Set-up - Kitji-Naal is two cities, Kitji and Naal separated by a vast
waterfall that falls like vomit from a great stone carving of a
Dwarven mouth. The twisting cobblstone streets are lit by cast iron
lanterns that use Pixie slaves for light.
Good Stuff - It is the closest city to the surface and this comes
with priviledges. Almost all of the slaves from the surface come
through Kitji-Naal and this gives the city great power. Many of the
other cities also depend on the twin cities for intel concerning the
surface world. It is an important place.
Bad Stuff - it is the closest city to the surface and this comes with
dangers. It is the only city to ever be taken and held by surface
forces. For twenty years a Dwarven Army sat in Ktiji-Naal but could
not hold it any longer. They left behind their legacy, though. The
stone Dwarf's head that surrounds the waterfall is from Kitji-Naal
was crafted during the twenty year stay. Many of the other Empresses
see this city as cursed and tainted. Some are still owed favors by
the twin Empresses from their period of homelessness. The head is
left as a reminder.
Empress - The twin Empresses of Kitji and Naal were separated at
birth and have never seen each other, or so they think. They both
have magic mirrors that they talk into and little do they know these
mirrors are linked. While they think they are talking to an
enchanted reflection of their darkest thoughts they are actually
talking to each other. They kill any twins who are born in the city,
even slave's twins, because there is a prophecy that twins born in
the city will rise up one day and take it over. Maybe the city was
taken during a feud between the Sisters.
Notes: This is the first city that came to me and as such it has
special place in my heart. It is also where the bulk of the
adventure will take place unless the PCs effing astound me. It has
happened before, mind you. This city has close ties to nightmares
and such. Dreams here have particular power.
3) Ice Cap North -
4) Ice Cap South -
I need ideas for these puppies. I have ideas that these Empresses
have an unholy rivalry that is seen as particularly nasty, even for
DE. Any facts about the poles or ideas on what to do with these far
away kingdoms of cold and gloom are helpful.
How does sunlight work for the poles? I know that there are
places above the arctic circle where it is light or dark for months
at a time. It might be cool of the Ice Cap Cities were two cities
that were dark on alternate times. This would mean that right before
the sun came out the entire city's population (or the entire city)
would have to move. I dunno enough to know…but it is a fantasty
world, after all.
I want it to do with extreme effing COLD. Not necessarily in
the emotional sense. Truth is, most people from cold places take
physical closeness pretty seriously. 5) Under Volcanoes
Volcano city thing -
Set-up - Underneath the magma of several active volcanoes this city
thrives. It is the industrial center of the DE world due to the heat
they harness for their machines and factories. Ship-building,
weapons manufacture, slaves' collars, tackle for dinosaur steeds are
all made here.
Good Stuff - due to its importance to the overall scheme of things it
is protected jealously. The other Empresses know that if this city
was ever damaged their entire underground stranglehold would be in
dire straits. As such, every Empress gives troops, Wizards, MAgic
items and slaves for its defense.
Bad Stuff - So many forces are in its walls that its actual ruling
family has little power. If she were to threaten a strike of any
kind she would be killed by the combined might of all of the
remaining Empresses and replaced.
She has some leeway but it has been some time since an
Empress of this city was smart enough to wield it correctly.
Empress - she runs a good factory but she fails to make it work for
her rather than work for everyone. She is in dire need of a good
political counselor of some kind. She is too responsible and too
meek. One day, though, she might get some brains and take over the
whole show down there.
Notes: I picture steam, heat, constant mechanical noises and an ever
present reddish glow.
Set-up - Set up in the pre-historic splendor of a Victorian
literature inspired center of the world, where dinosaurs roam and
cavemen wield clubs and grunt. Of course, the DE took this joint
over in all of ten minutes. Now the cave men are slaves and the
dinosaurs are steeds and beasts of burden.
I picture verdant jungles lit by a blue-ish "sun", kept dim
by powerful magics. The cave men whisper of a time when the "sun"
shone bright and the shamans whisper of a time when it will shine so
again. It has become a decadent playground for bloodthirsty
immortals with defective souls. It is the least like a city as we
know it and more like a series of Keeps, linked by jungle highways.
