Thursday, February 25, 2021

Dimension of Distant Towers

All around you is sky. Beneath is clouds that get thicker, above is the open air. You can taste rain on the air, but it is not raining. It is gray and moody. You see no green or living things anywhere, only stone towers that have stood far before you were ever born. You are far from home.
 
This place, the Dimension of Distant Towers, may not actually be in another dimension. It may be a free-floating mass, an empty cityscape that travels with the clouds. The Nespa live in a realm of shadowy, comfortable twilight- that is within the clouds and skies of the night. Could it be so that these towers are within each and every raining cloud?

Regardless of where it truly is, the Dimension of Distant Towers is a cold, quiet place. It is filled with many mysteries, and its spires have stood without being mapped or conquered. Still, there are great rewards for those who have climbed to the top of its most distant towers.


The Fog
The Towers are seemingly erected in air. There is no ground beneath them. Some theorize those who fall fall for eternity, others think you will simply fall out of the bottom of a cloud (and then fall to earth, and then die). Still others think that there are merely more towers beneath, and more towers above, perhaps the towers are inverted at the base, or maybe they're just infinitely stacked on top of each other, like a city built on the ruins of another.

Always you can hear the trickling of water. Sometimes it is the pitter-patter of rain, other times it is more like a babbling brook or the roar of a river. They are far beneath you- this is thought to be the water held in the clouds before it is released to the land below. But many scholars believe the “Dimension” of the Distant Towers is separate, it is a plane or an otherspace. It has no physical or energetic connection with our reality except what we bring to it. While the purpose of the water is a mystery; it is common here. Despite the towers being structures of stone, they never seem to erode away with time, and even finding efflorescence from long evaporated water is a difficult challenge. It rains every day, multiple times, and the rain is always a gentle one. With a few buckets or pails out it is enough to get everything you need for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.

Besides the air and the water, the towers are the only solid ground. There is very little plants here; only a few terrace gardens which range from overrun and abandoned eons ago to dead to seemingly tended with love and care. This is the biggest hurdle to explorers in the towers; little to no access for plant life to forage or grow yourself. Hunting is an entire other matter.

Sadly, many people who have been trapped in the Dimension of Distant Towers for extended periods of time have gone mad. Many from starvation or the isolation, but some from the magic or even cruel ambiance of this place. They may babble about titans moving in the fog, as tall as the towers, with missing faces replaced with hands. Others report that the towers are like trees that grow, with legends of “lumberjacks” who may chop one down and cause it and everyone on it to fall to their death that could strike at any moment.

The Towers
Made of stone, the towers are the main feature of this odd dimension. Each tower varies in height, though all of them have many floors hidden underneath their turrets. Whenever one enters into this realm, they will appear within a runic circle painted into the floor in one of the great turret spires. From there, one can look out the windows and see distant towers in every direction, shrouded by mist and fog. Nobody knows how large this realm truly is, or if it has an end at all. It is for this view that the realm got its name. The towers themselves are of an architectural design that seems ageless; while the worn stones look old they are not all eroding or crumbling away. Their design is very well crafted, making up all use of space and the weight of the tower is supported well by its thick exterior walls- if the pressures of weight and the wind even work in this realm as they do back home.

(sidenote- No idea if it's better if all the towers have the same architectural style or different ones, I love the idea of going between gray European stone towers to Islamic minarets to Japanese style wood pagodas with paper walls, etc. But the oppressive and disorienting atmosphere of only having one tower style is nice too, makes it seem like a sort of ancient evil or the construction of something alien. You'll have to decide for yourself which one you like more.)

Within each tower are multiple floors. The floors go downwards from the turret, and descend from a spiral staircase around the edge of the tower's interior. Floors are circular and can sometimes contain multiple rooms, even having complex layouts themselves depending on the size of the tower. These floors are where the majority of the dangers lay- monsters, traps, and spells guard every place. This is also where great treasures have been found. Randomly scattered throughout the towers are doors and hallways that seemingly lead to nowhere; many doors directly lead to the outside of the tower, meaning carelessness means falling into the gray void. The turrets of towers seem to be the safer places- except for the various flying creatures which roost here. You will unfortunately not always enter a tower by its turret or spinneret.

