People have been asking me about how Cities might exist in the Veins of the Earth, and the answer is that really they couldn't, but we probably want them anyway so here are a few ideas about how to feed an urban population underground..
Roll some dice or add as you prefer. I'd say throw together about three of these and you'll have something interesting. Probably one from the quasi-natural list and two from the others.
NATURAL OR QUASI-NATURAL
1-4. A river from the surface world carries both life and resources, possibly forming a swamp or archipelago of valuable nitrate-rich mud.
5-7. Natural, managed or artificial vulcanism creates both heat - feeding black fungus, and low light, aiding the same.
8. Stone-eating bacteria or Archea common here, farmed over cycles of millennia with herds of nomadic sonic pigs and cave crickets guided through the volume of the cities agriculture.
9. Black radiation-eating fungi like the mass inside the Chernobyl reactor, feeding off a natural source of radiation.
10. A huge and regular migration of flying beasts like Lamenters, Bats, Mega-Moths or some other creature that lives largely on the surface but passes this point at regular intervals.
11. Either undersea cities with aquaculture based around oceanic vents, or floating or coastal cities that trade with the same.
12. City maintains a 'Kite' nation somewhere on the surface. A polity which exists purely in order to service the cities agricultural needs by dropping down food directly, sending it by river or by more magical or abtruse methods. A common method is a culture hidden in high valleys or inaccessible mountaintops, almost impossible to reach from the outside world and live in either terror and/or worship of their underground rulers.
Usually based around a large, open central area with agriculture of some kind taking place on every surface, floor, walls and roof. Golems or slave spider-castes farming the upside-down area above the city. The False Sun held in suspensions of mighty chain in the centre.
1-3. A 'Ghost Sun' made from the dead souls of deceased citizens. Pale light and you can see the individual souls trapped inside. All citizens must give their soul to the Ghost Sun on death.
4-5. Imprisoned being - chained light elemental, fire elemental, angel or devil. Held in spiderworks of eternal iron.
6. Mechanical Sun - rare, often using hyper-dimensional mechanics. Gnonmen Capital has a Futurist Clockwork Uranium Sun fed by rare heavy metals.
1. Stable portal to Hell - city sub-contracts from Hell, receives a portion of dammed souls as payment, on which it feasts.
2. Portal to positive 'Wild' dimension. Cities in the Veins are usually regarded as parasitical in these realities and usually some kind of Crusade or Jihad is launched to close the portal.
3. Gateway to Xor* - same problem. Veins cities not popular there.
4. City has a stable and large portal to a dimension of fire or light and uses the permanent energy from this to farm wherever the light shines.
D&D MAGIC- INDUSTRIALISED
1. Un-dead rulers, golem workers, small living class.
2. Either by revolt, disappearance of original creators or by design, city is a golem-built and golem ruled near-automata with living people surviving in it almost by happenstance.
3. There is an offal-god or something like it that dumps food, of some kind, onto the city as a direct trade for worship. Some gods might literally dump shit onto a city - the nitrates are vast wealth underground & low-status surface gods can be of major importance.
4. Food-Malmukes. Caste of slave Clerics raised without eyes, sometimes without tongues or even fingers. Brought up in total ignorance of everything except the one thing they are meant to believe. Ignorant, lobotomised mass-produced holy fools. Cast Food and Water spells en-masse. Like parasites on the love of a merciful God.
5. Slave mages created like slave clerics, though more difficult to manage as some intellectual capacity is required - they cast 'Create Light' and Summon creatures regularly, to be eaten.
6. Magical miniaturisation means populace can raise mice and fleas then shrink selves to feast. Fleas the size of turkeys, Mice like Mastadons.
7. Elemental citizens basically create energy just by living there. Like a resort feeding off a high-status 'Tourist' class.
8. Mining a Gigacreature - giant being like an Arch-Angel, Titan, God or Kaiju. Population digs into them for food and resources. (Think of a hibernating Godzilla with people crawling into its brain to make a lobotomy-mine, keeping it alive and asleep while they eat it from within. Urban population as 'killer bacteria'.)
9. City feeding off an Elder God or equivalent - like suckling at Shub-Niggurath, eating Dagons eggs, licking Chthulu's teats.
10. City farms within pocket dimensions created by paintings. Pastoral artists abducted from surface world but cities population strips everything and leaves their paintings ravaged wastelands, plus they gradually lose their memories of the surface world and succumb to mad despair, losing the ability to paint anything fertile or real.
1. Ourouboros city engaged in 'Paradox' farming, feed off their own past, sending forces back along their own loop to take resources and slaves. They must keep growing more powerful so they can defeat their own past but the cultural and physical destruction of their own history forms unstable paradoxes and cripples them in many ways. They live in fear as they never know when their own future will arrive to consume them.
2. 'Looper' city sends forces into their own distant future to do the same. They practice forced cultural decline, creating their own 'Dark Age' so their future selves are not strong enough to defeat their current-selves. Result is more stable and predictable as fewer paradoxes result, but the cities future raiding-point and its current-self are continually creeping closer and closer to each other until inevitable moment of mutual annihilation.
3. City translocates/projects/is disguised as another city above ground - but that city is an illusion or simulation, either psychic projection, literal physical construction or something else. All resources consumed by fake city are actually dropped down giant secret elevators to real city. Method favoured by Dero.
4. City 'fishes' for armies, knights, ships, pilgrimages or crusades on the surface - magic forests, 'missing' kingdoms, disappearing isles, crusades to nowhere, fake colony conspiracies. Large numbers of people disappear and are fed to the city either by being dropped directly down or via magic. Another Dero favourite as their mind control machines allow them to create powerful giga-conspiracies on the surface.
HIPSTER D&D BULLSHIT
1. City feeds on literalised psychic emanations from above - depends on angst and trouble of surface cultures and works to ensure continuity of supply.
2. City feeds on literalised psychic emanations from below - likely eating the dreams of a mad god or chthulu-esque entity. Reliable supply but drives everyone even more insane than usual.
3. City feeds on own literalised psychic emanations. Own culture tuned for maximum sensation & experience to ensure continuity of supply but they must feel or starve and jadedness-famine is an inevitable consequence of high-intensity feeling.
4. City farms in dreams - or forces others to do so - usually children as they have the most fertile dreams and are easy to terrify and control. Generations of surface children secretly made slaves in their own unconscious until they fear to sleep.
5. City has found a way to feed off orgones - depends on beauty and extroversion of the population but things inevitably get dark if jadedness sinks in.
6. City simply steals food from peoples dreams. If you dream of having a feast, suddenly someone with negative-image black skin or some hideous dwarf/gnome things are there eating your food and won't let you have any.
7. City is inwardly ontologically shattered like a schizophrenics dream. Golems and child slaves sent into its fractured core to scavenge food appearing from 'nowhere' i.e. dropped or created by people who don't exist.
8. City preys on dying hierarchies of failing faiths, hunts asuras, angels, devas, devils and demons as if they were hot girls in a horror movie. Drags back the corpses and feasts. Sky-Father ends up alone in valhalla, boarding up the doors in fear.
* Chris never made a 'Xor' tag on his blog?