Wednesday, July 22, 2009
WotRP Preview 4 - The Martian Underworld
One important chapter of the upcoming Warriors of the Red Planet RPG deals exclusively with other-worldly environments. Unlike most “standard” fantasy role playing games, sword & planet adventures do not often take place in the assumed environments of an earth-like counterpart. Nothing about the environment the players will adventure in can be taken for granted. Obviously, flora and fauna are usually going to be completely different and alien; that’s part of the fun of the genre. Beyond flora and fauna, even elements like the soil, the rocks, the shape of mountains, the fluid of rivers and streams, the color of the sky, the thickness of the air, even the gravitational pull can be completely different from what we are used to as earthly humans.
However, a lot of Sword & Planet stories feature forays into a very common fantasy role-playing environment: the Underworld.
Most cities on the Red Planet feature extensive underground dungeons, also referred to as “pits”. These may be used as prisons, where captives are thrown into damp, inky black cells, chained to a moldy wall and left to fret about their fate as time passes them by at unknown speeds. Time in the pits ceases to have meaning, the only intervals being marked by the infrequent visits of their jailors to deliver food and water, assuming they are to be kept alive to face their impending torture or execution.
Creatures lurk in the darkness here, waiting to drag expired prisoners into the further depths of the pits to feast upon them. Shapeless scavengers and predators haunt disused passageways and forgotten chambers, unwittingly guarding lost treasures or means of escape. Other prisoners may be encountered here as well, perhaps captive nobility able to offer fantastic rewards for the assistance of their escape. Perhaps future comrades in arms, or planted spies and assassins, or mad scientists thrown into the darkness for going too far, tampering with the natural order.
Dungeons also exist beneath the many lost and ruined cities of the Red Planet. These tunnels and chambers may have become lairs for all manner of predatory creature, or may serve as a refuge for the xenophobic remains of the lost civilizations, corrupted and mad from the weight of the countless years crushing down upon them.
Other areas of the Underworld to be covered in Warriors of the Red Planet include underground rivers and seas, great caverns filled with bizarre forests and “lost world” ecosystems, vaults filled with the arcane and incomprehensible machines of lost technologies, hidden cities, the laboratory complexes of mad scientists, secret factories mass producing some dire new weapon to assist a warlord’s attempted conquest of the world above, and wondrous natural caverns filled with scintillating waterfalls and pools lined with gems of every description.