I'm the guest of honor this weekend at Fencon in Dallas, which is just getting started. One of the exhibitors is Cthulhu Wars, the Lovecraftian boardgame that raised over $1.4M on Kickstarter (they were looking for $40K). They've brought along the prototype for the game, and the tokens are amazing. They were kind enough to let me photograph them, and I've uploaded the hi-rezes to my Flickr; there's a gallery of some of the best after the jump.
I am getting closer to completing the territories of Hubris. I have been asked a few times what my format/info for the territories is. I haven’t said much on this, save for posting the summaries of a few of the territories here and there on the blog or on my G+ community page (feel free to join that if you want. I do posts there about the setting that don’t make it to the blog).
My goal for the territories has been to provide a GM with the tools to use the book at the table and on the fly to generate a situation/story, rather than pages and pages of fluff and description which, while may be an enjoyable read, doesn’t make a great thing to have at the table. Each territory has a d100 Lay of the land table and a d100 Encounter table, a few “locations” with a brief description (roughly a paragraph) and each with 2-6 plot hooks/rumors that the GM can use on the fly. Some territories (as the one I’m about to post here) have charts or tables that aid the GM in generating ideas, etc. for encounters or whatever.
Another goal I have with Hubris, in general, is to encourage the GM and the players to make the world theirs. Many authors of settings I’ve read through treat their world like gold and there (sometimes) is a feeling of “this is how it has to be played! Changing or altering is badwrongfun!” Not with Hubris. With these charts and tables provided throughout the book and the territories- each Hubris campaign will be different.
I am REALLY interested in some constructive feedback here. I have used this format for all the territories I have finished (6 out of 10) and have used them during play and it (for me) has worked really well. You can either comment on the post, on my G+ community page, or email me at ihaveangerissues AT G M A I L DAWT C O M.
Thanks for taking the time to look through this.
Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire- The Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire is a grim territory full of grey soil, groves of petrified trees with twisted human features, bogs, tar pits, strange swirling sentient mists, and nightmarish spirits. Rabid Ravens sit on trees or fly through the air uttering unnerving garbling noises, whilst spouting out strange prophecies. Many people attempt to parley with these birds in the hope of learning what the fates have in store for them. Often times these foolish people have their mind’s shattered and are driven insane, becoming devote worshipers of the birds in the Cult of the Molted Raven. Ruins of great wealth and knowledge have been discovered throughout the land, but few are brave, or foolish, enough to venture into them. Alters to long-forgotten gods dot the landscape, whispering dark secrets and ill-promises to those who stumble across them. The huge Floating Island of Terror can always be seen drifting throughout the area while slaves and workers toil in the mines below.
The discovery of rich mines led to an influx of the desperate and hopeless traveling to the Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire in the hopes of finding work and riches in the mines. While most of the minerals found are taken by the Black Queen, some is traded to the other nation states.
Of the most troublesome creatures that make their home in this grim land, none is more feared than the roving orc bands. What these creatures may have been before the Klind flesh-weavers experimented and warped them beyond the point of return has been lost to history. Orcs raid camps, attack trade lanes, and capture other animals and creatures. More frightening than their bloodlust and utter ferocity is that the orcs have somehow learned the secrets of Klind flesh-weaving and subject their prisoners to the alchemical baths, transforming them into grotesque abominations that bolster orc ranks.
Lay of the Land- Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire
1-15 Barren wasteland, cracked dry ground, with patches of barbed grass
16-17 Ancient cemetery of long-forgotten kingdom. Several small crypts line a path to a giant mausoleum made of marble and gold
18-20 Area of petrified trees, while in area no sound can be heard. Spells are unable to be cast, and the divine is not felt
21-25 Horrible alter to long forgotten god (use Alter generator)
26-27 Massive mound that is a physical wound of Hubris. It steadily trickles hot acidic blood, and stinking pus bursts out every 1d6 hours. All are sickened in a 1 mile radius when this occurs
28-29 A gigantic petrified tree that a group of the Cult of the Molted Raven are using as a tree fort. They caw and flap their wings and jump out of the tree and attempt to fly, failing horribly
30 Field of cracked and jagged glass that bursts from the ground. 20% chance that looking through the glass will tear open reality and transport the viewer to another plane of existence for 1d4 days
31-32 Grove of twisted petrified trees with over-large human faces frozen in expressions of utter agony that whisper the secrets of the characters as they pass
33-34 Large gnarled tree with dead humanoids and animals that have been gutted and left impaled on the thick branches
35 Ancient swirling mist that contains the knowledge of years past. Those who remain in it for an hour gain +1 Int, but also incur one minor corruption.
36 Dehydrated carapace of a gargantuan maggot. 1d12 Shriveled Eye clan goblins have made this their home
37-40 Huge statue of a brooding head. On top of the head are 2d4 Rabid Ravens. Their eyes are rolling in their sockets as their terrible garbbled cawing fills the air
41 Abandoned orc camp. Tattered tents made of tanned human flesh, large rotted and mutated bodies litter the ground. In the center of the camp a cauldron containing some of the terrible alchemical substance of the orcs still steams and bubbles
42-45 A hastily abandoned mining camp. The town is overrun by 1) infected villagers; 2) giant rodents; 3) Shriveled Eye clan goblins; 4) swarms of parasitic insects
46-50 Large tar pit. Any thing that falls in sinks 1d3’ per round. Strength check DC 20 to get out
51-55 Active mine maintained by a small group of guards that bully and lord over slaves and indentured-servants
56-57 Orc fortress built of the still living flesh of thousands of creatures
58-60 Small group of explorers from: 1) Fairweather; 2) Shadowfall; 3) Eisenbar; 4) Klind
61-62 50’ discarded smoke stack from the Floating Island of Terror. An old man lives inside the cavernous cylindrical structure
63 Keep of the evil wizard Iboz. Constructed out of white marble, it resembles the upper body of the wizard
64-65 Orc incubation structure. Looks like a gigantic hive, like that of a wasp, but constructed from the flesh of hundreds of creatures. Humanoids and creatures trapped inside the structure can be seen gestating and becoming warped hideous abominations
66-67 Active Klind enclave capturing various species of life to experiment on back in their kingdom
68 Abandoned Eisenbar paladin camp
69-71 Huge black pit. Heat and shimmering gasses waft up the large hole. Glittering gems can be seen along the rock-face
72-74 Mine that is heavily guarded by several Black Guard and murder machines. The miners are carrying out crates of faintly glowing green rocks
75-77 Geyser field erupting, sending jets of hot, sulfuric water and globs of yellow slime into the air
78 Huge swarm of Rabid Ravens blot out the sky. The concentration of their prophecy causes a void to open in the sky. Any character that looks into the center of the void catches a glimpse of future times and gains +1d3 Luck, but this vision of the future has a cost to their psyche and they lose 2d2 Personality
79 Cave of obsidian that is home to the Cult of the Molted Raven
80 River with water flowing south to north. The water is full of skeletal flying fish. Anyone who submerges themselves in the water ages 1d10 years. Drinking the water ages the person 3d10 years. If dead, they become a sentient skeletal wanderer
81 An ancient tower covered in life leeching vines. The tower is the prison of an ancient primordial demi-god of hunger
82-83 Village of exiled and hunted mutants. They are outright mistrusting of outsiders and non-mutants. Any character able to cast arcane spells feels a draw towards the largest structure in the village, the manor house. Inside it is a golden statuette that vibrates in their hands when held and whispers in their mind
84 Long abandoned village constructed of bland grey stone. The architecture is sharp with strange corners and heights. In the basement of one house is 1d3 wights that are all that remains of this settlement
85 Raised dais with an alter in the middle. The creature has the head of a man with a halo of a thousand screaming heads, eyes bleeding acidic blood, and mouths all over its body. At its feet are 2d6 crazed fanatics.
