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Returned Maztica

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
In "Major Political Issues", we get:

- North Korea empties foreign accounts - a story about how North Korea in 2009 withdrew money from its accounts in Macao and elsewhere out of fear that those accounts might be frozen. Not quite appropriate here, since none of the regions can quite be compared to North Korea. But perhaps a local Dragonborn clan has trouble with its credit rating? Let's say the clan that runs Dragonport loaned a lot of money from the Cerico clans for a major expansion of its fleet - but when Ancient Scales of Wisdom was killed, the Cerico clans felt under pressure and refused to extend their credit, leaving one of the major treasure ships unfinished. And to make matters worse, during the Return most of its fleet was abroad, stranding the ships in Abeir. Thus, the clan really needs money from somewhere to finish the trasure ship currently under construction, or else they might become broke - even in light of the new trade with Toril...

- And "Raiding the Icebox" might represent one such plan. The entry describes plans the US military developed for a possible invasion of Canada. Likewise, our clan could consider conquering other cities of Payit to pay for its debts, and are thus one of the big proponents behind the "unite Payit under Ulatos-Dragonport" agenda. The actual military plans and analyses for such a conquest would be something that would be very interesting to the right people...

- Mystery of big black cat deepens in NY suburb: A jaguar has been stalking Dragonport by night, and speculation is rife whether it is a fey creature, a jaguar knight, or a druid - and what their goal is.

- Finally, and very appropriately we get "Mexico's death cult protests shrine destruction" - the shrine in question being dedicated to "Saint Death" aka Santa Muerte. Maztica has no dedicated "death gods" so far, which is strange considering Aztec religion. But I need to introduce new deities to cover the 5e Domains of Death and Grave anyway. The former is covered by the male Miquiteotl (a stand-in for Mictlantecuhtli, who had this great "cannibal cult" going for him) and the latter by Miquiliachihuatl, a stand-in for both Mictecacihuatl and the modern Santa Muerte cult.

So why would the local authorities of Dragonport demolish a shrine to the Goddess of the Dead? Well, perhaps the local graveyard was haunted by undead which sometimes escaped despite the watch of the shrine - so eventually the authorities got fed up and razed the whole place, shrine and all, despite the protests of the priests and their followers. Unfortunately, this didn't solve the problem but only aggravated it - the restless dead are now spreading further...
 
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Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Among "Major Projects", the only one that really stands out is the Diolkos, the world's first train tracks (built in 7th Century BC Greece) - and we have already established that there is a short rail line between Dragonport and Ulatos. Its economy will likewise be derived from the fact that Dragonport is a port town, and its main products will be cotton, tobacco, cocoa, and assorted meat products.

As for religion, we have already established some local worship of Miquiliachihuatl (likely also honoring those who died at sea). The Dragonborn are likely not particularly worshipful towards the deities of Maztica, but the ruling clan might have acquired a patron spirit for their warlocks. I am going with one of the Feywild Animal Lords here. Interestingly, one of the "Forms of Worship" entries is Baccanalia. Considering that the local Dragonborn are seafarers, their patron Animal Lord should be one suitable for orgies... so how about the Dolphin Lord? Let's say that during certain full moon nights the clan holds orgies in honor of their patron on one of the islands in the Ulatos River delta (sometimes attended by the Dolphin Lord in person) - providing them an additional incentive to prevent development of the delta region now that the dragon overlord is gone and the jungle is no longer a preserve. While those orgies are not exactly illegal as such, they don't quite fit the image of the staid, responsible merchants they wish to present themselves as, and thus security is appropriately tight at these occasions. Still, rumors about what the clan is doing on these nights are circulating, and some of them hint of far darker depravities.

Among "significant creatures" we get both Werewolf, which we can interpret as "werejaguar" (considering the "black cat sightings" mentioned earlier) and Ghoul - perhaps ghouls have infested the local graveyard and slandered the local Miquiliachihuatl priest in order to get her out of their way.

In the "History" section we get one entry that stands out:

"San Diego Menaced By Jumbo Squid" - Dragonport has been menaced every decade or two by swarms of giant squid. The leaders of the Dragonborn know that a Kraken is responsible for this, and (due to their alliance with the Dolphin Lord) are sworn to fight it and its minions - and indeed, Kraken cultists show up along the local coasts from time to time and attempt to sabotage the shipping lanes. Allies in the fight against the cultists are always welcome.

