Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Dry City

Once called Annu Nki. A city led by the witch queen Agayba long ago. Invaders came to sack the city, and when the defenses fell, she wrought unspeakable magic to spite the invaders, preserve her people, and cheat death, all in one. She is now an immortal tree inside her old keep, and the animated roots, miles long, suck moisture from all living beings and the land, turning them to husks and the land to a dry waste. Now it is a shunned place, its only permanent resident her sorcerer lover Neroikos who works in repetitive insanity to create a body for her soul to reinhabit.

Dry Streets and hollow-eyed buildings behind a cracked and sand-blasted wall with multiple breaches. It's not so much ruined as it is deserted, and the central fortress, visible above the buildings anywhere of the city, makes you dizzy to look at it, so heavy does the weight of magic bear down.
A little hex map was useful for me to mark notable buildings/encounters in the city

Buildings have a 1/6 chance of having a path to the catacombs (12-15) burrowed by roots. 1/6 chance of loot per building(sealed jars of salt, old bronze arms and armor, stone strongboxes of jewelry, that sorta thing, otherwise just dust and old furniture), but a 2-in-6 chance of encounter per room- ransacking the city is more dangerous than profitable, as the entire population+invaders is wandering as husks or undead. You can roll for encounters per 'hex' if you're using the above city map as well.
1-Autumn Briar- A hamsterball of thorns the size of a carriage, a tumbleweed rolled around by either undead or husks contained inside. Undead seek to kill via rolling, husks roll their prison of thorns towards water sources.
2-Vampiric Roots- Stats as regular snakes, but instead of poison you save vs huskification. Usually attack from surprise by bursting out of the ground. They can't reach rooftops.
3-Witch- A member of a coven that seeks to learn ancient witchly knowledge from Agayba. As minor spellcaster with a flying device that only works for its owner- a broom, mortar and pestle, etc.
4-Husk- Sucked of their life energy and moisture save for a small amount to technically be alive. Long white hair, withered skin and sunken eyes, only motivated by thirst. 1HP but can drain water from people to huskify them on hits. A barrel of water will rehydrate them into a healthy but confused human, either a citizen of the city or one of the plundering invaders. Good reaction rolls indicate they're barely lucid due to managing to suck some rainwater recently, or too dehydrated to even move.
5-Doll- A mutant clone of the witch-queen Agayba- either cast out, escaped, or on a mission for the sorcerer Neroikos. Green eyes, black hair, long limbs, and many mutations. Intelligent and suitable to become magic-users, but only possessing incomplete souls and the naivety of a young child on account of being grown out of a vat a few months prior
6-Undead- Husks that have died, then come back. As low-tier undead that thirst for moisture but will never rehydrate, only forever thirsting. Drain people to husks. Indistinguishable from husks save for their inability to be rehydrated no matter how much water they drink, and the strength of undeath, which regular husks do not have.
7-Huskified Local Encounter
8-Conflict of 2, roll 2d6
Dark grey is subterranean

Witch Queen's Keep
Has a main entrance of great double doors leading into 1, a side servant's entrance, and 4 towers on its corners. 2-3 stories tall, roughly. The darker areas are subterranean caverns that various city Catacomb entrances lead to either 12, 13, 14, or 15 depending on which district of the city they were found in.
Main Entrance
2 promising Dolls. Cloned women with black hair and green eyes, Bronze helmets of horse and bull and wicked bardiche weapons, they flank inside main entrance. Clad in black robes, AC as leather thanks to their speed and helmets. 4HD. Naive but fierce and scornful of women, who are believed to be failed dolls.
Upper Levels
1- Tree of the Witch Queen
A large cathedral, exits aligned in each cardinal direction, with a massive black and twisted tree overgrowing an altar, with ruby droplets of blood instead of flowers.  The tree's trunk is twisted such that there appears to be a wooden woman in the trunk, with a long straight nose and high cheekbones. This is not the witch, who is dormant and immaterial, but her essence has made the tree resemble her.
Droplets heal and rejuvenate, but taking them enrages the tree. It is currently immortal and will recover from damage dealt to it unless its mortality is returned to it.

