Friday, May 31, 2024

The Walled Gardens of Nisk

I've been experimenting with writing city adventure locations with minimum-necessary detail for gameplay. The intention is to have the foundation of a place made and ready to go, so that when a "go to x location and accomplish y task" adventure is called for the x part is ready and accounted for above and beyond what is necessary for the y. 

It's not too difficult to come up with a bespoke location for an adventure, but for a city game where players are more free to wander around wherever they want it's useful to have locations that can be run on their own without the players having a specific impetus to be there. The party might journey to the Place of Masks to steal a mcguffin but if they just stumble upon it I want there to be enough material for spontaneous adventure. And if down the line when the PCs need a disguise or something and one goes "what about that costumer we ran into in that mask place?" then everything worked as intended.

All that's needed at the preliminary stage is a concept, an encounter table, factions, and a couple points of interest. My goal is to have the whole location fit on a two-page spread, maybe not including stat blocks if I'm being generous to myself. 

The following example took me about two days to finish between work and other commitments to finish. If I start with ~10 and build more as necessary, the city would exist as a fully operational ecosystem of adventure locales that could be run indefinitely. Hopefully. This might become a monumental amount of work that I'll shamefully abandon but we'll see how it goes. 

The Walled Gardens of Nisk

Since before anyone can remember, the wondrous pleasure gardens were tended to by the Greenskeeper clan, an insular group whose self-seclusion gave rise to all manner of strange customs and practices. At one time the gardens were the pride of the city, but since the coming of the Overlord few dare to walk its tangled paths. 

Michael Hutter

Encounters (d20)

1-2 3d4 Greenskeeper clan soldiers led by a 3 HD captain [patrolling | hunting sectids | resting] 

3-4 2d6 Greenskeeper clan botanists [planting, 25% are keeping watch | transporting valuable plants, soils, or seeds worth sp equal to 100x no. encountered; accompanied by 1 clan soldier for every 4 botanists | fighting a monster plant (8 HD)] 

5 Greenskeeper clan hivemaster accompanied by 2d6 apiarists  

6-7 1d4 Decorative fauna [grooming | feeding | slowly being consumed by a monster plant]

8-9 Monster plant

10-11 2d6 Sectid skirmishers [emerging from the ground | tearing down trees | consuming deceased sectids]

12 1d100 Sectid scavengers [devouring plant matter | dehydrating flower plots | shedding old carapaces] 

13-14 2d8 Touring nobles, accompanied by 2 guards per person. 

15 Clan ceremony procession. 3d20 Greenskeepers in full regalia chanting, spreading seeds, and holding tall flowers like military standards.

16-17 1d8 Thieves [stashing treasure | meeting a contact | getting loaded]

18 Dryad, cut off from her world, filled with remarkable sorrow and loneliness. The melancholy beauty of the plants blooming around her would make anyone’s heart ache. 

19-20 2d6 Plant poachers employed by an alchemist house [creeping around looking for vulnerable plants | harvesting, disguised as botanists | running from a squad clan soldiers]

Set dressing/points of interest (d20)

1 Observation tower with an immaculate view 

2 Bridge over gentle stream 

3 Overgrown pergola/pavilion/gazebo

4 Sculpture park

5 Topiary scene 

6 Defaced nymphaeum

7 Mossy fountain

8 Stone amphitheater 

9 Reflecting pool

10 Rickety bandstand

11 Menagerie prison, with 1d6 captives (50% agents of alchemist houses, 50% random plant poachers or interlopers) held in ornate verdigris-covered cages. The animals have been cleared out long ago. The Greenskeeper clan use the now use it to incarcerate captive poachers.

12 Fish pond, stepping stone bridge

13 Area razed by sectids. Desiccated ash fills the gaps in the cobblestone path. Rows of garden plots reduced to nothing but dust. Even the air feels dry. 

14 Bell tower

15 Telescope tower

16 Lens tower. Giant magnifying glass on top floor focuses sunlight to create a devastating heat beam. One of many hidden defensive structures from a bygone era. Operation without a key requires a successful disarm trap roll. Once activated it operates for 2d6 rounds before shutting down. Targets save vs. death ray or take 2d20 damage, half on success. Each round the beam can either sweep in a 60' line or target a single individual, imposing -4 to their save. 

17 Greenskeeper clan residential building. Short hexagonal tower overgrown with vines and ivy, meant to blend with the surrounding follies. Off limits to everyone, even nobility. Guarded by d6+6 soldiers at all times. 

18 Apiary. Rare imported bees tended to by 1d12+2 clan beekeepers and 1 hivemaster at a given time. Four clan soldiers stand guard after sundown.  Rare honeys worth 2d10x10 sp can be extracted from the hives, but protective equipment is required. 

19 Dueling grounds (40% chance it will be in use; two nobles dueling, their seconds, and a crowd of non-combatant spectators) 

20 Greenhouse. Guarded by 1d6+1 soldiers and operated by three times as many horticulturalists. Among cultivating all manner of plants, greenhouses are where clan horticulturalists research and conduct radical plant experiments. 

