Saturday, April 10, 2021

Geniementals

Some people think Genies or Jinn only come from lamps. This is incorrect. Some also believe that they intentionally twist wishes to punish mortals- this is also (usually) incorrect. What is true is that, before humans were created, the first Jinn were created from smokeless fire, which is true, but there were more kinds of Jinn created from the purest elements. One for each of the elements, and THESE are where the variety of Jinn came from. All types of Jinn were made before humans were, but all are capable of achieving salvation through Allah.

Each type of Jinn corresponds to an element. Jinn only very rarely intentionally misunderstand orders; they just aren't perfect. As with humans, they can make mistakes. Each Jinn's element determines what wishes they are best at.

All Jinn grant exactly 3 wishes. You can also use this as a random table if you want; 1d4.


[1] Jinn of the Smokeless Flame

Best Wishes-
Success in battle, passion, power, Enhancing pride or beauty, destruction.
Worst Wishes-
Anything subtle, long term building or creation, humility, peace or serenity.

Found In- Lamps, Swords

Created from the Smokeless Fire; these are the classic Jinn, these come from rubbing a lamp. Their lower bodies appear to be made of smoke, and they often have brightly colored skin. They tend to wear little to no clothing, and have strong personalities to match their element. They are prone to furious anger, but are also the only Jinn known to fall in love with humans.

As they are bombastic, these Jinn take great joy in performing spells relating to fire. Destroying things as much as making them shine like gold. They are also warriors and will gladly help you win your battles- either directly with a cataclysm of force. They are also the best Jinn to make you a King or grant you strength- physical or magical, as they can grow it like an ember to a fire.

Because of their one tract natures- it is hard to get these Jinn to do more complex or nuanced wishes. Wishing for wealth from one of these Jinn is likely to cause them to just steal it from a nearby authority. Raising the dead will result in a moving corpse, as they force life into it without knowing how to fully restore it to how it 'should' be. Many of the stories of twisted wishes comes from these Jinn, who are just trying their best.

[2] Jinn of the Endless Stream
Best Wishes
- Changing, transformation, wishes relating to time or space.
Worst Wishes-
Material goods, reduction of anything, direct force, love.
Found In-
Shells, Cups

Created from the endless source of water; these Jinn are more mystic then the others, and may appear in long robes or hidden behind a veil. Their personalities are cool like water, remaining as business-like as possible. Most believe themselves to be superior to humans, and find wishes made by them to be trifling, or a waste of time, though they must grant them all the same.

These Jinn are representative of water, and as such do best with wishes that mimic water. Changing or morphing one thing to another is their specialty- these Jinn are also called the “Jinn of the Secrets of Life” because of their skill in wishes involving living things. These Jinn are perfect to increase your lifespan- as they will give you both more years to live AND youth in return, as opposed to the other, more clumsy Jinn. They are also the best Jinn at granting or removing mutations or irregularities within living things; though something simple like “make me stronger” is more suited to Fire Jinn. However, water Jinn are not suited at all to returning the dead to life. To them, the dead is in a new form that cannot be changed back to a living form. If you ask one to bring a dead person back to life, they'll simply put their spirit in the newest available shell- which will almost always be a bird, rat, snake, or some other unfortunate creature!

However, the Jinn of the Endless Stream are not known for their wisdom in practical matters. While skilled with life, they are less skilled with the inanimate. Wishing for a precious object or jewels and they are likely to make them with structural weaknesses, or worse yet, making them out of ice. These Jinn also dislike the sensation of reducing anything- removing life from a foe or depleting their wealth would result in strange rebounds from these Jinn, who don't understand the concept of an ending.

[3] Jinn of the Motionless Wind

Best Wishes- Travel, fate, curses, names, knowledge, spreading rumors
Worst Wishes-
Eternity, keeping secrets, localized effects
Found In-
Fans, Carpets

Created from the breeze that never moves from place to place; this was the wind that was loosed to become the breezes and storms in the world. These jinn are travelers, wise, and know many languages. They always introduce themselves in as many tongues as they can to their new master, and will respond with perfect form in the first their master recognizes (unnecessary; all Jinn can speak every language innately as they are magical creatures), but these Jinn make a show of it. Often they may be partially transparent, or look like ghosts.

These Jinn are tied to the wind and, by extension, magic and language itself. They are also excellent with any spells or learning of secrets, but only secrets known by someone; forgotten secrets are mostly the domain of Earth Jinn. These Jinn are also experts of name- they can give you any name you wish, and all will known you by that name. All Jinn will grant three wishes, but these Jinn will not only take you somewhere on a wish, but return you as one total wish, as the wind goes there and back again.

