Saturday Seed ~ 118 (Desolation)

This week we have a seed for the post-apocalyptic ‘high fantasy brought low’ game  from Greymalkin Design Studio, Desolation. The first of the Ubiquity Roleplaying System licenses, Desolation strikes out in very unusual directions and creates a very harsh world full of adventure and possibility.

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 seed is intended for any group of adventurers, but will prove the most challenging for one just starting out. Different entry points will be suggested in Planting the seed. This seed revolves around ‘The Community of Believers,’ an apocalyptic cult in a secure mountain location above a great plain, kept in line through the charisma of its leader and a fear of the universe’s very real intentions to snuff out the world.

Planting the Seed

Planting this seed for a new group of characters can be easily accomplished by having the characters begin as unwilling guests of the community. In an effort to keep the Community of Believers safe and free from contamination, the environs are patrolled in force and wanderers are captured, and imprisoned. For a group which desires a great deal of character diversity, this can be a very easy way to provide a foundation for that, as the characters will need to band together to survive. Planting this seed for an established group can be accomplished in the normal ways of having their wanderings bring them in contact with the Community’s supply caravans, border patrols, or escapees. Alternately, a character may have knowledge of the monastery around which the Community is based and be seeking it for reasons of their own, only to discover it is not quite where they expected it to be, and it is occupied by a very particular cult.

The Details

The Community of Believers is based in a former monastery nestled inside what used to be a cave in the peak of an anomalous mountain on a great grassy plain. The top of the mountain was sheared off in the Night of Fire and fragments of the mountain top and the meteors which struck it are littered southward across the plain for many leagues. The top of the cave was lost and the monastery is now exposed to the elements from above, but still ringed by the high stone walls of the mountain. Two enormous statues, a male and female figure likely representing the Two Above are posed as though they were supporting the roof of the cave, the walls of which are delicately painted with brilliant representations of the twilight sky, unfaded by the passage of time. The female figure has been shattered apart from the legs and part of the torso and the fragments of the statue have been pushed back along the walls to make room in the limited ‘courtyard.’ The male figure is undamaged and hunched with arms spread protectively over the roof of the monastery. The face of the male figure is completely obscured. The monastery was definitely not built by human hands, and those with the experience to note this may come to believe that this giant structure is of either dwarven or gnomish construction. The latter can be proven by particularly erudite characters of non-gnomish persuasion if the group has members skilled in history or crafting and can obtain 5+ successes during an opportunity to examine some of the finer details of the older sections of the monastery. The newer sections are clearly human attempts either to emulate the original style, or more recently, simply repair damage as quickly as possible.

Although the monastery is immense much of it is simply space under vast vaulted ceilings and a great dome at the West end. There are two floors above the main hall, and basement levels below. A large kitchen occupies a narrow section on the South wall of the main floor.

Despite the impressive nature of the building, it seems mainly untenanted. There are patrols of guards, and a nasty Dwarf blacksmith/carpenter can often be found cursing his way around the place repairing sections and rattling his manacled feet in protest. On the North end of the building where the dome meets the rest of the structure is a human-built tower which at times might have the only occupied room, apart from the prison cells and guard-room.

On the second floor, monastic cells have been converted to prison cells, and the Community of Believers bring all strays, captured wanderers, conquered brigands and so on here to await ‘judgement.’  They are told the Community will assess them and determine if they are fit to join, or if they should be let go. Sometimes, a single prisoner is released and taken out of the prison. Once a month in fact, never to return.

The actual members of the community live atop a large stone butte at the base of the anomalous mountain, the cave and the top of the butte are joined by an elegant stone bridge which from the south is completely invisible against the rock behind it, visible only from the East and West with the bulk of the mountain being to the North. No human kingdom has ever built such a bridge without Sorcery, yet this shows all the signs of careful, skillful construction by hand. Again, special knowledge may lead to the realization that it was constructed by gnomes.

The community atop the butte is one of tents and cook-fires and bedrolls, but it is industrious and clean. It is also almost entirely women. Most are women rescued, tricked, or stolen from surrounding enclaves and communities.

The believers and the all-male priesthood of the cult are not yet prepared to make their own clothes, but they do have a handy cobbler, and the dwarven blacksmith/carpenter knows his trades. They wear a wooden sun symbol to bind themselves together in common, and have plans to make white linen if the good weather holds.

The community fears the return of the winter more than anything, even the Broken Wolves which hunt the grasslands for miles around.

What is going on

The truth is, the Community believes without doubt that human sacrifice is what ended the Long Winter and brought the rebirth of Spring. Their charismatic leader, a lore-keeper, and former bureaucrat, ensures that no doubt is ever raised. Each month one prisoner is burnt alive at the stake to the glory of the Dark Father in praise and thanks for the release from the cold.

Slowly, but surely, the community is intended to become stable, birth babies, train teachers and tradespeople, and then unite the other shattered communities of survivors around under their banner. A religious autocracy in the ruins and ashes of a once great kingdom. Some people never learn.

Is there a deeper mystery here? Is there something here the gnomes hope no one finds? If the cult leader knows, he is not telling.


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