Friday, September 21, 2018

Worldbuilding: Vignettes from Carceral Place, and a rough table


some here are more isolated than others, their cells a good distance from the forums.

there is a banished scholar kept in an alcove inside a large domed chamber, the ground an alternating board of dark and light diamonds. the dome is large, and in the very center of it is a small dark circle. the scholar is found under this circle, looking up into it. 

very rarely this tiny circle, they say, shows pin pricks of light against the dark. they have looked at this for what must be years now. they have reasoned that this hole is an opening to the night sky, and the spots of brightness that fill it are celestial bodies.

they say the brightest one is the old world, the world all here have been taken from.


there is labor duty as well as watch duty. labor will involve dismantling bridges, sealing off passages, affixing blades and spikes to otherwise safe areas, arming booby-traps and preparing other hazards. If you are clever you will know of potential dangers, and might be able to sabotage them in advance. 


it is almost never quiet in this place, there are ceaseless echoes from hundreds of feet away in every direction. unexpected whispering galleries occur, faraway clangs of chain turn into bell tones, distant shouts become wordless tones.

the world around is built chaos too, an endless tangle of structure is dizzying. you have to learn to narrow their focus to avoid confusion.

imagine standing on a balcony that overlooks a series of arched bridges crossing at right angles, between that are narrow decorative archways, between them are also columns of various widths and heights. There are arcades you can see deep into, some duplicated with dead ends. There are blind arcades carefully carved to appear to have depth, and ledges carefully sloped to be useless and deadly.

This tangle continues both and and upward as far as your can eyes can peer in the dim light. Some areas are filled with large structures too, ziggurats and mausoleums, alcoves, basilica. Some immense columns are in fact structures, hidden stairwells and chimneys.

Chains and ladders hang just slightly out of reach, or reach just shy of where you would go. Things just far enough apart, or far enough away, to make drops and leaps into suicides without careful examination.


you may never be unwatched, as up and down in all directions there are ledges and hideaways where someone may be watching. This could be a benign fellow prisoner, or a scold noting your infractions.


those who refuse the food are changed. They become monsters worse than the pests, armored and many-limbed things that stalk the halls and wreak havoc.

This is the incentive to do as one is ordered while on watch or labor duty. The armors worn leave you unable to eat, which puts you at risk of having your humanity confiscated if you refuse to do your duty. Poor performance can lead to longer shifts, increasing this danger.


while wearing the armors of watch or labor you have no voice for other prisoners, but all the voices of those doing watch with you can be heard echoing inside the helmets, and you can be heard by them.

Very Rough Table

the basic premise of this place is that there's a potential way to go to almost every direction, but you'll need to "read" the structure to do it safely. You'll be doing everything in "dungeon turns" because of this, and can sort of map it as you go.

So, you are standing on an archway, and you want to go up. You spend one turn looking around to roll an Architecture check. If you succeed you roll on some tables. 

e.g. The Way Up
1. 1d4 x 5' away, across a chasm
2. on a column
3. down one level
4. 1d4 x 30' further down this way.
5. across a plaza
6. past a barred tunnel
1. a low chain to climb
2. a spiral stairwell
3. a wall with grippable stonework
4. a staircase
5.  a ladder
6. a cage on a pulley

1. to a ledge
2. to an alcove
3. to an arch
4. to a tunnel
5. to a plaza
6. to a column

So, there's a way up: a low chain to climb hanging only 5' away, it leads up to an alcove. You take turns jumping onto it and pulling yourselves up

Or there's a spiral stairwell on a column, it goes up to a plaza.

Or down one level is a staircase that goes up to another arch.

There will be difficulties too.

1. 1d6 x 2 Watch are there.
2. The stonework is crumbling
3. It is very dark.
4. There is a pest there.
5. It is tiny, with only room for one at the top.
6. It is a long distance.

So, you might see a wall with grippable stonework 120' down this archway, and it leads to a ledge. but, it's so tiny at that ledge that only one person can stand there at once.

Obviously you'll have several Prisoners checking at once, so you may end up with various routes. Choosing which route is best is what'll be interesting.

So, climbing up to that ledge will seems better than crossing that 10' chasm to reach a plaza with 6 Watch in it, even if that tunnel seems promising.

Some results lead to other tables (eg "how do we get across that chasm? how do we get down to that staircase?"). Not every result will be tenable either, but that won't be a journey-ending problem. You'll just have to keep moving, or go back a bit and try again.

