Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Ship as MegaDungeon

Note: This is a very old post and the HMS APOLLYON has grown considerably as a setting in the past three years.  Three or maybe four campaigns have actually been played and the ruleset ahs changed considerably.  The description below is still basically correct, but a new reader may wish to start with this most recent Player Starting Page or perhaps this Earlier Starting Page. Perhaps these 20 question will help.  Everything else related to the setting, including play reports and assorted rules (from a few different rule iterations) can be found here from new to older.


So, the party is still balking at ASE, despite their new Fist patron having squeezed its possible existence out of them. I figure I can get them in there anyway, but it got me thinking about alternate ideas for mega-dungeons. The best I can come up with develops from both my recent post about the Shoal of Grey Bones and having just read Leviathan, a British comic book by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli. The basic premise of Leviathan is describing life aboard a demon possessed city sized ocean liner of the 1920's cast adrift in an endless hell-sea. Instant MegaDungeon.  I have since decided I won't be running this as an ASE environment - but as its own thing (at some point).  This makes things easier actually as I can reduce the time the Vessel has been adrift.

The Liner as MegaDungeon - D'Israeli, Leviathan, 2003-2012
The HMS Apollyon
A city sized luxury liner over a mile long, built at the height of human endeavor, ages ago. At sea when the great collapse occurred, its residents decided to wait out the aftermath aboard their vessel.  The recovery of society was a long time coming, and survival at sea harder than expected, especially when the majority of the electronics failed, then the main engines, and finally the rudder itself.  

The ship has drifted ever since, perhaps cursed by the dark magics practiced by some aboard, perhaps having drawn the attention of otherworldly entities, most likely simply because the insane central computer (shielded deep in the flooded regions of the hull in a sealed control center) has decided it wishes to remain at sea.  Regardless of the cause, the Apollyon does not come within sight of land and is forever shrouded in a thick miasma. Many aboard claim that the vessel now sails between worlds, or exists within all worlds simultaneously, a myth that would go a long way to explain both the preservation of much aboard the ship and the oddity of what is encountered aboard or pulled from the sea.

Over the eons the vessel has decayed, the high tech hull plates remain intact but a lack of spare parts and the eventual lack of maintenance has resulted in a cascade of mechanical failures.  Water now fills several of the lower decks, creating an entire oceanic ecosystem, while many other areas of the ship are sealed off for decades at a time based on the mad whims of the central computer. From the original population of tens of thousands of passengers and crew a tiny diminished remnant still clings to some vestiges of civilization.  This 'village' cowers in a small section of the stern dependent on failing greenhouses and a ramshackle fishing industry for survival. Other friendly pockets of life are rumored to exist, including a mud hut frogling village clinging to the side of the starboard hull and the 3rd engine room now converted into a fortress deep within the pitch darkness of the lower hull by the militarized descendants of the black gang.

The rest of the mammoth hull and the veritable city on the deck have been overrun by feral descendants of the ship's population, the undead, and assorted aquatic and semi-aquatic monsters such as the Nyarlathotep worshiping fish men who control much of the port bow and the kraken who lairs amidships, entering and exiting through a now submerged cargo port.

The player characters (any player type of characters really - The Muir-gheilt and kelp mummies can eat a SEAL team as easily as they can eat a pack of hardened dungeon bastards, and M4A1 ammo will be easy to waste and hard to find aboard) will have be castaways or drifting wreck survivors pulled aboard by the stern village.  One could simply have the Apollyon loom out of the fog and overrun the PC's galleon, elven war galley, pirate sloop, or destroyer escort.  A quick glimpse of the rusted enormity before awaking dripping with black water in the dim recesses of the decrepit sick bay sets a nice scene.  

Stern village has little use for more mouths, but they cling rigidly to their 'civilized' morality and can't justify using anything intelligent and non-hostile as chum.  Castaways with valuable skills (hydroponic farming and fishing principally) are inducted into the crew, but the rest are sent off into the hull to return with valuables (tinned food, good steel and functional ancient technology), battle encroaching threats, or most rarely to find the locations of important resources - operating freezer rooms, functional machine shops, barnacle beds or greenhouses with good soil and to defend the outposts set up to exploit them.

Yipes! Now I want to run this as a Consta-con game. My party is going back into ASE, this combination flying Dutchman 1960's 'slowship colonization novel' needs additional thought and is too different to be an ASE add-on.


  1. That... is a cool idea, worth developing. Loving the Blog!

  2. That is a totally sweet concept. Lots of places you could take that.

  3. I absolutely adore that comic. Making it some sort of Metamorphosis Alpha scenario is pretty wild and rad.

  4. Thanks guys, as with everything feel free to appropriate the setting - though if you do I may demand in on internet games. As to the setting, I think I'll need to let it stee for a while and wrap up my other projects first - the Obelisk and the Old Brewry, which is next on the agenda.

    I also enjoyed Eddington's concept, the background art also fantastic - and relly can't expect anything less from the mag that brought us Judge Dredd. I wish it had a bit more story, went from world building to demon battling to quick for ny taste

  5. I recently posted a link to this on G+, and someone commented:

    Like Metamorphosis Alpha adrift on the River Styx.

    I definitely need to pick up a copy of Leviathan now. Thanks for the post.

  6. Yup yup yup, this sounds marvelous and horrific.