Saturday, March 28, 2020


All theories about the city of Yog are unlikely.

The Lost God

There is a story about Yog that is almost certainly false.  It goes like this.

A long time ago, there was a god of green places and a generous race.  In time, the people and their cities decayed under the weight of ancient wars and plagues, declined, and were destroyed.

Yog, the god of those people who was also those people, and was also their city, swore that they would not perish but instead persist, for ever and ever.  His lands become wastelands, became swamps, became verdant again.  Yog's eyes grew clouded but his mind became refined, honed to a singular edge by the scouring sands of his guilt.  His world was a distorted one, but he perceived the distortions clearly than he had ever seen the real world (because there is no such thing).

And so he brought them forth again.  

In the deepest bogs, toads went mad, bit off their tongues, and began pushing stones together.  Trees rotted and fell away, forming straight lines and avenues.  New springs burbled forth in the wilderness, forming fountains.

It was not in the same place, and the streets did not quite match the original, but what of it?  Memories are more real than dead stones laying under the peat.

In that place, all of the does miscarried, and all of the unborn crocodiles rotted inside the their shells.  The does became pregnant again, late in the season.  The crocodiles laid new eggs, much larger than the old.

The city had grown.  Sickly bears regurgitated seeds into half-way cleared fields.  Wild pigs dig ditches until they collapse.  The black pines are not apple trees, but they try their best--slick apples growing in clusters underneath the dark branches.  They are not quite apples, but Yog remembers the apples fondly, and how the children used to spit seeds into the creeks.

And the children!  Now they are arriving.  They crawl out of the mud on the riverbanks.  The does lie down and birth squalling babes.  They are malformed, but perhaps not as much as you might think.  They have a certain consistency.  In their minds, the deer speak, or perhaps Yog speaks, and they grow up with language.  They move into the warped city, filled with dirty stones and crooked streets.  To their eyes, the streets are straight and clean.  In their minds, their grandparents died last summer, instead of ten thousand years prior.  

The streets were made straight, the wild grasses were pulled up and proper wheat was sown.  The walls grew tall, even as the city began extending its roots downward, into the sacred spaces of Yog.  The walls grew thick, and knotted overhead.  The city has been here a long time.  The city never fell.  The city will be here for a long time.  The city is Yog.

Other people, and other cities, have heard this story and prayed to Yog for preservation.  Yog has heard them.

The Calculator

There is a story about Yog that is almost certainly false.  It goes like this.

According to this theory, Yog is not just the center of the world, but is in fact the purpose for the universe's existence, everything else having been built for the sake of the city at the center of everything.  

They say that the city is a thinking machine, a vast and unsympathetic device built prior to the universe to calculate some obscure function.  Or perhaps it is studying us, and every person inside its walls carries a variable of interest.

The fact that we cannot perceive the mechanism is only further proof of its sophistication and antiquity.

People inside Yog go mad with startling frequency, but the madness is specific and directed towards the city's goals.  A fisherman goes mad, forgets all language except for one that he never spoke, and spends a year carving spirals onto the walls.  A doctor, visiting the city for the first time, sees the spirals and goes mad, and spends the rest of her life building an empty tower before strangling a slave with an apron, and only then regaining her sanity.

These are all pieces of the same mechanism.  The parts that seem to be contradictory and opposed are merely the opponent pieces of a calculation.  Whichever faction triumphs over the other is just another binary logic gate, a domino that flipped one way or another, it's calculation finished.

And once the city has finished its calculation, the world will end, swept away by a flame that is swifter than thought.

Worm Steaks

There is a story about Yog that is almost certainly false.  It goes like this.

The worms that are farmed in Yog are victims of a subtle and ubiquitous parasite.  This parasite is not killed by cooking, and those who eat the worm steaks quickly become subjected to the city's own peculiar strain of madness.

Do not the beefworms build tunnels that echo the nonsensical architecture of Yog?  It does not take a large leap of deduction to discern the truth in the matter.  So what if the parasites are too small to be discerned?  It doesn't rule out their existence.  The parasites may be exceedingly fine, of a form not recognized, or perhaps even spiritual in nature.

This also explains the sensation of insects crawling upon the skin that so many experience as they attempt to sleep within Yog for the first time.  The insects are not real, but the sensation is still a warning from the depths of your mind.  Cut your skin and pull forth the long threads of this city's infection!  See?  These threads and nodules do not exist in the flesh of those who have never passed its gates.

And of course, the madness occasionally affects those who bring their own food into the city.  The flaked flesh of the worm is found on nearly every food in Yog.  And of course, on the flesh and breath of every creature within that city.  Best, then, to join the other wise folk in their daily baths of lye.

The rest of can be explained by the unstable geologies unique to the area.

The City of Yog

The northern boundary of Centerran maps is always a purple, equatorial landmass called the Madlands.  Its is nearly twice the size of Centerra, and is regarded as a place of madness, violence, and vice.

In the center of this place is the city of Yog.  Even in such a place, there are a few facts remain unchallenged, even by the lunatics.

First, the city has no formal power structure.  There is no King of Yog (although there are many kings in Yog), and the laws and taxes change from street to street, block to block.  This is not to say that there haven't been many attempts to unify Yog in the past.  (Some have almost been successful.)  But something about the city resists rulership.

