(On watching a Komodo dragon eat a live chicken).
The three of us were sitting ashen faced as if we had just witnessed a foul and malignant murder. At least if we had been watching a murder the murderer wouldn't have been looking us impassively in the eye as he did it. Maybe it was the feeling of cold unflinching arrogance that so disturbed us. But whatever malign emotions we tried to pin on to the lizard, we knew that they weren't the lizard's emotions at all, only ours. The lizard was simply going about its lizardly business in a simple, straightforward lizardly way. It didn't know anything about the horror, the guilt, the shame, the ugliness that we, uniquely guilty and ashamed animals, were trying to foist on it. So we got it all straight back at us, as if reflected in the mirror of its single unwavering and disinterested eye.
-Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See
From the Inside Out...The public spaces of a Drow city are, for the most part, safe. Leave them and walk into a building and you enter a world of elegance and madness. Every room is perfect. Every surface is beautiful. Nothing makes sense. The buildings are a maze; the maze is a trap. The Drow are everywhere, smiling, going about their inscrutable, sleepless lives, as if you were a cat or a small child who had wandered into a bank or a bakery.
You can explore the public rooms freely, keeping the Drow Consipiracy in mind, but you may need to slip behind an illusory wall or through an invisible door to reach the secret rooms.
You could also stumble into a Drow building directly from the Veins. Turn a corner and find a bedchamber. Three naked Drow lie entwined, staring at you with faint, placid amusement. The Drow always seem to be on the verge of sex, but never quite there, as if they'd just undressed. Eternal, sensual foreplay. Not with you (never with you), but possibly at you.
Generate room exits and entrances as per the cave rules in Veins of the Earth.
|1||Cathedral. Cruciform, with downward-sloping arms. Soft sound of water, unseen.|
|2||Bone garden. Thousands of skeletons, chased in silver, posed as they were in life. No labels.|
|3||Bed Chamber. White silk. 2d4 Drow entwined, moving slowly, like coiled snakes.|
|4||Pit. Apparently bottomless. Smooth rim, sloped inwards dangerously.|
|5||Hall. Spikes of stone, curled like hair. 2d4 Drow, in discussion.|
|6||Bath Chambers. Steam and heated oil. 2 Immaculate Slaves removing oil from 1 Drow.|
|7||Cathedral. Spherical. Abstract statues, like melted wax or boiling marble.|
|8||Bed Chamber. Huge ornate silk bed completely soaked in blood. Way, way too much blood.|
|9||Bath Chambers. Rice-paddy fields of milky-white water. Clouds of steam. 2d10 naked Drow.|
|10||Processional Hall. Hanging bright silk banners with sigils. Like wandering through a clothesline.|
|11||Viewing Gallery. Overlooking another room. 1d4 Drow, drinking wine.|
|12||Bath Chambers. Monstrously deep cylinder of water, ice cold. 2d10 naked Drow.|
|13||Rose Garden. A stadium-sized field of roses. No path through. White lanterns high above.|
|14||Throne Room. Marble throne, long silk banners, deep shadows and moving lights. 1d4 Drow.|
|15||Bed Chamber. Hammocks of silk hung from silver trees. 1d4 Drow, lounging.|
|16||Hall. Narrow, humid. Fingers of stone reach out from the walls. Frozen, but eerie.|
|17||Canyon. Too tall to be a hall. Smooth, water-polished walls, blue-grey, striated. No lights.|
|18||Illusion Hall. Surface wilderness at night. Beautiful desolation. In the far distance, flames.|
|19||Folding Room. Triangular, unless a Drow is in it. Then, square, with a hidden door.|
|20||Stairway. Branches like a tree. High ceiling. A stream of water flows down a carved channel.|
|21||Heated Hall. Painfully hot. Behind glass doors. In the shimmering haze, 1d10 Drow, dancing.|
|22||Rose Garden. Terraces with roses above you. A thin, winding path. It rains rose petals.|
|23||Bed Chamber. Pyramid of cushions in a stone hollow. 1 Drow posing or resting, perfectly still.|
|24||Illusion Hall. Rain. A false, perfectly even rainstorm, with false clouds. 1d4 naked Drow.|
|25||Temple. Two silver domes, one on the floor, one on the ceiling. Blood drips between them.|
|26||Processional Hall. 4 Immaculate Slaves carrying a carved stone box full of silver ingots.|
