Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ghost Towns of the Certopsian

Ghost Towns of the Certopsian
The Certopsian Plains, where the shadows of the distant clouds creep long like black burn scars amongst the dry hills, silver sage brush, waist high savannah grasses and dust bedeviled alkali flats.  This clean, hot vastness obscures thousands of years of tragedy and evil, marked only by grit scoured bones and the tumbled petrified timbers of ancient homesteads.  Sometimes these tragedies leak back into the present, manifesting in the form of Ghost Towns, each a unique colony of supernatural necromantic power.  Ghost towns are dreams of the past, and will loom from the shadows of dusk, suddenly revealed in a gulch or behind the next ridge ready to succor weary travelers.  The towns often appear plausible and are not always hostile, but they are inherently dangerous and unnatural. 

Upon encountering a Ghost Town, roll a secret reaction check (with a bonus of 1) on a non-hostile roll the party may interact with town in the normal manner (SEE PEACEFUL INTERACTION below), and may only discover that it was a phantasm when they awake in the morning on the ground or begin to ask too many questions. On a hostile roll the town appears normal until the party reaches its center at which point the buildings themselves begin to stutter between material and ghostly, aging rapidly with leering sagging widows and yawning black doorways that pour out aggressive phantasms. (SEE COMBAT below)

Ghost Towns are incredibly dangerous, even to powerful adventurers or large organized group, as a fully hostile and active Ghost Town may attack with tens of weapon immune, life draining phantasms from all directions.  Towns may be defeated and destroyed, but it is usually advisable to simply flee as the phantasms will only pursue intruders a few hundred feet into the night.

1st Roll – Nature of Town
2nd Roll – Town Peculiarities
Pre Fall Resort(oddly stuck in time)
Bright ceramicerte domes/residents wear jumpsuits
Appears to be oppressed by powerful local
Clockwork Empire Outpost (Proper and easily offended)
Brass and black iron buildings/mustaches and Victoriana.
Party arrives in the midst of a quaint local festival
Primitive Village of stone cubes stacked atop each other
Villagers are magnificently savage in feathers and beads.
Town built around hot springs/geyser/natural wonder
Slow timeless town of adobe and thatched huts.
Sun blasted farmers in white homespun.
Center of Town contains strange monument
Monastery/Religious Community to Forgotten Orbital Deity
Walled in adobe or rock/pious robed citizens
Distinctive inbreeding/mutations
Ancient Town in slow decline (mish mass of ancient/clockwork and modern styles) with many empty buildings
Town built next to ancient artifact (odd spire/saucer crash)
Plantation of rich eccentric - languid aristocrats in an ornate mansion and seething bondsmen in crumbling huts.
Broken war machines everywhere
Typical Wizard Tower (1st Building) and rundown shacks.  Fearful denizens greedy and stupid.
Sprawling graveyard.
Modern Livestock Town of garish clapboard, wood sidewalks, partying gauchos and exhausted servile residents.
Obviously follows ‘evil’ cult
Modern Mining/Industrial thorp with clapboard shacks and tin roofs.  Sullen miners heavily policed by company guards.
Town is a bandit stronghold/
domain of robber baron

Ghost Towns do not have statistics is the common sense, they are huge necromantic entities created by the accumulation of tragedy and sorrow.  Each town is made up of several buildings that are individual entities and will generate Phantasm (either aggressive or peaceful).  Buildings have 40 – 100HP (in 10 HP increments) and may generate 1HD of phantasm for each 10HP (they may also generate ½ HD Phantasms) as follows:
½ HD Phantasm
HD ½ (5HP)
AC 6*
MV 30’
ML 6
*Silver or Better to Hit
1 HD Phantasm
HD 1 (10HP)
AC 6**
MV 40’
ML 8
**Magic Weapon to Hit
2 HD Phantasm
HD 2 (20HP)
AC 5**
ATK 2 (touch or range)
DAM 1D8#/1D8 (100’ range)
MV 40’
ML 10
**Magic Weapon to Hit
#1 level drain
3HD Phantasm
HD 3 (30HP)
AC 2**
ATK 2 (touch or range)@
DAM 2D6#/1D8# (100’ range)
MV 40’
ML 10
**Magic Weapon to Hit
@ chant aura
#1 level drain
4HD Phantasm
HD 4 (40HP)
AC 0**
ATK 5 (touch or range)@
DAM 2D6#/2D6# (100’ range)
MV 40’
ML 12
**Magic Weapon to Hit
@ causes fear 20’ radius and chant aura
#1 level drain