However, just as the wind is unfaithful, so too are these Jinn. They are unlikely to be able to produce magical effects or grant immortality in a meaningful way. They may grant you great wealth but it will only last a few years before the source of it dries up. These Jinn are noted to be good with secrets, but also bad with secrets. That's because any secret you learn with this Jinn can be gained, but will slip out eventually from that Jinn itself or otherwise. In other words wishing to learn a secret with this Jinn will succeed, but it will not be a secret for long. These Jinn are the masters of curses; both breaking them and causing them, but any curse made by them will be flippant or have a loophole you didn't see.

[4] Jinn of the Bottomless Hole

Best Wishes- Material goods, wealth, returning lost or dead things, legacies
Worst Wishes-
Things that change, the body, travel, monsters
Found In-
Urns, Shoes

These Jinn are tied closely to the Earth and were created from the dirt at the bottom of the bottomless hole. These Jinn appear the most youthful, and may appear as children. They will also appear dirty, but in an appealing, innocent way like a smudge on the cheek. They wear for themselves dark brown and gray colors and are the Jinn that are the most humble. Most are brought out of their container by flipping them over, which they will tumble out onto the floor with a thump.

These Jinn have dominion with the Earth and everything buried in it. As such, they are also the Jinn most suited to returning the dead to life, as they retrieve their soul and body from beneath the ground. These Jinn can also create piles of treasure and precious gems; they know the hiding places of all riches and are quite good at them. They are stable with their wishes, their power can last for a long time, if not generations- many Kings and Queens may claim their legacy from the bombastic, proud Jinn of Fire, but it is really the humble Earth Jinn which keeps their royal line strong to this day.

However, the Earth Jinn are not well suited to transformations or the physical form. If you ask for a better body they may craft you one out of clay or carved from wood, trapping you in that lesser, though tougher form. They are also tied closely to the natural world and are the worst Jinn of all at summoning, controlling, or destroying magical creatures, though they are quite skilled with normal, down to earth animals. If you ask an Earth Jinn for a unicorn (usually so you can ride it or cut off its horn), it will just bring you a horse with a bit of wood strapped to its head instead. This isn't an attempt at falsehood- you asked for something stupid, a horse with a bit sticking out on its head, so here is what you wished for.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Why don't monsters use all the cool weapons in the dungeon?

You know the drill. You have a dungeon filled with dangerous monsters and undead guardians, and the dungeon has rare and magical weapons inside. Why aren't the monsters inside using them? Why are they using generic rusty spears and stuff instead of the +2 Magic Sword in the ancient vault? Here's some reasons.

Art @slaughterkeys.tumblr
8 Reasons
[1]
Monsters rely on their innate strength, view actually good weapons as "pansy ass human shit"
[2] The weapons in the dungeon are like collector's items. Don't want them to get dirty.
[3] Too dumb and/or superstitious. Trust what they've made, anything else could be cursed.
[4] Religious reasons. Everything in this dungeon is tribute to their dark gods, can't use them.
[5] Monsters are either created/enchanted to serve the dungeon's master. They are following orders.
[6] Some monsters (like skeletons) are reliant on magical fields to stay together. Powerful magical items, beneficial or not, will essentially overload them and make them fall apart.
[7] They're actually in the dungeon to find those weapons. If you take too long to loot the place, they may eventually unearth them and start attacking human settlements.
[8] Magical weapons are reserved for their ruling class and those in positions of honor. Regular units don't use them; but their captains might!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Airship Rules & Weapons Table

Airships are flying ships. While they look similar to naval vessels, they fly with the aid of huge balloons instead of sails and fly on currents of astral vapors and weather instead of water. They coast along the tops of clouds as the great ocean of the sky.

Airships use the same mechanics as regular creatures. They have HD, AC, and a saving throw.


Airship Stats

Airships consider their HD as “hull dice” and they don't take damage from regular sized weapons or attacks. Normal axes and arrows can only deal small amounts of damage to the crew of a ship, or destroying some light sources, vanity items, windows and so on, but cannot deal significant damage to the hull without some serious power behind them. Only a high level Fighter with a huge two-handed great weapon could punch a hole in the ship large enough to deal damage, or a large AoE spell may be able to do a single dice worth of damage to a ship's hull. If the ship's hull is destroyed it will break apart, causing its cargo and crew to drop into the cloudy abyss or float upwards if they happen to be attached to something buoyant.

