Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Black City: Area N, the Palladium

About the Black City:  The Black City is a ruined, alien city in the frozen north, on the shore of the island of Thule.  It's a campaign setting and megadungeon I've been working on the past half year; you can see how the project is doing here:  Black City project.

The Palladium is area N on the surface map, and is the second to last surface area on the map before I move on to the dungeons (or Trade Town - not sure which I'll do first - I have good notes on both of them).  The Palladium is one of the more interesting buildings that has survived the millennia.  Constructed of an indeterminate alloy, it is a massive domed structure (reminiscent of a modern domed stadium) with half of the oval above the ground and half of the oval below the ground.  The structure is supported by massive arched ribbing; rubble and debris of the ages  is piled against the outside walls.  The inside of the domed area covers a distance 320' across and the dome is around 120' high from it's lowest to highest points.

A covered tunnel leads into the murky interior.  Dim greenish lighting is spaced intermittently around the circumference of the dome, enough to make the interior gloomy while keeping visibility poor.  Floating around the interior of the dome are a large number of floating platforms, ranging from 10' x 10' all the way up to a couple of  40' x 40' platforms; each one is a few feet thick.  The platforms all float at different heights, and create a lazy circuit counterclockwise around the dome.  Down on the floor, there is a large central platform, but otherwise the floor is littered with rubble, debris, and the bones of countless mammals.

At the end of the covered entrance tunnel is a docking station, where a pedestal featuring basic hand controls can be used to call a floating platform over to the dock.  The palladium was once used by the inhabitants of the city to take in entertainment from a central performing area on the platform below, while floating around the interior space at leisure.  Dozens of large and small anti-grav platforms continue to circle counterclockwise in the open air.  Player characters jumping or climbing onto one of the platforms will be able to discover a touch pad on the platform that responds to different foot pressures, raising or lowering the altitude of the platform, returning to the dock on the next revolution, and increasing or decreasing the speed slightly.

Unfortunately, a powerful space devil was drawn down from the stars ages ago by the city's Beacon, and it's created a lair for itself here, high above the floor on the highest floating platform, near the top of the dome.  This tentacled monster is invisible, and feeds on the blood of mammals, slowly becoming visible as it drains more and more blood from a victim.

In game terms, the space devil can dangle paralytic tentacles to fish intruders off the lower platforms, reeling them in to meet a grisly end high above the ground.  A truly horrifying experience will be when the creature launches itself off the high platform, landing with a wet thud on the next platform and temporarily displacing the platform's orbit until it regains its buoyancy.  Although it will be invisible, it will be clear to any observer that something big and hungry is launching itself from platform to platform, quickly closing the gap to wherever the party is standing.

For the manuscript, I've got some basic rules sketched out for controlling the floating platforms, their rate of revolution and ability to ascend and descend, along with how to adjudicate jumping from platform to platform.  That could be a key strategy to escaping the space devil.

Star Vampire (inspiration)

No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 40' (120'), flying 20'
Armor Class: 0
Hit Dice: 12
Attacks: 6 / 1
Damage: Special / 5d4
Save: F12
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: V x 2
XP: 2,400

The idea for the space devil is Robert Bloch's "Shambler from the Stars", but I don't believe it's public domain.  So I'm using the basic D&D Roper as the Space Devil and drawing some inspiration from Bloch's monster (Look!  It's an invisible Roper!)

The space devil is a mass of roiling tentacles that moves on the land through a combination of rolling and pseudopodia.  It is able to fly slowly through the atmosphere, and often drifts in the air over the ruins near the palladium like a large floating jelly fish, trailing an invisible tentacle near to the ground to snag a meal.

Its six capturing tentacles can reach up to 50'.  A successful hit will force a victim to save vs paralysis due to toxins, and the creature will begin to reel the victim in at the rate of 10' per round.  A victim that makes the save can attempt a force doors check to break out of the tentacle; inflicting 5 hp on the AC 4 tentacle will also sever it.  Once a victim is reeled in, numerous small tentacles with sucking mouths and claws will drain blood at the rate of 5d4 hit points per round.

The creature is normally invisible (-4 to hit, assuming the party even detects it) but for each round of blood drain it inflicts, the penalty decreases 25% as the creature becomes visible as a pinkish horror.

The creature is immune to cold-based attacks and takes only half damage from electrical attacks.  It saves at -4 against fire attacks.


  1. I like it :) Might have to steal the invisible creature idea for my own game (but not the space vamp, I'll leave that to your excellent city).

    I recall you said you'd publish it once it was finished; are you still planning on doing that?

  2. That's still the plan. The notes for Trade Town are pretty good, the dungeons are mapped, and half the first level is stocked. I'm thinking after Gencon, starting some play tests of the setting with my regulars. Realistically puts a PDF compilation somewhere in October.

  3. Very excellent. Any adventurer worth their salt is going to want to make a beeline to a structure like that as soon as they can find their way through the streets.