From within one tower, there is no obvious way forward. With no bridges or ground between them, the towers seem eternally isolated. For many explorers, the journey ends here, but progression is possible. Within each tower will be a series of switches, rune stones that fit into mysterious wall sockets, or incantations written on scrolls which can be cast to create the bridges. Bridges between towers appear from any entrance to a tower and will then appear before your eyes, snapping together from the mist itself into shape. The bridge will curve around and lead to another tower. The pathways between the towers are set, they could be mapped, but they are invisible unless active and crumble quickly once you leave the pathway. There is also no guarantee where a bridge could take you- it could take you to the closest tower across from where you stand, or it could loop around the tower you are in to go another direction, or the bridge itself could travel straight into the fog, its destination so far away you can't even see the tower it belongs to before you start your journey. Strangely, these bridges have been enchanted to allow mostly safe passage between places- they will not fall apart while you are on them. Many explorers have set up camp multiple times along a bridge, but turning around isn't possible. Once the fog swallows up the back end of the bridge and you can't see the tower you came from, the bridge has crumbled up until that point and you must press onwards.


The Landless
These are the only race to inhabit this place. Living in scattered solitude, the Landless are gargoyles, or rather, they look like what gargoyles are carved to appear as in the real world. It seems the design of a gargoyle one may put on a cathedral was based on the Landless, or perhaps it was the other way around from some primordial dreaming. In the standard fantasy world, gargoyles are powerful creatures made of stone. Here, these gargoyles are made of flesh and blood. The Landless are travelers at heart and have the power of flight. Their bodies are medium to small in size, and are tough but not nearly as hard as stone. As creatures of the sky, they are resistant to lightning and take ½ damage from all lightning spells, attacks, and breath weapons.

The Landless have the power to fly, but with a caveat. Flying causes their wings to heat up incredibly quickly from the friction over their bumpy skin and too-small wings. Within the Realm of Distant Towers, this isn't a problem, as the air is always thick with mist and cool, and the sun is always hidden behind the clouds even on the brightest days. The Landless can fly and when they land, condensed water drips from their wings and steam rises from their backs after a long flight. If a Landless manages to emigrate to the mortal realm however, they will find flying during a hot day impossible, and difficult to fly without a thick fog to cool them down. Downgrade flight abilities to only being able to glide at night or a cloudy day without fog, or not being able to fly at all in direct sunlight. During a foggy day or night, they can fly freely, or in any place with enough moisture and coolness, such as a cave.

The Landless have their own culture. Mainly, they focus on minding their own business and introspection, which is probably why they can survive in such a strange and unfriendly place- and why that place is still so unknown. They live in tiny family bands that travel across very wide territories. Due to the scarcity of food as well as lack of socialization, almost any group of explorers here could be seen as a threat, or as prey to be hunted. The Landless' primary diet involves eating the fat tower spiders, fruit hanging from a rare terrace orchard, or plucking the pigeons out of the air since it's too hard to catch them on foot. Their level of technology is essentially savagery- using the iron tools or weapons found throughout the old tower tombs and vaults is easier then making their own, they have no writing or farming, and they don't wear clothes beyond rags. They also don't wear armor, since their skin is as tough as leather and anything heavier would just weigh them down. These primitive tribes tell stories and have long oral histories- their stories are filled with romantic tales of fallen Landless who spend years or decades flying back up to their homes to defeat a usurper, or tales of an eternal moon that will one day wrap the world in its blanket of sleep forever. Worryingly, many of the tales the Landless have for each other, their monsters and myths, mimic those stories of the insane castaways trapped in this dimension tell of their long isolation, giving credence to the unknown forces at work.

Also you can let your players play these if you want, but I don't really like PCs with flight. This is why they can only fly in fog, so it works in this Dimension really well but in the normal world it's just a useful power, not as game breaking.