The Airship's AC is its maneuverability. Not necessarily their speed. Bigger ships are technically faster on the open ocean then smaller ships, but smaller ships are more agile and a harder target. The sails and balloons on the ship are what grant it its movement. Damaging the sails (grapeshot, fire, etc.) will lower a ship's AC over the course of a fight. If a ship loses its AC it will be unable to move or begin the descent and crash to earth. If this seems too harsh and hard to avoid, I'd say the cloud-ocean has a bit of bouncy too it, so it takes a decent amount of time to slip through the clouds and enter true freefall. Or maybe every ship has some internal balloons to help keep it floating along even if its main balloons are popped or what have you.

The Airship's saving throw is determined solely by its crew. The saving throw is used to avoid things like crashing into sky islands emerging rapidly from the fog, or dodging giant thunderbirds, or putting out fires/lightning clutchers on deck and so on. Destroying and demoralizing the crew is the method to reduce an enemy ship's saving throw. There is also a degree of rulings-over-rules that must be employed here- if the entire enemy crew is dead but the ship is still moving, its AC would drop to zero as no one can pilot it. If the crew is alive but there is no sail or ability to avoid, then its saving throw would still drop to zero regardless, unless if the save was for something that the crew can do without steering or controlling the ship and so on.

Airships don't really have levels but they can have classes or designations. You could use these as a sort of rock-paper-scissors thing for mass combat or to add some spice to it. The HD of an airship is determined by a combination of its size and the quality of its hull, support, and armor.

Airship Weapons
Realistically, any combat between two airships would be chaotic, with changes in elevation and timing, movement in 3d space, as well as many crew members on both sides attacking with both hand weapons like bows and crossbows or bombs at range to kill enemy crew as well as using ship mounted weapons to try and damage and destroy the enemy ship. As such, ship v ship combat might be a little tedious to run round by round. Instead, each ship could just employ one weapon or movement per phase to try and get an advantage over the other, or you could say that they are doing many things at once but this is the “one that made the difference”, or perhaps you have your own better method of doing airship combat. In that case, just do that.

Below is a random table of Airship weapons.

Roll 1d6 if you want your fantasy setting to have zero black powder weaponry.
Roll 1d8 if you don't mind including some minor or transitional black powder weapons.
Roll 1d10 for a total random Airship weapon.

10 Airship Weapons

[1] Death Pikes – Basically iron spikes with a fluted top to make them always fall point down. Dropped from an airship onto another one from above, or to “bomb” villages and the like. Cuts or punctures a balloon, then falls into the ship and often kills crew. Effective, but you have to succeed an attack roll against the enemy ship's AC AND they get a saving throw to avoid.

Deals 1d4 damage to a ship's hull, 1d2 damage to its AC, and 1d2 to its Saving Throw.

[2] Fire Arrows – Very standard. Has no effect unless at least 5 people total are firing a volley at once. Any kind of arrow works; only one to-hit roll is used. Individual skill doesn't matter, this is all about mass to light the enemy hull or sails on fire. Fire is obviously useless when its raining and sails cannot be burned if made of fire retardant material or if the balloon is hidden inside the ship or metal-cased.

Deals no damage, but eventually lights hull on fire. The amount of volleys or how “hard” a save needs to be made to put out the fire can be based on the amount of arrows you actually launched. Deals 1d2 damage per Airship turn and has a chance to hit munitions hull or trap crewmen on the lower decks for extra damage until its put out. If it hits the sails it will destroy them in 3 rounds unless enemy can fly ship into a raincloud to put it out. Reduce the sail's AC by ½ for each round it burns.

Also if you like gunpowder stuff, bomb arrows are a total possibility. Make each arrow deal 1d2 damage to the enemy hull for each hit instead.

[3] Catapult – Normal siege weapon, primed for airship combat. Can load heavy stones (useful as ballasts for the ships anyway) or balls of pitch for fiery projectiles. Difficult to aim while both ships are moving and rocking around, but can deal decent damage.

Deals 1d6 damage to ship's hull on direct hit.

[4] Ballista – Normal siege weapon, primed for airship combat. Can fire powerful bolts, though usually will be tied with rope to act as a method to anchor ships for boarding or to reduce manuverability.

