Saturday 30 September 2023

A Downtime Calendar

One way to bring a setting's calendar to life is through downtime. When you spend a month cooling your heels and recovering from the road, each month has distinctive, meaty benefits.

Set the list out where the players can get it, and let them make their own choices. It doesn't even matter if players are actually able to make use of the benefits they want. If all that happens is the party lamenting, "Damn, shame we have to travel during Ferch," it's doing its work!

Here's a set of calendar downtime benefits appropriate to the sort of campaign presented in the compendium, scattered communities in a wilderness full of danger. If the party spends the full month engaged in rest or aiding the community, the benefit is theirs!

# Month  Benefit of a full month of downtime
  Anvial Winter's stillness brings clarity. The guide you seek will find you.
  Bolc As the snows subside, old paths need mending. Those who do warden's work are blessed: they will not get lost on the way to their next destination.
  Cindal Spring dawns. Planting time means grudges must be set aside, at least for now. If you seek a favor of someone influential, ask it.
  Ferch Rains reveal what must be repaired. Find the old stones and new and get to stacking.
  Greel In the humid season, if you seek an ally with special skills, you find them. They will aid you, but summer's friend betrays in autumn.
  Halvilary Summer's forges burn hot and true. If you are procuring gear, one item made for you this month is of remarkable sturdiness. It will never fail you.

Juthon Long idle days and warm summer nights are fertile ground for schemers.
  Marial Summer's last light is golden. Rest in it, and all injuries to the body are cured, however severe—but scars, grief and curses are yours to keep.
  Samber Nothing like a month in the fields to cement a bond with the community. Whatever else has come before, you are welcomed as if you were born here.
  Tershon The last of autumn is no time to start a long journey, but those who feast well in Tershon will not grow hungry until they are home once more.
  Nollen The hopeful stand watch over the roads, praying for cold winds to bring lost friends. The steadfast will not be disappointed.
  Rinth In the darkness of winter, secrets slip from cold-numbed hands. Something important kept hidden by the community is revealed to you.

(These rules are MOSAIC Strict.)

Sunday 3 September 2023

The Fires of Lost Tlarba

A dense and dusty city toils under a flickering yellow sky. None may enter, but everyone does. All may leave, but none do.

Prickly selks stand at the gates. Their halberds gleam like razors, but their eyes are dull from the heat. The crowd inches forward toward the city's mouth.

Sickly smoke rises from the burners along the high walls: a thousand fires of caylum wood, oracle grass, the narcotic feathers of the santhum bird. Travellers cover their mouths and noses, hoping to ward off the stupor that will soon take them. Others breathe it freely in the hopes they will acclimatize. None will.

The crowd moves again, and the gates loom overhead. Everyone who passes them is looking for something. Everything lost winds up in Tlarba, they say, so where better to look? This is why you came, but maybe it was a mistake.

Robed sisters push and weave through the entry line, offering marks of return. "Sixty silver and we'll fetch you out if you're in too long." Ink-black fingers tug at your skin. "Here is best," she says, jabbing at your cheek. "How long do you want? A year? Three?" She isn't joking.

The nut-seller at the side of the road laughs. "Don't waste your money, they can't get out either." He scoops roasted seeds into a folded leaf, "Buy these instead. They won't get you out, but it's best not go in wanting!"

As you reach for them, he catches your sleeve and pulls you close.

"I mean it," he hisses. The humor is gone from his face. "I went in a prince. Choose better!"

He shoves you back into the lineup, laughing once more. Stupid man. Who comes here if they have a better choice?

The crowd moves again, and you pass the gates. Pilgrims, families, warriors, nobles; their mules, horses, dogs and goats. Each enters in their own way, but the sweet smoke claims everyone who draws breath. You're still thinking of the nut-seller's words as it takes you.

