Charting the Underworld

Today’s inspiration is a campaign idea. Enjoy!

After death, the souls of the departed must find their way across the Underworld to reach the Heavenly Realms. Monstrous beasts, cruel demons, and unnatural hazards riddle the Underworld and claim many of these souls, snuffing them out of existence forever.

For generations, people have had to endure that their beloved may have never reached the promised lands, but perished in the jaws of a dire crocodile or been burned by a demon. Most spent their lives sacrificing to the gods, hoping they will guide them to safety.

When a goat herder accidentally found an entrance to the Underworld in the remote Green Mountains, King Ovin knew he could change all that. He hired teams of adventurers to chart the Underworld and publish the findings in a guidebook all could use to reach safety. Unfortunately, the dangers of the Underworld do not limit themselves to the dead, and three teams have already fail to return, save for a lone adventurer, too traumatized to be of much use. The King has had to search ever wider and up the reward to find any adventurers brave enough, or stupid enough, to face the Underworld.

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Wisdom Tree City

Wisdom Tree City has always existed, nestled on an island where two mighty rivers pour into the ocean. Every hundred years or so the Goddess Weeps, as the natives say. The two rivers swell, merge into one, and overrun the city. After they retreat, they leave behind a thick sand burying everything except the peak of the great magical library, The Wisdom Tree. The citizens return and rebuild. The library grows taller. Probably no one would bother settling here if it weren’t for its position of a great port, a natural magic aura, the library, and the mines.

The Wisdom Tree stands in the middle of the city, its roof so high it seems to scrape the sky. Underground, floor upon floor descends so deep that no one knows where it ends. Side passageways split off from the main tower and meander through the city’s sand-filled ruins like the roots of a tree. The library’s ancient magic prevents any mud from leaking through and keeps the air circulating at the perfect temperature.

Mine tunnels built by prospectors also twist through the ruins. Every miner hopes to find valuable artifacts from forgotten times, but few do. Most arrive in the city poorly equipped and many perish digging through the ruins. In the upper mine tunnels, petty thieves, transients, and the desperate take up residence in the relatively safety. More sinister criminals live in the mid-tunnels, planning heists and waiting to prey on lost miners. Only the bravest dare venture to the deepest levels where unknown monsters lurk in the dark, and the most valuable artifacts wait.

But by far the most popular attraction for common folk is the Aquatic Arena, a giant stadium built in the middle of the bay where teams compete in impressive water battles. No expense is spared. Warriors clash on top of exotic sea monsters captured from the Far Seas. Gnomes command huge whirling machinery, slicing through the choppy waves  to tear apart their opponents. Wizards using the latest magical discoveries dart across the arena, easily passing from the sky to under the water, painting the battle with the bursts of spells. Continue reading “Wisdom Tree City”

Ethan Electric’s Automotive Co.

This is an outline for an adventure set in a Super Hero World. I ran this using the Mutants & Masterminds system, but it can be used with any system. I am using the Dungeon World front system for this, which you can read about here


Description

Zoom City’s car manufacturing industry has been in the dumps for the past several years. Factories closed down. Blocks abandoned. People jobless. But then, Ethan Electric’s appeared. It bought up all the old factories and started manufacturing sleek electric cars at a price every family could afford. They sold like ice cream on a summer day. Soon, Zoom City was back on top. Everyone had a job. Houses filled back up and neighborhoods expanded.

But Ethan Electric is after more than just being CEO of the biggest company in the country. He wants unbridled power and control. So, inside each car he has secretly installed weapons and a mind control device. Whenever he wants, he can flip a switch from his secret lair at the bottom of Grand Lake. A signal will then transmit to the HQ building in Zoom City where an immense beacon transmits the signal to every car. Any occupants in the car will then be compelled to do Ethan’s bidding and the car itself will transform into a weaponized battle vehicle. With this unwilling army, Ethan plots to stage a military coup against the government and become its King. Continue reading “Ethan Electric’s Automotive Co.”

Sleepy Ridge: The Town Built Out of Gravestones

Today we visit the town of Sleepy Ridge which was built out of the stones from a forgotten cemetery.


Although the town of Sleepy Ridge lays less than half a day’s travel from a major trade road, the citizens keep to themselves and the only visitors are those seeking the town’s famous mediums. In fact, houses in Sleepy Ridge all have walled gardens topped with broken glass and the few shops operate on a written-order basis only. A catalogue hangs on a string outside each store along with paper and writing implements for customers to write down their order. Once finished, they place the order through a slot in the wall and within the hour, the order is ready for pick up. However, there is one form of socialization accepted in Sleepy Ridge: the Smokers’ Lounges. Inside these cloudy rooms the mediums of the town set up shop. They’ll see anyone for a price.

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Paved streets march between the walled gardens of the residential houses and an eerie quiet lays heavy in the air. Broken glass stuck in the walls’ mortar glints in the moonlight. The corpses of cigarette clog the streets’ gutters and their stink mixes with the city’s general perfume of  urine and mildew. The snap of someone lighting a match breaks the silence and the bright flash of light  momentarily illuminates a doorway where several figures stand. A pair of gloved fingers lifts the flame to a cigarette squeezed between two painted lips which take a heavy pull and then exhale spirals of smoke. After a moment, the smokers retreats into a doorway. Continue reading “Sleepy Ridge: The Town Built Out of Gravestones”

Adventure Setting: The Lonley Plane

Don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned this blog! This week’s inspiration is inspired by the Elevator Game (a piece of urban folklore) – a mysterious plane where living beings cannot sense each other and mental demons haunt you. Enjoy!


