Friday, 10 June 2016

I wrote it so I might as well post it 3: Homeric Greece and Frogs in Hats

I am writing the post on romantic fantasy that I promised, but it's proving to be much longer and more complicated than I expected. It may have to end up as a series of posts rather than just one. So in the meantime, you get filler content, in the form of a bunch of random tables I've posted on forums over the last few months in response to various people's requests for ideas. None of them have anything to do with ATWC, but I kinda like the frogs in hats.

So, first up, some (mildly) weird fantasy. Some guy asked for suggestions for stuff to place in a 'gonzo fantasy' continent, so I wrote...

Table 1: What have we just found in Gonzo Land? (Roll 1d6)

1: The shattered remains of a domed city, wrecked by some inconceivable violence in ages past. It's inhabited by feuding clans of vicious sophisticates, who engage in brutal turf wars among the shattered streets in the intervals between making sniffy comments about one another's clothes. Each gang cultivates its own outlandish style, but all of them replace their fingernails with surgically-implanted fragments of glass, scavenged from the wreckage of the city's shattered dome. These glass claws also serve as their weapons of choice in their all-too-frequent bouts of internecine violence.

2: The Bullywug Floating Republic, an immense armada of ships, boats, and floating platforms that gradually floats counter-clockwise around the whole edge of the continent, completing one circuit every three years. It's run by a hierarchy of fanatically disciplined Bullywug sailors, who dress like 18th-century naval officers (complete with bicorn hats) and are obsessed with keeping the flotilla moving on schedule: anyone slowing it down will be court-martialled and probably shot. They are the continent's greatest masters of shipbuilding, navigation, gunnery, and cartography, but no-one likes dealing with them because the Bullywugs keep looking at their pocket-watches and making tutting noises. Buying temporary citizenship of the Republic (1 gp per day, rations not included) is a slow but reliable way of travelling from one seaport to the next.

3: A procession of robot pilgrims declare that they're on their way to some distant shrine, and will explain at enormous length that their faith is purer than that of any human because they have been programmed to feel no doubt. They enthusiastically invite passers-by to join them, waxing eloquent on the many wonders that they hope to see when they finally reach their destination. The shrine they're going to was swallowed whole by a giant space dragon several hundred years ago. Their pilgrimage will never end.

4: A frozen lake, surrounded on all sides by temperate, sunny plains. Inside it can be glimpsed the forms of huge aboleth, entombed in the ice; they're still alive, down there, and anyone getting too close will hear their psychic voices calling in their minds, begging to be cut out and released. The gnoll tribes nearby are overwhelmingly paranoid about aboleth influence after some very bad experiences in the past, and will inflict crude lobotomies on anyone acting suspiciously in order to ensure that they're not mind-slaves of the monsters in the ice.

5: A grazing herd of twenty-ton Paraceratherium, meandering slowly across the endless grasslands. As they go, they talk to one another in low, rumbling voices, always about the same three topics: history, mathematics, and grass. Their knowledge on all three topics is immense, passed down from one generation to the next in the form of interminable rambling dialogues, but they will reveal it to outsiders only in exchange for new information: in exchange for a fact about grass they require new information about history, in exchange for knowledge about history they require new information on mathematics, and in exchange for mathematical knowledge they require new information about grass. (This last is much the hardest; there is very little about grass that they don't know already.) Anyone trying to deceive them with false information will be unceremoniously trampled to death.

6: Vast networks of mineshafts, dug out by countless generations of kobolds, keep running into the unbreakable bones of some unimaginable creature. As far as the mine engineers can tell, the skeleton appears to be that of some kind of colossal lizard-beast, at least three or four miles long, but their picture of what it must have looked like in life keeps having to be revised as they run across new bone structures that don't seem to fit. A lunatic cult which lurks in the nearby woods believes that the creature is the earthly form of their horrible monster-god, and that when it is fully excavated their prayers will return it to life to rampage across the world, drowning the nations in glory and death. The kobolds occasionally debate whether they should stop digging around it, just in case, but the ore veins are just too rich to turn down...

