Saturday, May 7, 2022

Dimension of White Castles & Black Forests

This world has no color. Everything you see is black, white, or a shade of gray. This is the people and the places. The people here know what color is; they can see it, though they can't easily describe it. The animals react very strongly to color- sneaking is almost impossible for any being not monochrome, or at least dressed in very muted tones- even the soft pinks and browns of human flesh is like a ultra-saturated glowing neon to the beings so used to the colorless expanse.

The sky is always overcast during the day, though at night it gets very black. Shadows are long. The clouds and mists are white. This land is an endless array of forests and hills, mountains which can be climbed and over it; yet another forest and more hills.

To enter this world requires magic, or to find a time and place in your world where the sky and earth are so gray, so washed out and the fog is so thick there appears to be no separation of any. If you walk on without thought of where you are going, you will arrive here on a 1 in 6 chance. Getting back is much more difficult.

Everything here grows like a plant- including the people. The only civilization in this place are the great walled fortresses, which grow from small stone huts or single standing towers, mushroom out, and grow organically to fit new spinnerets and chambers over hundreds of years. The residents of these fortresses bud from them spontaneously; also growing the same way. They begin as tiny gnomes or pixies; a librarian as big as your thumb in the newly grown library ward, born into their job and position- no childhood or marriages make these people who they are, they just are as they were made. Eventually, they grow to a near human size, but will always be distinct from their black and white features and alien personas. Near the end of their lives, the people grow huge and gnarled like an old tree; a giant philosopher-king sitting on his throne, knees taking up most of the space in the great hall. The woodsman on the hunt for the big bad wolf, white bearded, his head peaking over the endless pine. Eventually, when they die, they will fuse back into the earth, once again returned to the cycle of the Strange and Eternal.

The White Woads
These are the tended, game-filled wood around the castles. They are their own simple ecosystem- all white deer and all black wolves, little gray riding hood walks through the trees to pick flowers while a big gray wolfman watches from the bushes. All white fish promise you knowledge if you put them back when you hook them out of a river filled with black stones.

Occasionally, the nobles and huntsmen of the white castles go out into these woods. They hunt gray foxes that dart through the underbrush under the snapping jowls of dogs- every color of the monochrome rainbow. Whenever you explore these lands, you are bound to run into somebody or something mildly friendly, but unmovable from their task. These places are mostly safe; perhaps even safer then inside the organic walls of the great growing castle.

The weather switches between bright summer day (white) and stormy (gray)- to finally night (very black). There are no seasons, though the people of this realm will babble on about how its a good season for their crops- when there are no seasons and there are no crops. "Everyone knows the fisher boy goes by the river during a nice summer's day!" meanwhile, everyone is still wearing their cloaks and coats.

The people here only live in stone places; and only stone places are civilization. If you were to chop down some trees and build a house, they wouldn't recognize it. They would think of it is a very strange tree. Even the witch on the outskirts of the castles who knows spells and lures children to be eaten still lives in a little stone house.

All the animals here can talk. Farm animals tell rumors, birds curse you if you disturb their nests, and wolves will let you go if you give them something bright red- inherently attracted to the color of blood despite the blood of everything here being a slick silver. The most dangerous are probably the wolves. Occasionally, you might find a stone bridge that gives birth to a big troll who demands payment to cross; but he's pretty easy to trick.

Gray Witch (3+2 HD, +1 AC, 1d4+1 gnarled cane, casts Spells)
Morale- 8
Numbers- One or Two (Sisters)

Magical old woman. Relatively friendly, but primarily eats children to survive. Will settle for a gnome or halfling- even a dwarf if its a lean season. She'll invite you into her home if you have a positive or neutral reaction check- and there will be a 1 in 3 chance she's got a kid in a cage waiting to be tonight's supper. Any implication that you disagree with this or will try to free the child and the spells will start flying. It's nothing personal, that's just her role.

When killed, the speckled witch will have a collection of runes and odd trinkets that could teach a magic user a random Black or White spell; rolled below.

Black & White Spells
Roll 1d3 for a Black Spell
Roll 1d3+3 for a White Spell
Roll 1d2+2 for a Gray Spell
Roll 1d6 for a totally random colorless Spell.

[1] Great Black Beast
Summons forth a great riding beast- the size of an elephant. Its woolly body is pitch black and is moves almost noiselessly. There is no better transport for moving over huge distances in the dead of the night. Whoever rides the beast may bid it to march or charge- this creature has no tusks or trunk but can be a formidable siege weapon. It takes 1 damage per candle size light source every round that is nearby it- and it dies instantly in the sunlight. Even starlight will make it weak and eventually cause it to collapse 1d3 hours after it is produced. Only during an eclipse or in the pitch black night will this monster survive longer.

