Saturday Seed ~ 116 (Dungeon Crawl Classics)

Although no doubt easily planted in any fantasy setting with varying degrees of work, this week’s small story seed is for Dungeon Crawl Classics. I have been intending to put one out for this game solely because I enjoyed reading it so much. After much delay, here it is.  As I mentioned last week, I ran into a delay finishing my terrible map. Rather than delay further, I sought out some options online and found a stellar site called Dave’s Mapper which took care of my problem in seconds. The map used in this seed was generated very, very quickly using tiles provided by Dyson Logos. Lots of artists have contributed tile sets which can be used in exclusion or mixed and matched. If you have a lot of call for dungeon design, yet produce maps which look like crap (like I do) then Dave’s Mapper is definitely worth checking out. The site operates on donations and from what I can see, deserves every penny.

The Casting Shadows blog offers Saturday Seeds and campaign starters every Saturday (go figure…). Seeds from the blog also appear on Ancient Scroll.

The Seed

This is intended as seed or campaign starter for 0-level characters: A small, coastal village with a history of hard times, hard work, and devout people is slowly sinking into the sea. Convinced that they must have angered Pelagia in some way, the villager’ attempts to appease the goddess or get help have all failed.

Planting the Seed

Planting this seed is simply a matter of hitting them where they live. The characters are from the village and its environs and their lives and livelihood are affected by the encroachment of the sea. Homes and fields are being flooded, supplies are being ruined, livestock lost, and special events are being called off. Something has to be done, or the entire town will become refugees.

The Details

The locals have attempted sacrifices, taken to prayers at the coming and going of the tide, made daily offerings, sung hymns at the shore, and anything else they can think of to appease Pelagia. No less than three separate groups have taken offerings from the local temple, or the local lord down into the catacombs below the north beach to investigate. None have returned.

Close to 50 years ago the temple of Pelagia was moved to the headland overlooking the bay. It was supposed to be a large and complicated affair but taxes, wars, disease, and the other twists and turns of life far from the cities took their toll and the villagers were lucky to even complete the modest building they erected. Although not so very long in the measure of even the life of mortals, 50 years has proved to be enough for the villagers to forget the location of Pelagia’s original temple, and the rites which were performed there.

With the water rising each day, except on the headland by the only visible entrance to the catacombs, and with no sign of even floating bodies from the last group sent down there, the town leaders have reached the conclusion that something must be down there, and it is responsible for the troubles which plague the village. They have made a call for volunteers to make a fourth attempt.

You and your associates are not among those accepted for this fourth attempt. That does not mean that you cannot go, but it does mean waiting and then sneaking in on your own through an undersea entrance you remember from diving as kids. Unwilling to sit back and let another group waste time and lives, you enter the catacombs not too long after the screams of your fellows die down.

(Their survivors may be recruited to refresh your groups of characters should things get to be too much for your band).

What’s going on

What is not obvious to the beleaguered members of the town, but which should be obvious to the players is that the Catacombs are what remain of the former temple of Pelagia and she wants some serious penance as well as a restoration of the temple before she stops messing with the water table.

The catacombs have long since been stripped of valuables, but visions and rewards from the sea such as pearls and lost treasures from sunken ships may find their way into the possession of particularly devout or astute characters who start putting two and two together as they investigate the halls and rooms below the north beach. Reflecting pools, drainage channels in the floor, and low points and corners may all receive bounty washed up at the behest of the goddess should the group please her.

I leave the details of the opposition and the exact method of appeasing Pelagia (or whoever) up to you as always, but were I to run this seed as the opening of my own DCC campaign, I would want this to be something to which we could return once or twice more over the course of the campaign should the characters care to do so.

For this introductory session I might have the goal be to address the abandonment of the catacombs and to deal with the creatures which have taken it over in the absence of priests and worshippers. Cave octopi of various sizes and degrees of intelligence make a compelling villain for the later stages of their investigation, as do the usual brutal assortment of slimes, spores, and fungus. The job does not end with just violence, however. Repainting the halls to their former sea blue, the removal of the detritus from the sea and shore, the singing of praises with dedicated hearts play a more important role.

Plots for the future could be hinted by man-yet-fish-like prints on the muddy stone floors of the catacombs, and crude sketching and scratchings on the lower walls depicting godlike beings with no connection to sanity or humanity. A wall mural partially obliterated by the action of the sea might reveal the village was much larger and much closer to the beach than it is today. Before they leave the catacombs, the characters should ask themselves why the temple was abandoned in the first place, and if strange undersea dwellers were tied to that exodus in any way.


Tiles by Dyson Logos

The Catacombs of Pelagia

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