Friday 21 November 2014

The Gate and its Surrounds

This is the land surrounding the Gate. The Gate is the only (easy) way through the Wall. They are named generically because I like short names and also because I am always scared of doing a Forgotten Realms and naming everything like a five year old moving fantasy themed word magnets around on the fridge.

So you might notice that the area is quite small in the scheme of things. It's about the size of BTAM's map which I rate highly, an adventuring party could walk across it in a day.
Scale is something I've struggled with since reading stuff like this and going for drives and walks to get a sense of distance and going up a mountain in Scotland and seeing hundreds of miles to the horizon.

This map is, in fact, a small section straddling the edge of my main map, shown here. The hex numbering is messed up because it seemed like a good idea at the time when I first made this so many years ago. How young I was then.
The Wall is the long line on the left side, and the Gate itself is the little oblong in hex P0 in the map below with the only road going through it. It is a very big gate.

Now, I drew this map ages ago, before I'd gotten into LotFP and seen how useful it is to be able to use Google Earth as your campaign map. To get a sense of the scale (and work out how it fucked up the coastline), I did this in google maps to work out how it was placed in the south of England.
A remarkably good fit, considering. I've lost much of the southeast and closed off the Bristol Channel, but hey it'll do. There was probably a magical war or something.

god I should really scan this thing

Anyway, that's how big the Gate area it is. Quite small. The trick is to pack it with so much adventure that the players don't need to leave unless they really want to! It's basically split into two halves across the wall, on one side is the lands around the Gate and on the other side is the Forest of Moondine.
On the west is more safe and civilisationy and in the east it's more wild and dangerous and wandering monstery.

Here's the rundown:

Landmarks and Landscapes:

The Wall and the Gate
An ancient, giant, perfectly straight wall cleaves through the land. It was built by unknown builders some time between the Dwarfs cutting themselves off from the world and humanity being freed from the chains of their Halfling oppressors. Its purpose and origins are the subject of several conflicting legends, but none suggest the truth. This wall wasn't built to keep something out, it was built to keep something in.
This is the Barding Wall or, as all large walls are known in fiction, simply as The Wall. Imaginatively the only way through is called the Gate.
It generates an anti-magic field all the way along its length. Or at least, it did. Within the last few months something has happened. The Wall has been breached at a point several day's ride north of the Gate, deactivating the anti-magic shell and allowing magic back into this part of the world. Only the area a few miles around the Gate (represented by dotted lines on the map) still maintains an anti-magic zone running on the ancient equivalent of a backup generator.

The Barding:
The mountainous area west of the Wall is known as the Barding. It is named after the Wall, rather than the other way round. The rugged Mountain Men live in the mountains to the south, resisting all attempts to civilise them.

The Wall Villages:
A bunch of civilised villages in the area west of the Gate. Excel documentation is here. The populace are fairly generic fantasy folks who farm the land and worship the Nine like all good god-fearing Nonanists should.

The Lightning Tower:
This is the Tower of the Stargazer and has lain dormant for centuries while the wall's full anti-magic field was up. Now it's attracting lightning again and making people skittish.

Caspian's Delve:
The central megadungeon to this area and, confusingly, also the name of the nearby village. Story goes that miners made a hell of a living out of the rich gem deposits found within the mines here.
Since the wall's anti-magic field fell, gems have started growing back within the cave, strange noises have been heard within, and strange shapes can be seen dancing on the mountaintops in the dark of the new moon.
Their somewhat egotistical religious leader has recently gone into the Delve to find the source of these unnatural magical happenings. He has not returned.
Caspian's Delve is a fairly standard dungeon bash with Spiderclimb Elves, goblins, a mad cleric and his cult of stone, and a many-legged horror with veins of amber.


The Demon Armies:
To the west, ever encroaching, are the demonic armies of Galfashnak of the Charnel Earth. A grotesquely large and fat devil of Sloth, he is glutted on the sin that precedes his apocalyptic army of darkness. His armies are currently sacking Karlstadt and its surrounds.
There is one catch - the devils in his army, rather than the semantically distinct demons, feed upon sin. If a population is completely virtuous the army cannot touch them, for its soldiers will quickly grow hungry and die from lack of sustenance. To this end, a vanguard of sin-causing minor devils is harassing the outlying villages and trying to discover a means with which to evade or destroy the demon-banishing anti-magic field surrounding the Gate.

