Sunday, March 18, 2012

City in a Carcass

In my last post I talked about my goals for a big dungeon adventure I'm making for the kids.  Today I'm going to describe the background of this adventure, and then dive into the overall structure.  That will set up the context for next time when I talk about some of the puzzles in one particular section of the dungeon.

I've already given a little bit of the background for this adventure here.  Some details have changed since then.  First, the carcass of the turtle-shaped demigod is upside down, which is the position the creature came to rest in when it met its doom (incidentally, it was slain by another demigod who figures prominently in part two of the adventure path, which takes place in Nimori√©l...but that's a story for another day).  Second, the animal heads have changed.  They are now bird, spider, mole, and ardvaark, for reasons we shall soon see.

Ayotl, in better days
The Micqui built their city in the remains of this beast, and they dominated the people around them for centuries.  Their last sovereign before their empire collapsed was a queen named Esseniri, and it is for her tomb - and the treasure hopefully buried with her - that the characters seek.

Since the turtle is upside down, that means its carapace, or dorsal (back) shell, forms a giant bowl.  Tectonic forces have misshapen it over the ages, but for our purposes thinking of it as a bowl is useful.  An underwater river falls into this bowl and forms Mors Aeterna, the Lake of Eternal Death, which drains out through one of the heads into another river, deeper down.

This configuration also means that the demigod's plastron, or ventral (belly) shell, forms a ceiling high above the lake to enclose the space.  The river which dumps into the lake actually cuts through some of the ancient scutes in the perimeter of his carapace and slips through the crack between plastron and carapace before plummeting to the dark waters below.  For what it's worth, the part of the dungeon the kids are in now is cut into one of these perimeter scutes, and they are nearing the waterfall.  Back when the city was still on the surface, this section served as an observatory that the ancient scholars used to create their calendar.  Over the next week I'm going to be studying Mayan and Aztec calendars for ideas to slip into this particular section.

The vertebrae for the creature's two spines, which run perpendicular to each other and intersect in the middle, are for the most part intact.  Some of these vertebrae poke out of the lake to form islands.  Rising from the largest of these at the junction of the two spines is the Black Tower of Despair, which is impenetrable except via a magical gate which requires a special key to be opened.   The queen's tomb can be found beneath this black tower, and so they will need to find the key to get there.

Each of the four animal skulls - one for each cardinal direction - contains a different dungeon.  Among the treasures in each dungeon will be idols shaped like simplified versions of the animal heads.  Together these idols can be assembled together to form the key that opens the magical gate.

The dungeons will each have a theme corresponding to human senses, as follows:

  • Bird: hearing.  This will be a music-themed dungeon.
  • Spider:  sight.  This will be a dungeon that features the use of light and mirrors.
  • Mole: touch.  The characters will find themselves misled by their other senses.
  • Aardvark: taste.   The characters will find themselves being tasted by the last living tissue of the ancient demigod! (think Millenium Falcon in that living cave)

You may have noticed that I skipped our sense of smell.  That sense is represented by a rivalry between two races who now inhabit this subterranean region.  One race, called the Dark Ones, lives on the edge of the Lake of Eternal Death and fishes its waters.  These creatures do not cast aside their attire when it becomes too old and worn; instead, they simply add new layers over top of the old ones.  For this reason, they reek terribly.  The other race is one I made up myself, and they're called Nifflers.  They have no eyes at all and get by almost exclusively with their sense of smell, so it should be plain to see why they hate the Dark Ones.  The Nifflers inhabit some of the vertebrae islands and patrol the ribs which extend out from the spines and fuse with the carapace to form a network of tunnels beneath the lake.

Both races are hunted by a wyvern who ranges over the lake, and they try to appease him by kidnapping members of the rival race as sacrifices to the wicked beast.

This is the environment the kids are entering now, and they have no idea what they're getting into.  

Next time I'll give an example of a puzzle from the bird/music dungeon.

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