Towers & Blood: setting

Prendiparte_Tower_Bologna_9

Tower defense plus vampires, I mean, what’s not to like?!

This one I actually know it’s good, it’s been playtested! It was planned as a separate chapter on my last campaign, for 5 sessions, when my players had to “play the game”, so to speak, of the vampires ruling the city where they had to stay.

It served as change of scenery then, but I’m fully convinced that it can be a full-blown setting of its own, with a great tactical emphasis.

Overall idea

Vampires have many weaknesses aside their allergy to sunlight and one that is seldom seen in D&D, but that is nonetheless canonical, is the rather strange need to be invited before they can get in somebody’s home (forbiddance).

Take that and:

See the image above? That’s the city of Bologna in the Middle Ages.  Italy at the time was the most urban you could get and the local nobles, with these towers, made sure everybody knew who were the bosses. Owning a tower was a matter of prestige, but also crucial to control an area by might. So, indeed, towers everywhere.

Mix it:

Now imagine a city that is owned by vampires, say a few dozens of those bloodsuckers. The populace gives blood at the sunday mass, whatever. The vampires are the nobles. They each have a territory, of course, established by a notary (a very important profession) with a cadastre and all. Within these parcels of city they do as they please, feed whenever and from whoever they want, collect taxes and so on. But they can’t put a single step outside of what they own, unless specifically invited to do so (for a bal masqué maybe?). And what you own is firmly established by which towers you possess.

  • housings and people, are properties both
  • those are owned by the owner of the closest tower
  • a master vampire lives in a fortified mansion, which effectively acts as a tower for its surrounding area
  • the rules are enforced by a neutral party led by the Podestat, a vampire that come from another city

Tower defense

Being fiercely competitive creatures but also having a strong sense of self-preservation, the vampires have established a sort of equilibrium that rewards aggression without risking their precious untanned skin.

They can take a neighbor’s tower by force (or ruse), if they have the means, seizing in the process all properties that goes with it. But only by night. There’s an inverse couvre-feu, as it is.

Of course the vampires  (masters or spawns) can’t attack an enemy tower themselves, they’re not invited. That’s where minions, non-vampires, comes into play. But only resourceful agents (read PCs!) know success, for it is a very dangerous business overcoming a tower’s defense. The very best at this offer their services to the highest-bidders and can obtain great rewards (possibly becoming bloodsucking monsters themselves if so they wish). If they can survive the ceaseless schemes of their employers, that is.

Some more features

  • all matter of creatures are bound in the service of the vampires
  • towers are close enough  that their garrison can shoot with crossbow at each other
  • what about vampire hunters? PCs could decide to overthrow the city’s undead masters once they tire of working for them
  • there’s a vast maze of catacombs and sewers below that can be used to move or hide
  • organized religion turns around the concept of the sacred blood, given to the worthy so they could rule and protect the herd humans forever after

Damn I can’t find the map I did for this… Oh well, who cares, here’s a meme:

tumblr_ngi35uafeq1ql4e6oo1_500

 

Taverns, dives, pubs & cabarets of S&T

Da3_tavern

The Crooked Fingers

Owned by Old Mindy’s Crew

Fencer in the backroom.

Lechers & Liquors Club

Owned by Maffeo’s Unrepentants

Disreputable, even by Disgrace Ward standard.

The Blackened Teeth

Owned by the Sons of Arson

The most impressive fireplace in town.

Poporo’s Bordello

Live girls (and some dead ones)

Owned by independent, pay tax to Bonemongers

Poporo the Necro-Pimp owns this nefarious joint.

The Fleeing Beauty Boardinghouse

Owned by independent, pays “tax” to Sons of Arson and Fetid Brigade

Rent rooms on second and third floor. Fourth floor is off-limit.

The Pierced Barrel Pub

Owned by the Broken Wheel Syndicate

Best halfling brandy in town.

 

The Stray Bullet

Owned by the Broken Wheel Syndicate

Changed hands a couple of months ago. Ex-owner forcefully ousted.

The Red Orphan

Owned by the Furniture Mishandling Club

Expect mimics.

The Turtle Shell

Owned by independant, doesn’t seem to pay taxes to anyone

Inside the shell of a dragon turtle (big specimen). Neutral. Don’t wear gang colors.

A Pair of Bludgeons

Owned by Golden Râ, higher-up of the Church of Sempiternal Deprecation

Members only. Fat, greedy merchants talk business.

The Domain

Owned by the 77 Red Dragons

Non-ghouls will feel some unease. At the very least.

Up the Ladder

“Watch your step”

Owned by independent, doesn’t seem to pay anyone

Drunk clients are often lowered by rope so they don’t break their neck falling from the 90 steps ladder.