86-88 A fetid bog that has a green haze that wafts lazily through the brambles and gnarled trees. In the middle of the bog is a gigantic anthropomorphic frog statue that is weeping nasty smelling water from its eyes into the bog
89 The remains of a gigantic murder machine. Its parts are scattered over a 25’ radius. It looks to have exploded and sent shrapnel everywhere. Several dead bodies are around the area, killed by the chunks of flying metal
90 Klind fortress and a ritual to Set in progress
91 Gigantic roving slug with ramshackle fort of Withered Eye clan goblins on its back
92 Beautiful healthy tree in the middle of a stretch of wasteland. Produces amazing fruit of various colors: 1) Red- heals 1d4 HP; 2) Orange- grants thermavision for 2d4 days; 3) Black- Fort Save DC 20 or die; 4) Blue- gain ability to breathe underwater for 2d4 days; 5) Yellow- completely rested as if slept for 8 hours; 6) Green- rejuvenates 1d3 years; 7) Purple- Int tests are made one step higher on the die ladder, but Personality tests are one step lower as your skin is now purple- lasts 1d3 days; 8) Grey- painfully grow calcified rock claws that do d4+1 damage. Lasts 2d5 hours. The tree has 2d4 fruit on it. Once picked the fruit will grow back (roll for color) in 30 days.
93 A field of arms and legs that look as though they have been planted in the ground. The appendages wiggle and flail in desperation, when dug out there is nothing there. The appendages wither to dried husks and crumble to dust in 1d8 days
94-96 Deserted mine. Several pieces of equipment are scattered over the ground. An ill wind blows from the shaft and an unsettling clicking noise is carried up on the draft
97 A klind enclave that is under siege by a warband of orcs. Several klind are being dunked into an alchemical bath. Their screams fill the air
98 Mudflats that stretch for miles. While traversing them, all suffer extreme thirst that cannot be satiated until through the area. Many go mad before they ever get out
99 Three sculpted stone statues of powerfully built men with brooding features. They are each sitting on differently crafted thrones. Their eyes seem to follow the characters wherever they move. For a price they will answer a question posed by a character. One will lie, one will tell the truth, and one will ask a question of their own
00 Large tower with large telescope pointed towards the sky. Magical runes have been inscribed all along the towers base
Encounters- Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire
1-10 2d4 Marauding orcs
11-12 Large rock spider with 2d20 babies on its back
13 Thick fog that holds the consciousness of a cleric of the Terrible Whisper. The cleric gained utter disapproval of his god by burning down a library of ancient and lost knowledge
14-15 Large band of Eisenbar paladin and their support marching across the Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire to cleanse the corruption
16-21 2d5 members of the Cult of the Molten Raven sitting beneath a tree listening to the garbling of a Rabid Raven
22-24 1d8+1 Klind slavers, one is a cleric of Set (lvl 1d4)
25 A sky whale, transformed into an abomination by orcs, drifts in the sky
26-27 A living acid cloud is slowly drifting towards the characters
28 A wyvern is attacking an expedition force from Fairweather
29-32 2d4 Shriveled Eye clan goblins are running at the players with glowing maggots strapped to their backs. These maggots explode for 2d6 damage
33-34 2d4 slaves that escaped from a mine and are attempting to get to the civilized territories
35-36 An old man sitting cross-legged on a rock, smiles at the characters.
37 2d8 humans- their skin is shriveled skin and clumps of rock piercing out their flesh. Their eyes are sunken in and black ichor is leaking from their mouths.
38-39 Tribe of 2d5 stone giants. They may be peaceful, or not
41-45 A small band of the Black Queens Black Guard and 2 murder machines in search of slaves who escaped with a haul of ore
46-47 Orc warband riding on the backs of mammoth abominations.
48 Earth elemental with large calcified protrusions that jut out like serrated blades. Seems to be protecting a small wooden box
49-52 1d4 Rabid Ravens wish to bestow the characters with prophecy… if their minds can withstand the assault
53-54 Patches of barbed grass lying in wait for fresh meat
55-57 1d3 mature brain grubs
58 Large egg sack filled with squirming larva. A successful Int check reveals they are immature brain grubs
59 A demon performing a ritual at the alter of the Heathen Below. Around the base of the alter are 2d10 chained and naked women.
60-62 A fire beetle hive
63 The Black Queen’s Skeletal Gun Runners on route to deliver a shipment of wheellock weaponry
64-66 Whithered Eye Clan goblins riding on the back of a stone giant. The giant is gaunt, with hooks on his eyes and mouth, forcing them open.
67-70 A shimmering cloud. Walking through it causes one of the character’s worst nightmares to manifest in the material plane
71 Bizarre mound of flesh with one thousand eyes, mouths, arms, and legs
72-73 Small sentient rockmen that are proud keepers of the Resonance Key
74-76 The remains of an ancient drake. It will animate and attack any who get too close
77-80 Orc wizard with 2d10 abomination Withered Eye clan goblins
81-82 Swarm of flying purple locusts blot out the sky.
