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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Szebarz, the Island In The Evernight

    A century ago an insane gnome appeared, ranting about an impossible land of eternal night, where a bustling metropolis was a hub of trade between dozens of cultures around the shores of a massive sea. The island, he claimed, is a port and a fortress guarded by an army of merfolk and ruled by a secret society of assassins. He claimed that the only law was to not bring yourself to the attention of the city's rulers, and the only law enforcement was a quick death.

    Of course, he was ridiculed and eventually locked up for his own well being. Eventually, he and his ridiculous story were forgotten.

    Last year the bard Fuls Steeldrum accompanied a dwarven exploration team into the depths beneath the dwarven city of Vernak-Thab where, after a months-long descent into the unknown, they came to a bay of a dark underground sea. Such bodies are not uncommon in the depths of the world, and few are as large as they appear from the shore. However, after a few days of coastline exploration, otherworldly singing enchanted several members of the party to charge into the sea, presumably to drown. It was only the countersong of Steeldrum which broke the enchantment on the rest, and they quickly ran away to continue their explorations.

    Steeldrum is now recruiting other adventurers, hoping to prove, or disprove, the tale of the mad gnome, and find the Island In The Evernight.

    He is looking for:
    3 boatmen proficient in handling shallow draught boats
    6 porters/rowers
    2 navigators/mapmakers
    1 cook
    2 healers
    9 adventurers

    He anticipatates a six-month journey. He offers a flat salary for skilled tradesmen:
    Boatmen 500gp/month
    Porters 250gp/month
    Navigators/Mapmakers 1000gp/month
    Cook 750gp/month
    Healers 1500gp/month
    Adventurers 1000gp/month/level

    He also offers junior and senior partnerships in which each participant can opt for lower, or no salary in exchange for a share of the company profits. These agreements are logged with the Golden Gryphon Society, which is a regional Adventurer's Guild for elite adventurers.

    Junior Partnerships
    Each 250gp salary reduction buys 1/2 of 1% of the company, which will pay out at the conclusion of the adventure. Quitting voids the contract. Voided contracts revert to salary for time served.

    Senior Partnerships are shares in the enterprise. Senior Partners buy in, and do not receive a salary. Every 500gp invested buys 1% of the company, with an equal controlling interest. A maximum of 50 full shares are offered, representing half the value of the company. This pays out to deceased investors' assigned heirs.

    The Sea is vaguely octopus-shaped, with seven 'tentacles' of thirty to fifty miles in length central to natural and constructed cavern and tunnel networks. The thirty by fifty mile bulb is where Szebarz is located, and it's ceiling vaults to two miles or more above the surface of the Sea. The Sea is deep and wide enough to have tides, which run to several feet in the east and west tentacles, with seasonal tidal bores in some.

    Central to Szebarz is a massive pillar that is about two miles in diameter, and which connects the floor and ceiling.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2024-05-07 at 04:28 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Metastachydium's Avatar

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    Default Re: Szebarz, the Island In The Evernight

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Szebarz
    Sz
    How do you pronounce that? The Hungarian way? The Polish way? Heck, some weird, messed-up German way? Is it even a digraph? I need to know.
    Last edited by Metastachydium; 2024-05-11 at 03:07 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    Default Re: Szebarz, the Island In The Evernight

    Just like it is spelled.

    s-ZEB-arz

    But don't stress the s. It just softens the z at first


    The shoreline of the city is a ring almost twenty miles around, built up with walls, docks, and enclosed harbors. Forts along the perimeter wall control access to the city, but these defenses are penetrated at many points underwater which allows the merfolk to come and go in the maze of canals and natural underwater caves.

    Within the defensive wall are countless bazaars and shops which offer items from all around the sea, and beyond. While some merchants maintain guards, most do not, secure in the knowledge that the city assassins will deal with thieves and scam artists.

    It is rumored that underwater tunnels lead to an immense grotto within the central column, where the mer-folk king holds court. Some say he is the true ruler of the city.

    Other rumors speak of twisting caverns that run through and up the column to the roof, and to caves and tunnels which lead to distant lands. These same rumors claim that the assassins who rule the city also control access to the column, and that uninvited entry will result in death.

    The city is built primarily along the outer ring, with some residential areas up-slope from the half-mile band of the commercial zone along the shore. Still, less than 10 square miles of the island are built up, and with a population ebardensity of about two-thousand adult inhabitants per square mile, roughly twenty-thousand beings reside on Szebarz.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2024-05-13 at 01:26 PM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Szebarz, the Island In The Evernight

    Some big picture questions. If the sea was unknown, but the city trades with a dozen cultures on it, are those dozen cultures also on the unknown sea and unknown to the starting culture?

    I'm going to suggest that the Szebarzians have some magic way to move ships between the Evernight and the corresponding surface sea above wherever they are.

    I'm going to suggest that they keep themselves secret for military security and trade advantage. Also, they get almost all their food through so trade is seen as a literal matter of life and death.

    Some suggestions on how this society could actually work. Since mysteries exist to be solved. There are actually three laws.

    The first is that the water belongs to the merfolk. This just implies docking fees, and that right of the merfolk to have militias, and other mundane things.

    The second law is that Szebarz must remain a secret.
    Any who wish to travel outside must accept a geass prevents discussing it with outsiders. They can tell if the geass is resisted. The mad gnome's insanity allowed for a loophole.

    The third law is that there shall be no other laws. In practice this means not being so powerful that your word is law. For example landlords employ henchmen to prevent property crimes, but if they act like feudal lords they may wind up dead.