Phantasms are the Ghost Town’s defense mechanism and the way it interacts with the living world.  When peaceful phantasms appear as residents of the Ghost Town with ‘extras’ going about business in the background, personalities interacting with the party, soldiers loitering where appropriate and a champion or two generated when the characters interact individuals such as sheriffs, retired adventurers, bandit kings, legendary gamblers or local nobility.
In combat phantasms will attack in a variety of ways, generally using appropriate phantasmagorical weapons or improvising them as they would have when alive.  When first hostile the Ghost Town will not appear obviously undead, though it will appear strange and dilapidated.  Phantasms appear to take damage from normal weapons and will collapse as if killed when damaged sufficiently by them.  Yet these blows will not harm the town/building’s reservoir of Hit Points and can be used to generate additional phantasms in subsequent rounds.  When a phantasm is killed with silver (in case of extras) or magical weapon, the building’s HP total will actually be depleted and it will reveal it’s true nature.
At the point where it is actually injured the Ghost town begins to shriek and howl with an unnatural intensity, while the phantom residents transform into obvious non-corporeal undead.  From this point on the buildings will begin generating more dangerous phantasms, pulling most of the extras and personalities into themselves to reuse their energy in the creation of soldiers, champions and finally terrors.  

All Phantasms are immune to non-magical fire and cold, poison and possess standard undead immunities.  Individual Phantasms may be turned as their HD +2 and will flee from the party to be regenerated elsewhere in the Ghost Town in 1D4 rounds.  Destroying Phantasms with divine turning has the same effect. The town as a whole may turned as a Special Undead or Demon (with the cleric needing a minimum of a ‘3’ and suffering a -2 to the roll). If turned a Ghost Town will disappear completely, but has a 10% of reappearing as a hostile entity each night thereafter to the Cleric that turned it while the Cleric remains in the wilderness. 

Individual Phantasms are as follows:
Extras – These phantasms are slightly indistinct, more symbol of a person or type of inhabitant than an actual recognizable entity.  They will make up the background of the Ghost Town.  Residents walking the street, patrons at distant tables in the bar and others glimpsed at the corners of a scene.
In combat they will appear as fairly indistinct specters and throw themselves at intruders distracting them from more dangerous phantasms.
Personalities – These phantasms have some individual character: a bartender with an oleaginous smile, porch sitting oldtimers, a child in a flowered bonnet – something to mark them out or draw characters into interacting with them.  They conduct the business of the town and conceal it’s true nature.  
Once obviously undead they will retain their original individuality, but display clear signs of being dead (obvious wounds and decay).
Soldiers – Phantasms that generally stay in the background and exist only to kill intruders/defend the Ghost Town.  If approached they will act distant and a bit coldly, attempting to direct the character back to interacting with the town’s personalities.  It is worth noting that soldiers need not be actual military combatants, but may be the towns more dangerous inhabitants (militant priests, banditos, gunmen, adventurers or even armed yokels).
In combat they will seek to close to attack and drain levels, but will used ranged attacks (may be any phantasmal weapon or even phantom magic) if the party is stuck in melee with other phantasms.   Once the town reveals its nature soldier phantasms appear much as personalities – obviously dead and spectral but largely unchanged.
Champion – Phantasmal Leaders such as Sheriffs, wizards, mayors, bandit leaders or even fancy gamblers and brothel madams.  These phantasms act out their roles until the town turns hostile, at which point they will lead and direct other phantasms while using their ranged drain attack to suck life from intruders.  Additionally each champion creates an aura of malic when enraged.  The aura acts as a Chant spell while the champion continues to exist and within a 20’ radius it grants all phantasms a +1 to all rolls while penalizing all living creatures with a -1 to all rolls.
Terrors – Terrors are monstrous Phantasms that make no effort to conceal their undead nature.  They may appear as giant phantoms of a Ghost Town’s stereotypical residents, as amalgamations of various dead residents (with multiple limbs, and heads) or even as animate chunks to decayed building material.  In addition to creating an aura of malice like a Phantasmal Champion, Terrors exude fear for 20’ in all direction.  While in this radius a living creature may only act each round if they make a saving throw vs. spells.

