Summary: I ended up spending a lot of time expanding and embellishing this section today; as a result I have ten contracts ready (technically eleven, but one of them’s really just a link that I thought was appropriate) but another 15 roughs to edit. I’ll continue editing bright and early tomorrow but I’ll post the 10/11 I’ve got so far right now, since I said I would do a post tonight.
A: Investigations: High-risk detective work
B: Special Reconnaissance: Physical surveillance in hostile conditions
C: Military Intervention: Direct action in support of allied military activities
D: Military Assistance: Train, lead, advise and inspire allied military and/or security forces
E: Stability Actions: Ensure that a vulnerable polity, individual, or process thrives by engaging with threats on its behalf
F: Counterconspiracy: Social infiltration and undercover proactive security
G: Counteroccult: Hunt strange creatures, assassinate occultists, minimize the fallout of occult catastrophes, counter malign entities, and safeguard items and places of cosmic provenance
H: Influence Operations: Persuade, influence, subvert and deceive under delicate and/or hostile circumstances
I: Extractions: Recover personnel and assets from hostile forces and other dangerous situations
J: Civil Relief: Prevent atrocities, relieve suffering in cut-off areas, and set up systems of sustenance and protection for people who are under threat of deprivation and violence
Assist & Advise
The Ruins of Tessa Abar (SAAANG1TROTA)
Storm Season (SAAANG2SS)
A Mythic Struggle (SAAANG3AMS)
Differing Sins (SAAASC1DS)
The Grid (SAREC1TG)
The Dam on the River Pine (SARD1TDOTRP)
The Place of Seduction (SARD2TPOS)
Deus Ex Machina, Quid Pro Quo (SARF1DEMQPQ)
Bower Beast (SARF2BB)
Malignant Growth (SARF3MG)
Assist and Advise
The Ruins of Tessa Abar (SAAANG1TROTA): A massive occult complex from a headier age. A golden age cradled among rivers of rock. The dwellers cultivated the minds in the stars and embezzled power intended for the whole world. Infinite power, infinite progress, infinite ascension. The builders are gone. It was inevitable.
Surface and subterranean, the ruins have been settled by the people of many states in this modern age. Exiles, explorers, freeholders, heretical artisans. This is a refuge, and becoming a community, but its codes are weak and its stones are soaked by the blood feud.
You have been hired by a hermit to bring rudimentary order to Tessa Abar and get their fundamentals set up. Agriculture, mining, masonry. Decorating this place so as to attract real settlement. This is a six-month contract.
Lest you think you are bringing order where it is not wanted, know that Tessi Abar will fall without professional backbone and the ties that bind a city-state. There are reasons this world is settled in city-states even into the Industrial Age. Antediluvian things remain in the deep reaches of the earth, the water, the forest. Things that are unkillable or to whom bullets are pinpricks. And there are the hearts of men.
There will be a crisis every 15-45 days.
1. Thieves: One or more thieves make their way into the complex, pilfering anything of value or seeking a great treasure (that is precious to the players or integral to the identity of Tessa Abar’s nascent community).
2. Mutineers: A faction within the complex seeks dominance and plots a violent uprising that begins with a decapitation attack aimed at the current government- and the players. Options: Anarcho-Syndicalists (1) / Noble pretender and supporters (2) / Occult awakening among residents (3) / Nationalists from a particular city-state who want to bring Tessa Abar into the fold (4) / Infiltrators from a hinterland monastic society who join expeditions, caravans or transports before murdering everyone once underway and taking everything of value back to their secret hold (5)
3. Bandits: One or more gangs of bandits have taken a liking to the region and have constructed camps in the hills. They are totally satisfied with extorting the settlers of Tessa Abar for food and treasure, but are more of an ambient menace than an existential threat.
4. Raiders: A force of determined, heavily-armed men are making their way to Tessa Abar and are intent on: seizing occult booty (1) / sanitizing this place of occult taint via napalm and demo charges (2) / enslaving the vulnerable occupants (3) / following in the footsteps of the architects of Tessa Abar (4). The raiders may be independent actors, they may be a strike force from a city-state, or they may be the war party of a hostile tribe.