Dangers & Monsters
Beyond the Landless, many dangers live in and about the towers, creating a challenge for adventurers and the natives alike. Firstly- any fall would be lethal of course. The towers are structurally sound, but old. Many weak balconies and open holes in the sides of some of the structures can lead straight out into the abyss below. The bridges between the towers are also solid, they are magically enchanted to grant safe passage, but their handrails and guards are not fullproof- it is easily possible for one to get thrown off in a melee. Many explorers also climb the outsides of the towers to reach locked rooms by going in through their windows and to get to higher floors otherwise unreachable, but the slick stone from the fog and general lack of handholds means that this too is very dangerous.

For more environmental threats, there is also the lack of food. Water is in abundance here, both the ambient fog which provides plenty of moisture and condensation (even a novice magician can condense drinking water from moisture in the air when it is this plentiful), but the numerous fountains, inner aqueducts, and various bathhouses and cisterns within each tower. But food is hard to come by. The rare living creatures in the tower are birds which are hard to catch and small, spiders which are even smaller and unappetizing, and the fruits and plants growing on the occasional tower side orchard. Taking any amount of food from this place is very likely to draw the ire of the Landless, even if you are otherwise on friendly terms with them.

Another is the weather. Usually, the air is with a chilly breeze- like a morning before the sun. The temperature here is cool but livable. Sometimes though, there is a cold snap. The temperature in a specific tower will drop rapidly- so much so that it will grow ice and the waters inside will freeze over. You can even see this from the other towers; one in the distance will randomly be white and frost covered, snow flakes dropping from its awnings. More often then not, this is the result of the Iceflies. Large beagle-sized insects that fly through the air with a heavy drone. These creatures bring ice and cold with them wherever they go; they travel in small swarms between towers from time to time, only moving in the darkest part of the night and then roosting within a tower. By the time the morning comes and the clouds of this place are lit up; your tower would become deathly cold without warning. Your potions may have been frozen solid, and some of your companions without proper sleeping equipment may have died or be seriously ill. With the lack of wood to burn for fuel except that which you brought, your only hope is to either conjure a bridge or seek the Iceflies somewhere in the tower and slay them.

On the outside of the towers and traveling between them- a few predators live. Besides the Landless, there are flying jaguars. Dark gray fur, huge claws and teeth and powerful bodies. These creatures have a skin membrane under their body to let them fly, much akin to a flying squirrel or bat. The small tower spiders are nothing compared to the huge ghost-strand spiders. They are nearly invisible, with bodies like glass, and they only string a single, unbreakable, inescapable strand of web between the towers. This magical strand of web can snap the spines of anything flying into it at full speed- and yet have the strength to hold the limp body in place for the spider to come and feed. Finally- there are the great black ouroboros- huge snakes which are too big to fit inside any of the towers. They wrap around each spire and bite their own tails, slowly rising through muscle contractions that can take years to reach the top; from a distance, they just appear as another landing. They don't seem to eat anything- as they must bite their own tail lest they fall from the tower. But those who try to use them as a circular platform around the tower be warned- the snakes can expand themselves just enough so your body slips between them and the tower, and then they will crush you against the stone harder then any mortal could withstand. No one can retrieve a body from one crushed by a black ouroboros like this- it is stuck until it falls free as the snake mysteriously ascends upwards.

Deeper within the towers is another threat- the long dead bones of ancient protectors, which rise again to guard the towers from intruders. They are known as the Tarsal Defenders. The bones of these beings are astonishingly similar to those of orcs and humans, but no living specimen has ever been seen or even depicted in those tombs that house them. They have broad, oval faces in their skulls, with spikes of bone which no doubt gave them a fearsome expression. Distinctly different from the Landless- no wings either, ruling out the most sensible options. They lay in silent tombs, many armed with gray-blue polearms of unusual shape, and a few also adorned in shiny armor of the same type. Their protective armor is as good as the finest from our realm, and seems to have the innate ability to defend against spells of ice and lightning. Nobody knows what these beings may have been- the original inhabitants of the towers? An alien race come to live here when leaving their home realm? A slave race created just to die and be animated in defense of a mad sorcerer's project? These undead beings have bones which are more similar to petrified wood and minerals formed into shape then the long dead bones of creatures; necromantic magic cannot raise them nor has any successful attempt to raise one from the dead to speak or study them ever worked either. Any bones from these beings taken from the Dimension of Distant Towers never stir again- except the tiniest, subtle vibrations whenever it rains outside.


