I am joining the dungeon23 craze. If you haven't heard of it, Dungeon23 means writing 1 room of a dungeon each day, every day in 2023. My project will be an dying cyclopean Megamall in the same modern horror setting as these monsters

This vast decaying megamall has lain outside your home town for as long as you can remember. Your parents remember the days when they used to shop there. You grew up with stories of the wondrous things they bought. The light and sound and colour. The air inside smelled of popcorn and sweet syrup and caramel. It was a magical place. A dream.

Things have changed. The lights flicker and fade. Huge sections of the mall lie empty and dark. Sometimes you think you can glimpse unknown constellations or planets inside the glass domes. Twisted shapes scuttle within. But still, people come. They flood into the mall from all across the country. They can't help themselves. They dream of it. Perhaps somewhere inside, they can finally buy the answer to all their problems.

Shopping centers are, I think, the closest thing to a megadungeon that I've ever experienced in real life. Long have I wandered through endless cyclopean hollow parking lots in the dark, searching for a way back to the outside world. 

The Dying Mall is an object of some psychic and symbolic power. A liminal space. They represent cancerous growth and decay. A great capitalist organism struggling to drag itself out of the mire. Reading about them is something that has always interested me. It's a natural fit for a megadungeon. 

In recent years, the number of dead malls increased significantly in the early 21st century because the economic health of malls across the United States has been in decline, as identified by high vacancy rates. -Wikipedia.



I'm heavily inspired by Yuppie Psycho, which is a Corporate Office Horror Megadungeon. You are recruited to a new job. The office building is effectively a haunted megadungeon where you still have to try and get work done despire the horrors inside. (I would love to see this made into an RPG dungeon too, but maybe another time). Silent Hill 2 and Lone Survivor are also big influences.

Characters: Like Bioshock, I would like to have many sections of the mall commanded by larger-than-life charismatic yet unhinged villains who represent specific philosophies. I want the dungeon to have a lot of interesting NPC's with competing goals. Character as a pillar just as much as exploration and probably more than combat.

Moments of hope and normalcy.
I really love this in Yuppie Psycho, Lone Survivor and Silent Hill 2. Yes, it's a horror game. But the horror is elevated by these strange, surreal moments of peace and hope, where things almost seem normal. People have conversations with you as if nothing is wrong. You sit and look at the stars. In Yuppie Psycho, you can rest in the office breakroom and continue an office romance. I would like "safe" areas in the mall like this. 

Inspiration Template: American Dream Miami.

American Dream (formerly titled Xanadu) seems like the perfect template to use for inspiration. The floor plan is on page 51 here.

The 6.2-million-square-foot mall, under development by the Triple Five Group, would be the largest in North America with 3.5 million square feet of retail stores, 2,000 hotel rooms, a 370,000-square-foot theme park, 370,000-square-foot water park, a 200,000-square-foot indoor ski slope, movie theaters, a sports center, outdoor fishing center, miniature golf course, live entertainment venue, plus attractions the developer is calling Submarine Lake, Art Deco Village and Tivoli Garden. - Sun Sentinel.

Escalators that lead to nowhere. Liminal spaces. It's perfect. American Dream might be a bit too on-the-nose as a name even for me, though. Xanadu isn't bad. For now let's give this megadungeon the working title of Dreams MegaMall.

I think the easiest way to get started making the dungeon will be to take a map of an actual mall layout, print it out, and just scribble all over it. New pathways, blocked passages and corridors creating a new landscape. Like the maps in Silent Hill. 

The players would get the printed map of the mall, but the situation on the ground would be very different. They would need to mark their map to show the different blocked passages, etc. Ideally it would be nice to create a full information pamphlet with hints about the different areas and cool things to find, like this.

I'm not sure whether it's better to have a horizontal layout, like American Dream, or vertical levels like a classic dungeon. What do you think?

