Friday, October 27, 2017

The Divine Wight Part 2 - Undefended Ib

Every wilderness adventure needs a starting point and the tradition for "Jungle Adventure" is to start in an exotic port - a polyglot and strange place filled with sailors, wanderers and mysteries that startle the civilized explorer.  The use of North African tropes is traditional for building the liminal space between the civilized 'North' and the unsullied, wilderness, unexplored 'South'  and I don't think I've entirely avoided it here.  I'm not sure what Undefended Ib is beyond a dingy timeless place of exile for the Fallen glories of Empire.  Clearly remains the entrepôt for decadent jungle trade goods, but it was once more I think - a legion fortress city - the ultimately precarious distant limb of Imperial overreach, unaware that its body is as dead as the ghost legions that guard it.


Sleepy and decadent, the far outpost of a dying empire and home to exiles, ghosts and depravity.  Weapons are forbidden in Ib as to carry them breaks an ancient compact with the city’s ghostly protectors.

Beyond the fecund waste of the Sea of Grass, past the square peaks of the Ravening Mountains and the great demon corrupted sink of the ever burning Heart Provinces is the Jungle of Midnight. The crumbling spires of the Undefended Citadel of Ib erupt from the headwaters of a long nameless river on the Hook Shore beyond the Inner Sea, where the ghost herons hunt in the shallows waiting for fish to swim between the transparent shears of their glassy beaks. A few traders sail there each year, spending months on the tossing salt waves with the haunted shores of the Old Empire to the North, enduring in anticipation of the wealth a hold full of dangerous foreign cargo will bring.

The town of Undefended Ib is a small port on ancient slime covered pilings of black alchemical iron. No man is allowed to bring weapons into Ib’s streets for fear of calling a tide of spirits down from the citadel above.  The few ancient nobility, their ancestors exiled here to rot happily among the tropical breezes and narcotic blue mango of the jungle, keep a languid peace by employing enormous wrestlers, stranglers and pugilists or resolve disputes by contests at drunken poetry.  The common people trade in goods from the jungle, most traded from the lantern eyed men of the interior.  Black jaguar skins, glowing cockatrice feathers and potent drugs are exchanged for bronze spear heads and glass beads.

The town itself consists of nine crumbling late Successor Empire mansions, stone block and riveted arcane steel wedding cakes eight to ten stories high, dwarfing the riverstone and thatch huts, warehouses and market of the trade town below, but equally dingy and small in the shadow of the massive black spires of the Undefended Citadel of Ib.  Like four of the mansions, and the top five or so floors of the others, the citadel is utterly abandoned.

The normal laws of civilized lands against theft, violence and cruelty exist in Ib, though the town’s decadence, depravity and languid self regard mean that any crime but one can be forgotten for a large enough bribe.  That one crime is bearing weapons - any tool of physical violence more imposing than a dagger or heavy walking stick will not be allowed on shore.  The locals have no real means of enforcing these rules and the dock master will implore or suggest that any bearing arms go beyond the town’s streets by sundown rather than calling guards or making threats.  Town’s folk will make signs against evil, refuse to do business with and look with pity and real concern at any armed person, but they will not interfere.  They need not interfere, the Law of Peace is enforced by a much more sinister power than even the cable armed stranglers that guard Ibian nobility - the Lost Legion of the Undefended Citadel of Ib.

Thousands of arrow slits, windows, gates and weapons ports are open to the wind and the Summer’s torrential sea rains.  Nothing lives in the citadel and nothing visits it’s nearly endless halls - bare except for mud, gravel and rust flakes.  Even moss and lichen refuse to grow. Neither rats, nor any of the millions of bats that swarm from the lofts and attics of the town below inhabit the citadel’s black spires, because each night the citadel’s haunts slay even these inoffensive vermin. The citadel is the jealously guarded domain of the ghostly Lost Legion - spirits of Imperial legionaries, purported to be all of those of the ‘Terico VI - “Ironclad”’ who died over 500 years ago on a various expeditions to tame the Jungle of Midnight and confront the threat of Vehissu.

