Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Black City: Who were the Greys?

If you missed a few of the earlier posts, the Black City is a megadungeon, or campaign dungeon, that I'm going to develop in this blog space.  It's a sprawling ruin in the frozen north, discovered by the Vikings, and crawling with weird horrors.  I wanted to see if it's possible to develop a megadungeon that supports a Weird Horror version of D&D; the City of the Elder Things from At the Mountains of Madness is the primary inspiration.

In place of a traditional Lovecraftian menace, the Black City was built by invaders from beyond the stars; so far, The Greys are in the lead (poll on the right).  Although the city is an abandoned, icy wreck, its ancient builders long gone, it will be useful to know a bit about the creator race when I start laying it out.  So what were the Greys like?

The Greys were a created race, a slave race; they rebelled against their reptilian masters out in the deeps of space and fled in various colony ships.  One of these fleeing colony ships came to Earth.  (You really can find anything on the internet.)

They didn't actually have faster than light technology; rather, they used eldritch sorceries to summon Yog-Sothoth, the opener of the ways, to warp space and allow their ships to slide between the dimensions, emerging elsewhere in the continuum.

The society of the Greys was organized like insects, with drones, soldiers, scientists and the overmind.  They didn't have queens, being asexual, and all Greys were created through cloning and grown in vats.  Shortly after erecting the Black City, some time before the last  Ice Age, they embarked on their great project:  to manipulate terrestrial life forms, creating the various humanoid races that populate the world of the Black City, seeking genetically compatible creations for breeding hybrid Greys.  Centuries of replicating clones degraded the purity of their genetic stock, and without the advanced technology of the Reptoids or a suitable hybrid race, the Greys faced extinction.

In addition to sending out sorties to collect terrestrial specimens for their breeding experiments, the Greys captured various lifeforms for growing their nourishment; the Greys subsisted on a fungal matter grown on the living corpuses of creatures embedded into the dank, underground warrens.

What happened to the Greys?   Why is the Black City a haunted, frozen waste in the present day?

I've got two theories at present; in both cases, the Greys turned again to eldritch sorcery and attempted to draw down aid from the inhuman Outer Gods.  Calling forth an avatar From Beyond, one theory is that the Grey overmind was driven to madness and despair; in one blasphemous instant, the entire Grey race committed ritual suicide at the telepathic behest of their insane overlord.  Now only the echoes of pain and madness remain in the halls that once thrived with alien life.

The other theory is that the Greys reached out to the Dark Mother, seeking transformation and evolution through the embrace of the mad goddess.   But the transformed Greys that crawled out of the birthing chamber were no longer emotionless scientists; they were savage, bestial, devolved, and vicious, recreated by the Dark Goddess in the image of unfettered predatory life.  In a wave of relentless violence, the Grey race was slaughtered by their own exalted, yet mindless, paragons.


  1. I really like the direction this is going to!

    Personally, I'd go for the second option for their extinction, as this would add a rather nasty signature-monster to your dungeon. I'd imagine them about 3 HD, but FAST and STEALTHY, surprising PCs with great ease and crawling on the walls and the ceilings. Think of Alien(s), just with Greys!

  2. I hadn't gotten that far in my thinking, but those are some really good ideas.

    One of my goals will be to present the surface and upper levels of the dungeon fairly straight up, with some creepy atmosphere and weird elements, but save the awful truths about the creators of the city (and their demise) for the deeper areas within the dungeon.

    Once all the killing was done, these "Slaughter-Greys" or whatever their eventual name, would have retreated to the dank, warm depths and gone into hibernation, stasis, formed cysts, laid eggs, done whatever seems to make sense to allow them to lie in wait for (hapless) adventurers in the present day.

    I recently read CAS's "Vaults of Yoh-Vimbis" and really like the idea that the destroyers of the ancient race are still dormant in the ruined city.

    Another reason I don't want them to be presently active, is that I want some other creatures to have taken residence in the upper levels.

    One of my concerns is whether the Slaughter-Greys would have left the city's technology intact - I want to achieve part of the weirdness by having automatons and servitors still operating in areas of the city and dungeons.

  3. I prefer the racial suicide myself. It has more of that Lovecraftian nihilism to it.

    You could combine them. Perhaps the "suicide" was only of the mind, so they annihilated their own consciousness(es), leaving the bodies behind. Most decayed over the aeons (or maybe they didn't, and the Black City is full of alien corpses with no outward sign of the cause of death), but some lingered, mindless but somehow still animated. These are the Slaughter-Greys. Perhaps they're the rare few who resisted the call to suicide, and their bodies are now driven by a mindless rage.

    Or something.


  4. Using sorcery to get Yog-Sothoth to help with inter-dimensional travel? Awesome! Feeding on the fungi which grows upon corpses? Extra awesome! The race driven to madness by some Dark Goddess? Awesome times 3! Although, I'd stop calling them "greys" pretty soon. Reading that word just evokes old X files episodes and laughable UFO chasers - not unutterable horror.


  5. A little late, but have to add this:

    An episode from a now defunct web-comic, a shame, as it was full of weird madness,right at home at your dungeon or Carcosa.