The project too big to die continues.
The writing for this realm is way closer to my earlier posts and was trying to make to with a "hook , colour , encounter" tables . The realization that the longer this project was going to take the more likely that I'll wind up rewriting the earlier realms from scratch was the realization that lead me to just turn it into a series of massive blog posts.
Here's the links to the planescrap primer:
Also known as Mount Erebus, The Solitary Mountain, or just Solitary, is a titanic spire of rock, its base at the crimson planes near the Flesh Rifts and its peak jutting at the fringes of the Protean Ocean. Souls are drawn to Erebus from less concrete allegiances than other terminal realms. The souls of the mad, who are unable to shed the burdens that drove them mad, come here, to thrash on the hooks in their minds, some eventually finding catharsis as howling winds, others taking on physical form again and enact their old lives, hoping to make sense of it this time. While the outside of Erebus is desolate slopes, the inside is riddled with endless mind-grinding miles of tunnels and cyst like pockets. Wind is present here always, and you never know just how far anything spoke, whispered or shrieked will be carried.
In some of the tunnels the wind is soft, almost soothing, with the emitted streams and drips being subdued. In most places, however, it's dark, cold, and damp, and the wind tears through your mind making it impossible to be heard with anything less than a shout. In some places it can get strong enough to sweep up an party and send them helplessly tumbling end over end in the dark, battered to death, pieces, gore, bone then finally dust.
Table: Wind Whispers (d20)
- “They’ve nearly found your book, they are going to find it and know what you did”
- “Follow me to find yourself”
- “You should be here”
- “You have another you inside you”
- “Lies lies lies lies lies trust only dead flowers”
- “Come to the banquet bring your friends”
- “They could forgive you still”
- “When you fear my voice, that’s when you know I’m telling you the truth. I love you”
- “Someone is here, just for you, closer now, closer, can you hear them?”
- “It might be too late, it might not. Follow follow follow”
- “It’s choking you, so slowly, lose it here lose it here”
- “There will be a sign. Then another sign. Hope not to see the third.”
- “New skin! New skin! For you! New skin!”
- “They are right to hate you, rejoice, rejoice, rejoice in this”
- “You’ve been here before”
- “Leave something here, you’ll be back before the end”
- “Oh-oh-oh-oh child we have been weeping for you”
- “It will be bad, very bad, but it will end”
- “We can find peace together”
- “Everything is backwards Everything is blackwards everything is black squids everything is backwards”
The water here is mainly confined to dripping "ceilings" (see note about gravity later) and shallow streams running along tunnel walls, or occasionally the middle of the tunnel. The fish in these waters are pallid and gruesome at best. There is a network of flooded tunnels at the very depths of Erebus.: the water here is sluggish and still, and its cold embrace acts unnaturally fast, causing fatigue and unconsciousness in minutes rather than hours. Anyone losing consciousness in these waters will be in state of suspended animation however, but is potentially lost for a very long time, in the stygian labyrinth of black tunnels.
There is a vast lake somewhere at the very bottom where all the contrary currents eventually wind up, full of countless floating sleepers. There are rumours of a eldritch race of flatworms carefully tending this library of sleep for purposes nigh-incomprehensible.
As well as the tunnels, there are various sealed chambers, like bubbles of air in the rock. Some Souls form in these, finding the peace that they have always desired.. It's always a great risk to crack into such a cyst, as dangerous individuals and artifacts can be entombed in them.
And that’s skimming over the fact that trying to find a sealed chamber in a vast expanse of rock with no tunnels leading to it is no small task. There are numerous towns and settlements set up around mining ventures devoted to following a plausible rumour of a treasure stash in a particular cyst.
Another curious thing about Erebus.: food and drink from here can actually sustain mortal life. The Salt harvested in the tears of the poor mad souls that come here stays in the waters and vitalize the mushrooms, crawdads, lichens and algaes that serve as the default meals here. This is why Bedlam, the largest point of the trading ring known as the Vermin Road, is based here. It's the biggest and least insane -- not that that’s saying much -- of the numerous towns and villages buried here. Even so, the nigh-constant winds and being around so many crazies is a constant tax on the sanity of the most stable. Possibly, this is the secret behind the food here sustaining mortal life. Somehow, Erebus. draws substance from the crazy.
