Friday, January 21, 2011

The Mountains of Mourning

At the edge of the world, a mountain range looms. So high it scratches the sky (so they say), so inhospitable even the most powerful magics will not protect you (so they say), so long it cannot be crossed in a thousand lifetimes (so they say). These are The Mountains of Mourning, the northern edge of the livable region of The Realm of Lives.


Archetype: Mountain ranges have two purposes in fiction: hazardous routes to interfere with a journey or truly impassable barriers. Consider the mountain range "The Misty Mountains" in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings -- it stands between the heroes and their destination, and they must travel with great difficulty through the mountains, exposing themselves to danger (and goblins). Then there are the impassable mountains -- common in video games as a way to justify limited map sizes (the Might & Magic series I played in my youth comes to mind). The Mountains of Mourning are designed more as the latter -- like the Wilderwoods, they are meant to be so difficult and dangerous to cross that nobody will bother, acting as the border to my campaign world.

Real-Life Inspiration: The physical inspiration is, I suppose, the mountain ranges in Washington and Alaska states, which I've been in (mostly driving through) many a time. Evergreens. Snow. Amazing vistas. More importantly, though, the remote, inaccessible spots in the Andes, the Himalayas, and such, are the model for the Mountains. Scaling the biggest peak (which is, of yet, nameless) should be just as monumental a task as climbing Mt. Everest.

Theme: Mountains are the classic spot for secrets and remote locations: Shangri-La, Shamballa, Nanda Parbat. So as well as being impassable, the Mountains of Mourning are filled with mysteries. A remote monastery or research institute (or both -- the Practical Theosophers may have a presence here); a military outpost from an invading crossRealm army; and local mythology holds that the demigod Prometheus is imprisoned in a cavern deep beneath the mountains. Secrets secrets secrets.

Twist: You know that absurd legend that the ancient demigod Prometheus, progenitor of the Promethean bloodline and son of The Light, is chained up in a cavern? He actually is! Okay, maybe that's not much of a twist for a fantasy campaign, in most of which all myths are true... but it is a hell of a campaign goal: Free the god-man who is either Jesus or Satan (depending on who you ask), and throw the entire world off-balance. I can see the splatbook now -- Prometheus Unbound... or is that title already taken?

Locations

The Worlds’ Cross
Description: Cross-Realm portal in which Prometheus is bound.
Theme/Threat (depending on your point of view): The Light’s rebellious son Prometheus is imprisoned here.
Aspect: A Prison That’s Also a Gateway
Faces:
Prometheus – Angry But Good-Hearted Demigod
The Eagle – Prometheus’s Sadistic Gaoler
Niontian Outpost
Description: Small outpost of Niontians pondering invasion.
Threat: Niontians – lying, living shadows – scout force.
Aspect; Deceit Is a Way of Life For Them
Face: Vertex-of-Pain – Niontian Captain Intrigued by the “Truth-Tellers"
On our roundabout trip through the wildlands of the Realm of Lives, we will come back through The Addix, where angry undead raiders plot the City's destruction...