Saturday, September 19, 2020

GLOG City Challenge

    The OSR Discord did a city-building challenge several months ago. Check out a few of the other cities here and here. You, as a reader, are therefore required to forgive me for this exercise.


    The Apostle seized the holy city from the armies of the dead in a battle which lasted for five days and five nights. He heaped up cords of bodies high and wide, and the ancient streets flowed turgid with old blood to an apple's depth. No human force could have accomplished this miracle of violence. Only through divine intervention was the city successfully reclaimed.

    Apostelene is, of course, not a "natural" city. It was never a watering hole for wandering shepherds, or a fortified camp at some crook of river and road. The g_ds themselves laid its corner-stones at the place of their choosing. This is all to say: Apostelene stands in the middle of a plain with no convenient natural structures and no easy water access. But who is so wise to question the decision of the g_ds?

    The traveler will first see the legendary city by its impossible walls, which loom eighty feet high and forty feet thick. The lichen-gray adamantine stones are incorruptible, but the mortar was not. Much has been dismantled for greed's sake. The surviving allures are dotted with the camps of merchants and mercenaries. At night their hearthfires can be seen for miles, and during the day the smoke is another great wall around the city. The road leading to the great gates is likewise ancient. It was made broad enough for carts (some eight feet across on the straight, sixteen on the curves) and the hills were cut so it might lie level. The original stonework was pink granite, masterfully done, but the new lords of the city have patched it here and there. Where age buried the old road, the way to the city of the Apostle is a path worn in the dirt.

    The gates themselves are plain wood banded with iron and are conspicuously too short for their archway. The original gates would have been imposing and terrible — but they were smashed down in Ages past by some hideous misfortune, and lie warped and ruined just inside the wall. None can shift their adamant weight. Finally, when the traveler reaches the inside of the city, his eyes will meet with wonder the houses of the g_ds. Kings claim the purest descent, and it is true that they are the tallest men, but Apostelene's grave-bound builders made houses for true giants: no lintel in the city is lower than ten feet. The gutters are so deep as to serve the inhabitants as canals, and in the ruined buildings stone furniture dwarfs the merely human. Apostelene surpasses its new occupants

    For Apostelene is occupied, by the Clerics of the White and Black Masks. This alien, semi-divine city on the edge of civilization is perfect for them. One may meditate on its empty miles of street and consider mortality (or, more practically, smash into an abandoned building and convert it to a workshop or storehouse). No one will bother them because no one else is interested in this time-gnawed corpse of a city.

   Was Apostelene ever fully inhabited? When could its labyrinth-like structure have been justified? Certainly its tiny population of clerics and enterprising adventurers cannot fill it. At night, civilized men cling to the walls and safehouses, and the heart of the city is left to moulder. How many generations must have passed since death seized this city, and its roofs caved in, and fierce lightning chased the thunder in its streets, and its temples were scarred by the storm and swept bare by the wind — and oh, was it beautiful once?

Major Points of Interest

White Mask Chapterhouse

    This building must have been a palace when the city had bluebloods. The Chapterhouse is three stories high but for where the belltower reaches six. The walls are marble and the bronze cherubs are scrubbed carefully by portly acolytes. Despite the desolate surroundings, the Chapterhouse is a patch of comfort and life.
    The White Masks keep a large presence in Apostelene, but this is primarily in the service of their black-mask brothers and sisters. A wanderer (such as a PC) can hope for clerical services at reasonable rates. There is a slight risk of being pressed into some small errand; the White Masks never have enough hands around.

