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Returned Maztica

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Among "Famous Locations" we get:

Gentlemen's Club: A "Philosopher's Club" would be appropriate for the intellectual focus of Payit (high) society. "Light and Summit" seems to be a good name, given our Maztican naming conventions, implying the clear view of the world as from a mountaintop. Highly intellectual PCs might be invited here, and make all sorts of useful connections.

Palisades Ratouse: This is a rather disturbing story of two elderly and somewhat unhinged twins in California who fed tens of thousands of rats in their house. In Ulatos, a similar elderly couple might feed the rats in the sewers - and the wererats might have "adopted them" and protect them from those who would try to stop them.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Finally, using the "Three Random Gaming PDFs" we get:

The Pine Ridge Horror, an adventure for Savage Worlds where the PCs stalk and are stalked by dangerous creatures in a forest area in the best vein of 1970s slasher flicks. For a similar flair, let's say that there are a few Chuul living in the river delta which can pose a similar threat to PCs.

The Halfling Outrider Playbook for "Beyond the Wall), describing a mounted halfling border guard as a player character option. I will combine this with the third PDF - Pyramid #3/55: Military Sci-Fi. While actual science fiction weaponry would be inappropriate here, "high-tech" weaponry does exist thanks to Little Lantan's gunsmiths. So let's say that the Eye and Sword has a group of pistol-armed mounted scouts, led by a halfling named Xoco who has left her people behind (and for a halfling woman, there are lots of very good reasons to reject her culture...).

That's it for Ulatos itself - which only leaves the Corridor, the connecting area between Ulatos and Dragonport!
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Inspired by the recent findings of Mayan cities:

The Reborn Cities

When the Queen of Fang and Poison first surveyed her hard-won domain, she was not particularly impressed. To be sure, the jungles were beautiful and full of worthy prey, but only a scant few cities dotted their vastness - hardly a source of the wealth and tribute she aspired to.

Yet during further flights, she kept on finding odd mounds and old ruins hidden beneath the trees - not just one or few, but many dozens of such sites. Eventually, she realized the true scope of her finds - in days long past, Far Payit must have been home to millions of mortal souls. And, she vowed, one day it would be again as glorious and wealthy as it once had been.

Thus, once she had secured the obeisance of the natives and a steady supply of new subjects slaves, she sent out expeditions to relaim the ruins from the jungles. This was not mere vanity, but also made economic sense - most of these ruins were already at locations very suitable for new settlements, and rebuilding old structures of stone (or simply using the pre-cust stone to erect new buildings) was far less labor-intensive that starting over from scratch. Adventurers were encouraged to explore these ruins and clear them of their treasure. They were not allowed to keep those treasures, of course - such items of provenance and historical resonance belonged to the Queen's Hoard. But they were rewarded quite generously for their finds with silver freshly mined from Cerico (and thus flavorless to the dragon's sensibilities). Inevitably, smuggling rings sprung up that sought to hide those findings from her - but she still made sure that she got her due in the end, one way or another.

The reborn cities - largely named for its most prominent monuments, such as Three Pillars or Jaguar Face - slowly grew and thrived, and scholars flocked to these sites in order to better understand Payit's past. One mystery intrigued them above all others: Just why were all those cities abandoned? Why did the population of Payits decline to only tens of thousands after having reached such multitudes? While the history of Far Payit seemed to have been in some moral decline near the end, nothing can yet explain the suddenness with which the records end. A very few inscriptions seem to date from a later point in time, but they seem very crude in comparision and have suffered significant damage - possibly even intentionally so. Some hint of "terrors" that brought the cities to their doom, but the truth remains elusive.

As for the Queen, she suspects much - but says little of what she knows.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Back to the Corridor. So far, we know:

- It stretches along both the canal and the train tracks between Ulatos and Dragonport.
- It isn't officially part of neither city, although individual calpulli (generally called villages in the Corridor) may pay tributes to either, neither, or both cities.
- There is a halfling calpulli called the "Yellow Leaf Village" who operate a drug den named the "Smoke and Dreams" within the corridor, using peculiar pipe weeds gathered from the deep jungles (halflings are famous for their pipeweed in Maztica). Non-halflings who stumble into this building and ask stupid questions may survive.

