The Lost Gardens: Locales and Generators
Between some as-of-yet unfinished projects, health issues, and Covid related malaise, I haven't been updating the blog as much as I'd like. So here, have some pointcrawl locations and some generators! I've been using these locations in a game using my 6e rules along with a tweaked Sci-Fi character sheet/generator and so far it's been a lot of fun. The general feeling I was looking for was a Risk of Rain 2/Metroidvania-y planet exploration/survival game, so if that interests you, read on! Plus, there's a fruit you can eat that causes your mouth to seal shut and then a giant mosquito proboscis slowly emerges from the smooth skin where your mouth once was.
A: To the west, a sheer cliff rises up. Upon closer inspection it is made of layers upon layers of ancient ruins. Rooms, temples, palaces all exposed in cross section. Tunnels and caves leading inward like doors. Wind howls through it, sounding like a lonesome flute. Climbing is dangerous; pale, emaciated forms dart from layer to layer, climbing expertly, bedecked in finery and jewels of all sorts.
B: In the center of the valley, a huge, half carved emerald juts skyward. It emits a strange, hot light which is visible from basically anywhere in the valley, making it very easy to orient yourself. As you get closer to the base, you see a myriad of carved stone forms; crouching men and women, all beginning to mutate strangely, looks of pure and total greed on their faces. As you get nearer to the emerald, you start to risk mutation (I've been using these, but giving them crystalline flair).
C: Wandering through the jungle, you come to a more cultivated region; a strong smell of growing plants and rotting meat fills the air. Strange rows of trees with embryonic fruit hanging from them. A strange, bent woman with a missing arm tends tenderly to the fruit, and sows more seeds in the ground. On closer inspection, the seeds are teeth, and one can make out different kinds of fetal creatures in the fruits. If you give the woman teeth, she will give you a fruit-creature to raise. Whatever kind of creature tooth is planted, that’s what kind of creature the fruit will bear. The fruit-creatures imprint on the first living thing they see. They are very loyal, though they rot quickly and are sad about it.
2: A humid swamp, feverishly warm; endless flowers covering everything in a frantic, colorful haze of growth and rot. The whine of mosquitoes and the fat low hum of bees and flies fills the air.
A: A river runs through the swamp; traveling on it is much quicker and more pleasant than wading through the muck. At the bottom, half submerged in muck, is a massive bomb. Spilling out from a rift in the metal sides, countless oily green crystals have covered much of the exterior. The wildlife in this area occasionally have crystalline mutations.
B: The river runs through a copse of strange trees that grows out of the swamp; their colors are supersaturated, bright, bright pink flowers and dizzyingly deep greens. As you get nearer, the whine of mosquitoes and flies grows louder, and more and more huge bugs land on you, drinking till they almost burst and then flying back into the copse in swirling, seething swarms. Within the copse, a bloated, rusted machine sits, almost like a meatgrinder, with strange tubes and pipes wiring it to the earth. It emits a steady, mechanical whine that cuts above even the insects. The mosquitoes plunge into it and are ground up by churning, gnashing cog-teeth.
C: A very, very old plaque of what appears to be petrified wood rests at the base of one of the trees near the entrance to the grove. It reads “shun all food but the fruits of the garden.” The trees eventually bear deep, deep red fruit, about the size of a mango but scarlet throughout and with no pit. They are intoxicatingly sweet, with a metallic aftertaste. The night after the fruit is eaten, you will dream that you have no mouth, and wake to find it is true, that skin has grown over your mouth and fused it shut. Throughout the next day, the smooth flesh where your mouth once was will itch uncontrollably, and, on the next day, a proboscis will force itself through your skin and grow throughout the day until its about a foot long. Eating normal food is no longer possible, and although you can speak, it is incredibly high pitched and whining. However, if you eat blood or nectar you take on an ability from whatever it is you consumed until you metabolize what you’ve eaten (about a day).
3: A dark, dense swamp. Air thick with the smell of pine, cedar, mud, and rot. Towering cedars blot out the sun, and the air clings too closely to you.
