Monday, December 18, 2017

Moon City

Still thinking about my Zelda-inspired dungeon campaign.  (Here are six of the dungeons.)

The OSR seems to use cities as part of the adventure injection process.  They're full of hooks (or at least, intrusive things that are difficult to ignore), adversaries, tax-collectors, thieves, and escaped basilisks.  Cities tend to be uneasy places, only slightly less treacherous than dungeons.

In Zelda games, the hub city is none of those things.  They are safe places, where you restock with a minimum amount of fuss and then talk to everyone until someone tells you where to go next.  In that respect, they are as utilitarian as turning a crank.  

Towns in Zelda are also where sidequests tend to happen.  Talk to everyone, vandalize all the houses, and you tend to be given tasks, which range from tedious sidequests to inscrutable blue chickens that languish in your inventory until you buy a game guide from Wal-Mart.

I *do* want (at least part of Moon City) to be a safe haven, where players can rest and shop quickly and safely.  (Sorry, Gus.)

This will hopefully get players back out the city gates faster and with less fuss, so they can die in exotic locales.  

And of course, Moon City needs to be a labyrinth of quests and minidungeons.  (Honestly, discovering random, unnecessary minidungeons is one of my favorite parts of both Zelda and OSR games.)

Note: I'm probably too lazy to ever write all this in any detail.  Consider this an exercise in brainstorming, more than an actual to-do list.

from here

Under the principle of "people have a hard time remembering more than six things", there will only be a few districts.  Gatetown, Goldenclaw, Lavender Village, The Cones, Blackchapel, The Harbor.

There's also the Underground.

Each district will only have ~3 obvious landmarks.  (I've found that to be the sweet spot when it comes to figuring out how many objects I should stock this dungeon room with; hopefully it translates to city districts as well.)


This is the friendly little shantytown outside of the city walls.  This is the boring part, where you can sleep alongside farmers for a few coppers and buy basic equipment without hassle.  For everything else, you'll have to go into the city.

(Eh, I'm hesitant.  I might just nix Gatetown all together.)

Goldenclaw - Upper Class

Rich people!  Demonic bourgeoisie!  Dukes compete to build the tallest towers while also knocking down the towers of their rivals.  Imported hell-flora grows inside braziers full of glowing coals.  Cruelty competitions!  Game shows!  Butlers made into suits!  Orgies with succubi!  

Places where you can sell your body and be shunted into a cotter!  Places where you can buy a new body!  Places where you can sell your soul (and stop gaining XP as a result)!  Taste libraries for new poes!  Schools for poes, where naked adults who won't stop licking the table are taught how to take a shit.

Local gang: The Coxenhammers!  Rich kids who like to commit petty crimes because they're bored.  They dress in the newest fashions and breed giant, murderous fighting cocks.

Minidungeon: an insane party.  Invite only, but there are invites all over the place.  Let's put it on a pleasure yacht, in the middle of the river.

Another Minidungeon: Some aristocrat who wants to test you before hiring you.

Lavender Village - Middle Class Tradesmen

Before it was Moon City, it was a different place that had three sacred trees growing in it.  Each tree was supposed to be a goddess.  Supposedly, each one looked like a woman, or perhaps a woman's face.

The Moon King didn't like that, and ordered them all to be chopped down.

As soon as the first of the trees was felled, weeds and grass began choking the whole area.  A riot of plant life.

The Moon King said fuck that, we'll just seal them up then.  

And so a hasty vault was built around the trees, which was then covered with vegetation.  A very small, very dense forest grew there.  

And yes, you can cut down trees and burn weeds, but at a certain point it just wasn't worth it anymore.  An entire neighborhood was allowed to forest over.  There are a few shaggy demons that patrol it, in order to keep people away from the Sealed Sisters, but it's largely uninhabited.

Plants still grow there, though.  Lavender village grows a lot of herbs and perfume plants, such as lavender.  Perfumes are very in demand among the poes, who liberally drench themselves in the stuff.

There's a lot of craftsmen here, traders.  This is where the largest marketplace is.  

Duke Scaradine lives here, famous for turning his house into a wildlife preserve.  Apes lair in the attic.  Tigers stalk the gardens.  That sort of nonsense.

Local Gang: The Wolf Pack!  Animal-skin punks, fighting with claws and katars, pissing on walls to mark their territory.  Rumored to be led by an actual direwolf (a wolf that has grown huge and intelligent by eating enough sentient prey).

Minidungeons: Duke Scaradine's Gardens.  The Lavender Woods.  

The Cones - Magical Slums

Remnants of the much older city, built by the giants prior to human history.  Much of the district takes place inside enormous stone cones, each one several stories tall and only accessible through 1-2 choke points per cone (usually places where sappers excavated a hole).  

The inside of each cone is illuminated by glowing paint and enormous fireflies that the witches cultivate.  Each cone is filled with the shambles of Cyclopean architecture, sized for giants.  The cones are run by witches and warlocks, frequently nude except for neon bodypaint.  Enormous insects. A cabal of cursed spider-people will be your most likely allies in this place.

