Saturday 20 February 2016

Ruins of the Great Road

5th Century Ancient Church Ruins- Turkey:

The length of the Great Road is dotted with cities, but it is also littered with ruins. The road itself is vastly older, and more resilient, than the kingdoms through which it runs. Nations rise and nations fall: but the hunger of the east for the goods of the west, and of the west for the goods of the east, is a constant which transcends the vagaries and contingencies of history.

Anyone who travels for any length of time along the Great Road will soon get used to the sight of ruins: fallen towers, abandoned temples, shattered fortresses, long-neglected monuments, cities choked with the desert sands. The traders use them as landmarks by which to calculate their progress. Most of the ones closest to the Great Road itself are harmless, picked clean long ago by generations of treasure-seekers; but the further one goes from the beaten track the less likely this is to be the case, and that fallen observatory on a hill ten miles south of the road may have been left virtually untouched since the day of its abandonment. Brave and/or foolhardy young men who travel with the caravans of the Great Road, tiring of the endless monotony of the journey, sometimes decide to enliven their trips by doing a little treasure-hunting and ruin-delving on the side. Sometimes they come back rich. Sometimes they don't come back at all.

They are, in other words, an easy excuse to add a bit of small-scale dungeon-crawling to an overland adventure. With the aid of these tables, it should be possible to throw together a vaguely plausible-seeming ruin in a matter of minutes!

Chinese company mining for copper unearthed a Buddhist monasteri in at Mes Aynak, south of Kabul, Afghanistan.:

What Was This Place Originally? (Roll 1d10)
  1. Market Town
  2. Manufacturing Town
  3. Caravanserai
  4. Watchtower
  5. Small Fort
  6. Large Castle
  7. Temple
  8. Monastery 
  9. Observatory
  10. Necropolis
What Happened To It? (Roll 1d12)
  1. Plundered by steppe nomads, its population killed, enslaved, or fled.
  2. The wells dried up, and it became uninhabitable.
  3. Wrecked by a major earthquake and the fires that followed it, survivors left rather than trying to rebuild.
  4. Abandoned due to constant raiding from desert-dwelling bandits.
  5. Fell under an ancient curse.
  6. Abandoned during severe famine, survivors never returned.
  7. Orders came from far-off imperial capital that it was to be abandoned, no reason given.
  8. Plague killed almost everyone, survivors fled into the wilderness.
  9. Destroyed in the fighting between two rival kingdoms.
  10. Inhabitants joined new religious cult and abandoned the homes and shrines of their ancestors.
  11. No-one knows: inhabitants just seem to have vanished overnight.
  12. Inhabitants rounded up by slavers and dragged off in chains to be sold in the Wicked City.
What Lives There Now? (Roll 1d12)
  1. Ghosts.
  2. Vagrants and scavengers.
  3. Lepers.
  4. A small colony of Blighted individuals.
  5. Bandits.
  6. Skull-Wearers
  7. Pig-men.
  8. A nest of Brass-Snout Rats.
  9. A degenerate clan led by a Dahakan.
  10. Malfunctioning clockwork robots.
  11. Gigantic serpents.
  12. A band of Brigands of the Noonday Dark.
Notable Environmental Features (Roll 1d12)
  1. Infested with clockroaches.
  2. Partially flooded.
  3. Seriously structurally unsound.
  4. 50% of nearby water sources are impure and poisonous.
  5. Full of wild songbirds.
  6. Covered with ancient graffiti.
  7. Littered with ancient machinery, rusted and dangerous.
  8. Protected by hidden traps.
  9. Overgrown with spectacular wildflowers.
  10. Half-buried by the desert sands.
  11. Voices can be heard singing or whispering in ancient tongues, but the rooms they seem to come from always turn out to be empty.
  12. Home to a nest of cute furry animals, easily trapped for use as pets or snacks. 
What Treasures Does It Hold? (Roll 1d20)
  1. A hidden cache of lapis lazuli jewellery.
  2. Ancient clockwork machinery, too damaged to be repaired but still valuable as spare parts.
  3. Cute little clockwork automata, repairable with a bit of work.
  4. A horde of silver coins from many different kingdoms.
  5. A mostly-functional suit of Steam Knight armour.
  6. Ancient manuscripts, worth a small fortune to scholars.
  7. Ornate, man-sized bronze statues, beautiful but not easily portable.
  8. Religious relics, potentially valuable if sold to the right sect.
  9. A well-padded crate containing glassware from the distant Sunset City.
  10. An assortment of ancient potions in sealed vials. What do they do? Only one way to find out!
  11. A book of abstruse alchemical formulae written by some long-dead disciple of the Sage of Gold.
  12. A beautiful pair of jewelled, bladed fans, for which any Jewelled Fan Dancer or Murder Harlot would pay handsomely.
  13. A three-legged Bronze Horse.
  14. A golden icon of the Scarab Queen. Her worshippers would probably like to get it back.
  15. A crate full of raw opium.
  16. Beautiful but broken ceramics from the far east, potentially repairable with the aid of a steady hand and a lot of patience.
  17. An old musket whose butt is made from fantastically-carved ivory.
  18. A jewelled pocket-watch.
  19. The carefully-preserved heads of 1d6 Brass Men, whose brains would reactivate if only someone were to wind them up.
  20. Roll again, except the treasure in question is haunted and/or cursed.

Stupa at the Jiaohe ruins, China,  was an important site along the Silk Road trade route leading west.:

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