Posts Tagged ‘ruins’

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is “Unusual Dungeons (and other such locations)” chosen by Nils Jeppe over at Enderra. Is that an awesome theme or what?

In my homebrew setting of Exploration Age ruined settlements and structures from an age when aberrations ruled Canus dot the world map. These aberrant ruins come in many forms. My favorite is a prison designed specifically for holding dragons!

The only dragon no prison can contain.


History of Dragon Prisons

The aberrations warred for thousands of years with the dragons for control of Canus. During that time the aberrations used powerful magic to create special prisons designed to hold dragons. These prisons needed to be powerful indeed to contain such mighty creatures.

The aberrations eventually lost the war with the dragons, abandoning their surface structures and retreating into The Underdark. Many of their prisons remain standing thousands of years later with magic and horrors untold.

Entrance Citadels

No dragon prisons actually exist on the Material Plane. Each prison is held in its own special demiplane created by the aberrations. The hidden entrances to these worlds are found within labyrinthine ruins of aberrant citadels. Like most aberrant structures these ruins go deep into the ground rather than rise into the sky to afford better protection from flying dragon enemies.

The aberrations left these strongholds behind causing them to be overrun with all manner of creatures seeking a free home. Orcs, goblins, gnolls, lizardfolk, kobolds, and more make the place home usually without ever knowing its previous purpose. Even if the portals are found in these ruins, opening one requires obtaining its key, a small gem with a strange aberrant symbol engraved.

Aside from the denizens who call the ruin home, there may be some active traps from the time of the aberrations. These traps are typically magical, mind-altering obstacles which the resident monsters have learned to avoid.

Prison Demiplanes

Once through the portal and into the pocket dimension, adventurers find themselves in a small plane of fixed size. The portal lands them on strip of barren earth sandwiched between the edge of the plane and a moat of liquid psychic energy. This strip of land and moat run along the plane’s borders creating an island at the center of the plane. Upon this island sits the prison itself, and imposing structure of black hewn stone, shaped and carved by the strange magic of aberrations.

Inside the demiplane living creatures require no food or water to survive and do not age. A powerful ritual to create this effect was enacted by the aberrations for two reasons. First performing the rituals, expensive and time-consuming as they are, was less expense and life-threatening than trying to feed, house, and clean up after growing dragons. Also as dragons age they grow in power so it was to the aberrations’ benefit to halt the aging process of these beings.

The few aberration guards who patrolled the prison fled years ago when their kind were driven underground. Of course these demiplanes never housed many aberrations to begin with. Even behind bars dragon prisoners are dangerous so the aberrations built construct guardians. These guardians are still operational, patrolling the demiplane’s border and moat as well as the inside of the prison. All of these constructs are linked together by magic so when one senses trouble, all other constructs are alerted to prepare for battle.

Ground Floor

If the moat, walls, and guardians outside of the prison can be overcome, adventurers find themselves on the ground floor of the prison itself. No dragons dwell on the ground floor. Rather, more construct guardians roam an open air fort complete with towers, a guardhouse, and an enormous hole in the center of the ground.

The adamantine guardhouse is where the aberrations who ran the complex lived. These now abandoned buildings have a training room, private quarters, and a war room for meetings and communication with the world outside the demiplane. The war room often features a crystal ball which allows observation of all areas of the cell block floor and direct communication with the entrance citadel and other aberrant ruins. The strange and varied body shapes and habits of aberrations are accounted for in these structures. There is often a hidden, locked, trapped chest within these guard houses which contains scrolls of levitate.

The constructs are trained to use the powerful psychic cannons mounted on towers around the complex. These cannons stun invading creatures while the rest of the guardians clobber them to death. The constructs immediately attack any creature they do not recognize.

Perhaps the most prominent feature of the prison’s ground floor is the large hole in its center. The top of the opening is covered with a magic, translucent barrier which allows only non-dragon creatures to pass through. The next level of the prison, the cell block floor, is 100 feet below and the only way to reach it is through the opening. Aberrations and constructs who could not fly used the scrolls of levitate when they needed to head down to the cell block floor. The controls for turning this barrier on and off are within the guardhouse.

Cell Block Floor

The central area of the cell block is directly underneath the opening on the ground floor. Several long halls branch off from the central area in several directions for 500 feet in different directions like spokes in a wheel. Should the dragon escape its cell, it still has a far way to travel down a cramped hall before it can use its breath weapon. These halls have adamantine gates every 100 feet which were meant to be slammed down and locked in case of a dragon escape. The central room also features a psychic net which can be activated from the guardhouse in the ground level to subdue any escaping dragons.

The prison’s most powerful construct guardians roam the halls of the cell block level, ready to destroy any intruders who might free the dragons. Traps which affect the mind and cripple intruders with necrotic, psychic, and radiant damage are found on the bars of every cell and along every hall.