The houses of Yog sometimes have allies in the neighboring cities of Bazozo, Zhul, Kel Bethor, and Farthest Vod.

Second, the city is always growing.  Residents (and sometimes visitors) are sometimes afflicted with the strange urge to build.  They will refuse all help, and sometimes spend the rest of their lives building vast, incomprehensible structures.  Mansions without doors.  Stairs too large to ascend.  The Apromenond is a system of pillared chambers beneath the city, flooded and filled with incomprehensible statues, that is used as a passage for ships.

(Buildings without any doors or windows are called 'spirit houses'.  Anyone with a pickaxe and a couple of hours can break into one, but this is considered unwise.  They are not always unoccupied.)

Third, the city is sinking.  This makes more room for new construction, and in fact, may be caused by all of the construction atop unprepared foundations.

Fourth, the city is much larger than it seems.  Infinite, some say.  One thing is certain, each labyrinthine sublevels are larger than the one above.  Certain places are impossible to access a second time--perhaps a function of the unsettled geology of the place, or perhaps something stranger.

Fifth, the people are mad.  (There are humans in Yog, but only as slaves.)  People are sometimes born from animals (sometimes virgin animals) who grow up speaking a language that no one else even recognizes, but who are sometimes able to read graffiti that had long been thought to be incomprehensible.

Visitors sometimes abandon their companions, declaring that they are some other person, from some other place, and that Yog is their true home.  They were confused, but now they can see clearly for the first time in their lives.

Many of them claim to be from distant places, and distant times.  Many claim to have died, after praying to Yog.  If a sailor drowns with Yog's name on his lips, and is reborn 600 years later in Yog from the womb of an anemic cow, does that count as a true resurrection?

Of course.

A lifelong resident looks at a mouldering wall and sees the face of Yog.  They listen to the murmur of the marketplace and hear the voice of the city.  The visitor hears and sees nothing, and is constantly in danger because of this.  Who, then, is mad?

And of course, the residents will tell you that they are sane, and it is you, the visitor, who is insane.  

What proof is there of the outside world?  You babble about Old Bospero and the Church, but those are meaningless noises.  Step past those gates, and you will wander the wastes deluded until you die.  The dundriago spawned you, you mad thing, and it will swallow you again when we are done with you.

The Dundriago

There is no analog for the ecosystem that surrounds Yog.

It is a desert, but the valleys are filled with strange forests of stiff growth that stretch upwards like the pale skeletons of dead leviathans.  Some are pale green.  Most are white.  A few are pink.  There are very few animals, but an astute traveler can can hear writhing underground.

Dundriago plants are generally formed with an extremely long taproot, long enough to access the subterranean seas, sometimes as deep as half a mile beneath the surface.  In these hidden oceans, they function as coral reefs, filtering out their food from the currents.

The part of the plant that extends above ground, then, mostly serves as a place for gas exchange to occur.  Leaves are reduced or (more commonly) absent.  There is no need for tall trunks, except to get above the dunes.  Without leaves, there is little that rots into dirt.  The plants are dry, but perhaps not as dry as you think.

The plants (who grew downwards) compete with the anthozoans (who grew upwards).  Some of the extrusions onto the surface are actual outgrowths of contiguous coral reefs that have their roots in the hidden seas, where they capture blind whales in their filaments and digest them over several years.

It's a complex ecosystem, since the plants of the dundriago respond to changes at both the surface and the subterranean sea (much to the confusion of the locals in both places).

The surface is hostile place.  Compared to a desert, the valleys of the dundriago at least offer shade.  Water is available to anyone who is willing to descend a few hundred feet down, to where the taproots thicken and branch.  But the dundriago is not without its own dangerous fauna, such as the poisonous voles and enormous, psychic beetles.  

And although they are rare, the flying worms of the dundriago are the most famous inhabitant of the dundriago.  Popular knowledge has them cutting horses in half and flying off with men's heads.  (These stories, at least, are accurate.)

Written for Jeff Russell, who wanted lore for a big city in Centerra, and for Sam Passanisi, who wanted to know more about the Darklands.  Thanks for being my patrons!


  1. Incredible. Add the Dundriago to the list of strange Centerran ecosystems that I'll be sending my own players into.

  2. Flying Worm
    1d3 Appearing
    HD 5 Def leather Bite 1d12+snatch
    Fly as pigeon Int 4 Morale fierce

    Snatch: On a hit, the target must make a Dex check or have some item (weapon, helmet) snatched away. If the base damage was 1, their entire backpack is snatched away. If the base damage was 12, their head was snatched (instant death). Snatched items are swallowed.

    Once all the flying worms have snatched an item or been killed, they will return to their nests.

  3. Hell yeah, darklands lore is lovely! It's cool having a Crazy Place At the Top Of The World that isnt the usual riffs on ice and snow and vikings

  4. Borges would be proud.
    Also, maybe the druids aren't so crazy after all.

  5. "The northern boundary of Centerran maps is always a purple, equatorial landmass called the Madlands"

    Always? *Always*? Why does this word fill me with such dread? Does that imply that everywhere else is fluid and forsaken?