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The Sanctuary of Lota Pel - White Elephant for Sorcerous Overlord

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  • The Sanctuary of Lota Pel - White Elephant for Sorcerous Overlord

    My apologies for the lateness. Here is my belated White Elephant for Sorcerous Overlord, who requested:

    "A strange and otherwordly location for my players to fall into that will make them feel like they aren't in Kansas anymore"

    I decided to take “fall into” literally and place the location underground.

    The Sanctuary of Lota Pel
    Pale, wintry sunlight falls over an unexpectedly lush landscape, bluish green bracken spilling down a slope between trees with pale purple leaves and white trunks. On the valley floor are neatly cultivated fields of swaying teal, purple or white grains, grazing land of bluish grass dotted with brown and white goats, and ponds and streams of clear water.

    In the distance stand three gleaming towers of white stone, entwined about one another in a triple helix formation. At their base the land loses its bluish hue and is overtaken by vibrant gold. Suspended above the towers is a great orb of pale golden light, far too low to be the true sun. A shadow passes over the land as a ripple of darkness mars the false sun momentarily, and for a second afterwards the light dims as if it might falter, before returning to its usual pale, steady light.

    Above this, there is no sky to be seen, but a vast cavern roof, riotously decorated with colourful murals large enough to be seen from the ground, depictions of gods and monsters, great deeds and a terrible cataclysm. At the edges of this cavern are settlements built of sturdy stone, spilling down the slope in places and marching up the cavern wall in terraces, seemingly built to maximise available space in the cavern for growing things.

    Getting There
    The Sanctuary of Lota Pel is located deep underground, and connects with extensive natural cave systems. Characters might discover it while exploring these caves, or the earth might simply collapse under them and send them crashing through the cave ceiling. Known entrances to the sanctuary are fortified and guarded by soldiers who will not be expecting to see un-mutated, civilised humans from outside the sanctuary.

    The Cycle of Lights
    The day is divided into three equal portions ruled by the magical lighting in the cavern. After about eight hours of pallid 'sunlight' from the solar beacon, a harmonic chime is heard throughout the cavern, and the false sun shimmers and takes on a blue-white appearance, still dimmer than noonday sunlight but much brighter than the feeble gold light of earlier. This is the moon beacon. The land seems to come to life under its silvery light, insects chirping, flowers opening, as if this was the true day. At the sound of the next chime, the blue-white orb shatters into a thousand pieces, which expand outwards to fill the false sky with glittering stars suspended in the upper reaches of the cavern as true darkness descends. These are the thousand sentinels. This cycle is controlled by the Winding Spires, a cluster of three manses at the centre of the cavern which act in concert to maintain the necessary conditions of life in the isolated cavern through automated processes the residents largely do not understand.

    History
    Exactly who Lota Pel was is not understood by the modern residents of the sanctuary, but he is usually described as 'divine' and given the honorific of Blessed Founder. Before the Cataclysm, he built the Sanctuary of Lota Pel as a contingency against attack by powerful rivals or an unforeseen disaster in the outside world. It is nothing less than an immense panic room. In his vast wisdom and compassion, he built it to accommodate his faithful servants as well as his family, and made sure the sanctuary could be self-sufficient indefinitely.

    There came a time when all the world was wracked by war, plague, and famine, and it seemed as if all was lost. Lota Pel gathered his faithful and took them to his sanctuary, sealing the way behind him. They praised him for their salvation and began to build new lives in the lush underground environment. The solar beacon burned a vibrant gold in those days, and the land was a familiar green. The cavern was perfectly sealed from the outside world and the people were untroubled by degenerates and monsters from the outer tunnels.

    After a few generations, Blessed Founder Lota Pel unsealed one of the entrances and left to see what remained of the outside world. He never returned. The elders concluded that he must have perished in the all-consuming chaos he had saved them from. Nothing else remained of the old world. Only the Sanctuary of Lota Pel was left.