5. Horde of Interlopers: Search ‘Apocalypse of Interlopers’ in the city-state generator post and roll.
6. Invaders: A city-state has sent its army to destroy the people of Tessa Abar, who represent an unpredictable and uncontrolled element in their geopolitical situation. The city-state sends an infantry or dragoon force bolstered by: Blister gas artillery (1) / Tanks (2) / Dive bombers (3) / Infiltrators who have taken root in Tessa Abar long before (4) / Elite superheavy motorized grenadiers in small arms-effective plate armor (5)
7. Xenostygians: Civilizations which diverged from surface life long ago. They more or less always have strange and marginal, even desperate means of sustenance beneath the earth, and their cultures have mutated drastically from the norm of the surface to adapt to life in the extremes of the underworld.
8. Viroalien Xenostygians: These are xenostygians who have been sealed from the surface for so long that their bacterial and viral profiles differ radically from distant civilizations. This means that physical meetings will be catastrophic for both sides, with plagues more deadly than those suffered by New World civilizations after contact with the Old. The xenostygians may or may not be aware of this factor at the opening of contact; if they are, they are likely to attack from a distance and potentially wear bizarre meshes and skins of subterranean creatures which are intended to shield them from infection.
9. Creature: A lone example of a monstrous clade that is unknown and/or impossible to understand or account for. Shooting this thing to death using small arms may or may not be possible; it is likely that to prevent it from becoming a threat, one must employ explosions, cave-ins, entrapments, firestorms, unique poisons, direct artillery fire or similar measures beyond close combat, which such beings may have experienced for millennia and be far more specialized in than humans.
10. Corporeal Interloper: The physical manifestation of an entity that does not figure into this world’s ecology. May enter from an unknown universe; in this case, its physical form is likely to be an approximation or a chassis constructed for the purpose of housing something that does not obey the rules of this universe’s energetic subsystems. May arrive on a colonial asteroid, or from an barely-imagined source within the core of the earth. Example motivations: Imperial / Colonial / Animal / Deconstructively Exploratory / Hedonistic
11. Incorporeal Interloper: As a corporeal interloper, but nonphysical. Likely to require some form of trickery, persuasion or, God forbid, the use of the occult to mitigate or destroy.
12. Entity: An incorporeal intelligence that is interested in mankind or interested in our environment. Its motivations are limitless but generally involve offering power or security to humans in exchange for specific behaviors; this is how it shapes our realm. Manifestations are varied but include: nature spirits, voices in mirrors or sewers, things claiming to be deities, ghosts in darkness, strange weightless assemblies of light and shape, utterly disembodied waves of sensation or suggestion. They do not have a common origin.
13. Imperial Antediluvian: A creature that was an important figure in an empire that existed before explicit recorded human history. May possess disturbing knowledge about the nature of humanity’s history in this world; it’s generally assumed by historians that humanity has experienced a more or less steady increase in technology with a few well-known setbacks, but this may not be the case. This figure may tell you that humanity was once more advanced than it is today, but lived under the proper guidance of the higher form of life- its form. It seeks to reconstruct its old empire and/or cult with humans as its pawns, even if its empire never involved humans in the first place.
14. Extracosmic Manifestation: An entity or energetic projection that generally corrupts and rewrites reality in its vicinity.
Storm Season (SAAANG2SS): The Clans of Musillar have finally been united into a real tribe. With the coming of his first silver hair, King Nazaliga has been elected for a rule that will last until the dying of his last black hair.
Each clan has its own culture, its own land, and with each, its own issues. Many are skeptical of this new tribe. Many joined only after great bribery or coercion. Many feel that they were getting along just fine without a tribe, and are on the fence about whether or not they will remain.
You have been hired by the tribal confederation’s council of shamans as neutral, nonsuspect mediators and troubleshooters. Get buy-in from the clans by advising them, persuading them, and solving their problems with them. If one or two clans leave the tribe, you will not fail this operation. Your objective is to stabilize a solid core of clans for the long haul.
1. The God-Uniters: They build a temple to every god they encounter or hear of. They even have temples to some spirits that they have defeated; these are places or propitiation or prisons of the banished one’s spiritual power. King Nazaliga is from this clan and they are objects of great suspicion within the tribal confederation.
2. The Exoskeletals: The people of this clan bind the bones of large lizards and aurochs to their bodies using everything from twine to net to leather. These bones are intricately graven and notched so as to mount a variety of bone-set tools that can be inserted and removed through a several-step locking process. This allows the members of this tribe to clad themselves in armor, weapons, stilts, agricultural tools, elaborate festival costumes, religious regalia or peddler’s wares as required.