A: A river, dark and gold as amber, winds through the swamp. Upon closer inspection, the bed is lined with heavy gold coins from hundreds of dead kingdoms, thousands of dead monarchs staring up through the cool, still water. If you bend down to take one, you come face to face with a man floating just under the surface of the water. His skin is the color of dark rotting leaves, his hair, which fans out in the water like a halo, is dark green. His eyes and teeth are bright gold. He will reach out the water to offer you a coin, and ask “will you take my sacrament?” If you agree, he will push the coin into your mouth and down your throat before you can think. From then on, you will be able to swallow almost anything, provided you can fit it down your throat. You can regurgitate anything you swallow except for gold, which you hunger and yearn for. If you have gold in your gullet, it will burn cold, and the man from the river will visit you in your dreams and demand you come back and vomit up your tribute to him. If you do not, it grows ever colder and heavier until you vomit up everything in your gullet including the first gold coin, losing your ability to swallow things in the process.
B: The mud in this swamp nearly pitch black, flecks of opalescence shining in it. It’s almost like mercury, a flowing, solidifying, non-Newtonian fluid. If you keep moving you’ll be alright, if you stand still for more than a couple moments you’ll sink. As you walk through it, strange patterns swim on the surface, and occasionally the mud will rise up and form some identifiable shape before sinking back into itself. Thick, inky bubbles will form and emit a strange, sweet smelling gas the color of pearls. Inhale it, and you’ll hear a voice in your mind; “please, take me with you. They left me behind, so many years ago.” The voice will introduce itself as Seldib, the Forgotten Gardener. “I wandered the cosmic paths with my kin. I ventured into the wilds and grew star-gardens there. When we came to this planet, I first beheld gold, and was enchanted. I took the sacrament of the king, but could not bear to give him the treasures I had swallowed. So cold they burned, so cold. They weighed me to the earth. My people left this planet a long, long time ago, and when they left, I was forgotten. I lingered here, half swallowed in the swamp, gold tying me to the earth, waiting for them, until my flowers collapsed into slime. Now the gold has returned to the earth, but all I am is rot. Please do not leave me here. Carry me with you.” If you put Seldib in a jar or something they’ll be extremely grateful. They can tell you bits and pieces about Gardener lore, tho not much else. If you encounter something of incredible natural beauty or wonder, particularly gold or metals, they’ll ask you to either give them a piece of it or to pour them onto it. Either way, they’ll quickly corrode and rot whatever it is into more of the black/opal ooze that makes up their body. They’ll be really sad about this.
C: A corpse lays on a rock jutting out the swamp. They’re wearing a spacesuit, and have mostly rotted away by now. Remove their helmet and the face sort of slides out, along with a whole bunch of maggots. The corpse is impaled through the side by a harpoon strange organic material, maybe bone. It’s carved with images of nobly dressed people laughing, drinking wine, having sex, reading, singing, and dancing. The end of the harpoon has a strange bulb at the end. The spear is strangely warm and slightly damp to the touch. If the bulb is touched, or the harpoon successfully strikes a target, the bulb emits a thick strand of spider-silk that latches onto your wrist. As long as the strand remains attached, you may control whatever has been impaled by the harpoon, even after death.
4: A misty valley. The air is cool and damp, perfumed with the smell of thousands of little white flowers that grow out of nook and cranny. A light, refreshing breeze blows, drawing strange patterns in the mist.
A: A large boulder juts out of a bed of moss and flowers at a steep angle. It’s probably 20 feet tall, and a bit of a hard climb due to the damp of the mist and the slippery moss. Crouched under the boulder in a dark hollow is an old man. He’ll remain silent and out of sight unless spotted, when he’ll retreat further back under the boulder. His eyes glow a strange, fiery green. He’s been badly mutated, his fingers long, with four knuckles, and his body is strange and flexible, mostly made of spongy cartilage. If approached, he’ll say that “you look strange for an ape.” He’ll humor you if you say you aren’t, but clearly won’t believe you. He claims that “once he drank the of queensblood” and “served in the court” but “now his mind is full of emerald dreams, dreams of a brighter day” He says that he’d “do anything just to have the blood bless his lips again”
B: The mist in the valley comes from a waterfall, which pours out of a rugged, moss covered ledge. The water looks normal, but shines a strange green color in the rare sunlight that breaks through the mist. The water pools in a little stone basin. The fish there are not large, but have been mutated horribly, strange emerald teeth spilling out of their jaws and growing through their flesh. Being bitten by one is extremely painful and risks mutation.
