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Author Topic: The Cadaverous Earth: Across the Fevered Ocean  (Read 11749 times)
Spawn of Ungoliant
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« on: July 13, 2014, 10:44:46 PM »

The Cadaverous Earth: Across the Fevered Ocean

To the west of the Fevered Ocean lies a land of sand and blood and rust, like and yet unlike the continent to the east.

Gristle, The Voracious City, City of Cannibals

Ruled by the Butcheress – the enigmatic warlord also known as Regina Carnifex and the Queen of Cleavers, who seized control of the city thirty years past – Gristle is a vast, malodorous abattoir perched on the confluence of the sluggish River Cruor and the surging River Swelter, a churning, seething, rutting factory of meat.  The nomadic tribes that wander the Seeping Plains and the edges of the Furuncular Desert bordering the Abscess bring their fleshtree groves, droves of pigs, and herds of dire maggots and mankine here, filling the slaughterhouses and knackeries of Splatterside with the screams of dying cattle and the brothels of Squealside with the shrieks of courtesans.  Those scraps that escape the markets of Gobbleward end up in the arcane workshops of Tatter Hill where they are refashioned into carcass golems or drudges – bloated, semi-sentient labourers formed from patchwork snippets of reanimated flesh.  Around the base of the Hill are the tanneries of Pisstown, the apothecaries of Bilechapel, and the scroll-shops and tattoo parlours of Sallowgate; in the Swelter, haruspices and Hepatomancers divine fortunes from offal on the Isle of Entrails, while gargoyle-encrusted ships from New Pandemonium and scrap-fashioned barques from Verdigris unload diabolic weapons and antique machines while taking on boatloads of meat in the docklands of Bezoar Wharf, their sailors haggling for teeth – the city’s currency – on the rusted quays.

As for crime, Gristle has more than its fair share despite the vigilance of the Swine, the pig-masked police-force who serve Regina Carnifex with loyalty unto death.  Most sinister of the criminal factions are the Skin-Filchers, who steal not only the possessions of others but their entire identities, stripping their flesh and using strange sorceries to assume their semblances, living out stolen lives as doppelgangers of their victims.  Then there are the gangs of the Guts, the sprawling network of sewer tunnels and storm drains beneath the city – groups like the Razortongues with their gruesome clockwork augmentations, the troglodytic, chitin-armoured Tapeworms, and the mad, fungus-ridden Blighters.  Other creatures roam those feculent passages as well – brawngasts feeding on vagrants and sewage, skulking heartgorgers listening for the pulses of potential victims, solitary putrevores reshaping their amoebic bodies to squirm through the narrow corridors, and victims of the Puppeteer Plague carving their own flesh to ribbons, tormenting any they come across.  As for those above, most of Gristle’s citizens are human or mankine, though anthropophagi from the Seeping Plains, cambions from New Pandemonium, annis, drudes, and lamiae from Mara, and shuffling wights from Catafalque are all a common sight in the streets.

Those who would cast the Butcheress out, who resist her rule, take the tick as their totem and symbol: a thing buried deep in the flesh, invisible, sucking out the blood of its host, sickening it.  Styling themselves the Acari, they are organized by the surviving Gluttons, the obese former Hierarchs of Gristle, merchant princes ousted by the Queen of Cleavers nearly three decades ago.  The rebels have embraced their status as vermin, using certain arcane arts such as Swarm-Singing to control the city's rats and insects, using them as spies and agents, spreading disease and poisoning meat.  Even a single parasite, partially burrowed into the skin of a loyalist, can act as the eyes and ears of the Acari.  The Swine and other citizens of the city loyal to Regina Carnifex have dubbed them Fleas, referring to them collectively as the Infestation.

The city is ramshackle, ever-growing, ever-decaying.  Most buildings are tatterdemalions of leather, bonemeal brick, dung, and bloodmud.  A notable exception are the Boneshrines: temples built from the glyph-graven bones of the dead, used for the ancestor-worship that predominates in Gristle.  Such pale fanes are more than mausoleums, they are centres of worship and meditation where citizens can escape from the bustle and bloodshed of the city, seeking solace with the emaciated monks who silently tend the Boneshrines, aloof from the ceaseless, sick-making turmoil of Gristle.

New Pandemonium, City of Cults, City of the Fell Gate, the Bickering City

Riven by sectarian violence, New Pandemonium is a demoniac colony fragmented into a hundred individual wards, each of them dedicated to the worship of a different Archdemon.  Built around the Fell Gate, a locked portal to one of the myriad Hells that has remained sealed since the Membrane Wars, New Pandemonium was once one of the chief headquarters of demoniac forces, but following the destruction or banishment of the diabolic generals and the collapse of the demon-armies the city became fractious and divided.  Now principally occupied by humans, New Pandemonium is home to dozens of cults, brutal sects somewhere between street-gangs, governments, and churches.  The denizens of the many Hells send their worshippers vile gifts, warping their bodies and minds in exchange for sacrifices: thus those who offer up meat to the Beastmother Hromna, Queen of Dogs, acquire bestial fangs and claws, while those who pray in the Rotchurch of the Prince of Decay can wilt and wither with a touch.  The self-mutilating devotees of Phrexus the Painlord become immured to anguish, while the debased zealots of Lady Obscenity curdle the very air with their puissant blasphemies.  The myriad demonists fight constantly for tithing-territory, their vicious sectarian squabbling filling the streets with blood and infernal litanies.