The bars of each cell neutralize any spell or attack which deals acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder damage as well as any breath weapon which passes through them. Standing in front of the bars allows a person to see everywhere within the cell. Aberrations would stand at the bars and torture dragon prisoners using their psychic abilities. The dragons had no place to hide. Sometimes the dragons would die during these interrogations and their massive bodies would often be left in the cell until the prison ran out of space and the cell was needed for a new captive.

While the prisons were made to hold dragons, others might be contained within the cells. On Verda, tieflings might be held within some of the cells if they were captured alongside their dragon allies and the same might be the case for shardminds on Findalay or Parian. Even traitorous aberrations or morchia could be contained within the cells. The cells have also been used to hold objects of great value since the prisons are so well guarded.

Now that thousands of years have passed, each cell block floor could be different from prison to prison. The magic in a cell’s bars might have weakened or malfunctioned allowing a dragon to escape. The freed dragon still cannot leave the prison because of the magical barrier above, but might have liberated its dragon allies, or kept them locked up to torture for entertainment, or have reprogrammed the constructs to follow all of its orders. The life-sustaining magic of the demiplane could become corrupt and raise the fallen corpse of a dragon turning it into a dracolich. What have dragons done to their cells in the thousands of years of solitude? Were they driven mad? Did they have some way to cast spells or practice magic? How might they react to people? These decisions are all up to the DM.

Keep It Rollin’

I actually like this dragon prison thing so much, I’m going to build one for you level by level. Maybe at the end of it all I’ll give you guys the whole dungeon in a PDF. Next time!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

On Tuesday I wrote a post about a great antagonist for an Exploration Age campaign, The Servants. Well today I’m going to be talking about another villainous organization to be added to the Exploration Age roster – The Aberrant Alliance.

Aberrant creatures are one of Exploration Age’s main baddies. Just check out my previous posts about The Sleeping Ones, aberrant ruins, and The Underdark to get an idea of integrated these creatures are into the world of Canus. Well, you’re about to find out that the aberrants aren’t alone in their quest to reclaim the world for themselves.

There are a few humanoids all over the world who believe the aberrants had their homes taken from them unjustly. These people also share a belief that aberrants are the true masters of Canus and all other creatures should be subservient to them. They are dangerous, for they value the lives of aberrant creatures above their own.

History of The Alliance

Who wouldn’t worship these guys?

Historical records are vague, but it seems The Aberrant Alliance has been around as long there have been humanoids on Canus. For thousands of years, this group was actually several, small cults which would meet under the cover of night in secret places and perform rituals to communicate with aberrant creatures. These creatures would often take pleasure in simply causing strife and chaos in the lives of humanoids by ordering these self-proclaimed servitors to steal, lie, and murder in their communities. Other aberrant creatures took greater advantage of the situation, ordering these humanoids to do tasks which might help the creatures return to the surface and reclaim pieces of the world for themselves. These cults would destroy weapons, create teleportation circles, weaken the local military, and recruit others to prepare for the arrival and takeover of a settlement by an aberrant creature. These attempts were thwarted or the aberrants were removed from power when an uprising was successful, but even in the early days, many lives were lost to these cults.

It was the aberrants, after regrouping themselves in The Underdark, who united these cults under one banner. They learned humanoids all over the map had been contacting and aiding them. So they deemed all of these cults together The Aberrant Alliance. The cults would no longer serve the individual needs of a single aberrant creature, but serve all aberrants in their quest to reclaim their world.

Structure of The Alliance

I want YOU to join The Aberrant Alliance.

Today, The Alliance is still setup in small, individual cults or chapters, but each serves a greater purpose than its own needs. Each cult has a leader, chosen in a bloody contest every year. The cults capture an innocent person from a nearby settlement, release that victim into the wild or a dungeon somewhere and hunt the individual. Whoever makes the kill wins the contest and is the cult’s leader. Anything goes in this contest, so potential leaders must be willing to put their own lives on the line to hold the coveted position.

Each cult can communicate with a variety of aberrant creatures who give them orders, one of which is a cult’s designated point of contact. These aberrant creatures communicate with one another and organize the activities of the cults. Rather than random bands of murderous lunatics, the cults of The Aberrant Alliance are a unified organization to be reckoned with. Two or more cults may join forces to complete a larger mission, and they can count on one another for support when the going gets tough. Likewise, a member of an Aberrant Alliance cult who is traveling can count on support from Alliance members in other cults.

Cultists whisper about The Great Aberrant, some terrifying creature who is the organizer of all which The Alliance accomplishes. He has never been seen by the humanoids but has promised to show himself to them when the time comes for the aberrants to reclaim Canus.

Plots of The Alliance

I kinda want one as a pet.