Galfashnak basically looks like this guy, albeit carried on the backs of hundreds of slaves.
The Mountain Men:
Ever hairy, the Mountain Men live in the mountainous regions to the southwest. Usually content to live their pagan ways on the alpine slopes, the recent chaos has caused them to roam further afield in search of rape and pillage and revenge on the soft-bellied farmers in the foothills.
Their predations may be stopped for a time by invading their main living area, the Caves of the Mountain Men. It is a fairly standard dungeon bash involving hairy mountain men with greataxes, a wife from Footsden who eloped with their rugged leader, and various mostly-natural threats that live in caves.

The Mold Creatures:
From within the forest across the Wall, the dreaded mold creatures attack Pillartown. They seek only to spread their mold infection to more hosts. While the Gate is easily defensible for now, the creatures become more powerful and numerous by the day.
Whilst Shub-Niggurath is the progenitor of the mold, it follows its own unknowable machinations and has no agenda of its own for the Gate area. Moldus Vane, the Mad Cleric of Moondin, seeks to use the mold to defend his followers from the demon army to the west and the horde of undead to the east. An army of mindless Filled Men generates no sin for the demons to feast upon and serves as a strong defence against the countless Dead. After all, Filled Men burst into a cloud of spores when killed which makes them useless to Necromancers.
Moldus Vane justifies this maltreatment of his flock in many ways and truly believes he is a good man doing the right thing. Their souls are already destined for Heaven, what matter the harm that befalls their mortal form?

The Human Populace:
The local population is gripped by both willful ignorance and mounting fear. The Wall's anti-magic field has covered the area for so long that most of the people don't believe in magic or demons or any of the rest. They mostly assume that the term "demon army" is a figurative device used by war-ravaged refugees. They are slow to react, and the rising number of supernatural events is severely testing their faith.
As word of the mold beasts and Caspian's Delve spreads, and the army of demons begins to take over the villages outside of the anti-magic field, chaos will spread as they become very divided in what to do. Many will flee to the mountains or to Pillartown. Others, like the population of Layriding, will begin hoarding resources others sorely need.

Running this shit:
In my game, the players came down the river from Better Than Any Man and ended up in East Ardley where the events of A Single Small Cut occurred, then spread out from there.

Random encounters west of the Wall, unlike the forests to the east, are mostly mundane and human-scale with a bunch of results cribbed from BTAM. These should be gradually replaced with demons and/or mold beasts as the situation develops.

A sandbox game is, of course, built upon a rumour table. That's what mine looked like around four sessions in, unfortunately I never saved the original. Replace results between sessions as per usual.
It has rumours related to things east of the wall ooOOoOoooo how mysterious. You'll have to wait until I pull my finger out and do the rest at some other time.

Saturday 15 November 2014

A Plague of Whores

This is not an equal opportunity plague.
This happens in the nearest frequently-visited city.

Unless action is taken to stop it, the stage of the infection increases every time the PCs visit the city. If the players visit frequently, minimum time between infection stages is one week.

Stage 1 - When someone carouses in the city they hear that uncommonly pretty women of the night have been appearing in areas of ill repute.

Stage 2 - These women have grown in number, they are unaffiliated with any brothel. Key brothels send out feelers requesting information on the source and/or affiliation of these whores. PCs may be contacted, especially if some in their number have caroused often in the city or have a history with the city's brothels.

Stage 3 - Low income brothels begin going out of business, wives question their husbands about their activities. The new prostitutes are seen exhibiting their wares in moneyed areas. There are more of them and they charge competitive rates, and they are seen only at night. Nobody knows where they live, they do not tell for their discretion is absolute.

Stage 4 - Word of the plague has spread across the land and immigration spikes. Questions about the whores subtly suffuse conversation, men dare or joke about their friend's experiences and couch their sensual dreams in bawdy language. Women are generally curious or jealous, questions about the new whores are bound to come up in conversation and some wonder why they wake in the night with their husbands gone.

Stage 5 - Only the highest grossing brothels cling to life. Whores reach critical mass. If questioned, the majority of the city's attached women have experienced their husband or lover disappearing most nights. A minority have used their services themselves. The men, when they leave, quickly shake anybody tailing them and grow violent if prevented. Every alley seems to have at least one lady beside it of an evening. Women of the city are unaffected but suspect something else is at play, where did they all come from?