The Treasures
The Realm of Distant Tower is home to many treasures. As mysterious and dangerous as the land is; it is still being explored for the chance to claim some of its riches.

Firstly, the creatures and dangers of the lands themselves are valuable. While the Landless produce nothing of value themselves- some evil empires have consorted to capture them and use them as slaves. Of course, the difficulty of both capturing and keeping flying slaves makes this little more then a dream. Less amoral explorers find that the creatures of the realm are bountiful as they are dangerous- the pelts of flying jaguars, the scales of the ouroboros, ghost-strand spider silk, the chitin plates of an icefly all have high values. Even the Tarsal Defenders are of value- not for their unusual bones which are prized only by scholars, but for their armor and weapons, which fit well enough into human or orcish hands and are very strong for how common they seem to be.

Secondly, the treasure troves. In terms of raw wealth, the Dimension of Distant Towers is also bountiful. Deep within the towers, especially those infested with the Tarsal Defenders or filled to the brim with deadly mechanical and magical traps, are hoards of wealth. There is no gold native to this dimension, strangely enough, it seems their choice for wealth was silver. This rare type of silver is stunningly pure and beautiful, seemingly immune to being tarnished and is both lightweight and highly prized for artisans. Some towers have hoards of the stuff in every shape and form- brilliant chalices for unseen lips, metal mirrors, bracelets and trinkets of unparalleled shine. These treasure hoards have been seemingly left here for eons, untouched and waiting to be claimed- if only one can endure the hardships to find them and take them back.

Finally, there is magic. The Dimension of Distant Towers is an alien realm to our own, misty and peerless. Within it is the unreality of its fog and geometry- it is no wonder the place practically sings with the arcane and unknowable. The first time a magician steps through the portal, they may brush their hand across the stonework in awe at how it all feels- though with time they will acclimate to it, perhaps even finding the real world dull in comparison. This magical aura over the whole realm, plus the treasures left behind by the ancients, means that this place is teeming with magical artifacts and treasures beyond your wildest dreams.

20 Distant Towers Treasures – Roll 1d20 for what you find inside a Tower

[2] Pale Pink Juice. In the Dimension of Distant Towers, seeing anything with warm colors like red or yellow is so rare it really stands out, even if it is really a very pale pink. The Pale Pink juice is kept in a glass-and-silver pitcher, the contents of which are always cool. The Juice itself is a magic fluid and can sustain a person for a full day for both their food and water for a fully day, as well as delay any diseases or conditions they have for that day as well, but they will return once the medicinal effects have worn off. The pitcher contains 8 cups.

[3] Silvered Spectacles. Pair of fine spectacles with silver rims, bridge, and temple. The silvered body is very thin and nearly weightless, once you place it on it grants vision so clear that almost all forms of blindness are cured for as long as it is worn. Additionally, the spectacles can see shapes in fog extending outwards from where you could see the outline of a person, place, or thing without the fog, but this shape lacks detail and only grants vague information. In the Dimension of Distant Towers you can locate towers for miles around as featureless black pillars.

[4] Scale Ear. Looks like a metal dragon scale made of many layers of absolutely wafer thin silver metal. It has a band that fits around the head; acts as a prosthetic ear to those who are deaf; they can 'hear' the scales tiny vibrations and muffled clinks of the silver against each other. If someone with healthy ears wears it, they get +1 to initiative or to avoid being surprised but only from enemies approaching from that direction.