As for demons themselves, lesser fiends are a common sight: sex-switching incubi and succubi hoping to feed on human lusts, winged imps fluttering above the streets with messages or reagents, monstrous hellhounds chained to spiked iron fences as watchdogs.  Here also are cambions, creatures half-human, half-demonic: though interbreeding between humans and demons is impossible, the hermaphroditic succubi and incubi can store and transfer human seed from person to person, and those born from such circuitous unions have something of their demoniac forebears in them.  Mothers are known to drink demon-blood, as well, to nourish their unborn children and grant them diabolic powers.  Others, jealous of such cambions, graft demonic flesh to their bodies, replacing their body-parts with those of demons in an attempt to become demonic themselves.  Such individuals, the so-called Metamorphicists, are maligned as sacrilegious by most New Pandemonians.  Most must hide their habits to avoid persecution, covering their stolen flesh with clothing, disrobing in clandestine groups to compare their augmentations; only in the streets of Imago Heath are Metamorphicists free to display their outré bodies, parading themselves in Desecration Square.  Crimes (as well as unpaid debts) committed in the city are typically punished by a period of Indentured Possession: the offender is branded with certain infernal marks that transform their body into a vessel for a demoniac spirit, made into a monstrous marionette for whatever power is bound within them till the terms of their servitude end.

As many beyond New Pandemonium worship the Archdemons, the city is a major site of pilgrimage, and at any time tent-towns of those pilgrims too poor to afford lodgings within the city sprawl about the five gates - the Bickering City is shaped as a pentagram.  Apart from pilgrims, New Pandemonium also attracts scholars and adventurers, the former seeking otherworldly knowledge in the city's hundred libraries, the latter selling demoniac relics gathered in ruins and old battlefields, artefacts of diabolic power that fetch a high price in the unhallowed marketplaces.  Even objects that seem cursed or malignant are much desired by the many cults, provided their origins are truly Hellish.  The scholars must pay handsomely for access to the grimoires kept by the city's libraries, bringing with them an influx of coin.  Apart from the libraries themselves and the book-making, copying, scrivening, and printing services that furnish scholars with texts, New Pandemonium's economy is fractured and multifarious, each ward pursuing its own industry.  Thus men and women seeking carnal pleasures gravitate to Lady Obscenity's voluptaria in Fleshwell; those desperate, ambitious, or foolish enough to dare the chance-tables in a city of demons are directed to the chaotic carnival of Delirium End, where the streets themselves are capricious, whimsical things, the pets of Murmux the Deceiver, and the games played within the vairform casinos are unlike any others on Earth; those craving oblivion seek it in Void Croix, ward of the No-King and his nihimentals, where mystics and melancholics alike can drink nightbrew, lethe-tea, black soma, and wine brewed in the skulls of monsters, or perhaps indulge in pipes of Algea, which transforms even the worst agonies into unspeakable pleasures.

Most of New Pandemonium is a place of worked stone, though many buildings have been warped by diabolic forces, architecture disobeying known physical laws as the Hells bleed into this universe.  In the domain of the Terrgahl, the Many-Mawed, for example (the district of Fanghill), buildings spontaneously sprout clusters of teeth, and all doors and windows eventually transform into gaping mouths, filling the streets with their fetid breath, the gutters with spittle, while brick and stone gradually assume the gingival pinkness of gums; in Little Stygia, on the other hand, the canals run red, seething with hungry phantoms, and unholy barnacles whisper murderous suggestions to passersby.

Mara, The Nightmare City

Mara, the Nightmare City, is an ancient metropolis now half-subsumed by the fetid swamps of Festerland that sprawl about its ancient, ruinous walls.  Deft in dream-magic and other forms of sorcery, the wizened, impossibly old Crones of Mara and their many daughters, the annis, guard their matriarchal power closely: men in Mara are chattel, unable to hold property, used chiefly for menial labour and other servile functions.  Those summoned by certain dream-visions to the Cavern of Crones just outside the city limits become consorts of the annis, siring children upon their mistresses; females become annis themselves, while males become drudes, misshapen creatures trained as bodyguards and soldiers.  The city itself is a ramshackle vastness of huts, tents, shacks, and shanties built on the slowly-sinking ruins of a much older city, mostly lost beneath the muck.  Primeval, mysterious things lurk in the darkness and estuarine mud of those stygian, flooded tunnels, brinegasts and gloomsquid and certain nameless horrors of the Drowned City.

Apart from the Crones and the humans they depend on for food and reproduction, Mara is home to many of the vampiric mercenaries and traders known the lamiae, bloodthirsty creatures with the tails of monstrous lamprey and their toothy maws as well, a rapacious merchant people whose greed and ruthlessness are legendary; most can be found in the bazaars of the Crescent Quarter.  One may also occasionally glimpse one of the oneiroi, dreams-made-flesh, the familiars, servitors, and occasional assassins of the Crones, especially in the Black Quarter.  The Coven itself consists of the thirteen eldest Crones at any given time; elder annis live for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, and when one dies the next-eldest assumes her place on the Council of Crones.  Those who displease the Crones tend to fall asleep and never wake up, unless they take measures to protect their slumbering minds from the Crones’ somnomantic depredations, whispering banned charms before sleep or wreathing their necks with illegal talismans purchased from the shadowy markets of the Gibbous Quarter.

Ganglion, City of Tendrils, the Gangrenous City

Clinging to Wen, the largest of the Tumourous Isles that lie in the black, caustic waters of the Flesh-Eating Sea, Ganglion is a gigantic super-organism, home of the beings known as cephalomorphs.  Mistaken by some as a subrace of demons, the cephalomorphs actually hail from a distant part of this universe, for in aeons now long past and largely forgotten, Earth was visited by many species and creatures from other worlds.  They are powerful psychotheurges, and some believe that all fleshcraft can trace its roots to their arcane sciences; genetic traders, they create more of their number by modifying and cloning members of other races.  Such duplicates have the attributes and even some of the memories of their “donors” but are altered considerably, with enlarged craniums and brains, hairless skin, and the addition of a fully prehensile tentacular tongue; almost all modify their bodies heavily over the course of their lengthy life-spans.  They sustain themselves not with physical food but with numina, especially prizing the minds of powerful witches; after feeding they leave their victims drained, gibbering husks consigned to the quivering Laboratory Viscus for experimentation.