Busy Wheelbarrow

Owned by independent, pays tax to the Northwall Creepers

Offers a service of “transportation” back home. Efficient if not very comfortable.

The Hidden Atrium

Owned by the Hidden Atrium Masks

Hidden. Really.

The Hourglass Cabaret

Owned by the Hidden Atrium Masks

Managed by charming Madam Colombina. The most haut-de-gamme you can find in the district.

The Passage’s Hole

Owned by the Passage’s Middlemen

Surprisingly spacious once you’re in.

Dart & Dime Cafe

Owned by Fate’s Favorites

Have gambling tables. No cheating.

The Dryad’s Bosom

Owned by Fate’s Favorites

Good food, try the needlefish.

The Winning Cockatrice

Owned by the Marfark Street Mumblers

Fighting pit. All kind of fights. Floor is one big red stain. Bloodthirsty crowd.

Listing a Tyrant’s life

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

W.H Auden, Epitath on a Tyrant

When I first started thinking about S&T, I knew I wanted it to be political. I rapidly felt the need to have a kind of pendulum effect between two eras in the setting’s fake history: a strict authoritarian rule which would naturally be followed by a period of lawlessness and civil disarray. This leads me to some more (vague) thoughts:

  • some people are genuinely nostalgic about the period when there was stricter control and they forget or just don’t want to remember how it was so terribly oppressive
  • tyranny really is just around the corner, a few unfortunate events and a well-placed charismatic figure is all it takes
  • It’s all about scale,  local leadership is far more accountable
  • The absence of local leadership, be it forcefully removed or just lacking, is awfully detrimental to the people

13647v

The authoritarian rule I mentioned is in fact divided between three tyrants, one after another. I don’t yet feel the need (or I’m too lazy maybe) to be very precise about these characters as the actual play will be at a point further in time, but I have to create some modicum of lore about them. Could come in handy.

So here’s a list of quirks I can use to flesh out these tyrants. I’ll keep the fantasy stuff for another time.  I didn’t invent anything new really, just stole eccentricities from a bunch of dead dudes (thank you Muammar Gaddafi, you’re malignant life helped my purpose).

The Tyrant has:

  1. burned down part of the city to make some space for a project of his.
  2. a harem with dozens of multiracial concubines.
  3. the habit of staging fake combat/sport/art performances where he can demonstrate his rather mediocre skills.
  4. female bodyguards in very alluring attires.
  5. written a treatise on proper behavior that is now set in stone everywhere.
  6. orchestrated a massacre of a minority group.
  7. the deep conviction that his people loves him, even with a rebellion raging all around.
  8. taken all of his armies in one big convoy to show off at a neighboring power’s frontier before going back.
  9. built a 50′ statue of himself.
  10. built a 50′ statue of his favorite pet animal.
  11. been pleased that the people chant whenever they see him.
  12. claimed that he received mandate from the gods.
  13. demanded that be erased all things concerning a famous hero.
  14. claimed to be the rightful successor of a famous hero.
  15. the habit of keeping exotic/dangerous pet animals.
  16. one or more secret prisons, nobody knows what happens inside.
  17. a few delusional pet theories that he likes to share in long-winded public speeches.
  18. the habit of receiving young virgins at least once a week.
  19. banned a long list of goods that he personally dislikes.
  20. a favorite sport team that doesn’t seem to be able to lose no matter how bad they play.
  21. a crush on a well-known beauty. She fled in exile.
  22. large portrays of him on the buildings of the city. Its a capital offense to put graffitis on them.
  23. the monopoly on a luxury good. It used to be available, now it’s his.
  24. once ordered a man to be executed. He didn’t chant with the crowd.
  25. once ordered a man to be executed, he wore a hat that was more ornate than his.
  26.  once ordered a man to be executed. He coveted the man’s wife. She killed herself.
  27.  once ordered a man to be executed, he was way too ugly.
  28. once ordered a man to be executed, he remembered him of someone.
  29. once ordered a man to be executed, he was his best friend.
  30. once ordered a man to be executed but then felt generous. He commuted the sentence to prison for life. The man was never seen again.
  31. built an extensive tomb to be buried with riches and his entire staff of (killed) servants.
  32. a bath made of gold.
  33. an artificial lake excavated in order to please his favorite concubine.
  34. often said that he doesn’t hold any power. The people have power. He’s merely the Guide.
  35. spies everywhere. Watch your words.
  36. no trust for spies. Not one bit.
  37. secretly helped the rebels organize so that he could better crushed them.
  38. named his half-wit older brother to the office of Minister of Public Health.
  39. banished his youngest son after a failed attempt on his life. He loves him very much.
  40. always consulted oracles before taking his most important decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

A setting best forgotten-I: Cargo Cult Adventures

Okay, I’m gonna cheat with my own rules (not that anyone cares) and get it out of my head– some stuff unrelated *gasp* with Streets&Turmoil. Another damn setting… That, may I add, I won’t ever have time to try (maybe that’s for the best).