Deals 1d4 damage to a ship's hull on direct hit. If embedded, rope or chain (can't be cut as easily) can be used to keep enemy ship from escaping or maneuvering away. Enemy ship gets -1 to its AC for each line embedded into its hull.

[5] Wind Blades – Blades placed along the side of the ship. Since ships can move in 3d space, they can perform not just ramming techniques but also rapid movements all around. Typically used to cut along the sails, balloon, or rigging holding them together- but a big ship can just straight up flatten and drop a smaller ship by landing on top of them.

Deals 1d4 damage to the ship's AC for a good pass, but it takes at least 2-3 turns to angle in for another one. If the ship is bigger and/or installed with a heavy ram, then it deals 1d6 damage on a fast impact.

[6] Bellows – Huge blacksmith bellows and pumps aimed at the enemy ship and blasted- used to shoot water, sand, or oil with various effects. At this altitude water might freeze (maybe ships have a “heat” aura so anything removed from the ship will freeze and fly as ice shards instead???) boiling oil or sand could damage crew, or damage the hull if you like the idea of squirting acid at the enemy ship instead.

Deals 1d3 damage to any ship feature, but requires close range. Maybe replaces cannons if you don't want that type of black powder stuff in your world, or maybe it's just cool and weird.

[7] Grenades – Thrown with a variety of implements, by hand and tossed/thrown, or launched with catapults. I like to imagine a catapult throwing like 100 small grenades all at once which explode in the air like a big flak cannon kind of thing to maximize chance to hit. You could imagine these as the little metal shrapnel bombs but I kind of like to imagine them as little black powder sacks instead. Perhaps if you wanted less black powder, maybe they're sacks of fine grain or sawdust or something instead.

Roll attack; for every point of difference between the AC and the attack roll, reduce the grenades final damage by 1 (since some of the grenades are missing). So on an attack roll of 14 but the enemy ship has 16 AC then you deal -2 less points of damage. If the attack is totally successful, then the full volley hits and it's a devastating attack. Roll 1d8 for an average volley, or 1d10 if you're using up your full stock of grenades at once.

Also; grenades could be made into flying “mines” instead by use of lighter then air little candle things by using sky lanterns with strings of firecrackers beneath them, making them neutral buoyancy. You can only use these on ships that are chasing you, but create a mine field that deals its damage if the enemy ship fails a saving throw.

[8] Rocket Arrows – Large boxes or batteries of arrows tied with rockets. After the fuse is lit, the arrows will fly out and deal damage as a large volley. Most ships opt for the square shape, but many go for an oval as the attacks are more concentrated on center mass.

Deals 1d3 damage PER BATTERY to the enemy ship's AC and crew, determined randomly per die. The ship gets a saving throw to avoid the weapons if they are spotted before they fire.

[9] Cannons – Traditional black powder cannons firing cannonballs. Pretty strong but ammunition will be limited given how heavy they are. Usually fired in volleys, sometimes mounted on swivel guns for more advanced ships. Long range.

Deals 1d6 damage to enemy hull for a volley. If your ship is in a bigger class, increase the die size by one for having more cannons. After firing, your ship gets pushed backwards from the blast of the cannons while its flying around, -2 AC for the round after firing.

[10] Net Bomb – Devastating weapon. Essentially, it's a huge extra sail with hundreds of gunpowder bombs/grenades tied to it. Only useful on ships that are chasing you; you release the net, it parachutes open in flight and tangles around the enemy ship, then may explode because of fuses.

Deals 1d10 damage to the enemy hull and makes the ship have disadvantage on its saving throws since none of the crew can see through the giant net and may get tangled up in it. If the enemy ship succeeds a saving throw then it is avoided. Ships can only carry like 2-3 of these because of how big they are.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Seeking the GFS (Generic Fantasy Setting) + 20 Core Elements

I've never liked the idea of calling something a “generic” fantasy setting for two reasons. One, the term generic has a bit of a negative connotation that, in my opinion, isn't really warranted. I like generic stuff. Sometimes vanilla is the best flavor. But the second, and most pressing reason, is because “Generic” doesn't actually mean anything.

When people are calling something generic, they're usually saying whatever thing or system or setting they are most familiar and comfortable with that has become the basis for their fantasy universe. The term “generic fantasy setting” is a bit of a misnomer because people have very different definitions of what generic actually is.

