Dungeon Core TV Book 1: Viewer Discretion Advised

Anything counts as entertainment these days, including death and dismemberment on TV.


Viewer Discretion Advised – 


The frozen image on the studio screen offered its viewers distilled horror. Branches of half-dead trees ran along a blackened river where an army of Nure-onna, snake-like monsters the length of a car with disheveled women’s heads, choked the ground. A massive red-orange explosion, frozen in time, had flung several of the monsters into the air.

A Nure-onna’s tail was wrapped around the body of a man in dented and blood-splattered plate armor. His face was obscured by his helmet’s visor, and his rune-covered sword lay on the ground, coated in muck and blood and half-buried under the dead Nure-onna’s tail.

Vivienne Ducasse, the most popular anchor in the Galactic News and Entertainment Company, sat in front of the screen in an interview chair with her ankles crossed.

“For those viewers just joining us, it would be tasteless to show more,” she told the camera. “But to give you some context, this is approximately thirty seconds before François Martin of the Infinite Empire party lost his life during their disastrous defeat in the Yokohama Abyss, ending their record-breaking run of successful dungeon dives.

“Controversy is swirling. Has the World Dungeon Explorers’ Association done enough to prep parties for dungeons experiencing unexpected growth?”

Her guest, Arthur Cho, spoke up. “That comes up every time there’s a major incident. The truth is, dungeon exploration is a dangerous sport, no matter what the WDEA does. No one can deny that, and we’ve known it from the beginning. Aspiring explorers out there should keep that in mind.”

Vivienne continued without acknowledging Cho’s comment. “Mr. Martin was a defensive specialist for the party, known as a tank. Do you think that played a part in his demise?”

Arthur nodded at the screen. “It’s not surprising that front-line fighters, tanks among them, make up a disproportionate number of the major injuries and fatalities in dungeon dives.

“I learned that the hard way. My old party was overwhelmed during one of our final runs in the Endless Pagoda. Everyone was out of mana, so there wasn’t much we could do about our injuries. We could only run to rendezvous with the rescue party, and even then, things got sketchy. I nearly lost an arm.”

Vivienne shook her head. “How terrible. The average person these days thinks of mana as the super-fuel that will solve all of humanity’s problems. They don’t consider how many dungeon explorers rely on it during their dives.”

“Mana is power, sure,” Arthur agreed, “but it’s more than that. It’s magical power. Mana provides the infusions that enable us to take on the dungeons. It makes us superhuman heroes. Unfortunately, even heroes lose sometimes.”

“These defeats occurred despite your old party being Gold-ranked at the time and the Infinite Empire being Gold-Plus. What would you say to those in our audience who claim higher-ranked explorers shouldn’t suffer these types of reversals?”

Arthur scoffed. “I would remind the Dungeon Core TV audience to remember the fundamental truth of the soul clash that drives the whole experience. A dungeon explorer needs a true challenge to gain infusions and improve their abilities. If it’s too easy, it’s nothing more than weapons practice.”

He frowned. “And you can’t simply grind by fighting easy monsters. There’s no cutting through starter monsters for two years to become a god. If you’re not at risk and are never challenged, you’re not going to get better.”

Vivienne gestured in acknowledgment. “It’s not only about the explorers. The reason we allowed the Voltaxians to bring the dungeons to Earth was the promise of mana becoming a new clean power source. ‘Magical mana will lead us into a bright future, free of need, fear, and war. This is all thanks to our wonderful new alien friends,’ the Secretary-General of the UN said at the time.”

“That’s true.”

“And the ‘soul clash,’ as you put it, goes both ways,” Vivienne added. “Explorers gain infusions and treasure, not to mention sponsorship money, and the dungeon generates more mana. Portions of that mana can be siphoned for non-dungeon and non-explorer uses.”

“That’s broadly accurate,” Arthur replied. “But the other key aspect I want to highlight for your audience and fans new to official WDEA dives is that the clash isn’t the party versus the dungeon. It’s the party versus the Dungeon Core.

“The monsters and the traps are nothing more than tools. Once they’re formed from mana, they have flesh and blood and might even show intelligence, but in the end, it’s better to think of them as semi-autonomous magical robots or drones rather than living creatures.”

Vivienne nodded. “Fascinating. Bizarre, even, when you think about it. An intelligent alien is modified through a special process to become a Dungeon Core and control mana.”

“I suppose it is a little weird.”

“During your active years, did it ever bother you that an alien intelligence held so much control over your environment? You never feared a capricious attempt at wholesale murder?”

Arthur shook his head. “The process that makes them cores limits them, as do their mana levels. Going into a dungeon isn’t a free-for-all. There’s structure to it. They make rooms and chambers that look like a dungeon or a forest. They make the monsters and traps, but as long as everything’s balanced in terms of party versus dungeon rank, it’s not supposed to be a massacre. Generally, that’s how it works out.”

“Even though the Infinite Empire was defeated?”

“They lost a member, but the rest of the party survived. It wasn’t a massacre, let alone a TPK.”

“Can you define that term for our viewers?”

“’Total Party Kill,’” Arthur explained. “They’re rare in the sport, although they were more common in the first couple of years when we were still getting accustomed.”

“Have you ever wanted to talk to a Dungeon Core?”

He chuckled. “No. Everything I’ve heard suggests humans wouldn’t even be able to.”

“So the Voltaxians claim. Given that they’re the most advanced aliens and they developed the Dungeon Core system, they’re probably right.”

“I’m no expert. I’ve always focused on exploring rather than dungeon and mana management.”

“Of course. Pivoting back to the recent defeat of the Infinite Empire, the WDEA guidelines note that improved viewer emotional engagement with a dungeon dive enhances overall mana production.” Vivienne leveled a challenging gaze at her guest. “Does this suggest that putting explorers in more danger would be better for humanity? Is the possibility of generating more mana worth the extra risk?”

Arthur frowned. “The current WDEA dungeon-to-party matching system is based on Voltaxian standards, and it provides a good balance between safety and mana production. Getting explorers killed in droves wouldn’t help anyone. At the end of the day, you need boots on the ground for a soul clash to generate mana. No one’s going to become an explorer if it’s a death sentence, and people need to willingly participate for the mana generation to work properly.”

“You already noted that every explorer understands the danger of the sport.”

Arthur’s cheeks reddened. “That’s true, but we approach the sport with the understanding that the risk is balanced. There are other dangerous sports. Take motorcycle racing as an example. Drivers die on occasion, but their controlling organizations have done what they can to make it safer while keeping it exciting. It’s the same thing with boxing or MMA.”

Vivienne’s smile was dismissive. “We don’t harvest mana from those sports.” He opened his mouth to reply, but she raised her hand to cut him off. “Hold that thought.”

Arthur glared at her. “Excuse me?”

Her smile was steady. “We’ll be back with more of this in-depth discussion with retired explorer Arthur Cho as part of this GNE-exclusive special, Even Infinity Ends: The 2023 Yokohama Abyss Tragedy, after a message from our sponsors.


Is this mana that dungeon divers are harvesting really worth the risk? How did the aliens get humanity to agree to this deal? Why is it broadcasted on TV like a game show? Find out the answers to these questions and more on January 15th when Dungeon Core TV Book 1: Viewer Discretion Advised is released. Until then head over to Amazon and pre-order it today.