    Plant types (d6)

    1 Valuable, 1d6x1000 sp.

    2 Reagents, 1d6x100 sp for spell research and potion-making costs. 

    3 Poison, 2d8 doses, save vs. death when imbibed. 50 sp per dose on the black market. 

    4 Monster plants, 1d6 4 HD of the same type. 

    5 Beautiful but extremely fragile, will shrivel immediately after leaving the greenhouse. 

    6 Extremely noxious, unless wearing face covering save vs. poison or pass out, -4 to everything on success.

Sample NPCs

1 Mila Stenot; clan horticulturist. Proud and passionate. Loves the gardens above everything else. The rest of the city could burn for all she cares. Distrustful of outsiders. 

2 Abel Halict; clan botanist. Frequent jokes poorly mask his many anxieties. Sells plants on the black market (or to anyone else willing to buy) to pay off his immense gambling debts. 

3 Diedrik Andren; commander of the clan soldiers. Sharp but getting up there in the years. Convinced the alchemist houses are behind the sectid infestation and it’s driving him mad. 

4 Nora Collet; hivemaster of Apiary IX. Hyper-rational scientist-type. Secretly keeps a brood of sectid hatchlings in an abandoned shed to study their habits. She won’t admit she’s growing too attached. 

5 Dominicus Glyth; nobleman and garden enthusiast. Tranquil but a little spacey. Spends more time in the gardens than anyone else outside the clan, and knows more than he lets on about what goes on there. 

6 Faine Hisembol; alchemist house aspirant. Young, headstrong, takes himself too seriously. Poaches plants in the hopes of getting accepted in an alchemist houses.

Quick stats

Greenskeeper clan botanist/horticulturalist/apiarist 

Smart cloaks, utility coveralls, badges denoting rank and station

HD 1 AC 7 Att. dagger 1d4 (horticulturist+apiarist) or short sword 1d6 (botanist) Mv. 120'(40') Ml. 7

    Botanists and horticulturists have whistles that will hail 2d6 soldiers in 1d6 rounds. 

    Apiarists each have a jar of bees they can throw for self-defense. 

Greenskeeper clan soldier

Grass-stained uniforms, cumbersome sallets

HD 1+1 AC 5 Att. polearm 1d10 Mv. 90'(30') Ml 9

Greenskeeper clan hivemaster

Wicker bee-mask, bulky protective gear, constant sound of buzzing

HD 3 AC 5 Att. battle axe 1d8 Mv. 90'(30') Ml 9

    Always encountered with 2 swarms of bees under their control.

Sectid skirmisher

Chittering kobold-like locusts. Origins are a mystery.

HD 1/2 AC 7 Att. claw 1d6 Mv. 120'(40') Ml 7

Sectid scavenger 

Smaller kobold-like locusts. Origins are a mystery.

HD 0 (1 hp) AC 7 Att. slam 1 dmg Mv. 150' (50') Ml 7

Decorative fauna 

Beautiful flightless birds and ruminant mammals, bred or imported, decorate the gardens and feed carnivorous plants. The remains of such creatures are valuable—worth 100 sp to a dressmaker, taxidermist, etc. 

HD 2 AC 9 Mv. 120' (40') noncombatant, will run away if attacked

Thieves and poachers

As bandits

Nobles, dryads, bee swarms, etc.

As per system

Monster plants

Swollen shoots, Dagger-like thorns, immoderate blooms in garish colors.

HD 1d6+2 AC 1d4+2 Att. Thrashing Vines x4 (variable, 20’ range)+see below Mv. 0’ 

Vine attack type (1d8)

1-2 Razor sharp. 1d10 damage

3-4 Constricting. 1d6, repeated each round + target immobilized unless vines are hacked away with a slashing weapon

5-6 Whipping tendrils. 1d8, 6 attacks per round

7 Bloodsucking. 1d4, repeated each round until vines are torn off, plant heals 1 hp each time vines deal damage

8 No vines but instead thick burled branches. 2d6, 3 attacks per round

Additional features (1d8)

1 Regenerating. 1d4 hp/round

2 Parasitized. 1d4 parasites emerge when killed, stats as giant centipedes 

3 Ambulatory. Move speed 20’

4 Thorn tangle. 20’ radius around plant, starting your round in the radius causes a save vs. paralysis or become immobilized; spend your attack and take 1d4 damage to break free. Radius increases 10’ every round in combat

5 Chemical release. Triggers every 3 rounds; everyone in a 60’ radius saves vs. poison or becomes confused for 2d6 rounds 

6 Snapping maw. Additional attack, 2d8, exceeding AC by 5+ means target is swallowed. Digesting enzymes deal 1d4 damage/round; creature breaks free if at least 6 slashing damage is dealt to the plant in a round

7 Thick mucilage. Save vs. paralysis on hitting or being hit by the plant in melee or be covered in glue; half movement and -2 to attacks until cleaned off.

8 Swarm attractor. When reduced to half hp, the plant releases compounds that attract 1d4+1 swarms of bees to harry attackers.