We will skip the "Government" section of the Random Nations Generator because there is no central government - just assorted Villages struggling for turf. Thus, we move on to "Powerful Organizations":

Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs: No motorcycles here, but we do have horses and other riding animals. Thus, we have a "Herder's Association" (or "Herders", for short) who get kickbacks from the many cattle drives moving next to the Corridor to the slaughterhouses of Dragonport (and they get kickbacks from those, too). There are so many unfortunate things that can happen to cattle herds and the people who guard them... and speaking of the latter, they have plenty of establishments catering to the needs of cattle herders (don't call them "cowboys", although the imagery is fairly similar) after a long drive. Members of this Village are expected to own a horse and be good riders - and harming their horses is generally considered to be a death sentence.

False Faces Society: A society dedicated to healing seems wrong for our "criminal gangs" theme. However, a crime syndicate whose members wear masks while "on business" does have potential. Let's call them the "52 Gods" (since the number 52 is significant in Maztican belief), each member wearing the mask of a particular deity or aspect of a deity. This started out as a way of intimidating native Mazticans - since in Maztican belief priests are held to become their deities to some degree when wearing their masks and vestments. However, since the Return many of those gang members who are more into this masquerade have gained actual clerical powers, and there will likely be a split or perhaps even civil war between those who have gained such powers and those who did not.

Three major gangs should be plenty for what is a fairly small territory, especially since there are also criminal groups in Dragonport and Ulatos - so let's move on to the next category.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Moving on to "Major Personalities", we get:

Pierre Parrant: A fur trapper who founded Saint Paul - or rather, the original community at the site that was named after him: "Pig's Eye Landing". The notion that the Corridor started to develop when a retired adventurer founded a distillery sounds appropriate, and the distillery and pub still exist at a central location in the Corridor and serves as "neutral ground". A "Pig's Eye" seems somewhat prosaic, so let's turn to D&D's most famous Eye Monster: A beholder. The now very venerable founder (named Irepani) still keeps the central eye as a souvenir and conversation piece behind the bar, and it also serves as a useful reminder that the owner should not be messed with. The pub is named "Eye and Brew", and the rum produced in the distillery is accordingly called the "Eye Brew".

Artifact of Doom: Way earlier in the thread, I mentioned that "crystal skulls" had been found during the Godless Times and which now serve as "Undying" Warlock Patrons. One of these has made its way to the Corridor and is now influencing the community for its own unfathomable ends.

Paul the Apostle: Let's say that "Bones and Blood" - the Revered Counselor's spy agency - had someone infiltrating the 52 Gods in order to investigate and manipulate them. This person has managed to become the new Qotal within the organization - both the lorekeeper and the official leader. However, at some point he has become a true believer and no longer listens to his handlers - and he has become an actual cleric now. Awkward all around...
 

Jürgen Hubert

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

Piracy may hit Egypt's Suez Canal revenues: Well, the Corridor does have a Canal, although outright piracy is unlikely since there is no place to flee with the ship and no time to plunder it at leisure. Instead, the halflings of the Yellow Leaf Village will sneak on board of the ships whose owners don't pay protection money and steal what they can - this might be one of their major sources of revenue.

Grounded coal carrier in danger of breaking apart: And this is what happens if you not only neglect to pay the protection money, but also hire additional guards that have no hesitation about attacking halfling pilferers. In revenge, the ship was sabotaged and broke down in the middle of the Canal, choking traffic and hitting the owner with stiff feeds. The owner (a woman named Ixtab from the Usukan calpulli of Ulatos) might be looking for outside guards, revenge, or possibly organize a posse to take down the halflings once and for all.