A ghost town will not appear as a complete town, but only as the main street of the town where travelers might find services and entertainment.  While Ghost Towns are Different (see Table 1) they all share the same general statistics and basic layout.  The buildings on the main street will be clear and distinct and characters may interact with them individually, while the distant residences and side streets appear on indistinctly and wandering down one finds only drab residences where no one answers the door.  Characters wandering off the main street will always be able to find their way back to it without difficulty, and will find themselves back on it (the side streets seeming to bend back and rejoin it after 1D4 turns).   If players are insistent and aggressively try to interact with the residences (such as breaking in) they will find themselves suddenly back on the main street in front of the ‘first building’ with the town aggressive and phantoms charging from all the nearby buildings.
The Main Street will always have 1+2D6 buildings as follows.  These buildings are arranged as follows along a single street:
10           6              3              1              4              9              13

12           8              2              5              7              11

First Building (40+1D10x10HP) – This building is the hub of the town, likely to provide the greatest lure to travelers and will be one of the following (roll a D10)

First Building
Saloon, Brewery, Distillery
Sprawling Bar and Lodging house
Courthouse/City Hall
Mansion of Local Magnate
Fancy Hotel/ Inexplicably Fine Restaurant
Sheriff/Garrison/Post Office
Roll Twice and Combine

The First Building will appear to be the most brightly lit and welcome, and obvious center of the town’s activity. 

Additional Buildings
The second building will always be a bar, inn or hotel if the first is not and offer some kind of lodging and food (at minimum it will be a larger house with a room to rent and a meal to share).  Otherwise roll below for each additional building.  All additional buildings have 40+1D6x10HP and will generate phantasms as appropriate. 

D20 for Each Additional Building – repeats may mean multiple or larger buildings of the same type
Bar/ Brewer
Large Residence
Grocery/Dry Goods
Hotel or lodging house
Gambling den
Theater/Gladiatorial Pit
Museum of local curiosities
Post Office/Private Courier
General Store
Governmental Agent/Jail
Stable/Saddler/Horse Doctor
Mercantile Warehouse

Once enraged or hostile the town’s buildings will begin to generate hostile Phantasms as appropriate to their nature (soldiers if conceivably possible and a few champions), while any building the PCs are inside of will throw its full complement of phantasms at the PCs (including at least one Champion if possible) and try to force them outside where the Town’s other phantasms may attack.  A building may generate Phantasms with HP equal to its own, and suffers damage equal to the HP of each Phantasm destroyed.  Buildings themselves may not be attacked, but will burst into odd ethereal flames and collapse if the phantasms they generate are destroyed. 

Buildings need not attack with all their phantasms and are filled with enough malign intelligence to both reabsorb badly wounded phantasms (at a rate of one phantasm per round - taking no damage to their HP pool), and not create additional phantasms if low on hit points (though each building will always have at least one phantasm active).   In general buildings close to a combat can create up to 3D6 HD of phantasms per round, while those further away will add 1D6 or 2D6 of phantasms to the fight per round if intruders are outside.  Intruders inside a Ghost Town Building will be attacked by that building’s full complement of phantasms.