2- Servant's entrance. A lone husk still mans the entrance here, sitting on a chair inside a iron portcullis door. Has a small bell and will open the gate for those who ring a servant's bell if he's huskified. If not huskified, he will be extremely xenophobic and suspicious, since in his perception the city is still under attack by invaders, but it's only a matter of time until the roots dehydrate him again.

3- Covens Tower- Entrance from below is boarded up and warded with 13 knives. Anything passing through the door to the tower takes hits from all 13 knives thanks to the coven's Gate of the Knife spell. Witches enter via flying through the window at the top of the tower. A fairly ordinary series of rooms where the witches fly in, study things for a few days, then fly out after logging their activities in a journal. Some dried mushrooms hang from the ceiling as snacks, and there's a book on fungus identification, a map of the castle, and notes on the monsters here, as well as various plots to kill Neroikos so they can chat with Agayba's ghost in peace.

9- Tower of Dolls. Three Giant glass jars contain girls with black hair, high cheekbones, and closed eyes, floating in green liquid. There are hatches allowing access to the glass jars that could be unlocked and opened. and small tubes and funnels into which liquids can be added to the chambers, which will affect the physiology of the clones. Various small animals live in cages here.

Fran, a scarred doll watches over them. She has an inferiority complex towards her sisters as she is a failed doll kept around to hopefully one day aid a true doll to inherit the witches soul, with no chance of herself being chosen. She is a 1hd woman with surgical and child-rearing skills who will skulk in the shadows and attack, wailing, with a knife if the clones are harmed. Neroikos will be here 50% of the time during the day.

Jars of emeralds and onyx for coloration, worth a few thousand coins.

6-Tower of Power- Neroikos, Master Biomancer's study and living quarters. Doll in a servant's outfit has a veiled face and quietly attempts to take burdening items from the players and hang them on a coat-rack. She does not talk or make any attempts to communicate intentionally, basically bullied and built to be an unseen servant. Has no mouth and only one eye, the other being an empty eye socket that connects to her stomach. Entrance is locked, and he is here 50% of the time at night.

10- Tower of Moons- Astronomy notes and a large telescope are here, as well as a doll that is a giant scorpion with the face of Agayba, the ability to mimic voices, and orders to lay in ambush for the witches, or rather, any one entering the room besides Neroikos. This creature will be dispatched as an stealthy and cunning assassin to track and kill the players show up to this place, annoy Neroikos, and leave. Neroikos will be here 50% of the time at night.

4&5 Roots of the Witch Tree. Fight as 8 roots, if destroyed, hole to 11 revealed. Tangles masses of ambulatory roots that will extend to menace anyone threatening the tree.

Area Between 1 and 8-passageways up to the higher levels of 8 and down to 11. Locked, Neroikos wears key.
8- Altar of Despair-Room with 6 torchlit pillars, 10-foot balconies to the north and south with no apparent means to reach them, and at the far end, a pyramid of steps leading up to an altar, upon which a frankenstein's monster of a doll is half-possessed by the witch-Queen Agayba's spirit, but is being rejected by the nascent soul of the doll- treat as Flesh Golem if Noroikos 'activates' it. Neroikos comes here frequently to work on the project, and will be found here 50% of the time during the day.

There's a secret door on the wall behind th ealtar that leads to two branching hallways that double back and lead up to the high balconies and the towers those balconies connect to (9 and 10)

Neroikos is a master Biomancer with all spells here save Infantilize, Wave of Mutilation, because I think Infantilize is too nice for this jerk and Wave of Mutilation just doesn't seem like a proper biomancer spell, idk. You could also just give him unlimited polymorph and have him turn into a different animal each turn. He has eaten the hearts of 100 monsters and overcome the Doom, though in my game he got a bad slough skin mishap and got owned.

Dunking the Agayba Golem into the Dream and the Blood in the caverns below will allow her to be properly resurrected, but only after the tree is destroyed, and it's that aspect that Neroikos is missing.