Good Stuff - The brutal cavalry that the dinosaurs provide have kept
this city in power for the last few hundred years. Also the DE
founders discovered relics from reptilian precursors to humans who
owned the Earth before we got out of caves. The DE have discovered
how to use some of these artifacts. A lot of the food of the
underdark is grown here.
Bad Stuff - It is far removed from the surface world. The denizens
do not really care about the surface goings on and only want to
conquer it in order to be able to say they conquered it. They are
lazy and decadent. Also, their slave population is rather small and
in order to bring in their crops they need slaves from the surface
and this puts them in thrall to Kitji and Naal.
Empress - The palace of this city is in the direct center of the
Earth and as such has no gravity. The Empress is the eldest of the
Nine and as such has the most magical power. Too many years floating
in her weightless court has left her brittle boned. Still, with
magicks like she has, she hardly needs to leave her throne. Ever.
She never does.
All of the other Empresses say a little prayer each night
before the sleep that this bitch-crone will die. She won't any time
soon barring assassination, which is highly unlikely.
Notes: Less of a city and more of a country. This is a huge
I picture the DE here like the Elves in Moorcock's Corum, taking
hundreds of years to create symphonies, paintings or poems, really
out of touch with the real world. This DE have kind of gone full
circle and relive their carefree soulless days but with a vengeance.
Keeping with the spider symbolism that follows DE's around I
was thinking that Core has an intense spy network, making them the
spider in the center of the great Underdark web.
7) Underwater -
Set-up - A bubble city deep under water. These poor bastards are
war with every race under the sea. Some say they sunk Atlantis for
spite. It is built on the back of the corpse of a mammoth sea
turtle. This turtle has great buildings of dark coral growing from
its shell. The buildings stick up from the turtle's back like too
many cigarettes in an ashtray (this corpse was alive in another game…
it was a nasty city when the fucking turtle was alive too).
Necromancers tinker with the turtle, as the Empress has always
enjoyed the idea of a mobile city. Some say she could move it any
time she wanted. Some say they have not been able to move it yet.
Good Stuff - They are a self-sufficient city with their own slaves
and their own food and this frees them from a lot of the politics of
the underground cities. If they could get some elbow room and spread
out, put up another dome for another city, they would be a force to
be reckoned with. Some say the other Empresses realize this and
sabotage their efforts.
Bad Stuff - They are fighting a war with so many fronts they do not
know which way to go. All that saves them from being entirely
annhiliated is their position, deep in a trench. No army undersea
wants to be the first in the attack charge (fish-people, mer-people,
etc.). The cost would be too great. This is all that keeps the city
alive. The other Empresses consider the underwater war to be this
city's problem and give no back-up without severe blackmail. The
founders of this city were cautioned against building it and now that
they have the others only shake their heads at the troubles faced.
Empress - She is a paranoid, angry and driven ruler with a vision
ruling the Seven Seas and then the world. She is very able and very
smart, she fights so many fronts that she is quite adept at fighting
many battles at once and making multiple enemies work for her rather
than against. Maybe the most politically adept Empress of them all.
She feels the least affection for the DE as a nation.
Notes: I picture a real cold war desperation to this city.
filled with fierce warriors and slaves from all over the seas. Maybe
there is a graveyard where sunken ships are taken and dumped.
8) Nexus at Underground Rivers - at the nexus of several underground
rivers, sealed off after it was taken by Dwarven rebel, Empress
exists on the sufferance of other Empresses
Set-up - A city set up in the middle of many underground rivers,
powered by water-wheels. It is said that anyone who drowned ended up
in this city and thus, it was a haven for necromancy.
Good Stuff - Now. None.
Bad Stuff - This city fell to a slave revolt about a hundred and
fifty years ago and has not yet been retaken since. It was sealed
off with powerful magicks that were an effort of the combined might
of all nine Empresses. Needless to say, this effing joint is sealed
tighter than Hell. The rivers were put in different directions.
Empress - The Empress of this city escaped the revolt and travels
from Empress to Empress, peddling her Necromancy (and Necromancers)
like a merchant. It is pathetic. Still, she has learned a lot in
her play at being servile and if she ever get's her power back she
will be a brutal political contender. She knows so much now about
each Empress, weakness, secrets, where their bodies are buried. The
shame of her lost city burns her and in order to get her city back
she would have to get the blessing of EVERY Empress in order to get
the city unsealed.