I had heard that if you went into a room with only one door and shuttered windows there was a ritual you could perform to reach another plane. So last week Ryleela and I decided to try it and went down to that old storage hut. Closed the doors, opened the doors. Closed the windows, opened the windows. Each the set number of times. I didn’t think it would actually work, Ryleela was the one who believed. But then, I felt…well the only way to describe it is I felt alone. I looked around for Ryleela, but she wasn’t there anymore. I opened the door and it was the same world, but I was the only one there. Nothing made a sound, not birds, not the wind, not any workers singing from the fields. The silence roared in my ears. I walked around for a bit in the complete stillness until I came across the shadows. They didn’t behave like normal shadows, but moved on their own. Whenever they came near, my head would  pound and the feelings of being alone and forgotten dominated my thoughts. In a lucid moment, I ran back to the hut and began to perform the ritual in reverse. At one point the dust on the ground began spelling out a sentence “Are you there?” but at the same time it was done and the world returned. Ryleela wasn’t there either, though. I’ve been to the hut every day, but I fear the only way to save her will be to go back there.

Background:

Hidden under our own reality is the Lonely Plane. Only a few have succeeded in traveling there on purpose, the usual way to get there is by accident. Visitors to the realm will find a world tantamount to our own, except they are seemingly the only living or even once living being. Continue reading “Adventure Setting: The Lonley Plane”

The Order of the Stars

This week’s inspiration is based upon a session run by a friend using the Mutants & Masterminds system.


 

The Museum of Human History has recently acquired the complete collection of Pharaoh Cletokep, a newly discovered pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Famed archaeologist Eugene Bullstein found the tomb in the remote Sahara far beyond where people previously believed the ancients lived. Scholars believe the pharaoh may be the person referred to in later Egyptian writings as “the enemy” or “the blasphemer.” Unknown to anyone, the sarcophagus serves as a portal to a pocket dimension where the soul of the fallen Pharaoh and her army await the day they will rise again to bring about the Order of the Stars.

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Inside the Museum

Hushed voices echo off the polished stone of the museum’s floors and walls. The museum boasts an impressive collection filled with dioramas, interactive displays and multi-media. The curators have even reconstructed rooms from long-gone periods down to pens on desks and tables set for tea. A gilded dog cage, its originally occupant dead for hundreds of years, still sits with pride alongside its dead king’s throne. But few patrons admire these impressive displays and instead flock to see the newly acquired Pharaoh Cletokep Collection.

The Egyptian section

Crowds of people peer through the display cases’ thick glass at the carefully labeled artifacts and sarcophagus. The cases and people fill room after room. School teachers attempt to quiet their charge of students while a curator lectures. In the last room, stone tiles cover the walls. Hieroglyphics and pictures coat each one so that the entire room appears as a giant storybook. Pharaoh Cletokep’s ebony sarcophagus dominates the center, its gold hieroglyphics shimmering as if just painted. Continue reading “The Order of the Stars”

The Splendid Spa of Two Angels

Today’s inspiration is a setting and plot idea for a one-shot adventure, an abandoned spa reachable only by a portal in an alley. Terrible monsters who feed on thoughts inhabit the spa and caused its ruin.


 Background:

Long ago, the City of Two Angels was the most fashionable place to be seen. The streets lined with shining cobblestone, the shops windows filled with expensive clothing and exquisite jewelry. Artists, politicians, entrepreneurs all called Two Angels home. Tourists came from far and wide to spend a few days being part of the hustle and bustle of the influential city. But mostly they came for The Splendid Spa, a luxury resort existing inside a pocket universe in Two Angels. The Spa claimed its hot springs cured all ailments. The salts, it said, made a person more beautiful, wiser, and even younger. But then one day, shadow creatures began to secretly visit the Spa. Strange creatures that at first appeared as only a haze, but grew more solid and stronger from feeding off a person’s thoughts, especially those of imagination. And few thoughts are more imaginative than that of fear. Guests began to die, found withered up like raisins. The resort was at a loss to explain this, but as the deaths grew more frequent, the creatures grew more plentiful. The Spa was forced to shut down, and the portal to it blocked and buried, least the creatures break through. After the news of the deaths spread through the population, Two Angels began to decline as people moved avoided it out of fear. Today, no one remembers exactly why Two Angels became the cesspool of poverty and crime it is today.

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The Portal’s Opening

Elderly mansions line this street, their once proud awnings now torn and faded. Trash clutters the yards and banks of mailboxes crowd the space next to the doors. In the alley between two of the houses, cats fight in the piled-up rubbish. But from a crack in a bricked-up door, a blue light glows. A closer inspection reveals that it appears as some kind of window looking out onto a grassy meadow.

Inside the portal:

A deep blue sky peppered with wispy clouds hangs over a grassy meadow, blue mountains obstruct the horizon in the distance. The remnants of stone walls peek through the tall grass and overgrown flowers. Cottages with sagging roofs stand in a semi-circle.

Inside a cottage:

Dead ferns in cracked pots flank a reception desk. An iron sculpture of fish swimming hangs on the wall. Whenever one looks away, the fish appear to move, but when the viewer looks back, they hang still again. In the next room, rows of tubs sink into the floor. Mud fills them, and a few plants have taken root, fed by the sunlight streaming through the cracked roof. A rotten smell wafts in from another room, making one instinctively cover their nose. On the wall, someone has craved the words “Don’t Think” in jagged letters.