Almost all of the folk tales and rumors about the citadel are true.  The ghosts are real, and any necromantically attuned individual will feel their presence from miles away, a roiling sea of undeath made up of hundreds or thousands of individual spirits. The ghosts keep the peace in Undefended Ib by fear and midnight appearances, but are more active in slaying anyone who trespasses in their citadel between noon and dawn.  Any who carry arms beyond a dagger or cudgel in Ib will be attacked in the night (along with 2D20 random others in nearby buildings) and seized by a squad of 12 spectres sometime after dusk.  The spectral legionaries will drain the souls of their victims in the street and march their shades off to wail beneath the citadel. If successfully resisted a larger force of 24 spectres will come the next night, carrying off twice as many citizens.  It will double each night until on the seventh day seven hundred and sixty eight spectres will descend in a great marching block from the citadel and depopulate the entire terrified town (though most including all faction leaders will have fled into the jungle by then).

Any who explore the dark citadel in the afternoon or at night will find themselves hunted by packs of 1D6 spectres which will appear every turn with a random encounter check of 1-3 in 6.

Lost Legionary (Spectre) - 
HD6 (30 HP), AC 2/18*, ATK 1** necrotic touch/blade, ATK BONUS +7 to hit, DAM (1D8), MV 50’/fly 100', SV F6, ML 10.
*Immune to mind affecting spells and non-magical attacks.
**Touch drains 1 level of experience in addition to damage (Save v. Spells to avoid drain), victims drained below 0-level rise as spectres
The town, though distant and sleepy, can offer the supply items needed by adventurers. However, medium and heavy armor is unavailable and no magical items or scholar services can found (unless one befriends certain noble families). Carousing in Ib consists of heavy doses of addictive, hallucinogenic jungle drugs and the company of scrawny ashy-skinned odalisques/addicts or members of the local nobility (which amount to the same).  The townsfolk are a varied mix of peoples and origins, though there is a tendency toward greyish skin tones and large blue or green eyes hinting at jungle ancestry.

The citizens of Undefended Ib engage in lackadaisical industry to produce goods for the native trade, but know relatively little about the Jungle of Midnight, beyond the value of its exports and rumors of the dangerous beasts that inhabit it: giant jaguar, cockatrices, invisible hunters, blue feathered owlbears and huge poisonous serpents. It’s general knowledge that the jungle is full of lost cities and ruins, dating back to primordial history, but the location of any specific ruin is subject to contradictory rumor.

There are at least 20,000 people in Undefended Ib and the farms around it - fishermen and plantation workers are the most common, but all manner of society are represented.   At least on ship of sea faring size is always in the harbor and several smaller vessels are also available.  However, due to Ib’s special protectors it has no living militia or military.  Vigils carrying heavy bell (treat as maces) walk the night streets and criminals learn elaborate wrestling arts, but even if confronted with imminent destruction Ib’s people could only must 2,000 untrained defenders, unarmored and equipped with staves.

There are five families of Noble Imperial stock, grown stranger and more indolent than even their counterparts in the Capital, but more excited to meet travellers of high status.  Travelling members of the Imperial Nobility will be besieged by marriage offers and invitations to quickly arranged, shoddy balls where the same forty or so people show up dressed in the same badly maintained bits of antique finery.  Due to many generations of inbreeding most members of the nobility of Ib look similar, with long melancholic faces, stretched crane-like bodies, big green eyes with a touch of luminosity, and greyish skin with a bluish undertone. Generally the nobles know very little, and persist on the inertia of ancient tariff rights, a steady diet of narcotics and endless petty gossip.

The servants of Ib’s Nobles tend to be human, except for the house servitors of the Ib-Faber who resemble golden shelled crabs with long necks and human faces.  Again excepting the Ib-Faber, the nobles (and some more important merchants) are protected by guard forces of large muscular wrestlers or pugilists who are capable metting out injury and death without the use of weapons. All of the families’ business is run by their factorial agents, a corrupt and scheming lot who actually control the tariffs and taxation of Ib’s trade for their own short term benefit.   

The Comoranti - The Comoranti are the current dominant family, only by virtue of their large numbers, the recent rise in the popularity of certain blue dyes for export and a generation of factorial agents slightly less corrupt and incompetent then most.   

Mungo Comoranti - Youthful Family Head, has a penchant for heavy drinking and exotic tipples that sets him apart from the rest of the nobilities’ addiction to narcotics and has made him rather chubby. Secret: An imbecile puppeted with some success by his valet and best friend “Charce”.