C: Strange little birds flit and flicker through the mists here, fluttering around your head, landing on your shoulders, and stroking your cheek with their beaks. They’re like hummingbirds but with long flowing tails that almost resemble orchids. They’ll lead you through the mist, which grows thicker and thicker around you. They’re luring you into the clutches of a huge ape, snow white, shaggy shoulders covered in grey moss from which the mist seeps. He’s dragging a huge cart, in which is a birdcage with a bone-littered floor. He’ll snatch you, break your bones, and throw you onto the floor of the birdcage, where the birds will drink your blood.
A: In the center of the sunken town is a strange machine, treads half stuck in the swamp. The front of it is a huge wheel of emerald teeth. Most of them have crumbled, and the few that remain shine only dully. The machine has a cab with a mostly ruined seat in it, a steering wheel, and 3 levers. The machine, if all its teeth are replaced with emeralds, will hum to life. It will tear up any organic material in its path, ripping through earth and trees alike, melting through them in a blur of whirling emerald light. It is powered by the destruction of matter, and will continue forward as long as it has something to bite through.
B: On a hill slightly above the swamp, the entrance to a mine yawns open. Throughout the area and even in the swamp, people and apes with bodies of emerald can be found, wandering, desperate and hopeless. Only their faces remain flesh, and sometimes, not even that, only brain suspended in crystal. Their bodies are disintegrating , almost like pixelization, flesh crumbling into precious gemstones. “why is this happening” “where is the light that was promised” “a brighter day comes.” They will hurl themselves at you, squeezing and tearing at your flesh, which seems to fascinate/infuriate/sadden them
6: Swampland, eerie green shadows cast by strange plants. The air is humid and feels as if it’s clinging to you, following you.
A: The swamp gets deeper and deeper until it pools as a lake. Warm, fetid, dark water, swarming with knots of tangled pythons. Massive, muscular snakes writhing just below the surface, bodies coiled together in huge formations. Can’t move very quickly, but all try to grab hold of you, crushing and pulling you in different directions below the water.
B: In the center of the lake is a large island, visible from shore. An overgrown city sprawls here, clearly mostly destroyed, a few tall stone buildings surviving under the weight of years of vines and moss. Approach it and hear the laughter and jeering of the apes that have taken over the city. They lounge in the houses, catch pythons to eat by using one another as bait, and make use of what little technology remains in the city, wielding halberds and muskets that shoot lead ball packed with emerald. Most mundane items can be scavenged here, given enough time.
C: One human on the island remains, holed up in the tallest tower, which is entirely covered in flowering vines and mosses to the point that they must be burned or hacked away to gain entrance. The insides are not much better, and as you make your way up, plants will reach out, trying to bind you to the walls where you can see a few old skeletons moldering. At the top of the tower is an old priest of the gardeners, eyes replaced with the seedlike Gardener’s Eyes. He’s furious and bitter at the apes “the gardeners blessed man with eden and the apes despoiled it” “beasts shit upon the far flowers” “the savages profane beauty with their very presence.” The center of the room is dominated by a massive orchid with vines whose flowers drip nectar. The plant's petals are hard to look at and fractalize the more you gaze at them. “I thought i would never look upon the far flowers, but the gardener’s eyes have guided me. I was blessed with a seed, and now, all shall share my blessing.” The priest can be reasoned with, if you share his passion for the gardeners and his hatred of apes. He’ll lament the gardener’s absence, and if he really likes you, offer to pour you a glass of pit-wine. “It’s what those faithful to the garden drank, back in those grand times. Fills your mind with the glories of their work.” The pit wine is decanted from a crystalline orchid, swollen with dark wine. “Fled with this from the City of Tezina. His riders almost caught me, but I escaped, and came here. That was many years ago, and while his riders have fallen, I have taken root and blossomed anew” The priest has a bathtub filled with soil that has clearly been recently excavated, and vines and plants growing up and out of the window. If you drink the pit-wine, while in the tower, you will bury yourself in the tub, and get a panoramic view of the surrounding areas as your consciousness enters the plants growing on the tower. If the Priest is hostile, the flower’s vines try to force themselves down your throat, pumping a nectar that fills your mind with visions of otherworldly beauty, flowers the size of stars, solar systems connected with networks of massive vines. A number of apes have already been captured in this way, and the flower uses them as its hands, twisting the apes around with its vines. the priest mostly cowers while the plant does its work. If the priest is not hostile, the flowers still twitch twine around you unnervingly. If the flower is destroyed the priest is despondent and will rip the Gardener’s Eyes out before jumping out a window.
