Friday, January 30, 2015

Beyond Zork

Thirty posts in and I still haven’t written a single word about what this blog is named after.

For those not in the know, Popular Enchanting was a fictional magazine in the world shared by the Zork and Enchanter series, as well as a few oddball games that didn’t really fit with the rest, like Wishbringer (or Return to Zork for that matter).

These games were produced by a company called Infocom, which specialized in these text-based adventure games that are now referred to as Interaction Fiction (IF). It really is a medium unto itself, distinct from both gamebooks and videogames, IF's two closest relatives.

No computer game has ever come especially close to the experience of playing a tabletop RPG with a real life group of actual people, but the best IF games can get pretty close to what a game with one PC & one DM feels like. You get a brief description of your surroundings, and a prompt to tell the game what you want to try and do. You get to examine whatever you want to more closely, and most objects have hidden details for closer inspection to reveal. Of course, if you thought of doing something that had never occurred to the programmer, the game would just sort of tell you it was confused, and the game certainly couldn’t use your first adventure to feel out your interests and base a campaign around them, but those games were always about exploring and figuring out how to deal with weird shit in the same way that D&D is about those things at its best.

I first played re-releases of these early IF games as a tiny child in the mid-80s, through my older brother since I couldn’t read yet, so I suppose this was my earliest exposure to anything like the RPG format. To be honest, I didn’t completely make the connection for a long time, but I’m glad I finally did. My D&D games have gotten to be a lot smoother and more fun since I decided that mapping and navigation should skip the complications and just use the Infocom flow chart method, and I’ve looked to these games for inspiration in both designing and running puzzles.

These games were commercially viable when they first came out because computer graphics hadn’t yet evolved to the point where they could do a good job of evoking a setting (Infocom started publishing games the same year Rogue came out). The only images that computers were good at displaying back then were so abstracted that blocks of text were actually much more immersive.

Years later, I discovered that the internet had spawned a hobbyist-driven revitalization of IF, much like the one that D&D experienced with the birth of the OSR. There are thousands of short games, many of which push pretty hard at the edges of the medium, freely available on the Interactive Fiction Database. I’ve only ever played maybe a couple dozen of them, but there’s a few of them I’d recommend no matter how much or little experience you have with IF games.

Uncle Zebulon’s Will — Of all the games I’m writing about here, this is easily the closest in feeling to those early Infocom pioneers. The IF format is better at implementing puzzles than any other type of adventuring challenge, so that’s what those games, and this one, give you. UZW also has the same computer-nerd-when-that-was-weird sense of humor that permeated the Zork universe. The end of this game implies one or more sequels, and it’s a little sad that they never happened.
Unlike the other games on this list, this one’s old enough that it was written in a language called TADS instead of one called Inform, which means that you have do what this page says, instead of just playing the game in a browser window. It’s a little bit more of a pain in the ass, but it’s still free, and I think it’s worth it.

Beyond the Tesseract — This is another puzzle heavy game, but it’s a little more abstract due to the subject matter. Basically, if you’ve ever been disappointed at how far Shadowrun fell short of how cool the hacking stuff could have been, you need to play this game.

Photopia — This was the first of the experimental IF games that I really got into. The narrative keeps switching back and forth between the story of a teenage girl’s senseless death, and the interactive stories she uses to entertain the much younger girl she babysits. I guess you could say that it’s sort of like Maus and Memento and The Books of Magic all at the same time but that wouldn’t make any god damned sense. If nothing else, the storytelling portions are actually a pretty good example of how to DM an immersive game.

Lost Pig (And Place Under Ground) — First off, pretty much everybody loves this game, even people who usually give zero shits about IF. You are an orc who had one job; to keep track of a pig. The pig is now lost, possibly in a place under ground. Your name is Grunk. This game has a few classic puzzles, which are fun, and a well-written gnome NPC, but it’s really the orc’s POV narrative style that makes it shine. From the game:
Grunk orc. Big and green and wearing pants.