|27||Memento Room. Strange, macabre, polished things suspended in glass.|
|28||Cathedral. Spiraled, like a broken spine. Abstract glass, multicoloured light, but tinted red.|
|29||Dagger Room. Some displayed, some tossed carelessly, but forming a pleasing exhibit.|
|30||Dining Room. Long table, curved like a horn. No food or utensils.|
|31||Rose Garden. Pits of roses, like craters. Each one has a white lamp on a silver pole.|
|32||Throne Room. Obelisk throne, dozens of smaller thrones in a ring. 1d4 naked Drow, lounging.|
|33||Viewing Gallery. 2d10 Immaculate Slaves labour or exercise pointlessly, watched by 2 Drow.|
|34||Long Hall. Dotted with small rose-pits and silver lanterns on chains. Slight vertigo-inducing curve.|
|35||Waterfall Room. Pillars of glass-like water, falling smoothly. No spray, next to no noise.|
|36||Drawing Room. Two Drow, sitting in high-backed chairs, silently contemplating a small statue.|
|37||Illusion Room. Hall with a false sky. Overcast, shimmering, grey. No rain, but dew. 1d4 Drow.|
|38||Memento Room. Natural objects suspended on wires. Teeth. A single hair. A leaf. A crown.|
|39||Illusion Room. Light. Pure, solid white light. Behind an iron iris-door. 1 Drow, eyes closed, waiting.|
|40||Sphere Gallery. Terraced. Spheres on plinths; silver, bone, crystal, occultum, love, lies. No labels.|
|41||Illusion Gallery. A stone forest with white illusory birds, white leaves. Disorienting.|
|42||Poison Room. 4 beautiful victims on cold slabs, with 4 vials of poison. 1 Immaculate Slave.|
|43||Throne Room. Silver throne, delicate, almost floats. 1d4 Drow and 1d4 Immaculate Slaves.|
|44||Hall. Wide, folded, asymetric, rippled. Small pools of warm water.|
|45||Chasm. A narrow bridge across. Endless rain of rose petals into the darkness below.|
|46||Hall. Teardrop-shaped, filled with a spiral of silk. 1d4 Drow, conversing, watching.|
|47||Bed Chamber. Raft-like beds floating on a shallow, calm lake. 1d4 Drow on one raft.|
|48||Bathing Room. Hot water covered in rose petals. 1 Drow floats, impossibly light.|
|49||Platform Stair. A giant staircase made of glass lilypads, but with missing steps.|
|50||Viewing Gallery. 1d4 Drow watch 1 Immaculate Slave artistically drown a tank of black oil.|
|51||Immaculation Chamber. Winding archives. Asymetric sliding glass drawers full of skin. No labels.|
|52||Poison Room. Scalloped, with branches. Dusts, powders, and paints that can kill.|
|53||Illusion Room. A starscape, in three dimensions. Difficult to find the door once you enter.|
|54||Immaculation Chamber. Throne-like seat with magnifying lenses for checking eye colour.|
|55||Spell Chamber. Precariously placed, reached by half-real paths and bridges. Spells for murder.|
|56||Silver Storage. Small, many-chambered room. Silver ingots of varying grades of perfection.|
|57||Slave Cavern. Long, steep slope to a processing pit. 1d6 slaves trapped on the slope, unable to rest.|
|58||Silk Room. Utterly dark. Silver trays filled with rose petals, hanging. Moths, fluttering, searching.|
|59||Immaculation Chamber. Bowled, with galleries. Surgical instruments and tables. Ice cold.|
|60||Treasure Room. Curved like a horn. Stone casks with fire opals inside. Warm, shimmering.|
|61||Storehouse. Stone casks of food. Meat, salt, spices. Stacked like a mad child's puzzle box.|
|62||Spell Chamber. Behind eight locks (iron, bone, silver, thorn, silk, blood, light, cold). Wands, skulls.|
|63||Twisting Hall. Gravity is not quite right. Winds like a ribbon. Floating red lanterns.|
|64||Nursery. 1d4 Drow children in a maze of glass and mirrors.|
|65||Immaculation Chamber. For cleaning. A forest of metal snakes, softly moving.|
|66||Storehouse. Like a rainbow tsunami, frozen. Bales of silk, neatly sorted, yet precarious.|
|67||Immaculation Chamber. Vats, beautiful glass tracery, full of liquid tendon, bone, oil, and fat.|
|68||Poison Room. Glass cages and illusory habitats. 1d6 horribly venemous creatures.|
|69||Gem-Cutting Room. Curved, like a shell. 1 Drow, 1d4 Immaculate slaves, and riches.|
|70||Immaculation Chamber. Terraced. Glass pods filled with opaque grey liquid. Things move inside.|
|71||Silk Room. Low, long. Vats, silver. Boiling water and silkworms. 1d10 Immaculate Slaves.|