The Aberrant Alliance has one ultimate goal – restore the societies of the aberrant creatures to their days of glory and enslave all humanoids so they may serve aberrant masters. They do this several ways…

  1. Recruitment – The more individuals they can get to join The Alliance, the better. The argument is simple – aberrants had this world taken from them by dragons. The aberrants did not start that war, they merely fought back to keep their land. Now there are fewer dragons than ever before. Humanoids never could have risen against the aberrants in those early days. Things should never have been this way. It is unnatural. Hard to believe for some, but the argument works with others (especially after a well-cast charm person spell). The Alliance has begun targeting the influential leaders of the world, some of whom are unwilling recruits subject to the incredible psionic powers possessed by some aberrants.
  2. Influence Leaders and Cause Strife – Nothing would help the aberrant cause more than the crumbling of humanoid civilizations. Through influencing leaders, aberrants can cause bad policy decisions to be made, which in turn can cause war, famine, and unrest. Meanwhile, rioting and other forms of violent unruliness caused by members of The Alliance will give the aberrants advantages in weakening the civilizations of humanoids.
  3. Secure The Underdark – The citizens of Quatus must be the first to fall. If the aberrants claim their resources and control The Underdark, they can then conquer the surface. Underdark humanoids are some of the most important members of The Alliance.
  4. Kill Dragons – Though there may not be nearly as many on Canus as there once were, the dragons are powerful and wise in their old age. As many as possible must be vanquished before the inevitable rise of the aberrants. The Aberrant Alliance is often contracting and recruiting dragon-slayers.
  5. Wake The Sleeping Ones – Half the world only recently learned of the morchia, half-devil, half-aberrant creatures slumbering in the Verdan Underdark. The West Canus aberrants only learned themselves. These children of the mostly extinct East Canus aberrants could be valuable allies in the coming uprising.
  6. Encourage the Discovery and Use of Ancient Aberrant Technologies – By funding expeditions into certain aberrant ruins, The Alliance helps ensure that humanoids have become reliant on aberrant technology. The aberrants know all the weaknesses behind these technologies and so should the time come for the aberrants to rise, the humanoids’ reliance on firearms, airships, and more will be used against them. Of course, the aberrants are wary of the certain ruins being explored by adventurers who might find a something of their own to use against them. So The Alliance directs adventures to the ruins they want to be explored, and defends those with secrets that should remain hidden.

An individual cult could be working toward one or several of the goals above. In general the members of The Aberrant Alliance try to keep their activities and motives private, unless they have no other choice.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

These things are all over the place! Take a look at the map of Canus. Anything labeled orange is an aberrant ruin.

Anything in orange. Check it out!

Anything in orange. Check it out!

Much like the tribes in Verda, I want to make all of Exploration Age’s various ruins of its first inhabitants variable and easy to use on the fly. This means that everyone playing an Exploration Age game will have a slightly different experience which makes every campaign fun and unique. Take a look at this excerpt from the Exploration Age Campaign Setting and let me know what you think!

Aberrant Ruins

Though much of their culture and history remains mysterious, there is evidence abound that Canus was once ruled by aberrants. Even remote Glacius was once home to these bizarre creatures. Various ruined cities and settlements are now home to dangerous creatures, mind-bending dungeons, and fantastic technology. Items discovered exploring aberrant ruins led to the creation of airships, siege weapons, firearms, and the Jackrabbit.

Aberrant ruins make perfect homes for wild animals and monsters which has helped earn them a dangerous reputation. The well-designed architecture of the aberrants means many of their walls, ceilings, and tunnels are still standing millennia later, providing shelter for these creatures and bandits on the run. Certain types of aberrant ruins, such as military installations, research facilities, and prisons have traps which are still active or may even be home to millennia-old beasts waiting to be discovered. Despite the danger, strange and wonderful items found amongst the ruins attract archaeological digs, cultists, and adventurers both good and evil.

One interesting feature all aberrant ruins share is that their structures are built down into the ground, rather than high into the air. Since the aberrants main enemies were high-flying dragons, it was better for their defense to burrow into the ground, rather than build structures that towered into the sky. Sometimes the complexes could be many stories deep, like the apartment complexes that occur in ruined aberrant cities.

Below is a list of known aberrant ruins on the map of Canus.