83 Miners from Fairweather are trying to establish a small outpost, while fighting off interlopers from the Floating Island of Terror
84 Polymorph magical trap. If characters trigger it use spell description in DCC
85-86 Klind, orc, and Eisenbar troops are engaged in a three-way battle
87 A Demon Lord is forcing slaves to build him a grand keep in the wastes
88-91 A herd of 3d10 animals and 2d6 miners that have been mutated into terrible beastmen by Blood Madness caused by the Mountain That Bleeds
92-93 Swarm of small stinging insects that cause a person to swell up and leak orange fluid when bitten
94 Chameleon ooze lurking near party
95 Village of small lizard-beings. Their needle teeth drip with saliva and their red eyes seem to glow, even at night
96 Community of 3d3 friendly stone giants
98 A tattered and torn camp. There are several skeletons. The skeletal structure and clothing matches that of the characters
99 Caravan of traders heading from Klind to the civilized territores
00 A manifestation of the Heathen Below lumbers across the land, non-believers will be smote
The Prophecy of the Rabid Raven
If a player desires to put their psyche to the test and survives the chaotic garbled gibbering of a Rabid Raven with their mind intact, they will hear a prophecy spoken. A player must make a Will save DC 14 or suffer madness (players get to add/subtract their luck modifier to this roll as well). Failure means that the listener(s) suffer a permanent loss of 1d3 Personality and -2 to all rolls for 2d4 days. If a critical failure is rolled then the target suffers double the Personality drain and -2 to all rolls for 2d8 days. Success means that they are able to hear the prophecy. Some prophecies will directly affect the character, while others may be on a whole other scale.
The Prophecy of the Rabid Raven
|1||If you kill any creature in the next eight days the moon will turn red for one month and bolster the strength of the creatures of darkness.|
|2||Insulting a merchant will lead to riches raining down on you (literally).|
|3||You are a shining beacon in the darkness. All Personality tests are now made one step higher on the die ladder for 3d10 months.|
|4||Sleeping in a bed of silken sheets will attract the eye of a prince(ss) to you.|
|5||Your rudeness will cause your ruin. All Personality tests are now made one step lower on the die ladder for 3d10 months.|
|6||On the night of the full moon someone will fall in love with you.|
|7||If you ever look in the mirror when the sun is high you will become corrupted (roll a minor wizard corruption or Hubris mutation).|
|8||Prove your devotion to your god and you shall be rewarded.|
|9||Talking to an old man will result in his death… and it will have consequences.|
|10||Sitting on the throne of a dead king will make you the monarch.|
|11||The spirit of one you have killed now follows you and seeks to injure you (the characters luck is reduced by 1d6+1 until the spirit has been banished. This represents the spirit attempting to interfere with the character’s life).|
|12||When you rush into the burning building to save the young, you will be blessed by The Stillborn Unwanted Child (+1 luck- chaotic align; +2 luck- neutral and lawful align; +3 luck to worshippers of the Stillborn Unwanted Child).|
|13||Your touch will ruin an important food source of a village.|
|14||You will soon be greeted by death. He will greet you as a friend should you do him a service of great importance. Refusal of Death’s request will result in insult and injury.|
Bleeding Mountain That Pierced the Sky- A massive and foreboding mountain; it is the tallest in all of Hubris. The sky around the peak is always black, pitch void, with swirling clouds around the boarder. Green lightning and shattering thunder rock the area constantly, while red rain falls onto the rock below. Those who stay too long in this terrible rain begin to suffer Blood Madness, eventually becoming a warped, bestial creature. Explorers have made reports in their journals of weird, alien creatures that fall out of the Wound in the Sky.
1) The lone survivor from an expedition team from Eisenbar raved about large tentacles-like appendages coming through the Wound in the Sky.
2) A book discovered in the ruins of Vladral Castle gives the location of the ancient crypt of Zagryl the Worst, a terrible Sorcerer-king from ancient times. The book tells of hidden treasures, secrets, and dangers unimagined.
3) A horde of twisted humans and alien creatures are marching towards Eisenbar. They have reached Gypsy Lake and left devastation in their wake.
Bloodmire- This oddly constructed tower was built by a long forgotten cult, The Blighted Brethren, in order to worship and summon their master from the depths of the Nine Hells. After accumulating a vast amount of rare ingredients and knowledge to bring their master forth, they attempted the ceremony. During the summoning, the ritual went awry and the master was trapped in a physical and inferior form. In his wrath he slew all his followers, but now remains trapped in the tower.
1) The sorcerer Bellis Nox has been having disturbed dreams of a beautiful woman sitting on throne of needles and being bled for a horrible creature wrapped in shadows. The woman screams for help and that she is trapped in a terrible tower.
2) The pirates of BloodPirateBay have long kept watch on the ominous tower to their north, and attempted to avoid it at all costs. This all changed when Billy the Grub (now a loyal thrall of the demon) appeared in town with a large amount of riches, claiming they came from the tower. Now people are gearing up to venture to the tower and claim riches for themselves.
Ever-Shifting Prismatic Summoning Stones- These flat 40’ tall stones float 10’ off the ground, spinning lazily in a non-existent breeze. Whether through ancient enchantments, terrible rituals, or complex construction each of these stones shifts through an ever changing state of color.
When one stands in the center of these stones, it is said that they catch a glimpse of the infinite planes of Hubris. The character(s) can attempt to open a rift in reality and go to a different plane of existence. Use Planes of Hubris Die Generator.
1) A withered, ancient man is caught in a pulsing blue maelstrom in the center of the stones, screaming. Clutched in his hands is a thick black book, blood dripping from its pages.
2) The remnants of a camp are found near the giant stones. There are signs of a struggle and death. Tracks on the ground show that bodies were dragged into the center of the stone, where they mysteriously end.
Floating Island of Terror-
Five years ago the earth shook as a large mass of land ripped itself away from Hubris and drifted into the air. Huge metallic buildings, tubes, pipes, and vents burst from the rock to form a large industrial city. The Floating Island of Terror now hovers high above Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire, belching out soot, pollution, and smoke as it produces wheellock firearms, gunpowder, and other strange devices. The Black Queen, a powerful sorcereress, sits high on her throne of bones and steam in her floating metal city, satiating her hunger on the nightmares of her subjects. The Black Queen governs and commands all who enter here; with the help of The Black Guard of Abhorrent Action, a group of devote followers of the Black Queen, it isn’t difficult.
