Monday, September 23, 2013

Fianyarr: Seven Ruins Aplenty

There is just something marvellous about ruins that really captures the imagination. The idea of people living their lives so many years ago, leaving behind intriguing remnants of their lives that one can explore and cast one's mind back, really grabs the attention and sustains our interest. Unfortunately most ruins in fantasy games are merely an excuse for a dungeon. While this is fine in its own way, it also removes a lot of the mystique of ruins. In Fianyarr, I want to capture that mystique. Here are seven different themed ruins, each with its own possible encounters and styles. And yes, a few of them work in the monster bash.

The Stone Cabin

Although there have been no stonemasons in this area in living memory, there is a cabin in the woods made from slabs of chisseled stone brought down from the nearby mountains and erected on this spot. Strange twigs braided with human hair and formed into shapes can often be found in the nooks and crannies of the wall though no one ever sees them placed. Years ago a local boy found a human jawbone in the chimney, weathered and aged. In truth the cabin had been crafted by foreignors just over a century ago who kept to themselves and went undisturbed for ten years before a comet seen in the sky convinced them the world was ending. They lifted up one of the stones from the floor which covered their safe retreat and crept inside with their food supplies. Unfortunately the stonemason in the family had been too skillful and the stones fit together too nicely. By the time they realised the air was too thin and they were struggling to breathe, they thought that all of the air in the world was stolen and burned up by the comet. Down in the stone room below are etchings in the wall that describe this situation and five bodies lie huddled in the corner. If in need of a little combat, those bodies could well reanimate. Otherwise the tortured souls might haunt the dreams of those who disturb them unless they are given a proper burial. As for the human jawbone? The kid had actually found it in the woods and lied about where it had come from. The jaw is a few centuries old and might well come from a grave exhumed by animals.

The Breach

There is a ring of thick walls of fitted stone twelve feet high and three across that mark out an old hamlet whose thatch buildings have long ago decayed into nothing. Within the ring is hard-packed soil studded with strange pockmarked stones that whistle in the wind. While several people have tried to benefit from the stone walls, any efforts they make to seal the large sundered breaches in the wall come to nothing as the mortar or packed mud is slowly removed and the gaps are bared once more. Anything built on the patch fares no better and even campers find themselves awakening covered in itchy bites. The one-time rich citizens who moved to construct their hamlet here didn't realise that they had built it on a nesting ground for a type of termite that steals away any mud and mortar used to patch the walls (or construct houses) and uses it for their own little homes. If a battle is needed then perhaps all of those termite hives connect underground to a larger cavern where a massive queen lays millions of tiny eggs once a year.

Ye Olde Tavern

This tavern is built atop a portal to the underworld and on each New Moon it really shows with a variety of ghostly figures arising for some good old-fashioned drinking. It is vital to the success of the town that there's barkeeps aplenty to keep them boozed up lest the ghosts rush down the hill to torment them. However the tavern is always closed outside of that New Moon. Impossible to dust, weirdly creaky, and perpetually falling apart, it can never be made liveable with rushes that smell old and mouldy even when freshly lain, new wooden boards becoming splintery within hours of being nailed into place, and perpetual drafts that can never be truly located, this place just isn't a good place to run. Besides which, the ale spoils if it's used for normal occasions. On the New Moon, however, so long as there's plenty of booze to go around the ghosts really don't mind drinking with the living who might not know who they're spending time with. The tavern itself is quite old and appears to have been patched over throughout the years, even though the locals gave up on trying to repair it just shy of a century ago. The tavern even has rooms at the inn, though it isn't recommended that anyone stay there.

The Carved Castle

This moderately sized castle sits on a manmade island of filled in soil at the edge of a lake and its stone walls are decorated both inside and out with large carvings in the white sandstone that are in some strange and ancient language that no one can speak. The castle itself has surprisingly advanced clockwork technology that is still somehow maintained, ensuring that the portcullis can be lifted with a level pull and that sections of stone wall can be turned open when the right fangs on a nearby statue are pulled or pushed. Although these ruins are worth a mint to any nobleman who could claim them, any who try soon find their numbers disappearing and going missing as walls seal themselves, doorways seemingly disappear, and the entire place seems to lay itself out differently. Or so the occasional fragments of notes and diary entries seem to indicate. Strangely enough archaeologists and other research teams have no such problems while there. It's only a problem for those who try to move in. An elaborate hoax? Or something about the castle itself?

The Bridge Hut

Contrary to anyone's predictions, this wooden hut that clings to the underside of a rickety suspension bridge that crosses a wide ravine hasn't fallen apart. Those who walk across the bridge will find a short rope ladder that will lead them into a small hut that clings to the underside of it, just wide enough for a two people to lay down and sleep side by side. The hut had been built on the bridge a century and a half ago and abandoned ever since. Few people have dared to sleep in it, mostly due to the rather rickety nature of the bridge, but those who have reported no problems. At this point it's just a strange peculiarity and nothing more.

The Well Prison

This prison had been drilled down into the desert over a thousand years ago when a narrow well was taken over by a Djinn ruler and expanded underneath after the underground waterways dried up. The old rivers were turned into passageways and lined with narrow, lightless cells with small slits for doorways that required a person to turn sideways to fit within the gap to enter and which were largely bricked up behind the prisoner, leaving a small hole for food and water to be passed through. While this well prison only has four spokes radiating from the central well with twenty cells on each spoke, those who go down there often find themselves afflicted with vertigo and confusion, finding themselves easily turned around and confused. Many of the cells have obscure markings, some the more obvious graffitti and day counting, but most are seemingly arcane, as though the prisoners were in the process of subconsciously setting off a terrible ritual before food supplies were cut off and they each died in their cells.

The Carven Loss

This graveyard is filled with monoliths carved with the names of those whose ashes were interred within the soil beneath the stone. Each stone, when struck with a tuning fork, produces a unique and distinctive sound that is said to carry the souls off to their eternal resting place. What is odd about these stones is that they appear to be entirely nonmagical and yet no stonesmith has been able to recreate the effects. The initial monolith-builders constructed these stones over five thousand years ago and thus the techniques are lost to the annals of time as, unfortunately, the craftsman also had no known written language.


  1. Wow, these are eminently stealable. I think the Breach may be my favourite, but it's hard to decide.

    Incidentally, Ye Olde Tavern reminds me a of a scenario I read years ago but now can't find, or even work out what system it was for. A group of you end up in a tavern on the centenary of a wizard's last stand, and it turns out everyone's coming back for a rematch. Really wish I could find it!