Art @Andreas Rocha
 
Off the top of my head, I'm going to list the most “generic” fantasy settings I can think of, or the “generic” settings that people use as the baseline for fantasy worlds.
  • Lord of the Rings or Tolkien's expanded work / Middle Earth
  • The Elder Scrolls / Tamriel
  • World of Warcraft / Azeroth
  • The Witcher Universe / The Witcher Universe
  • Dungeons & Dragons / Forgotten Realms + Others
  • Dungeon Meshi Manga / Dungeon Meshi Universe
Now these are just the ones I've seen or played. I've heard Dragon Age and Dragon's Dogma are supposed to also be fairly generic as well, but I haven't played or seen enough of those to make a judgement if they should be added to the list. Warhammer is also fairly generic at the surface (human empire, elves, dwarves, orcs, order vs chaos, etc.) but has a lot of specific unique elements and factions which don't fit that well for our purposes.

As you can probably tell; the above list is not supposed to be some kind of list of carbon copy fantasy worlds. ALL of these worlds are very different from each other. Even if they have similarities on the surface, they're each different and unique. This is exactly what I've been trying to say; Elves from Warcraft and Elves from Tolkien have almost nothing in common, but they are both “generic” because they both have vaguely similar aesthetic presentations and hold similar tropes. They both feel like elves despite almost everything about them being different.

However, it is clear that there is some undercurrent of “generic” connection between these and more fantasy worlds. I think the term “Generic Fantasy Setting”has value. I think it's both a useful term and a fun archetype of “world” to create or run in. So let's quantify it with a table.
 
You could also use this table below as a quick-and-dirty fantasy setting creation tool. Take everything below as "true" for the setting. Then just roll d20 to pick a category, then a smaller die with a number of faces equal to the bold and italic text in the category. Whatever you roll; change, remove, or shift up that element. Roll any number of times to spice up your new "generic" fantasy setting.
 
Art @Sweetmoon

20 Core Elements that make up a GFS
[1] The world is based on the cosmic struggle or balance between Good and Evil OR Law and Chaos OR is physically constructed by the Four Elements.

[2] The main biome or landmass of the setting, or the place with the main campaign or most detail, is a Western European Temperate Biome. The setting has a technological level and history that is roughly analogous to the High Medieval / Early Renaissance.

[3] The setting tends to be ruled by a Pantheon of Gods. The Gods are thought to exist but only rarely intervene in mortal affairs.

[4] There are several different intelligent fantasy races. These races are;
  • Humans who mostly live on the plains, and tend to be the most populous race.
  • Elves who mostly live in the forests.
  • Dwarves who mostly live in the mountains and/or hills.
  • Orcs who mostly live in the wastelands. They tend to be antagonistic to the other races.
  • Any other races are much more rare and are often from exotic locales.

[5] The primary power structure of the setting is a feudal monarchy which is ruled by a King. This system is one where land, wealth, and social status if passed from parent to child. The primary inheritor class is Male. (As this is a GENERIC fantasy setting, actually delving deep into feudal oblation or rankings is discouraged; too much realism will spoil the ren-fair feeling.)

[6] The land is protected by trained soldiers who protect it from monsters, invasions, and other threats. The most elite of these trained soldiers are Knights or heavily armed cavalry. These Knights are expected to Follow a Moral Code and there is a level of Prestige associated with them.

[7] The majority of the people survive by Farming. The most common types of food cultivated is Bread cultivated from wheat ground into flour, etc. Livestock include Cows, Sheep, Goats, Chickens and Pigs.

[8] The primary vehicle used by people in this setting for transport and warfare are Horses.

[9] The most common threats people encounter when traveling on the roads Bandits and Wolves. Most rookie adventurers start off fighting weak monsters like Giant Rats or Goblins. More rare monsters can be very dangerous. The most infamous, though not necessarily most powerful or common of these monsters is the Dragon.

[10] The biggest, baddest monsters in the setting (like Dragons) tend to have the habit of Kidnapping Princesses and locking them up far away.

[11] There are ancient Dungeons which house dangers like monsters, traps, and magic. The primary reason people explore these dungeons is to acquire Treasure. These dungeons are usually ruins left behind by a More Magically Advanced but fallen Precursor Civilization. Additionally, dungeons are also the most likely places to hold Ancient Evils that are waiting to be awakened.

[12] Among treasures and other wonders found in Dungeons, you might also find magic items. The most powerful and sought after are Magic Swords, which is the most noble weapon. The other most powerful magic item are lamps which house Genies that grant Three Wishes.

[13] Magic is a powerful force in this universe. Magic is Rare and usually kept as Secret Knowledge. Those who cultivate magic can use it in the forms of Potions, Spells, and Enchanted Items.