The "Dominant Terrain" category is irrelevant, since the terrain is already defined by existing information, and there is no "Famous Location" that really stands out for our purposes. So that's it for a first survey of Dragonport - let's move on to Ulatos itself!
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Here is a first draft of the geography of Ulatos-Dragonport (covering an area of 5.3 x 4.3 miles):



Compare with the earlier map of Ulatos from Fires of Zatal - I started by vastly expanding the canal network and then enlarged the map and added some additional hills:

 
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Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
"San Diego Menaced By Jumbo Squid" - Dragonport has been menaced every decade or two by swarms of giant squid. The leaders of the Dragonborn know that a Kraken is responsible for this, and (due to their alliance with the Dolphin Lord) are sworn to fight it and its minions - and indeed, Kraken cultists show up along the local coasts from time to time and attempt to sabotage the shipping lanes. Allies in the fight against the cultists are always welcome.
Side note: That Kraken might attempt to take over the sahuagin realm of Itzcatli (mentioned on the "Voyages to the True World" map in the Boxed Set) now that the black dragon overlord who claimed it (and Kultaka) is gone.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
I have now character concepts for the three PCs in my upcoming campaign. I've also asked each of the players to come up with a reason for coming to Maztica beyond pure greed.

The first one will be a forest gnome druid (likely Circle of the Moon, though Circle of the Shepherd is also possible). His motivation is to "anthropologically study" the halflings and desert gnomes of this continent, which will be interesting.

The halflings, after all, are horrible sexist little assholes even when they are still living in their traditional villages. And in cities like Ulatos, they tend to run organized crime rings. So I am imagining this gnome wandering into a drug den (called the "Smoke and Dreams") in the Corridor because he is told that lots of halflings can be found there. And then every halfling in the room goes silent and stares at him.

Then the local Grandfather invites him over, listens to his story, and tells them that if he wants to know how traditional halflings live he needs to go down to Far Payit and visit their villages. As it happens, he has a good guide available that he is willing to loan to them. All they need to do is deliver a package to an old friend of his. This is surely reasonable, is it not?

As it happens, the package contains the shrunken, severed head of the village chieftain. And their guide had seriously displeased the Grandfather and was told to get the PCs and the package to the village on pain of the Grandfather's ingenuity - he doesn't know and doesn't want to know what is in the package, but has his suspicions, and intends to run as soon as the package is handed over and do everything in his power to keep the PCs on track until then.

The second PC is a rock gnome arcane trickster who had a falling out with his former gang over some loot and decided that traveling to another Continent would be conductive to his health. I suppose his pursuers can catch up to him when they have already tangled with a few other local criminal organizations, for maximum confusion.

The third PC will play a wood elf monk. He was part of an "Order of the Dragon" that guarded the sealed resting place of a dragon. The other guardians were recently slain and their keys were taken. This character was the youngest member of the order and decided that he'd better flee as far away as possible, with the final key in his backpack. He plans to change his identity as soon as he arrives and hide.

This is interesting, since normally people wouldn't bother sealing a dragon's remains away "just because". Which implies that this must have been a special dragon - does anyone have any good ideas from D&D lore? And it is quite possible - even likely - that, as the youngest member of the order, the PC wouldn't have been told everything about the dragon in question. Finally, assuming that the order consists of elves, they could have sealed this site away for a long, long time.

So, how to tie this in with Maztica, beyond "pursuers trying to find him" (because we already have that with the Arcane Trickster)?
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
A short digression from Ulatos:

The Aztecs had a very interesting system of agriculture - the so-called "chinampas", which were also called "floating gardens". They were basically a huge number of small, artificial islands constructed on the shores of the lakes near Tenochtitlan:



Much of the outskirts of Tenochtitlan itself was actually chinampas:



They were so fertile that they could yield up to seven harvests a year - explaining why only 20% of all people in the area had to work in agriculture (in medieval Europe, that figure was 90%)!

And now imagine having some fights in that environment - you will either have to swim or jump over the canals in order to have any mobility at all!