Cargo Cult Adventures

Here’s how it goes.

First, Cargo Cults is something from real life: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult, and not so surprisingly, it’s weirder than most fantasy stuff we can find.

So Cargo Cults, in short, turns around a myth device invented by insular and low-tech societies that believe that foreign goods (strange and magical as thay appear to be) really should be theirs to own and, in fact, would be theirs if only they’d demonstrate the proper behavior to earn it. That means adopting the same “rituals” that seem to work so well for the foreigners,  which includes building planes, airport strips,  having military parades and such, but, huh, using wood and hay instead of anything else.

cargo-cult-airplane

So based on that weird premise, how about adventures? What if the cargo cults weren’t that delusional? What if planes are indeed sent purposefully by the gods. every now and then, to bring otherwise unavailable goods to the faithful? The gods are generous indeed, but you know, maybe a little bit fickle? So inconveniently the gifts from the sky are bound to land miles away in the dangerous jungle…

It starts with a myth-dream

Of course it does.

0899177b000012371a8b59a0e54dbab4

The nutjob- I mean-  the Seer of your small jungle village had another vision:   “Behold,  a holy gift from the sky from the Great Douglas C47A! I’ve seen it falling slowly, like a feather, and landing somewhere err, near a high cascade! and… I’ve seen a cave too, dark and deep, and… ugh! scaly, fierce monsters… But don’t you worry, the ancestors will help you on this quest. You youngsters, must find the shipment! Go! And don’t you dare come back empty-handed…”

cargo-cult-1

There you go for the MacGuffin. Explore, fight some nasties and find the treasures. Should work well on a hexcrawl too, methink.

Also, rival tribes compete to find the precious shipments and violence isn’t out of the equation.

Strange shipment

Could be anything, from the seemingly useless, to powerful high-tech/magical stuff. But even the prior would bring prestige to a tribe that manage to bring it home.

 

 

 

 

 

Fate’s Favorites

They always seem to have the upper hand against their rivals. Is Fate really on their side, as they claim?

The Fate’s Favorites’ members can be recognized by the blue feathers they wear on their yellow bandanas. About half of its members are hobgoblins,

A minor clique of the Hydra before the latter’s demise,  the Fate’s Favorites are now clearly on the rise and are attracting new recruits every day.

076721ba7798af1bfa98a3bcb8e00544--watercolor-tattoo-feather-feather-painting

Situation

After beating down a few rival gangs and making some alliances, the Fate’s Favorites are indeed in a favorable position. Recruitment is going well and a  clique (the Inheritors) has been started to test the mettle of the newish prospects.

Gang activities

  • extortion
  • protection racket
  • intimidation
  • prostitution
  • augury services

Most noteworthy members

Udulkalam the Magnificient (leader, hobgoblin male):

407ed2052fb674fa688e519541817740

The eccentric leader of the Fate’s Favorites have known many shifts in fortune in his life. Worshipped as a hero at a time and hunted by virtually everyone at another, he’s always been a controversial figure. A rival once said that Udulkalam has two personalities – both of them evil. Now, his star is shining brightly yet again. But for how long?

Sigamil “The Stare” (hobgoblin male)

78500c9d0af69bd5fd0dda8835ac7781

Udulkalam’s younger brother, Sigamil had have his life pretty much decided for him since his youth. Not that he minds, but it did give him a very unconcerned approach to… well, everything.

Haradlugal “Most Opportune” (hobgoblin male)

6a435e3c0e93108668c40e8fbc21f437

Udulkalam’s nephew, Haradlugal made sure since the beginning that he does not look like he’s benefited in any way from his lineage. His usefulness to the gang as been proven time and time again, with jobs mostly on the dirty side of morality.

Loom To’har “Inconvenient Truth” (dwarf)

390577c647cd347b5b94e2ba7364f3f5

Equally dangerous with his hands and wits, Loom To’har is a long-time associated of Udulkalam and an expert blackmailer. He often boasts that his threats are never empty.