The unsavoury feeding habits of the cephalomorphs leads most to shun them, and so the creatures contract with a number of privateers, humans and others who dwell in the Visitors’ Viscus and the adjacent islands known as the Cysts, bringing their aberrant employers fodder taken on raids, captives used both for nourishment and as raw material to replenish their numbers.  They also create thousands of different specialized thralls in the Breeding Viscus that attend to their various material needs, and to act as protectors, information-gatherers, and envoys.  The city itself is a testament to their skills as fleshcrafters, a throbbing, undulating morass of bony spires, pulsating domes, and swinging bridges resembling knobbed vertebrae or twisted skeins of sinew.  In recent years, Ganglion has begun to decay for reasons even the cephalomorphs cannot fathom, some infection working its way into the membranous mass of living architecture.  Now a leprous affliction mars the glistening organic cityscape, weeping sores and swollen tissues transforming sections of Ganglion into decaying slums like those of the Necrotic Viscus.  Here parasites and renegades hold sway – festergasts, exiled cephalomorphs, and escaped experiments sheltering in the pestilential remnants of the ward.

The Cysts are a world all their own: nine small islands, scattered just off the southern shores of Wen.  Lawless, cosmopolitan little clusters of sin, the anarchic isles totter with slave-pens, pleasure-dens, and lighthouses to guide incoming ships into harbour.  A mix of mucilaginous lamiae structures, rickety wooden towers, and a few inscrutable stone citadels of extreme age (predating even the presence of Ganglion), the Cysts are home principally to those slavers who prefer their own domiciles to the quivering cells of the Visitors' Viscus.

Catafalque, City of Sepulchres

The City of Sepulchres was once a tomb-city of mausoleums and catacombs.  Now the crumbling and cobwebbed crypts are the homes of Catafalque’ new residents, its vaulted tunnels become subterranean streets where pallid merchants cry their wares.  The dead outnumber the living here, for the city is populated principally by wights – pallid, walking corpses, the so called Deathless, who attire themselves in the cerements of the dead and adorn themselves with the wealth of fallen princes.  Despite rumours that wights are the revivified corpses of the city’s original “residents,” the truth is far more disturbing: though wights cannot breed amongst themselves or interbreed with humans they can sire children upon the cadavers of human women, much as flies lay their eggs in the flesh of the dead.  For this reason all female bodies must be rendered to the wights; burying, cremating, or eating the body of a woman is a capital crime.  The wights do not eat or drink save for pleasure, preferring to imbibe wine mixed with the ashes of the dead, to dine on roast bone marrow and desiccated flesh.

Ghouls, a lesser breed of grave-spawn with a voracious appetite for putrefying flesh, dwell in the hinterlands of the city and in the squalid tunnels of Charnel End, occasionally even molesting wights and other upstanding citizens; they are hyena-faced, necrophagic scavengers, sentient but still bestial, violent and sadistic.  The living are employed as labourers and servants, residing either with their wight masters in Ossuary Court and the Grand Vault or in the barrow-houses of Tumulus Row.  Raven-winged harpies also linger in the shanty-towns of Catafalque, begging for scraps, occasionally waylaying travellers and performing other acts of banditry, or acting as messengers and couriers.

Though the upper levels of the catacombs have been thoroughly repurposed the lower levels remain unexplored: thus Catafalque attracts hundreds of tomb-robbers, often deranged and sometimes legendary adventurers who plumb the black depths of the city’s deepest pits where predatory spiders and shadowgasts are said to lurk, guarding forgotten treasures.

Blodvinter, City of Gelid Gore

Perched upon the frigid Incarnadine Steppes where the Shriekwinds scream men into madness and the Razorhail shreds travellers into ribbons, Blodvinter is carved almost entirely out of ice – not frozen water, but frozen blood.  Ruled by the thurs, a race of giants with blue-black skin like that of frostbite victims, Blodvinter was created in millennia long past by a brutal warlord who at that time had led a great horde down from the Steppes to conquer much of the north.  After his wars of conquest, the thur chieftain demanded that every people he had subjugated deliver to him sacrifices, conveyed to his ancestral home on the Steppes.  These sacrifices he had slaughtered, their blood collected and used to form first the blackish-red Hall of Frozen Carnage from which he ruled and then the rest of the city.  Thus Blodvinter stands as a monument to the brutality of the thurs, even after their empire fragmented and dwindled.  Though the giants still hold sway within the city and the surrounding Steppes, their numbers are few, and much of the city is now populated by their innumerable thralls – humans, cambions, lamiae, and others taken in raids.  

What is more, the once-united clans of thurs have fallen to feuding and infighting, each of the Chieftains vying for control, each controlling one of the city’s districts.  The Skoltrstrand, where the corpseships row themselves with grafted arms into their berths amidst the quays of broken skulls, is the domain of Clan Blue-Lips; the foundries of Sverdheim, where swords and axes are quenched in vats of blood, are the territory of Clan Death-Wail; the kennels of Wulfgard, where the thurs still breed misshappen vargr and other beasts, are the haunt of Clan Red-Tongue; other districts are claimed by other clans.  The thralls and vassals of the thurs are branded extensively and sometimes modified through witchcraft to reflect their owners.  Many are born into servitude and raised to view themselves as extensions of their owners rather than individuals in their own right; such thralls are frequent participants in the thurs’ feuds, and more thrall-blood is spilled on a daily basis than thur blood is in a year.

Purulence, the Mucopolis, City of Slime

An inconstant enormity of glistening ooze congealed into the shape of a city, Purulence is the home of the lamiae, a piratical race of merchants, thieves, and mercenaries.  The Brooding Ones, those few lamiae given a desire to mate, dwell here and spawn offspring in the thousands, a civilization of siblings.  The city is a great nursery, a spawning ground.  Here a million pools hold tapdoles, lamiae larvae in various stages of maturation.  They will spend half a decade here before reaching adulthood, growing rapidly, sloughing off their skin, secreting the neonatal sludge from which the city is fashioned, sculpted and re-sculpted by the oldest lamiae, those too old to fight or steal or travel, who tend to the teeming larvae and serve as the city’s caretakers.  The city slowly changes shape, its continuous architecture amorphous, ever-melting, reforming.  No lamiae has been born outside the city for a millennium.