    In the years following Lota Pel's disappearance, the earth began to shift and settle over time, and passages began to open up to cave systems beyond the sanctuary. The people were horrified to find hungry and unwholesome things creeping into their fertile haven, and were forced to create a standing army of a few hundred soldiers to seal and guard known entrances and patrol for new points of ingress. Expeditions into the outer tunnels have never found a way to the surface and often meet with grizzly fates in the subterranean darkness.

    Around this time, the landscape around the base of the Sunspire started taking on a golden hue. Over time, the animals and even people living close to the Winding Spires developed a golden hue to their skin, hair, and eyes. At first this was seen as a holy boon, but then sages began to report a slight dimming in the light of the solar beacon. They theorised that the Sunspire was damaged somehow, and its solar essence was leaking out into the surrounding landscape and creatures, leaching power from the sanctuary's sun. And the problem was slowly worsening.

    The people living in the shadows of the Winding Spires were mostly scholars and priests, pious and learned folk who were horrified to learn that their blessing came at a cost to the whole sanctuary (and therefore, all of humanity, as the sanctuary was all that remained of human civilisation). They devoted years of effort to trying to find a permanent solution and bring the solar beacon back to full luminosity, but it was beyond them. The only remedy they found was temporary, and came at a terrible cost that, in the shame and guilt of their failure, they resolved nonetheless to pay. Since then, every year with great ceremony, a willing sacrifice from among the golden ones is drained of life in an agonising ritual that returns their golden essence to the source and staves off the final dimming of the false sun for a few more seasons. These brave souls are mourned as heroes and added to a growing roll of martyrs on a plaque in every settlement.

    Despite this, the dimming of the solar beacon was not entirely curbed, and a few centuries ago the problem became bad enough to affect crop yields. Fortunately, there was at the time a powerful sorceress among the people by the name of Minara. Although she too was powerless to fix the failing Sunspire, she developed an unorthodox solution to the food problem. With the blessing of the elders of each village, she laboured for a year to alter every plant in the sanctuary to thrive under the vibrant silver-blue light of the moon beacon rather than the dim golden light of the solar beacon. This drastically altered the appearance of the cavern's plant life and led to the bluish palette of the landscape as it exists today.
    Last edited by Measure of Hope; 01-16-2020, 10:09 AM. Reason: affect/effect strikes again!


    "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

    Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

  • #2
    People and Places
    The sanctuary is a roughly circular cavern about ten miles across. It supports a human population of about 9000 people, mostly clustered around the edges of the cavern or in the shadow of the Winding Spires.

    On the north-western edge of the cavern is the largest settlement in the sanctuary, the town of Lota Mina. The oldest parts of the town are cut into the cavern walls, but most of the population lives on the slope leading to the valley floor. The town is surrounded by orchards on the slopes and crop land on the valley floor. Lota Mina takes its name from the Blessed Founder and the mortal elder who established the settlement. Apart from agriculture, the largest industry is iron mining. It is the largest centre of manufacturing in the sanctuary, and is home to some 3,000 souls. Lota Mina outfits the army and contributes the largest number of soldiers, a fact they don't let their neighbours forget.

    The north-east is dominated by Lake Tenacity, which is surrounded by irrigated farmlands and tiny fishing villages.

    On the south-eastern edge of the cavern rise the terraces of Pel Itam, the second-largest settlement in the sanctuary, with roughly 2,500 people. The surrounding countryside is divided between crops and grazing land. Pel Itam was not built near any valuable metal deposits, but minerals in the surrounding hills are useful in creating paints and dyes. It therefore has a more artistic character than most settlements, and is known for the colourful palette of its buildings. For years there has been an informal rivalry between Lota Mina and Pel Itam for artistic contributions to the cavern ceiling and walls, and Pel Itam is generally seen to have the lead in output and quality.

    The south-west of the cavern is dominated by the Forest of Remembrance, which is maintained as a nature preserve. Logging and hunting are both strictly controlled, as the forest is believed to contain the last remnants of Creation's woodland creatures.