Speaking of point of view narration…
Heroes — This game is based on classic D&D tropes just as closely as Lost Pig. The goal of the game is to recover a certain piece of treasure. Standard enough. This game’s twist is that you need to attempt the heist as each of the former members of an adventuring party. They all interact with their environment completely differently from each other, not just in that their abilities differ, but also in the strikingly different ways they perceive the same set of surroundings. An object that is crucial to completing the heist as the enchanter will completely escape the notice of the thief, for example.

Galatea — This IF piece really isn’t a game in any traditional sense. There isn’t really a goal in particular, except to satisfy your own curiosity as the player, but there is a seriously well fleshed out NPC/magic item to interact with and learn the story of. That’s all there is, really, but I think it’s probably good practice to try and make sure at least one side element (room, NPC, item, spell…) of an adventure is just as detailed as this game’s namesake.

The Edifice — This game uses a narrative device that basically amounts to time-traveling reincarnation to take you from our early hominid ancestry, through a few of the most important advances in the development of the human race. There’s also a really elegant built-in hint system that offers you help, if you need it, without doing what most of the IF with hint guides do and breaking the fourth wall. This is another game that plays with the narrative voice to be more immersive, in almost the same way Lost Pig does. Nowhere near as funny though.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mesoamerican Bestiary Part One

A few ideas for Mesoamerican themed D&D monsters and how to use them. I’m including stats for my house game so Grant can use them. If you want to convert these to standard OSR-type games, you can use the CB value as the creature’s hit dice, and AC here is on an ascending scale from 0 (no armor) to 7 (plate armor with helm). DM (damage), MV (movement per combat round) and MO (morale) can all stay as they are. Everything on this list can see in the dark.

Warrior Statue
This abstracted statue of a fierce warrior will come to life and attack as soon as a specific condition, determined at the time of its creation, is met. Some ancient sorcerer-kings have been known to create entire armies of these eternal guardians to stand watch in front of their tombs. Their eyes are usually made of either polished obsidian or other valuable stones.

gnome-sized- HP:6 | CB:1 | DM:d6 | AC:7 | MV:10’ | MO:12
human-sized- HP:10 | CB:3 | DM:d10 | AC:7 | MV:20’ | MO:12
ogre-sized- HP:14 | CB:4 | DM:d12 | AC:7 | MV:30’ | MO:12

Avatar Statue
Normally, the deities don’t care much about mortal affairs as long as they get their sacrifices. In times of desperation, a deity may temporarily channel a small portion of its power into a statue or carving depicting that deity, bringing the monolith to life. Or at least that’s what the high priests say happens. Maybe it's just them enchanting the statues themselves like the guardian statues.

In addition to the combat abilities of a warrior statue, each avatar statue has the ability to cast the spells within that deity’s domains.

Obviously if you're only going to have one avatar statue in your whole campaign it has to be a statue of Coatlicue or you suck.

Gorilla-sized jaguar-like creatures every bit as intelligent as humans, but lacking the hands required to build and use tools. They prefer to eat humans/humanoids whenever possible, out of spite rather than because of a flavor preference. They also like to play with their food. Tezactelotls speak Nahuatl in a creepy whisper like Edward Norton as Batman (EDIT: fuck you Edward Norton and Christian Bale are basically the same person), as well as their own language composed of deep growls and other cat noises.

Tezactelotli prefer to dwell in ruined human settlements, or in cave systems that are similar in their complexity. They are also more social than their less intelligent cousins, living in prides with 3d12 members.

HP:12 | CB:4 (adv to stealth & perception) | DM:d10 claws | AC:2 | MV:80’ | MO:8
Spell-like Abilities (1/day): phantasm, charm person, fear, aid of earth.