* * *

d10 Where You Awaken, d20 weeks later
  A secluded garden terrace, high above the haze of the city. Succulent plants hang from rows of trellis.
  At bend in a narrow, twisting set of stairs. Fresh air somehow blows from a crack in a clay duct.
  In a large stone chamber, apparently beneath a temple. Chanting comes from above. The stone floor below you is warm to the touch.
  Crazily high up, halfway up a cathedral tower. You sit on a stone ledge barely wide enough for the birds. The squares and rectangles of the city spread beneath you endlessly.
  Sitting at the edge of a fountain in a wide, sunlit plaza. The sparking water cools your fingers and clears your mind.
  Lying in soft earth in a walled vegetable garden. Half-eaten gourds surround you; seeds are stuck to your face.
 A public bath house, at the end of a long pool of oily, fragrant water. Bright morning light comes from slats in the ceiling. Smells of cooking waft in from the street outside.
  In a dark servant's passage somewhere in a grand, stone house. A thin shaft of afternoon light comes from a tiny window.
  On a luxurious bed, somewhere in the high palace. A huge silver washing basin stands on spindles of dark wood.  Curtains billow in the cool night breeze. In the courtyard below, servants are lighting lamps along the edge of a dark, shallow pool.
  You stumble on the road leading out of the city. The yawning gates are behind you. Hundreds of people queue to enter as you once did, but they pay you no attention. Roll no more, your time in the city is over. It is d4 years after you entered the city.


 Exhausted revelers surround you. Some are sleeping, others quietly chatting or combing each other's hair. All are sweaty from dancing, running, or sex.
 You are pale and sickly. A friend mops the sweat from your brow. The sickest among you is now immune to poison.
 Damp, mildewed air blows from a hole in the ground. You have found a way into the labyrinth beneath the city, the streets and alleys of an earlier era, buried by time and new stone.
 Several families are preparing food, setting out tables with fresh bread, pots of stew, and hot, watery wine. Children light fill lanterns and musicians are assembling to begin the song. Adults speak in quiet tones about the business of the city.
 You and a woman you don't recognize hold opposite ends of a sheaf of scrolls, the collected notes of the high palace locksmith.
 You are covered in small cuts and bruises. At first they hurt terribly, then not at all, and rub off like actor's paint.
 A small gathering of students and poets was listening to what you had to say, and is waiting for you to continue.
 You have been running for your life. Your heart is pounding. In ten seconds, d6 strong youths will arrive to beat you for stealing from them. 
 A guard's knife is bloody in your hands. He lies at your feet.
 You have found whoever or whatever you came for.

d10A bit later, you suddenly remember
 Living with a family for a time, learning their skills, working as part of the family business. When you touch your callused hands, you remember that they loved you.
 Squatting in a temple for months. You learned the names of many animals who lived there. If you see them again, they will remember you.
 Wading through a foul-smelling canal. A youth you had made friends with dallied, and that was the last you saw of them.
 Watching a pack of feral people eating a man who had stumbled in the gutter. They tore at him while he groaned. You remember the taste of him; perhaps you joined them.
 Exchanging clothes with a princeling, who then slipped away into the crowds. You still wear his ring, which marks your station in the city.
 Studying with a monstrous, toad-like philosopher who swore off tools of any kind—not just hand tools, but clothes, dwellings, weapons, books. 'Convenience softens the mind,' it would croak. It is right, and its teachings have unlocked something strange and new within you.
 Fighting your way through a riot in the Plaza of Jewelers. Many had fallen, and the flagstones were slippery with blood of citizens and palace guards. The shouting still rings in your ears. Many enemies were made that day; some on each side will remember you.
 Plotting against an order of priests who jealously protect a magical way out of the city. Your fellow conspirators plan to strike tonight, coming up through the servers. They're relying on you find an open the sewer grate in the Plaza of Tears, or they will all drown as they try to escape.
 Riding with the nut-seller in a royal palanquin. He was dressed like a prince, and proudly pointed out the sights as you passed. A location you sought is now known to you.
 You remember an age passing, lifetimes, the end of the world—or at least, the city. An eternity of wind gnawed the stone blocks of the walls and palaces down to nothing. For aeons, you knew only blowing sand and a lifeless sky. Then, one day, a traveller came and planted his staff here. Then another. Slowly, you began to take shape again. Streets, walls, gardens, plazas, alleyways, palaces, canals, and of course: people. Seething crowds of millions, the blood of the city. Your blood.

Whatever your circumstances when you awaken, your relief from the mind-addling haze of the city is temporary. In 2d6 hours, you succumb again.