Then there was the guy who wanted help with stocking the hexes of his Greek Heroic Age hexcrawl, and some suggestions for 'random village problems' the PCs might run into, so I wrote...

Table 2: Random Village Problems In The Greek Heroic Age (roll 1d10)

  1. Centaurs have stolen our women!
  2. The local king is a hubristic asshole and it's only a matter of time before he ends up bringing down divine vengeance upon all of us. Please persuade him to stop before he fucks up.
  3. Some moron spied on the local river nymph while she was bathing and now she's withholding the waters until we bring him in for punishment. Unfortunately he left town three days ago and we don't know where he's gone.
  4. A bunch of Stymphalian birds have settled in the local forests and keep trying to eat us. Help.
  5. Some kid from our village insulted a hero and now he's out for blood. We would like to solve this problem without all getting killed by some wrath-crazed demigod.
  6. One of King Minos' ship just arrived from Crete. They say they from now on, we're expected to send them annual tribute. Human tribute.
  7. We think the new guy in town is probably an Arcadian werewolf. There's definitely something eating our sheep at night...
  8. We think the new girl in town is probably a Thessalian witch. She was certainly up to something on the night of the last full moon!
  9. A cult of Bacchae has just arrived in our community and we are scared and confused, and also we do not want to be eaten by their pet tigers.
  10. Apparently the gods are angry with us and we have no fucking idea what we did wrong. Help us work out what it was before they send a giant monster or something.

Table 3: Random Hex Contents in the Greek Heroic Age (Roll 1d20)

  1. Bacchic cult engaged in drunken revels.
  2. Shipwrecked Laestrygonians looking for humans to eat.
  3. Sheep-herding cyclops living in a cave up in the mountains.
  4. Ordinary-seeming Arcadian villagers are all secretly werewolves.
  5. Colony of Stymphalian birds wrecking everything.
  6. Coven of witches newly arrived from Thessaly.
  7. Abandoned Cyclopean forge, built on a superhuman scale. Forgotten in a corner lie 1d4 thunderbolts, ready for hurling. Throwing one obliterates pretty much any single mortal target but draws the attention and ire of Zeus.
  8. Drunken centaurs on the rampage.
  9. Wise centaur sage living as a hermit, teaches knowledge and healing to those he judges to be worthy.
  10. Cavern system haunted by lampads, the light of whose torches drives men mad.
  11. Visiting princes from Troy on diplomatic mission to nearby king, accompanied by their retinue, throwing money around like water and boasting that their city is invincible.
  12. Travelling rhapsode sings and composes epic poetry, eager to talk to PCs about their experiences so that he can use it as the basis for some new material.
  13. Adolescent hero, no idea who his father was but pretty sure it must have been one of the Olympians, wandering from temple to temple in search of clues about his heritage.
  14. Flower-filled meadow inhabited by an alseid, worshipped as a minor divinity by the surrounding villages.
  15. Lone man, crazed, gibbering, filthy, pursued by the Furies.
  16. Troupe of Korybantes war-dancers, looking for a good fight followed by a good dance, or possibly the other way around.
  17. Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, asks passers-by if they know any good jokes.
  18. Proteus is lurking around here, disguised as an ordinary animal. If recognised and successfully wrestled with he will agree to foretell the future for his vanquisher.
  19. A band of lonely satyrs looking for nymphs to chase.
  20. Beautiful princess out walking with attendants, jumpy and nervous, assumes any animal that behaves oddly around her is probably Zeus in disguise.

Then there was the guy who wanted suggestions for stuff that you might find in a post-apocaylptic fantasy landscape. So I wrote:

Table 4: Stuff To Find After a Fantasy Apocalypse (roll 1d10)

(I totally reused some of these ideas for table 1.)