Notes - So, who is in this damned city now? A Dwarven inventor led
the revolt and he took charge of the place when it was shut in. He
knows they will be opening the doors again one day and then they do
they will get one helluva fight from him and his ragtag slave army.
Maybe a PC could figure out a way to get communications into
the city but they are going to be impossibly hard pressed to break in
or even sneak in. Magick wrought from all nine DE Empresses just
ain't breakable. Still, I love being surprised.
9) Dragonsgrave -
Set-up - Built on the ruins of the Dragon's Lair they found. They
murdered the Dragon, plundered its lair and began the first of the
powerful DE dynasties. Now, the city is a shade of its former
glory. Even DE talk about how crime ridden and dangerous the city is.
Good Stuff - It is very secure against outside attack due to its
original purpose as a Dragon's Lair. Laying siege against this city
would be an exercise in futility. The magic the dragon wielded and
the magic of the Dragon's body itself are still in around and can be
deployed at will. Many of the greatest Wizards still come here to
learn, despite the dangers present (or maybe because of..).
Bad Stuff - Because of its glory, early in the DE history, the other
Empresses take some care in keeping this city down on its knees.
Also, its fall from grace came when the Great Wyrm came and decimated
much of the city upon his waking, in revenge for his kin-dragon's
murder. Any city with all of dragon-kind as enemies has fucking
Empress - The Empress is proud of her city's heritage and is driven
to see the city return to its former glory. She killed her mother
less than ten years ago and so is new to the throne. She saw her
mother's weakness as the reason for the city's diminished status but
is just now beginning to see the problems faced by her. She is
cutting deals with the Empress from the Water Nexus City's
Necromancers in order to learn more secrets from the Dragon's body
and gain more power.
Notes: I like the idea of this city, a place so bad even the DE see
it as crime ridden and it is hit regularly be Dragon terrorists.
Maybe there are counter-attack forces who go out and raid Dragon
Lairs. Mmm, a crack team of DE Dragon slayers. Nasty…corny?… I
A newer idea I had for this place is that the bastard DE's
did not kill the dragon. They tortured it for the details of other
lairs and plundered them. They have used this dragon for info. Then
it fell asleep and Dragonsgrave dynasty fell and fell hard. The
dragon they tortured has been a busy lil bee in the dreamworld and
has sabotaged this city. He is looking for a vehicle for his revenge
to be total.
Other Underdark Musings:
Ilithid/Mind-Flayers - Ah, they are a staple of any good Underdark
game and I would love to see them really cut loose with some Ars
Magica tinkering. I like the take on these guys I read in Dragon
magazine years and years ago. They are from another plane which was
a nice planet like ours until the Ilithid dimmed the sun and took
over. Nasty stuff. I think most of these guys come from space. The
earthbound Ilithid are kinda like backwater hicks to the space-bound
Quaggoth - Raise you geek-ass hand if you remember these Fiend Folio
thingies. I like `em. These are the guys who ruled the underdark
before the DE came down. Now they are just fuzzie nasty things, like
Wookies on crack. Most of them are slaves now but maybe a few are
still roaming around in packs if things get slow and you need a
Deuregar - I hate these things. Evil Dwarves are just evil effing
Dwarves. That is that. No race of them for me. No, thanks. I just
never liked them.
Vampires - Yeah, it is always dark, no sun down in the tunnels. But,
a classic fantasy vampire could live like a fucking king up above if
he or she was smart. In the tunnels he is just another powerful
thing that does not like the sun. Maybe some of the DE have Vampire
slaves as majordomos…maybe…whatever…this has become so effing geeky.
Liches - A smart effing liche, as far as I am concerned, would
realize that going to the Underdark should be a move for later after
taking over the surface world. Too many bad, bad things down thar.
No. None to be seen here, move along…
Other fragments and idea-orphans
Dwarven slave hooked into an elaborate brass, iron and wood machine
that roots his owner to the waking world while the master skulks the
Illithid embassy arriving with demands and plans from Grell Hive
1 Maybe they want to speak to a human?
Lycanthrope from a dead world stuck in a rusty sphere with fragments
from rocks from the moons that surrounded his world
Quaggoth shaman/slave who has connections to the underground railroad…
Hobbit slave who likes his place in this world underground
Restless former DE captain she hates it underground and wishes to be
out amidst the stars again. I picture her manor is her ship,
crippled and set to earth. It is filled with knick knacks from all
over the world, where she has traveled to.