Souls do find peace here though, some having found a cure for their personal hells (and indeed passing on to other terminal realms), others embracing the endless freedom of being wind itself, or the oblivion of the quiet dark.
These are the “Main Veins:” the most-travelled network of large tunnels, leading from the Plains of Desolation to Bedlam, then connecting some scattered mining communities before broadening out into a vast mass of capillary tunnels, of such verisimilitude and number that they are nigh unmappable. They are motile, like an inversion of worms, slowly insinuating through the stone dark.
Moving anywhere off the main veins without a guide (Souls, Denizens and natives can more-or-less find their way) or a Strange Compass (see the Why Would Anyone Go There? table) is entirely random.
Table: For Each 4 Hours of Travel (d8)
1 | Monster encounter (use cave, urban or water table)
2 | Wisdom check or lose an hour to tantrums, catatonia and paranoia from the constant wind
3 | Roll on What Could Go Wrong? table
4 | Roll on Local Colour table
5-8 | Just the wind, the dark, and the stone
If you get the same number twice, you have arrived (after resolving any encounter)!
If one does not want to put body and mind at risk there is always transport in the form of the Screamer Boats. Like the world’s worst hydroslide, a screamer boat is a small watercraft equipped only with wheels and a sail, and the captains possibly-preternaturally deranged understanding of a tunnel series that the boat can rocket along at terrifying speeds. The boats are named for the only sane reaction there is to hurtling at frightening speeds in a black tunnel, narrowly avoiding sharp stone spikes and sharper corners at the command of a cackling, paranoid-deluded ship captain (all good screamer boat captains are mad. You really really don't want to trust the ones that are not).
If you live here, you get to decide which tunnel surface is down for you. If you don't, you don't. Down stays whatever direction for you that it was when you Erebus. until you fail 4 Will saves or Wisdom checks. Then you can make a Wisdom check to change which tunnel surface is down for you (note: you have to fail this wisdom check).
About 1/3rd of Souls choose dissolution and are immediately swallowed by the winds and merge with it. All others take physical form, however. They appear much as they did in life, but bonier, and the howling winds seem to affect them as much as they do visitors of the plane. Most of them are utterly insane.
Vermin Road in Erebus.
Table: Available Goods (2d4)
2 | Resident artisans make 1d4 different random high quality expensive goods
3-4 | Basic goods, and a 25% chance (per item) of anything more complicated being available
5-6 | Food, and basic equipment only
7 | Basic goods and 50% chance of anything else. About 50/50 chance of being shoddy (will completely break on the next 1 or 2 on attack roll or 19, 20 on a stat check)
8 | One thing and one thing only. Randomly determine
Table: Local Charm (d12)
1 | Absurdly cheap! Like force you at sword point to take all their stock of whatever you want to buy
2 | Everything is so fine. And not weird at all and totally stress this fact about how normal and happy and everything everyone is and how the equipment looks decent and the prices are fair
3 | 10% of money is refused on the grounds that its fake, or has rude imagery or has some royal everyone hates or looks like that guy anyway
4 | Coins not used. Just rocks. Just the right kind of rocks. 1-in-4 chance of any rock presented to the shop owner being acceptable. If players start asking about what makes it acceptable make up some shit and but still have the shopkeeper turn them down 75% of the time. "Oh no, you see how this sedimentary and has a slant ellipsoid tilt to it? That is normally acceptable but only if its a clockwise tilt. This, I'm afraid, is counterclockwise." Encourage players to make wisdom checks to look out for just the right kind of rock. It wouldn't do them any good
5 | Roll again but this time have a flat 50% chance that halfway through the transaction a number of townsfolk walk into the shop, and then they and the shopkeepers matter-of-factly draw weapons and attack with a completely casual indifference
6 | Choose one player that everyone in town discriminates against in an complete arcane way "hey look at that frigging Lobeswinger, pike off Lobeswinger, we don't want none of your shellfish around here!"