3. The Bat Armorers: These cave people were once shallow xenostygians but over the generations were goaded and teased out until they live half under the earth and half under the sun. Their nitrate caves are inhabited by mighty blood bats of 8’ wingspans which the Bat Armorers have developed a symbiotic relationship with: they ride and guide these bats to the pastures of nearby clans and city states, where the bats drink their fill of the cattle before the Armorers shear off their share of bled meat and devour it or carry it back to their cavern roosts. The Bat Armorers are so named for the articulating bulletproof armor with which they clad the bodies and wings of their animals, which they forge from nuggets exposed in their caverns. The Bat Armorers are regarded as valuable war allies but a nuisance to the herds by the other clans.
4. The Starshield Clan: The members of this tribe live in chambers graven from the skin of a mountain where they hold windy retreats around campfires built of piny deadfall. They cultivate roots in the darkness and cast them on the fire where they sit, and in visions and dreams their souls depart for the deadplane and the realm of auroch angels. Their service is in interfacing with the deadly high-spirited gods, and in holding back the plague of cursed spirits that mar the upward endeavors of man on earth, from the erection of his barn to the erection of his penis. The other clans resent the Starshields for the amount of food they consume without giving back anything material, despite recognizing the need for their endeavor.
5. The Grain Guardians: The agriculturalists and human scarecrows of the tribe, the fields of the Guardians are locked within the misty valleys and ashen forests of a high hinterland to which the ways confuse all oncomers. Those approaching their realm will be met with portents of horror: eyes watching from shapes draped in bog filth, burnt and bloodied alien effigies of wicker, rickety moving men in the baking light of evening that detach themselves from posts and amble towards the onlooker. Moaning bodies draped in viscera, thunderclap traps, processions of savage troglodytes draped in antediluvian arms. These will greet the trespasser.
All this in compassion. The Guardians have a great reverence for life despite the terror they inflict upon interlopers, and will only kill in direct self-defense or when pilfered field-fruits are about to cross the border in the hands of thieves. Their sport and passion is to scare off all potential takers, from superstitious clansmen to out-of-sorts urbanites. This world is possessed of enough natural terror that the practiced legerdemain of the Guardians is a matter of utter repulsion for most outsiders. The Guardians supply much of the grain for trade within the confederacy, but they are despised by warlike people for their trickery and their refusal to send their men to war except in case of direct invasion of their misty vale.
6. The Bloodline Clans: Each youth of this clan is ritually exposed to a particular substance from an early age, beginning with vanishingly small amounts and ending in megadoses. Over time among the megalithic formula-graven fencehalls of the Bloodlines, the bodies of the clansmen transform until not only are their bodies immune to the ravages of whatever substance they manifest, it inheres in their *blood* so that when they are cut, they produce that which they have imbibed across their lives.
Blood effects upon exposure to oxygen (1 per individual):
1. Congeals into a semi-solid substance: this is useful for the creation of ropes or sealing other people’s wounds
2. Becomes acidic enough to melt rock
3. Is made ready for ignition: burns as napalm/thermite blend
4. Is made ready for ignition: explodes as liquified plastic explosive
5. Entheogen: incapacitates for 2d6 hours
6. Entheogen: those touched by the blood fall down and enter the Godplane
Each clan is also facing a crisis that draws their attention from tribal matters:
1. Gambling is rooting deeper and deeper into the culture of this culture. People are betting on absolutely everything and the temple of the trickster god has become a veritable casino. This is severely disrupting the social fabric and economic underpinnings of this clan; wealth is concentrating in the hands of the trickster priests (who often spend it on harebrained boondoggles and ceremonies) and of a few highly-talented gamblers (and their enforcers). People are beginning to offer their children or their own freedom on bets; useful people are reduced to pauperdom and become pariahs. In spite of all this, being willing to bet is regarded as a certain sign of courage and moral fiber.
2. The clan has developed a close relationship with a city-state and has been trading heavily with it. As a result, the clan has taken on both the advantages and the disadvantages of civilization in an unconstrained way. The warriors go about with submachine guns and hand grenades draped from them so thick they’re like dark bunches of grapes, but many have become obese from cake and chocolate, and the specter of heroin is falling like a life-stealing shade over the tribe’s erstwhile ploughmen. The solution of giving them stimulants to restore life to them has been a program of mixed results.
