Saturday, 24 October 2015

Random encounter tables: the Maze

OK - last one, now, at least until I get over-ambitious and decide to do them for the Road, Steppe, Desert, and Taiga as well. (I probably don't need one for the tundra. '1-3: Rocks. 4-5: Ice. 6-7: Icy rocks. 8-9: Rocks with lichen on them. 10: A lonely reindeer.') The Maze is the one area of the Wicked City which is pretty much totally outside the control of its government, so that's where you'll find a lot of the radicals and crazies hiding out. A big enough force of the King's Men could comb through the Rubble block by block if they really had to; but down in the Maze, unless they had some good information to go on, they wouldn't even know where to begin to look...

What's hiding in the darkness? Roll on the table to find out!

Random Encounters: The Maze

  1. A network of recently-excavated tunnels, which seem to loop around at random, serving no clear purpose. Through them clank a work-gang of clockwork automata, diggers built by long-dead cultists to expand this section of the Maze; every time they sense their mainsprings winding down they stomp back to the underground riverside which serves as their base of operations and dip their water-wheels into the current, remaining stationary until the water-power has fully wound them up again ready for another shift of digging. If anyone tries to stop them from continuing their pointless excavations they will lash out with pickaxes and shovels, but otherwise they're harmless so long as they're left alone. If deactivated and reprogrammed they could be turned to all kinds of useful purposes. 
  2. The angry ghosts of unfortunate souls who have died in the Maze, furious at being unable to find their way to the afterlife and willing to take out their rage on anyone who comes too close. They express their fury through poltergeist activity, sudden shocking apparitions, and ghastly screams that come echoing down the tunnels; get too close and your world will become a horrorshow of howling spectres and telekinetic storms. They will follow their victims remorselessly, partly out of spite and partly in the hope that their targets will flee back towards the surface, thus helping them to find their way out. (However, there's a 90% chance that they're so crazy they wouldn't recognise such an exit even if they saw one, unless someone explicitly pointed it out to them.) They were highly religious souls in life, and are easily scared off by displays of holiness and religious devotion; unfortunately, there's a 10% chance that your prayers or rituals will happen to remind them of those used by a rival sub-sect, in which case they'll just get even angrier. The only way to get rid of them permanently is to lead them back onto the surface, at which point they'll vanish off to whatever afterlife they should have gone to in the first place.
  3. A bunch of political dissidents, hiding down in the tunnels. The only reason they have survived this long is by being very, very paranoid; their first assumption will be that anyone they meet is probably an undercover secret policeman sent to kill them all, and they will need an enormous amount of convincing to persuade them otherwise. (Even then, they will never really trust anyone who isn't part of their own group.) They have good maps of the nearby tunnels, but they're running low on food and they're almost out of ammunition. There is a 20% chance that one of them has actually been an undercover agent of the Secret Police all along.
  4. A criminal gang which is using part of the Maze as their base of operations, smuggling contraband through the tunnels in order to avoid having to pay bribes to the King's Men. (They also engage in freelance extortion and theft on the side.) They will fight viciously to keep their lair secret and to protect their loot, but their motivations are basically mercenary and they'll agree to pretty much anything if offered a large enough bribe.
  5. A bunch of Labyrinth cultists, who have laid claim to a section of the Maze where they try to practice their religion in peace, using secret tunnels that only they know about to make occasional supply runs to the surface. Here one can find shrines and ritual chambers actually being used in the ways their builders intended, as the cultists pursue their abstruse religious studies and mystical contemplations in the hope of attaining higher levels of enlightenment. They're not unfriendly, but they do want to be left alone: years spent meditating in darkness and silence has given them a very low tolerance for disruption. Sufficiently quiet and respectful PCs could find them very useful guides through this area of the Maze.
  6. A Secret Police death squad, hunting an enemy of the state who is believed to be hiding down in the Maze. They've been down here for days, now, and most of them are injured, but they have no intention of returning to the surface without their target. Any PCs they get hold of will be subjected to interminable interrogations on the off-chance that they might know where their target can be found.
  7. A huge flooded chamber, inhabited by some kind of gigantic, pallid tentacle monster. (No, not that kind of tentacle monster... unless that's what your group is into, I guess.) It lies in wait at the bottom of the pool until its victims are right in the middle of the water, before trying to grab them in its tentacles and yank them down to a watery death. It's sufficiently huge that killing it is unlikely, but the loss of a few tentacles should be enough to persuade it to back down, at least temporarily.
  8. An extremist Labyrinth cult, who were forced into a corner of the Maze by their rivals in some long-ago sectarian struggle and simply never left; they've been down there for decades, now, living in complete darkness, eating blind fish they catch from their underground rivers and chanting their interminable prayers. A whole generation of them have grown up never knowing any other life, and they react with extreme hostility to outsiders, whom they view as being radically spiritually unclean. With enormous patience it might be possible to befriend them, and possibly even persuade a few of them to return to the surface, but their elders are pretty much completely crazy and will fight such 'ideological contamination' at every step.
  9. A series of corridors which are filled with lethal traps, all of which were designed by long-dead Labyrinth cultists as tests of scriptural knowledge. (You know the kind of thing: go through the door with a scriptural misquotation on it, get a spring-loaded axe in the face.) Navigating them without the aid of someone expert in the Labyrinth doctrines is very, very dangerous. 
  10. A bunch of pig-men, who claim to have just wandered up here from some even deeper network of tunnels and caverns below. Navigating the Maze is far beyond their feeble intellects, so they spend most of their time wandering in circles, usually without even noticing that they're doing so; they couldn't find their way back to the caves they originally came from if they tried. They are dragging a couple of luckless human captives along with them, but could probably be tricked, bribed, or intimidated into releasing them. One of them is a radical enemy of the state who fled into the Maze in order to escape a death squad sent after him by the Secret Police.
  11. An old Labyrinth shrine, inhabited by an ancient hermit who has spent the last thirty years waiting for pilgrims to turn up so that he can test their spiritual purity. (What he has been eating all this time is deeply unclear.) The tests in question are trials by ordeal, and the penalty for failure is supposed to be death, inflicted via a poisoned blade that the hermit has been keeping concealed in his sleeve the whole time; but over the years he has become so mad and senile that any halfway decent attempt at deception will be able to take him in. Kind-hearted PCs may want to try to save him, but his mind is completely gone, and all he'll ever do is mumble fragments from the scriptures. 
  12. A band of weird, bald, pale-skinned, lantern-eyed things, which might once have been human but definitely aren't any more. They have long, sensitive fingers, which they use to feel the air currents, sensing motion from hundreds of feet away; their sense of hearing is acute, and they need only the slightest glimmer of light to see in the dark. (Bright light pains and blinds them, however.) They are decked out in the ritual regalia of some long-lost sub-cult of Labyrinth faithful, much of it extremely valuable and covered with gold and jewels. They don't speak, and respond to threats by fleeing back into the darkness, relying on their stealth and heightened senses to allow them to evade would-be attackers. They know every trap, every monster lair, and every secret passage, and if approached by someone who is able to make the correct ritual signs once used by their sub-cult, they'll willingly guide that person to any part of the Maze they want to visit by the shortest and safest path possible. If approached by someone who makes the wrong gestures, they will instead lead them into the middle of some horrible deathtrap and then leave them alone in the dark. 

'You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all different...'

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