    Court is essentially a public debate settled by a vote of the crowd, that technical doesn't have any consequences. For clear cut things a "criminal" might be lynched. Shunning and boycotts are a common consequence. If a powerful person loses in court, and doesn't try to make amends, it's not strange for them to turn up dead. Advocates that effectively and unscrupulously manipulate the courts are also known to wind up dead.

    The assassin council
    They have an imposing fortress with no visible entrance. If you manage to sneak in, you'll find it's empty 99% of the time. It's usually only "full" for the rare formal meeting. Membership is awarded on the ability to conduct assassinations and agreeing to some Geneva-convection like terms.

    Most assassinations are done by groups on the council, but on "private" business, not on council business. The council itself mostly exists to keep a lid on the other members. The council's watch words are "Peace" "Survival" and "Freedom", but each member will say them it their own order.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    a hub of trade between dozens of cultures around the shores of a massive sea.
    So what to people on shore think when the Szebarzian traders come to visit?

    The most simplest thing would be that they always lie and say they're from wherever is farthest away. They always suspiciously have an assortment of goods from around the world rather than the specific place the claim to have come from. This could be used as an opportunity to have the PCs play detective.

    ruled by a secret society of assassins.
    Little nitpick, a secretive society of assassins; if everyone knows they rule they can't be a secret.

    dark underground sea.
    Some details that would be relevant when adventuring there:
    Are there winds?
    Are there currents?
    Salt water, fresh, or some fantastic, undrinkable thing?
    Exactly how dark is it? Will adventurers (with magic and tools) not be able to see more than 60 ft in from of their moving boat? How is the city lit?
    How are they getting boats there?

    Eventually, he and his ridiculous story were forgotten.
    Big picture, good idea; however we still want it to be in the story somehow.

    Is the story in a bunch of bard songs everyone assumes are fiction? Did Fuls Steeldrum stumble upon a dusty tomb in some dwarf's library?

    9 adventurers
    This is a good opportunity for some tritagonists. The party of PCs, plus some shady, but skilled, adventures. Maybe a jerk the PCs can argue with. Maybe a Szebarzian spy. Maybe some bandits to steal the first treasure you find and run off.

    Also, for the "rest" they're probably want as many people as possible who can both row and fight. Only adventures and tradesmen who are very valuable are worthwhile if they don't row.

    He also offers junior and senior partnerships
    I'm not sure this makes sense unless there's a specific reason to think there will be some kind of tangible treasure to take back.

    Maybe the dwarven king of Vernak-Thab (that financed the last expedition) is financing this one as well. A little bit out of curiosity, but also standard dwarven king reasons: evaluating potential threats, finding resources, and building trade routes. The trade routes being especially promising as dwarves generally lack port access. Also, maybe there's political nonsense going on with the humans above the dwarf king, and he'd really like a way to opt out of it.

    guarded by an army of merfolk
    From what, generic D&D hazards?

    I'm going to suggest that the merfolk were the original inhabitants. And live in neighborhoods in the shallows around the island. The city on land started as a sort of lawless zone for terrestrial inhabitants.
    Last edited by Quizatzhaderac; 2024-05-14 at 08:06 PM.
    The thing is the Azurites don't use a single color; they use a single hue. The use light blue, dark blue, black, white, glossy blue, off-white with a bluish tint. They sky's the limit, as long as it's blue.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: Szebarz, the Island In The Evernight

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    Some big picture questions.
    Some answers to the posed questions:

    Unknown is a relative term. Unknown to surface dwellers and until recently, to the dwarves.

    Trade was going to be addressed later, but essentially there are 3.5 avenues for trade.
    1) there are cultures along the arms of the octopus, (septopus?) which trade by sea. Some use vessels of their own, some trade with merfolk, and some trade among themselves, (with varying degrees of violence.)
    2) the tunnels in the column connect to other secret tunnels that extend around the continent to other underground societies.
    3) within the column are guarded portals to other places, some of which connect distant lands, with the possibility of portals to alternate realities or planes.
    3.5) some ships have the ability to portal themselves to distant bodies of water.

    The food supply is an issue for such a large and urbanized population. Like all caves, the food ultimately comes in from the outside. However, the food chain in the sea ultimately begins with chemosynthetic bacteria which forms a slime on virtually every wet surface. Rocks exposed to this slime become pitted over the years and crumble into clay. This bacteria affects granite more than limestone, and although it grows rapidly, it can only grow to a thickness of about 1/2 inch, (1cm.)

    Similar bacteria dwell in and around hyperthermic vents and, in the deepest depths, on the margins of cold sinks, where dense, highly alkaline water form mirror-like pools and puddles on the sea floor.

    This bacteria is usually orange and red, but there are yellow and green varieties. These colors are sometimes absorbed by the otherwise white clams, crabs, and shrimp which consume them. Several of these species specialize in particular varieties of the bacteria, such as the vast mats of clams encircling the cold sinks and the shrimp that thrive in water hotter than the temperature of wood fires. Most simply graze on the bacterial mats in the rocky shorelines and underwater outcrops.

    Tiny cave fish also browse on the bacterial mats, as do some aquatic insect larvae. All of these are fed upon by larger species of their cousins, as well as other species, including the merfolk, fisherfolk, and other denizens of the caves.