Potential factions

  1. Living adverts. Digital after-images that have gained sentience and can follow you in reflections, TV static, computer monitors. They can mess with your digital life (your social media, email, online bank account, etc) or influence you through dreams and subconcious thought. They live perfect but hollow ad lives and desperately wish for the gritty trauma and grief of real life.
  2. Market Research Cabal. Forced out of the offices and into the sewers, they try to regain control over their rogue creations. Through experiments in behavioural psychology they are attempting to finally gain a perfect understanding of Humanity. When they achieve this, it will give them total control and influence over Consumer Behaviour. Their areas of the mall are GladOS style, full of tests and traps, elaborate framed situations with Secret Shoppers pretending to be in danger to gauge your response for their research. They are led by the Head of Marketing, one of the 7 founders. 
  3. Cargo Cult Trash Folk. They worship the trash queens and live in the garbage dimension. They steal things from the mall and are attempting to create a utopian society in the ruins of the old. They primarily use guns and hunting tools recovered from the camping, boating and fishing sections. Their survivalist society is led by the Head of Outdoors, one of the 7 founders who seceded from the rest. 
  4. Mall Cops. Bio-mechanical surveillance camera horrors that attempt to safeguard the sancity of the mall. They command an army of machine-insects of every type that patrol the halls at night. Work for the mysterious CEO, one of the 7 founders. The CEO hears the voice of The Board and carries out its will on earth. 
  5. Consumers. Hapless shoppers who are still drawn into the mall, even now, by the intoxicating dreams they suffer each night. As long as they continue to pay, follow the laws, and avoid the restricted sections, they will remain unharmed by ancient compact. Slowly their obsession with the mall will consume them, converting them over time into feasting horrors ala No-Face from Spirited Away. 
  6. Booth Babes. High Fashion models of all genders, superhumanly attractive. They believe fashion is Sin - Original Sin. Each piece of clothing is literally a bound demon, cut and sewn into intoxicating shapes and colours. Every outfit is a masterpiece, and can twist and change to give them terrifying abilities and transformations. They are slowly spreading their clothing throughout the mall and the world - on command, each piece of clothing will devour its wearer and usher in a new age. Ruled by the Head of Apparel, one of the 7 founders.  
  7. Gremlins. These grease-monkeys look like chaotic many-limbed soot-creatures.Their nature and goals are unknown. They attempt to control the rogue subway that distorts time and space as it pushes through the ruins of the megamall for unknown ends. They infest the maintenance tunnels, elevator shafts and byways of the mall. Machines spark and go havoc at their touch. They have kidnapped the Head of Distribution, one of the 7 founders. 
  8. Warehouse workers. Leaderless without the Head of Distribution, they still soldier on and attempt to keep the mall stocked with goods. They are slaves to The Red Tower, the heart of the mall, a dripping meat-factory that endlessly produces things of no discernable purpose. Perhaps once the tower kept the mall supplied with valuable inventory, but increasingly now it churns out revolting hyper-organisms which the workers (terrified for their jobs) keep pushing out onto the shelves. They are paid in scrip which can only be spent at the mall itself. Their goal is to survive and keep their jobs at all costs.
  9. Gardeners. Hermetic fungus-folk. Some of them may look human at first, but with many small holes or pores throughout their body. They open up their bodies to reveal beautiful gardens sprouting in their chest cavities. They rule over the supermarkets and food courts, which have overgrown into lush gardens of fat and sugar. Their goal is to live in harmony with nature and destroy all machines - but their version of "Nature" is fundamentally artificial. They have not seen the outside sky in decades. They whisper of the Head of Produce, one of the 7 founders.
  10. Teeth Farmers. Rulers of the pharmacy, medical and dental sections. Masters of turning your own teeth, your own skin, and your own blood against you. They nuture the teeth-golems, former patients. There is nothing to worry about, the Head of Medical assures the members of the board. The teeth are completely contained.
  11. The Beverage Partners Worldwide Paramilitary Death Squad are responsible for protecting the interests of Beverage Partners Worldwide and ensuring there are no issues with the coke supply. All water in the facility has been replaced with a supply of delicious, fresh-flowing coke. Soon, the entire water supply of the entire country will be upgraded in the same way. The coke is laced with paristic entities (To be detailed in a later blog post). This mall is their test case and they will not brook any interference. 
  12. The Board. shadowy paranatural entity from outside space and time. It controls the mall and pushes it to grow endlessly for unseen ends. It appears in the dreams of all high-level mall executives and issues cryptic commands. It can be seen in endless graffiti and shadows and reflections all around the mall. It's true purpose and nature is unknown. 
  13. Creditors. The mall is deeply in debt and these executives are here to recoup their investment - by force, if necessary. 
  14. Ghost Branch. The mall is haunted by the collective ghosts of all the stores it put out of business. They roll across the mall, causing abandonment zones. When you enter a haunted zone the fog rises. The mall around you immediately seems abandoned, decayed, empty. Their goal is to finally drag the mall into bankruptcy in revenge - then they can pass on in peace.  