The lamiae are blood-drinkers.  Deep within the Mucopolis, in all-but-lightless caverns of solidified phlegm grown hard as stone, lives a shadow civilization, half-feral and troglodytic: humans and others, taken as slaves and cast into the darkness of the Larder.  In exchange for food they must provide sacrifices.  There are tribes in the gloom, each with their own rites and customs: some give up only their eldest, others the crippled and the sick.  Others determine their sacrifices randomly, and others still reject the handouts of their captors and turn to cannibalism, hunting their fellow prisoners through a black labyrinth of slick and twisted passages, seeking always for some egress, some means of escape – finding none and returning to the hunt once more.

The lamiae themselves are not without their intrigues. The Cult of the Gelatinous God grows in power, threatening to undermine the vicious meritocracy that has long held sway over the bloodsuckers, worshipers willfully sacrificing their flesh to the hallowed slime. Living saints crawl bloated through the streets, swollen with the holy Substance of their deity, vomiting blessings upon the devout.

Few other than the lamiae dare to come to Purulence.  Those mad souls who dare to live near the breeding ground of these vampiric eel-things do so in the Dry Town, a fringe of half-sunken buildings about the periphery of the Mucopolis, on the beaches surrounding the partially flooded city.  To dwell here is to live a precarious existence, subject to the whims of the lamiae, but the bloodsuckers do find uses for such beings, on occasion, and compensate them with unexpected generosity with coinage stolen from a thousand realms, amassed over centuries of plunder.

Verdigris, City of Detritus, the Corroded City

Half-buried in the shifting wastes, the rusted spires of Verdigris rise, misted with the hazy bodies of Wraiths – consciousnesses uncoupled from their physical bodies through the use of certain esoteric machines and transplanted into clouds of tiny machines, if the Nanomancers speak the truth.  The city deals in other forms of immortality as well: in the simmering streets of the Cauldron one can pay the Sarcomancers to grow a duplicate body from as little as a plucked hair, a vat-grown husk into which a mind can be poured like liquid.  Others prefer to eschew physicality entirely, to dwell permanently in the fractured, dream-like no-space called the Weft which all those in Verdigris eventually visit, wiring themselves into the tangled morass of metal that makes up the city, a mad, junkyard sprawl of cables, gears, and buzzing conduits.  Some make their living trawling the decaying, immaterial archives of the Weft, libraries of data guarded by ancient ghosts-in-the-machine.  Such adventurous souls delve deep into stores of forgotten lore, sometimes arising triumphant with stolen data, other times emerging from the Weft raving and insane, or drooling and imbecilic (some, of course, never wake at all).

The city is infested by malignant machines, deranged automata, rogue banks of Murderfog.  Some say the Puppeteer Plague started here, some failed experiment of the Teratomancers, the Cancersmiths of the Phage Spire, others that the Nanomancers, their rivals, are at fault.  Whether either of the feuding Warlock-Guilds are truly to blame, Puppets certainly gather in Verdigris in unusual numbers, particularly in the decayed towers of the Nest.  Some wards of the city are entirely ruled by machine-intelligences, as in the case of the Diocese, domain of the Popess of Gears and Her zealous followers.  Most of the city, though, falls under the dominion of the five Warlock-Guilds: the Sarcomancers, Nanomancers, Teratomancers, Ceremancers, and Ferromancers.  The elder Warlocks who rule the Guilds have occupied dozens, even hundreds of bodies in their time, constantly scheming to undermine one another, making a game of assassination and arcane sabotage.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2015, 12:34:41 AM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 10:24:37 AM »

So this land of sunset has it's own handful of "twilight cities". Obviously they must currently be isolated from the eastern continent, but how long has that been the case? The presence of humans and anthropophagi on both sides of the ocean suggests they've traveled -or been taken- across it in the past. OTOH most other races seem to be exclusively living on either continent.
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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2014, 11:36:50 AM »

Excellent stuff Steerpike
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2014, 11:40:05 AM »

Good questions.

The two continents know little of each other - not much more than rumours.  Crossing the Fevered Ocean is incredibly hazardous and rarely attempted.  Even air-flight over the Ocean is problematic due to storms and large airborne predators.  Eldritch travel might be more feasible, but even rarer than physical travel.

Humans and anthropophagi I'm considering "old" races that have dwelt on both continents for a very long time.  Humans have occupied every continent of the world for longer than recorded history.  The anthropophagi migrated more recently but their histories are fragmented, vague, and uncertain.

Lamiae share a common (but distant) evolutionary ancestor with Hagmen and Lamiae.

Demons are the same, although there are some different sub-species on the western continent, and some demonic populations have evolved to become more integrated with human civilization, or what passes for it.

Oneiroi are the same, but those in the western continent have a better understanding of how to bind and control them.

The Cultivar Technocrats stole much of their fleshcraft from Ganglion.

Gasts and geists are local terms for the same broad type of being.

The civilization that created Verdigris also created the Behemoths and other high-tech artefacts in the Shatters, and were one of the last truly global civilizations on the planet.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 11:43:06 AM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2014, 11:43:49 AM »

EDIT: So others asked and Steerpike answered some of the following questions whilst I was drafting. So yeah...

So very excited to see a new CE post, especially one of this magnitude!

Not sure if you're wanting feedback, but here's some (and some questions to boot):

Overall, the individual cities seem flatter, less complex, and less evocative than the Twilight Cities. Some of the names also seem to lack the sophistication of other mainland ones. Granted, this may because the these are new ideas, less refined -which is completely understandable. But you've set the bar soooo high, that even the hardcore fanboy that I am feels that most of the sites need work, especially after I compared the similar 1-2 paragraph blurbs of the Twilight Cities to the above ones.