7 | Shop keeper talks backwards
8 | Everything is labelled and sold as something else: torches as spoons, helmets as salads, dogs as property deeds, etc. Shop is in the style of general store with everything behind the counter, so you have to ask for what you want
9 | Everything pretends to be deaf and illiterate. Actually are not. Use charades for communication
10 | Shop unattended. Everything, and I mean everything, is nailed down
11 | Shopkeeper directs all questions to a hand puppet. Hand puppet overcharges. Shopkeeper starts argument with hand puppet and stabs it. Then is helpful and gives discounts before passing out from blood loss. Immediately another shopkeeper with a hand puppet enters from back room and repeats process
12 | Win a paper/scissor/stone contest for a discount on food and perishables. Win a paper/scissor/stone/wind beetle/xorn contest for a discount on armour and weapons. Win a paper/scissor/stone/rock beetle/xorn/paladin/orb of destruction/crossbow/fireball/shoes contest for a discount on anything else
Table: Why Would Anyone Go Here? (d12)
(the rumour / bait / whatta we doing today boss table)
1 | Someone makes sculptures by trapping animals in these spaces and using magic to sustain and spur their growth horribly until they grow to the very contours of the spherical rock, eventually dying from bones pushing against organs. This vast skeletal ball is then teleported out and makes a fine conversation piece for your hellish entry way. If you find a portal leading to one of these -- and are willing to fight a pig that's nearly taking up the entire 20 foot diameter chamber, kill it, and dig through its guts -- you can find the ring of substance and abnormal growth implanted inside!
2 | Huge open caverns with rock formations like organ pipes that play music. Horrible music. Possibly if you had some crazy musical artifact that you needed to play a tune on, here's where you would try and find it
3 | On that note (ha) there's a place here where all the music that's ever been played is being howled all at the same time by the wind whipping through frightening rock formations. The Cacophony, it's called. It's just the kind of place a quest to find or destroy something sound related would end up
4 | Whisper Kings: they are the wisest, oldest and schemingist of Howlers. All their spikes have grown into a crazy tall crown and they are long, dirty and elegant. They know which caverns the whispers stick to and pick up many, many secrets. They respond to flattery , perverse gifts, bad poetry delivered by people completely oblivious to how bad . They also like to give people weird quests that have some “joke” to them. They are not really interested in the completion of the quest as they are the quester discovering the “joke”, which are normally some banal nihilistic statement.
QUEST: you must carry this limbless lamb everywhere. The lamb, more likely than not, will eventually comes to horrible end. The Meaning? Weakness is a burden.
In regard to anyone secret-thing the players wish to know: (d8)
1 : It knows too much about this
2: It knows half of the matter truthfully and half of it falsely . It’s aware of this but is obnoxiously post-modern about it
3-4 It knows a little about it, and is suspiciously happy to share it
5-6 It knows a little about it , but is evasive about it and makes the players work for these crumbs
7: It knows nothing, and is amused by this
8: It knows nothing but just flat out lies.
5 | Many of these caverns have stale air within them, if any at all. Surrounded by solid stone, these bubbles of space hide many secrets. It is rumored that many a deity has either stashed treasures of great value or imprisoned beasts too mighty to be slain in these small, rounded rooms of stone. Numerous bands of solemn flattened fishmen following Strange compasses search them out.
The Keys is one such vault. It’s long and curved, cave like an edge-up knife. A vast array of keys is here, dangling like idle spiders. Each is at the end of single coarse thread, terminating somewhere above. Legend has it that every key ever made has its twin here. When a key from here is tried on a lock, it has a 1-in-10 chance of just coincidentally happening to be the key for that lock. There is also a 1-in-6 chance that a key randomly grasped here will unlock a painful memory in scouring vivid detail , reducing the wisdom of the grasper by 1 until they leave the cave and have decent sleep. Being reduced to zero in this way causing the heart to be fully unlocked which involves massive and abrupt internal bleeding. The detail of the recollection can actually be quite useful though, it’s sharp and accurate enough to recall exactitudes normally beyond a human ability to recall.