On a successful reaction roll the Ghost Town may be interacted with as a normal town.  Its inhabitants will take money for services and offer a place to spend the night as well as whatever entertainments the town’s building’s provide.   
A reaction check need not be rolled after the first, except under certain circumstances, a town will generally behave as the roll indicates: luring the party in and then attack on a strong negative reaction, filled with surly residents on a negative reaction, indifferent or even friendly and outgoing.   The town has some difficulty maintaining its appearance of normality and for each D6+1 turns after the first in the town (unless the party rapidly finds lodging - See Table 4 Below) each PC must Save vs. Spells.  On a successful save (GM should simply tell the players to save) the character notices something macabre or wrong (a bar patron’s head turns into a skull momentarily, the walls appear splashed with blood, voices whisper threats, food tastes suddenly of ash and rot).  If the PC vocalizes macabre experience, or reacts to it in any alarmed way, roll another reaction at a one point penalty to determine the town’s behavior.  The town will also become hostile if any of its phantasms are attacked (though not in the context of a simple bar brawl or gladiatorial contest).  Reroll these checks every few turns with a cumulative penalty to the Town’s reaction roll as the night continues.  Night in a Ghost Town will stretch infinitely, as long as one living creature within it remains awake – with strange events occurring more and more often as the Town’s malign nature and limited control over its appearance begin to interfere with its illusion of normality.
Sleeping the night in a Ghost Town will have the following effects.
The party will awake scattered about the ground with their personal possessions.  All items bought in the town will have vanished along with anything paid for them or paid for h.  Animals and goods stored in the buildings where the party did not rest (i.e. in a stable or warehouse) will have also vanished with the town back into the next world.  It is likely that the characters will awake hungry and thirsty as all food and beverages consumed in the Ghost Town are phantasmal.  Additionally roll on the table below for what occurred in the night or effects on the PCs.

1D10 – Longterm effects from a night in the Ghost Town
Characters wake with their clothes and weapons gone, but 1d4x100xLVL GP in ancient coins are stacked on the ground.
Awakened in the middle of the night the party finds themselves in the midst of a recreation of the Town’s violent destruction.  Appropriate attacking soldier and champion phantasms (using ¾ the town’s total HP) will be battling phantasms of the town’s residents ( ¼ Town’s total HP) – a single champion, a few soldiers and many extras/personalities.  If the party intervenes and prevents the town’s destruction (death of all resident phantasms) they will be given a gift by the thankful Ghost Town of ½ it’s treasure.
Characters awake D10x4 years older, or at least with white hair.
Characters attract enmity of town, which will appear on subsequent nights 25% of the time (while in wilderness) with a -1 cumulative reaction roll.
Characters develop the ability to see ghosts everywhere for the next month (and suffer -1D4 Wisdom permanently)
Party will be trailed by a ghostly rider (obviously from the town) for the next 1D6+1 days. The spirit will not attack, but trying to catch it will result in it screaming, prior to vanishing, causing the pursuers to save vs. spells or suffer 1 level of life drain.
Characters awake weakened having suffered  level of life drain
One random character (or henchmen) is missing and has been taken by the town.  It’s possible to rescue them through entering the lands of the dead or rediscovering the town.
Characters are now undead – any damage received in the future will heal as necromantic HP.  When the character has no more remaining natural HP they will become an undead creature of equal HD – though they may remain in the character’s control as a thrall of the Ghost Town
Strange Dream reveals the nature of the Ghost Town’s destruction and Quests the party to act to avenge or otherwise honor the town’s memory.

 Ghost Towns when destroyed will snap back into the material world as ancient and appropriately devastated towns with appropriate treasure scattered amongst the ruins (akin to  small dragon horde and mostly consisting of coinage or valuable domestic artifacts).

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic idea. Filed away for a future game. Thanks!