    Bioluminescence is not unknown underwater, but it comes into its own in the biospheres of the walls and ceilings. Vast patches of chemo synthetic bacteria are host to colonies of glow-worms which feed on the various creatures that are attracted to their glow. Spiders create webs which funnel and trap crawling and flying creatures and other predators, including a giant variety of ant lion, build lairs and cling to the ceiling as they hunt.

    Among the largest of the non-flying predators is the Electric Spider, whose webs are used to shock and capture stunned prey. Its abdomen flashes in neon pulses of light as it attacks.

    Another giant luminescent creature is the rock urchin. It crawls slowly among the glowing patches eating as it goes. The bioluminescent cells travel to the tips of its spines creating a glowing warning to predators.

    Occasionally, creatures fall from the ceiling, but most successful hunters have strategies to prevent this. From the floor of the caverns the ceiling appears to be a patchy green fog with dark trails and bright, often moving, pinpoints of light. It is not very bright from the point of view of surface dwellers, but to creatures with low-light vision it is as bright as daylight.

    Some of the hunters are adventurers from Szerbaz or the nearby cultures who opportunistically harvest creatures to sell as food in the markets. Urchin and glow-worm are culinary staples, both of which merfolk will trade at ten pounds of shellfish to a pound of ceiling meat.

    It is not difficult for such a place to remain secret: distance and difficulty getting there do most of the heavy lifting. The assassins control the portals and ship captains are notoriously stingy with their maps. It is not unlikely that there are prohibitions against advertising the location, but if that is so it is likely to be resolved via elimination of the loudmouth.

    Of the three laws proposed, 1 & 3 are assumed. The merfolk do control all traffic on the Sea in the Evernight. They collect tariffs from merchants and keep monsters and invaders at bay. And anyone stupid enough to proclaim laws or declare themselves ruler over the city, or parts thereof, do end up dead. Usually in grisly ways intended to garner notice.

    #2 is problematic because there is no central authority or bureaucracy that can be sought when such permission is desired.

    I like the idea of court by public acclaim. But I'd add that occasionally people end up dead on the street with their tongues expertly removed, with signs saying, False Witness. Just to make people think twice before raising a rabble without just cause. Of course, this does not bring the dead to life, so those hanged for crimes they did not commit remain dead.

    Within the region of the Overnight, there are many rumors about the assassins. Who knows? This one may be true.

    The traders who trade along the shores of the Evernight do not have to hide where they are from. All of the regional cultures know of them, and for a fee merfolk will guide them if they do not know exactly where to find them. Most of the shoreline cultures have their own merchants who trade with their neighbors and directly with the city because even if they are at war with It's not hard to find a two mile high, two mile thick glowing column if you are within ten miles or so of it. Trade upward, to the surface, is potentially lucrative but, practically, it goes through so many taxes and tariffs that by the time it gets there it sells at a loss. Cultures closer to the surface like dwarves get better prices and greater variety of goods through trade with the surface cultures. The few who directly trade via portal or similar magics typically exercise a monopoly on those methods to prevent competition.

    The 'secret' of Szebarz is not kept by decree or by a desire to be hidden; it is kept by poor modes of transport through the territories of people who compete, often violently, for resources, and by the greed of merchants who wish to maintain their profit margins.

    The secret society of assassins is not itself a secret. Who the individual assassins are, where and if they meet, or who their informants might be is the secret. That trader, is she an assassin? An informant? What about her assistant? The real question is, what price will knowing the answers exact?

    Winds exist, and typically flow from hot to cold. Surface winds blow toward heat sources and ceiling winds blow toward cold. None are as fierce as on the surface except where constrained by geography, and since most are steady, they are generally useful for sailing in only one direction, and then in places where they are restricted enough to be useful. Trading vessels tend to use oars and poles to move.

    Currents, like winds, tend to move in thermo lines. However, there are exceedingly deep places, sometimes several miles deep, which are isolated from the rest. These deep places have their own currents which are not detectable from the surface. Again, like the winds, currents in the sea are magnitudes less powerful than in similar sized surface lakes and seas.

    The water ranges from brackish to ocean-level salinity with higher alkaline levels around thermal vents and cold sinks. Metallic content, on the other hand, is lower than on surface seas due primarily to the chemosynthetic bacteria fixing metals within the clay layers created by their constant devouring of rock crystals. Fresh water, often contaminated with living bacteria and microscopic animals and fungi, drips from the ceiling. Occasional fresh water falls rain from above with varying degrees of potability, and streams and waterfalls flow into the sea. Typically, exposed fresh water sources are controlled by some group, so traders find it easier to trade for drinking water than to fight for it.

    Light is variable. In the Evernight the ceiling illuminates as intensely as a set sun illuminating the night sky. In the 'arms' of the sea both brighter and darker regions are common. Creatures with low light vision can see as if in full daylight. Standard vision sees little more than shadows and motion beyond thirty feet. The ships are usually crewed by natives to the shores of Evergbright, with low light and dark vision being common. For them, vision is not a problem.

    Deep gnomes use the caps of giant mushrooms as barges, and they pay mer-folk with bronze knives and tridents.

    Duergar craft steel hulls and bind water elementals to propell them.

    Cave Giants use the stems of giant mushrooms to build huge rafts which they paddle.

    Humans use anything they can barter from others, but they also have some portal-capable sailing ships which are skulled on the Evernight.

    Elves have sailing ships crafted of giant bird feathers or wood carved in feather patterns.

    Mag-men carve barges of pumice and row or pole them with wrought iron tools.

    Goblins have mushroom-stem dugout canoes, and other races manufacture boats as appropriate for their abilities and opportunities permit.