1. I'm curious as to the impetus for the post and developing this second continent. Was this older material lurking on a drive, new stuff drummed up in preparation of a game, or the brain-child of some nocturnal reverie?

2. I was under the impression that the Esurience forms the western 'border' to the 'main' continent. If so, does that mean that travel between the two continents is blocked?  If so, how long have the landmasses/cultures been split? The blurb mentions Membrane Wars, but that might be an exception with dimensional ruptures rippling across the world. However, that does beg the question of whether the Chained Ones were similarly summoned in the eastern continent (or if the summoning in the west affected the entire world), and how they were chained there (e.g., did the Hecatomb affect the whole world or just the eastern continent).  Related, I don't how long the Esurience has been around. Has it been around for ages, or appeared more recently?  Or perhaps before the Skyscar, the two continents were frequently/occasionally connected by the Aurelian Tundra, a landbridge made of ice.

3. Am I correct in assuming this continent was not part of the Imperium? (I don't recall any mention of cestoid sea-faring). If so, is the land then devoid of mantids and lilix? I realize this wouldn't automatically prove they are the creations of cestoids, but it would add further evidence -or at least evidence that humans aren't the result of cestoid flesh crafting with mechanoapes and mantids as the mantids proclaim.

4. Likewise with the jatayi -are they present?  

5. Did this area experience the Red Ravishing as well?

5. Relatedly, to what extent are the inhabitants of the landmasses aware of each other? Do they have name for the continents, perhaps amongst the scholarly types who oh-so love to name things?

6. The city-states -are they as large or old as the Twilight Cities?

7. Gasts but no geists? Am I reading that correctly? I see lots of gast references but no geists, though the former seem to fill the same role as the latter based on my admittedly incomplete understanding.

As for the specific cities:

GRISTLE
Love, love the name. The monikers are ok, but don't seem to grab me like some of the other Twilight Cities'. The Hungry City sounds not as poetic (e.g., it's like if Moroi was called the Thin City rather than the Gaunt City). Maybe something like the Hollow, Flensed, Gluttonous, Insatiable, etc. City? Or make it the Cannibal City, and the City of [insert adjective] Abattoirs?  

Love the titles of the ruler: the Butcheress, the Regina Carnifex, the Queen of Cleavers. I also love that you have a single warlord ruling one of the cities –that is something unique for CE –especially if that warlord actively wages war (against something be it monstrous hordes and/or other cities). Perhaps actually adding a current war would help differentiate the continent.

That said, why is the Butcheress enigmatic? What’s mysterious about her, especially given how raw and physical the city otherwise appears? Is she mortal? Did she depose a previous warlord or alternate government? Is there a Resistance?

I love the names and descriptions of the River Cruor and Swelter (though curse you as I was planning on using Cruor…).  Love the individual areas as well. Teeth as currency –awesome.

Mankine? Are those like men-cows? Great name, regardless.

Abscess? Tell me more….

Love the Swine and their masks.

Skin-Filchers –are they perhaps related to the scarab-swarm people of the east who similarly devour flesh and assume identities as doppelgangers?

Love the Guts and its gangs.

Despite all this Gristle-love, the city still seems like it is missing something. Basically, all of the Twilight Cities had 3-4 major, distinct elements that made them really intriguing, evocative, plot-hooking places. For instance, Skein has its diabolic-cocoon Moth-Kings, the masked aristocratic families and their demonic familiars, clockwork automata, and yakuza-like syndicates. Or, consider Somnambulon: it has the psychic vampire Zehrer, the zombic breeding and exploitation, industrial prowess, and the underground rebellion of the Awakeners.

Gristle in comparison just seems to be a giant-slaughterhouse.  Yes, there are the Swine, but Skein has the Watch and Somnambulon has the Whispers.

Thus, I would suggest adding something else to help distinguish the place. Perhaps the Butcheress just conquered the city, or it just survived an ugly civil war that leaves areas in a mess. Maybe they are make fine, if not fancy, bladed weapons (kinda have to if they are master slaughterers), and have been or are weapon-merchants. Perhaps they instigate wars between different cities than benefit from the arms-race? Or perhaps give some hint as to the architectural style of Gristle. Is it built within the bones of some massive god-carcass, with the Regina Carnifex ruling from the Aortic Palace? Maybe some giant carnivore-whale-thing that arose from the sea in a bygone age, devoured entire cities, then died of starvation after it consumed nearly everything –basically the survivors all fled to the other side of the continent (like your space-ship in the Death of Time).

CATAFALQUE.

Name is awesome (and curse you again as I had developed a massive black tomb-ridden mesa called the Grand Catafalque for the CE town I developed for my tabletop ☺ ). The title is good too. Not sure what another title might be (since you seem to have a system of 2 titles): perhaps the City of Restless/Murmuring/Gasping Tombs, the City of Flyblown/Bloated Brides?

I like the wights a lot, and their method of reproduction is horrendously perfect (or is it perfectly horrendous?).  It’s not clear if they need to eat –but I might suggest they don’t, as that would set them apart from lamiae and Gristle and the other races. So basically more like shade rather than ghul.  Doing so also allows them to pursue other things besides just eating. For instance, strange arts and philosophies. Or maybe they have a highly, if morbid, sense of aesthetics –without eating, immortal, they pursue a culture akin to the peaceful era of Japan with elaborate rituals and so forth. Maybe Meanwhile, the ‘lesser races’ might be considered crude, undisciplined, and without taste. Maybe they perform periodic mass mourning ceremonies for the original dead –or just the dead brides –the Mothers of their race, elaborate, solemn affairs. Maybe they perfect calligraphy or tattoo their lineage on their skins, memorializing their ancestry as well as other epistolary arcana. Maybe the city in sections is covered in graffiti covering graffiti –epitaphs upon epitaphs like a layer of constantly shedding, peeling skin over the ancient tombs.