[14] The type of people who use magic are scholarly, wise Wizards. They are usually Very Powerful but Withdrawn from the world. They tend to sequester themselves in Towers.

[15] Typically, the most common end goals for a Wizard or mark of a great Wizard is to become Immortal or to create the philosophers stone and turn Lead into Gold.

[16] The most advanced weapon in the setting is a Catapult OR Repeating Crossbow. Blackpowder weapons are in their Infancy OR Are inexplicably absent.

[17] The primary currency used by people in the setting are Circular Coins made of Gold, Silver, and Bronze for different denominations. The wealthiest people in the setting besides the ruling classes will usually be Merchants or Guildmasters.

[18] Outside of civilization, there is untamed wilderness. This is where Fairies live, who are known to be Magical Tricksters who love Pranks. They are not usually hostile nor are they benevolent. Nature itself may also be a force in the world; too much industrialization from (usually humans or orcs) may incur the Wrath of Nature in the form of natural disasters and animal attacks. Finally; there are Treants, tree people who talk and may be able to walk or uproot themselves if needed who defend the forests and seek to retain a balance with nature.

[19] After people die, their souls are ferried to an Afterlife determined by their Deity OR Taken to Heaven or Hell based on how good or evil they are. Those whose spirits are get lost in the process or have unfinished business may end up as Ghosts, which is where Ghosts come from.

[20] There are people who come back from the dead as Undead Monsters like zombies or skeletons. They were raised from the dead by a Necromancer OR by being Buried somewhere Cursed. They can be destroyed physically and are Repelled by Holy Symbols. There may also be priests or other individuals who can perform Holy Magic which casts spells of Light and Healing.

Friday, April 2, 2021

20 Things that come flying down spooky hallways at you

[1]
Screaming skulls
[2] Running skeleton
[3] Several humanoid figures, which are revealed to be a group of zombies
[4] Lights or torches go out from far away towards you like woosh woosh WOOSH
[5] You don't see anything but you hear something. It's on the ceiling creeping closer.
[6] This one requires a door or corner or elevator- just a shit ton of blood sloshing towards you.
[7] You can't see them with your eyes; dark spooky ghouls which you can only see in mirrors.
[8] Generic looking ghost person floating, gives dire warning, fades away with echoing moans.
[9] Creaky wheelchair is on its side, wheel spinning for no reason.
[10] Ball bounces down hallway towards you, spooky kid laugh eminent.
[11] Little puppet on a tricycle rolls up to you, clearly just a machine. Still a little spooky.
[12] Bunch of mannequins. Seem to move when you're not watching.
[13] B A T S
[14] Giant hand or grasping tentacle, slams down, then slinks away into darkness.
[15] It's like snow that falls from the roof. You taste it but it's actually ash.
[16] Ghostly figure of a big face that warbles laughter at you. Probably asks you riddles.
[17] Arrows. It's just orcs. Not supernatural horror at all, just a good ambush.
[18] Some kind of pipe or something shaking along the wall. When you reach the end of it- just a blood handprint is all that's left.
[19] Bloody normal person who is really screwed up. They fall in your arms and say something ominous and then die.
[20] You see a man a coat and broad-brimmed hat moving towards you from the darkness, the hat pointed downwards to hide the man's face. Of course there is no man, when you get close enough to see he has no legs it falls down and you realize it's just some random clothes that were levitating.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

40 Minute Settings- Heap


Heap is a shithole. It's like a garbage dump of different worlds. Once the technology to create portals becomes wildly available to a civilization, they will naturally start to throw away all their garbage. At first it might just be nuclear waste, plastics that never degrade, that sort of thing. But pretty soon they'll dump their normal litter and garbage away, and then it's only a matter of time before the excess population gets dumped too.

It happened to Earth, but it has happened to other places too. The world gets crowded. Over populated. People start to want to look for a better life. At first they don't even have to trick people, just give them the option. Keep the communication between the worlds as sparse as possible. Nobody ever comes back of course, that's the point of a depopulation program. They're told they can go here for a better life, a fresh start. Meaningless bribes like the removal of all debt or allowing them to breed again in eugenic societies- genetic dead ends are dumped in Heap like any other cesspit. Soon after, refugees from oppression and wars will go there, and punishment for crime will include permanent relocation.