Services Available Inside:
  1. Mallobaud is a chef, planning on serving goose tonight. There are wild geese on the northern edge of town, and would you be a dear and get him some? Half a dozen should do. You will be appropriately rewarded.
    Goose: 1HD avian, AC as leather, morale 10
    Movement: as goose
    Morality: vile beyond comprehension (Chaotic Evil)
    Attacks: two pecks (+4 to-hit, 1 damage) or one wingbash (+0 to-hit, 1d6 damage). Knocks you senseless with wings then gouges you with beak

  2. Kayward is the official cartographer of the chapterhouse. His major project is mapping the city streets, and because of this he will sometimes stare slack-jawed into the distance and slump his whole body in dejection. Kayward is willing to buy maps off of PCs, and can direct them towards points of interest if he thinks it is important.
  3. Bouchard is a trained surgeon and healer, and can help with disease and injuries. Many small hurts can be healed outright with magic, but if something more is needed then Bouchard is handy with a saw and a bucket of hot tar.
  4. Peg-legged Adel handles those funerals which are necessary among the city's small population. He has a talent for sniffing out the dead, and will regale you with tales of long-past campaigns if you give him the slightest excuse.
  5. Jocelin works in the cellars of the chapterhouse. He is desperate to recreate what the carvings on the walls describe as a wine made of stars. Currently, he is subjecting the other clerics to wine mixed with mineral water — this is the best idea he has come up with. Maybe you can help?
  6. Luther is the postmaster, and friends with the angel called Message. He charges 1gp a word (a princely sum) along with a nominal fee for messages received. As the man in charge of packages he is also part of the Black Mask supply network, so offers discounts for payments in powder, dynamite and guns.

Black Mask Compound

    This part of the city must have been a private... something. The wall is high, adamant, and ringed with razor-edges like the teeth of a trap. Something within is always making a sound — a cheering crowd, a screaming orator, the clashing of practice swords, or the resonance of a hundred voices praying the hours. There's a statue at the front gate of a cloaked figure bearing a sword still wickedly sharp. The cloth is lovingly shaped from coal-black marble, but the deathshead is a crude thing of lacquered iron.
    The Black Masks keep a gigantic presence in Apostelene. As a major fortified city three days from the frontier it is an essential staging point for their efforts to burn out the dead. This in turn attracts merchants of weapons and supplies, The Black Masks require munitions in huge quantities. They never seem to be able to keep any cash on them, but the merchants don't mind (the IOUs are much more valuable than glass).

Paladins Causing Trouble:
  1. Set is a young paladin eager to test her edge and her new equipment. It would be difficult to convince her not to accompany the party once she learns they are adventurers.
    Set: 1HD cleric, AC as leather, morale 9
    Movement: as human
    Morality: can't and won't lie (Chaotic Neutral)
    Attacks: one smallsword (+2 to-hit, 1d6 damage) or one pistol shot (+2 to-hit, 2d6 damage, must be reloaded). Targets impressive-looking enemies first.
    Spells: Hallow, Dispel, 1MD.
  2. Rook and Balm are being punished with street-sweeping duty Rook is a hunchback who cannot swing a sword; Balm suffers from a complete speech impediment; both are fiercely devoted to Black Mask cause. They want Master Snow to return from a mission since he is the only one who can teach Rook how to use a halfpike. Have you seen him? Are you sure? Alright, I'll ask again next time I see you.
  3. Corduroy is a sword-instructor and a historian. He knows the Sacerd style, and a few more techniques besides, and can teach them for a price. He will buy any magical swords outright for better-than-market-value.
  4. Old Tom is a half-mad killer long past his prime. He wants to talk to you about the "Cornwallis Incident". If anyone asks, you know nothing about the Incident.
  5. Kaisie is a sharpshooter struggling to walk under three braces of pistols. He can teach you how to use a gun, if you don't know how. Kaisie also wants to know which direction you came from and if you saw anyone displaying this symbol, he thinks it's maybe an eye?
    (It isn't an eye. If you are a Builder you know what the symbol means immediately.)

  6. Vellum is an assassin and monster-hunter who ranges through the countryside fulfilling contracts for the locals. He is sworn to poverty, and will give you his share of the reward if you accompany him on one of those adventures. Unfortunately, Vellum tends to overestimate both himself and his companions.
    Vellum: 3HD cleric, AC as chain, morale 9
    Movement: as human
    Morality: can't and won't lie (Chaotic Neutral)
    Attacks: one smallsword (+3 to-hit, 1d6+1 damage, AND WE DROWN) or one pistol shot (+2 to-hit, 2d6 damage, must be reloaded). Sword rebounds mental effects 1/day.
    Spells: Hallow, Turn, Kindle, Pillar, 3MD.