  1. A great field full of black stone ziggurats, all embedded into the ground at different angles, including upside down. Clearly they all fell from the sky, probably from a great height. Strange creatures, and the undead remains of their original occupants, lurk inside.
  2. A sunken town at the bottom of a lake. Weird coloured lights can be seen flashing down there at night.
  3. An apparently ordinary field which, once a year, echoes with shouts, screams, battle-cries in forgotten languages, and the roar of unimaginable weaponry. Digging down far enough will reveal a compacted layer of bones, which must once have comprised tens if not hundreds of thousands of skeletons, intertwined with all manner of military wreckage.
  4. Magical beings designed to test the faith of pilgrims visiting a long-fallen shrine. The shrine is dust, now, but the guardians are still there, waylaying passers-by and insisting that they answer questions relating to the doctrine of their long-forgotten faith. Those who failed were supposed to be taken for compulsory religious instruction; but as the last priest died millennia ago, the spirits just grab their victims and march them round in circles until they die of exhaustion.
  5. Ancient law-enforcement golems, looking like prison blocks on legs. Animated chains leap out and grab 'lawbreakers' and 'trespassers', depositing them in cells within the golem's body: when it has a full load, it returns them to 'the courthouse' for judgement. The courthouse in question is a ruin inhabited by tribes of cannibal ghouls, who view the golems as a food delivery system.
  6. Floating islands, topped with the ruins of what were once flying castles, flying across the world in endless, looping circles. Their inhabitants use various means of getting down to the surface: some have domesticated great flying beasts, some use refurbished flying machines, and some just drop down really long ladders.
  7. A series of icy caves, in which rest the perfectly preserved corpses of various ancient saints and heroes, guarded by a race of tiny, cold-skinned, wide-eyed creatures which never speak and never sleep and worship the corpses as sleeping gods.
  8. An immense fallen war-golem, so huge that a small town has grown up in its shadow. The town's leaders have figured out how to turn its deadly eyebeams on and off by yelling command words into its enormous stone ears, but they have no way of turning its head.
  9. A ritual complex once used to teach magic to apprentices, now in ruins. Glitching magical images of ancient tutors recite mixtures of wisdom and gibberish, and direct 'students' into further rooms, half of which are now filled with deadly monsters or lethally-misfiring magical effects.
  10. A lonely sea-coast on which the fisher-folk frequently bring up fragments of unbreakable glass in their nets, pieces of the dome which once protected a long-ruined underwater city. The older ones swear that they can hear something singing to them out of the water on moonless nights. 

Finally, some guy had a setting with loads of little principalities and was asking for suggestions for ways to differentiate them from one another, so I wrote:

Table 5: Yeah, but in My Principality... (roll 1d12)

  1. ...we have a national holiday where everyone has to go out and catch poisonous jellyfish.
  2. ...we once had this mad king who built, like, ten different castles in the middle of this swamp, all of which now lie in ruins.
  3. ...we have this old shrine where people roll around in the mud at a holy spring in the hope of being cured of all afflictions. Sometimes it works.
  4. ...we have a tradition that it's supposed to be bad luck to kill a toad. Like, really bad luck. You wouldn't believe the lengths people go to in order to get rid of them non-fatally.
  5. ...we're supposed to wear red for three years after the death of a parent, and for two years after the death of a child.
  6. ...we're economically dependent on silver-mining, but the mines are producing less silver every year.
  7. ...we're all taught how to fight with spears as kids. I think it's a tradition or something.
  8. ...we have a custom that the reigning prince must never reveal his face or his hands in public.
  9. ...we have a legend that the Great Starfarer will one day return and take us with her.
  10. ...we make the best cider for hundreds of miles around. Don't try the beer, though. That stuff tastes like shit.
  11. ...we give each other live birds as love-tokens. Wealthy lovers will pay a small fortune for an especially rare and beautiful bird.
  12. ...we have, like, a hundred traditional songs about how we once won this battle against this evil duke, and all of them go on for hours. I can sing one of them for you right now, if you like!

Anyway. First romantic fantasy post should be coming soon!

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