The Floating Island of Terror is responsible for the invention and distribution for most of the firearms throughout the Hubris region. The Black Queen’s Skeletal Gun Runners are devoted enough and crazy enough to run caravans all over Hubris.
1) The Black Queen believes that there is ancient lore and knowledge that will further her plans locked away in Metallic Fortress of End Times at the edge of the Unsettled Expanse.
2) The Black Queen herself, and several of her Black Guard and Murder Machines appear in the city square. The Black Queen wishes to hire brave souls to investigate a strange smoking metallic “thing” that seems to have fallen from the sky and landed in the northern part of the Weeping Forest of Forgotten Memories.
3) The Black Guard is rigorously searching for something. They smash through people’s homes, through businesses, and in alleyways. People mutter about a sentient murder machine that went rogue and escaped.
4) The Ancient Librarian has gone missing. His cavernous library has been roughly searched and blood splatters mark the floor and wall. Several of his assistants have been found gutted throughout the building.
5) Nightmares and night terrors are commonplace in the Floating Island of Terror, but lately they have grown to such a pitch that people are afraid to sleep, and many have been found dead in their bed, expressions of utmost terror on their faces. No one has seen the Black Queen or her dreaded Black Guard since this has started.
6) It is whispered that the metalphage was engineered by the Black Queen to destabilize the kingdom of Fairweather, so she could conquer the territory.
Kelisk is a small village, trade outpost, and fort stocked by Fairweather. Small bands of Paladin’s from Eisenbar, delegates from Shadowfall, the generals from Fairweather, and negotiators from the Floating Island of Terror all meet here to discuss trade, disputes, and other business of their nations when it is less than ideal to be allowed into another nation.
Kelisk was constructed to be heavily fortified and prepared for long sieges due to dangers of orc raids and other horrors of this grim and desolate land.
1) A gigantic spiraling cloud has formed over the small outpost. Lightning crashes down, blasting the landscape, destroying various structures. A gravely deep laugh is heard through the maelstrom.
2) A giant abhorrent tunnler bursts through the ground inside the fort. Emerging from the creature’s giant pus sacks are several armored orcs.
Mad Plorvin’s Tower
The name Plorvin has been lost to the annuals of history, as has the many atrocities he committed in the name of magical research. Exiled from the civilized nations he strode into the wastes and was never heard of again.
This tower of obsidian has been constructed at odd angles that tend to give a sense of foreboding and cause any to get near it to become ill at-ease. The few brave people that venture this far out into the Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire have largely avoided the tower. The few that have been foolish to venture in through its wrought-iron doors have never been seen again.
1) In the academy library in the Ruins of Mallanthory a book whispers a character’s name. The dusty book contains many stories about Mad Plorvin’s atrocities and mentions rumors of a horrible tower that Plorvin constructed for himself at the edge of the Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire.
2) Objects of various sizes and weights have been flying through the air from the towns and cities of Hubris and heading towards Plorvin’s Tower. The collected objects are swirling around the tower, growing faster and faster. Eventually these objects form together to create rubbish golem.
The Klind outpost of Scydar is their only fortified territory outside of the Blighted Sands. The small port serves as a staging point for Klind incursions into the Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire and for marches into the civilized regions of Hubris.
This town sits right on top of a focal point of magic which makes the Klind sorcerers and shapers even more terrible.
1) The Klind shapers have created a giant serpent monstrosity that was crafted from the flesh of slaves. The beast is over 40’ long and able to carry troops on its muscular back. The Klind seem to be arming for an invasion into the civilized territories.
2) Drums, horns, and screams are heard from miles around Scydar. All creatures are giving the outpost a wide berth. After several days earthquakes rock the area as a giant emerald green crystalline structure emerges from the ground.
Slathering Maw of the Heathen Below
Many scholars believe that this wound in the earth is a direct link to the realm of the Heathen Below. The area around the slathering maw is twisted, corrupted, and full of insidious demons. The air shimmers with a green miasma, while trees wail and moan. Magic does not function correctly here and the clerics of Hubris (save for those who follow the way of the Heathen Below) have stated they feel cut off from the divine while in the area.
1) The Slathering Maw is growing longer, stretching towards the Strange Portal of Inconceivable Probability. As it edges ever closer sparks, magical explosions, and holes in reality begin to form in random areas all around Hubris.
2) The Dread Demon Lord, Eater of Pain, emerges from the Slathering Maw after having been trapped in the pits of hell for millennia.
Strange Portal of Inconceivable Probability
The air shimmers between the two immense stone and metal columns that create the arch of the portal. Bizarre things have occurred to those who have gotten to close to the portal, or remained in its proximity for too long. Mirror images of a person have come out, like a dark shadow of their deepest depraved desires. Long dead friends and family have greeted those who are near it, just on the other side of the portal, beseeching them to come over and stay with them. Altered versions of the person have emerged out of the portal claming to be from the future, here to stop a terrible calamity. Even bizarre creatures or technology never before encountered have been discovered near the portal.
No one knows who built the portal or how long ago.
1) The shimmering air in-between the portal clears and becomes still, showing gorgeous vistas and lush fields. A beautiful singing can be heard echoing in the hills. The pull to cross through the portal grows.
2) Emerging out of the portal is a beaten and badly injured version of a character. They see another of the party, scream in horror at them, “No! It can’t be! We killed you! How?!” They clutch their chest and die.
Monstrous wyverns, mad ogres, and savage cannibals call this large expanse of black mountains home. The mountains were given its name because of the constant wind that whips through the crags, causing a faint and eerie whispering sound.
Recently the Black Queen has established a mining boom town at the base. The people live life on the fringe here, expected to meet a quota of mined materials each day. Those that are unable to satisfy the quota suffer the displeasure of the Black Overseer.
1) A great wyvern has descended from the mountain peak and has begun hunting and attacking the boom town. It attacks constantly. Several people and livestock have been taken and consumed by the creature.
2) The miners have unearthed a large door that was buried within the mountain. Foolishly the miners attempted to open it and something best left forgotten has emerged.