As for the harpies and ghouls, it seems like you could use jatayi and ghul. Or, make them more distinct.  For instance, you could call them strix, give them the heads of humans, but the bodies of ravens or owls (which in most cultures are symbols of death), or with beaks in which they carve holes and play mournful dirges. They might be great lamenters, singers, perhaps only speaking in song (singing telegram anyone?).  The ‘ghouls’ you could keep as “hyena-faced, necrophagic scavengers, sentient but still bestial, violent and sadistic”, but call them something else (e.g., gnole, bultingin, bouda, tabib, yena, crocotta) and make them live in packs where they create, perform, and enjoy macabre plays and crude, dark comedies, considering life a joke, otherwise devoid of meaning (dada nihilist counterpoints to the refined perfectionism of the wights) and have powers of mimicry and mesmerism.

As for the lower tombs, I would suggest changing this up a bit. Macellaria already has the catacombs, Marainein has the Necropolis/Bonemound, and Dolmen has the spider-and-cobweb crypt angle. Thus, I would try and differentiate the architecture and layout of the city and its tombs.  For example, maybe the city is built into a mountain, or it is completely underground (only exposed through some distant tunnels or a place where an earthquake opened up a fissure to the surface). Or maybe it is built into/on a giant mesa, surrounded by quicksand. Said eldritch slithering sands might occasionally shift, revealing new tombs to be plundered. But they might also hide corpse-eating worms ala Beetlejuice. Consequently, the wights have to generally rely upon the living as intermediaries –apart from hot-air balloon-barges that are more like giant paper lanterns –the fuel being eldritch oil, or crematory fires burning esoteric essenses or somesuch. Or maybe the city never had an interred corpses –instead, it was a massive city of centophs and crematoria. In this case, there aren’t old tombs waiting to be plundered. Instead, the hyena-like beings or maybe the wights ‘decorate’ a series of tombs with treasures, setting them up like stages for massive plays where they then invite outsiders to ‘play’, whilst they watch and see if the living can survive the death-traps and recover the treasures. Most die horribly, but the lure or treasures always draws new ‘understudies’.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 11:45:43 AM by Rose-of-Vellum » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2014, 12:29:35 PM »

Really great thoughts, thanks for the feedback!

I might change some of the names.  I am happier with some more than others.  I might also add some more cities.

Could be I need to add more stuff to the cities to make them less one-note?  I think what I was going for here was more thematic tightness and unity, but that may actually have resulted in simpler-feeling places.  I sometimes felt that the old cities felt less sort of cohesive, but in light of your comments, perhaps that's a good thing...?

As to questions:

1. Old material and some newer stuff thrown together.

2. I'm thinking the continents lost contact with one another after the Membrane Wars.

3. Not sure whether the Imperium was here... I was thinking of adding a full-blown Cestoid city still in operation.  No mantids or lilix, probably.

4. Probably no jatayi.

5. Probably no Red Ravishing, or less severe.  Two continents are barely aware of each other.  They're effectively mythic lands at best.

6. Comparable size and age.

7. Gasts and geists are essentially the same thing.

Good thought on Gristle.  I agree maybe it's not complex enough, but I'm glad you like it.

Mankine are exactly like humans but have the minds of cattle, so ethically killing and eating mankine is the same as killing and eating other sorts of livestock.

I do imagine the wights as sophisticates.  I like the idea of their not eating, though they might drink wine.  I'll definitely expand all of the races in lengthier descriptions.

I agree the catacombs need something more unique.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 12:34:48 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2014, 01:25:34 PM »

Steerpike

Really great thoughts, thanks for the feedback!
Glad the feedback is well-recieved.

As for new cities, perhaps some smaller ones? Or help differentiate which are the big mega-cities like the Twilight Ones, and which are smaller ones?

Quote

Could be I need to add more stuff to the cities to make them less one-note?  I think what I was going for here was more thematic tightness and unity, but that may actually have resulted in simpler-feeling places.  I sometimes felt that the old cities felt less sort of cohesive, but in light of your comments, perhaps that's a good thing...?

Long ago you posted the themes you saw for each of the Twilight Cities; each one had 3-5 if I recall correctly, even if some of the themes were related. Personally, I think that worked great for the Twilight Cities. It certainly allows a variety of adventures and player preferences. Especially if these are old, ancient cities, then have a mottled, multi-faceted nature is a good thing (imo).

Quote

I'm thinking the continents lost contact with one another after the Membrane Wars.
Not sure whether the Imperium was here... I was thinking of adding a full-blown Cestoid city still in operation.  No mantids or lilix, probably.
Post-Membrane War disconnect sounds great. If that's the case then, I would agree for no Imperium presence. But having a 'living' Cestoid city that never had any connection to the Imperium would be really cool. Almost providing the menace that they might one day rise and repeat history, all unknowingly to them and the other inhabitants of the continent.

As for the Membrane Wars, though, did it end the same way on this continent? Meaning, Chained Ones beating them back, or did the Chained Ones 'just' suture the dimensional wounds, then slaughter the demons on the east continent before being imprisoned -meaning that the demons of the west might have fought on for a much longer time. No reinforcements coming, but no 'sudden slaughter' by divine beings.

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Probably no Red Ravishing, or less severe.  Two continents are barely aware of each other.  They're effectively mythic lands at best.
That makes perfect sense. What about names for each other -I mean, myth-tellers love some names.

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Gasts and geists are essentially the same thing.
As a designer here, what's the aim of this? Meaning different names to give to players?

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Mankine are exactly like humans but have the minds of cattle, so ethically killing and eating mankine is the same as killing and eating other sorts of livestock.
Oh, that's worse than McDonalds. Maybe.