D: In the center of the island is a man-made pool. As you get closer, emeralds start forcing themselves through the stones in the street, climbing up the moss-stained buildings, and an eerie green glow becomes ever-brighter. The lake is surrounded by massive spikes of emerald (enough to risk mutation), but once you get by them, is perfectly round and clear, no emerald in the water at all. Coins dot the bottom of the pool, were a dark orb rests, surrounded by a huge knot of pythons. The orb is a sphere of dark metal about the size of a beach ball. It’s bursting at the seams with tiny emeralds, almost as though they’re growing from the inside. Has thick straps attached to it, as though it was meant to be worn as a backpack. Acts as a magnet for emeralds and their radiation; while you’re wearing it all radiation will be absorbed by the sphere. If it absorbs too much it begins to grow unbearably hot and, unless removed from radiation and cooled, will explode in a cataclysmic blast large enough to destroy a whole area. If you swim down, you see a pipe just big enough for a person to squeeze through; this leads back to the lake.
7: An abandoned garden, surrounded by a low, moss covered stone wall. Little wildflowers poke up out of long grass, bees flitting from one to another. The air is sweet and mild.
A: Thick, rich muddy earth makes up what is left of the garden beds. It is incredibly fertile, and constantly sprouts and consumes new growth. Ferns appear, uncurl, wither, die, vegetables sprout up before rotting into more mud. crouched by a vegetable bed, a hunched scavenger tears at carrots and radishes. The left side of her face has been mutated into a huge emerald spike that protrudes from her face a good six inches. If she sees you, she’ll rush towards you, weeping; “please, please, what’s happening to me? am I going to die?” “horrible, horrible…” “they took my eye and put a stone in the socket” “it burns, it burns.” She’s largely incoherent, and will eventually flee from you. Within a few days, she’ll begin to follow you, the mutation taking more and more hold of her; her whole head has become overtaken by the crystal spike, her posture is stooped forward, her hands and feet in bloody ribbons. When light refracts through the gem, it scintillates into poisonous, burning green-white beams. This seems to hurt her horribly.
B: A man’s face emerges from the earth, gazing up at the sky. He’s buried in an overgrown tangle of roses. He’ll greet you in an absent, surprised way. “Oh. Hello.” If you try to help him, he’ll refuse “Oh, no. No, I can see so much buried here.” “my veins run like roots through this place, my blood flows through the soil as if it were my flesh” “I am a bit thirsty, though. Might you have any wine?” If you get him a drink, he’ll thank you. “One good turn deserves another: what can I do for you?” He can tell you what’s going on in the surrounding area (4, 5, 8, 11), though he’ll only be able to tell you what the plants there can perceive. He also has general knowledge about the history of this place. Over time, he’ll grow into a tree. If you ask him about how he came to this place, he’ll say “you know, I can’t tell you. All I remember was finding a nice bottle of wine, and then, this. Ah, it was a fine wine, though. What I wouldn’t give for another drop”
C: Many animals in the woods around the garden are crystalline, most having heads that have been encased in crystal. They’ll bang their heads against rocks and trees, trying to free themselves. Tiny white crystal-changed monkeys watch from hidden places, preying on the weak. They’ll wait till you’re sleeping, then try to pluck your eyes from your head with long emerald claws and replace them with gems.
8: A valley that was once filled with a huge, crystal-domed greenhouse. Air thick with mist and a strong scent of fertilizer. Huge plants climbing up around rusted girders, massive chucks and splinters of crystal scattered around.