Giant, moving trees from an alternate reality in which all intelligent animal life was exterminated long ago. Right now, they’re only studying humanoid cultures, but they’ve got a big xenophobic streak and it wouldn’t take them much to go full-on genocidal again.

Mizquixolotli have a rich culture that is unknown to most humans, in which music, sculpture, horticulture and magic are all facets of the same mathematical discipline. They control the growth of trees and smaller foliage in at least seven dimensions, causing branches to apparently grow into each other or suddenly appear out of nowhere when viewed from a certain angle. The aesthetic quality of these works is determined both by their visual form and the surprisingly complex tones and beats made by wind passing through their leaves and branches. 

Both the unearthly music and the hyperdimensional forms of the trees contribute to bizarre magical effects. These include multisensory illusions, imperceptible teleport traps, gateways to other realities, time dilation bubbles, and all kinds of crazy shit.

HP:24 | CB:6 | DM:d10 | AC:4 | MV:30’ | MO:10

A mostly aquatic canine the size of a pony, with a serpent like tail twice as long as its body. It lairs in freshwater caves, and lies in wait near the surface for prey. These predators are only found alone or in breeding pairs.

HP:14 | CB:3 | DM:2 claws (d6) or tail slap (d8) | AC:3 | MV:30’ land 60’ water | MO:7
If a tail slap hits, the lemisch grabs on and begins to constrict next round, 1d8 per round, check to escape each round.

Possibly a sub-species of stingray that somehow evolved amphibious qualities, as well as powerful claws at the end of its fins. Hueke-hueke don’t move quickly on land, but are patient enough to act as effective ambush predators. A hueke-hueke at rest resembles a 10’-15’ wide patch of stretched leather. They have been reported to attack from both above and below, inside and outside. If possible, they will lie in wait near water to allow for a clean getaway, in case on becomes necessary. Groups of more than one hueke-hueke are extremely rare.

HP:8 | CB:5 | DM:claws (d6) or tail stinger (d6+poison) | MV:10’ land 40’ water | MO:7

Okay that's all the ones I've got fleshed out (as much as they're gonna be anyway) at the moment. The tree and jaguar monsters are basically weird treants and reskinned worgs respectively, but the hueke-hueke and the lemisch are from legends. More to come.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

You know what an owlbear is, right?

Okay so this is going to be a post where I talk about dinosaurs.

Not all dinosaur species vanished without a trace. Dromaeososaurids (the theropod group that includes velociraptor and deinonychus), for example, evolved into birds. (Well, probably. Most paleontologists agree that's most likely what happened.) There’s actually a team of scientists working on activating genes, suppressed by evolution but still present, to cause atavistic traits that add up to living velociraptors. The science consultant guy from Jurassic Park is involved.

A theoretical family tree of dromaeosaurid species from this article.
Anyway, one of the steps in that evolution was the microraptor gui (also similar species like tetrapterix). They were smaller and lighter than their ancestors, and their scales had become feathers. Their limbs were still basically like those of a theropod — true wings would come later, as would beaks. Still, the feathers on their limbs were long and thick enough to allow them to climb trees and wait for much larger prey to pass by underneath, then glide down with all four limbs spread out like an X-Wing, and grab onto their target. At this point, they would probably have held on with their forelegs and repeatedly kicked down with their viciously clawed rear legs in a sprinting motion, while tearing at the walking meal with their razor sharp teeth. I don’t know if they were pack hunters, but I’d be surprised to learn they weren’t.

5 attacks during the surprise round.
While some of gui's descendants became even smaller, the terror birds of pre-human South America were huge, flightless apex predators. Their useless wings were like an encore of t-rex’s stubby little forelegs. So, coming to the point of this post, an owlbear is basically a terror bird with fore claws and atavistic proportions. It could even have reverted to tetrapterix’s ambush predator hunting behavior.All of which means that this Reaper mini is the least silly and most terrifying owlbear mini there is.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2 Page DMG

I decided to make myself a DM screen and see what it feels like to look like I know what I'm doing. I haven't really used one since playing Hero Quest as a tiny person. PDF here.
Darker orange = faster progression, level cap is 10.
Remember when I said I wanted to keep HP low?
It'll be 3 horizontal panels, with the middle panel reserved for 1 page dungeons and the like. I kinda feel like this, when combined with that character sheet I did with instructions on the back, qualifies as a pretty much complete (playable if not in particularly original) game. Just a really simple, rules light skeleton that you could bolt whatever you want onto.

