Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Black City - more surface areas - E, G, and H


A continuation of the series describing special surface areas in the Black City.  As has been the case lately, I'm posting mainly descriptive stuff and saving stats and encounter details for the upcoming pdf.

E The Misty Hollow
There are a handful of prominent holes in this part of the city, deep shafts that extend down to the steaming caverns of the level 2 Warrens of Decay.   The caverns are heated with geothermal water, and excess moisture and warmth is vented up through the shafts that empty here.  The rocky ground surrounding each shaft is consistently slick and icy, and misty water vapor clogs the air.  The letter E hex and surrounding areas are perpetually foggy.

If any character is unfortunate enough to slip near one of the open shafts, there's a chance they'll slide into one of the deep air vents and drop 80' down a slide before emerging from the ceiling of the Great Warren, another 60-80' above the cavern floor.

The Misty Hollow surface area is particularly dangerous to explorers due to traps, the aforementioned ice, and the predation of a deranged killer, "Bonecracker".  Collapsed buildings have formed a deep cave, and the murderous Northman, Bonecracker, lairs there, sucking the marrow from the bones of victims dragged back to the cave.  While Bonecracker used to be from Trade Town, he has mutated beyond recognition due to roid worm infection (see the article on Black City berserkers for the details).  Bonecracker is a Stage 3 berserker - he stands over 8' tall and has stats similar to an ogre in combat.

The hexes surrounding the Misty Hollow are riddled with various man-killing traps, set by Bonecracker with wicked cunning.  Spiked armatures whip out of the mist without warning after a tripwire is triggered, impaling the unwary; booms sweep across a trail at knee height, hobbling trespassers; always there are the simple pitfalls, designed to detain a group long enough for the lord hunter of the area to arrive and claim his victims.

Despite his size, Bonecracker moves quietly and knows the terrain of the Misty Hollow intimately.  The infection has heightened his senses such that he can hurl giant-sized spears out of the mist with minimal blindness penalties.  Fear and terror are his allies.

G The Great Ramp
This colossal hole in the ground leads to a 40' ramp that descends into the darkness  at an incline, making a right turn every 120' or so in a great spiral.  The top area of the ramp is clear of ice and snow, but once the group gets beyond the first bend, the ramp is coated with ice and requires appropriate climbing gear to continue the descent.  The ice clears after a few more bends in the spiral.

The ramp circles downward until it connects to level 4, the Halls of Machinery.  The ramp is essentially a service entrance to allow oversized automatons in and out of the lower levels without using any of the vertical shafts / elevators in the Transit Tunnels that were reserved for lighter duty traffic and inhabitants.

Near the bottom of the spiral, the party will approach an opaque, shimmering wall of light (treat as a Wall of Force).  They will be unable to proceed further unless a member is carrying a green passkey gemstone.  Bringing such a gemstone within 5' of the wall of force will cause it to disappear, reappearing once the gemstone holder passes more than 5' away.

Tidewater glacier in Spitsbergen (inspirational)
H The Great Glacier
The great glacier is a river of ice, issuing from the nearby mountains, that splits the city.  Over tens of thousands of years, the ice has gouged a moraine through the center of the city, reducing everything in its path to rubble as it pushes onward to the fjord.  60% of the island of Thule is covered by glaciers, and its common for smaller ones like this to find their way to sea.

Crossing the glacier requires climbing ice that crests over 50' in the air and covers nearly half a mile across in places.  It's common for there to be variations in the ice flow that create crevasses and other climbing hazards.  Unless a group scouts ahead properly, there's a 1 in 6 chance the path they've chosen for ascent causes them to retrace their steps due to an impasse such as a large crevasse.

Unencumbered characters will have a 3 in 6 chance to climb the glacier without incident (roll per hex).  The group can improve their chances with climbing gear (spikes and hammers and axes), +2 per person.  Proper rope use won't reduce the risk of a fall but will negate much of the damage.  50' of rope is sufficient to rope two characters together.  Having a trained mountaineer, or specialist/thief, scout a proper course will also increase the chance per person by +1.  Encumbered characters take penalties to the climb roll, -1 per encumbrance level above unencumbered (-1 for light, -2 for heavy.  Severely encumbered characters can't climb).

Climbing the ice is extremely slow, and will take an unencumbered group an hour per hex to cross.

DM's note:  the glacier serves to separate the northern and southern halves of the city; the northern half is quite a bit more dangerous.  Enterprising groups might consider taking longboats or even long ships up the fjord to bypass the glacier, but it's crucial to avoid calving ice in the misty waters of the fjord; icebergs are common near the ruins of the city.

Glacial predators often follow the ice out of the mountains, and the glacier provides the chance to introduce unusual ice monsters (like whatever will be the Black City equivalent of Rhemorhaz or similar ice worm).  The glacier has its own wandering monster table, but it's likely I'll add something more bizarre when we start the playtest.  I may need to adjust the scale/size of the city as well, depending on how quickly players traverse it.