Ziggurat of the Shrieking Princess
Long ago the princess Iszabell fell in love with the spirit of the demon Gharl, and became obsessed with bringing him back into the world. She began sacrificing young virgin girls to her dark lover. As the princess became more powerful and deranged the death toll mounted. Eventually the Eisenbar paladins stopped the princess and locked her way in a giant ziggurat with all her followers. The most powerful paladin of the kingdom beseeched Drallic the Flayer to punish her eternally. For over 300 years she has been locked in a room and suspended by jagged rusty hooks that slowly tear her flesh part. On the moment of death she is fully healed, to relive it all in an existence of constant agony.
1) The massive ziggurat is believed to house treasures and relics that Eisenbar declared dangersou, blasphemous, or evil. Surly this is an exaggeration and they will be worth a pretty penny to collectors and historians…
2) Princess Izabell has been reaching out through the void and is begging for help. If only some brave souls would rescue her from her torment and captivity, the rewards would be beyond imagination.
Last Thursday I delivered six locations for GMs to insert into their campaigns that celebrated the fantastic. You could argue that at least one Wonder Of The game-World should reflect what is unique about that particular campaign, and that by leaving a slot free, I achieved the mythical seven; but that presupposes that each of the Wonders that I proposed is suitable for every campaign. They won’t be.
And it would be incredibly dull if every campaign out there used the same six wonders. So this time I’m going to offer some more, that I simply didn’t get time to write up for the previous article. Choice is good. Choice implies permutations and variations. The assumption should be that each GM will populate his game world with as many Wonders Of The Known World as he can think of, focusing especially on those aspects of the world that are unique to his campaign, and drawing apon outside sources only to top up the list.
So, without further ado…
A squat four-sided pyramid lost in the desert heat-haze until you are almost on top of it, which appears through the vagarities of natural illusion to appear from the tip down as you approach. The top is three-fifths the length of the base, accurate to the tenth of a millimeter. There are two towering obelisks alongside the entrance which tower to exactly nine-sevenths of the length of the base – or would, if the top of one had not broken off somehow. Eleven different types of stone form the multicolored, multi-textured entrance, accessible after climbing thirteen stairs. Within the pyramid are seventeen chambers protected by 19 doorways, the path illuminated by 23 window-slits hidden within the walls. To reach them, there are 29 different changes of elevation. The base of the entrance side of the pyramid is constructed of 31×31=961 stone blocks of perfectly equal size (not counting the eleven that line the entranceway); the side to the clockwise (when viewed from above) consists of 37×37=1369 stone blocks; the side opposite the entrance, 41×41=1681 stone blocks; and the base on the fourth side, 43×43=1849 blocks. In total, on all four sides, the number of stone blocks that are visible is a multiple of 47×53=2491. It has been calculated that in its total construction, 59x61x67=241,133 stone blocks were used. Within the pyramid, those 29 changes of elevation involve a total of 71 steps. The first chamber is tiled in a complex pattern employing exactly 73 tiles; the second, exactly 79; the third, 83; and so on, through to 157 tiles in the 17th chamber. Detail after detail reflects an obsession with incorporating – somehow – the next prime number into the construction. One section of corridor is covered in 163 red tiles and 173 gray tiles (167 is used elsewhere).
And no-one knows why it was built, when it was built, or who built it.
But legend has it that strange things happen inside…
It’s the excessive, even obsessive, attention to detail that makes this place special. Throw in as many other mathematical concepts and universal constants as you can think of (the value of Pi, for example), going as overboard as you possibly can. Stretch a point if necessary (exactly 25-thirds of the value of pi?).
Now, here’s the fun part: Are the legends true, and if so, what are the strange things?
Everything you’ve ever read about pyramid power, or that you can think up, is true in this place. It does preserve the dead – in one chamber. It does preserve fruit – in another. It sharpens blades – in a third. Purifies water, sharpens the intellect, purifies the spirit, heals the sick… If it weren’t out in the middle of nowhere in some almost-impenetrable desert or other, wars would be fought over it.
With such obvious powers, the question becomes more about “why put it here” than “why build it this way” – the answer to the latter is completely obvious.
If the pyramid has no obvious powers, then the GM has more room to be subtle and sneaky. You can throw as many purported functions at the pyramid as “pet theories” as you like, and let all of them be true – or none. A doorway between worlds – sometimes, or between times. A prison for an extra-planar greebly. A pan-planar survey marker. A lost civilization showing off its mathematical and engineering capacity. Maybe the entire culture that built it is folded in space within, ready to emerge when the desert blooms again. Perhaps its true purpose is simply to serve as a source of inspiration!
Size has been left vague, but if it has 17 internal chambers linked by corridors, it’s going to be monumental. Map the interior and use that to establish the length of the base in whatever units you find convenient – whoever built it probably won’t have used those units, so it doesn’t matter how big the place actually is.
Location has also been left for the GM to decide, but it’s deep within a desert; half the exploring parties that set out for it should fail to arrive, it’s that hard to reach. The more difficult it is to reach, the greater the mystery that surrounds it, because it represents a greater effort on the part of the constructing civilization.
Plot Potential is difficult to pin down, and depends on what the place actually is, and what it is believed to be. If you choose to go with option two, you have lots of choice, and perhaps the greatest plot potential is as a means of engaging your players’ paranoia about what its significance might be.
Above all, though, strive not to have the real purpose seem anticlimactic if the PCs ever discover it. An alien horde of jackal-headed warriors from the past – that works. Cthulhu’s prison cell? That works. A periodic gateway between worlds, planes, or times? That works. The only fixed point in the multi-planar cosmos, used as a reference during the construction of the universe? That works, too.
(You may want to rename this wonder to reflect Dwarven naming conventions in your world).
Named for the discoverer, an eccentric Dwarven miner and prospector with a penchant for striking out alone in pursuit of some theory of his own about where new mineral deposits could be found; although he got lucky in a small way from time to time, these remain his most notable discovery. A system of vast caverns with smoothly regular dimension, uniform in size, illuminated by vast spires of floor-to-ceiling quartz-like material that seem to trap light from somewhere and release it slowly, also perfectly formed and cut, each a meter across with eight-sided cross-section, and linked by hundreds of leagues of perfectly-carved tunnels, also of uniform size. Since their discovery, hundreds of expeditions have attempted to map the tunnels, without success, because they never seem to lead to the same cavern twice. Every attempt at being clever – trailing lines of string, or keeping a second party in line-of-sight with the first – has failed. It’s rumored that Rockbeard himself is lost somewhere in the tunnels that bear his name.