    The expedition will be carrying at least three flat-bottomed portable boats, weighing about eighty pounds each, to carry gear and personnel. These will be twenty feet long and five feet wide, and when ready for use, will be covered in waxed canvas. They are rowed.

    The crazy gnome story should be discovered in the preparation phase of the adventure. Perhaps a bard wrote a drinking song about it a generation ago. Perhaps some old dwarven curses make sense in light of the new information. Perhaps there is an old adventurer's diary in an adventurers' guild library. And my favorite: while discussing the upcoming adventure with the healers while buying healing supplies, an aged cleric recalls the gnome's mad ramblings. He may even be able to introduce you to him. (Gnomes lived 750 years in 1st ed, and he may have never been updated to your edition.) The gnome might warm you of the toad people whom you cannot see until they attack, but they smell of sulphur and swamp muck!

    The primary limit to the number and composition of the party is logistics. Full members bring in additional cash, and may be able to guide the purchase of additional equipment and party members. A buy-in might include additional boats or boats of a different type, for example. And while members of the party will be expected to face danger, they won't be expendable mooks. Someone has to carry stuff. Perhaps hiring rower/porters with adventurer classes would be a good use of the extra money.

    Fuls expects to recoup his investment primarily because he earned the investment in his previous expedition. He knows of several potential honey-holes and intends to exploit them if he cannot find better.

    Hirelings may indeed have different agendas. The DM will have to create the characters, and may even choose to retcon if warranted. Example: Porter Dan miraculously survived several encounters. Player Jim's PC got ate by a giant crab. Player Jim could take over playing Porter Dan as a character with PC levels. Example: a streak of bad encounters happen and Rower Joe seems to have always ducked before trouble started. Turns out, Rower Joe is a spy who has been warning allies that the party is coming. His goal is to prevent them from exposing the city and creating an alternate trade route that would compete with existing routes.

    And, of course, some characters are just jerks.

    The dwarf monarch is interested in purchasing results, but is not financing the expedition. Fuls Steeldrum is interested in profit. So much so that he is willing to share to have a better chance of realizing them.

    What lives in the Evernight is a whole Monster Manual of possibility. Your idea of the merfolk as the original inhabitants has merit. But I think this may be an unknowable from the past. You, as DM, may be able to come up with a history that you like.

    Three things I did not want, but you may:
    1) Drow. In my opinion, they should have remained in Greyhawk. There are too many imitations and shipping companies invested in drow to make them anything but fetish fantasy figures now. Even a builder with pure intentions will have player expectations to overcome.
    2) Mind Flayers. Predators of intelligent beings should decimate an adventuring party. (Players seldom find that fun when playing characters they have put time into.) Absent that threat, Illithid become cartoon villains who are sure to get you next time. Which is fine for comic adventures, I suppose.
    3) Aboleth. Having a monster that by its nature enslaves others is great. Having a society of them brings all of the issues of 1&2 above.

    The things I wanted to bring:
    1) Competitive/cooperative societies creating dynamic tensions that players could use, or try to use, to gain advantage.
    2) A 'safe' base of operations with an overarching, possibly unsolvable, mystery and a depth of culture and history.
    3) A departure from 'Evil Society bent on ruling the world' to allow for 'Evil society organized to optimize cultural survival'. Too many world builders create grandiose schemes for their evil races and forget that Evil as a societal descriptor must first function for preserving and propagating the society before they can have potentially actionable larger ambitions.

    More to come.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2024-05-17 at 08:31 AM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Default Re: Szebarz, the Island In The Evernight

    Map Note:
    If the body of the octopus is on top and the arms diverge from the bottom, one can use a clock face to imagine how the tentacles spread out.

    One arm extends from the lower third of the head at the two-thirty mark and bends toward the one-o'clock position. It averages about ten miles wide along its sinuous course, with a bight about thirty miles up. It then tapers to less than a mile wide over the next twenty miles to its end.

    Where the tentacles come together a large series of caves, grottoes, and caverns collectively form a forest of giant mushrooms. Creatures of many types inhabit the forest, including a race of goblins which are divided into six tribes, distinguished by their facial tattoo patterns.

    Beyond this the forests become sparse along the caves and caverns which open into this arm of the Evernight. The biome of the ceiling continues in this arm of the sea, but in some caves there are patches of dry stone onto which crowd millions of bats of several dozen species. All of these bats are predatory, and they range from Fine to Large size. Among the most unusual are the Fishing Bats, (small size which hunt fish on the surface,) Echo Bats, (diminutive size bats that repeat sounds and voices with nearly perfect pitch and tone,) and the large sized Giant Ghost Bats, (which apply glowing fungus to their white fur to make them virtually invisible against the glow of the ceiling while stalking their sometimes intelligent humanoid prey.)

    There are rumors of an intelligent bat species which is often attributed to mythical legends.

    There is no real delineation of the bat territory. Indeed, bats of various kinds can be found everywhere, and are often themselves prey, especially of the spiders and glow-worm. But beyond the largest colonies, bacterial slimes make it difficult to find roosts. For the larger species, hanging from the ceiling is difficult or impossible. Suitable wall niches that offer protection while asleep are hard to find, and the occupant may object to being displaced.

    Between the bat colonies and the bight dozens of small, interconnected tunnels and caves are inhabited by isolated goblin clans who seldom exceed 100 members. These clans excell in scavenging and are exceedingly timid. As the favored prey of troglodyte hunting parties, they have exceptional skill in stealth.