A: Snow white apes leap from shard to shard, scavenging for a strange, semi-translucent fruit; like a peach, milky-clear but for a black metallic pit that flows within the center of the fruit like mercury. The fruits refract darkness as if it were light, and shadows sprinter into strange forms around the fruits. The pit of the fruits is pure darkness, and will cling to whatever it touches. If the monkeys are provoked they will throw the fruit at you, attempting to blind you.
B: A huge form in tattered regal garb sits, entangled in vines that tie it to the earth. Beneath a waterfall that descends from a high sheer cliff on the edge of the valley, it sits, head back, jaw distended, the water pouring into its mouth. It swallows every drop, water rushing down its bottomless gullet to its huge bloated belly. In front of it sits a strange lily with liquid petals that endlessly flow into the earth like water. The creature is preventing water from touching the lily. The lily is a rare aquatic plant that cannot exist in the water; ordinarily, it simply dissolves into surrounding liquid, but if protected, will maintain its form. If it is consumed, the body will forcibly vent all liquids it contains, including blood. The body will die, but the fluids will retain their original form, and carry the body’s own sentience with it. You become a gross blood person, which, like the lily, will dissolve if in contact with fluid, but will otherwise be immune to most harm and able to flow through and into very small spaces. The creature will not budge, unless the lily is destroyed or removed, in which case it will stand, snapping free of the vegetation that bound it there, and confront you, gurgling “you would tear up the garden and mock its gifts. You would forget those who gave us eden” and begin to attack. It is slow, massively strong, and hugely bloated and heavy. It can vomit up huge amounts of water, or swallow you, causing you to drown in its gullet. It can also vomit up various wildlife it has swallowed. It will use the vines around it like a huge whip or net, and aims to trap people, then vomit water down their lungs or swallow them.
9: A swamp, thick, green, metallic grass sharp as blades growing from water. Stepping releases gas, pungent and thick, almost enough to make you choke.
A: Beautiful trees of what appears to be pure gold sprout from the stinking muck and slashing grass of the swamp. Their branches are heavy with cherries, red as blood. Their taste is blood as well, though eating them is lovely; a hit of pure serotonin, like a tiny orgasm. Eating them whisks you away from your body; you walk amid a huge hanging garden suspended from golden chains, slowly growing closer to the towering regal form of a woman who stands, overlooking the lands below the garden. As you reach her, she turns, and smiles the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen. She reaches into her breast, and pulls out a needle. She pricks her finger, offers it to you. You take it in your mouth and experience the most ecstasy you’ve ever known. All delicacies pale before this. With that taste haunting your mouth, you wake. The cherries hang around you, the closest you’ll ever be to tasting that blood again.
B: Under one of the trees sits the artificer, a hunched being that was perhaps once a man. emeralds shine in bronze sockets installed along its back, and spikes of dull, twisted metal have been driven though its eyes and ears. If you disturb the grass near to it, it shrieks in a strange, broken tone. “who’s there! have you come with materials?” “who comes to disturb my torment?” It is blind and deaf, though it can sense vibrations. Its hands have been skinned down to the bone, which is splintered, each splinter given mechanical joints, so that where each finger once was, 3 long, sharp spikes click and clatter. It is making a machine of some sort out of the grass; a strange mechanical insect. If left unbothered, it releases the insect, which flits from branch to branch. More grass-constructs can be seen, hopping from branch to golden branch. If the creature is bothered, it will fly into a rage, blundering towards you astonishingly quickly. “Have i not suffered enough?” “have i not been denied her blood?” Its splintered hands will dig through your flesh, searching for bone. If it wrenches one free, it will retreat, muttering “new materials” to itself, and begin to sculpt a strange bone man. If you give it materials, it will quickly transform them into random constructs or gadgets, though it will attack if it notices you trying to take them after they’re made. giving it metal and emeralds will result in genuine constructs, everything else will be mostly one or limited use.
C: Deeper into the swamp, steam rises from where a spring of clear water bubbles into a pool. A tiger constructed from some dark metal sits in it; emerald heart visible clearly through its rusting ribcage, nearly white hot, hissing and cooling in the water. The tiger will wait till it cools, then begin to hunt the closest thing to it, killing it and taking its bones back to the artificer. its heart grows hotter the more it acts, and after about 10 minutes (or 1-2 kills) it retreats back to the pool.