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I do imagine the wights as sophisticates.  I like the idea of their not eating, though they might drink wine.  I'll definitely expand all of the races in lengthier descriptions.
Sounds good. Though I'd skip having them drink blood, since you have a bunch of that already. Maybe they need to drink to wave off desiccation, with some falling to rigor mortis if need drinking, but able to be revived with sufficient liquor (gleetwine anyone?).

New Pandemonium.

Name is good. Like the Hungry City. City of Cults rings a bit flat for me –maybe something like City of Schimarchs, or the Sectarian City.

As for the Fell Gate –how big we talking and who closed it? Is it a closed gate of solid material, or is it a gate of bars, threaded with chains, with opens spaces where occasionally gusts of demonic breath and screams emerge –spectral infernal hands reach out from the walls –perhaps it is akin to the Wailing Wall –a place of great worship, a liminal space where messages and ‘gifts’ can sometimes be exchanged and intercepted. Control and access to it would thus be a prime object of sectarian violence even if it is something that unifies their ‘faiths’.

In the east, eidolons are also known as incubi –yet I’m assuming these are different that the sex-switching incubi/succubi. If so, I’d suggest changing the names. At least from a meta-game perspective, it makes it easier to learn and remember the setting material, especially for players. Also, there is a plethora of alternate names from RL lore that were similar spirits/roles of seducing women.

New Pandemonium, like Gristle, is cool, but seems a bit one-dimensional. It’s a big city of demons and demon-worshippers. Yes, the Fell Gate gives it something and the execution of the demons and their cults is novel, but the city seems like it is lacking something ‘else’ to make it more rounded.

Perhaps you might add in elements based on what the story was before the demonic invasion. How might this affect the architectural underpinnings? Or did the previous city worship otherworldly seraphs, beings of supraphysical light that sometimes still glint and shine from the dark corners of cobblestones and sewer-grates?

Or is the city, due to its dimensional linkages possessed by strange physics? Like maybe the entire city is built sideways on a cliff? Or does its geometry fold in on itself in non-Euclidean ways, such that it is actually a smattering of sites across the continents but still one whole (and thus an ideal command center for a world-invasion). Akin to gatetowns in Planescape, victories in sectarian wars might cause the shifts to change, ejecting old cults or making rising ones closer to the Gate.

Beyond that, you might consider a ‘mundane’ facet to add to the city that might draw non-demonologists. For example, Skein has silk and ur-bone; Erebh has miasmas and mines. Maybe it has ink-fields that Catafalque craves (although I think Mara’s gloomsquids serve that niche better). Or maybe it has iron/diamond mines that Gristle craves for its slaughterhouse blades.

MARA.

I like the name, but isn’t it a cognate of Moroi?  Maybe name it Striga or Strigas?
Moniker is okay (as mara/mare is already present in the name). Maybe something like the Warlock City, the City of [insert adjective] Sabaats.

So a witch-run city is cool. But I might suggest turning the trope on its head. Instead of another matriarchy where women rule and men are chattel, like Dolmen, how about making the place a patriarchy? That doesn’t exist in CE to my knowledge, and having a coven of male witches reverses the trope of a female witchocracy.  I like the concept of the Crones and annis and calling men as lovers. But perhaps you could have the warlocks be self-castrated males, who have bound the Crones deep in the sunken bowels of the City, having overthrown the gynocracy, but unable yet to truly depose/slay the Crones –or maybe the Crones are dreamspawn themselves. In fact, the castrati might resent both women and men. The eldest might subsist on dreams of the sleeping chattel, and they might ‘craft’ dreams like feasts, invoking dreamspawn, injecting victims with psychoactive drugs, etc, to create certain flavors.

Both Mara and Ganglion currently are divided into Quarters –perhaps one might use another title for its sections.

I like the ramshackle huts and tents and sunken city. Maybe some of the tents or ‘undrowned’ city is located inside trees. Witches gotta loves some trees. Or maybe the city is surrounded by gnarled, leafless trees that sway with unseen aetheric winds and are under the command of the warlocks/Crones where their dreaming victims slumbering, twitching in haunted, eternal reveries and nightmares, sometimes sleep-talking or screaming with night-terrors before the dream-shepherds coo them back to sleep until the next somnolent harvest begins. Eventually, the dreamers would go ‘stale’, their minds deadened husks that produce bland-tasting dreams. Thereafter, they are hauled down and sold to the Lamiae for their blood.

I could even see you pairing this city with the home-city of the lamiae or making them quit close.  Speaking of which:

PURULENCE.

Love the name. Love the Mucopolis. Love the slime-architecture.

Do the lamiae typically reside in water? Hagmen and leechkin are both watery folk. I ask because they seem like perfect pirates and river-traders, but this makes their home city odd in that dry caves sit underneath their homes.

Anyways, I love the larder tribes below and their myriad ways of delivering ‘food’ for food. If possible, though, it might be good to differentiate these slave humans from the currently similar abhuman, half-feral, troglodytic humans of Dolmen who are likewise chattel of a vampiric race (both of which begin with ‘l’).  I don’t have any suggestions off hand, but still.
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« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2014, 03:24:58 PM »

GANGLION

 Great name. Love the title of Gangrenous City. City of Flesh sounds a bit bland and might not be idiosyncratic enough considering Gristle’s deal.  Maybe City of Quivering/Sarcoline/Carneous Vats? City of Fleshwrights? EDIT: You already changed it: Love the City of Tendrils!

Wen and the Tumourous Isles, sounds awesome. Black, caustic waters, cool. Flesh-Eating Sea sounds a bit too bland though. Maybe something like the Escharotic Sea, Skinclutch Sea, or Mordant Sea (or some alternative word for Sea, like the Mordant Swells).

Love the whole living-city, single-organism thing. Very creepy and cool. I might suggest toning down the ‘invaders from space’ aspect. Maybe leave it more like the zehrer, where they are described as “quite possibly” and only definitely left as “otherworldly”. Basically, keep their origins as they are but make it less explicit; some players might be turned off when they hear of interstellar aliens. Regardless, it does make me wonder if the alien races of zehrer and cephalomorphs have any past interaction.