Living graffiti.  Strange-colored smoke emanating from the tips of the domes, dissipating into a luminous haze over the district.

The Salamandrine Bridge has been colonized by thousands of insect-level poltergeists.  Occasionally it animates, and it must be placated by the local shamans.  They usually herd it back to its original location, or close enough.

Local Gang: the Lotus Eaters.  Frequently accompanied by a lesser poltergeist (scared off by loud noises, everyone knows that).  Epees covered with hallucinogens.  Narcotic smoke bombs.  Teenagers too fucked up to know when they're dead.  Hyacinths sprout from their mouths within an hour of their death, harvested by their companions.

Minidungeons: The Sealed Cone.  A dungeon that only exists in a particularly potent hallucination.  Alternatively, everyone smokes black lotus, ejects their souls, possesses some insects, and then ventures into a tiny dungeon inside a Faberge egg, with the goal of unlocking the mechanism inside.

Blackchapel - Religious Slums

There was a mundane plague some years back, and so the entire district has been walled off.  There was also a problem with undead, and the walls were built higher.

The necromantic machinations were eventually traced back to the bishop by his paladins, who killed him at great cost.  A new bishop has not been sent.

It is still under quarantine.  In theory, it is forbidden to travel into or out of Blackchapel.  In practice, there are many points of ingress.

This is the corner where the Church has been relegated.  This is the tiny zone of the Pope's influence. 

It's also where you'll find paladins.  And I know the Church has been a morally ambiguous force throughout most of Centerra, but here they are most definitely the good guys.  Isolated underdogs, unable to act openly against a regime that they recognize and evil.  Priests wasting their years trying to take care of a city that barely notices them, and wouldn't thank them if it did.

The buildings are in terrible disrepair, and with the shanties collapsing under their own rot, lots of people have started living in the sprawling graveyard.  You'll find beggars living in crypts and old men farming turnips atop the graves.

Local Gang: The Skulls.  A bunch of youths who pretend to be undead.  They paint their faces white, rub chicken blood around their mouths, and pretend to be ghouls.  Cannibalism is reluctantly, timidly practiced.  They sleep in the cold ashes of their campfires up on cemetery hill.

There are real ghouls in Blackchapel.  They know about the Skulls and have taken a liking to them.  The ghouls sometimes leave small presents for the kids, and protect them on their noctural pretensions.

Minidungeons: The Sealed Hospital.  The Tomb of the Musicians.  The Laughing Crypt (which contains a wight--everyone knows that, and everyone knows to stay the fuck away).  The bottom of the well.

The Harbor - Nautical Slums

The jetties were also of giantish construction, and so you have these huge stone fingers sticking out into the ocean.  They're too high above the waterline for human-sized ships, and so all these smaller piers have to be built down off of them.  

There's also a bunch of refugee merfolk here, the lowest rung on the social ladder.  They aren't allowed to fish, and so you'll see them crawling through the streets, begging from deep puddles.  

You'll find families of them living in flooded basements, down among the roots and the cracked masonry.

Maybe there is a whole section of town built atop derelict ships.  That fits with the theme of a neglected metropolis.  The hulks.

Cults?  Sure.  Interspecies coupling?  Sure.  Abominable miscegenation?  I don't know--is Lovecraft's shadow that long?  Is the trope worth inverting?

Kingfishers lounge on the eaves.  At the command of a harbor-priest, they dive, spearing an accused thief through the heart.

The harbor keepers occasionally deal with the enormous eels that slither up out of the ocean and raid the fish stocks.  Thirty feet long and with a pharyngeal jaw.

Local Gang: The Hauler's Guild.  An actual guild that behaves like a gang, due to a large corpus of obscure bylaws and enough clout to enforce them.  

Minidungeons: Killing the giant psychic urchin hiding in plain sight..  The surprisingly deep pothole.  The shipwreck (available to parties who can breath water).  

The Sewers

A dungeon that connects the town but also a sort of treasure.  As you do favors for people, they'll teach you new points of travel.  Eventually you'll be able to travel across town safely (no wandering encounter checks).

Clearing certain areas will also give you places where you can disappear to, when you want a quiet corner.  

Sometimes a quiet room with a sturdy door is the best treasure of all.


For example: 

Goblin House -- Find the missing goblins (hidden all over the map) and escort the little critters back here.  For each goblin returned to their kin, you'll be rewarded with a goblin bomb.  Find all the goblins and you'll be rewarded with the Really Big Goblin Bomb.

+ 20 more.  Probably best saved for a later post.

Fuck it, maybe replace Gate Town with Goblin House. 


  1. Gatetown seems like a great opportunity for "safe in the early game, come back later and uncover the Horrible Secret" town. You know, horror by taking safe and familiar and making it sinister and menacing.

  2. The surprisingly deep pothole is the best dungeon idea I've heard all week.

    1. You're missing out if you didn't misread it as the 'surprisingly deep plothole.'

    2. I did that too. After the mention of a "psychic urchin" it seemed plausible.

  3. Just wanted to thank you for this as it's been the backbone impetus of my currently favoured selfbrew setting. :)