Heap is a nexus of many worlds. Humans are there, as well as the pig-like Azon and the enigmatic Phissy. All these species and more have ended up opening stable connections to Heap, and all of them used it as a trash can. Heap is a world littered with garbage. Cities were built here, but the canals between them are filled with sewage. Huge sinkholes filled with trash have becomes the main scavenging locations for the impoverished residents. Heap is filled with high rises and micro apartments. Nobody who lives here has much of a choice, so the landlords have a field day. They can charge pretty much whatever they want- it's either that or go live like one of the many millions of homeless vagabonds digging through trash.

Heap's People
The many species who live in Heap do so because they were either tricked or forced to come here, they aren't usually happy about it. Getting sent to Heap is almost always a one-way ticket. Nobody is allowed to come back to their homelands without special connections or an insane bribe, and everybody in Heap is living hand to mouth. Well, almost everybody.

Heap is a world of urban decay. The place was falling apart when they built it. Now it's much worse. Cracked pavement and falling apart infrastructure are the norm. The water and lights mostly work, but it's expensive and spotty because you can never know when somebody will start siphoning it off your building. The canals are how people get around now, airboats are the luxury sports cars of Heap. People living here are hard scrabble. They dress in stolen rags, usually plucked from a corpse of somebody who tied slowly of toxic poisoning from the air and water. They work whatever filthy jobs they can. Certain outreach programs have given jobs to the area, but they're busywork at best. Painting garbage to make it look nice to anyone flying overhead, underwater canal welders, a few factories. Those who work in the health clinics (and whorehouses) can make a decent living. But of course, owning anything is an invitation to be robbed.

Most people work odd jobs. Garbage scavengers, growing food in the gutters, and petty theft are how most people get by here. One of the most controversial careers is those who work for the landlords. The eviction officers. You don't even get paid for that, they just slip a copy of the keys in your box and you force the tenants out. You get first dibs on whatever they have. That's what Heap is like.

Heap has grocery stores, spas, hardware stores. It's a normal “civilized” place. You just start to notice that all the doors and windows have bars on them. Armed guards patrol the stores from catwalks- ready to shoot shoplifters without a trial. Everything is just so slightly out of your price range. Everything's a bit dingy and faded. Most things here a recalled from the “real” world out there, the place you can't go back to. You don't think you've seen a tree since you came here. You could try calling the police if something bad happens, but you know they won't come. That's what life is like.

Heap's Technology
Heap is a place where many alien races and cultures have come together. It seems that everyone who has developed portal technology has about the same overall level of technology, but with different specialties and off shoots. Humans ended up being really good at computers. The bug aliens whose name nobody can pronounce have incredible body modifications. Drugs are a Heap specialty- it's a home grown thing here. Only way to design stuff that can make one species high and another one not dead is to have a LOT of hands on experience.

Guns are also made in this place. Often modified or hand crafted, making bullets is one of the most stable and good forms of work in this miserable place because of how much they are used. Not a night goes by when you don't hear gunshots- you just hope it's not in your own apartment building. Turf wars by the gangs or grudges being settled are more then enough to keep the bullet factors working all the time. Everybody with anything to defend in Heap is strapped.

Those who need to fight for a living in Heap- mobsters, eviction agents, people on the run- they need special help. Guns aren't enough. Instead, they turn to the special methods. Their bodies are sliced open, alien doctors sowing the ligaments back up with little chips inside. These are morphs. Imagine someone putting a flamethrower in your arm, powered by your blood. Now imagine what kind of daily routine and diet you'd need to keep to both avoid dying and to keep it in working order. Morphs are unique, special enhancements people put in themselves. It's as much of a burden as it is a gift. All of them show signs of it on the outside.

Those with morphs to spit fire or acid have burns along their arm- most put their morph in their non-dominant hand, as to keep their good one for punching or shooting. Ice morphs are cold, of course. Morphs that turn your body into a hive for insects or leeches are very nasty, but very effective in the closed environments where fights break out. Heap is an artificial environment, it's not like people have easy access to bugspray. Some morphs are put into the legs, chest, eyes or other parts of the body. Some people have urban travel morphs- their legs are skinless, bulging with muscle, which must be massaged and bathed in salt every day or else they'll start to cramp and probably sever an artery with how hard they'll spasm. In return for this sacrifice, you'll be able to jump a few stories- right up to your mark's window. Why not? It's not like you have a long life expectancy here anyway, what with the pollution and toxic air.