11- Taproot of the Witch tree and a veritable forest of smaller roots that seem to tremble in the corner of your sight. If players attack the roots, treat it as a kraken that also forces a save vs dehydration on hit and also grows more roots like a hydra if they cut one off. However, one can very carefully sneak through the maze of roots without rousing their ire so long as open flame is kept away from them and you don't bump them with bare skin or spill water.

12- The Witches Dream  Puddling up in pools reflection events gone by.
Dream of the Siege- Bronze armored men and flaming catapults besieging the city. Witch laying waste from the black cathedral but growing old, until she is crumbling to dust and retreats into the Tree to suck the life from besiegers and besieged alike. You can enter the dream if you dare.

13- Place of the Skull
This is an earthen cavern with a sandy floor and two stone structures filled with alcoves the right size for a skull, and indeed some have skulls inside.
There are various names on the skull alcoves appropriate to the bygone time period. None have an X in them though this detail is not obvious and shouldn't be mentioned unless a player asks. There is a riddle scrawled in large letters in the dirt.
"There once was a man out for plunder
X marked the spot, 6 feet under
but alas, he still read on
he was naught but a simpleton
and so he was torn all asunder"

Whenever skulls are disturbed, an increasing number of skeletons (2, then 4, then 8, etc) and a massive crawling skeleton comes down a tunnel. The giant one is more like an advancing building than something you can fight, and it leaves a sandy tunnel behind leading either to nothing, or to a buried necropolis of titans if you into that. The giant skeleton is only active so long as the little skeletons are, crawling slowly forward.

Buried beneath the X in the limerick-riddle is a coffin stuffed with treasure of a skullish iconography. 10,000 silver (in a copper standard) coins and a lantern-scepter-Mace with a fragment of the Skull Moon inside, allowing to to open the lantern to reanimate corpses as uncontrollable undead.

14- Place of the Breath
3 Pools rippling at different frequencies based on the most recent statement.
"Speak, Slander Will Be Exposed and Belief and Truth walk hand in hand with Lies" is engraved on the floor.
Pool of Belief- Ripples unless a statement is/has been said that the user believes to be true.
Pool of Lies- Ripples if a statement actually is true.
Pool of Gossip- Ripples unless it the statement is about a living person
So you must say something you believe is true about someone, but is actually false to still all pools.
Once all pools are stilled, they leave and the Helm of 20 Questions is revealed. 20 shots of mind reading.

15- Place of Blood
A Flea-headed vampire demon is here.  It tells you that it will reveal the origin of each pool of blood for each amusing blood-based pun you tell it, and then it attacks, hopping forward with a spear-nose! It has 32HP, ac 15, 4HD, and can spend a turn leaping into pool of blood to heal completely, and its 1d6 probiscus heals it too, but it wastes a turn laughing at every bad pun it is told.
Bloodpool #1- The witches blood, which will restore mortality to the immortal Tree.
Bloodpool #2- Drinking it heals you a bit, but may mutate you, and if your mutations exceed your HD upon death (or twice HD in life) you instead transform into a bloodthirsty monster. I had this be accursed blood from a vampire moon but whatever.
Blood pool #3- Actually a huge vampiric Blood Pudding, content to laze about but absolutely terrifying if bothered by anything but the flea demon.
It has an infinite supply of blood down here and attacks for the sake of excitement rather than malice or hunger, and is an affable enough fellow.

Once the Tree is destroyed, the city will rehydrate next rainfall and instantly become a madhouse of ancient people renewing their war armed only with bricks and clad in rags. The wise will flee the city and become refugees, the foolish will stay and form gangs of brigands.

This site was good for, oh, 8 or so sessions in the game I ran, though a focused party could probably whip through it much quicker if it was the only thing on their plates. Originally it was for a different campaign and was full of regular undead, but the 'rehydration' and threat of being dehydrated rather than level drained was a definite improvement over the original 'ye olde necropolis' idea for sure. The ease of rescuing husks was rewarding, but the mimicry of the truly undead husks keeps players on their toes.

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