    Troglodyte hunting parties of 5-10 can be encountered here and in the tunnels farther back and up hunting camps of up to 180, (3d6x10) can be found, but no nearer than 20 miles from the next camp.

    In this area there are several paths through the maze of tunnels which arch over the 1 o'clock arm of the Evernight and join with the tunnels on the other side.

    Beyond the bight is the territory of Cave Giants. There creatures are derived from ancient colonies of Stone Giants who have successfully colonized and adapted to the Evernight. Although individuals are, on average, Neutral, their leadership and society tend toward Lawful Neutral.

    Male Cave Giants are 8-12 feet tall while females are typically 7-10 feet. Their bodies are slender and their extremities appear stretched. Their hands and feet are proportionally longer than a human's, and their foreheads are taller, with tall, narrow but rounded crowns. Only the oldest have any visible hair, which is typically a sparse tonsured fringe of grey, with scraggly grey strands of a beard on the elder males. The Cave Giants tend to dress in contrasting patterns with little regard for color. What humans might consider garish clashing color choices apparently are considered stylish patterns by the Cave Giants, lending credence to speculations that their eyes are low-light adapted and do not perceive color as distinctly as human eyes.

    Cave Giant druids worship elemental earth deities. While they provide most of the religious instruction, there are also cleric/wizard Cave Giants who worship their ascended ancestral deity.

    Unlike many giant species, Cave Giants live an urban lifestyle, and are well educated in engineering and stonemasonry. Indeed, their stone craft rivals that of the dwarves, and they share the Stonecunning trait. They also have an affinity with earth elementals which grants them a +2 reaction check when confronting or interacting with them. Earth Genasi are not uncommon in Cave Giant society, and most, even if unaware of it, have an earth elemental ancestor or two.

    The region around the Cave Giant city is fortified and troops are stationed both defensively and in reserve locations prepared for rapid response to threats. But for all their preparations, they are more interested in farming and fishing than in conquest.

    Beyond the tip of the Evernight's tentacle a freshwater river laden with calcium and silicates leads up into higher cavern networks inhabited by elder troglodyte colonies that worship their eternally hungry toad-god. These troglodytes lay their egg masses in still pools along the river, but occasionally tadpoles are washed downstream. The giants find them delicious, but some manage to crawl ashore beyond giant territory to become adults. Because of their putrid aroma and bitter tasting flesh, the giants do not hunt the adult troglodytes, but treat them as pests when they become nuisances in the giants' farms.

    The next arm of the Evernight begins at the three o'clock position and meanders toward two o'clock. It averages eight to twelve miles wide and extends for almost seventy miles. About halfway along its length there is an oval bulge that is twenty miles wide and thirty long. Unknown to all but the merfolk, this is the location of the deepest point of the Evernight, which reaches a flat, silty floor in a narrow trench about eight miles below the sea's surface. Hyperthermal vents spew water hotter than wood-fires here, which are prevented from boiling only by the intense water pressures of the depths.

    A light, warm, humid wind wafts towards the sea along this channel, with a mildly sulfurous aroma. It only becomes steady in the narrow sections of the cave. It may be enough to supplement a sailing vessel traveling towards the sea, but not enough to propel a vessel trying to tack upstream.

    The ceiling of this cave is cracked and shattered, with nearly vertical cravasses reaching up into the rocks above. This allows the glowing biomass to grow up vertical gaps which, from below, appear as bright streaks. This makes The Bulge the best-lit area within the cavern system.

    Beyond the bulge the cavern gets darker, with fewer and smaller bacterial colonies. The lower light levels allow the phosphorescent plankton in the water to be seen as pale green streaks in the wakes of fish or wherever the water is disturbed. The stone here is layered and, in some cases, the laminated surfaces bend or twist. The meandering course of the arm of the sea begins to zigzag its way in the two o'clock direction for another thirty miles.

    It terminates in a series of broken lava tubes which twist for five to ten miles before they open into the chamber of an exposed lava lake. On rare occasions, one of the lowest tubes is in use, but at least one will be accessible to visitors. Hot, dry winds blow out of the lava tubes, occasionally creating infrasonic vibrations that create tension and nervousness in creatures with nerves.

    The lava folk are Neutral with Chaotic traits. They argue and fight among themselves, but they have learned the value of trade, especially with Cave Giants and with Szebarz. They craft large barges from pumice and use ceramic poles for propulsion. They have access to pure metals which they can trade for things they cannot make, like potassium and chlorine salts.

    Their traders are savvy and are not easy to manipulate. Their general population is easy enough to tolerate if the character can take the heat, so long as the character can deal with bullying and the occasional scrap.

    As a strict meritocracy, the best qualified fills any role, subject to being displaced by someone better. As such, characters will have to prove themselves almost constantly. Diving into the lava lake from one of the many surrounding balconies or matching a lava-folk in a feat of strength or endurance is considered proof of ability for non-natives to be accepted as an equal.

    When large bubbles burst, there is a 5% chance the bubble will release toxic sulphurous compounds which are deadly but have no aroma. There is a 95% chance the gasses will smell like rotten eggs, which the lava folk love and which causes most outsiders to retch.

    The third and fourth arms are about fifteen miles wide at the point where they join the body, and many islands dot the area, most of which have steep peaks in their centers, and some which rise all the way to the ceiling. The islands are covered in mushroom forests, and some have small goblin villages hidden on them.

    As the third and fourth arms of the Evernight meander in the four to six o'clock directions, they cross or meet three times: at fifteen miles, forty, and sixty miles, before tapering off into narrow tunnels about eighty miles from the sea, (as measured along their sinuous tracks.)