[5] Apex Redeemer. It is a small silver pyramid, flaked with snow white dust. Anyone who opens it can confess a sin, a broken promise, or a curse they are suffering from and it will be swallowed by the pyramid. The pyramid will then tarnish and turn dark, and the person will be free from the guilt. If the pyramid is opened, the curse or guilt will move to whoever opened the pyramid.

[6] Baby Square. Silver metal square frame. It is only a few square pipes of metal, the center is open to the air. Very lightweight, all sides are a cubit in length and the corners are dented. If this square is placed on the ground or thrown over a baby or child, they cannot leave the square. This ability only works on creatures small enough whose normal stance fits in the square and who are mentally similar to children. It works on human children, fairies and brownies, goblins, halflings, etc.

[7] Rod of Death & Fog. It's a magic rod, made of a greenish-blue metal this time; immune to most earthly forms of corrosion. If bent out of shape, it will reform when next exposed to moonlight. Deals 1d8 magical blast damage and once per day can cast the spell Fog, or suck up fog in the air equal to the duration or volume to the spell.

[8] Bridge Stick. This looks like a dowel of sanded wood, a rarity in the Towers. If you point this at a tower you can see in the Dimension of Distant Towers, a hastily made bridge will appear of wood. This bridge lacks guardrails and will begin to fall apart from the area it was created all the way to its destination after 1 turn. If you're still on the bridge, it falls apart at a brisk walking speed. The rod is consumed upon use. You find 1d3 dowels at once whenever you roll this result.

[9] Flash Photograph. Long metal bar filled with some strange white powder. If you hold it up and expose the small hole on one end to an open flame, or pierce with with a flaming bit of rope- the entire bar flashes brightly a piece of parchment will come up out of the bar. This parchment will have taken a photograph of whatever the length of the bar was facing. It's a medieval version of a Polaroid, but it is in black and white and grainy. Still, better then any other recording items in a generic fantasy world, so it's a magical artifact now.

[10] Octopus Shield. This shield is made of a dark gray wood with a silver “octopus” on the face. The octopus is three dimensional- jutting out from the shield with its eight long tendrils symmetrically going outwards from the center to grip the edge of the shield. It is called an octopus though resembles no earthly creature- it has no eyes carved on it and is subtly different, and may instead be an extinct or very rare creature from this realm. This is a magic shield that grants +2 AC and reflects the first Death or Disintegration spell cast on the user back to the caster, once per day. The octopus tarnishes after it has blocked the first spell, and returns its shine when it recharges.

[11] Rammer. It's a small wooden baton, made of dark gray wood. Its head has the horns and head of an unknown animal- the head feels incredibly dense. If you slam this into an something, it deals 1d8+1 damage as though you just smashed it with a sledge hammer or battering ram. Rammer can be held and used in a grapple due to its small size. It never runs out of charge but if you drop it on your foot it'll break bones.

[12] Foamer. Silver canister that, if pressed at one end, fires white foam out the other end. You can use it on yourself or on another thing in melee. At range- It is hard to aim or use as is, disadvantage on ranged attacks, but if a simple device is made during downtime it can be shaped as a crossbow and have no disadvantage. The foam from this canister seals up wounds at a range, healing 1d6 points of damage, but also slows the target the more foam is put on them. One shot = half movement speed or count encumbrance as encumbered. After two shots = move at a crawl or as heavily encumbered. Three shots = immobile. The foam bubbles away after one hour OR after one turn if washed off with water or during the rain.

[13] Silver Mushroom. Looks like a mushroom, or dick I guess, with a thick head, made of the silvered metal. It is a mechanical puzzle that is Bewilderingly difficult to solve (12), requires screwing the head, stem, and levers on the side in a specific speed and order in order to open it up. Inside the mushroom is 2d4 Instant Death Tablets. They are bright blue poison tablets that kill instantly when consumed. One to kill a man, two to kill an ogre, three for a dragon, four for anything bigger. It takes a number of seconds equal to the number of pills swallowed to kill whatever ate them.