|72||Treasure Room. Narrow, winding. Hundreds of vials full of condensed memories.|
|73||Simulacrum Room. Low, twisted. Small stone casks, faintly humming. 1d4 Drow, moving slowly.|
|74||Slave Cavern. 1d6 naked slaves, sedated, soaking in pools of opaque milky oil. No lights.|
|75||Silk Room. Vast, columned. Dozens of looms, working in perfect, eerie silence. 1d4 Drow.|
|76||Poison Room. A silver garden. Poisons to kill every feeling: rage, grief, madness. Unlabelled.|
|77||Immaculation Chamber. It looks like this room can be flooded. It isn't, currently. Smells of lye.|
|78||Silk Room. Twisted like a spine. Banks of silver trays full of rose petals, stacked, waiting.|
|79||Immaculation Chamber. One instrument to read dreams, a second to read the concious mind.|
|80||Dye Room. Small, uneven, precarious. Delicate glass bottles on thin silver stands.|
|81||Drawing Room. Two Drow, sitting in high-backed chairs, silently contemplating a fresh heart.|
|82||Illusion Room. Horrible, yet beautiful. The inside of a heart, pulsing, red.|
|83||Display Hall. Something unique, perfect. A small pool of moonlight. A dragon's bones.|
|84||Immaculation Chamber. Staircase, descending. Banks of icy coffins. Locked very tightly.|
|85||Lantern Room: Spherical, with a pyrimidal stack of empty lanterns in the middle.|
|86||Immaculation Chamber. Cold, narrow. Long drawers full of fingers, from fetal to gnarled, in order.|
|87||Slave Cavern. 2d100 naked slaves, sedated, scrubbed clean, sorted. 10 Immaculate Slaves.|
|88||Chain Room. Low, cold, sunken. Spools of iron and silver chain, all sizes.|
|89||Silk Room. Arched, vast. Silver trays full of rose petals and silk worms, softly chewing.|
|90||Alchemical Garden. Dozens of white lanterns and cases of rare plants. 1d4 Immaculate Slaves.|
|91||Poison Room. Black, with black stone vials. Liquified nightmares and tools to extract more.|
|92||Immaculation Chamber. Bulbous, asymetric. Silver cylinders full of liquid. Preserved organs inside.|
|93||Nursery. 1d4 Drow children playing with 1 Immaculate Slave. Grey silk and blood.|
|94||Immaculation Chamber. Cold, small. Surgical slab with mysterious indentations.|
|95||Slave Cavern. 2d100 bodies, dismembered, drained, carefully arranged for sale.|
|96||Poison Room. Spiralled, like a shell. Fangs coat the walls. Each one is from a different creature.|
|97||Occultum Storage. Hidden, warm. Sheaves of occultum disks in silk wrappers. 1 Immaculate Slave.|
|98||Treasure Room. Crowns, in a heap, pleasingly arranged like a skull or a flower or both at once.|
|99||Immaculation Chamber. 1 sedated slave with no skin, carefully being examined by 1 Drow.|
|100||Spell Chamber. Guarded by ghosts and illusions. Spells to wake and control stone and water.|
Immaculate SlavesThe Drow seem to prefer not to work. They have people for that.
Immaculate Slaves are made from beautiful, healthy captives. They are polished by magic and surgery. Every visible flaw and defect is removed. They are living statues. Blank eyed - the Drow peel away all the unnecessary parts of the mind - but graceful, elegant. You might mistake them for elves if the Drow, the true mark of perfection, were not always close by. Next to them an Immaculate Slave is merely... well-formed.
Inside, they are riddled with tumours, grafted parasites, and alchemical pockets. Few live longer than a decade. But on the outside, they are truly beautiful. Their faces are like masks. They never speak.
The Drow capture slaves. It takes dozens or hundreds to make one Immaculate Slave, but nothing less could possibly be acceptable. The remains are sold or used elsewhere; everything is valuable in the Veins. The Olm are favoured slaves; their low metabolism and otherworldly bodies require little improvement. Other races are more difficult, but all are present. They wear what their masters want them to wear; costly silks and gold or nothing.
One final note: Immaculate Slaves have no souls. Their souls are elsewhere, stored in casks until the slave's body perishes. Hostages, a means of control, or just convenience; who can say? When the body dies, the souls become fuel for the red lanterns, slowly evaporating, casting a steady, unnatural light.
Loot and Standard Trade Goods1. Meat. 2gp per ration. The Drow only accept silver and occultum.