  • Findalay
    • Aeranore
      • Alcar’ach – Mine
      • Dul’karash – Roll to determine function
      • Kalusare – Roll to determine function
      • Xal’tith – Roll to determine function
    • Bragonay
      • Bearick Tur – City
      • Jaxinoth – Roll to determine function
      • Vayvixtus – Roll to determine function
      • Xi’khu’litar – Roll to determine function
    • Marrial
      • Cara’maynor – Roll to determine function
      • Fera Dun – Prison
      • Hildar Mynktor – Roll to determine function
      • Xarut’ketch – Roll to determine function
    • Taliana
      • Belnogasth – Military Installation
      • Tela’machra – Roll to determine function
      • Zaru’tor – Roll to determine function
  • Glacius
    • Illfibratas – Roll to determine function
    • Olhydana – Research Facility
  • Parian
    • Allut’bru – Roll to determine function
    • Dul Gata – Roll to determine function
    • Feltabul – Roll to determine function
    • Hur’nura – Roll to determine function
    • Nara Goon – Roll to determine function
    • Viatur – Roll to determine function
    • Yulush – Roll to determine function
  • Verda
    • New Aeranore
      • Hul’zal – Roll to determine function
      • Shuzal – Roll to determine function
    • New Bragonay
      • Konda’con – Roll to determine function
      • Numor’ask – Roll to determine function
      • Orrathok – Roll to determine function
      • Wolturak – Roll to determine function
    • New Marrial
      • Gullal – Roll to determine function
      • Hivit’okur – Roll to determine function
      • Rosta’la – Roll to determine function
      • Vigun’kil – Roll to determine function
      • Xittar – Roll to determine function
    • New Parian
      • Arat’zhur – Roll to determine function
      • Cagre’mach – Roll to determine function
      • Eldkazhul – Roll to determine function
      • Noonishtar – Roll to determine function
      • Tunish’ibul – Roll to determine function
      • Xaxa’tactac – Roll to determine function
    • New Taliana
      • Kum’tar – Roll to determine function
      • Lurarara’gush – Roll to determine function
      • Murgadur – Roll to determine function
      • Tarongal – Roll to determine function
      • Uvalor-Merrith – Roll to determine function

PCs may come across unlisted aberrant ruins while exploring blank spots on the map of Canus, or they may come across one of the “Roll to determine function” ruins listed above. GMs may roll 1d20 on the table below to determine the function of the aberrant ruin or choose whatever makes the best story for their campaign.

d20 Ruin Function
1 – 9 Town
10 – 14 Military Installation
15 – 16 City
17 – 18 Mine
19 Research Facility
20 Prison 

Ruin Functions

  • Town These ruins were once small settlements of less than a thousand aberrants. It is mostly ruined dwellings and farms, though there could be a temple, shop, small laboratory, library, or inn here and there amongst the destroyed homes.
  • Military Installation The second most common structure the aberrants left behind. Since their war with the dragons lasted thousands of years, the aberrants built many, many forts, barracks, keeps, towers, castles, etc. The exact nature of the ruin is up to the GM. A military installation may have remnants of sleeping quarters, training rooms, guard posts, mess halls, holding cells, and even stables for more humanoid aberrants which might ride a mount (such as illithids). Unique aberrant weapon and defense technology can sometimes be found in these ruins, but beware the traps and constructs that may still be active here.
  • City Like the towns, aberrant cities are mainly dwellings. However, these dwellings go much deeper into the ground, as city aberrants had buildings similar to our real world apartment complexes. In addition, most aberrant cities were divided into neighborhoods based on race (e.g. beholders in one area, ettercaps in another). A city will usually have several shops, inns, guard houses, political structures, monuments, libraries, labs, temples, or anything else one might find in a place where huge groups of individuals live together.
  • Mine Aberrants mined iron for weapons, gems for magic and psionics, and precious metals for magic items and currency. The exact nature of the mine is up to the GM, but in the tunnels of one of these structures adventurers may find strange mining equipment, a vein of untapped ore, a passage to The Underdark, or things uncovered by the aberrants even they weren’t expecting. Aberrant mines are extremely dangerous and could be crawling with all sorts of monsters from dark mantles to undead aberrant miners.
  • Research Facility Aberrants spent thousands of years creating new technologies to fight the dragons. Their labs are amongst the most dangerous sites in all of Canus. Full of strange blueprints, prototype weapons, and bizarre defenses, these are the complexes many scholars and mages dream of seeing… and die within. Traps, dangerous living experiments, crazed constructs, and unstable inventions are just a few of the hazards that await those who trespass.
  • Prison During their thousands-of-years-long war with the dragons, the aberrants created a few massive structures to hold these beasts and their minions. Within these walls are smaller holding cells for the dragons’ shardmind and teifling allies, devious traps, dragon-sized torture devices, and enormous holding cells with enormous chains, enchanted to prevent those locked in them from using magic and breath weapon attacks. Today these ruins hold evidence of the ugliest parts of The Aberrant-Dragon War. As the aberrants began losing the war and pulled back from their prisons to defend their settlements, they killed the dragons and their allies who were imprisoned. Their remains can be found throughout the complexes. Undead beasts could roam the halls of these complexes, or perhaps, since they are immortal, a dragon or shardmind could have survived a prison’s purge and has been waiting for freedom for hundreds of thousands of years.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!