    The town in the centre of the cavern, situated on the raised platform from which each of the Winding Spires rise, is known as Goldhaven. The plants, animals and people born of this area are all saturated with solar essence and possess golden colouration and robust health. Any that move here later take on the same appearance after a few years of consistent exposure. The town is surrounded by orchards, gardens, and fields of gold, some of which are grazed by golden livestock.

    Goldhaven was first founded by servants of Lota Pel who were responsible for maintaining the Winding Spires and serving him and his family directly as house servants, as well as his priesthood, therefore it has always had an emphasis on service, scholarship and piety. It is still the centre of learning in the sanctuary, and boasts the largest library of texts surviving from the before the Calamity. Before the Sunspire started leaking golden essence into the surrounding countryside, it was known as Whitehaven for the white towers that dominated it. It is far smaller than either Lota Mina or Pel Itam, having no more than 1,000 people at a time.

    Unlike the other settlements which are ruled by a council of elders, Goldhaven is a theocracy ruled by the high priest of Lota Pel. The current orthodoxy is that Lota Pel watches over his people in death, and will some day be reborn with the power to remake the world and lead his people to a glorious new age, but many pessimists believe his spirit has become lost or simply abandoned them.

    Outside Threats
    For centuries, cracks have been appearing in the walls of the sanctuary, and sometimes dangerous creatures come through. Subterranean monsters, each more hideous than the last. And worse, mad, gibbering things that appear to be a degenerate form of humanity. The sanctuary's protective magic appears to deter the worst of these threats, but expeditions into the outer tunnels report entire colonies of raving mutants, and massive, ominous things moving in the dark. Things surely not born of Creation-that-was. Yet more evidence that the world of their ancestors is gone.

    The Winding Spires
    The cluster of three manses at the centre of the cavern are known collectively as the Winding Spires for the way they spiral around each other, forming a triple-helix. The base of the Sunspire is on the western edge of goldhaven, the Moonspire starts in the east, and the Starspire in the north. Each is built of white stone and has few visible exterior features such as windows and balconies. Each one rises to a sharp point less than a hundred metres below the beacon.

    The form the beacon takes is dependant on which of the spires is currently cycling through that duty. When the Sunspire is dominant, the beacon sheds the pale golden light of the solar beacon. When the Moonspire takes over, the vibrant glow of the moon beacon shines. When the Starspire assumes this duty, the beacon is dispersed into the thousand small points of light known as the thousand sentinels.

    Access to the Winding Spires is strictly controlled by the priesthood of Lota Pel, and the locks are magical (difficulty 4 to pick).

    The Starspire is a greater Sidereal manse. Its hearthstone is a Stone of Hidden Safety (Core, p611) which is currently housed in Goldhaven. It controls the process of recycling and purifying the air within the sanctuary, and contains a robust suite of sensory equipment which gives warning when large threats approach. The sensors no longer reach the surface, but with additional power from the Sunspire, they might be able to confirm that the world outside is still populated.

    The Moonspire is a greater Lunar manse. Its hearthstone is a Beast Gem (Core, p611) currently housed in Pel Itam. It controls the process of recycling and purifying water in the sanctuary. It ensures the streams always flow, the wells are always full, and the gutters are always swiftly emptied. It also houses the mechanisms that would open a direct passageway to the surface and re-open the sanctuary to the outside world, but without any successful reconnaissance missions, this has always been deemed too unsafe.

    The Sunspire is a greater Solar manse. Its hearthstone was a Key of Mastery (Arms, p135) but it was lost when Lota Pel disappeared. The Sunspire maintains the integrity of the sanctuary's walls and houses a number of powerful magical ranged weapons which keep the sanctuary safe from the worst threats of the outer tunnels on the rare occasions when they break through. Both of these functions are no longer operating at full capacity, but they suffice for now.