3. The roots of the trees in the clan’s ancestral heartlands have developed a malign means of sustenance. The largest trees send a huge root cracking from the earth in a ripping of tiny strands, proceeding to wrap around the leg of an unfortunate clansman (normally breaking it in several parts) and dragging him into the ground to fertilize the forest. The small trees send a reedy root up into the leg of passersby, rooting them, drugging them and sucking their blood until nothing but a wizened husk lays peaceably upon the soil. Those who climb trees to avoid their fate are shaken from their refuge.
This is caused by: a sudden mutation (1) / a furious or recently-awoken nature spirit (2) / the occult powers of an enemy (3)
4. The tribesmen have begun to transform. Each man, woman and child is proving to be a chrysalis, but for what, no one knows. No one has reached the apogee of this transition yet. Something is growing within everyone. Those furthest along in the transformation transform at the level of their bone structure to accommodate something inside; their torsos elongate, their shoulders and hips widen, they seek to lay on their backs. They become lethargic. They seek warmth and sun. Eventually they will go into comas. What will come next? What will emerge?:
A young, hairless version of the one who became a pupa, with all memories; 10 years are subtracted from his or her age. This tribe is now possibly biologically immortal (1) / a superpowered angelic form with mighty thews, lepidopteric wings, eagle claws, telepathy (but not mind-reading) and eyes that burn with actual blue fire; they become highly intelligent but lose all empathy with those who are not mutagenic angels (2) / A giant wingless subterranean eel-wasp segmented in chitin; the human chrysalis was simply its means of implanting its spawn, which is conducted out of the earth and into human hosts by symbiotic sand fleas (3)
5. There has recently been a proliferation of this clan’s warrior lodges. Traditionally there were just a few, each having a spirit animal whose qualities were expected to be embodied in the warrior-member, and by and large this served its social function. Members of the Lion lodge were expected to be strong, cunning, ferocious in battle but otherwise to avoid exertion; members of the Wolf tribe engaged in dominance disputes (rarely resulting in bloodshed) but to fight as a highly-flexible unit capable of outflanking enemies on its own; the Falcon lodge engaged in sniper attacks and motorcycle jousting when not dining, washing themselves or hang gliding.
The clan once knew what to expect. Now there has been a fashionable explosion of self-selecting lodges. It began with the all-female Praying Mantis lodge, which has since been eradicated, but more lodges have popped up at the very edge of permissibility. The Spider Wasps. The Ticks. The Magpies. The damnable Platypi. Now the last straw: it is rumored that a ‘Bonobo lodge’ is meeting in the woods at night. The original three warrior lodges are ready to commit a bloody purge of all these latecomers, which would wipe out a good deal of the clan’s young population.
6. This clan has developed a cultural fetish for the city-states, attempting to capture their mana through emulation. They are constructing branch-and-daub office buildings in the forest using great old trees as corner foundations, wearing rawhide three-piece suits, constructing carts that can be lowered *around* teams of horses as a form of internal engine.
This is alienating the shit out of the other clans, but the upshot is that in emulating the bureaucratic rigmarole perceived by the clan’s shamans when visiting the nearest city-states, the clan has actually managed to codify its oral legal traditions and create a central apparatus for the milling of grain and the salting of meat. As a result, slowly but surely, this clan is prospering and gathering more and more excess which it can use to hire the labor of nearby hunter-gatherers or pay for advantageous dowries. This *further* alienates the other clans and they are on the verge of launching a debellatio raid on the ‘city-bringers’.
(I wanted to call this contract the Ring of Flagons Past but did not)
A Mythic Struggle (SAAANG3AMS): The City of Crynel has been conquered.
The civil religion, the government, the world of arts. All had become occult.
The people gave their hearts to a spirit’s voice, a gilded monster-prophet, or a foreboding seance. This was the casus belli. Bevelwind overthrew Crynel intent on righting the occult wrong lest it unravel time and space, as it has so many times before.
Crynel was given a new government made up of unbelievers in the occult. Many of them are Crynelites who traveled abroad when the occult spread in their society. They have little in common with the people of Crynel now.
Crynel’s traditions are now centered around the occult, or activities that attract the attention of disembodied eyes.
The new government of Crynel is fraying. They are failing. The people disregard them. They carry effigies through the streets. Effigies that seem to be made of streaming paper, but are not. That burn within and brook no shadow. Whose carrying poles shift ever so slightly and drink the voices of the men who carry them. Processions of whispered shouts.