6 | Ghostwood is an abandoned mining camp that, having found a mysterious vein of some silvery glowing metal, was set upon by gibbering hordes of translucent toad people, claiming the eggs of their gods were laid in the metal. The toad people now guard the vein, extracting it by licking away the surrounding stone. Nobody thinks it could be any good what they will do if they find their eggs
7 | A medusa was paid to petrify a purple worm to serve as a mausoleum for worm worshiping priest, but the twisting words of the contract meant she was paid far less than she thought and she risks a terrible curse if she loots the tomb herself
8 | Someone in Bedlam has made a oxygen creating ooze bubble and wishes to fund a expedition into the watery depths of Erebus., to verify the rumours of the Sleeping Libary
9 | The Fungal Tyrant is a cruel, fungus-infested man, who occasionally makes fungal diseases to infect the gardens surrounding Bedlam, making the mushrooms there cause horrid hallucinations. The mayors of Bedlam want him dead. Nobody knows where he is, but there are stories that he hides out in a parasitical house in Bedlam, or in a tumbling fungal ball in the tunnels, or a seemingly abandoned mining camp --however a fungal usurper has the miners mine still .
10 | A previously flooded tunnel has suddenly drained, exposing a mirror maze, surrounding a tower of bone and fire. Treasure and madness await!
11 | Once a year in Bedlam, a game is played. All the non-contestants barricade themselves in their houses, and every light is extinguished. For as long as it takes, the contestants -- naked and wielding knives -- try to find and murder each other. Every 24 hours a wraith is released to hurry up the process. Anyone with infravision, dark vision or sonar must take a handicap in the form of massive amounts of hallucinogens. The prize is a choice of a treasure from Bedlam's "Museum of the Madness of the Gods and Novelties Emporium"
12 | Periodically, nautilus with delicate white lady hands for tentacles and a sorrowful human eyes come to Bedlam. They sell Strange compasses that point to the holders most desired thing. The majority of miners tunneling after the Vault Cysts are lead by one of these. These nautiloids are are known both singular and collective as “Gloomchild“. They do not accept money or Salt but dried leaves, if the leaves are to the Gloomchild liking
(the beefed-up encounter table / great they are here now what? / trouble / players are looking bored / Need something interesting right now table)
1| a random party member has one of their secrets carved on a wall here, especially one that would turn anyone nearby against them.
2 | Natural traps that are just small holes in the tunnel, that sandblast the skin off anything in the way
3 | A ragtag group runs a toll booth besides a swiss cheese wall with high speed winds whistling through it. Refusing to pay means they quickly jam all kinds of broken weapons and glass and bones into one hole, and then pull a switch and all these hatches slam over the other holes, and the wind blasts out of the remaining hole sending all the shrapnel rocketing forward inflicting 1d20 damage. DEX save for half
4 | A frost giant completely blocks the tunnel with his face. He threatens to spit diseased blood at you if you do not pay the toll
6 | 1d4 Sail sleds each with 3 bandits will swoop past attacking with +2 to damage and preventing return attacks if you do not have range or beat them in initiative. They will return 2d6 rounds later, following a looping back tunnel
7 | This chamber is large and bristling with weird rock formations of beauty which also look an alarmingly a lot like people. There is also 1d12 insane bandits tucked away in the little grottos and alcoves, giggling, armed with poison knives, and near invisible in the bizarre twisting shadows
8 | The caverns and tunnels are becoming even smaller, require crawling and squeezing to get through. Of course, this tends to focus the force of the wind, so getting through these tunnels is a miserable experience
9 | Water, either in a stream running through the air in the middle of the tunnel, or in deepish pools along the sides. Is full of dangerous chuckling fish
10 | Klesha begins stalking someone in party
11 | The remains of a Vermin Road caravan being picked clean by a swarm of flies. Disturbing them brings risk of being attacked as a Insect Swarm
12 | This tunnel is huge and lined with numerous little capillaries and grottos. Gaspermen begin stalking you and waiting for a opportunity to strike
13 | A crashing is heard upwind from the party. Horse-sized chunks of pumice are being blown toward them and will arrive in 1d6 rounds, resolve as 1d4 unmodified attack roll(s) on anyone in the way, inflicting 2d8 damage from impact and abrasion
14 | A huge, skeletal eel has been set to guard an upcoming tunnel. It will bite and swallow whole, its rib cage is full of skeletons that will attack anyone swallowed. Anyone dying in the ribcage is immediately animated
15 | A toll booth with a wight attending. It wants its name back in exchange for passage