Time seems to pass differently within the tunnels and caves. In places it crawls, and in places it speeds. Expeditions are constantly turning up to discover that they have traversed hundreds of miles in impossibly-short times (as counted by the surface world) – or that they have spent decades underground which seemed to them like only a few days. The only constant is that their personal calendars cannot be reconciled with the passage of time as measured by anyone else.
Attempts to mark passages by means of writing or carving on the walls suggest that there is only one tunnel of finite length that loops and curves back apon itself, reaching a destination only when the tunnels “feel like it”. A troop of explorers may carve a marker on a tunnel wall, walk for a week, discover the same marker, and shortly thereafter emerge into a cavern located hundreds or thousands of miles from where they set out. Others report walking in a straight line for a day without deviation from that straight line – only to find themselves reemerging into the same cavern from which they departed by a completely different entrance on a completely different alignment.
If the tunnels were in perfect condition, this would be a curiosity and nothing more. They aren’t; in places, the walls have collapsed, and all manner of underground-dwelling creatures have found their way into the tunnels through these breaches. These pose a constant threat to travelers, but more significantly, sometimes find their way to the surface to emerge near a populated location. Similarly, surface creatures sometimes emerge many miles from their natural terrain – mountain creatures near desert oases or isolated farmsteads, desert creatures in swampy marshes, and so on. It is rumored that occasionally creatures can enter caverns in another plane of existence entirely and emerge on the prime material plane, or vice-versa.
Most of the caverns contain great Dwarvish enclaves, though some have been claimed by Drow or other underground races. New caverns are being discovered – and being lost again – all the time. There are indications that the caverns themselves migrate, relative to the surface world, from time to time. A Dwarven community can spend a hundred years as neighbors of a particular surface settlement, establishing trade links and relations – and discover, one day, that the passage to the surface now leads to a completely different community hundreds of miles removed from where it had been.
Most D&D campaigns I’ve played in have the concept of a central ‘civilized’ core and a wilderness outside it, with various layers of transition between the two. This takes that concept and throws it away completely. A safe community can have a Drow-occupied tunnel turn up a week from now, without warning. Or a wandering Djinn from the City Of Brass. Anything can be Anywhere, it’s just a question of how improbable it is. All settlements would need to be fortified, and adventure would be anywhere.
This would have a profound impact on military tactics – it does no good holding all the mountain passes if your enemy can turn up behind your lines. Of course, the odds of that happening are low, but terrain no longer offers the same security that it did.
The great temptation that must be guarded against with this Wonder is overuse. Strategic situations are stable, most of the time – but every now and then, the strategic situation changes without warning.
Systems Of Control
Most GMs will tend to want to establish patterns to the shifts, even if these are not understood by the inhabitants of their game world. Most players, on encountering the caverns and associated phenomena, will want to identify “triggering conditions” that lead to the topological rearrangements. The GM should resist establishing patterns for his own use, and resist even more strongly any attempts to make sense of the Caverns by PCs. As soon as any such are established, the caverns start losing their Mystery. The Cavern shifts and tunnel system should remain a perpetual unknown. Unless you build an entire campaign around finding the cause and shutting them down to restore order to the world, of course.
The presence of this wonder makes the game world a less orderly, more anarchic and unpredictable place. Certainty would be regularly undermined by the unpredictable. The notion of ‘Destiny’ would be less believable to the populace, and a more fatalistic attitude would take its place – ‘What happens, happens’. Self-reliance would be emphasized; you couldn’t rely on good relations with the neighbors, because next week there might be Orcish Death Squads roaming through the hills between here and there. This is a world in which adventure comes to you eventually, whoever and wherever you are.
Nothing has been said in the description about who made the tunnels and caverns, but they are clearly artificial in nature. If the GM intends to build a major adventure or campaign around this wonder, deciding who, why, and how will be essential.
In a more prosaic interpretation of the subject tag-line, it might be helpful to know where the idea came from. The initial concept was essentially a set of subway tunnels connecting subway stations – but the tunnels were a rabbit warren, a maze. I stripped out anything that gave away what the source concept of the tunnels – the rails, etc – and supersized the concept to cover an entire continent. Then I wondered what it would be like if it were just one, or a limited number, of topologically strange tunnels – which threw in the spatial distortions and inspired me to supersize the whole thing again, extending it to other planes of existence.
And that might have been the original purpose – to connect all the planes of existence and permit easy passage from one to another. But the engineering, when whoever it was actually constructed the place, could not cope with the multi-planar stains and stresses, and as a result the darned thing has never worked right. Just a theory :)
The Caverns Of Rockbeard are a homogenizer. No place is removed from the frontier when the frontier comes to you. It’s unlikely, but every now and then seemingly-impossible encounters can take place. I’ve you’ve ever wanted a half-Orc half-Elemental hybrid, this is your excuse for doing it. The Caverns give the GM the capacity to completely reinvent the game world whenever he feels like it – within limits.
The big problem with this wonder is two-fold: either it’s new, in which case it loses that aura and mystery and Wonder and becomes a problem with a solution out there somewhere – or it will cast its shadow throughout the campaign background. That’s fine if you’re creating a new campaign, but this just doesn’t work as well in an established campaign.
There is a mountain with a mesa-like flattened top. Long ago, something tore a huge hole through it from West to East. On both sides, there are lakes. There is a river that flows down a taller peak to the north to the top of the mountain, then cascades in a huge waterfall thousands of feet down the eastern face, into the lake below. Each day, as the sun sets, it shines through a notch in the mountains, reflects off the lake, through the hole in the mountain, and through the waterfall, creating the world’s largest and most stable rainbow, whose position varies precisely and predictably with the seasons. It’s the improbability that makes the place so awe-inspiring; in a million years, you could never construct such a thing by accident.
If the Caves Of Rockbeard are a wonder that increases the anarchy within a campaign, this is a wonder that is reflective order. In essence, it’s a cross between Stonehenge, a sundial, and a rainbow. If the seasons are regular, predictable calendar events, this is a natural Wonder that would become a holy place to someone. If they aren’t orderly and predictable in the same way that they are in our world, then a natural phenomenon that announces midwinter and midsummer each year is a WONDER in big brass letters. Envoys would travel from Kingdoms all over the continent to be present at the key moments, and the place is likely to become the Switzerland of the game world.