    A secret that few know and even fewer talk about is that the annual sacrifice is starting to take a toll on the Sunspire. The agonising nature of the ritual required to feed it has started to create a small shadowland in the ritual chamber. This disruption to the manse's geomancy has lead to the infrequent shadows passing through the solar beacon, and might eventually cause it to fail altogether. But if the sacrifices are stopped, the sages warn the manse could fail in a matter of decades.

    Fixing the Sunspire requires a superior repair project with Craft (Geomancy), taking a minimum of six months, with a goal number of 30. Once the spire is restored to full functionality, the light of the solar beacon is restored to its former warm, golden hue, and the holy power of the manse quickly purges the nascent shadowland if it remains.


    "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

    Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Measure of Hope View Post
      People and Places
      The sanctuary is a roughly circular cavern about ten miles across. It supports a human population of about 9000 people, mostly clustered around the edges of the cavern or in the shadow of the Winding Spires.

      On the north-western edge of the cavern is the largest settlement in the sanctuary, the town of Lota Mina. The oldest parts of the town are cut into the cavern walls, but most of the population lives on the slope leading to the valley floor. The town is surrounded by orchards on the slopes and crop land on the valley floor. Lota Mina takes its name from the Blessed Founder and the mortal elder who established the settlement. Apart from agriculture, the largest industry is iron mining. It is the largest centre of manufacturing in the sanctuary, and is home to some 3,000 souls. Lota Mina outfits the army and contributes the largest number of soldiers, a fact they don't let their neighbours forget.

      The north-east is dominated by Lake Tenacity, which is surrounded by irrigated farmlands and tiny fishing villages.

      On the south-eastern edge of the cavern rise the terraces of Pel Itam, the second-largest settlement in the sanctuary, with roughly 2,500 people. The surrounding countryside is divided between crops and grazing land. Pel Itam was not built near any valuable metal deposits, but minerals in the surrounding hills are useful in creating paints and dyes. It therefore has a more artistic character than most settlements, and is known for the colourful palette of its buildings. For years there has been an informal rivalry between Lota Mina and Pel Itam for artistic contributions to the cavern ceiling and walls, and Pel Itam is generally seen to have the lead in output and quality.

      The south-west of the cavern is dominated by the Forest of Remembrance, which is maintained as a nature preserve. Logging and hunting are both strictly controlled, as the forest is believed to contain the last remnants of Creation's woodland creatures.

      The town in the centre of the cavern, situated on the raised platform from which each of the Winding Spires rise, is known as Goldhaven. The plants, animals and people born of this area are all saturated with solar essence and possess golden colouration and robust health. Any that move here later take on the same appearance after a few years of consistent exposure. The town is surrounded by orchards, gardens, and fields of gold, some of which are grazed by golden livestock.

      Goldhaven was first founded by servants of Lota Pel who were responsible for maintaining the Winding Spires and serving him and his family directly as house servants, as well as his priesthood, therefore it has always had an emphasis on service, scholarship and piety. It is still the centre of learning in the sanctuary, and boasts the largest library of texts surviving from the before the Calamity. Before the Sunspire started leaking golden essence into the surrounding countryside, it was known as Whitehaven for the white towers that dominated it. It is far smaller than either Lota Mina or Pel Itam, having no more than 1,000 people at a time.

      Unlike the other settlements which are ruled by a council of elders, Goldhaven is a theocracy ruled by the high priest of Lota Pel. The current orthodoxy is that Lota Pel watches over his people in death, and will some day be reborn with the power to remake the world and lead his people to a glorious new age, but many pessimists believe his spirit has become lost or simply abandoned them.

      Outside Threats
      For centuries, cracks have been appearing in the walls of the sanctuary, and sometimes dangerous creatures come through. Subterranean monsters, each more hideous than the last. And worse, mad, gibbering things that appear to be a degenerate form of humanity. The sanctuary's protective magic appears to deter the worst of these threats, but expeditions into the outer tunnels report entire colonies of raving mutants, and massive, ominous things moving in the dark. Things surely not born of Creation-that-was. Yet more evidence that the world of their ancestors is gone.