Stage 6 - Men are all but enslaved. They leave every night and return with the dawn, spending all day fatigued. Some deny everything, others revel in it, and they remember only a night of passion with women of their fantasies. All their savings are spent on their addiction, leaving nothing for other vices. Places of ill-repute go out of business. Drug cartels collapse. Brothels are abandoned and their employees destitute. Pubs and bars are on the verge of being boarded up. Families are scraping by. Nobody knows where the money is going. Nobody knows where the men are going. The whores are there every night, ever beautiful, never menacing, always beckoning.

Stage 7 - Society teeters on the brink of collapse. Currency is scarce because it is all funneled towards the whores. The only thing keeping the economy alive is the continuing influx of visitors from far afield, although the city's housing is being stretched to capacity since all men who visit stay. The addicted cannot be trusted with money and will lie, beg, borrow and steal to get more. Women, unaffected by the plague, are beginning to take over dominant positions in society. Others leave, hoping to find a better life in another place. Infrastructure is unmaintained and commerce has slowed to a trickle. Those scant few men who have managed to resist thus far cannot leave home after dark lest they become tempted and overwhelmed by women seemingly drawn from their deepest fantasies.

Stage 8 - The nightly ebb and flow of men leaving their houses has become so routine as to almost be ritual. Women have broken their bonds and taken jobs once available only to men, but during the day it is chaos as the hordes of sleep-starved men strip the city of valuables. A pyrrhic victory for gender equality. The upswell of women's liberation means that a concerted effort to stop the plague of whores can finally be put into motion. Men, if quarantined, do nothing but beg and plead to be released. Squads of female soldiers march out at night to capture the whores and expel them from the city. All resist. If confronted they flee. If cornered they attack with cold-blooded murder in their eyes. And yet every night they return.

Stage 9 - The decision is made to kill the whores. This is divisive, but swiftly justified. The city will not survive if drastic action is not taken, and no other city in the world offers such opportunities for women. The streets run red as the death squads systematically clear an entire district block by block. The whores are unarmed and so casualties amongst the soldiers are minimal.
Vanishingly few of the district's men return to their homes the next morning. The nightly rhythm being broken has the feeling of a long-held background hum shutting off. As the sun rises it reveals hundreds and hundreds of dead men staining the streets with blood.

Stage 10 - The city collapses completely into chaos. Men, now knowing what drives their condition, collapse into a mass of angry confusion. The ad hoc rulership orders the whore-purge to continue, causing a schism within the fledgling government and dividing the army. Women continue to abandon the city as battles between pro- and anti-purge factions of soldiers rage on the streets amongst the rioting men. Control is lost as the city descends into anarchy.
And every night, on every street corner and every alley, from the windows of abandoned buildings and the darkened doorways of a dying city...
The sultry eyes of the werewhores linger forever more.


By day, a man. By night, the woman of that man's dreams.
It spreads, of course, through sex.
It affects only men and takes three days to set in. During the three days the victim experiences erotic dreams and the infection can be stopped by a Cure Disease.
By day the infected obtain as much money as possible, believing that they need it to pay for their vice at night. At sunset they go into a sort of trance. They experience their every fantasy while their body is compelled to leave the home and sight of others, transforming physically into feminine form. Their only real power, whilst transformed, is an aura that prevents male viewers from imagining the consequences of their actions. If killed, at sunrise they revert to their original form.

They differ from 0-level humans in one other way, if cornered or threatened they attack with a claw/claw/bite attack routine for 1d4 damage per hit.

What's actually going on.

Two devils, a Devil of Lust and a Devil of Envy, created the first werewhore in this city from the temptation of a particularly lustful john. Now they are glutted on the sin pervading the city and have carved out a home for themselves in a large abandoned mansion.
They live in luxury, for the werewhores bring them their earnings and personal savings.  As the city continues to deteriorate and more homes are abandoned they move to larger and larger mansions containing more and more luxury.

Mechanically this means that their power and deadliness increase over time. If the PCs confront them in an early stage of infection they will find the comparatively weak devils in a large but tasteful detached house with quite a small hoard. If they confront them at a later stage of infection, or rest up and wait too long before coming back, they will discover enormous devils in a huge multi-level mansion crammed with opulence and terror.