You'll want to keep notes too, "go archways to the tunnel, climb down then follow the ledge. Past the fountain go into the alcove across the plaza. climb down to the courtyard full of moss and take the ladder up...". You'll need to repeat your journeys if you want to ever find a way out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Worldbuilding: The Watch in the Carceral Place

the carceral place wears down the spirit of the imprisoned with its unending cycles

the watch are one such consistent thing, while it is unpredictable where they'll be seen (and for how long) it is known that they always will be seen somewhere. it could be anywhere.

the silent watchmen are as permanent as the stones, just in a less fixed position.



a pair appeared on the other end of a drawbridge, one that gave you only a precious minute or so to gather up some flavorful red growths on that column it led to (otherwise, it was a dead end. a 10 diameter thing with a mere few-foot wide ledge for a walkway, with the bridge up you would be trapped, hopeless)

the growths on that column were a necessary toll for passage, the only way you would be permitted through that plaza, the one with the chain that hung just low enough for you to climb up to the archway leading away to a potentially useful stairwell.

or at least you thought as much.

it could not be said if these watchmen were placed there because it is true that the red growths you would use to cross the plaza to reach the archway were needed to reach a stairwell that would certainly lead to a way out from this place (at least eventually), as all prior sets of watchmen had impeded you reaching dead ends.

they may have simply appeared because you had been seen repeating this infraction too many times*, of leaving the plaza, crossing the drawbridge. gathering up red growths. it is all infractions, and their presence could be a mere punishment.

*it is known that you are not always watched in the carceral place, just that you always might be.

the watch are distinctive, unmistakable. their heads and faces are shielded, covered by grotesque helmets attached to shoulder and chest armors. this region of the carceral place presents its watch as mask-faces with crude, ugly expressions: these two smiled. they turned their chests and heads to face you. they are without speech.












watch are not often fast or agile (unlike the pests), as they are weighed down by the bulkier armor they can't remove, and often (as was the case with these) heavy armored robes.

Robe, Velvet, metal wrapped thread; embroidered


They carried simple weapons, staves with fat weighted heads, their purpose clear: they would clobber you, smash your skull and ribcage, toss you into the dark tangled abyss of structure below.

you reasoned that if you were able to push one off the edge with a good bash of some kind, and then not get tripped up by the other right after, it would then just be a matter of scraping off a bit of red growth as you moved around the column.

if you were able to get around and then back to the bridge without running into that second watch as  you did that, you would then easily outrun them.

this is what you would do then.

they readied their staves as the bridge lowered, and you pulled loose a cracked piece of stone ornamentation you had seen previously.

you heave the weathered knob into the solar plexus of the leftmost watch, and then you charge as they begin to tumble off the narrow column ledge from the blow. their bare arms and legs splay wildly as they appear to float off the edge of the architecture, their staff balancing for but a moment before joining them in the abyss as their robes ripple like sails.

they make no sound, but the second watch clangs their staff against the column, just above your head.

you rip out one handful of red growth, then two. you cannot see the watchman. you cannot hear them.

you wonder: would they have followed you around, or would they have turned face to charge you in a new direction?

you are certain they would not turn, and so you continue round the column.

and you see them, they are on the bridge. they did not follow you at all, and you are a fool, and the impact into your solar plexus is sudden and awful as the staff smashes you into the column before you crumple and fall into the dark as well. you barely take in breath before it is over.

and when you awake your breathing is far too loud.

your arms reach up and feel cold metal, and fumble over the integral locks that hold the grimacing helmet on your head when you find them. you arms are slowed too by armored robes, gaudy and worn down by time and many wearers. they smell like old sweat, the helmet like rust.

at first it was awful to take watch, excruciating. you would have wept, begged forgiveness if your voice could be heard. it is not like that anymore.

none ever speak of taking watch, since there is nothing to say. all here commit infractions, and so all at some time have taken watch. and shall again.

all here have thrown each other into the darkness, have cracked each others ribs and skulls. all here have been the cruel gargoyles watching over each others passage.

you understand that if you let them use your body for now and do as they will say they will at least not change it, or this will at least delay them changing it. at least this is understood, and so it is easy.

you will be able to eat and drink too, when the helmet is removed.

your infractions were not great today, and so you hope you will not be asked to do too much in penance.

though none will know that it was you, but it could of course be any one of you, and so it is always you.

and if you do this thing they ask of you they will let you return to your cell as you had died normally, without infractions. awaking as usual, barely clothed but without cruel assignments.

you listen for the creaking sounds of the many limbs of a warden as you rise up, testing the weight of the staff in one hand, and feeling a dent in the sternum of your armor with the other.