[2] Panther Straps
Dark leather straps burst from the object in question and fashion strongly to whoever wields it next. They are fit so tightly that any object bound with these is immune to being disarmed or knocked off even from the effects of a Loose spell or other magical effect. They cannot be stolen free by imps or other little thievish creatures. Poorly fitting armor is strapped well; granting up to +1 AC from the armor if their body could not make full use of it before.

This straps can be cut by metal over the course of an exploration turn, but are otherwise permanent. If used on an object that is burning hot or lined with spikes, makes an effective trap that is a pain to remove. Add an exploration turn to the time to doff any armor equipped by use of this spell.

[3] Beetleskin
Gives any object a shield of shiny, dark gray carapace. The carapace-shield levitates just an inch off of the object; absorbing all attacks coming from a single direction decided when the spell is cast. The carapace has 14 AC and caster level in hit points before it is destroyed.

[4] Powdered Silver
Conjures a light handful of light silvery metal powder. This dust has the same properties as silver does; weapons given a coat of it harm werewolves, for example. Circles drawn of the silver will be antimagical in nature. Cursed items shriek when dusted by this; and it can be used as a holy symbol of a pinch is thrown at an undead creature or vampire.

The dust is very lightweight, and as such blows away easily in the air. It has a 1 in 10 chance of being blown away every round when outdoors; with an instant loss if the weather is bad. Indoors it can remain more stable, but will blow away if a door is opened nearby or if the party moves past at anything but a snails pace in walking speed.

[5] Healer's Smock
Garbs the caster and up to two others in white aprons, masks, and gloves. These clean pieces of clothing are barriers to disease and sickness; and miasma breaks upon their touch. While performing first aid or healing, you restore +2 more hit points per healing item or procedure used. Diseases are beaten back by one extra day's worth of progression. While this provides no help at curing or ending curses; anyone dressed in such clean and pure garments will be immune to catching them themselves, even if the disease is highly transmutable.

Every time you use this smock or heal someone, it becomes slightly less pure, slowly changing its color from white, to off white, to silver, to gray. After healing or defending oneself against disease 5 times, the protection of these clean garments are lost and they will rapidly degrade into black matted rags.

[6] Angel Switch
This spell must be cast on an all white twig. Common in this Dimension, hard to get anywhere else. The twig is imbued with holy energy, dealing 1d4+1 damage to undead and being able to be used as a holy symbol. The switch remains sanctified in this manner until the switch is stained with blood- or in other words, you strike a living thing too hard.

The switch has a second property. If used to spank an intelligent being, the switch causes them great pain and forces them to make a save or tell the truth on one question being asked. The switch snaps and has no power against someone who is already aligned with Good or Order.

The Living Castles
The castles here are alive. These fortresses grow on their own and spit out civilization, like spores, or perhaps a defense mechanism. It is an upright dungeon. They are also played like dungeons.

Despite being the "civilization" of this world, they are by no means any safer then the gentle wilderness outside- far from it. Interior chambers of the castle sometimes trap beings or rooms that are meant to be connected to the outside- a giant princess wishing so badly to see the outside world again- her towers windows encased in the stone of the rest of the castle- she will lash out at anyone who dares enter this chamber. Not all of the people in this place are friendly; while there are those formed as the King and Wizard, some are created in the guise of the Executioner or Highwayman. The newly borns may be small; a tiny rat-sized hooded man with a proportionally "giant axe"- deals 1d2 damage, but eventually they will grow up and become huge, their minds more twisted with age as they yearn to be returned to the soil.

Everyone in the castle is a medieval stereotype. Think of fairy tales, or Shrek, and that's generally what the people there should follow. They don't have names- only titles. The thought of needing that much differentiation between two individuals is pointless; after all, people only are what they do. Kings are noble, Queens are pretty but schemers. Princesses are naive and lovely in all way, Princes are charming and adventurous. To give one of them a name is received as a secret treasure- held close their chest. "This is my name? Just for me?" They cannot think of or even imagine names, only the intruders from other worlds and realms have that power. Some will trade their goods or services for a strong name. Others will call the guards on you for trying to cast a witchcraft on them.

The people and places here are intentionally anachronistic. The castles feel more like Hollywood movie sets, or a Disney film, then an actual medieval castle. They are always made of undressed stone with some tapestries hung around. There may be a garden in a courtyard or a tiny plot of cabbages outside the front gate, and peasants leading around donkeys with ropes, but there's no farming economy. It's nowhere near enough food to support this population; the castle provides for these people. Storerooms that open in its interior are already full of food. There are no hovels and villages for the serfs; they just sleep on the stone floor of the great hall or in a side passage. "Where else would peasants sleep?"