The Bakeshi - The Bakeshi have been such intensive addicts and sybarites for so long it’s unclear how the family holds onto their wealth or even engenders new generations.

The Bakesh - The leader of the family is a title and a mask, worn by what is allegedly the oldest living female family member.  The height, weight and voice of the Bakesh seem to change sometimes however, though they are usually the harsh rasp of a calculating crone whose long decadent life has left her supremely jaded.  Secret: There is only one true Bakeshi, and she an undead magus of rare power and great age.  Retired to Ib, the Bakesh studies the generations of her ‘family’ and certain terrible abstract elements of necromantic theory.  There is nothing in the mortal world that she particularly wants.  When The Bakesh needs new family members she finds an appropriate looking specimen, steals them away and forces them into the life of a drug addled noble with dire magics (most don’t mind).

Ruttergund - Hex Ruttergund and his son are the last remaining members of this once noble family.  They are both bookish, off putting and smell like a combination of narcotic pipe ash and bachelor sweat.  Pertumbo Ruttergund (the son) seeks a wife who shares his fascination with the  collection, illustration and codification exotic sea shells. The Ruttergunds a financially stable only because they rarely spend any money.

Hex Ruttergund - The elder of the Ruttergunds, he hopes his family line won’t slide into extinction, but is far too fascinated with his own studies to do more then make incompetently charming invitations to potential suitors for his pedantic son. Secret: Hex is a 10th level wizard specializing in spells of transformation and transmutation.  He knows more about the Beaked God than any living person - including all rumors on the above tables and the God’s approximate location.  Hex might share spells and local knowledge as part of a deal to keep his family line alive.

Ib-Faber  -  The Il-Faber are the most recent noble family to arrive in Ib.  They are notable only for their odd golden shelled, long necked, human face servitors and because they still have connections in the Capital. The other nobles of Ib consider them gauche interlopers, but seek their approval because they have no deep centuries held vendettas with the Ib-Faber.

Cosmo Ib-Faber - A supremely attractive androgyne of about forty, Cosmo loves a good story and offers patronage to explorers, travellers and adventurers. The rest of the family is similarly open and forthcoming, but they are also terrible, aloof and arrogant with cosmopolitan schemes. The stink of the Capital clings to them, even three generations in exile. Secret: Cosmo will do just about anything for wealth or magical power that might allow the Ib-Fabers a chance at returning to Capital society.

Devi - The Devi are the oldest and strangest of the noble families of Ib.  Their skin is nearly blue and their eyes glow in in the night.  Their mansion creaks with age and is overgrown with jungle vines inside and out.  They are aloof and seem immune to the debilitating effects of the narcotics they consume in bulk.  

Petulence Devi - The leader of the house is a woman of kindly smiles and wizened appearance.  She is keen on stories of the jungle and those who trade with the autochthons there, she would love to hear of the lost city and its inhabitants.  Secret: Devi is an devotee of the Beaked God and head of a secret sect.  She is in contact with the Blue Monks, but finds their passivity irksome and seeks to bring the god back to his full power.

Rook Devi - A younger house member, hardy and tall with a flashing eye and stern demeanor. Rook is a rather eligible bachelor but seems uninterested in the social life of Ib. Secret: Rook is a 6th level War Cleric of the Beaked god, perhaps the only one remaining.  He would go into the jungle if he believed he had a chance to raise his god.

Of course a guide can be hired in Ib, though all are worthless.  Most guides will take 100 GP as an upfront fee and an additional 25 GP a day.  Guides will impart some useful knowledge about jungle travel, specifically: the importance of buying a boat (each riverboat is good for 10 passengers or 3 crew and enough supplies for 60 man days of food and water and costs 200 GP), the danger of wearing heavy armor in the jungle and the need for supplies and clean water (1GP a man day).  They may encourage the party to hire porters (they can arrange a string of 10 for 500 GP) but otherwise are mostly useless in the Jungle of Midnight.