16 | The wind proceeds to pick up force, slowly but surely, until it reaches hurricane strength. Party will have 5 minutes to try and secure themselves or find shelter. Otherwise it will sweep up and batter anyone for 1d20 damage and scatter them a couple of kilometres away
17 | A mid-level insane wizard semi merged in a wall
18 | An abandoned town. 3d6 Shadows (the undead) acting out the inhabitants lives. If the characters do not go along with the charade, the Shadows first show anger and frustration (as if you were in a town ignoring everyone's attempts to communicate with you and walking into their houses and smashing their pots) and then attack
19 | A wide open chamber with 1d8 naked frost giants wrestling to the death in the dark and the mud. Some prize awaits the winner. The prize will be in the middle of the room and not obviously looking important to the frost giants, however taking it will turn all the giants onto the taker . Even so engaged, their senses of hearing and smell are terribly keen
20 | A expensive looking carpet is weighted down with rocks in place over a shallow pit containing a random ooze
Table: Local Colour (d20)
1 | Scene of great past violence. Stone hewn, blood splattered, half powder bones, broken teeth and rent armour. Wind suddenly stops
2 | A crying figure, seemingly a child and an old wizened elder, surrounded by relevant figures licking the tears from its feet
3 | A stream running through the middle of the cavern, fish wearing faces of dead family members
4 | You catch half a conversation about you being said elsewhere in the world
5 | 1d20 peacefully sleeping people, some in a stream, some on the "ceiling"
6 | Group of miners, with their eyes torn out and mounted in lamps in place of flames. They seem to know where they are going though
7 | Person in rags, knows too much about you, but is friendly and offers good advice before as he walks towards you on bloody feet
8 | Wind picks up suddenly, dust blows in mouth with a really nasty flavour reminiscent of old sweat
8 | 1d20 trepanned skulls come bouncing down the tunnel
9 | Water turns to blood briefly
10 | Screams that turn into laughter and then back into screams are heard
11 | Beautiful organ music is heard then abruptly stops. Minor earthquake follows. Happens 1d6 times over the next hour
12 | Traveller following a wool string, doing a quest to find out his name from a Whisper King. Wool string leads to yarn ball, seemingly endless, always bouncing just out of reach and sight of the traveller. Traveller is unaware of the source of the yarn, and revealing the futility of it causes them to become suffer a complete breakdown.
13 | Stalagmites with holes in them causing plaintive whistling
14 | 1d20 ragged clad wretches, all claiming parentage of the PCs
15 | Children's drawings scratched on the walls. Animate out of the corner of your eye
16 | 1d6 severed hands worn down to the born from being used to scratch messages in the stone. What is scratched?: (d10)
1 | Nothing nearby, but maybe someone a couple of 100 miles away?
2 | Treasure map to a cyst
3 | Boring Diary entries
4 | "I forgive you" scratched over and over
5 | A continuous line leading elsewhere, following it leads to a random result on the Trouble table or the Why Would Anyone Go here table
6 | A random spell with slight but disturbing extra effects
7 | Incredibly detailed portraits
8 | Music / poem / theorem / engineering diagram 50/50 chance of being complete screed or complete genius
9 | Warnings about nearby inhabitants. 50/50 chance of being lies
10 | Rude limericks
17 | Smells! Smells like delicious cooking to all but one member of the party. To them, it smells like pigshit
18 | 2d6 unkempt Souls guarding a toll booth. They wave the party through, saying Bob has already payed for them
19 | Street stall attended by a glum mute, sitting in the darkness, alone in the tunnels
20 | Tunnels becomes neat, square and hand carved for 1d100 feet
GasperMen look like those rays people used to taxidermy up to look like monsters (a "Jenny Haniver") with long, slender fingers. Malign and cruel, possessing of secrets. Gliding along the floors and ceilings real sneaky like possessed door mats or manta rays, and then rear up gibbering (will save or paralysis) if it works they snatch on to you and fly off and dump you somewhere and then go back to to split the party up more, before finishing people off. Will give mouth to mouth to corpses and then push on the chest to Speak with Dead to find out things
3 kinds. The Kleshas, "the 3 poisons" Desiderium, Dominus, and Abhorreo. All Klesha are surprisingly stealthy and have exact visual knowledge of their surroundings in 300 feet radius, even through barriers such as stone or darkness. Also true seeing
Desiderium appear as naked humanoid with 2 great hands emerging from their back. The hands are arranged as wings the palms open and front facing and each one is bigger than the humanoid in between them, the feet of which do not touch the ground. The hands constantly feel out the surroundings. In a narrow environment the fingers support the central figure by pressing against the sides of the tunnel but in the rare event of encounter one in a open space the hands rotate, still palm forward, but with the fingers touching the ground