      The Winding Spires
      The cluster of three manses at the centre of the cavern are known collectively as the Winding Spires for the way they spiral around each other, forming a triple-helix. The base of the Sunspire is on the western edge of goldhaven, the Moonspire starts in the east, and the Starspire in the north. Each is built of white stone and has few visible exterior features such as windows and balconies. Each one rises to a sharp point less than a hundred metres below the beacon.

      The form the beacon takes is dependant on which of the spires is currently cycling through that duty. When the Sunspire is dominant, the beacon sheds the pale golden light of the solar beacon. When the Moonspire takes over, the vibrant glow of the moon beacon shines. When the Starspire assumes this duty, the beacon is dispersed into the thousand small points of light known as the thousand sentinels.

      Access to the Winding Spires is strictly controlled by the priesthood of Lota Pel, and the locks are magical (difficulty 4 to pick).

      The Starspire is a greater Sidereal manse. Its hearthstone is a Stone of Hidden Safety (Core, p611) which is currently housed in Goldhaven. It controls the process of recycling and purifying the air within the sanctuary, and contains a robust suite of sensory equipment which gives warning when large threats approach. The sensors no longer reach the surface, but with additional power from the Sunspire, they might be able to confirm that the world outside is still populated.

      The Moonspire is a greater Lunar manse. Its hearthstone is a Beast Gem (Core, p611) currently housed in Pel Itam. It controls the process of recycling and purifying water in the sanctuary. It ensures the streams always flow, the wells are always full, and the gutters are always swiftly emptied. It also houses the mechanisms that would open a direct passageway to the surface and re-open the sanctuary to the outside world, but without any successful reconnaissance missions, this has always been deemed too unsafe.

      The Sunspire is a greater Solar manse. Its hearthstone was a Key of Mastery (Arms, p135) but it was lost when Lota Pel disappeared. The Sunspire maintains the integrity of the sanctuary's walls and houses a number of powerful magical ranged weapons which keep the sanctuary safe from the worst threats of the outer tunnels on the rare occasions when they break through. Both of these functions are no longer operating at full capacity, but they suffice for now.

      A secret that few know and even fewer talk about is that the annual sacrifice is starting to take a toll on the Sunspire. The agonising nature of the ritual required to feed it has started to create a small shadowland in the ritual chamber. This disruption to the manse's geomancy has lead to the infrequent shadows passing through the solar beacon, and might eventually cause it to fail altogether. But if the sacrifices are stopped, the sages warn the manse could fail in a matter of decades.

      Fixing the Sunspire requires a superior repair project with Craft (Geomancy), taking a minimum of six months, with a goal number of 30. Once the spire is restored to full functionality, the light of the solar beacon is restored to its former warm, golden hue, and the holy power of the manse quickly purges the nascent shadowland if it remains.
      To clarify, does the goal number represent fixing it in a way that temporarily solves the shadowland problem for an arbitrary amount of time until the annual sacrifices take their toll again, or permanently solving the issue? If the former, I was wondering if you might want to include a second target number in case some players might want to ensure that continued functionality of the manse won't result in a shadowland forming without sorcery.

      Comment


      • #4
        Just a note, when you quote a post, you can actually edit the text in the quote tags to only show the section you're referring to.

        The goal number is for a permanent fix, at least until the next time seismic activity screws up the manse's geomancy enough to cause another essence leak.

        I considered making Craft: First Age Artifice a requirement but given it's just repair work rather than an overhaul of all the manse's complex systems, I decided against. If the ST decides that expertise is warranted after all, it's a reasonable call. Fixing the manse isn't the only approach to solving the sanctuary's problems, after all. You could also convince the people the outside world still exists and lead them to the surface.


        "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

        Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

        Comment


        • #5
          So wow, I love everything about this.

