Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"The Lost City-Temple of Vashru-Mal" Dungeon Doodle and Adventure Idea

This evening I needed to relax a bit so I got into some doodling and a one page dungeon idea starter. This one is probably inspired a little by what I've been reading and immensely enjoying at the moment--DUNE by Frank Herbert.

I envisioned something like the Fremen or like the real life Essene, a monastic community once living in little carved stone huts on a strange volcanic desert where they guard the rites of a Dual Solar/Lunar cult in their weird temple. I called them the Quo-Tol. 

They are presumed a vanished people, and the location of their bizarre City-Temple was deemed a secret that disappeared with them. But a strange visitant offers not only a map with Vashru-Mal's location but the offering of wealth, power and magic if the party will guide him/her with them to that forgotten place. And magic items are given for the journey...

The wilderness trek getting there is full of survival scenarios as well as encounters with the desert monsters, the most of fearsome being a strange tunneling beast who emerges to devour hapless prey.

The dungeon rooms are circular and look something like Tatooine architecture but with a more spherical design, all being carved from ancient volcanic pinnacles. Curved, smoothly carved stairs swoop gracefully into lower chambers, with a long rising spiral stair climbing up a natural column of rock that rises from the center of the Court of the Sun Lord. The stair leads to an astronomical observation point that was central to the community life along with their cryptic faith.

I have provided a simplistic side view of the City-Temple so that a DM can sketch out a reasonable map of all the levels on some graph paper, playing with the scale as he or she desires to some extent. 

Below the complex lies a network of caverns and a strange underground lake that was the water survival of the Quo-Tol and the reason the temple was built upon that place. The lake the Quo-Tol associated with their Moon Goddess, whom they held to be the sister of the Sun. The Quo-Tol had a prophecy that they would find her face within the bosom of the desert and there they were to build a temple to her and her brother. 

The prophecy was, of course, fulfilled when the pilgrims beheld the reflection of the moon upon the underground lake through a natural shaft that they named the Well of the Moon.

They carved their temple from the monolithic pinnacles that stood sentinel like around the Well, the only laid stonework being an  antechamber to the Court of the Sun Lord which closed the Well from the skies except during the summer solstice when the sun would shine through a special admittance that cast the its rays on the face of the waters below.

The Quo-tol were celibate except for an annual quota of a small number of men and women who were paired for the express purpose of maintaining their own numbers and ensuring young adults who could help with the hunting and labor. Obviously this led to a strange society where the youth were a small minority among so many old.

In brief the dungeon's levels or areas are:

1. The Ascent of the Acolytes where they climbed a long, low sloping stair inside a tall arching tunnel that symbolized an astral bridge.

2. The Chamber of Prayers, where the entire community could gather to pray, receive water and commune with one another in hushed pairs or small groups.

3. A stair from 2. leads to the Court of the Sun Lord where Acolytes who graduated to a higher degree served a symbolic role as they both waited upon the Temple priests and priestesses and the comers for water from the Chamber of Prayers. Also there is a stair up to the Sanctuary of the Sun in the dome furthest from the Astral Bridge, and a spiral stair to the Chamber of the Heavens.

4. Crypts of the Seers. Here are entombed the remains of the leaders of the Quo-Tol, the High Priests and Priestesses who administered a simple theocratic rule. These wore gold wrought work in their holy vestments that they might gleam with the light of the Sun as they held council and rites within the Court. Now they are moldering bones, albeit rich ones.

5. The Chamber of the Heavens. This is a domed room accessible only by the Watchers, who viewed the heavenly courses through vast arched viewers, charting the celestial paths on an intricately carved relief covering every square inch of the inner dome and its floor. 

6.Holiest; Sanctuary of the Sun Lord. Here was where the Adepts, all priestly, held council in the presence of the Sun coming down through a vast sky portal. Unknown rituals occurred here. Here too is hidden the secret and most forbidden portal that leads down into the lower caves.

7. The Lower Caves. These are a series of interlocking caverns that were formed by vast pockets of water back in the past eruptions that led to the weird land of uprising rocks and sand. Herein lies the bottom of the Well of the Moon, the cool and seemingly eternal lake whose shaft once opened to the sky but is now capped by the dome of the Sun Lord's Court. Any Quotol who lived in the community could have as much water from the Well as they could carry, even to fill basins for bathing, but only Adepts of the Moon might enter the lake itself. 