    Due to the large number of small islands that are found here, the sea bottom is not particularly deep. A wide variety of shellfish make their homes among the bacterial slime which is pervasive wherever rocks are exposed to the water. Merfolk are commonly found here, and they often perch on the rocks at the water's edge. They would trade for waterproof musical instruments to accompany their singing. Currently they use conch-shell ocarinas and turtle-shell drums.

    Extensive mushroom forests fill the caverns and tunnels in this region, and goblin rope walks and tunnels crisscross the ceiling. The goblins do not maintain them very well, so their stability and strength are questionable. This continues up to the first joining, where the gnome city of Gertaamalk is located.

    The point of shore where the two arms divide after the first joining is fortified with megalithic stonework, behind which are round stone houses with conical stone roofs. Fortified embayments in the wall, the cavern wall behind the city, and the ceiling above, are used to conceal ballistae and deadfall stones which have been sighted in to protect strategic approaches.

    The city's inhabitants are the gnome military and those who support it. Its primary military purpose is as a distraction. It is intended that potential enemies attack it rather than the dozen gnomish towns hidden in the forest and rocks farther along the arms of the sea. While the fort is strong against a waterborne attack, it is perforated with dozens of tunnels which each branch into dozens more. Any enemy attempting to capture the city would be faced with hit-and-run warfare by Illusionist/fighter/rogue squads operating from secret armories hidden in the region.

    As mentioned before. The real strength of the gnomish people lives in hidden towns and villages between the first and second joinings of the arms of the Evernight. They also operate many small mines, primarily low to moderate value gemstone mines. There are three copper mines and a tin mine that are used to produce elegant and sophisticated tools and goods for use of the gnomes or for trade. They also control a secret adamantine mine, the produce of which they keep for their own use. While they do use adamantine in its pure form or to enhance purchased or captured steel, because it is available in very limited supply its primary use is in bronze alloys. Orichalcum alloy is the strongest of these, and it is a lightweight metal which has the strength of steel with greater shape-memory and flexibility. While not as strong as adamantine steel, it is the equivalent of +1 steel at 80% of the weight. Secret knowledge is required to work Orichalcum, with attempts to smelt or work the material universally producing either low quality bronze or a brittle, powdery and unworkable material.

    The second joining of the arms of the Evernight is characterized by dozens of tiny islands of jumbled rocks covered in slime and forest-fungi. The banks and caverns on either side are dense, wild fungus jungle populated by slugs and snails. The merfolk will happily trade shellfish for slug or snail, and are often found hunting the many shorelines in this region with barbed tools.

    The ceilings here appear brittle and have obviously collapsed in many places, which explains all of the islands of jumbled rocks. Because of these collapses there are massive dark zones over the sea. Luminescent ground plants shine feeble light into the cratered ceiling but this region is darker than most of the rest of the Evernight.

    It only gets darker as the two arms narrow to less than two miles wide. The banks narrow, but the fungus-jungle remains dense and climbs the slope behind the shoreline almost halfway to the ceiling.

    Where the arms cross the third and final time the arch of the ceiling is low, flat, and very sparsely colonized by the luminescent bacteria. The small 10 mile by 5 mile lake beneath it is dotted with hundreds of rock-pile islets, many of which are only a few feet wide. The banks of the lake are broad and covered with dense mushroom jungles with sparse illumination from some varieties of fungi.

    On each bank is a camp, almost always unoccupied, which is used by those who seek to trade with the excessively shy myconids. These mushroom folks are experts at stealth, and can be indistinguishable from the normal mushrooms of their homeland. They offer food, toxins and medicines, and the wood-like logs which support the caps of the giant mushrooms. In return, they desire tools, glass and ceramic goods, and most especially, garbage and wastes. Gaining their confidence is a trade secret of the traders.

    DM Note: The tribes on either side of the lake are mutually antagonistic, to the point of killing and eating each other. Fortunately, there are no easy means for them to cross the water, (saltwater is toxic to them.) Unfortunately, neither side can explain their hatred of the other, and there is no room for negotiation or accommodation. Their conflict may be rooted in their genetic makeup.

    Among the slime and jungle covered islands, the largest has a central tower. Is it only about 2500 feet tall where it appears to meet the ceiling, and at that point it is about 1000 feet wide. From the top one can see a three-foot gap between the tower's top and the smooth stone of the roof. As the tower goes down, otherwise straight sides intersect many ledges, and the width of the tower increases. The faces of this tower are vertically cracked with some cracks running many hundreds of feet almost straight up and down. At about 2000 feet above the sea level down to about 1500 feet, the ledges get progressively wider, and the cracks that intersect the ledges often open into caves beyond.

    Just inside the cave entrances globe-shaped chambers appear to be half-filled with giant downy feathers and fibrous trash from the jungles. Passageways farther in reveal graceful, delicate stonework forest glades. These are the homes of the Giant Cave Kingfishers and their elf riders.

    The Kingfishers feed by flying low enough that their lower bill slices through the surface of the water. When it encounters an object their head and upper bill snap downward, hopefully to catch the fish that the lower bill contacted. A Giant Cave Kingfisher requires at least one hour in every twelve to forage for enough food. It prefers two or even three if the fish are small.

    These Kingfishers are eight to ten feet tall, and their wingspan is twice that. They navigate using a combination of memory-maps which show where food and flight obstacles are located, excellent low-light vision, and a crude sonar sense that allows them to detect and avoid flight path obstructions in the darkness.