          First off, I love that it underground. It makes sense that people haven't found it, it makes sense that it exists as a closed ecosystem, and the whole city-in-a-bottle thing is really cool. I wonder how much their language has drifted in the millenia since they've been closed off (I'm a linguistics nerd). I was surprised at first that there are different villages and not just one single people group, but that makes a lot of sense and 10 miles across is a pretty big space for smaller villages to form. I love the colors and the moonlight plants! what an ingenious idea. I'm interested in the aberrations that lurk deep below the land. I'm picturing twisted humans and shadowland zombies and DnD style cave monsters. Lota Pel must have been a sorcerer, was he a Zenith or Twilight? I could see either. Making your own panic-lair the size of a self sustaining farm village is such a First Age thing to do. The built in plot hook about the magic that supports the spires winding down is genius. My party has an Ally who is a Craft-Supernal that specializes in making Artifacts, so he seems like the kind of guy who could fix the Spire. I'm thinking Craft: Artifact, First Age Machines, Geomancy, or Hearthstones would all be applicable ways to fix it. Perhaps also a straight Sorcery Working to draw Essence into the spire could work as well.

          Does mining ever run out? Is there sorcery that keep metals coming in to the city? it seems like most everything would probably be "reclaimed" and reworked more than mined. Do the townsfolk have money and a regular economy or do they not even understand that concept and exist communally? You could write a whole book around the culture of people in this cave.

          I love it. Thank you.


          ..."But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me"

          Message me for Japanese translations.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks, glad you like it

            I'd say there'd be a fair bit of drift in everyday language, but at the same time they have texts preserved from before their isolation that have been constantly taught and studied by scholars, so there would be people capable of understanding the original language pretty fluently.

            "Funky colour palette" was the first idea I had for the setting after deciding to put it underground, and it made sense for the two elements to be related. The sanctuary was always going to need some kind of artifical light in order for plants to grow in the first place, so that seemed like a good justification for the weird coloured plants, and the plot point about the failing solar beacon developed from that, because I knew the setting needed a crisis for the PCs to resolve or rescue them from.

            The inspiration for the cave monsters is from 2E, which had the "Nameless Hordes" as antagonists for the Mountain Folk. Some were mutated humans, some were pre-human races banished underground by the gods or even the primordials. There's also forbidden gods and failed primordial experiments down there. Basically the idea of Creation's chthonic depths being full of horrors is a long established tradition. It's generally presented as an invitation to come up with whatever horrors you want, or just import your favourite Underdark denizens (Debris From the Fallen Races has a few species from the Nameless Hordes, including a race that are basically mindflayers).

            As for Lota Pel, could have been a Zenith, could have been a Twilight, could have been a No Moon, could even have been a rogue Sidereal or a god. The most likely explanation is that he was a Solar or Lunar who lived during the shogunate, retreated underground during the Contagion, waited a few centuries, then poked his head above the parapet to see if the coast was clear and immediately got mowed down by the Wyld Hunt. Or who knows, maybe he's still out there and just never bothered to come back for his people (they're still worshipping him, after all, and when last he checked they were doing fine). Maybe your party knows him already.

            By default, repairing the manse is Craft Geomancy, but if you decide the actual problem is malfunctioning equipment then other crafts could work.

            The mining in the sanctuary does run out. They're pushing further into the wall of the sanctuary and increasing the risk of breaking through into the outer tunnels with every inch mined out. Already some mines are sealed off because of what they uncovered. Maybe the Sunspire has a function that could create metal deposits, who knows? If it did it probably wouldn't have the power to activate it right now.

            I've been vague about the economy of the sanctuary, but these people do have a bit of a siege mentality so I can see rationing and things like that, not just of food but of other supplies. It's a small enough population to operate on a command economy, but it's led by a series of semi-independent oligarchies so that could be tricky. The elder councils are pre-occupied with making sure that everyone has 'enough', but I would assume wealth disparities still exist.


            "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

            Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

            Comment


            • #7
              Your point about the old texts is well made. I believe it's Icelandic that has changed so little that acerage people can read the poems from a thousand years ago basically as-is.


              ..."But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me"

              Message me for Japanese translations.

              Comment

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