Friday, 20 May 2016

Slow Lands

The people on the borders of the Slow Lands think of Heaven as a beautiful ruin slowly surrendering to time, slipping from the fierce but brief ambitions of man into the endless flow of nature, where the ghosts all sleep and the city is reincarnated into its own green dream, where everyone and everything is resting and content, preparing to become something else.

They think of Hell as a busy, acetylene-lit city with mirrored black streets where everything runs on a 24-hour schedule and everyone is late and everyone is tired and trapped and permanently awake.

The paddy farmers, cormorant-fishermen, hippo-holders (and avoiders) and miniphant-ranchers might rhapsodise about the Slow Lands in poem and song, they might set their slow shadow plays there and make them the origins of their slow myths, they might talk about the beauty of mysterious Slow Maidens who are found sleeping in giant lilies drifting down to the River of Drowned Queens, or remark on the wisdom of the Slow Monks, but its a thing about Heaven that everyone there is dead. They don't actually go there. That shit is dangerous.

You can go there, and you might, because the Slow Lands are full of cities being slowly overrun, the relics of the Silent Kingdoms, and because dragons are rumoured to sleep in caverns beneath the black hills and because the lazy Crocodiles that haunt the black bridges have dungeons in their memories with remembered treasures and remembered time.

The sun is an ellipsis in the Slow Lands, it never reaches high into the sky but rolls along the horizon in a shallow arc and takes a long, long time in going down, like a creeping snooker ball.

The dawn light comes in pink. By noon the sun is at its apogee, 35 degrees above the horizon and a nearly-bright red-gold for about an hour, then it slowly rolls along the black hills turning to scabbed-blood red before it dips down. The shadows are always long here. The moon is always bright and close.

There are slow storms in the Slow Lands, you can see them coming from a long way off. Slow rain falls slowly, you can see it hanging in the air, and sometimes slow cyclones swoosh through the weeping willows like a mop. (The Cyclones are still pretty fast, their winds move at the speed of a running man.) There is slow lightning in the slow storms, bright curtain-rails of light snap slowly through the dank sky like fluorescent light bulbs coming on. The naked eye can see the white lines scrabbling through the air over the span of three to five seconds before linking up and slowly fading out like a deactivated grill. Then the slow thunder rolls over the land like slow titanic dubstep, ultra low-frequency grumbles and churls.

The slowness of the rain means that slow, low-angle rainbows are common in the Slow Lands, though the light is so slow here and the sun so red that sometimes rainbows split the light into a weird and bloody spectrum.

The Slow Lands are wet and not-quite swamp. The soil itself is dry but a thousand becks and rivulet-rivers run through the country. All of them were bridged by silent rulers long ago and you are rarely free from the low chuckling as the slow streams run over abandoned locks, breach broken fish-mazes or speed up (very slightly) when channelled through sandstone races under bridges of black stone. If you drop a leaf into a beck in the Slow Lands and walk on, after a day, or two, it might catch you up and you'll see it again in the stream.

Down beneath the bridges are the sleeping Crocodiles, paused, waiting in the slow water. The Crocodiles are highly intelligent and very lazy. They hate to leave the water and are quite prepared to wait. Perhaps, in a year or two, a Dodo or Koala will slip and fall into the stream. The Crocodiles bite once and, without turning over, sink to the bottom and allow the prey to drown. All things come in time.

Some of the oldest Crocodiles will even let you in labyrinth of their minds, if you bring them something particular to eat.

The forests are eucalyptus, oak, bamboo and weeping willow and they are full of Gigantic Sloths, Orang-utans, Gigantic Apes, Pandas, Huge Tortoises and every kind of Snail. There are midge-clouds in the shadows of the hanging trees and though the midges themselves are fast black dots, the clouds of them never seem to move. Where it is damp there is malaria. Where it is dry there are Gila Monsters. On the plains there are Brontosaurs. The common birds are Woodcocks, whose rapid flight is slightly faster than a walking man, Dodos, and Vultures which hang motionless in the slow air and never seem to move. The streams and rivers hold Leeches, Sleeping Eels and Manatees, as well as the intelligent Crocodiles.

