Friday, January 18, 2013

The Benighted City of Lichtstadt

Ravenloft:  The megadungon


I hit a wall sometime last week; I've had some long days and work travel, the 6 year old is driving my wife nuts , and I got absolutely burnt out on reading history books.  I haven't had much time to write for the blog.   I switched over to reading some fiction, and I let my mind wander towards how my own "dungeon under the city" might look after ruminating over the last post.

Oh - before I forget - on the reading front; I motored through Jim Butcher's Cold Days in just a couple of days, and moved on to Chronicles of the Black Company.  It's super interesting, particularly because it's inspirational for how a tough group of D&D characters might operate if they were a mercenary group in a world populated with ordinary folks and a scattering of powerful characters.  It's not game fiction; you don't hear the dice rolling while you're reading.

With the oldest kiddo, we're halfway through the Earthsea trilogy (night time reading - I'm a good dad) with Elric of Melnibone lined up next.

Back to the dungeon under the city.

I'm envisioning the crumbling, central European city of Lichtstadt - home to corrupt guilds, blue-blooded patricians, and frightened peasants that cower from the things that go bump in the night.  Built on earlier catacombs and ruins, the city sits above a deep, sprawling dungeon where aristocratic undead vie for control of the various guilds and nobles of the surface world.  The sewers give way to catacombs and deeper dungeons where every figure from gothic horror gaming - stitched alchemical golems and undead, vengeful revenants; wrathful lycanthropes, and more vampires than can be counted, all scheme and lurk and wait for the sun to sink below the horizon.  Long have the erstwhile (mortal) rulers of Lichstadt turned a blind eye to the frequent disappearances on the streets after dark, and no one survives for long in the city jail.

The arrival of inquisitors from the great southern church to remote Lichstadt has upset the city's balance of power, and now manipulators meet in darkened halls to debate whether to move against the church overtly or marginalize it through politics and their human pawns.  But this much is true; the church has cast open the gates to the undercity, and it encourages any manner of cunning opportunist willing to risk life and limb in the sewers looking to pocket some gold while striking back against the night fiends.

Lichtstadt would require a serious overhaul to the standard D&D vampire.  Forget about the high level, energy draining monstrosities from the Monster Manual.  Lichtstadt Vampires drink blood through grappling and can die with a stake through the heart.  Vampires would fill a wide range of challenges in the dungeon, from bloodthirsty neonates that don't have many other vampiric powers (other than strength and toughness), to ancient vampire warlords and sorcerers in the depths that lead their own lineages and bloodlines.  Naturally, I'd raid the White Wolf catalog and create speedy vampires, shape-changing vampires, hypno-vampires, and so on.  There's something juvenile (yet funny) about taking all those World of Darkness archetypes and treating them as experience fodder for dungeon delving murder hobos.

If The Black City started out as Vikings: At The Mountains of Madness (before it went all sideways into gonzo sci-fantasy), then Lichstadt is Ravenloft: the Megadungon.  Parking this one in the The Junkyard for now, but my normal brainstorming notebook is quickly filling up with ideas for Lichtstadt.  It's almost too easy.