Looking at the map of Maztica, likely places for chinampa agriculture is Nexal (after it is rebuilt - all those half-orcs need to eat, too!), Tukan, Lake Kiltzi in Pezelac, and the whole Bay of Coxi area in Payit.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Some thoughts on place and organization names:

The Aztec language uses a lot of metaphors - for example, "The Flower, The Song" is their expression for "poetry". This sounds a bit awkward for the English language, so expressing this as "Flower and Song" sounds better. Using the same metaphorical style, "Smoke and Dreams" might be the name of a halfling drug den (because of course Maztican halflings are famous for their pipeweed).


And I have already mentioned an organization name from Dragonborn culture: "Sword Brotherhood". We could generalize this as:

<Qualifier> <Generic name>

For example, we could call the Port Authority of Dragonport:

"Anchor Watchers"

I think using such naming conventions instead of more generic English-language terms could help with maintaining the alien cultural environment of Maztica.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Love it! Also, seems like exactly the kind of society that would develop folding boats and swan boat tokens.
Somewhere on my "to do" list is "reworking the random magic items tables for the setting". I mean, the setting has entire professions whose primary purpose is to crank out magic items, so the stuff you find in random dungeons should reflect what they make.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
There is one bit of random generation I still want to do for Dragonport. Some of you might remember that widget that allows you to combine three random GURPS books into a campaign. Well, I want to do something similar - I have all my RPG ebooks in one folder structure on my hard drive, and thanks to cygwin I can run Linux commands on my Windows machine - such as this one:

ls -R -d -1 **/* | grep -i "pdf" | shuf -n 3

Which gives me three random PDFs from my gaming folder. The result is:

GURPS Boardroom and Curia
Adversaries: The Triad (BASH)
Dark Waters

GURPS Boardroom and Curia is a sourcebook on statting up and running organizations in GURPS. It has also several sample organizations, which are useful as inspiration for us. Let's pick the first one - the Medici Bank. I wanted to introduce banks to Maztica anyway, and this is a good opportunity. Given our established naming conventions, let's call Dragonborn Banks the "Silver Writers", since silver was the main unit of wealth and currency during the Godless Times and "Writers" because they used silver as the basis for accounting at least as much as moving the physical metal around. Local banks will be named after the city-state they are based in, e.g. the "Silver Writers of Dragonport". This particular group currently has a cash flow problems since they lost much money on shipping ventures (as many of their ships were lost to Abeir) and the Silver Writers of Cerico aren't willing to extend them credit at the moment.

Adversaries: The Triad is a sourcebook for the BASH superhero RPG and details three supervillains who enjoy stealing artifacts for fun and profit (after watching Indiana Jones movies and rooting for the bad guys) - in other words, they would be perfectly respectable adventurers and dungeon delvers if they had lived in a fantasy world instead of a superhero setting. In order to turn them into more than just a rival adventuring group, let's make them into an actual organization (called the "Turqoise Seekers") run by a Sorcerer, a Rogue, and a Barbarian who plunder native tombs for profit on a larger scale - which does not make them popular with natives. These days they fund lots of expeditions and might even sponsor player characters - if the PCs first hire on as henchmen and prove their competence to them. Of course, they could also be rivals who want to plunder the same sites as the PCs - or even victims if they decide to plunder the wrong tomb (such as a resting place of a member of the Court of Night)...

Dark Waters is a fantasy adventure for the Hero System, published by a company called "D3 Games" which apparently isn't around any more. The introduction to the adventure talks about "Decision Gates" - moments where PCs can make choices that will affect whether they will gain Fame or Infamy. But I must say, I rather like the term "Decision Gate" on its own. Let's say that in dragonborn culture, Decision Gates are physical structures you walk through when you have made important life decisions - marriage, agreeing to important contracts, declaring war, joining a Sword Brotherhood and so forth. While pretty much any gate or doorway can be repurposed for this purpose in times of need, any dragonborn community of significant size will have a major physical structure dedicated to this purpose, and the size and artistry of this Decision Gate tends to reflect on the community and its leaders. It will usually be in a public place, since the participants generally will want the community to know about their decisions. You are expected to announce your decision before walking through the Gate, and once you have walked through it the decision is regarded as final.
 
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