Friday, March 22, 2013

Tekumel's Underworld and Demonland

       Scattered over Tekumel are innumerable half-buried, half-forgotten ruins. There are fragments dating back to the prehuman ages, when the Ssu and the Hlyss vied with one another for control; there are tunnels of melted rock and steel constructed during the days of man's first glory; there are jumbled heaps destroyed by the cataclysms which rent Tekumel when the planet was cast into outer dimensional darkness; there are catacombs and subterranean labyrinths dating from more recent empires, cities, temples, pyramids, and fortresses dedicated to the lost and unremembered gods of half a hundred kingdoms . Another factor is the custom of Ditlana, the ceremonial "renewing" of many cities every 500 years: cellars and foundations of an old city are filled in and roofed over, upper floors are razed, and then new and more splendid edifices are built upon this foundation. Such earlier buried habitations are now full of burrows and tunnels built by humans, half-humans, nonhumans, and the many parasites and predators of Tekumel who subsist upon man's leavings. Many earlier temples to the Gods of Tekumel - particularly those allied with "evil" - are still maintained in the Underworlds beneath the sprawling modern cities, and it is in these that many of the rich treasures of the ancients are preserved.
       Within the city precincts of Jakalla itself there are entrances to the "Underworld," for this is "the City Half as Old as the World," Princess of the River, Mistress of Cities. Outside of Jakalla lies the City of the Dead, where the Kings of the Bednallja Dynasty sleep the long black sleep secure in their mighty pyramids, guarded with care by the creations of the secret Priesthood of Ksarul. Treasures are to be found beneath these crumbling monuments, men say, and also a variety of hideous deaths at the hands of these undying guardians. "Sweet is the harbour, but Death is the ferryman," as the old Tsolyani proverb has it . . .
       There are many ruined cities, thus, throughout the lands of Tekumel. Taking just the terrain map showing Tsolyanu itself, there are the following to be explored:
·         Hex 2713: the Fortress of Hrugga, Mighty Warrior of the Gods
·         Hex 2813: the City of Ngala, where deadly Hrihayal waits for her demon lover
·         Hex 2831: the timeworn ruins of grim Ssuganar, first capital of the dreaded Ssu
·         Hex 2106: the half-submerged city of Engsvan hla Ganga, City of Wizards and Capital of the Golden Age
·         Hex 3607: the curious city of Hnakyal, where dwells He Who Has No Tail, the subject of many ancient and terrible legends
·         Hex 3503: the First Temple of Vimuhla, the Fire-God of the Ancients
·         Hex 4113: the Temple of hideous Sarku, Lord of Worms
·         Hex 5532: the City Beneath the Lake, capital of the extinct Webbed Ones
·         Hex 3530: the haunted capital of the Hlaka Kings, where no now Hlaka dares enter
·         Hex 6029: the walled ruins of the Mad City of Du'un.
       Aside from these, many inhabited cities of the human empires are underlaid with labyrinths as well: below the city of Fasiltum, City of the Chiming Skulls ; beneath corrupt and secret Purdimal, lost in its half-human rituals of evil; and beneath mighty Bey Sy herself, capital of the Empire of Tsolyanu, even though she was built only some 2,000 years past . Other lands have their comparable subterranean mazes and treasure troves, and there are many smaller caches and ruins here and there across the lands of Tekumel . It will be up to individual referees to develop these and introduce them to their players as opportunity arises .

I love this illustration, although I think Kent may have ruined it forever.

That's just about the most evocative half-page ever. I think I'll take this and madlib all the proper names I'm not too fond of, and use it otherwise word-for-word. "For what?" you might ask... Well, I've been spending the past few days pondering turning that Demonlord map into a little sandbox. I'll set it on the same planet as Outland, and probably still run it using DCC, but make a few tweaks to some things. I've likewise erased all the place names from the Demonlord map, so I can pop in some names I like better. I'm thinking an Eddison's Mercury meets Zothique meets Tekumel sort of thing. I'll call it Demonland, since centuries of war between men and demons over control of the land will be the underlying theme (and the cause for all those ruins to explore). For classes, I think I want to try to keep it to just Warrior/Wizard(Sorcerer?)/Thief and perhaps have Tieflings/Half-Demons as mostly-just-reskinned elves. Although I think I want to take the Eddison route of having most of the demon types cosmetically identical to men. This is weird for me, because I've never really gone the all-human route, and in fact I've always made fun of people who do that in their games. But as they say, "Don't knock it until you try it." I'm curious to see how my home group responds to this little experiment. Here is what I anticipate:

ME: "So everyone is humans, or you can be a half-demon but you still look like a human."
ONE OF THEM: "Can I be a xorn?"
ME: "..."
ME: "Aw sure, fuck it, why not."

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