10: a forest, deep and green. soft light dappled along the ground, deep, velvety shadows. the air is warm and wet. It feels like it would be easy to get lost here.
A: A flower grows up through the eye-socket of a mechanical child. The child sputters and whirrs softly. It is trapped in moss. one of its arms has rusted through, and green light from its emerald heart pools around it. It cannot speak, but it will try to play with you if you free it, and run around, turning clunky somersaults
B: A river of pitch black water runs through soft, mossy banks. It scarcely seems to move, ripples frozen as if carved in stone, almost looking like scales. Its sound can be heard through the trees, a cold hiss that almost sounds like a voice “this earth chokes me” “where are the stars” “where is the void” If touched a swift current can be felt. It is freezing cold to the touch, almost unbearable. As you touch it, the hissing voice enters your mind; “I will die here” “all this for some stolen gold” “how bright it was” “how cold it burns in my belly” “kill the king of the river” “destroy his banks, let his waters spill into the earth like blood” “let me bask in starlight.” The only way to kill the king of the river (3) is to somehow destroy the river. If you do, this river will twist upward, becoming a huge snake of solid void that bends the light around it. Anywhere you are on the map you can watch it twist upwards, breaking free of the trees, and worm its way into reality, wriggling into nothingness and vanishing. If you go to where it once was, a single, massive serpent's tooth of the same solid void material as the snake will be sticking into the riverbed, oozing a a strange black venom.
C: A man sits and weeps on the far side of the river. He’s a plump well dressed man in noble clothes that seem well maintained. He’ll sob harder when you approach, though he won’t say anything unless you address him. If you do, he’ll sniff: “ah, friend, it is hard out here for a man such as myself; all my riches cannot bribe the beasts, and in my madness i hear the river speaking” “Perhaps you too desire a friend” “perhaps we could go together, you and I, and quell the dreadful loneliness that gnaws at our hearts.” “I have a camp not far from here, if you are weary.” Close observation will reveal a thin spiderweb attached to the back of his neck. If you point it out, he’ll get very jumpy, but won’t break the thread. He’s very insistent, and will not relent until you follow him back to his camp. The camp in question is the ruined remains of a huge pleasure garden. Crumbling gazebos and moss covered statuary abounds. Above it all, blotting out most light, a massive spiderweb hangs above everything. Nobly dressed people abound, laughing and talking of art, food, and music. Each has a thread on the back of their necks that connects them to the web. As you watch, one of the nobles is lifted by their thread up to the web, where a massive spider sinks its fangs into their neck. They continue to talk and laugh until the very end. If you try to leave, the web-slaves will pursue you, as will strands of the web, seeking to attach themselves to your neck.
11: A mountain rising up from a lush jungle, which clings to its side up to almost its peak, which is lost in the clouds. The air clings to your skin and chills to your bone. The sound of hooting and howling follows the wind.
A: At the summit of the mountain, a massive ape hand reaches down out of nothingness to grip the stone. Pitch black and incredibly solid, it seems to bend light around it. Coarse black hairs scrape against reality like they’re rubbing against the fabric of space itself.
B: A spring burbles high on the mountain, and the water spills out into a waterfall that runs down the rock face. It is rumored to have healing properties, and sitting on various rocks under it are horribly mutated apes and people. They will eye you cautiously, and fly into a rage if you interrupt their flow of water. Otherwise, they remain still. One man, a huge hunchback with strange, emerald plates covering much of his body, is known as the Sleeping Ogre, and has not moved from his perch for decades, so great is his devotion. They say his mutation had progressed to the form of a rampaging demon, and that only by sitting under the water continuously can he keep his mind intact. The waters do heal infection, wounds, and mutation; sit under the waterfall for a day and one mutation will fade; double it for each mutation beyond the first. There are no open spots; you have to remove someone from their perch if you want a chance.
C: A furious merchant stands some distance from the falls, berating all those who sit beneath the waters. He’s got a large sack slung over his back, from which he draws various trinkets of emerald, extolling their virtues and damning the pilgrims for denying “the beauty of the light” One of his hands is affixed to the neck of a massive tiger that sits next to him via a tumorous looking chunk of emerald. He’ll try to force emeralds onto you, growing angrier with each refusal. Push your luck, and he’ll use his arm-tiger to pin you to the ground and begin shoving emeralds into your mouth.