There have been attacks. Officials cast into disappearing wells of singing soft crystal. Patrolling soldiers elongated until invisible. Bloodhounds leading detectives through remote doors that are gone once they pass the transom.
You must bolster the government. You must end the popular reversion to the occult. Guide them away from it no matter how hostile they might be to being guided. Give them something better or lead them to it. And if the quasar priests send die-hards against you even after the populace has seen the light, lethal force is authorized.
Differing Sins (SAAASC1DS): You have been hired by a security commission to guard against occult threats in their city-state.
The threat will come from the past.
The sarcophagi have been communicating. Coordinating. Establishing energetic links.
The sarcophagi contain the spirits of prominent people from the city’s warlike past. When the world was the enemy of the city-state. An age of plumes, crests, heroes and trumpets. Of crucifixion, slavery, decimation and raptio.
If you enter a subterranean mausoleum in the necropolis beneath the city, you will find that you can move between them in the darkened recesses. But one corner in one sarcophagus leads to the fastness of the spirits. Beyond, you are in their realm, and you will see what they want you to see: the pinnacle point of the shining city on the hill, or the abyssal torture chambers of a Tartarus beneath the temple of war. They await you with sword and javelin.
The great ones will begin to influence the city. Their voices will reach those coming to pray in the necropolis. They will enter the mausoleums. Pass the sarcophagi. Enter the shadow fastness. Emerge in a gleaming temple hall of the golden age of victory. The great ones will speak to their descendants. They are the real great ones. But they cannot leave the mausoleums. Moderns must carry on their legacy.
The great ones are concerned. The modern state has lost wars against ancestral enemies. They have been eclipsed by those who were once barbarians and traders. The men lack virility. The women are like banshees. The soldiers are soft as hares. Something must be done.
The great ones exhort those who visit them: true security can only be found in empire. Lasting peace can only grow from victory.
Cosmopolitan informers like the players must be purged.
Should the fastness of the greats be breached, they will draw their sarcophagi together into a great marble juggernaut and go on a rampage in the city that has so vastly betrayed their legacy. Those within will emerge into the shrinegut of an all-crushing funerary colossus, or the rubble of its remnants should the thing have been defeated in their absence.
The Grid (SAREC1TG): An arrangement of radiant or cosmic energy has allowed an entity to develop inside of or otherwise inhabit the power grid of a city. In the former case it naturally regards the power grid as its body; in the latter case, it is using it as a receiver for energetic projections from outside the planet or our reality.
The city is located in an arctic tundra and relies upon its power system for survival; if the power were to die, the turbines of the power plants would freeze solid in short order (their insulation having decayed through a cavalier attitude engendered by the city’s remoteness).
The entity controls the city’s power grid like an AI and is capable of redirecting, denying or surging power with respect to anything connected to the grid. Attempts to curtail the entity’s reach by dismantling the power grid have been met with massive surges capable of spreading through the actual ground near the conduit in the manner of a lightning strike. Those who show no signs of intending to interfere with the entity are left alone unless they belong to the city government, in which case they (and possibly everyone around them) are electrically assassinated.
You have been hired to find a way to rid this entity from the power system without allowing the city’s central turbines and capacitors to fail.
A group of electrospeculators arriving in the city complicate matters. They are not exactly occultists because they do not possess pactmade powers, but they predicted the coming of the electroentity and supplicate themselves to gain information from it. They do not want the players to figure out how to cleanse the entity from the power grid (though they may be the ones who hold the information the players would need to do that), and they will cooperate with the entity to attempt to trap and eliminate the players; it’s hard to win a gunfight when half your body is numb from an ambient shock, or when you can’t remove your hand from a live wire and your skin is smoking and peeling off. Curtains of copper wire or unexpected steel plates will be as deadly as any laser trap.
The entity will be restricted to the power grid when the players first arrive, but the electrospeculators will become its hands in the world, and eventually they will begin constructing a thickening hive of tesselating metal inside an abandoned (or murderously cooped) hangar.
The electrospeculators are divided in their intentions and expectations. Some believe that they are helping the entity escape the world and that it will take them with it but destroy the city as the entity is ripped from local existence; the others believe that they are helping the thing become a mini-Monad which will pour life into all those who are present.
