Sunday, October 8, 2023

Mythic Underworld Dungeon Delving Motivations

Given a mythic underworld dungeon that is actually The Underworld, why the heck would PCs want to go there?

The Debtor - Rent, bar tab, wizard college student loans, and/or child support are almost due, and you're allergic to "real work".

The Mad Lad - You're a literal psychopath who knows no fear and thinks exploring the underworld sounds like fun

The Smuggler - You "lost" a shipment of top-quality pipeweed belonging to Don Jobbo the Halfling Godfather.  Surely even his well-dressed goons wouldn't be crazy enough to look for you here.  Roll again for your cover story.

The Merchant - You're looking for new markets to trade with and new goods to import from the overworld.  May or may not ultimately be in the employ of Don Jobbo.

The Gambler - You took a really bad bet and lost, and now there's something in the underworld you need to go find to make good on your end.  Roll again to find out who you lost the bet to.

The Pretender - Aspirant to the throne of the Old High King, you need the royal regalia lost in the underworld to assert your rightful claim.

The Rescuer - You seek to recover the soul of a deceased loved one from the underworld.  Harp optional.

The Lost Soul - Cursed by a wicked sorcerer, your body lives but your soul has been banished to the underworld!  Or so the sorcerer claimed.  You seek to recover your own soul.

The Cultist - You seek to free the Old Ones from their imprisonment in the underworld and bring an end to the rein of the gods of law.  You might want to roll again for a cover story.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - You seek the lore and relics of the Usurper, an archmage who challenged the gods, met a bad end, and had his personal effects and/or body parts scattered through the underworld in retribution.

The Paladin in Hell - You're on a crusade to slay as many servants of chaos as possible, and where better to do it than in the underworld itself?  Smite and cleave, until it is done.

AD&D 1e PHB, page 23

The Inquisitor - You seek to prevent the release of the Old Ones by thwarting the schemes of their cultists, who surely have an interest in the Underworld where their masters are imprisoned.  You may not actually have any authority but you're not going to let that stop you from doing whatever you deem necessary.

The Dead Man - You have suffered a terrible shame, and are now compelled to go on a quest to die well in atonement, so as to erase the shame from your family name.  How better to die well than boldly facing the terrors of the underworld?

The Sworn Brother - You owe your life to another PC and fully intend to follow them into hell and back.

The Clerk - You have been tasked by the Celestial Bureaucracy with serving legal paperwork to an entity residing in the Underworld (possibly one of the deceased, possibly a demon lord).

The Stranger - You're from a distant time and place and heard there might be a way home through the underworld.  You're still just a 1st-level fighter though, be ye astronaut, caveman, cowboy, or samurai.

The Family Businessman - Your father made his fortune with one big score from the underworld, as did his father before him.  Plumbing the underworld is just the done thing.  You have lots of siblings and cousins, and you had lots of uncles before they all tried their hand at "the done thing"...

The Gentleman Adventurer - Her Majesty's archives regarding the underworld are woefully incomplete; perhaps bringing back extensive notes will finally earn you that knighthood.  Sadly it's been a very long trek full of misfortunes and you find yourself bereft of funds...

The Unforgiving - Someone pissed you off so bad that killing 'em once wasn't enough; you have resolved to scour the underworld to find them and inflict further suffering on them in the afterlife.

The Gourmand - Having grown bored of the delicacies of the overworld, you have come to the underworld to sample its exotic and forbidden foodstuffs, however ill-advised this might be.  I hear the pomegranates are great this time of year.

The Simp - You read too many salacious scrolls and now you got the thirst for that succubussy.  Surely the underworld is the right place to seek them?  Accept no substitutes.

The Supplicant - You've done some bad things and you're pretty sure you're not gonna have a good afterlife.  You have come to meet lower powers and see if you can do them some favors now in return for some favors later.

The Evangelist - Your mission is to bring posthumous salvation to the dead by converting them to the true faith.  Your sect is heterodox and there's much debate over which rites are required for posthumous salvation and whether it's possible at all, but you're not about to let some theorizing scholastics stop you.

The Would-Beast - You despise your human frailty and seek to drink deep of the Well of Chaos to "transcend" it through mutation.

Tables by alignment:


  1. The Pretender
  2. The Rescuer
  3. The Paladin in Hell
  4. The Inquisitor
  5. The Evangelist
  6. The Clerk
  7. The Sworn Brother
  8. The Dead Man


  1. The Debtor
  2. The Mad Lad
  3. The Smuggler
  4. The Merchant
  5. The Gambler
  6. The Lost Soul
  7. The Stranger
  8. The Family Businessman
  9. The Gentleman Adventurer
  10. The Gourmand


  1. The Cultist
  2. The Sorcerer's Apprentice
  3. The Unforgiving
  4. The Simp
  5. The Supplicant
  6. The Would-Beast

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I really dig these. I have a similar concept of Quests in my home game. The best ones, to my mind, are discrete and achievable. I think you should be able to say "Yes, I have done this."