Except for spells. Fuck that, I'm not gonna sit here and try to beautifully reinvent magic missile. You've probably got your own favorite game for spells, I use the ones from Roles Rules & Rolls Roger's 52 Pages RPG, plus these ones I posted the other day. And I wouldn't say no if someone wanted to use some of  the weirder ones from LotFP.

The monster list is by no means complete and these 22 were selected and written with the help of intoxicants which is why it's in no particular order and there's probably mistakes but it's really no excuse for not having a flail snail (wait are they OGL or do I have to do some obvious stand-in like "thought lord"?) or stirge on there. I'm sorry. At least there's an owlbear. I guess I need to do another "volume" sometime.

There are about 12 monsters on the list that would be totally appropriate in a Mesoamerican campaign.

The desecrator is the only monster on the list that might require some explanation; I don't like hags because they represent mommy issues and treat witch hunters as good guys and that's stupid. I also don't really like the powers they've gotten in any D&D game I've seen (which, to be fair, isn't all of them). Desecrators are basically my version of the archetypal wicked old fairy tale witch, but they can also be male in which case they basically look like the cryptkeeper. That "mark of chaos" thing they have as a special quality has a corrupting influence on whatever the desecrator carves it into over time. It's basically a way to explain fun stuff like fucked up haunted woods or caves where the environment itself wants to eat you, and more powerful super aggressive mutant spawn of humans and animals.

Also I'm obviously going to have to draw something cool and/or fucked up for the front, but I'm definitely going to overthink the fuck out of it and procrastinate forever (probably going through several iterations), and I wanted to post the crunchy part now. Mostly I'm pumped because I hadn't even started this thing yesterday morning.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A bunch of Aztec deities

Mesoamerican religion time! Some of this is probably wrong because I don't really know what I'm talking about. So feel free to steal it for your game, just not for your research paper.

The Aztecs* believed in an overwhelming number of deities, but I’m going to arbitrarily choose to focus on the 13 Lords of the Day, plus a couple I really don't want to leave out. That should be plenty for gaming purposes. I’m not entirely clear on how the priesthoods would have all been structured, but I imagine the high priests of the various gods probably all had a great deal of influence on the royal courts, and were certainly interested in pursuing their own agendas. I can picture temples hiring filthy adventurers to steal holy artifacts or even sacrificial captives from (or just spy on) each other, for example.

Two high priests arguing in Dr. Who and the Aztecs.
Setting new standards for research quality around here.
If you need to figure out how the priesthood of one deity currently feels about another on the fly, roll 2d6 on the following table.

2-4 Openly hostile
5-8 Suspicious
9-10 Dismissive
11-12 Wishes to cooperate

Some general info about the deities themselves: For one thing, they were all anthropomorphic, but most were believed to have alternate nahual forms (some animal, some celestial) that they could transform into. All of the deities relied on human sacrifice for sustenance; every 52 years (1 cycle in the Aztec calendar), they had the option to break their contract with humanity, and the Aztecs saw it as their sacred duty to convince the deities to continue in their duties, basically turning the end of the cycle into the World Series of human sacrifice. Also a bunch of the deities had their own additional feast days. The Aztecs killed a shitload of captives, people.

In Tenochtitlan, the most important deities are believed to have been Huitzilopochtli, Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, and Tezactlipoca, and the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan was dedicated to worship of the first two. In the city from the Map Folio 2 pack, there’s no reason you couldn’t mix and match maps of the various levels from the temple, observatory, and palace to include as many temples as you feel like.