Also, if you are going with psychotheurges and ganglion, how about  instead of ‘normal’ rot, the city is afflicted with something akin to Alzheimer’s. Basically, portions of the city are shrinking, nasty plaques are forming on the supra-organisms like necrotic nova, twisted tangles of dying tissue strands, fluid-filled canals are flooding even as other areas are shriveling. So shrivelgasts rather than festergasts. And accompanying the decaying/dying is memory distortion and loss in the psychotheurges, so the exiled ones are these gibbering, sometimes remembering, oft-senile members of the race.

Apart from all that, who rules the race/city? Do they live elsewhere
What do they trade to the pirates in return for numina-larder? Anything besides flesh-grafts? Psychotheurgy? 

Also, I love that they’re the origins of the Cultivar Technocracy.

BLODVINTER

Good solid name. Gelid Gore, sounds good. Wholesome.

I like the Incarnadine Steppes as a name, but if the steppes are pink-red, then doesn’t that diminish the blood-ice architecture? Or are they named poetically reflecting the various wars and bloodshed on them?

Love Razorhail. Screamwind might benefit from a change (especially since there is the Screamwood (only 2 letter difference). Shriekwinds? Howlwinds? Wailwinds? Bawlwinds? Bawlbreath?

Regardless, the architecture of the place is awesome and the tribute story is great. Love the additions of giants (how big we talking) and the fact that it means the city is giant-sized. I also like the psychological aspect of slavery that exists as well. Love the fractious clans.

Perhaps thurs only eat bones? Makes them different from all the meat and blood drinkers. You know, and then they make bread from it (kinda kidding on that).

One suggestion to tweak the trope would be to make them a little less Viking and a little more Mongol. So Khans and make them ride giant vargs or horse-monsters. Have silks as well as furs. Cannons as well as swords. Just a thought.

Being from far north, maybe thurs have legends about the Polyp Dominion. Maybe they have spores they feed to their slaves, or strange devices from that error. Or perhaps living in lightless tunnels beneath the ice. Or something about the Oorls to include, like the throne being made of the nautilus or sleds made from their shells.

Maybe something for the clans to fight about besides control of districts? Did the chieftans of old rule by force, birthright, ceremony?

Basically, you have the in-fighting giants and the ice-structures. It just needs like one thing more.

VERDIRGRIS

Good monikers. An okay name, but doesn’t grab me –doesn’t seem up to snuff for how cool the place is. Especially since it likely had another name when it was ‘living’, just like how some of the machine cities of the east have names.

Nice evocative image of rusted spires, and the wraiths sound cool and distinct. Sacromancers, Nanomancers, the Weft, Murderfog, Puppeteer Plague, Papess of Gears, all very cool.

However, since you plan to have a Witch city, I might suggest you give the Guilds and their bosses another title. Something like Magi Guilds/Archmagi, Aether Guilds, the Grimoire Caucus, the Theosophic Sodalities, the Pentarchs.

It’s also cool to meet the makers of the Behemoths and learn of a global civilization wrecked by the Membrane Wars. Know that I think of it, doesn’t that make them related to the Sorcerer-Kings?

Moreover, what prevents the ‘mancers’ from arising again? Meaning, what caused the living witches to lose the lore their forebears once possessed that enabled them to ‘rule, much less travel, the world’. Sure, secrets might still linger in the Weft, but did the demons kill off the learned ones? Is the Puppeteer Plague related (and what exactly does it do again, cause people to cut themselves?).

Re: GRISTLE

Love the tick-totem, Fleas, Acari, Infestation, obese Gluttons, swarm-singing, bonemeal brick, bloodmud. Really awesome. Perfect additions. Take that hog to fair. 

***

Overall, one thing I notice is that these lands seem more brutal, savage compared to the east (or some of the Twilight Cities). Lacking is any 'civilized finery/beauty' such as exists in Skein or Moroi, for example. Catafalque may become the exception. This isn't a bad thing, just a difference I perceive (and perhaps erroneously at that). 
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« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2014, 04:11:17 PM »

If you feel that wights should feed on something, how about bone marrow? That would mesh nicely with the grave-spawn aesthetic while making their appetites clearly distinct from that of ghouls and vampiric types.
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« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2014, 04:12:13 PM »

I'll be working on incorporating more feedback slowly smile

Ghostman, "Sunset Lands" is officially the "mythic name" of the western continent that people in the east use.

Rose, I picture Verdigris as quite civilized in a decadent cyberpunk kind of way.

Also bone marrow eating sounds pretty perfect.
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« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2014, 05:42:14 PM »

No problem, Steerpike, I realize there was a barrage of feedback (hopefully helpful all the same).

As another option for wight diets, crematory ash might be interesting -sprinkled in drinks, molded into cakes, drawn into elaborate patterns like edible bonseki.

Any macro-info on the geography?
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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2014, 07:56:13 PM »

Great suggestions.

I have only the vaguest ideas for macro geography - nothing specific.
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« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2014, 07:17:07 AM »

Nice addition of the Boneshrines, worship, and the emaciated monks. They provide nice counterpoints to the other elements.

Also, I like the Cysts as well -though I did just remember that you have used Wen already -i.e., the Great Wen in the Temple-Palace of Yzch. Perhaps a synonym, such as Whelk, Blain, Syrinx. 
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« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2014, 09:00:25 AM »

I'm not too worried about a bit of repetition between the two continents.
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« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2014, 07:39:38 PM »

Well, Blodvinter and the thurs are probably my favourite CE thing ever.

It seems there are no ghilan on this side of the ocean, but lots of undead things anyway. How different are the wights and the ghuls anyway? Superficially they appear fairly similar.

To me at least the science fiction-y influences of CE are stronger or perhaps more evident here as well.
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