The central figure appears to be a drugged haze, with eyes closed and a smile of ecstasy on its face. Wounding the central figure does nothing to change the expression even though wounds to it are fatal as any other creature
Like all Klesha it seeks to turn others into more of it. It either does this choosing a particular avaricious individual and tailing them slightly or by isolating an individual by killing or otherwise removing its companions
That individual is "marked." It then silently follows just out of sight of the individual, (sometimes in a parallel tunnel) and keeps the target safe from other monsters. Natives of Erebus.can tell when someone has been "marked" by a Klesha although some are crazy or dumb enough not to care. The desiderium can the make minor illusions to hint at shelter, the re-appearance of companions or treasure if the individual is so motivated. The more effort spent to chase these the more the taint grows (represent by wisdom loss every time the player states "I want..." or "I need.." (either in or out of character) deduct a point of wisdom. Maybe give them a save if you want, but either way tell them they just lost a point of wisdom. Don't tell them why of course). If the reach zero wisdom they slip into a coma. If the Desiderium can get hold of them it will spend an hour gently cooing and massaging their flesh into a malleable putty and shape them into an egg like shape. The "egg" will then hatch, and the new Desiderium will emerge (the old form appearing as the humanoid in the middle).
Desiderium are loners however and will not remain around an "egg" that it has formed.
If the marked individual resists desire repeatedly and shows no sign of wavering, the Desiderium will kill them if they feel the have a reasonable chance to do so. In Combat they attack with grabbing and crushing with one hand at a time (the desiderium can only move slowly if one hand is so engaged) or flinging a grabbed individual into its companions. It can also make the tips of its fingers sticky and seize weapons or shields in this way. SOmetimes it will use this on a marked individual, to take a beloved object and then run away.
Dominus appear as gaunt human figure with a row of stitches running from the groin to the top of the torso. It has no sex organs and instead of a head and neck it has a tall paper crown. Blood stains are seen in the paper crown occasionally that are suggestive of a face bleeding on the other side of the crown.
Dominus are a lot more aggressive than Desiderium and will sometimes attack and kill things without regard for anything other than killing. In combat they may inflict a variety of hold person, command, and domination effects with grandiose hand gestures. They have little strategy about this other than sewing confusion. THey attack with frightful strength despite their withered frame, often grasping one opponent by a limb and using them as a club against others.
Sometimes they will already be in command of weaker inhabitants of Erebus. and will send them forth to die, sometimes supporting them with physical attacks and powers sometime merely observing. Dominus create more of themselves by repeatedly dominating a stupid or weak creature and then having that serving a marked individual. The more the individual relishes or abuse their newfound minion the more wisdom then they lose (effects as Desiderium).
Again once the individual has fallen into a coma, it either commands the marks minion to carry them off, or it attacks immediately. Left alone with the mark, it will take off its crown (revealing another crown underneath of the exact dimensions of the first) and place it over their head and neck. The mark head and neck are then dissolved into bloody goo by the crown over the next hour. The new Dominus will awake and proceed to strip off its clothes, pull off any external genitals and scoop out its guts and organs, and sew itself shut, using hair, pieces of cloth or intestinal strips.
Abhorreo appear as a black blurred assemblage of beetles standing on 2 legs, with an empty skin crudely draped over it's multiple mouthparts and antennae. It has similar approaches to reproduction as desiderium but instead uses hate, paranoia and distrust. With illusions relating to the same (same mechanics but use words like I don't trust, or suspicions of other people in the group).
If has gotten a mark into a coma, it will peel their skin off and stuff it full of discards shell plates from its hide. It will then leave it to rot inside the skinless corpse, and after a week a new Abherreo will emerge.
In combat they have a varying amount of bladed fangs, claws, and hooks (roll a d4 each round, that's how many attacks it gets) and can cast off their skin and fling in to wrap around a target holding them fast like a rubber straight jacket. If the skin is damaged beyond repair, the Abhorreo will peel a new one off the first available body. While it lacks a skin it cannot mark or use its illusion powers.