Today I’m heading into the next chapter of Gods of the Fall, which covers the region known as the Ruinscape; once the shining center of civilization, it was at ground zero for the fall of the heavens and now sports shattered lands and an eternal storm that spews curse-laden weather across the world.
The Ruinscape was once known as Cavazel, and it lay atop layers of forgotten civilizations that the Fall opened pathways into. These layers, known as the Five Deeps, suggest that perhaps the Fall isn’t the first catastrophe of this scope and nature to afflict the world. This certainly makes the world much more interesting, since the previous age was over twenty thousand years long; five layers, with each tens of thousands of years older than the last, suggests that the world has a long and tormented history perfect for plot mining.
There’s a note that the primary dangers of the Ruinscape – at least on the surface – are the dangerous creatures (some having crawled up from the Deeps, either having survived down there for ages or having returned to life in the aftermath), becoming lost, and the tortured, cursed land itself. That last one sounds a little alarming.
Among the creature features of the area we have elementals, crazed seraphs, and rakshasas; if the last are anything like the rakshasas of Earth’s myths, I think I’d rather take my chances with the elementals. Looks like we’ll get to them when we get to the bestiary. You can also get a visit by the Delirium, a seemingly sentient curse-storm that also haunts the Nightland.
The terrain can have passive curses that act like magical disease, active ones that pull off ‘hungry earth’ threats, and turning into a twisted maze on top of the usual threats from the table of curses (which we still have yet to get to; it’s over on page 69 and we’re on page 54). The bit on getting lost best sums up as “Try to stay on the road unless you like wandering in circles.”
Next up, we get to settlements; the first is Tanubar Holdfast, the largest and most prosperous settlement in the Ruinscape. Situated near one of the crevasses that lead into the Deeps, it operates as the base camp for spelunkers; quite a few interesting things have apparently been unearthed here, including divine relics from gods not recorded in the Book of Dead Gods (well, there’s something I hadn’t seen mentioned before). The settlement has five particularly colorful personalities among the twenty who effectively lead the place, solidly at odds with one another on at least one of the issues affecting the place.
The other segment of Tanubar is that anyone can operate an official salvage guild out of it for a fee and an agreement to give a hefty chunk of their finds to the people in charge of the town. Apparently it’s a sweet enough deal to have attracted a burgeoning population of salvagers and spelunkers; I’d probably be more inclined to find another place to found a town and operate from there, but that’s mostly because Tanubar sounds like a powder keg waiting for a spark.
And now we get to the fun part: a section on the Five Deeps that underlie the Ruinscape. We get a list of methods of access – climbing down a crevasse into a regular passage in the First Deep, using a cypher or artifact that delivers you to a point somewhere in one of the Deeps, or falling victim to the cursed terrain and getting dropped down a surprise pit or cascade into the darkness.
The Fall apparently disrupted a stasis seal on each of the Deeps, allowing the time-frozen inhabitants to begin to revive – and in some cases allowing them to escape. At least some spelunkers think that partaking of food from the Deeps or spending too long down there might ensnare them; shades of Hades, there.
The First Deep has serpentfolk and thunder beasts, earning it the nickname of the Empire of the Serpent. Thankfully, the serpentfolk aren’t presented as a homogenous empire, but rather as opposed groups seeking to free more of their own people and kill the others off before they can be freed. In case you’re wondering, yes, thunder beasts appear to be Jurassic Park-style dinosaurs. And… There’s artwork of one of the serpent folk, which more accurately looks like a serpent-headed human-boided scaled-squid-legged abomination. I suspect that one could class as nightmare fuel for some folks.
The Second Deep is called the Fungal Throne by spelunkers, largely because pretty much every surface is covered in fungus. Giant fungus-trees, fungal ooze, puffballs the size of huts, and a bioluminous haze of spores makes it one of those fantasy locales that would make OSHA inspectors cry. Even better, the entire thing has a scattered collective awareness, animate fungal predators, and and guardian gardener masses that look after the place. Both Zuggtmoy and Jubilex would feel right at home here. There’s also a bastion of animate corpses from the city in the Nightland, ready to go looking for an old god of decay to serve. Yum.
The Third Deep’s nickname is the Stair of the Colossi, largely because the entire layer appear to be a ruined metropolis built by giants, and because there are massive animate statues dubbed Colossi roaming about. There are also some living giants, wearing elemental material as clothing. Probably not folks to mess with, really. Apparently one of the gods of this layer’s civilization was named Typhon, the Maker of Monsters, because that’s one of the bits of communication that can happen. Oh, and there’s a giant stair that gives the layer the nickname.
The Fourth Deep is dubbed the Tunnels of Madness. You just know it’s going to be a lovely place before I even start reading the entry, right? It’s got squirming psychic slugfolk, which apparently like to eat cyphers and artifacts. It has a lake that attracts the god-husks known as ravers, and there’s a roadway to the Fifth Deep that has a massive complex series of engravings that exist as a warning to turn back and flee. Sounds delightful.
The Fifth and final Deep is known as the Tomb of the Gods; you can only get here by jumping off the end of the roadway down a miles-deep pit that has a waterfall from the floor of the ocean above streaming down it. It’s a single immense chamber, over ten miles wide, with the waterfall draining through fractures in the floor. This is where you can find a thing called the Annihilation Seed, whose origin is something that the GM gets to decide on. It’s certainly a Campaign-Scale McGuffin.
It’s back to the surface to go skipping through the Eye of Elanehtar, a continent-scale superstorm full of curses and god-corpses. Here we get a confirmation of the earlier speculation that the Delirium is, indeed, a massive raver. This is followed up with the curse table previously mentioned; you can get away with things as simple as your skin being as cold as that of a corpse or losing all your hair to things as messy as turning as hot as a smoldering coal, spontaneously bleeding, or having fingers spontaneously fall off. Bring your antimagic poncho, folks.
Last, we get a list of other locations, including a volcano that spews cold rather than heat. I’ll leave those to be explored by people reading the book, and wrap up today by noting that tomorrow I’ll be delving into the Verge, where the nefar (which is of course short for nefarious races) dwell.
Check back then!