At night, the woods glow like stolen cutlery, the brooks and rivers shine like the tracks of tears and silver flowers uncurl and follow the moon across the starry sky. Fat Moon-Bees and Blundering Moths drift across the forest to pollinate the silver flowers. Gigantic bioluminescent aliens emerge from the black hills and float down into the valleys like Portuguese Men-O-War, draping paralysing toxic tentacles through the branches and sweeping the woods like terror cops. Anything alive they touch; they seize and pull slowly up into the sky to feed upon.

More lights come from the slow Slow-Lorismen who hoist pale lanterns above the shells of their moving tortoise-villages. Called 'Slow Monks' by the River-People, they are the only civilised (or near-civilised) creatures to survive the Slow Lands. The slow Slow-Loris-Men have seen the fall of Silent Kingdoms and may know much. Perhaps the Slow magics of the Speechless Kings lives on in them.

The slow Slow-LorisMen are sombre, serious and calm, but they cannot forgive a slight. They are increadibly cute and they HATE TO BE TICKLED. DO NOT FUCKING TICKLE THEM SERIOUSLY. Even slow Slow-LorisMen find slow Slow-LorisMen cute and they have to suppress a continual urge to tickle each other. This has leant their culture a sharp asceticism.

Should a slow Slow-LorisMan fall victim to 'The Urge', they will never be forgiven. They are merciless and prideful creatures. The perpetrator must be banished to live upon a giant sloth (unpleasant), if groups fall victim to The Urge, savage tickle-wars can break out, leading to deep sectarian divides. Entire tortoise-villages are spit down the centre into two opposing groups who will neither address or acknowledge each other. This can go on for decades, perhaps centuries.







Experimental Slow Lands Encounter Chart

d20
1. GIANT PSYCHIC BEETLES IN SLOW AMBER SHEATHS
2. MEGATHERIUM - GIANT GROUND SLOTH
3. MIGRATING RIVER URCHINS
4. BILE TAPIR ATTACKS
5. GIGANTOPITHECUS
6. A SNORELAX BLOCKS THE ROUTE
7. THAT FUCKING CATERPILLAR FROM ALICE IN WONDERLAND
8. CREEPING CROCODILE
9. VILE PANDA CLAN
10. SLOW LORISMEN - DONT FUCKING TICKLE THEM SERIOUSLY COME THE FUCK ON
11. SLOWNICORN leaning alseep against trees
12. VULTUREMEN - waiting for an idea to die
13. SLEEPING EELS - they woke up
14. ANGRY ORANGUTANG
15. GIANT TORTOISE
16. KOALAS ATTEMPT STEALTH DROP ATTACK
17. BAKU - who knew these were a thing
18. GILA MONSTER
19. ANGRY MANATEE?
20. JIGGLYPUFF

Ok so the experimental Slow Lands encounter chart doesn't quite work. It's almost defenition of most things that they are not really predatory or fast and so cannot force the PCs into a hard-to control tactical situation which makes up the essence of what an encounter is.

So Slow Encounters would have to be a slightly different thing. PCs might be constricted by particular terrain, the creatures might have some power that slows them like ghouls, the animals might have some particular interest in them, maybe Slow Lands creatures compulsively attack things that move too quickly. Some might be intelligent with mutual interlocking interests, some might have a complex interest in the PCs.

So Slow Lands adventures would have quite a different tone and feel than standard D&D, more investigatory with more subtle 'sticky' problems, perhaps more oblique or dangerous in an oblique way.

(It's a bit R&PL I know)

2 comments:

  1. I haven't cruised your site in awhile, which is a huge dick move after all the help you've given me. So, I go cruising, and I find this. What is there to say?

    1) Damn, I wish I was at your level of writing.

    2) I'm stealing some of this for my games on Monday and Friday.

    3) Someday, that magic ritual will succeed, and I will finally get enough talent to be on par with you. The smelly man in the parking lot said it's only a matter of time. And, as we all know, smelly men in parking lots are always the devil, and the devil knows magic.

    ReplyDelete

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