As personalities Guides vary greatly, from lean glowing eyed native outlaws to former legion men gone to seed and sweating:
Useless Daredevil
Mon the Goldhound
Blustering former legionnaire, gone to fat, sweating sickness and perversion - tells great stories, mostly lies.
Feather clad autochthon renegade, has never been into the jungle, kidnapped by missionaries as a child - denies this.
Quivering filthy addict of numerous jungle narcotics, a real veteran of the Jungle of Midnight - rarely coherent.
The Hand of the Hidden One
A red robed mystic with a strange brand on the forehead, claims to lead through prophecy - convincing con artist.
Clavid Bilge
Ancient sailor/Pirate/Smuggler clad in layers of tattered finery - believed cursed by fellow seadogs.
Boiled Trout
Barkeeper, longtime Ib resident and gadfly. Looks fit and  talks a good game - desperate to repay debts to the Bakesh

All guides share the following statistics:
Jungle Guide: Spc 3 (INT 14, CHR 15, DEX 15)  (HP 9) AC 6/14, ATK 1 (by Weapon), ATK BONUS +2/+4 to hit, DAM (by weapon), MV 60’, SV Spc2, ML 6.
Jungle Guides have the following skills: Stealth 3, Survival 3, Chemics 2, Animal Handling 2
They gain +2 additional to hit with ranged weapons.

Equipment: Light armor (AC 7), Short-bow (1D6), 30 arrows, Cutlass or Mace (1D6), 10 days rations, 60' rope, 2 water-skins, Lantern, 4 flasks of oil.

The denizens of IB cannot tell the exact location of the Fallen God, but they can tell of the dangers, wonders and treasures of the jungle.
Rumors on the Streets of Ib
The Jungles of Midnight are a magical sink or spill, though the pollution is ancient and has infused the entire land.  This is most obvious in the animals, all are twisted and most a bit immaterial.
A scholar from distant civilization, smoking a clay pipe.  Her face tanned dark by Eastern sun and dull suit patched with exotic fabrics.  She wishes to exchange stories while she waits on her ship home.
There are villages in the jungle, the true people there trade with Ib.  They are wise and know all the secrets of the jungle, all the ways, the creatures and the treasures.
An Autochthon from the jungle, eyes huge and glowing and a skin a bright blue.  She wears a wrap of soiled blue feathers and bark cloth painted with bird and lizards. She begs for coin to feed her infant.
They say that there’s a god in the jungle, and the bleeding clay explorers sometimes find is it’s flesh.  The clay may be made into a valuable curative by burning it in magical flames.
A dock walloper, glistening with sweat, his stringy but impressive physique on display except for the parts concealed by a damasked loincloth and oiled leather harness studded with gold buttons.
The big blue birds of the jungle are the most deadly, with the best plumage, their songs will turn a man into crystal.
Languid with clammy flesh and bloodshot eyes above rich fabrics, the nobles of Ib are relentless gossips.
The Bakeshi are very great powers, the Cormaranti only rule because they allow it, but Hex Ruttergund is a strange man, very stingy with coin.
Standing in full sun to advertise his endurance, this mercenary judicial strangler bulges under a red silk robe. He will talk to any who wish to settle scores.
The legions are still here and they do guard Ib, not all tales are false. To enter the citadel is death, its corridors contain no gold or gems, only the memories and haints of the dead legions.
Three Priests of Death (The 198th Emperor) smell of ashes beneath ragged grey robes and beaten silver skull masks.  They are friendly and courteous with a tendency to finish each other’s sentences.
Despite its shadows, the jungle is hot, humid and tangled, the old legionaries died in swarms, not only to the monsters that dwell there, but to exhaustion.  Wearing heavy or medium armor in the jungle is a poor idea and will soon kill.
Wild eyed and filth covered, crooked mouth dribbling bluish juice, this mango picker has just returned from the swampy edges of the jungle and the groves of narcotic blue mango ebullient with survival.
A beast of unreason haunts the jungle, a man, a serpent or a bird.  It’s gaze creates horrors and madness.
A spectral figure in black robes that conceal an armored bulk.  It whispers something seemingly in at random.


  1. Hi! I am really impressed of how you are fleshing out this "jungle" adventure. Are you going to post the "wilderness" rules and tables that you will be using for this?

    1. Perhaps - We'll see how much I feel like editing and putting up. The jungle expedition is only meant to be a 3-10 day affair, not a hex crawl in the classic sense.