1. The escape situation is correct.
2. The Monad situation is correct.
3. The entity is having the electrospeculators construct a physical chassis for the full energy being to inhabit and operate; once it does so it will be released from its physically inert state and will be able to work its plans on the earth.
The Dam on the River Pine (SARD1TDOTRP): The Red Charter Companies, an organization of piratical resource-resellers, have built a hydroelectric dam upriver of the verdant Maniford river valley. This is severely disrupting the traditional river channels of the valley- a natural irrigation system- and is causing a massive drought with a drying up of village wells and impending starvation of Maniford proper.
The Red Charter is laying power lines to several unscrupulous city-states in the region and is extorting the Maniford government; they will increase the flow of water from the Pine River (above the valley) in exchange for massive payments. In the meantime they’ve massively fortified the dam, and it bristles with machine gun pillboxes, flak cannon roosts and mortar pits.
Maniford would prepare a military intervention but they are well aware of the Red Charter’s modus operandi. The extortionists are fully willing to dynamite the dam should their situation become untenable. The dam was built largely using slave labor; it’s no skin off their teeth to collapse their asset, take their profit, and head upriver in their armored steamers and seaplane bombers.
They require the services of an elite squad. You are to infiltrate the dam by force or guile, disable or knock out the flak cannons, and then prevent the Red Charter from detonating the dam by any means necessary while Maniford launches an aerial assault on the dam with paratroopers landing in the forest from either side while fighters strafe the remaining defenses. Stand the Red Charter off from their explosives or detonators until the paratroopers can reach the dam proper, encircling the enemy where they are concentrated around your position. If you are forced to give up your defense and driven from the dam, notify the paratroopers and a squadron of Manifordish fighter-bombers will make a terminal approach, hopefully destroying the dam before the Red Chartermen can get fully clear of it.
If you are able to secure the hydroelectric dam for Maniford, you will receive a large bonus because they will be able to execute the Red Charter plan of selling electricity to nearby city-states themselves. Maniford is a center of luxury furniture; one of the stipulations of the complete contract is that Maniford will award you staterooms within the dam that were previously occupied by Red Charter officers and fully redecorate them, as well as providing you ownership of a large steel supply cage that is integral to a maproom adjoining the staterooms. This facility will be guarded by Maniford 24/7 as part of the hydroelectric dam’s security program.
The Place of Seduction (SARD2TPOS): The little rivers of the Heroön Coast are drying out at last. Travel into the high desert, to the Gardens of Anomie, and restore the angelic waters that once baptized the heathen coast.
Deadfall (SARD3D): This scenario is about Theoseveria, the Radiant Death-Vaults of the Dukes Judicial. You can find a description of it here.
The realm is drying up with the twin death of the monarch and the monarchy. Now the forests grow hotter by the month. The deadfall is like a blanket of driftwood. The forests belong to the Dukes now. The farmers may not gather their wood. They are cut off from the forest spirits. Their traditional relationship no longer balances the realm. The spirits recede.
The leaves fall. They do not regrow. The sun shines dangerously orange and raw through the naked fingers of the trees.
You’re being hired by a logging magnate in the town of Loamspar to ascertain exactly why the woods are drying out and to find a solution to it. The truth may be hard for the PCs to believe and thus to accept. This is a worthwhile element to explore.
The leadership of the king is lacking and this is what is curling the bark and cracking the rock of Theoseveria. With the dying of the kingship, so too departs the kingdom’s anima; the nature spirits. Only squabbling, grasping dukes remain.
Short of the creation of a new principality, the problem may be insoluble. The burghers and the nobles are complicit in Theoseveria’s system of judicial mass combat, winner take all. The peasants feed the kingdom but cannot fight on the court pitches. Should you find it impossible to install a just king who could make an accord with the forest spirits, you could lead the peasants on an exodus from the kingdom. The Dukes and burghers would not let them go willingly. They would have to pawn their whole wealth in a year to buy enough food to eat.
Should the players attempt to convince the forest spirits to come with them, roll to determine the nature of the spirits:
1. The spirits are intrinsically bound to the land and its human administration; they cannot leave it.
2. They were born of the region’s fertility and have remained as it declined. They are helping to drain the region due to their displeasure; it is irrelevant whether or not they can leave.
3. They are movable spirits and could depart at their pleasure, but know nothing of the nearby biomes.
Given an alliance between the spirits and the players, the spirits can control forest fires and local rift-splitting earthquakes in the soft root-riveted earth.