Potential Sections

  1. Subway. A mobile dungeon level. The plan was to have a monorail inside the mall that could quickly whisk you around the complex. Now this train distorts time and space as it pushes through the ruins of the megamall for unknown ends. You can use it for transport but it obeys no human whims and may disgorge you into unknown places that you will not survive. 
  2. Food Court. The garden overflowing and lush now, the whole floor flooded with koi ponds, fragrant sugar and crackling fat, delicacies of every type.
    1. Groceries. Supermarkets and produce stores.
  3. Theme Park. A theme park inside the mall that still works, barely. Includes sections for bowling, minigolf, ice skating, etc. Roller coasters, water slides, rides, concession stands, carnival games.
  4. Submarine Lake. An artifical lake inside the mall. Boat rides and jet skis. 
  5. International Ski Dome. A working indoor ski-slope and snow zone, with a ski lift. Powered by faulty wiring.
  6. Central Control. Marketing, centre management, the hub that controls the entire operation. The centre of the glass onion. A dome of concentric steel helixes, very difficult to enter. Has descended into a cargo cult that worships the mall. Office space, marketing, executive suites, a warren of cubicles. 
  7. Maintenance. The maze of tunnels and byways and secret hatches that connects the entire complex, still patrolled by weary workers that are being slowly converted into machines. The dungeon levels are all connected by elevators, but most of them don't work. To get them working again, you might need to clear blockages in the elevator shafts (eg destroy a giant mechaspider in a shaft) or reactivate power. 
    1. Includes: Parking. Endless, cavernous underground spaces that seem to go on forever without limit.
  8. Distribution. Distribution center, deliveries, and the Red Tower that provides goods for the whole mall. 
  9. The Avenue.  An Art Deco high-class luxury section, ultra expensive. High fashion, apparel, furniture, expensive homewares.
    1. Includes: Luxury Hotel. A hotel in the mall itself, including guest rooms, restaurant, spa, pool, gym, and a golf course.
  10. Theatre. On one side is an arcade and movie theatre. On the other side is an actual stage production theatre. Arcade, movies, parts where you can dive into virtual reality and explore a virtual world for secrets.
    1. Includes: Entertainment. Books, toys, board games, electronics, hardware and software.
  11. Medical centre. Pharmacy, doctors, Teeth Farmers.
    1. Includes: Pets. Animals gone wild and rabid.
  12. Trash Dimension. Remains of the outdoor department (fishing, camping, boating, etc). You can only enter it if you're kidnapped by the Dimensional Trash Anomalies.
Finally, here are some tables to help inspire me on this journey. 

    100 room ideas

    1. Art Gallery
    2. Automotive Showroom
    3. Bakery
    4. Beauty Salon
    5. Barbershop
    6. Book Store
    7. Cafe
    8. Cake Shop
    9. Candy Store
    10. Clothing Store
    11. Collectables
    12. Confectionary
    13. Convenience store
    14. Craft Shop
    15. Delicatessen
    16. Discount Shop
    17. DIY Shop
    18. Donut Shop
    19. Dress Shop
    20. Dry Cleaner
    21. Duty-Free Shop
    22. Electronics Store
    23. Fabric / Sewing Supplies
    24. Farmers Market
    25. Fashion Boutique
    26. Fast Food Restaurant
    27. Fruit Market
    28. Furniture Store
    29. Garden Center
    30. Gas Station
    31. General Store
    32. Gift Shop
    33. Hobby Shop
    34. Home Decor
    35. Home Improvement
    36. Imported Goods
    37. Jeweller
    38. Junk Shop
    39. Pop-up Kiosk
    40. Kitchen Store
    41. Liquidator
    42. Mattress Store
    43. Mechanic / Garage
    44. Music Shop
    45. News Agent
    46. Fishing Store
    47. Camping Store
    48. Boating Store
    49. Patisserie
    50. Pharmacy
    51. Pop Culture
    52. Service Center
    53. Software / Video Game / Technology
    54. Souvenir Shop
    55. Stationary
    56. Sports store
    57. Supermarket
    58. Tailor
    59. Rainwater Harvesting System
    60. Tattoo Shop
    61. Travel Agent
    62. Hunting / Gun Store
    63. Vegetable Market
    64. Wholesaler
    65. Ski Slope
    66. Arts Center
    67. Concert
    68. Spa
    69. Go karts
    70. Balloon rides
    71. Bowling
    72. Billiards
    73. Underwater Aquarium
    74. Dinosaur Walk Museum
    75. Steakhouse
    76. Elevators / Escalators
    77. Parking
    78. Footwear
    79. Make-Up / Cosmetics
    80. Parenting and Babies
    81. Banking
    82. Nail Salon
    83. Pet Store
    84. Office Space
    85. Hotel / Guest Suites
    86. Toy Store
    87. Electronics and Hardware
    88. Arcade 
    89. Movie Theatre
    90. Mechanical Rides
    91. Security / Info booth
    92. Water Fountain / Waterfall / Koi Pond
    93. Tobacconist
    94. Tattoo Artist
    95. Hardware store
    96. Optometrist
    97. Perfume
    98. Mall Santa kiosk
    99. Restrooms
    100. Picture Booth