Public Market

    Here the hawkers and the sellswords and the troublemakers congregate to argue and gossip and fight. It seems you can buy anything in Apostelene, except whatever you are actually looking for. Since the clerics form an effective monopsony on bulk equipment, the prices of small (party sized!) amounts fluctuate wildly but are usually high (check at dawn: they cost 1d6*.5 the normal amount). Any specific type of object a PC can name is available for 4x its normal price, at any time of day or night, no matter how unlikely.

The Road Out

    Apostelene shrinks in the east behind you. Before you lies hundreds of miles of rough wildlands broken only rarely with the degraded and debased remains of imperial power lost. And beyond those wildlands are the terrible mountains, which stretch their brooding forms over the western sea. As a child you were taught the Great Sage came out of that Hellish country to preach that Man was not abandoned by G_d, that there was hope yet, that a new age of struggle was only just beginning. Are you a believer in that new age, marching west to reclaim the waste-places of the world? Or are you another plunderer here to steal the boots and gold teeth of those who went before?

     However you answer there is a more immediately pressing question: whether you will find shelter before dusk, or be caught on the road by night and join the armies of the dead. Use what time you have to prepare. There are many sunsets waiting, if you are clever enough to see them.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Fish Stories (Zouave Expansion Pack)

The Zouave, by far my most popular post, has a mere 12 tall tales. This post will repair that grievous error with another dozen stories that may very well be true.

Source: The fisherman of Giant Octopus, by riolcrt

  1. Anabasis. You were a marine on the pearl islands in the last days of the occupation. Your commander was killed in the withdrawal. With a hundred miles of rainforest before you, and a hundred-thousand vengeful cannibals behind, you walked without rest for days to reach the last boat out.

    You are not exhausted by forced marches, and your comrades are not affected by exhaustion until it kills them.

  2. Escaped a Cave of Treasures. When you picked up that idol, the temple began to collapse. It seemed your only options were to abandon your gold or die with it — at least, that must have been the plan of the suckers who built the place.

    Your carrying capacity is doubled if you drop all your useful gear first.

  3. Survived a Hanging. Never-mind what they hanged you for, it was all a misunderstanding anyway. They gave you too little rope, and so had to leave you to strangle. Three days later a friendly crow untied the knot and you were free once more.

    You can hold your breath for thrice as long. Additionally, if something would break your neck you miraculously survive instead.

  4. Lived Among the Wild Hillmen. They dragged you from the battlefield and nursed you back to health. The drunkards who preached damnation were downright friendly, but the dog-faced men with scalpels were not.

    You are immune to agony, and have a huge horrible scar somewhere on your body where your skin (you swear!) was cut away.

  5. Charmed by the Piper. She caught you bathing in a river and took you to her strange domain of tall grasses and deep tarns. A year and a day later, they found you on the road wearing only your hat and your gunbelt, squinting in the sunlight and surprised by every new face.

    NPCs who could plausibly be attracted to you will ignore their boring tasks in favor of small talk. For every language you speak, you can fake the poshest possible accent.

  6. Eaten by a Leviathan. It swallowed the ship whole and for three days you dwelt in utter darkness. The others were dissolved, but you were spat back up with a new friend and a mission.

    You know an angel of your choice who you may command at zero dice (the effect of this needs to be negotiated with your DM).

  7. Named "Sue". That name gave you the gravel in your guts and the scars on your face and the hate in your heart. Thanks for nothin', dad.

    Once per day, enter a rage as a barbarian. You gain three slots of exhaustion when you do this.

  8. Used to be Rich. You had it all; a big house in town, servants, fine clothing, beautiful men and women hanging on your arms, and a dancing bear. Everything was going wonderfully, until a friend of yours came to you with an incredible ground-floor deal that would make both of you very rich.

    You technically own a mansion, but it is in a city at least 500 miles away from where your campaign starts and currently occupied by a gang of counterfeiters and their pet bear. If you started with any cash, you don't have it.

  9. Met my Double. Looked just like you, with all your scars and all your little tics and your tone of voice and your way of walking. You loathed it immediately.