Deus Ex Machina, Quid Pro Quo (SARF1DEMQPQ): Grassy, verdant hills. Butter, beef, mutton, kid. Houses of tanning and salt.
Men are driving the stock into caverns. They belong in the smokehouse or the export market. The buyers must know why the wares are walking into the earth. They are your client now. There is a yearlong per-head commission should you restore the situation to normality.
There is a new bazaar now. It is beneath the earth. It is disguised as a shrine. The drovers bring their saleable head here and leave them. They know the flesh will be devoured by their benefactor, Gazmbadrax. He is a great beaked orb with a hundred equidistant legs and a thousand red equidistant eyes. He perches in the shadows in the cavern above the wall. He is their terror and their savior. He speaks with the voice of a dozen men and in his word is law.
There are many hypnotic entities and blood-freezing monsters in this world. This is not one of them. It is an elaborate puppet voiced by four men riding inside of it who manipulate limbs by brushing against handles and shout lines in unison that the captain has written on a chalkboard. Gazmbadrax’s innards are lit by a bituminous coal margarine candle that gives the deity’s eyes a bloody light.
Gazmbadrax’s word is good. The herds of the entire range were threatened by skilled rustlers who murdered whatever sentries the ranchers left out at night, even little shepherd boys. The drovers fell on their knees and besought Gazmbadrax with tears in their eyes as their herd shifted and hissed.
The rustlers were delivered to the ranchers on their knees, their foreheads to the earth, their hands outstretched holding their own skins in neat bundles.
A tribe from Quiverfault Hollow arose from their tectonic swamp, snakereed switches in hand. The outlying freeholders died in their beds, marked and bloated. Their herds and steel vanished with their lives.
The whole tribe died of cholera, white slop leaking from their anuses. Generations of knowledge about which waters could be tapped could not help them. Betrayed in detail by their sacred waters.
A fever passed among the hills. The boys and girls bled sweat and burned like pomegranates. The ranchers went out in their nightshirts and carried white calves to the shrine of Gazmbadrax. The deity scolded the men for sacrificing children to save children. It bade them return the calves to their mothers and only bring big, fat, healthy cattle from then on.
A day passed. The children suffered. The parents prayed to Gazmbadrax.
The sun rose. A shining stone of unknown sky-blue steel stood like a stela before the great dining rock where the ranchers held their nighttime revel-receptions in better days. The pale tails of twenty four cave scorpions lay upon the stone. A tincture glowing gold lay effervescent inside the telsons. A disc of chert sat central, acid-etched with the words “Into the suffering shoulder.”
Not one child died.
The ranchers *believe*.
They are not evil men. They understand what it means to consort with the supernatural in so much of the world. They are unwilling to entertain investigators.
The cryptostygian shrine is a conduit to many underworlds. The ones touched by the emptiness here lack for nothing but food. They are fed by lifelines like this one. They are not interested in being known.
Black-hooded shepherds walk the hills at night. Their clothes are not cloth. Their staves are not sticks. It is not the herds that they shepherd. On the rare occasion they are seen, they are said to be watchful ancestor spirits. They are not. They are scouts.
If you *will not leave* the shepherds may try to force you. They are reluctant to kill you.
The cryptostygians are not. They will bring to bear fungal misters whose cells will clog your every pore and edifice before expanding with heat and moisture. Supertorsioned plate assemblies that will knock down houses with a supersonic shockwave when released upon one another. Coal dust mines that will billow their filthy powder through the air before detonating it. A bomb that fills the vicinity with webs before releasing hundreds of venomous spiders a few moments later. (“A deep, moaning scream erupted from his very soul”)
The ultimate intentions of the cryptostygians should be determined late in the adventure. Here are three potential RNG outcomes:
1. Reciprocal: The cryptostygians are more or less on the level; as long as the ranchers continue to provide them with their product, the cryptostygians will continue to protect them from existential threats. Once introduced, they may have offers of work for the players, either in the underworld outside of their domain, or by going after legends they have pertaining to the surface. Just because the cryptostygians are reciprocal with the ranchers doesn’t mean they are with other underworlders; they may send the players on an “embassy” into a deeper stygian community to spread germs for which the deep stygians have no immunity. Furthermore, if the players insist upon cutting off the cryptostygians from their cattle supply, they may still be willing to invade the surface to guarantee their freedom from starvation.
