Tuesday 27 August 2019

snakebit swamp

water from the heart of snakebit swamp will grant you immortal life and make you suicidally depressed. the people that live around it are weathered and wizened. they rarely see the sun. the fog hangs heavy; limp and living

there are many huts on the wet banks of the swamp. a respectable living can be made picking through the snake bones that line the shore, searching for ones small enough to drag home. less choose to live where the trees give way, where curving serpent spines lay rickety lanes through the bog. the dangers are not terribly precarious (the water is cold and the eels quite vicious) but the swamp is lachrymose, given to nostalgia and stealing away children

- roll a d4 on the below table, adding 1 for every fresh step along a snake spine
- a decent sized splash will attract (2d4 x depth) eels
- if you roll a branch, one side will go deeper and one shallower. no need to tell pcs which is which
- preroll this shit. it will let you figure out a few small connections across the map. e.g., some mammoth children are on the way to visit a hermit, the skelton has seen the nearby opossum dragging a slain mammoth back to its nest
- when you roll the same thing twice in a row, smoosh it together.  a tangle is now a nest, all ossified eggshell and an unliving foetus. a hermit is now a neolithic shrine of yellow bone, hermit's ghost haunting their carved skeleton at the centre

1the soil is wet, thick, heavy. patches of thin grass struggle to hold the earth together. 2d4 tired-eyed villagers pick along the shore, passing a foul-smelling flask between them. they greatly appreciate attempts at warmth and humour, and anyone taking the effort to make small talk will likely be offered a guide for the swamp
2tiny, bellicose weaver birds have built a shabby nest amongst a stand of copper trees. indignant at your trespass they divebomb, swooping and shitting at you. the bones under your feet are slick with guano. a closer inspection of their nest would reveal the trees upon which it's built to be hollow copper tubes, sluicing warm mist from somewhere below the water
3by dint of some great wisdom or luck, a flea-ridden hermit has erected a meters-long rib bone a few dozen meters from the path. their past decades have been spent carving an intricate history of the world into it. they will call out to you, pressing for esoteric histories and happily nattering about the conspiracy of ice
4two great skeletons lie here entwined. the ribs are rolled and tumbled, vertebra scattered like dice. the path through is perilous, bones worn silk smooth over uncertain centuries. beads of fog reflect the pinprick eyes of eels waiting for you to slip. the path onwards is tripartite: the snake you came in on or either half of the other leading out
5a small herd of micromammoth, shrilly trumpeting. thick wool on their bellies keeps them warm and safe from the eels. their backs are picked clean and combed by their favoured pets; a tribe of children, faces old and wrinkled, adorned with feathers. will brutally murder any non-human primates they see
6the monotonous ossuary ends abruptly in a skull, biting through death into another snake. the lee of its huge jaw offers shelter, currently home to a nest of water rat. water is pooled in the hollows of its fangs. condensed from the fog, this ghostly venom is said to grant lucid visions of past lives. this perhaps could help decide which path to take, left or right along the new serpent
7clinging to a rib bone below is an ancient yellowed skeleton, swallowed before the snakes began to rot. it believes itself still trapped in a reptilian belly, maintaining that it cannot see anything through the snake's thick scales, but will happily natter hazy descriptions of all the curious things it's seen through centuries of silent swamp. its life is harder to recall: problems in the great machine, frost leaking from the ground, the thick jungle blighted by alien climate
8pond scum churns steadily. bubbles form thick and slow, cloaked in cold mist and birthing through the surface of the water like whales in tar. fingernail and fist sized, then all at once a hillfull of chronochloric gas. inside is a whipping white wind, another world. silhouettes blur across the bubble's surface as it rises, tusks and fangs and furry hides. when it pops a mound of snow drops into the water, begins to slowly melt
9hunched and glaring, a bulky growth on the bone, the opposum is bigger than a bear. skittish still though; it is an ambush predator. it hunts in bubbles of time, eye pressed soft against the surface of the water, watching a hundred years of ice to find one weak, flitting pulse of life. diving in and out before the bubble can pop, a blink of bloody battle with the ancient beast
10groaning through the mire on pillars of bronze, its brontosaur bulk too heavy to lift from the water. always working, patching leaks and scavenging parts. slowly, sadly sealing off sections of the machine too far gone. above the water a periscope of features: black glass eyes, delicate brass arms. it can't see you, but for your bones and the metal you carry. brass or bronze or tin it takes straight to the centre of the swamp, heedless of the birds and toads and other lives that sit astride its back
11the swamp deepens, mirror-dark surface sliding up the arc of bones to lap coldly at your boots. you can see the line of vertebrae continue below the water, and a few hundred meters something else rises up. huge copper pipes, some boiling hot, others traced in ice, all fingers stretched from the great machine in the swamp's heart
12+an ancient city, twice rebuilt. first by its scientists, in their efforts to slow the apocalypse they had begun. the second by its somnolent servitors, the great brass golems still at work stemming, bleeding, keeping back the pressure of an invasive past. every street now is paved with copper pipe and ferns, ill-fit rooms jammed with steaming alembic jungle

(drinking snake venom, time bubble popping in your face, falling into the water in the centre of the swamp, etc)
(also a depth mechanic. roll d10, +1 per exposure)

1devolve into apeman
2can commune with beasts of ancient past
3gain wrinkles, liver spots
4hair goes white
5lose concept of 'future'
6can smell back in time
7can only take pleasure in reminiscence
10stop aging
11possessed by ancestor spirits
12time hiccups - groundhog day until you next fail a save vs fear
13haunted by dead past selves
14hunted by the time serpent
15event from your future compressed into your past
16belches rapidly age a small area in front of mouth
17indigestion - exist both now and 65,000 years in past
18youth restored
19become super old


  1. killing it with this month of depth settings. Wondering how far it can be stretched

  2. This is gorgeous and fucking inspiring