Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Gentlemen of Fortune - A Prologue to Xibalba

I've had a poll up for a few days regarding the megadungeon project for 2014 - thanks for all of the interest!  It's shaping up to be a close vote between the Harrow Home Manor and the Vaults of Xibalba ideas.  I've had some posts about Harrow Home before, so here's a small prologue introducing Xibalba - it's the kind of background information that might get worked into a player's handout or kickoff for a first session.

21st March 1710.
From the Journal of Sebastian Osbourne, Captain of the St George

I found the place as described in the account of the Spanish priest.  West 30 degrees across the Gulf of Honduras from Puerto Caballos, allowing the Caribbean current to guide the ship north towards Isla de Providencia.  Halfway between Providencia and Cayos Miskitos, the hidden island appeared out of the morning mists.  What strange powers the heathen gods exert over these waters, to hide an entire island from the world!

The money spent for the Spaniard's book, an account of the new world by Father Juan de Santiago, was worth every Spanish reale I paid for it.  The priest's sojourn with the coastal peoples revealed fanciful legends of 52 year cycles, meticulous stone calendars, and a hidden "city of the gods" that appeared on the sea at the end of each cycle.  The priest found the place in 1554… he predicted it would appear next in 1606, then 1658, and now 1710.  I have found the lost Isla Mysteriosa, the place where the buccaneer Sanglantes hid a fabled treasure neither L'Olonnais or Morgan were able to find - and no wonder!  The island disappears for decades at a time.

The St George rocks gently in the cove called "Bahia Segura" on the Spaniard's map.  Tomorrow we drop our first long boats.  I have scoured the dock side taverns and seaman's pubs of Nassau and Kingston to fill out a weathered crew of sea dogs and gentlemen of fortune, hungry for the chance to find the lost treasure of Sanglantes and plunder the forgotten city hidden on the island.  Unknown splendors await.  The adventure begins tomorrow.

There's a bit to unpack here.  I like the idea of placing Xibalba on a lost island that appears and disappears at intervals; it promises a potentially pristine location for the adventurers before the game begins - and yet, its regular appearances in the 16th and 17th centuries means that evidence of past expeditions, the ruins of a Spanish fort or mission, the wrecks of 17th century buccaneers - aren't out of the question, either.

A megadungeon campaign needs a nearby home base.  How about a floating home base - the St George, a privateering brig (or frigate) anchored just off the coast?  First level characters are crewmen of the St George, and the St George is where characters return for healing and recruiting additional help.  I'd expect higher level characters to eventually purchase or hire their own vessel at some indeterminate point in the future when they return to Kingston.

There's a lot of time for the poll to run its course, and I'm very comfortable if either Harrow Home Manor or Xibalba ends up being the choice (I'm assuming the Greek megadungeon is falling out of the race).  Harrow Home borrows heavily from Poe and Lovecraft and the gothic monsters of European folklore - vampires, werewolves, ghouls, the things that go bump in the night.  This little excerpt gives a teaser of Xibalba - a campaign that promises steaming jungles, crumbling ziggurats, pirates, cut throats, the weird beings of the Mesoamerican mythos, and maybe a bit of cursed Aztec or Mayan gold.

I'll have to figure out what to call the campaign.  Goblins of the Spanish Main?  The Mysterious Island?  The dungeons are the Vaults of Xibalba - so it'll probably just end up as The Xibalba Campaign by default.  We'll see which idea is the boss in another week or two.

Oh - Happy New Year everyone!


  1. Me, too.

    I do see one potential issue, though - the island appears at random, as you say, but how long does it stay accessible before it disappears again? And what happens if it disappears while the PCs are on it*?

    *Maybe it jumps forward to the next appearance, so not only might your players find themselves in 1762, but some of those previous expeditions might have more left than just wreckage . . . .

  2. I'm thinking the island is accessible from solstice to solstice once it appears - basically a whole year. I'm figuring there could also be a way to turn off "the cloaking device" once someone explores far enough in the ruins, assuming a calendar year isn't enough time to fully explore the place.

    I like the idea that Captain Oz and the St George aren't the only groups that know about the reappearance of the island at intervals, and others will be coming (ie, the Spanish...)

    Oh crap, I'm having LOST flashbacks now. Funny how that stuff permeates the subconscious. One could do worse for their inspirations, I suppose.

  3. Well, I voted for Xibalba, but was kinda sad Spirit Island wasn't in the running. I hope you'll return to that one someday.

  4. I think that The Xibalba Campaing would be good.

    Goblins of the Spanish Main is more funny a name, but it makes me think about a Caribbean chock full of the usual races from fantasy while it doesn't seem the case for this setting.