Hope for Heap
Heap is a bad place. Everybody here is on edge, racial tensions run high. Nobody likes the greedy landlords and everyone thinks everybody else owes them something. It's kind of rough. But even with all that, there is life growing up from the gutters. Kids (god forbid) play in the gutters sometimes, under careful eye of their parents. People have barbecues; sometimes the smell of alien cookery wafts into your window, and it smells good. Sometimes the pie guy wheels his cart outside your building. Damn, that guy is great. He carries a shotgun under his cart and can fire bone spurs from his head under his chef hat but he's the nicest food-cart guy around. The graffiti on the walls is beautiful. This place is filled with artists and musicians, exiled from their worlds because their art wasn't worth enough in capital to keep them in a place that wasn't the garbage pit. But sometimes this garbage pit isn't so bad.

There is of course, talk of revolution. Some want to destroy Heap, return to their home worlds, break the portals and force their people to take them back, or better yet, stop the cruel march of progress that is forcing people to the Heap dimension in the first place. Some people talk of a socialist revolution in Heap itself; taking all the property and giving it to the average citizen, instead of to the rich landlords who don't even need to visit this smelly dimension to get their checks. Some just think we need God here, or charity drives, or just hope. Maybe we can have hope. But hope needs to be defended with more then just words.

Author Afterwards
This world of mine is based on a few concepts. The idea of Heap peeked out at me when I was thinking about my home setting Garden again in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps if I could go back in time and change what I thought, I would have made Garden into what Heap is. Heap to me is the more grown up, better, more fully fleshed out version of Garden. But I can't just abandon Garden, it's got too much work and love put into it, but it's a bit silly. I think making Heap a sort of prison or outside place that is better explained in why it exists helps with the feel a bit.

The idea behind the Morphs and Heap in general came from Bioshock. One of my favorite games. I think this version of a “magic system” is a little better then the psychic stuff from Garden, but that's just a gut feeling, not idea how it actually looks from the outside. I also love the sort of dark and dingy modern life aesthetic seen in a few places, like Paratopic or any Puppet Combo games. I don't really have much else to add here- Heap is a sort of vague idea on my mind and I decided to write it up using my 40 minute setting format. Hope you enjoyed it, there might be other projects involving Heap in the future, it's gripped me in ways that I didn't expect.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

So whatever happened to the Dwarves?

In some fantasy settings, dwarves are extinct. It may be that there are only humans remaining, or that all the dwarves that remain are deep dwellers with little interest in the surface world. There are dungeons, perhaps, and ancient cities dwarves once ruled, but now are silent and teeming with monsters and traps.

So what happened to the Dwarves? Well I'll tell you- they decided to live on the surface.

When it comes to sustaining a civilization, hunter gathering can only take you so far. This goes double for cave dwelling civilizations. For fantasy ecologies this isn't as much of an issue, but most people don't see the caverns realms or underdark as a good place for farmining and supporting a large population. Small families can live off fungus farms, but not empires. People like to live near their food sources.

Perhaps in ancient days, the world was terrorized by the wars of the gods, or the clashes of huge and powerful races on the surface world. Dwarves lived in the Earth, afraid to stick their heads out. They developed and advanced, gaining technology and building a culture and society that could go out into the world and conquer it; maybe not all of it, but enough to make a life among the hills and valleys.

But Dwarves aren't very well suited to life above ground. Dwarven bodies are compact and strong, but not known to be especially fast or dexterous. Up on the surface, being able to move quickly and see farther is more important. Being able to use a bow and arrow is a lot more important on the surface then underground. Perhaps the dwarves got a bit taller. This could have been through magical or societal eugenics, or perhaps it just happened naturally. Maybe it was a blessing of the Gods.

Dwarves are the fantasy version of the cave man. Cave men and neolithic people wouldn't be able to survive in a fantasy world with other older, more powerful intelligent races like Elves or lizardmen. They wouldn't be able to defeat dragons and giant monsters without steel- our human ancestors in the real world slaughtered almost all of the world's megafauna with stone tipped spears, but fantasy monsters tend to be several layers of magnitude more scary then even our scariest predators.

So instead, pre-humans in fantasy lived deep underground. Formed by the salt of the earth, hiding from sight, they learned the crafts of fire and steel first, before language or writing. These were more important to them. Once they reached the surface, they became a bit softer in a way, but more developed to. Not necessarily more intelligent- man's gift is his intelligence, without it they could never survive in this world or the fantasy one. But the intelligence was just shifted to different things.

So what happened to the Dwarves? Well, they became humans.