Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Black City: The Hippodrome

A note on the Black City:  It's been a few weeks since a Black City post.  The Black City is a sprawling alien ruin in the frozen north, recently rediscovered by Viking Northmen.  The project is a campaign setting I've been developing that includes islands, a ruined a city, and the dungeons beneath the city - you can skim the project here:  The Black City project.

The Hippodrome (area K on the city map) is the crumbling ruins of an ancient coliseum; the southern half of the coliseum crumbled long ago during an ancient earthquake, and explorers must make their way up treacherous blocks of stone and rubble to see the arena below.  There are three wide tunnels that lead from the floor of the arena into the warrens beneath the seating area, and ultimately connect to both the Transit Tunnels (dungeon level 1) and the Warrens of Decay (dungeon level 2).

There are small enclaves of White Apes throughout the city and the tunnels beneath it, but the largest population has staked a claim here, in the ruins of the Hippodrome, lairing in the tunnels beneath the stadium.

I still need to put together a formal bestiary article for the White Apes, but their origin is that they are the remnants of early humans, devolved along the evolutionary tree by the alien overlords of the city many tens of thousands of years ago to become a slave race.  Their stats will be somewhere between BX Neanderthals and BX White Apes - they have much higher than animal intelligence, simple tool building skills, and even a little use of fire, but are still a separate species from humanity.  The name "ape" is a misnomer, misapplied by early explorers, but these hairy brutes do have ape-like features and are covered with shaggy white hair.  They're like oversized, white haired chimpanzees - an arctic version of a stronger, tougher Australopithecus.

Violent packs of male apes roam the snowy wastes around the lip of the arena and surrounding streets, armed with bone clubs and rocks, and often enter into violent clashes with other groups of apes or men.  However, anyone that makes it into the arena area and comes into the awareness of the powerful females that dominate White Ape society will be greeted in another manner entirely.

Perhaps the apes are jealous of man's gracile form, or they innately understand the inter-species compatibility between man and ape, but male adventurers will be accosted in an inappropriate, yet arguably friendly, manner.  Any explorers that are able to wander the ape tunnels will see evidence that other raiders from Trade Town have been to the tunnels beneath the Coliseum and have taken advantage of the primitives; hybrid ape children can be seen and there's even evidence identifying one of the crews involved - a flag or standard that belongs to the long ship, Crow Feeders.

Ape society is strongly matriarchal, with females forming powerful alliances to control the males of the tribe and enforcing a communal lifestyle.  There's no sense of paternity among the White Apes, leading to the communal raising of all chimps, including the hybrids.  The most powerful male in the tribe has a degree of autonomy outside of the lair, and often leads violent patrols into the ruins of the city.  The White Apes have a primitive language and can also communicate through hand signals.

The apes hunt a number of animals on the ice, but desperately fear polar bears and some of the other predators that haunt the city.  They're often victimized by the inhabitants of the Tower of Terror.  For that reason, they descend to the Warrens of Decay to gather food and fuel in the sprawling caverns below, retreating into the colder upper tunnels of the city to escape the monstrous insects that inhabit the Warrens.

Unbeknownst to most inhabitants of Trade Town, the recent discovery of the Black City was not the first time the city was found in modern times; a ship was blown off course and landed here decades ago, leaving with a most unusual passenger.  Now there is a prominent person back at Trade Town that doesn't know he's a hybrid, returning to the island of his birth after decades living in the Northlands.  There's something in the air here, something in his blood.  If the players return to Trade Town with stories of the Ape Men and evidence of the hybrids, it might unhinge this person as certain connections are made and forbidden questions  are answered.

Ape Men of the Black City (White Apes)

No. Enc.: 2-12 (10-40)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: weapon or 1 bite
Damage: 1d6 or 1-3
Save: F2
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: XX
XP: 20

The bestiary article will include societal details from the entry above, such as the matriarchal nature of the ape clans and the demographic break down of males, females, and children.

The Ape Men use primitive clubs and sharpened bone axes as weapons, and can hurl rocks for 1d6 damage.  Every clan will have an alpha male that fights as a higher HD monster; a 3HD monster if there are 20 or more apes in the clan, and a 6HD monster if there are 50 or more.  (It's true the number appearing in the wilderness is only 10-40, but I reserve the right to have larger clans gathered - DM fiat!)


  1. Yay, return to the Black City! I like the apes. Makes me think of Lovecraft's 'The Lurking Fear'.

  2. Great post - and a great "monster" race with plenty of opportunities for RP as well as combat.