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”

Dwarven Ruins

This week, three box-text descriptions of unique dwarven ruins.


Dwarven Racing Ground Ruins

Giant racing wheels rust on the overgrown track. A breeze blows through the arena, stirring the wildflowers and rattling the empty stands. The place would be very quiet if it weren’t for a small building on the far end. Light and voices stream out of its windows.  A gruff shout for music and the sounds of fiddles and singing join the noise. Over the inn, a giant bell engraved with Dwarven lettering sways in the air. Each time the clapper strikes, the wheels in the yard seem to twitch as if disturbed from a deep sleep.

Dwarven Moonshine Operation Ruins

Copper tanks of all shapes and sizes spill across the mountainside. The smell of alcohol still wafts up from their broken hulls. On every one is painted a red circle pierced by an ‘X,’ letting all know that the King’s agents have found and destroyed this tax-dodging operation. 

Dwarven Shipyard Ruins

Black slabs of ships float next to docks. On board, rows of golems stand ever ready to load cargo and sail across the seas to wherever it’s needed. Their salt-pitted casings and the slime covering everything informs that no cargo has come for a long time. 

Three Caves

Three box-texts of caves for your game.


Ice Cave

Winds howl across the glacier’s top, but can’t reach into its deep channels . In one particularly dark crack, someone has carved foot slots. They descend into the darkness until reaching a corridor which extends out in either direction where purple orbs cast a cold light. Faces and wings flit within the solid ice behind the walls as if they were swimming in water.

Flooded Cave

At high tide the ocean washes into this cave and rummages around in its numerous tunnels like a man looking for something in a drawer. Then it drags the water back out along with anyone or anything it found. But at low tide, most of the cave remains dry but for the very deepest crevasses where a lake forms. Without waves to break its surface it resembles a sheet of black glass. Peering within, you can see a green cloud that hide its depths like spilled ink. Black branches poke out of the cloud giving a hint to what lies beneath.

Beast’s Lair

Cool air wafts up from hidden chambers bringing with it the smell of wet stone. The sound of dripping water echoes off the walls like a drum. From deep in the cave, a scream tears through this peaceful rhythm followed by the crunch of bone and muscle breaking.

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.

Box Texts:

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”

Samirchan

This week inspiration is a mysterious city under an enchantment that allows its citizens to chose their own age.


No one knows who built Samirchan. The current inhabitants found it as it is today, a grand city under the influence of a powerful time enchantment. No building can be destroyed or built in the City as everything will return to its original state the next morning. This is tolerable because the spell also allows the citizens to choose which age they wish to live as. The city is laid out into three main sections: the beautiful and grandiose Old Town; the practical and leafy Mid Town; and the crowded and shoddy Low Town. With the exception of children, any person who spends the night in the City will wake up the age corresponding to the section of the City they slept in: People who stay in Old Town wake up old, those in Mid Town middle-aged, and those in Low Town as young adults. Oddly, while this enchantment affects the physical body, it does not seem to affect the lifetime of the inhabitants. Chronologically young people have spent decades in Old Town while chronologically old people seeking eternal youth only live for a few years in Low Town.

Government: Samuel Pepper has held the position of Mayor of Samirchan for the past 100 years. As a half-elf who lives exclusively in Mid-Town, no one can tell his true age for sure. Although there are elections held every 10 years, no one has ever run against him and most citizens have a framed picture of his face in their home.

Guild: The Informers – A coalition of high-priced spies who use Samirchan as their HQ.

Prosperity: Rich

Population: Steady. Per Mayor Pepper, to prevent over-population, people wishing to move in to Samirchan must wait until a current citizen moves out or dies.

Defenses: Garrison, Walls.

Market: The market in Samirchan is important and highly profitable, but also very exclusive. Shops sell only a handful of items, carefully displayed.