Yaadida “Serene Bloodshed” (hobgoblin female)

5fce6847fc04602645acecee90ffc386

Serene Bloodshed Yaadida long tought that she would have been happier being born a male, or more precisely: a big hulking brute of a male. But having beating to pulp quite a few of those overconfindent fools have changed her mind on the subject…

 

 

Quick chronology of S&T

That’s DM stuff, which probably means it’s boring stuff… 

First era: The Benevolent Rule

  • 0- Founding of the City by order of the Last Emperor. Dwarves, Elves, Hobgoblins and Humans, in roughly equal parts, takes part in the building above the ruins of an ancient site.
  • 14- Canals are restored. Docks of Lowtown are connected with core of the City.
  • 17-19- Tritons’ Blockade.
  • 23- Dwarves Riots.
  • 31- Edict of the Mark is promulgated. Criminals transformed into Tieflings upon a second offense.
  • 34- The Djinni’s Plot: attempt to murder the Last Emperor fails.
  • 48- Gnolls War. Gold Dragon Splendid Hegemony intervenes on behalf of the City and helps repel the invaders.
  • 57- Last Emperor issues Edict of Forgiveness: Tieflings in Exile are welcomed back in the City.
  • 62- Series of earthquakes known as Srin-Mo’s Discomfort. Consctruction of the Great Sewer begins.
  • 68- The sycophants’ Plot: doppelgängers are discovered in the Last Emperor’s entourage.
  • 72- Last Emperor signs the Entente with the halfing diaspora. Many Halflings settles in the City, in Wheeltown.
  • 77- The Last Emperor dies. He admits to 3 critical failures with his final words (of which only two are widely known).

 

  • 78- Elves of six noble Houses build massive walls around their District now known as the Enclave.
  • 91- Draughts and Famine.
  • 100- Plague of the Century. Ghouls packs roam the streets.

Second Era: the Three Tyrannies

  • 102- Mogadon elected as Lord Mayor. He will be remembered as the Bloodthirster
  • 105- Creation of the Sanction, a force of Beholders upholding the Law.
  • 112- Red Orphan’s rebellion.
  • 124- Mogadon is killed by a tyrannicides’ cell.
  • 146-151 The Purge: tyrannicides kill each other
  • 157- Year of Chains. Second Tyrant Skrogamax begins his rule. He will be remembered as the Mad Architect.
  • 159-167- District the Folly is built above the eastern marshes.
  • 172- Skrogamax dies. Obulazon, his former advisor, becomes Third Tyrant. He will remembered as  Lord Longshadow.
  • 178- Rebellion of the Hydra: cut one head and two more is a reference to the tenacity of the rebels.
  • 179- Hydra rebels kills the Third Tyrant.

Third Era: Gangdom

  • 181- Despite the wishes of some of its leaders, the Hydra fails to disband and establishes itself as the ruling entity of the Five Stones District.
  • 185- Meenlocks Surge: the Puulchusera elves are to blame with their corrupting magic. They leave the Enclave in shame.
  • 191- Hydra’s “godfather” dies, the resulting power vacuum leads to turmoil in the Five Stones.
  • The Retribution: vigilantes attack Hydra members.
  • 194- The Hydra Gang collapses, numerous smaller gangs takes its place.
  • 197- Present.

The Scramble

 Weak but numerous. Hit-and-run experts. Vicious. Expendables. Yeah, well… Goblins!

The Scramble was first created as a cooperative of lowly Goblins courriers, running around the district with their packages, trying to make it in one piece. The Hydra gang came to rely on the Scramblers as it began its downward spiral and thus could not properly do its drug distribution itself.

b56c01a1d6ab6535d1b8c6a6d31102b11442279946

Situation

The Hydra’s demise sort of left the Scramble pretty much in control of a large share of the drug market. Of course the other gangs would like a slice of the pie, but they’ll have to catch the fleet-footed Goblins first!

Gang activities

  • drug-selling
  • courriers

6406e0e50a82d6face7cddfece6242a5

Most noteworthy members

Brudok “No Refund” (leader) 

“No Refund” is probably the most well-known Goblin of the district. Influential Goblins are not that common and “No Refund” is the real deal. From uniting these ragamuffins in a competent, money-making crew, to creating a (mostly) respected gang of Goblins, “No Refund” is a hero in the eyes of his underlings.

Zeegak “The Expeditious Knock-Out”

Zeegak is now infamous for his boldness. His favorite tactic is to activate his expeditious retreat tattoo spell to attack full-speed a surprised foe.

Gorool “Wall-Passer”

The number two of the Scramblers is the cautious and stealthy Gorool Wall-Passer. He’s also the primary envoy for major deals.

Nikuk “Death by Darts”

“Death by Darts” is the chief-enforcer of the Scramblers, when fleeing is not an option.

Pravik “Third Hand”

A prankster and bon-vivant, Third-Hand is nonetheless one of the most competent Scrambler. His ability to fool others wiht his creative illusions have saved the skins of his fellow gangsters in more than one occasion.