-B26-

A chorus of otherworldly voices echo in the ethereal darkness stretching out to distances imperceptible. Within the murky central point of the phantasmal domain, sparks red and orange burn into reality. A plume of hellish fire bursts out and manifests in radiant orb of energy. A bright spot on the ball condenses and shifts a cutting glare into the misty beyond. With an ethereal reverb, a bellowing voice pulses out to the darkest regions. "QUIET. Cease your trite conversations. Class will begin now."

Glowing eyes, radiant gazes, and looming interest gravitate towards the central hellfire orb, and fill the swelling darkness with a cosmic field of terrifying attention. The red sphere flits bright orange, swings its focus to a distant gathering of miasmas, and hems. "It would serve your continued existence in this program well for you to CEASE, until after class."

The vaporous entities freeze solid, part to separate sections of the void, and manifest their stares towards the central point. The orb pans its scrutinizing glare to the arena of beings around, and sighs with hints of stale annoyance. "Finally. For the purposes of these lessons I will be addressed as Pyros. I will be instructing on a particular aspect of Dungeon Construction. Lava Levels and their Implementation."

Hovering up from the central point, a brilliant orange-red glow roars out and molten mass exudes from the sphere. The roiling orb swells and flows of lava pool beneath into a bubbling thermal soup. The bright spot on Pyros scans around the room and narrows. "One of the hardest aspects of any dungeon of notable challenge is the proper application of lava. Too much and it completely hinders your acquisition of adventurers. Too little and... Well, it becomes listed as a quaint landscaping feature in the same category as one would find a duck pond. An embarrassment."

Furrowing a brow from the molten red, Pyros slowly creeps a damning stare through the dark murk and concentrates upon glowing eyes and orifices surrounding. "Now. Would anyone like to regale the class with your tales of FAILURE involving lava? You would NOT BE HERE if there was not such personal experiences for you draw on. DO NOT make have to choose one of you. You are here to learn. Take some initiative. We are going to be here for a while, and wasted silence irritates me."

A green cloud engulfs a brilliant pair of narrow, reptilian eyes, and clawed hand rises with ethereal flows of energy shining out. Pyros shifts his focus to the entity and bellows. "Name, then recount your experience."

Through the dispersing plume of viridian, a maw contorts to a sharp, sawing grin. "Smaragditimor. Despite my best efforts to apply the right amount of lava to my lair, it seems to be TOO effective at keeping adventurers out. Magnificent streams. Bubbling flows. Wide rivers of molten fire. For some reason, they don't equate the danger with reward and attempt to cross it."

The shifting mass of Pyros contorts briefly. A low hum resonates into the dimension and the orb tilts to the side with an inquisitive tone. "Did you place a bridge anywhere along the length to bridge the divide?"

Smaragditimor blinks blankly and twists his mouth of razor teeth. "No. Why would I do THAT? Would that not completely bypass the presentation of the risk associated with lava? Why have the lava if they just cross a convenient bridge?"

Pyros groans, rolls the bright spot on his boiling sphere, and snaps back to focus upon Smaragditimor. "Oh. By the gods..."

It narrows a delighted glare upon Smaragditimor and the faint semblance of a malignant grin parts in oozing heat. "Did I say a functional bridge?"

A dark chuckle rumbles out into the void, and the lava moves beneath Pyros. The glowing material shapes, deforms, and shifts into a delicately detailed scene. Hundreds of otherworldly beings gaze through the ethereal realm upon lava model. Dark shorelines, a glowing river, and foreboding bridge manifest into reality. Pyros flits his bright spot wide and settles to a concentrating stare upon the molten diorama. "You must understand. Lava in a dungeon should equate risk. But... By itself that does not make the association with reward. You need to provide some way for the connection to be made. The remains of a bridge is quite effective at that. It hints that something exists on the other side. And, that something was important enough to deserve a bridge."

As the pristine bridge crumbles to a derelict, Pyros orbits around the scene and glances out into the cosmic classroom. "Depending on how much you want your lava to be THE rather than AN obstacle, you alter the condition of the bridge. This alters the attrition chance of adventurers, so adjust according to your preferences."

White Flames erupt in the darkness and swirling pyre forms a limb of fire upwards. Pyros perks his molten brow. "Yes?"

The entity settles to a humanoid shape of cool blue plasma and echoes out. "Conflati. My dungeon contains a sea of lava with an island in the middle. Despite rumors of great wealth, tales of riches, and even placing lava proof boats on the shorelines, I can never seem to tempt adventurers over."

Pyros searches his malicious mind with his bright spot, curls an impression of a grin, and laughs darkly. "Yes. It seems your plane of existence is suffering an unfortunate increase adventurer intelligence. It eventually goes away with desperation, but can take some time. Thankfully, it's only a surface semblance of intelligence."

The molten model warps and changes into a bubbling pit. As Pyros gazes upon the lava creation, dark spots of islands form in the pool and cool specks of black draw a speckled trail along the dots of land leading to the large center. It shifts its bright spot stare around and smugly instructs. "A pool of lava of is a blank canvas. Without definition. You NEED to give it that DEFINITION. Let it be an extension of your hidden intent. Lead them in with the promise of riches and simple to cross gaps. As they delve further in, gradually widen the divides, shrink the stepping stones, and allude to the reward in the distance. Soon... No matter the risk, they will be fully consumed by the sunken cost fallacy. They'll be victims to their prideful egos."

A burst of flame rises up and roars upwards into the inky space above. Pyros bellows out and cackles. "It will be a DELIGHTFUL display of their demises, fueled by their own greedy desires! With a masterful touch, you stretch the torment for days and weeks. Even contrast their misery with faint safety from the lava looming around them, and make certain they cannot acclimate themselves."

Eerie silence floods out the previous ambient murmurs, and hundreds of cosmic forces rest their full attention upon the display and Pyros. Gauging the crowd of the otherworldly, Pyros indents a smirk upon his molten orb avatar, and chuckles in dreadful amusement. "Excellent. Now that I have your attention... And, now that I am in the right mindset... Let's start with the basics..."