The castles reproduce via budding. They always begin as a small structure of a different purpose- a lonely wizard tower, a stone circle or monument for fairytale creatures to congregate, or a tiny gatehouse. They are always made of stone though- the forests here are untouched. The treasure trove of white and black lumber is only of interest to a single "character" that these castles spawn- the Woodsman or Lumberjack. He's the one that is most "awake" to reality, the one most distant and aware of the world outside of the fairy tale fiction of the castle- he's the one who knows most about the forest and its creatures. Only by his axe is the forest held back from consuming the great white castles. He is a part of this process too- he is the clear cutter that opens up space for the castle to grow. He's an evolutionary measure- he destroys the competition and opens up the ground for this kind of arcane "flora" to expand- but he's most aware of his place in the cycle.

The Black Forests
Far away from the growing castles are the wastelands- the Black Forests. The trees here are darker, with deeper shadows and shade. You will need a torch to wander these woodlands- even during a dreary overcast day. Wood from your world burns red and yellow, wood from here burns a very pure titanium white. Both attract the eyes from the lurkers in the dark places.

The Black Forests are more cruel then the White Woads. There is still a fairytale logic, but this is where the rules are more Grimm. Human wanderers, monochrome as they are, are replaced with little men with unpronounceable names and weird hybrids of various animals. This is the other side of this realm's ecological coin. The landscape itself is more chaotic; drawn from a primordial state of being. And in the darkest forests you can find the ruins of what was once a White Castle- a Black Ruin.

The Black Ruin was once a shining White Castle- still organic in shape, but now decayed. Just as a classic dungeon, it crawls with monsters, traps, and strange beings. The stone itself has changed color- it is not merely a trick of shadow, but the dead castle stones literally turn black when dead for so long, creating a shadowy spot of darkness in the world. The old bones of the residents of one of the white castles remain here- wishing only the castle remain strong.

The only people who live around these are criminals, vagrants- negative stereotypes. Even the witches of the White Woads go by a series of logical steps- they can be tricked by clever young boys and impressed by brave little girls. In a Black Ruin, there are thieves and tomb robbers, monochrome black and gray, who have never actually stolen anything, but yet rely on it as their career of "choice". You can hire some of these to be your retainers if you wish; though their loyalty and personalities will remain as thin as the shadows on the wall.

Black Knight (7+1 HD, +6 AC from Armor, +4 To-Hit, 1d8+2 Midnight Broadsword, Magic Shield, Unyielding Strength)
Morale- 13
Number- Just One

Honor bound black knight. Always fighting for some promise- nobody shall cross this bridge, or nobody will touch the sacred tree's treasure, and so on. Upon the final hit that would kill the knight- the Knight gets one final attack in revenge to anyone in melee which deals +2 To-Hit and Damage. This Black Knight will always be carrying or guarding an Achromatic Treasure- roll 1d4+4 on the table below.

Treasure Table
Roll a 1d4 for treasures found in the White Woads
Roll a 1d8 for treasures found in a White Castle
Roll a 1d4+8 for treasures found in a Black Ruin
Roll a 1d12 for a treasure found in a Black Forest OR for a totally random Treasure.

[1] Silver mushroom. Cures blindness.
[2] Chalk dew. Can be drank to recover +1 Hit Point or be used as paint thinner.
[3] Little Fairy, trapped in a jar. If you let her out she'll cast a 1st level magic spell for you.
[4] Milk Spiderweb. If you sew this into a garment you can repair it as per the spell Mending, or you can spin it into a bowstring which will make the bow +1.
[5] Mesa Dust. Can be sprinkled over a horse or donkey and it will find its way back home.
[6] Little Eagle Carving. Worth sentimental value to a villager living in a castle; equal to a favor.
[7] Black and White Portrait of a Noble. Worth novel value to someone outside of this realm.
[8] Vantablack Handkerchief. Wizard can use this to cast Darkness, once per day, or you can burn it to cast a bright-white flash which blinds creatures with Darkvision for 1d4 rounds.
[9] Fortress Enchantment. Magical force in the air that rolls for a random encounter if you speak above a whisper in this area. Its just a sullen wooden plaque that says "Quiet Please!"
[10] Ashen Ring of Might. Grants +1 to your Strength modifier each day you wear it. After four days, it becomes stuck on your finger and would need to be amputated. If you reach 23 Strength with this, your heart bursts in your chest and you die.
[11] Pale Ring of Wisdom. Grants +1 to your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma each day, until all three are at least at a +1 Modifier. If you take off the ring, you instantly lose these stats.
[12] Silvered Golden Cache. Chest of off-white metal that is this realm's gold. Worth quite a lot to a scholar, worth quite a lot more to a banker. Like 30,000c worth.

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