.

      But the realest megadungeons, I guess, are under cities – or are cities: the catacombs of Paris and Rome, subway systems, drains and all that. And while I could go in a Jamesbondian secret submarine base direction here, I’d rather think about Sana’a with its weird 3d maze of souks and knife shops and houses and enclosed streets and qat-chewers’ roof-terraces and, um… modernist fantasies.

  1. January 21, 2012 at 12:26 am

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