2. Silk. Grades ranging from astonishing to near-divine. Pay any amount. It's worth 5x as much on the surface.
3. Murder. The Drow will kill someone for you, provided they live in the Veins or you have a piece of their hair or flesh. The negotiation process could take days. It might be free, it might be expensive, they might frame you, they might stab you. And when you leave you won't be sure that they actually understood you and accepted. They sometimes don't.
4. Poison. 2gp per dose. The Drow always know what kind of poison you need.
5. Healing. See wretched bargain below. Sometimes free, sometimes everything you own. Usually the latter.
Drow SpellsAll Drow are spellcasters and know 2d6 of the spells listed below.
1. Mind Blindness.
R: 100' T: creature D: [sum] varies
Target creature is blind for the spell's duration. They will refuse to admit they are blind, and confabulate lies, explanations, and justifications for their behavior. They are rational in all other respects. This spell is considered to be crueler than true blindness. The Drow often inflict it on illusionists; the results are spectacular and fatal. The target may Save at the end of each duration interval to negate the effects. 1 [dice]: minutes, 2 [dice]: hours, 3 [dice]: months, 4 [dice] years.
2. Soul Vision
R: 0 T: self D: [sum] minutes
Target can see souls up to 100' away, even in perfect darkness. Things the souls are obsessed with will also be visible.
3. Tactile Illusion
R: 50' T: point D: [sum] minutes. If [sum]>12, permanent..
A perfect illusion appears. The illusion feels like the real creature or object and behaves realistically, but it cannot deal damage. The temperature of the illusion can vary between freezing and boiling. Many illusionist wizards would kill for an example of a spell so potent; the surface world has pale mockeries compared to this. The maximum size of the illusion depends on how many dice are invested in the spell: 1 [dice]: human-sized, 2 [dice]: ogre- or wagon-sized, 3 [dice]: dragon- or tavern-sized, [dice]: ship- or bridge-sized.
R: 100' T: creature or object D: 0
Target take [sum]+[dice] damage and begins to burn with a smokeless, invisible fire. The fire cannot be extinguished by water, but it can be smothered. t can be transfer ed from object to object, dealing normal fire damage.
5. Helpless Lock
R: 50' T: creature or object D: [sum] rounds.
[Sum] of the target's joints are locked in place. All fingers or toes on one limb count as one joint.
6. The Fog of Sleep
R: 60’ radius T: self D: [sum] rounds
Caster creates a billowing grey fog. Any non-Drow creatures inside the fog must Save each round or fall asleep. The caster can designate creatures as immune to this effect, although they still can't see through the fog.
7. Perfect Darkness
R: 100' radius T: point D: [sum] minutes
All light sources in the area illuminate 1' instead of their usual range.
R: touch T: creature D: 0
Target creature must Save or [sum] organs (usually starting with the heart) neatly fall out of their body. Their skin parts and folds back. There is no pain, no blood loss. Any organ hit deals 2d10 damage to the target and may have other horrible effects. If the target puts all their organs back inside and receives magical healing in 10 minutes, they suffer no permanent effect, aside from horrible nightmares. Otherwise, the organs are always loose, always separate. They still functions somehow.
9. Wretched Bargain
R: touch T: creature D: 0
Target creature must accept the Drow's aid for this spell to work. They may not know what they are accepting. The Drow may stand over a dying, begging victim, killed by the Drow's own hand, and offer assistance. Target is fully healed and cured of any diseases. Any Stats below 10 are raised to 10, and Charisma is raised by a further 1d6. Their Save drops to 1. Target cannot attack any Drow or consider hostile actions against them. They both love and fear the Drow. Anyone the target once loved is now loathsome to them; they may be violent or sadistic towards close friends and allies. The target's death will somehow be humilating, degrading, public, and protracted.
R: touch T: creature D: [sum] minutes
Target can fly at twice normal speed for the duration of this spell. When it ends, they will drift safely to the nearest horizontal surface unless they have been very unwise.
R: 100' T: [sum] HD of creatures D: permanent
Target creatures are marked with a faint silver sigil. If a random negative effect would strike a group of people, it strikes one of the marked people automatically. If a random positive effect would strike a group of people, it avoids the marked people automatically. Targets are always slightly unlucky and will blame others for their failures and woes.
R: 50' radius T: self D: 0
Silver knives of force hang in the air around the caster. Anything moving through them at any speed faster than a crawl, or making an attack in the area, must Save or take 1d6 damage. The knives can deal a total of [sum]x3 damage. Drow and other exceptionally graceful creatures are not affected.
This version of the Drow could be one of the alien species in Jack Vance's Tschai.ReplyDelete
This really needs to be turned into a book.ReplyDelete