There are some very deep concepts embedded within this Wonder. Principles of physics and predictability, of the scientific foundations that undermine how the game world works. If the seasons are not predictable in length, if you can’t forecast the date of an equinox but only measure it when it happens, then orbital mechanics aren’t the cause of the seasons – which means that something supernatural is the cause, and this Wonder measures the effect of that something on the world.
Players might not figure all this out when they first hear about the Wonder, but enough of them will know enough about Stonehenge and like objects and history to eventually put the pieces together. It’s fun watching the eyes glaze over and the jaw drop when that happens :)
Location has been left deliberately vague, but it’s going to be in some Alp-height mountains somewhere in order to accommodate the very specific geographic requirements. A location that’s more-or-less central to the “civilized world” emphasizes the diplomatic function in a supernatural campaign.
The best plots centered around this wonder occur in a supernatural world. There are obvious diplomacy-inspired plots that result in hostile forces coming together in a neutral location. This wonder can also be the starting point for the PCs to explore the supernaturalism – “Midwinter is late in coming, and we desperately need to know why. We’re running out of food, and we know that Korzagg’s army will March when the weather breaks. Will summer ever return – and when?”
Then, you could have an adventure that looks into who and what carved out that hole in the mountain. Forbidden weapons? Forbidden magics? Something crashing to earth through the mountain and carving out a crater that filled with water, forming the other lake (the one the waterfall doesn’t flow into)?
But this wonder generally works better as simply a unique, breathtaking, location, somewhere that just is.
This desert region appears to be dune after rolling dune of solid gold, polished and buffed to a mirror finish.
It actually consists of fine-grained dusky yellow sand, only a few inches thick, atop a layer of rock; the “dunes” are actually the shapes of this rock, wrinkled and crumpled. At night, the water table rises, and the surface becomes waterlogged and then freezes at the surface, giving the mirror-like sheen to the terrain. When the sun rises, the region becomes a golden mirror, which reflects much of the heat back from the surface; the golden finish lasts for hours before the thin layer of frozen ice melts and streams from the tops of the dunes into the shallows, where it drains back into the water table.
Subsurface grass-like plants feed on the water and the nutrients carried from the sand, poor though they are (in agricultural terms), sustaining a natural matting that holds the sand to the dune “surface” and preventing it from accumulating in the shallows. Occasionally, a blight afflicts a dune, releasing the sand, exposing the rocky underside of the dunes and creating a dangerous sand-drift in the hollow to windward. These are the only “flat ground” in the region, and travelers soon learn that if they aren’t climbing up or down a slope, they are in trouble. When the water drains through such drifts, it packs the surface to an unknown depth like a frozen pond, while maintaining looseness in the subsurface; how strong this surface is remains an unknown until you put your weight on it. Will you fall in and sink? Only one way to find out…
Most Wonders are even more awesome close up. This was deliberately devised to be a Wonder that was more spectacular at a distance. Some of the geological/climactic details probably don’t make real-world sense – who cares? But make due allowances, which can break the suspension of disbelief (and the awe & wonder) if a player challenges the mechanics.
The environment poses a particular challenge to adventurers seeking to cross it. Making camp is difficult; it’s hard to drive tent-pegs into rock, and rock is never far from the surface. Tents and sleeping mats will become waterlogged and then frozen. Frostbite is not out of the question. Fires will go out. Breaking camp will be a whole new challenge. And, during the mornings, the thermal extremes suffered by those seeking to traverse the region are extreme. In effect, you receive two or three times as much heat as you would in the desert alone without the reflective effect. That means that the temperature climb is precipitous, you can be roasting even while the soles of feet are freezing, and employing sources of shade is a waste of time. And, of course, the light (especially early in the morning) can be blinding – think of being snow-blind.
The rapid increase in air temperature means that by the time the reflective effect fades, the temperature is already 100°F and still climbing. The Desert Of Gold is easily the hottest desert in existence with peak temperatures in excess of 130°F – enough to kill unprotected humans and animals. This prevents wildlife from disturbing the delicate ecology of the effect.
How big a region should this be? Too large to cross in a day, and big enough to stretch from horizon to horizon. But not too much bigger. About 100 x 100 miles sounds about right to me – especially remembering that there are no camels and that horses won’t survive for very long. Certainly, no more than twice that. And don’t forget to allow for reduced movement rates across sand when considering the question.
There are several possible plots, but many of them are mutually exclusive. If it is felt that the desert is impassable, you could have someone figure out a way to stage an invasion through the undefended flank. You could stick something interesting in the middle of it, and contrive some reason for the PCs needing to cross it – and having to work out how. Or simply have someone with more wealth than good sense employ the PCs to work out a way to cross it (with secret plans to invade a neighbor that way once the PCs have opened the way) – something that might be a rude surprise to them. But mostly, it’s just there to look spectacular.
If you get challenged on the particulars of the geology/climate, postulate that under those rocky ridges are naturally-occurring unstable passageways to one or more elemental planes, and see if that can’t answer the challenge. Or perhaps they aren’t natural, but are the results of some colossal spell going wrong, or an arcane cataclysm of some sort.
For hours you hack your way through the jungle toward the sound of water. As you chop away one final wall of greenery, you see a clearing in the trees containing a pool of deep green water at the foot of a cliff. Colorful birds flit from tree to tree and protest the intrusion as you can do nothing but gape at a waterfall of solid emerald, frozen in place. Awestruck, you advance to examine the phenomenon more closely as chattering monkeys peer between the broad-leafed vegetation.
This obviously belongs in a jungle setting, and a somewhat mountainous one at that. It should be geographically isolated; getting to it should be an effort. It’s also clearly a natural wonder.
What you’re looking at:
The cliff is undercut slightly beneath the lip of the waterfall and covered with a combination of moss and climbing plants that form a vertical carpet. Vines, naturally twisted and knotted, descend from the lip to the surface of the pool, where they are lost from view beneath the giant floating pads. The water is laced with dissolved mineral salts, which contribute to the color of the pool; over time, when the wind blows through the vines, and it’s late in summer when the water flow is at it’s least, some of the minerals have been deposited on the surface of the vines. Year after year, this green crystal has accumulated, until the vines were completely encased in a solid crystal shape running the length of the waterfall. From time to time, a portion of the crystal becomes so heavy that it will no support itself and breaks off to fall into the pool, where it will vanish from sight and slowly dissolve.