[14] Spellsling Staff. This long silver staff has a larger chamber near the top, which can be opened up. Within the chamber you can put something that glows bright to use the staff as an impromptu torch OR you can prepare a spell and drain the energies into the staff's chamber. Then, you can sling the staff to cast the spell instantly, no need for incarnations. This means instead of resolving a spell at the end of the combat round or at the start of the next round; the spell activates at the moment of the MU's action that combat round. The staff can only hold one spell at a time and has a 1 in 6 chance to break if holding a spell of any greater power then 5th level or higher.

[15] Mysterious Iron Ship. This small ship looks big enough for a rat to pilot, not a man. It's clearly a toy, but if dropped will always fall to the ground gently. The ship doesn't float in water, and yet seems strangely buoyant. The ship is, of course, a magical airship- just incredibly small in size. If one could enlarge it with a proper spell or perhaps shrink down, you could use this to explore the Dimension of Distant Towers freely- or even sail the spaces between stars.

[16] Altimeter. Silver tube with an unusual rotating display. The display features characters that you can't read, it's in some ancient and alien script, but with a few months or translation you can figure out that it shows the exact height of your location. Strangely, “zero” is not at sea level, it seems to be somewhere far deeper, down below. This is totally a magic item in a medieval fantasy setting.

[17] Silver Scab. This doughy ball of white-silver metal is unlike any other in this dimension. It is partially fluid like dough, especially if warmed up in the hands. By spreading it over a body wound, the silver orb sinks into the cracks and cuts of the victim and fills them, before melding with the flesh and becoming a silvery scab. This scab heals 2d6 hit points of damage to the target's body. After 1d4 weeks, the scab can be peeled off to reveal a silver flake worth 350c in currency. The flake is pure silver but is no longer malleable and you probably shouldn't tell anyone you peeled it off your axe wound.

[18] Helmet of Death-Many. It's a metal helmet with a crescent-moon shaped black blade, going vertically along the head of the wearer. When you wear this helmet, you must overcome its insidious control; roll a saving throw to avoid being controlled. If you succeed the roll, the player-character and player are not aware this helmet is cursed at all- it is a hidden roll. If you fail the roll, the dungeon master will temporarily take control of the player character who will attempt to kill anyone else in the room until the helmet is pulled off their head or they are knocked out or killed. The helmet itself grants +2 AC and counts as a +2 Magic Helmet. It also grants whoever wears it a bonus of +1 damage on all attacks for every “person” they've killed in the past 24 hours, up to a maximum of +10. This doesn't work on animals, undead, constructs, or anything without an intelligent, emotional soul, hence it has to be a “person”.

[19] Powdered Magic. It's a fine powder that comes in different colors- blue, green, cyan, purple, and very rarely magenta. If a handful is thrown at the ground creates sparks and streams and smokes of its color- a Rogue could use this to get in an extra sneak attack or escape a combat but it only works once. However anyone of magical learning will see it is an incredible find- powdered magic! This rare resource can be used to empower spells and fuse broken magic items back together, as well as mixed with water and honey or other reagents to create magical ink. Whenever you find this in the Towers, you'll probably find it in a silent, undisturbed silver dish open to the air. Each time you roll this result you find 3d8 handfuls of the stuff.

[20] Tarsal Defender Armory. Silent armory, untouched for uncountable eons. Not a speck of dust mars these shining weapons. There's enough sets of armor and weaponry to outfit a whole company of men in the magical equipment. Armor is somewhat adjustable- fits most humans and orcs and a few large bodied elves- dwarves or anything smaller would need to modify the armor. Armor as magical plate that grants a bonus against cold and lighting spells. Weapons act as +1 magic weapons, and are also immune to being frozen in place or magnetically pulled.

2 comments:

  1. I do think the idea of having many different types of towers is a cooler image, but if one wishes to portray the place as sinister, then having all the towers look nearly identical is better.

    I think that the best solution, however, is that unless one is running some kind of horror game, to have the towers ebe unique but of the same style. Some have gargoyles and statues on the outside, while others have spires and enormous bells or balconies and enormous windows to let in the light, though the glass is broken or covered in frost, making it difficult to see outward.

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