12: A low mountain, covered in lush jungle and obscured by a green-black haze. Air is still and eerily silent, visibility is limited. The air smells like wet stones. Being in this area risks mutation.
A: Spiders live on this mountain, mutated by the haze that pervades the air. About the size of a fist, with pale green and grey markings, they’ll watch you from the shadows. A few nights, you’ll wake up covered in spiderwebs. After that, nothing. But then, a day or so later, you’ll start to find effigies of yourself, made out of grey-green silk. At first, the effigies are crude, but over time, they start to look more lifelike. Any equipment you’re carrying will be made of emerald lattices, and if complex, will be dysfunctional. Once the effigies are sufficiently complex, they begin to hunt you. If you are captured, you are brought back to the spider webs, which they share with several others in a sort of collective. There, you are immobilized and studied, the spiders making ever more complex effigies until at last they construct one that can speak, and then, think.
B: An aborted construction project stands halfway up the mountain; what looks like the beginning of a palace, now overtaken by a copse of trees that have grown straight up through it. The trees appear to be firs, though closer inspection reveals that their needles are dark green crystal, razor sharp.
C: The higher up the mountain you go, the more figures you begin to see through the trees, meandering around, though keeping their distance. Eventually, they come into view; strange, walking corpses. Their bodies have deteriorated greatly, but where animals have savaged them or weather worn away at them, crystal has grown, replacing limbs, patching holes. The corpses wear miners clothing, barely holding together. They lounge about the entrance to an abandoned mine, the source of the strange haze which permeates this place. There, they chat, talk, joke, and generally enjoy themselves. They’ll give you as much emerald as you want, provided you can bring them some diversion or a new conversation topic. “we’re all here, all waiting for a brighter day” Also, if you want a crystal limb, they’ll facilitate amputation and replacement. Needless to say, interacting with them or being near the mine leads to extreme mutation risk, which the miners don’t see as a bad thing.
13: A valley; dense vegetation glistening with drops of rain and dew rustling strangely. Wind at a dead calm, air so wet it feels like it could drown you.
A: A corpse lays in a clearing, curled around something. Its skin is slick and blistered with heat which grows stronger the closer you get, until it is nearly unbearable by the corpse. The heat appears to be radiating from two bitemarks in the corpse’s ankle. Staring at them is nearly impossible, as each of the pinprick holes is shining with light nearly bright enough to scorch your retinas. The body is wearing tattered and scavenged clothes, and has a pickaxe and canteen, as well as a single shot plasma rifle and a bandolier of charges. It’s curled around a skull sized chunk of pure emerald. Getting close enough to remove the items from the body will result in a mutation.
B: Lodged in the side of a hill is a boulder; veins of emerald run through it, radiating hot light that you can see through the leaves. A piece of it has been clearly hacked off and removed. When you get closer, you can see light pooled on the ground has caused the grace to fractalize; it appears to have infinite depth. Curled in one of those pools is an emerald green snake with dead black eyes. It appears to spiral inward infinitely, and is always facing you. It will appear in several light pools at once, or jump from one to the other. It cannot leave the light, but it will taunt you to come closer. “oh, won’t you come closer. Just a little closer. Close enough to feel the future blister your skin.” It claims that “I belong to the light. A radiance that even stars fear.” If you leave, it threatens you; “You still have shadows to hide in, but a brighter day is coming, and I will be there. Waiting for you.”
C: An abandoned mine gapes an ugly hole in the side of a green hill. It’s not very deep, but it would make decent shelter. In the mud at the front of the cave you can see little insects writhing around, slowly mutating into little crystalline horrors, shells and wings becoming green stone that lights the cave with an unearthly glow. A scraping sound comes from the very back of the cave. If you go far enough back, you can find a cyborg, crouched in the mud, digging a hole with its hands. It’s very nearly all robot now, and impossible to tell what sex it was before its flesh was replaced with metal. It’s mostly rusted, and thick, oily blood oozes like sweat from underneath metal plates. It’s got a bag next to it full of seeds of all different sorts. It will attack if you try to stop its digging, but otherwise will ignore you. Mutters “the palaces herald their coming” over and over. After a while it will take its sack and leave.