She became embroiled in an inter-Empress rivalry. She was a
privateer for Kitji-Naal and pirated an important shipment of
slaves. Like Red October
I throw away all of that sh- about wizards sitting in chairs
and such, this should be fun Space Opera. It is a fun way to make
ships fly and bring tons of sh- into a game that would otherwise not
be there. That really is that. There are things that I really liked
about the AD&D Spelljammer system and I will keep some and throw the
I think the time of Great Navies is past and fragmented but
if the PCs decided to pick it up, a Golden Age could be renewed.
Elves in Space
C'mon. I do think that some of the Fey are intrepid space
travelers but the idea of an organized standing Navy just does not
wash with me. In a time of trouble I think they could muster some
nice forces but it would be rather unorganized if entirely fantastic
and amazing and of course, powerful. Gods Bless the Queen.
Dwarves in Space
I realize what a geek-ass writing exercise this is but
Tolkien-esque Dwarves make more sense to me here. There is a lost
Clan in my world and the reason they are lost is because they went to
the Stars and in doing so forsook the Earth in some Dwarves' eyes.
Others do not mention them out of respect for their great journey.
What forge fires are hotter than the sun? Such wonders they
could make with gems and ores of worlds far, far away. Yeah, Dwarves
make some sense to me.
Yeah, it is a nice, big, dark place to try and take over so I
think the DE would like it. They have a respectable Navy of creepy-
crawly Spider-ships with names like The Empress's Wrath and Demonweb
In my vision of this world, the current humans used to have
an Empire in space with trading lanes and such but those times are
forgotten by all but a few. Maybe the Asian Empires (not that I have
fleshed them out) have a decent space navy and maybe not. Emperor of
Heaven after all…
A race of people from a broken world. Their Gods and
Goddesses are dead and they live on the broken pieces of their long
Ragnarocked Earth, scavenging for food and weapons. Oddly, their old
world's culture means nothing to them, as it will not help them
survive in their current brutal environment. Kind of an Aiel and
Fremen pragmatic brutality to them with many warring tribes and
such. Not a people to be effed with. I just have to figure out what
kind of animals they hunt on asteroids. Space whales? Space elk? I
Ah, they are corny but they are cool. Big orbs with lotsa
eyes. Sure, why the hell not? Old creations of some unnamed Wizard
that have somehow bred and now run around zapping the unwary. Not
many left but good fun sometimes.
What drives them? I think in the old days they were used by
Wizards to guard information and sancti and then they just kind of
got away. I am unsure what drives these big orbs. I have to give
this some more thought.
Maybe a link to the broken world.
Beholders are ancient biological computers. They were used
by some of the first powerful human wizards to watch and replay
later. Some were made with attack capabilities for security
Githyanki and Githzari
Yet another Fiend Folio geek tidbit that I always liked. One
helped the Mind Flayers enslave and take over their Plane and the
others have sworn vengeance. I think they are based on an obscure
race that Elric summoned once.
A nice nod to the old-timers in the group who remember old
days of Monster Manuals and dice that needed crayons in order to see
the numbers clearly.
More about the world:
The world was a spelljamming (need to find a new word for it)
center. It is the only inhabited world left. This world went to war
with its sister planet that revolved on the other side of the sun.
This world destroyed that world, broke it apart so that it is nothing
but an asteroid belt. Who knows how, exactly.
The rest of the civilized spheres punished this planet as a
result. For five thousand years no one would contact them and any
ships coming from this sphere would be seen as a pirate and could be
legally destroyed and taken by any aggressors. Within five hundred
years there were no working ships in this sphere.
Three Arcane watch this sphere to make sure the sanction is
These three Arcane are dirty bastards. NAMES!? They have
taken bribes from a powerful space faring Grell Hive. This Hive will
take this planet for their own and when it regains status as a
respectable planet again it will be found to have been colonized by
Grell. Work is being done to make it look like Grell from this
world's surface took it over entirely.
Of course the Drow are in on it. This world will be hit by a
two front war from above and below.