Aside from being a gorgeous location in and of itself, there are a couple of potential plotlines for this location.
Technically, the Blog Carnival ends today – but I have one more article to go, offering some Wondrous Locations for a Sci-Fi Campaign, which I’m going to sneak over the line on Thursday. Next Monday, I’ll wrap up the September Blog Carnival :)
I'm loving this short film about two sixth-grade metalheads from Flatbush, Brooklyn.
There is a particular moment right before fame strikes a young musician – between the full flowering of talent and believing in a dream so pure and strong as to feel bulletproof – which at the same time is almost imperceptible as it is happening. This metaphysical friction is in full effect in a certain Flatbush, Brooklyn family basement. Unlocking the Truth, a metal band composed of twelve year old Malcolm Brickhouse and eleven year old Jarad Dawkins, is playfully arguing about which member can play a faster and more forceful rendition of their self-composed instrumental blast “Physical Therapy.”
While Jarad is technically the drummer (he mastered the instrument by the age of two), he is convincingly demonstrating his guitar chops. Being the precoucious, and yet consummate, professionals that they are, the band wants to make sure that in a worst case scenario – say, a member fainting onstage – each could play the other’s instrument flawlessly. It is not atypical for Unlocking the Truth to practice for up to ten hours on weekends.
They are so immersed in their music that they barely notice anything going on around them, including their parents, who usually have to force them to stop practicing when it’s bedtime. While their classmates mostly listen to radio pop or rap, Malcolm and Jarad’s enthusiasm for metal was nurtured while watching generous amounts of WWE professional wrestling. But this is no passing phase for the two boys. The band has already written two albums, Madness and Paranoid, respectively, and recently auditioned for America’s Got Talent.
Amazingly, they manage to keep up good grades in school. So watch out, America – two smart, young metalheads from Flatbush are coming to a town near you in the near future.
You can check out the band's website here.
[The Avant-Garde Diaries, thanks Brenda]
Random Skeksis appreciation post. Because they’re creepy and awesome.
From The Dark Crystal (1982), directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz; primary concept artist was Brian Froud.
Steampunk Monkey Nation is a series of illustrations by Austin, Texas-based artist Chet Phillips featuring primates dressed up in military gear. Prints are available to purchase online at his Etsy store, ChetArt. Previously, we’ve written about Chet and his creative collections of artwork.
Each of these stalwart monkeys and apes utilize specific weapons, clothing and support equipment in order to complete their challenging and dangerous tasks and missions.
images via ChetArt
submitted via Laughing Squid Tips
It’s a pleasure to introduce Maggie Duval as a new guest blogger for Laughing Squid. I’ve known Maggie since the day I arrived in California nearly 20 years ago and it was with her help that I first got online. It’s always exciting to find out what she is up to, as she is often working on projects that are a step or two ahead of the curve. Without further ado, please take a moment to read Maggie’s first post about a cool alt-school in Texas.
Many parents are beginning to grasp the idea that maybe what grandpa is always railing about off in the corner – “using your noodle,” and “good old American ingenuity,” and “we never threw anything away,” and “back in my day we started working in the farm/factory right when we was out of diapers” – is not so far off the mark.
Austin Tinkering School (ATS) is addressing just that idea. As one possible antidote to “helicopter parenting” (over/hyper protective, super competitive, and controlling of every aspect of the child’s life, taking away their innate problem-solving and coping abilities), the school gives kids the place and space to mess around with power tools, saws, hammers, paint, and design problem solving starting as young as 3 years old. The school says, “Adults serve as collaborators rather than teachers for maximum engagement, interest, enthusiasm, and enjoyment.”
The Central Texas school was founded in 2010 by teacher Kami Wilt following a profound epiphany she experienced viewing a TEDx Talk by Gever Tully called 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do. Tully gave Willet his blessing to name ATS after his original California school. Now entering its third year, the school has already expanded to a second location where they share space with Make+Shift ATX, which offers design on demand space and resources for product developers – an insanely perfect fit.
Speaking of sweet heat, put your peppers up in a jelly, delicious served with cream cheese and crackers. (Image via Simply Recipes)
Max-Arthur, the cat who wore a shark costume and rode around on a Roomba chasing a duckling, is back. This time there’s no duckling but he’s again dressed in a shark costume and is found simply riding the Roomba vacuum around while it cleans the kitchen floor.
video by texasgirly1979
Eisner Award-nominated comic book artist and author Kazu Kibuishi admits that he was "surprised" when Scholastic approached him about designing brand-new covers for all seven "Harry Potter" books. He needn't have worried: The founder of the stunning "Flight" comic book anthology series has brought a whole new dimension to J.K. Rowling's enduring series.
Archaeologists in Poland believe they have found a vampire grave near the town of Gilwice in southern Poland. The skeletons were found with their heads removed and placed between their legs — a ritualistic practice designed to keep the dead from rising up.
“Magnitude” is a mini bust of Star Wars’ Admiral Ackbar from Gentle Giant Ltd., LucasFilm and artist Steven Daily, which is based on an original painting by Steven. The mini bust is currently available to pre-order online from Gentle Giant Ltd. It is expected to ship after July 21, 2013.
This mini bust stands at 8” tall and comes in a screen printed wooden box with a 4 x 6 limited edition lithograph print by Acme Archives. Limited edition of 500 pieces. Each comes with a hand-numbered certificate of authenticity and bottom stamp.
Here is the original “Magnitude” painting by Steven Daily:
“The Coffinmaker” by Dan McComb is a thought-provoking short film about Marcus Daly, a Vashon Island, Washington-based carpenter who handcrafts environmentally friendly wooden caskets. According to the Green Burial Council nearly 1 million tons of steel in the form of caskets are buried each year in America—that’s enough steel to build the Golden Gate Bridge.
Shockingly, that's not an old picture of William Hartnell as the first Doctor. That's actor David Bradley as Hartnell, in the first promo picture for Mark Gatiss' An Adventure in Time and Space, the docudrama retelling the creation of Doctor Who.