    The elves which ride them are typically small in stature even for elves. Their eyes have very thin dark brown irises and large pupils. They find light brighter than candlelight uncomfortable. They wear armor made of moulted feathers and are typically armed with lances, curved short swords, and steel bows. The lances have barbed tips for fishing or curved blades for fighting. Their bows have a prong projecting forward around which a coil of glow-worm silk can be wound and fastened to barbed arrows which are used to hunt creatures that live on the ceilings and walls, forests and sea.

    The elves are on good terms with the fungus folk due to their trade in guano and other wastes.

    From their final joining, both arms of the Evernight constrict to less than 1/4 mile wide with banks only a few hundred feet deep before merging into the walls. As they meander away from each other a slow but noticeable current develops where rockfall islands and shallows constrict flow. As the fungal jungle is restricted to every narrower banks, fewer luminous growths generate less light.

    A throbbing sensation can be felt by sensitive folks as far as ten miles from the end of the arms of the sea, becoming audible to all about five miles from the end. It is a vibrating, deep thrumming sound which almost, but never quite achieves a rhythm. At the ends of the tunnels the sound is not exceptionally loud, (about 40-60 decibels,) and it's sources become obvious: clams. Into the cracks and crevices of the walls giant clams have wedged themselves, sometimes for so long that their shells have deformed around obstacles. As they suck in water and eject it, fountains of water squirt up the walls or into the crevices. The largest of these, some as big as human houses, appear to eject their water behind the wall.

    More to come
    Last edited by brian 333; 2024-06-07 at 09:49 AM.

  7. - Top - End - #7
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    Default Re: Szebarz, the Island In The Evernight

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    The third law is that there shall be no other laws. In practice this means not being so powerful that your word is law. For example landlords employ henchmen to prevent property crimes, but if they act like feudal lords they may wind up dead.
    I like this
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    Default Re: Szebarz, the Island In The Evernight

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    I like this
    I like it too, but it would be something the population figured out rather than something written down by an official publication. Of course, when you DM it is your world, but in mine the people only know that a person was murdered and the corpse was put on display. It then becomes a game of, "Don't do what Donny Don't done did."

    In fact, there may be things folks believe to be laws that are just coincidental. "The last three victims all wore plaid shirts. You won't catch me dead in a plaid shirt!"

    The fifth tunnel leaving the mushroom forest is narrow at first, being less than two miles wide, but running almost straight in the seven o'clock direction. After about five miles it opens into a mostly shallow lake about twenty miles wide and forty miles long. Five freshwater streams spill into this sea, and it is dotted with islands, the largest of which are a mile or more across. Many of these islands have central spires with over a dozen reaching the ceiling nearly two miles up.

    Some of the spires have abandoned kingfisher nest and elf quarters carved into them, though this is difficult to discern from sea level. Many of the islands have fortifications of various kinds, some of which are inhabited by the local rulers: hobgoblins.

    Hobgoblins are not the only beings who reside on the shores of the lake, but they are the masters. They have five forts, each located at the mouth of one of the streams. Glowing moss and slime covers the outer surfaces of their defensive walls which are built of stone block and mortar. Behind these walls each city betrays its origins.

    Beginning with the first city to the left as one enters the lake, the hobgoblin fort was built on the ruins of a giant city. The creek which flows through the city was once artfully sculpted to bring fresh water to all corners before emptying into the sea. It is now choked with filth as it descends by the shortest route from the wall of the cavern through the roofless ruins of the city. Less than 100 giants reside there, as slaves of the hobgoblins.

    The first city is about halfway down the coast to the left side as one enters. The next city is almost at the end of that Lakeshore where the coastline bends toward the right. This city was built by gnomes. Almost every overhead arch has been demolished save for a few in the slave quarter where gnomes must live under the watchful eye of goblins, who are higher-status in the hobgiblin-ruled city. A series of pools cascade from the origin of the stream to the last brackish pond on the creek's path to the sea. What was the final containment is now the harbor where hobgoblin traders and raiders rest between voyages.

    The third hobgoblin city is found by continuing around the kidney-shaped curve of the lake at the farthest point from the entrance. An unknown race built this city on a scale that allows it to be comfortable for giants. The architecture is not familiar, with strange curved walls, odd geometric patterns, and a triangular/hexagonal street layout. They appear to primarily enslave goblins, but they also control a colony of about 200 myconids, who maintain almost pitiful mushroom monoculture farms. Still, they yield a tradeable surplus at regular intervals.

    The fourth city was built by humans where the right wall as seen from the entrance, bulges into the sea. About 1000 humans now reside there as slaves of the hobgoblins. Few, if any, humans recall the history of the city. Most have been kidnapped from elsewhere and now serve brief and brutal careers under hobgoblin masters. The tunnels from which the creeks flow end at massive blocks of ice. It is said that slaves once tried to mine through the ice, but were quickly frozen, and the ice that they mined grew back, freezing them into the ice.

    Continuing back into the far right side of the entry cavern, a city built by dwarves is hewn into the wall of the lake. Low walls with watchtower platforms surround their cultivated fields, and the original dwarven defenses of the city have been augmented with additional defensive and offensive weaponry. 500 dwarves serve among these hobgoblins' other slaves.

    Looking at these cities from the lake, it appears that the hobgoblins jointly control the lake. However, when one becomes aware of the political situation my one realizes that each city vies to command all of the hobgoblins. This makes them their own worst enemies. This fact is made worse by five different branches of the hobgoblin church, the leadership of each being comprised of ghouls whose ambitions exceed their competency.