I have no idea how the various priests would have dressed. I’m guessing each priesthood would have had different symbols of office, maybe similar to the symbols that distinguished the deities themselves from each other.

The spell domains I'm referencing are from the free and excellent 52 Pages RPG, from Roles, Rules, and Rolls, except Death and Chaos which I made up.

The images are all from Wikimedia except they didn't have any for Mictlantecuhtli or Citlalicue so I stole them from blogs that didn't cite their sources either.

Xiutecuhtli. "Born to Love Volcanoes" is stuck
in my head and won't leave now.
1. Xiutecuhtli - Lord of Fire, volcanos, food during famine, and life after death.
Nahual: Xiucoatl (fire serpent).
Domains: Energy and Restoration.

Tlaltecuhtli. Academics argue about whether he's laying down giving
birth here or standing in a crouch and holding up the Earth.
2. Tlaltecuhtli - Lord of Earth, torn in half to create the sky & stars and the earth.
Nahual: Sea monster.
Domains: Creation and Nature.

Chalchiuhtlicue giving people... something? I dunno.
3. Chalchiuhtlicue - She of the Jade Skirt, life-giving water, rivers, seas, streams, storms, and baptism, sister-wife of Tlaloc, got pissed at him and caused a 52 year flood this one time, but let peeps she was cool with escape to the heavens.
Nahual: Serpent.
Domains: Nature and Abjuration.

Tonatiuh, sort of a poor man's Huitzilopochtli.
4. Tonatiuh - The Fifth Sun, who replaced the fourth sun at the end of the last age.
Nahual: I guess that would just be the sun, right?
Domains: Energy and Change. His priests get kinda screwed to be honest, but I'm okay with that because he's kinda boring.

5. Tlazolteotl - Goddess of lust, sin, vice, adultery, etc, as well as purification and forgiveness.
Nahual: The moon.
Domains: Mental and Abjuration.

Mictlantecuhtli waiting to pounce and tickle the
hell out of you.
6. Mictlantecuhtli - Lord of Mictlan, the afterlife, the lowest portion of the underworld.
Nahual: Owl (closely associated with death by the Aztecs).
Domains: Death and oh I don’t know Planar maybe?

7. Centeotl - God of maize, harvest, etc.
Nahual: None as far as I can tell. I guess maybe he could turn into corn but why would you want to?
Domains: Restoration and Nature.

8. Tlaloc - god of thunder, rain, storms, agriculture and fertility
Nahuals: Heron, amphibians, snail.
Domains: Energy and Creation.

Quetzalcoatl (human form).
I wonder if that thing on his face is a death whistle.
Also Quetzalcoatl. This is what I always want those
D&D "couatl" minis to look like. I guess I could just
clip the wings off one or something.
9. Quetzalcoatl - Lord of the West, wind, the arts, and wisdom
Nahual: Feathered Serpent
Domains: Knowledge and Creation.

Tezactlipoca. A lot of Mesoamerican rituals involved hallucinogens.
10. Tezactlipoca - Lord of the North, night sky and winds, hurricanes, the earth, obsidian, enmity, discord, rulership, divination, temptation, beauty, war, strife. Quite the portfolio. 
Nahual: Jaguar, Chalchihuihtotolin (the Jewelled Fowl)
Domains: Knowledge and Illusion.

Mictecacihuatl on the left, possibly Mictlantecuhtli on the right.
11. Mictecacihuatl - Queen of Mictlan, Lady of the Dead, who presided over what eventually became the Day of the Dead.
Nahual: Pretty sure she was just always a terrifying skeleton woman with a necklace of hands. Maybe she turns into an owl like Mictlantecuhtli, but I can't find anything that says so for sure.
Domains: Death and Chaos. Chaos may be a little off but it makes her Goddess of Metal. Well, her and Coatlicue.

Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli. This deity was a human king before
he died and was reborn, possibly explaining the skull
he's emerging from here. Or it's a really sweet hat.
12. Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Lord of the Dawn, dangerous and manevolent, kills with “darts”.
Nahual: Morningstar
Domains: Energy and Chaos.

Citlalicue. I think that's the Milky Way
coming out of her mouth.
13. Citlalicue - Stars, death, and darkness.
Nahual: The Milky Way (maybe).
Domains: Creation and Death.

So that’s the Lords of the Day covered, but since I’m using the Aztec versions of all these deities, I really can’t leave out…

Huitzilopochtli - Patron of Tenochtitlan and the Aztecs, god of War, personification of the sun which slew his sister (the moon) and 100 brothers (the stars) to defend their mother (the world), which is why they constantly chase each other, in a never-ending Mesoamerican Ragnarok for which Huitzilopochtli must be continually strengthened with human sacrifice.
Nahual: The Sun.
Domains: Abjuration and… um… Energy?

Also, Huitzilopochtli's mother was the most metal version of Mother Earth I've ever heard of: Coatlicue.

I believe the official Maztica supplement reskinned her as a
demon lord or a sort of alternate beholder or something like that.
Which is understandable I guess because look at her BUT to do it,
they had to completely ignore the dichotomy of Mother Earth
as both nurturing and incredibly dangerous. Not worth the tradeoff.
Nahual: Does she even need one? I would just look like that all the time if I could.
Domains: Nature and Death.

Next time I do one of these Mesoamerican specific posts it'll probably be about monsters. Also, I haven't forgotten about that minotaur comic that you probably all think I've forgotten about.

*I started out writing these about Mesoamerican society in general, but I guess I’m focusing mainly on the Aztecs at this point. This is because A) we (or at least I) know more about them than other Mesoamerican cultures and B) they had dudes that dressed up as jaguars and eagles just to fuck you up. I guess that means they were kind of like furries but also, you know, terrifying.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Death and Chaos Spell Cards for 52 Pages RPG

So if you’ve read my article on holy texts/codices, you know that the equivalents of clerics in my campaigns get two domains/schools of magic/whatever based on whatever it is they’re worshipping. You also know that I’ve been I’ve been using the spell cards from the 52 Pages RPG, which doesn’t include any sort of necromancy spells. Since I started out today (yesterday now actually) thinking about the abilities of priests of the various Aztec gods, several of whom shared influence over pestilence and death, this clearly could not do.

Looking at the spells that are already in the game, there are already spells written for the clerical domains of “restoration” and “abjuration.” I think the most painless and least game-breaking way to approach this will be to reverse each individual spell in those domains, renaming the domains “death” and “chaos,” respectively. Some of them don't quite translate directly into opposite spells that well (see Prayer vs Entropy Storm), but I think it works.

I could see using these as wizard spells if you play 52 Pages by the book, that is, using prophets (that game's version of clerics).

You can download printable pdfs of the death spells here and the chaos spells here.

I didn't make range icons like the ones on the original cards, mostly because the ranges all fit just fine in the spell descriptions in text form. Okay, fine, it was probably just laziness. Maybe I'll go back and change it up later. I also didn't make any attempt to make the files pretty in any way because they're for printing on cardstock and cutting up and playing with.

Friday, January 2, 2015

I wanna be a Jaguar Knight

I'm trying to do this more often this year. That's not exactly a promise but I resolved to quit smoking like six 12/31's ago and that's still going so let's see how this works out.

Must have been at least eight years ago, I picked up WOTC’s Map Folio II for some reason. It’s a series of maps that (apparently) originally appeared on their website, and depict a city in the Mesoamerican-based Maztica kingdom. I’ve never used it.