14: A marsh; tall reeds sticking out of cool dark water, trees sprawling huge and low out over everything, moss and vines dripping from their branches. The air is rich with the smell of loam and moss.
A: What remains of a house languishes on a little knoll of earth. Stones covered in moss, all wood long gone. It’s covered with vines bedecked in massive purple bell shaped flowers that continuously ooze nectar out of them. Nectar is corrosive, burns organic matter but not stone or metal. Bare patches in the grass and moss where the nectar drips. Very hard to pluck a flower without splattering nectar on yourself.
B: Behind the stone ruins of the house, a grove of bamboo has grown up through the roof of what was maybe once a gazebo. An old woman sits there, combing long, long black hair. The bamboo has grown through her legs and some of her spine, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She’ll ask you if you like her house, and offer to let you rest a while. Asks if you still think she’s beautiful, if you’ve seen her husband. She’ll fly into a rage if you do anything that reminds her of the reality of her condition, or if you try to cut down the bamboo “what’re you doing to my home???” She says she’s redecorating, and offers you various trinkets if you bring her strange or beautiful things to replace them.
C: The first thing she offers is a tiny distilling contraption; “somewhere, there is a mine where the workers have never stopped digging. They take no food but for the emeralds they tear from the earth, which they distill into a strange poison that sustains them. My husband spoke with them, and they gave him this, that he might try distilling the stones himself.” If you feed a diamond, it will compress it into a thick oily liquid, becoming white hot in the process. A drop of the oil will sustain you for a day, but each use risks mutation.
D: There’s a white snake in the valley that secretes a certain venom that, while in the veins of a victim, allows the snake to hunt that person in dreams. If the snake kills you, it takes control of your body, leaving you trapped in the body of a snake. However, there are those who have perfected a technique where they allow the snake to bite a target, then ingest its venom themselves. Years ago, an ape ambushed the woman’s husband, and, using this technique, stole his body and left him with the form of an ape. He now haunts the valley, white snake coiled round his neck. He will send it to bite you, and then drink from its fangs and hunt you in dreams. In his dreams, the house is a mansion rising up from the swamp. His wife sits in a gazebo surrounded by waterlilies and plays a harp. He will try to strangle you. He is apologetic. He says he just wants to be with his wife again. He will show no mercy.
15: A feverish forest, air alive with the sound of birds and insects and sweet with the scent of big, meaty, colorful fruits and orchids.
A: A strange statue made of a dark wood rises from the center of a clearing. It depicts a towering being with huge flowers for a head and many spreading and branching arms. Various fruits and flowers adorn the arms of the being, but the focus of the sculpture is on a bowl of stone seeds, which the being is offering to a crowd of stooped, bowing humans, who accept and swallow them gratefully. The bowl really does have seeds in them. The clearing is dotted with huge flowers that bloom straight out of the earth, pink and fleshy red, like an explosion caught in plant form. As you watch, a monkey scurries up the statue, takes one of the stone seeds and settles down to eat it. A few moments after it swallows it, the monkey’s skull turns violently inside out, blossoming into a fleshy orchid. It flops wildly around, confused and panicking, before suddenly charging towards you wildly. If you walk on or near the flowers growing out of the ground they begin to tremble, and flower-beasts crawl forth from the earth and attempt to force you to swallow the seeds that they disgorge from the center of their flower.
B: A small lake hidden by thick, tangled bushes and shrubs. Spend a few minutes resting by its shores, and, if you seem non-threatening, a strange mass of vines and water plants will emerge from the lake; long vine arms holding human hands at their end, a human head supported on a long, bobbing vine neck. In one human hand it holds a glass, in the other, a wine bottle. It pours you a drink, offers it to you. It speaks, though the severed head does not move. “Would you like a drink?” If you’re frightened, it will attempt to reassure you, offering to use a different head (it’s got a lot). “It’s been so long since I’ve had anyone to drink with” “here’s to you, wanderer” “come back whenever you need to quench your thirst.” Wine has different, random effects each time: mostly strange, sometimes helpful (roll a d6, 6 gives a power, (use this table) 4-5 does nothing, 1-3 gives a mutation)