    The sixth arm of the Evernight meanders in parallel with the fifth beforeturning toward 9 o'clock. It begins as a three to five mile wide channel with another mile of fungus-forest on either bank. Goblins in this region paddle war-canoes, generally 8-16 goblins per canoe, and they attack or trade depending on the perceived strength of their target.

    Occasional war-leaders, priests, or arcane magic users gather larger goblin bands together forming raiding or even war parties, but these groups tend to only be as cohesive and coordinated as their leadership is charismatic and successful.

    At around twenty miles in, on the left bank, cold breezes and erratic drafts flow from crevices and caves. All exploration upward in these tunnels eventually encounter a glacier. Because it is colder here, fungi grow slower and smaller.

    In this region, humans farm, fish, and herd in small villages which spread out into their cultivated fields, which are centered around a fort or stockade. These groups are typically lead by priests of a strange ice god. Their dead are 'buried' in the glacier, often in ancestral sites, in the belief that they will strengthen the glacier and help it to grow.

    After about thirty miles the cold zone is left behind and the realm of the dwarves begins. Small stonework forts along the banks and on small islands protect artillery emplacements with overlapping and supporting fields of fire. The size of these structures indicate there may be hundreds of troops stationed at each, but only five or so dwarves man the outer defensive positions, while a dozen or so man the command positions.

    At about the forty mile mark, curtain walls surround the dwarf cities, where about 10,000 dwarves total reside among the three major and numerous minor urban centers. In addition to mining silver and gold, they mine a small percentage of material. However, their largest trade is in the importation of seashells which they fashion into jewelry and trade back to the merfolk. The mermaids are particularly fond of having their silhouettes engraved onto discs which are then worn as pendants. Mermen prefer belts adorned with cameos of their daughters, wives, or other merfolk females.

    The dwarves vigorously trade with the lava folk: primarily iron for trace-mineral bearing stone.

    The dwarves have extensive mine operations in the regions behind and around their cities, but dozens of other locations are abandoned. These now empty labyrinths are home to scrawny and cowardly kobolds who steal when they think they can get away with it, but who otherwise hide when strangers come around. After about fifty miles, the arm of the Evernight brachiates into countless tunnels and mines that wander in every direction. Very little lives in them.

    At the 10 o'clock direction the final arm of the Evernight branches off into a thousand channels between thousands of islands. While the walls and ceilings of the caverns are covered with the ecosystem previously described, the islands tend to have small or non-existent beaches, and therefore the fungal forest does not have much room to stand. About five miles in, the first of the elven ruins can be seen; elegant trees carved into the stone pillars which reach up to the roof. Bands of twenty or so elves live a nomadic life fishing and moving on to a different ruin. Their bird-shaped boats are more their home than any of the structures that remind them of their past glories. Wild giant kingfishers roost in the crevices of the pillars, but these are too small to train as mounts. Only some dozen or so of the riding-sized ones live here amongst the pillars, but hundreds of giant Kingfishers with 10 foot wingspans live here, and thousands of the Large varieties with 2 to 5 foot wingspans fill the caves with their staccato rattling calls.

    Ten miles in, the elegantly carved tree-pillars are often smashed or broken. In this region kobolds can be seen skulking about. Small bands of 2-8 appear to be the norm, but these are not the usual scrawny, furtive creatures found elsewhere in the Evernight. They are well fed, organized, and equipped with leather armor and stone-tipped spears which appear optimized for fishing.

    If any are induced to speak, the adventurers will quickly learn about their god. The kobolds worship a Cave Dragon: a forty-foot long beast whose vestigial wings and legs are obviously incapable of more than token movement. The kobolds say it is all knowing and all powerful, but it has only two spells per age category, giving it four sorcerer spells each of level 1, 2, and 3, and two of level 4. It also has a toxic, (paralytic,) breath weapon that imposes a DC:27 Fort save to avoid being held immobile. Each round the victim gains another save, but remains paralyzed until successful.

    The dragon has several boards, which are guarded by its children from female kobolds. These half-cave dragon kobolds have more prominent arms and legs, but slither upon their bellies. They have DC:15 toxic breath, attain Large size, and must earn levels in sorcerer to gain spells.

    Any kobold who is discovered by the dragon to be anything less than a fanatic sycophant is killed and eaten, including its own offspring. This is usually done slowly and publicly, as a form of entertainment.

    Beyond the realm of the cave dragon the arm of the sea ends, but the labyrinthine caves continue, with slime covering every surface. Trails wend this way and that through the fungi and bacterial slime, and slugs and snails which live in the area. A giant constrictor snake breeds and feeds here, but its scales are covered in the bacterial slime which covers everything, rendering it virtually invisible. Generally, the slimesnakes will remain immobile and virtually invisible unless stepped on. In all cases it will try to escape, fighting only as a last resort.

    While other creatures dwell in this nearly 10,000 cubic mile 3d maze, the only truly notable ones are the lizardfolk which inhabit the upper areas nearest the hot-springs which generate vapor and running mineral water which feeds the bacterial slimes. They prefer traps and hit and run tactics that lure goes into more traps. They would ordinarily not bother intruders unless they look too weak to put up a fight, but they will defend their nesting areas and young.

    The lizardfolk realm is on the path up into the caverns which lead to the dwarven kingdom, but there are too many miles between them for the dwarves to be aware of them as other than rumor.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2024-06-19 at 05:29 PM.

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