2. Mercantile: The cryptostygians will attempt to cut the players in and ask them to arrange new lines of supply similar to this one. This is a silver-or-lead kind of offer; the merchants are well-armed but their warriors are not as numerous as a settled community.
3. Slash-and-burn: The cryptostygians will gradually make greater demands of the herds until they are exhausted; then they will demand live humans. They are not picky about where the offerings come from, but if the ranchers ever can’t or won’t deliver further sacrifices, the cryptostygians will rise up and take them all beneath the earth before collapsing the shrine entrance and moving on.
Bower Beast (SARF2BB): The crops of Tulana are being devoured. The fields are rent and the orchards shivered. There are tracks of torn rich soil in the meadows between the mountains and the farmlands.
There is a castle of color in the mountains. The farmers have espied it from far away. They dare not approach. It is a cradle of rock that is laden with light like a bower cornucopia.
You have been contracted to discover what has become of the crops and what is the nature of the castle in the mountains.
It is like a modern art piece. It is stone stacked as if by storm giants but crowning the crenellations like gold on teeth are the crops of Tulana. Apples, bananas, sheafs of grain, termite-towers of oats, even buns and chocolate bars stolen from Tulana’s radial warehouses.
This is the testament of a bicosmic creature. It has constructed this place to attract a mate with its plenty. It is a radiant beacon shining through to other universes and it will gleam in the eye of some other monster that will phase in to mate with Tulana’s thief in the midst of their plenty, and there will their offspring be born, and there will it take its natal feast.
It is labyrinthine inside, for the castle’s interior is arranged as a message made of 3D sigils like a self-entwining calligraphic alhamdulillah. It catches and prismatically refracts particles that phase for immeasurable moments into our reality. These will reach their intended audience. It is only a matter of time. If the architect has been successful, a mate will appear.
The barriers of the interior are foodstuff. Delicately arranged archways of bananas. Balls pits of oranges. Colonnades of salmon stacked tail-in-mouth. These are sensitive. Easily disrupted. The host will sense a collapse.
This thing is *territorial*. It will not have its masterwork disrupted. It has worked itself to a lather ensuring the perfect existential polarity of its piece of sexual bait.
The lowest reaches are ice caves. The uppermost are miasmahalls of rot. Calories are calories. These beasts are not concerned with putridity. Some foods are in perfect preserve. Others are a slurry of decomposition. Such areas are difficult for a man to traverse. Not for the builder.
It is an aerial blender-beast. A levitating hectogon girt with monowire tentacles. By whirling about it can reduce anything within a 10’ radius to a molecular slurry.
By combining them all it creates an appendage capable of manipulating matter without cutting it. Otherwise every strand is irresistibly sharp.
Secure Tulana’s food supply. Pray that this creature’s mate does not manifest while you are in the belly of the bower.
Malignant Growth (SARF3MG): There is a famine in Linerise.
Huge quantities of food are being sucked up for the cities, factories and armies.
Linerise’s fruit plantations are on the river deltas. The coast is triple canopy jungle. It can barely be traversed a hundred meters from the shore.
The productive areas are garnished to the last peel. Oranges, bananas, mango. Siphoned to the cities, taken for export, or fed to the war machine.
No one here needs to starve, but they do. The nine-winged boat planes come and take everything. This is part necessity, part callousness, part punishment for the once-restive planters and pickers.
You must relieve them. The grip of the cities on the deltas is tenuous here. Most of their forces are abroad.
They will lose their wars without this prop. The reprisal on the river people will be apocalyptic.
The contracting agent posits three options:
1. Free the deltafolk from the grip of their overseers and lead them on a migration to a new land.
2. Free the deltafolk from the grip of their overseers and lead them in an assault on the cities of their oppressors while the armies are away.
3. Find some way of supplying the core of this nation with food so that they would no longer collapse without the fruit of the deltas.
There are people in the government who would be amenable to this. The fruit overseers will not. They sell to the government as a concession, and sell the rest abroad for massive profits.
They have enforcers and informants. Both in the deltas and in the cities. In the factories, in the armies. In the fishermen. They have secret blacksites in the mangrove swamps.
The rivers and estuaries are patrolled by the government in their armed riverplanes and by the overseers in their steamboats.
Beneath them are the crocodiles. Many have tasted an arm; some have eaten their fill of manflesh. They love it.