Who says mythic underworlds have to be dark and unpleasant? The underworld of Patala in Hindu cosmology is described as more luxurious than celestial heavens. It's the abode of various clans of Asuras and nagas. The sage Narada says of it in the Vishnu Purana:
"What," exclaimed the sage, "can be compared to Pátála, where the Nágas are decorated with brilliant and beautiful and pleasure-shedding jewels?"
There, its described as more like another plane in D&D terms, or at least a fairyland. The Bhagavata Purana keeps in definitely subterranean (though it does use a word for it that cna be translated as "planet"):
"Below that world there is Pâtâla, the world of the master snakes...Most addicted to material happiness they all live with the shortest temper. They have five, seven, ten, a hundred or a thousand hoods, with on their crests fixed the most valuable gems the effulgence of which disperses the vast darkness of the caves of Pâtâla."
So a subterranean ream lit by the light of all the jewels worn and used in construction? Sounds like the sort of place adventures would want to visit. Of course, they have to contend with the material wealth loving demons, ghosts, and snakes that live there.
I don't see any reason dungeons (in the D&D sense) have to be so, well, dungeon-like. If they're opulent, but no less deadly, adventures have even more reason to go there.
Over at the Dungeon of Signs Gus L has released the Player Manual Part 1 Combat and Exploration for his HMS Apollyon game. Gus has really put some thought into what procedures aid and abet a good dungeoncrawl, and this manual is full of his thought and experimentation. Lots to steal. Check it out.
In the Sanguine Desert, the tribes revive the ancient war machines with blood sacrifices and whip themselves to frenzy with howling music and liquor made from the half-clotted ichor siphoned from the machines' lines. Sometimes an Iron Warlord rises, making a pact with a fierce machine, and leads the tribes to sack and pillage cities.
One can still traverse the Wastes, but the old astral road becomes ever more Unreal. A fleet matagot is the swiftest and surest way to go, but agree on the price beforehand, for matagot's are always ravenous at the end of a long journey.
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.
Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil(1981)
(Dutch: De Legende van Yggdrasil)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Kelvin Gosnell
The Azurian War is overed and peace reigns. Storm and Ember are bored. Storm is an astronaut, not a leader, but as a figure in the revolution he's saddled with responsibilities. After showing off in an ancient airplane just earns him a lecture from a councilor, Storm decides to try for Jupiter's Great Red Spot and see if he can return to his own time.
Ember wants to go to, but Storm worries it's too dangerous and she would be out of place in the past, so he sneaks off to go without her. He steals a spacecraft only to find Ember has stowed away aboard!
The two fly into the red spot. The intense gravitational forces knock Ember out and threaten to do the same to Storm--and then destroy the ship. When he can't take any more, Storm activates the automated reverse trajectory to return them to earth.
The ship has been damaged and the chances of landing safely are slim, but they have no choice. Storm's piloting skill keeps them from burning out but the landing is far from an easy one. After the crash, everything is silent. Strange watchers look on from a distance:
On 5e Land of Azurth game continued yesterday with our heroes deciding to investigate the large and mysterious sinkhole in the nearby village of Huggson. After suitably gearing up for such an endeavor the group made their way to the town. They found the villagers building a fence around it as they reported the lose of a heard of goats and two drunken farmers to the 20 foot wide maw.
They waited until night to make the descent themselves as they wanted to see the strange oscillating colors of light that seem to project from an unseen source deep within the hole. The after tying their rope off to a stout tree and rigging a block and tackle, they went in. They found that some the sides sloped away and they were climbing in darkness with still no bottom in sight. Even stranger, they discovered that the deeper they went the slower things fell. Near the end of their rope it was almost as if an object was falling through water.
They went back to the surface got more rope and bought a chicken to experiment further. None of that experimentation led to much of anywhere, other than to prove a chicken could "fly" at least until it got tired in the weird gravity of the hole. Ultimately, three daredevil party members jumped. Not wanting to be left behind the holdouts Kairon and Shade eventually followed suite.
The group fell for a long time at a slow rate. Eventually, they passed through an opening into a new sky, passed the too bright but not warm orb of a sun orbited by crystalline lens of color, they cast the light into a new shade as they passed. They fell or floated toward onion-shaped crystalline structures arranged like a series of small towns.
When they landed with only a slight hurt for all they distance, they were accosted by people they initially thought were all wearing hats, but turned out to be humanoid mushrooms. They accused the party of assaulting them from the air. Apparently, some of their buildings had been damaged in the "rains of rock and meat" that had come before.
The Sovereign of the Matangoos (as they were called) convened his elders to decide what to do with the strangers. The options seem to be kill them and throw them in the Spawning Garden (where the hapless goats and farmers must have gone) or toss them in the Black Pit. The party searches for another option, first hitting up the stoner Matangoo wizards, Gweeg, for information, then deciding on a engineering regime change: it seems the current Sovereign had been purposely be delaying the transfer of power to the now fully grown new Sovereignm who was still sleeping in the Spawning Garden.
After killing a few guards, they made it to the Garden and awakened the new Sovereign, Her first act to was kill the old ruler and return his spores to the ground. Her second was to convene her council. The party's hopes were dashed when she too ordered them to the Black Pit.
It turns out the Black Pit isn't so bad, just a cave in the side of the mountain that forms the curious wall of this weird world. They passed through it, leaving the Matangoos behind and enter an idyllic looking valley. Idyllic, except for the crashed pulp rocketship at its center...
A follow up on Friday's post. These aren't actual stories from comics, but pastiches of the sort of thing that does show up.
1. A madman seeks a golden disk to bring life to colossal automaton, an ancient weapon of war, that lies half-buried in a remote desert.
2. A city under seige! Legend holds a magic gem will restore to life the mummy of the cities demigod founder. His body lies in a crypt in deep within the city's catacombs.
3. The jungle-choked ruins of an ancient city surround a vast, walled garden, an earthly paradise, inhabited by beautiful, golden-skinned youths. The brutish beast-folk that dwell in the ruins will let no stranger enter the garden, nor any of the garden's inhabitants leave.
4. An arboreal village of elfs is harassed by pale, giant bat riding goblins from a cave high on a nearby mountainside, who raid the village for victims for their cook-pots.
5. A PC has a rare trait that fits a prophecy--a prophecy predicting the downfall of a tyrannical ruler, who means to ensure it does not come to pass.
6. A lake of lurid, swirling mists where time becomes strange. At it's center is an island with a castle where an immortal witch queen dwells with her eternally youthful handmaidens. No one comes to the witch's castle without being summoned.
7. A playing piece from the game of the gods falls to earth, perhaps accidentally or at the whim of a capricious godling. This touches off a race to acquire the piece with the rat-men minions of one sorceror contesting with the shadow demons of a cambion child--and the PCs caught in the middle.