    Somewhere out there there is another Zouave people are always mistaking for you. When you are accused of a crime, there's a 2-in-6 chance blaming your double will get you out of it. When you enter town, there's a 2-in-6 chance of the Law showing up with a fistful of unpaid fines and a big stick.

  10. Walked Through Fire. The castle burned as the invaders streamed through the shattered gates and the breaches in the walls. Great engines of war threw heavy stones and cannonballs down from above. All seemed lost, so you leapt out of a window to save yourself. You didn't see the king take an old ancestral blade from the wall, toss the crown aside, and charge headlong into the horde.

    If a party-member is unconscious or dying, you make every attack with advantage.

  11. Survived a Massacre. Bullets streamed by your head, rockets lit up the night sky. All around you the bodies heaped up and the dead heads dropped from the swords that sever. You were struck by a piece of shrapnel and fell senseless in the gory mud, and somehow the victorious army passed you by. When you arose, everyone else was dead.

    If given a minute to find a hiding place, you are as difficult to find as a secret door.

  12. I'd Tell You, but then I'd have to Kill You. You performed a... favor for someone or some... organization. You were... well compensated for it. You... can't really say more.

    Someone has rummaged around in your skull. You can always tell when another person has been similarly manipulated, or if they have been replaced by Somebody Else. You can tell when someone is following you by the prickling of the funny scar just above your hairline. You can even tell when the birds are spying on you — but this isn't particularly helpful, because almost all of them are.

  13. Found the Dark Tower. It caught your eye there in that vast immanent desert beyond the savage jungles north of the sane lands, highlighted for a moment by the sun as you squinted at the monstrous hills it perched on. It was an ugly thing, cyclopean brown stone, squat, not particularly tall — hardly worth the trouble, in the end.

    When you die you cannot be resurrected and you will not rise as an undead. You are invisible to all forms of supernatural detection.

  14. Granted a Wish. You saved a strange, powerful creature from a well, and to repay you he offered to grant any wish you asked of him.

    Roll three times on a mutation table. Fucking genies.

  15. Gambled with a Devil. You didn't know she was a devil at the time, of course, because she had two little top hats she wore over her horns. And she was awfully good at dominoes and damned good at dice.

    When you roll a die and your result is a 7, immediately roll another die of the same size and add its value to the total.

  16. Dropped Out of the Sky. It's a terrible thing to be up in the air. Ducks must feel so when their season starts, or clay pigeons as they fly. In an observation balloon there's nothing to do but pray no one looks up, or that those who do don't have rifles.

    You can always retrace your steps perfectly, even in darkness or while panicking, and you can't get lost in place you've had a good view of (say, from a mountaintop or a balloon).

  17. Took Part in a Doomed Expedition. At the last possible moment, you turned back. Perhaps you begged the rest of them to do so as well. But they would not listen to you, and continued down the paths far from the sun — and they have not been heard from since. G_d-willing when they died they stayed dead.

    Once per day, your DM will warn you if you are about to do something truly monumentally stupid.

  18. Did Not Commit any War Crimes. Really! Not even one. But some people don't understand the difference between auxiliaries, non-combat personnel and civilian advisors, just like they don't understand how hard it is to control a fire once someone else has lit it, or that, come on, if they were dead when you found them it's not like they were using those boots.

    You may nick something as a first-level Scavver.

  19. Lynched a Wizard. After the third child disappeared the townsfolk pressed you into leading them against the tall spire of enchanted stone. They breached the door with felling-axes, slew the monsters inside with pitchforks, and buried the bodies they found with shovels. The Wizard died with his eyes on you, choking out your name.

    You suffer from a powerful curse. You are immune to healing spells and your blood glows in the dark. The curse clings to your soul so tightly that you are immune to other permanent magical effects, and you have an additional save against damaging spells which allow one.

  20. Caught a Big Fish. The size of a house it was, with teeth like a man's arm! Its eyes were like mad portraits and its tail was thunder in the deep! It was thiiiiis big ✋         😳         🤚!

    You are a skilled liar; so skilled that you may replace this Tall Tale with any other of your choice.