Friday, November 21, 2014

Transformative Events

I was really struck by the ingenuity of the section of Gormenghast when the castle floods - it's a great way to take a familiar landscape and completely transform its appearance and the way the characters interact with it while still retaining the essence of the setting. So without further ado, here's a list of transformative events in Strigastadt:

1: Deadly Winters
Like an exaggerated version of living in Minneapolis, the winters heap such an incredible amount of snow in the streets and on the roofs that both become infeasible methods of travel. When the first snows fall folks will erect sturdy wooden hyphens between the isolated structures that are not connected by covered tunnels of masonry, side-routes through other structures, or by upper levels of the ancient tunnels that lie beneath the streets.
Travel via the winding and indirect interior byways is much slower and at times buildings that face each-other across broad avenues will have such a roundabout path between that crossing takes the better part of a day. Markets migrate below ground or within cavernous structures, old hall-roads are cleared of a year's debris and occupants in the course of being pressed back into service, and collapsed tunnels/hyphens can spell the death by starvation of stranded unfortunates.

2: Monsoon Season
The heavy rains of the monsoon season make travel unpleasant in the streets, but their main effect is on the roofways above. Slanted slate roofs become treacherous to navigate and the rimmed roofs swell with crystal-clear lakes that hinder passage. Well-trodden routes are served by rusting walkways and recessed paths, but adventurers striking forth into less frequented areas can find their escape routes suddenly cut off by a torrential downpour, or be unable to find safe access to blocks not connected by ground-level paths.

3: The Great Floods
The average person only experiences a couple Great Floods in their lifetimes - catastrophic events that would spell the end of any other city. Blessed with mighty foundations, wide-reaching roofways, and emergency caches of old canoes secreted in otherwise inexplicable upper-story boat houses, life in Strigastadt can continue on after a fashion even in the face of such a disaster. The waters rise to the height of several stories and remain that way for months, turning the city into a veritable Venice as boats flit in and out expansive windows into newly formed coves and flooded ballrooms serving as docks.
Whether the strange floods have anything to do with the terrible creatures from the aqueous subterranean depths that migrate to the darkened flooded stories is the subject of much fierce debate. As much concern is given over to fortifying upper stories for those long nights as for the relocation of food and treasured possessions.

4: The Sacred Fortnight
Once a year there is a holiday centered around a mass-migration to the streets and open courts, accompanied by a series of ceremonies and culminating in a great feast. Long tables stretch along the centers of certain roads, with the revellers cooking and eating along the East edge of the tables, the West edge symbolically left open for the spirits. Tradition states that there was a time when ancestral spirits would actually seat themselves at the table with their living relatives, but this is no longer the case. Regardless, at the end of the feast the spirits return to their slumber, leaving the land of the living for another year. Until that time the interior of every structure is filled with the babbling, murmuring, and shrieking of a bewildering gathering of the spirits of past occupants. Stepping foot inside before the end of the feast is a death-wish.

5: Deep Purple Smog

6: The Yellow Miasma
Like the Deep Purple Smog, the Yellow Miasma makes erratic life-threatening appearances that disrupt the lives of Strigastadt's residents. The Yellow Miasma spreads to encompass up to a borough or more of Strigastadt at a time, forcing residents indoors to avoid its flesh-dissolving touch. The mists smell and taste like battery acid, lingering on clothing for days after exposure. The front edge of a spreading Yellow Miasma is transparent and only identifiable by its scent. As the density increases, a slight yellowing of the air occurs, and eyes water, people convulsively cough, and their skin starts to burn. Injuries sustained at this stage take a couple weeks to heal, during which blisters form and the subject has difficulty drawing breath. At the point that the mist is opaquely yellow, injuries are universally lethal.
Higher class residences are equipped with air-tight shutters and doors to stave off the mists, but the lower classes are usually forced to evacuate to upper stories until the mists subside. Residents are expected to freely allow access to their upper-story levels in such events, with barring passage deemed a grievous and prosecutable crime.
The source of the Yellow Miasma is unknown, but some theories posit an anthropogenic origin, either as a means to repel invaders unfamiliar with the irregular and lethal events, or perhaps to control populations of other vermin. If the latter purpose is indeed the case, it is a dismal failure as all creatures that dwell within Strigastadt's wall have learned the distinctive odor that heralds its arrival and instinctively seek shelter at its coming, lest they be reduced to clean little piles of bones.
Many others believe the Yellow Miasma to be some sort of godling, a dispassionate sibling to the Deep Purple Smog. Ancient cults worship the anthropomorphic representations of the twin mists, the sisters Eth and Yond. It is said that their most devoted adherents have learned of magics to help them navigate the mists unharmed, although this is unverified.

Essentially the Hissing Miasma of MtG

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