Map Folio II. I loaned it out without taking pictures first.
I showed it to my friend Grant the other day, and he wants to stock it and run it. I told him I’d post some stuff I thought he could use. There’s already these two posts if he hasn’t read them yet, and a lot of really detailed articles at Saurondor.

Grant told me that he’s thinking of this city as a thriving metropolis, which makes stocking it a fundamentally different exercise than if we were talking about a decrepit ruin. The first part of the job, as I see it, is to look closely at what the maps can tell us about the people living there, and the second part is to figure out what the hell to do with that. This is probably going to have to stretch across a few posts. I don’t have the map set in front of me since my friend’s borrowing it, but I’ll see what I can come up with from memory.

The city is a highly planned settlement that looks as if it would probably have been built pretty much all at once, in the shape of a vast amphitheater. The individual maps include a watchtower, a temple, an observatory, a forge or smelter, and a palace, as well as examples of upper, middle,* and lower class neighborhoods. Right off the bat, the forge tells us that this civilization is using technology that real-life Aztecs and Maya didn’t have access to when they were building cities. Similarly, the lower class apartments imply that society has been restructured around this technology. That statement might require some explanation.

Not from the Map Folio.
Look at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The elite, which consisted of warriors, priests, and royalty, was centrally located, while the rest of the poor schmucks were spread out in blocks of floating gardens that fed the city. In contrast, the city in the map pack has replaced this agrarian economy with an at least semi-industrialized one. Poor folks aren’t spread out and living on the small farms where they work, they’re living in small, tightly packed apartments, presumably because they all work at the same place — the forge.

One way to explain all this is with a brief alternate history exercise. In this version, when European murderhobos like Cortez and Columbus got to the continent, the native kingdoms recognized the apocalyptic danger they were in, and united against them. In real history, Cortez probably would have gotten his heart cut out and thrown onto the sacrificial fire, if he hadn’t formed alliances with the surrounding kingdoms to bolster his tiny and poorly disciplined** invasion force.

If the Spanish conquest fails, then Aztec influence spreads (due to the alliances that kept them alive) and Montezuma II orders that the secrets of steel and black powder are mastered before the next wave of white devils hits the New World, whether by analyzing the equipment of dead conquistadors, interrogating the shit out of the many European captives they’d have taken, or a combination of both. This city was built after that, and is likely the youngest city-state in the empire. It’s most likely to be located at or near a major iron deposit. If that iron deposit was caused by a massive meteorite falling to Earth millions of years ago, then the impact crater explains the shape of the city as a whole.***

So that’s the boring stuff out of the way. This is going to have to be a series. Later posts will be about setting-specific factions and monsters, interesting treasures, and a super-narrow discussion of Mesoamerican religion. Plus anything else I think of.

*This living space also includes shops in front of the apartments, like the tabernae in Trajan’s Market. The general layout of the city was probably pretty closely based on that ancient shopping mall. Do anthropologists know more about how Romans lived than Aztecs, or was there some other reason for the artist to mix the cultures?

Trajan's Market
**The incident that sparked war between the Aztecs and the Spanish (in real history) occurred when Cortez had to leave some of his men in Tenochtitlan under orders to play it fucking cool. As soon as they saw their first human sacrifice, they went totally apeshit and started shooting and stabbing. Also, there was also at least one of his followers (Cristobal de Olid) who, when entrusted with his own command position, went all Colonel Kurtz and tried to set himself up as a king. Cortez himself went to put down the rebellion, but Olid's own men had already done the job.

***Mesoamerican city builders (or at least the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca) were all about reflecting the landscape surrounding a city in its architecture, and allowing the natural and the man-made to coexist harmoniously. I wonder if that’s where Frank Lloyd Wright got the idea. Anyway, many of the Roman-influenced aspects of the city’s plan make more sense if you think of it as being sort of built onto the slopes of a gigantic impact crater.


Here's a map of a cenote cave system. If you don't know what that means you really should google it. Maybe I'll decide what's in it tomorrow.