    100 Inspirational Concepts 

    1. Doppelganger
    2. Radioactive
    3. Control
    4. Fungus
    5. Contrast
    6. Drowned
    7. Non-Euclidian
    8. Recursive
    9. Unhinged
    10. Cyclopean
    11. Sweet
    12. Childhood
    13. Time
    14. Excess
    15. Decay
    16. Corpse-fat
    17. Ghost
    18. Humanity
    19. Warmth
    20. Null-Space
    21. Bankruptcy
    22. Limited Time Offer
    23. Bloom
    24. Meat
    25. Ash
    26. Prophet
    27. Stars
    28. Mask
    29. Sacrifice
    30. Gold
    31. Incense
    32. Glass
    33. Cancer
    34. Psychographics
    35. Emptiness
    36. Bankruptcy
    37. Loneliness
    38. Beauty
    39. Souls
    40. Smoke
    41. Laughter
    42. Lust
    43. Primordial
    44. Bones
    45. Blood
    46. Ocean
    47. Chaos
    48. Pit
    49. Empire
    50. Hive
    51. Research and Development
    52. Family
    53. Rotting
    54. Shortcut
    55. Pitch Black
    56. Advertainment
    57. Gamification
    58. Frozen
    59. Light
    60. Bridge
    61. Growth
    62. Cargo Cult
    63. Mouth
    64. Monolith
    65. Eldritch
    66. Art
    67. Tomb
    68. Sleep
    69. Bog
    70. Moonlight
    71. Dreams
    72. Babel
    73. Meta-Narrative
    74. Infinity
    75. Quantum Mechanics
    76. Obsession
    77. Corruption
    78. Hollow
    79. Grinding
    80. Mystery
    81. Secret
    82. Rebirth
    83. Demon
    84. Ghoul
    85. Vampire
    86. Fire
    87. Oil
    88. Glory
    89. Trap
    90. Grave
    91. Asylum
    92. Space
    93. Grief
    94. Hope
    95. Despair
    96. Bravery
    97. Resignation
    98. Comfort
    99. Tears
    100. Curse

    52 potential zone inspirations

    1. Annihilation fungal mutation zone
    2. Space abyss star galaxy gravity zone
    3. Fire chaos organic wild growth twist zone
    4. High fashion Grafitti art living statue surrealism escher zone
    5. Slow death frost shadows in the ice zone
    6. Gold chrome molten ornate jewellery zone
    7. Archaic aquatic corrupt sea vampire zone
    8. Radioactive dark matter zone
    9. Time warp memory nostalgia fog zone
    10. Comforting warm family home unheimlich zone
    11. Rotting poison disease insect blight zone
    12. Soft dark quiet tangled forest root zone
    13. Pitch black ancient cyclopean tomb zone
    14. Overwrought victorian cathedral blood zone
    15. Soft crumbling grey ash and quiet zone
    16. Crooked witchy village pagan sacrifice zone
    17. Crushing pressure ocean depths bends zone
    18. Pale skin flap disinfectant sterile zone
    19. Papery labyrinthine wasp hive zone
    20. Reflective mirror maze mental prison zone
    21. Stuffed artefact library museum zone
    22. The black throne of Azathoth
    23. Slowly flooding coral cave zone
    24. Ancient saltworn desert ruin mummified zone
    25. Twisted carnival zone
    26. Film noir black coffee lynchzone
    27. Gambling fortune ritzy blackjack zone
    28. Psychonaut mental world psychic zone
    29. Psychological horror hypnosis unreliable narrator distorted perception zone
    30. Crawling veins of the earth claughstrophobic tunnel zone
    31. Psychedelic acid trip incense zone
    32. Boiler room rust moisture heat zone
    33. Silent Hill fog flesh zombie zone
    34. Cronenberg flesh mound zone
    35. Moonside zone
    36. Mesoamerican neon light nazca lines zone
    37. Giant board game zone
    38. Office cafeteria break room chat zone
    39. Gladiatorial arena blood sport zone
    40. Panopticon surveillance needle static zone
    41. Sparking technological wire-warren zone
    42. Synesthesia zone where music appears as colours and shapes
    43. Hunger zone where food rots and you become unstoppably hungry and thirsty
    44. Dream zone where spores float and you are irresistably lulled into slumber
    45. Frost shard frozen meat splinter crack zone
    46. Blocked rubble scuttling spider dust zone
    47. Choking sand, searing heat and blood fly zone
    48. Zone where the moon and planets appear, tantalising close and hypnotising
    49. Endless party zone, party-goers run ragged and exhausted
    50. Backrooms, silent and empty and infinite zone
    51. Non-euclidian distortion of time and space zone where you can fall into angles and disappear forever
    52. Unfinished construction area zone, ladders and scaffolds and tools everywhere

    Let's get started!

    Tomorrow I will begin! Good luck to everyone who is starting their Dungeon23 journey. I will hopefully post on this blog every now and then to update y'all on my progress. I would love to hear your feedback or any ideas you have to enrich this megadungeon. Is there anything you think should be included? Any inspirational moments you've had in dying malls? Let me know :)  

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