So, there you have it! I offer this as a quick start for a journey for a DM's players. 

Obviously, there is much left to your imagination. What was the fate of the Quo-Tol? What monsters and game inhabited their domain? What treasures did they leave, and what now rests within the sleeping City-Temple? Is there magic to to the Well of the Moon? Perhaps even in the strange Hall? And who and what is the visitant who has sought the party to escort them to this weird and desolate place? 

These are things for you to decide as you decide what levels of characters should face the Lost City-Temple of Vashru-Mal. You will also have to determine how the party comes by the information that uncovers the nature of the City-Temple, whether from their visitor, from lore, or during the exploration phase. However you might do it,I hope this can serve as an adventure!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Xerxez Draws!

Here are a few scans of some of my drawings in recent years. I am untrained and uneducated in materials and mediums so these represent only sharpie and felt tip pen drawings on bond paper--not the best effect for aging or copying but at any event, here are some pictures intended for projects I may never get to finish. I hope you like them! I am by no means a great artist but I think they are in the tradition of the old school and I would be very happy if they could inspire a DM or player with some gamey thoughts!

This is a rendering of a Baak-Suul warrior in repose with a Jashani courtesan playing upon her strings. The Baak-Suul are a reptillian race I prepared for my Rysanthis campaign--and I will admit they are heavily inspired by the Shen warriors of M.A.R. Barker's Tekumel setting. The Jashani Empire is headquartered in the great Eastern city of Jashan and Jashani merchants, traders, smugglers and warriors are very common in the coastal ports of Rysanthis.

This is a felt tip illustration of some of the principle events that transpired in my Rysanthian campaign with a very noteworthy band of heroes--my friends and fellow gamers who allowed me to DM this campaign for about one year, heaven bless them for their patience. I will probably give this one a blog post of it's own to share some of the adventures they had around the great Mistwater Lake--pictured at center is the wicked old Hag who took up residence in the lake and turned it's fey spirits inimical to the lake town people. Some well read observers may recognize the direct influences of Fritz Lieber. This drawing was water-damaged.
This is a sea-ruin I never got around to fleshing out. It's harbors are the haunt of a huge beast who guards sunken treasures, while the Carved City is now a dungeon of fearsome denizens and glorious treasures....
This is not a part of the Rysanthis campaign but a rough of a cover for a zine I once envisioned creating...who knows..perhaps it will yet come to pass!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Kickstarter Happenings: DREAMSCAPE DESIGNS Blueholme System, Journeymanne Edition

Greetings Mazedwellers! I'm late on the ball for announcing this worthy Kickstarter that Dreamscape Designs has launched for the new Blueholme Journeymanne Edition. Last I checked,primary funding goals were reached but there are still 17 days to go! Glad to see the support and success.

The Blueholme system was created as a retro-clone for the old Eric Holmes edited Basic Dungeons and Dragons rules, a short but classic and well beloved edition of D&D that holds a special place in the reliquary of Old School D&D. 

And one thing that is special about the new Journeymanne Edition is that Dreamscape Designs guiding light Michael Thomas has commissioned some outstanding art from the son of the late Dr. Holmes, artist Chris Holmes! And let me say, he is good! 

The Journeymanne rules are special in and of themselves as they create a complete and self contained system that allows for levels of play through level 20, over 200 spells for magic using classes, 250 magic items, 120 creatures, and rules for adapting any of the creatures for a player character, as well as for making combined classes.

I own and have played with the earlier edition of Journeymanne Prentice and it is a well thought out and attractively assembled book, a very quality printing job with a sturdy cover and some great art.

Quality game for a great price and lots of love!!!

Below is a link to the Kickstarter--check it out! I only look for better things to come from Dreamscape Designs.

Journeymanne Blueholme Kick Starter Page

Dream Vigil: A Brief Digital Dream

The opening and closing image is an enhanced magazine clippings collage with video effects added and the following sequence of faces are enhanced photographs (with video effects) of a handcrafted mask. The piece was put together without story in mind, but there does seem to be an idea of a vigil kept and rewarded, a young supplicant meeting a primeval forest spirit amid magical beasts in an enchanted wood, while from round about strange faces look on either in wonder, admiration, amusement, or with cryptic intent. The music is software automusic arranged to fit the piece. I hope you enjoy a brief trip into the enchanted realm.

All rights reserved, Justin Becker. May be shared and shown for non-commercial purposes.