KBR May Have Poisoned 100,000 People In Iraq: "Chemical waste" in a medieval/Renaissance-era civilization would be most appropriate for the dye industry... but there is already a "Cotton District" in Ulatos proper. So instead let's say that there is an "Alchemist's Quarter" that wasn't allowed to set up shop in Dragonport itself - so they moved to the nearby Corridor, and they are dumping their waste in the Canal (to sometimes dangerous effect).
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
No "Major Projects" jump out to me, so I will skip that. The 52 Gods will provide suitable Forms of Worship for the needs of the community (yes, they are both a criminal organization and priests of the community), so I'll skip the Religion sections as well. In the "Siginificant Creatures" section we get:

Monster Octopi With Scores Of Extra Tentacles: These could be mutant critters resulting from the alchemical waste - and they might sneak up on the land as well, snatching lone people and drag them into the canal so that they can be consumed at leisure.

In the "History" section we get Californians are sinking themselves and Superfund money to clean 'mouth of the beast'. While the former refers to fiscal liquidity, let's interpret that literally. So... let's say the alchemical neighborhood is no longer in use - at some point, the terrain partially collapsed and caused damage to the Canal, and during the cleaning-up the authorities noticed just how toxic the area really is. Thus, it is currently a toxic wasteland no one of sound mind enters... which of course leaves the insane. Plus, mutant critters! It quickly filled with sick scrubland, which reduces visibility. There is a low earthen wall around the land, more as a boundary marker than anything really capable of keeping people away.

One "Famous Location" that stands out are the Georgia Guidestones, a monument commissioned by unknown parties and built in 1980 to prepare for the end of the world - with inscriptions in lots of different languages, including Babylonian, Sanskrit, and Ancient Egyptian. Let's say our version appeared overnight 20 years ago, has inscriptions in Celestial, and a few of those who have meditated on its riddles have become Celestial Patron Warlocks. Others have figured out clues that helped them achieve their goals, but their inspirations seem to work for themselves alone - everyone who meditates on the Guidestones will read different texts (assuming they can read Celestial, of course).
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Finally, let's do our "pick three random gaming PDFs" thing:

Fading Suns Players Companion: At first, this seems like a difficult fit, since this book is largely about player character choices instead of setting or adventure material. However, browsing through this book, I remember that the setting has a major guild responsible for "recycling" old material - the Scravers. Since Ulatos does produce a lot of waste, it seems appropriate that there is an organization setting up shop along the canal just downwards from Ulatos. Let's call them "Heap and Soil". It's not the most glamorous of jobs, but the Payit do realize how vital good compost is for farming (and the Chinampa method of agriculture does use human feces as one of the components for their artificial islands). And, of course, sometimes corpses need to be "disappeared"...

Zenobia - Aegypt: Another tough one - what does an ancient civilization known for its vast monuments have to do with what is essentially a glorified slum? However, Ancient Egypt is also known for is spectacular temples, so maybe we should put a large temple into the Corridor after all. A temple to the Maztican goddess of animals Nula seems appropriate - the Boxed Set mentions that she doesn't have a large following because Mazticans did not have many domestic animals. But this has now changed drastically thanks to all the imported creatures from two different worlds, and the end of the Cattle Drive seems like an especially auspicious location for a temple dedicated to her. It is customary to sacrifice one especially impressive specimen from each herd that arrives at Dragonport.

Island of Ignorance: I always welcome the opportunity to add more ideas from the Cthulhu Mythos to any setting I develop. One article that springs to my eye is describing the Great Old One Bugg-Shash - also known as the "Drowner", for its habit of covering his victims with slimy ooze until they have suffocated and can be devoured. Let's say that a local cell of Heart Seekers is likewise drowning their victims as a sacrifize to Azul (the Maztican god of rain) by dumping them into a pool of alchemical waste.


I think that's enough material for Ulatos-Dragonport for now - I will now update the map of the city and then move on to other aspects of Maztica. More ideas will surely come to me - especially since my new campaign starts this Friday (for real, I hope...).
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
I just had my first session. There was probably too much exposition, though they ultimately decided to join the Turquoise Seekers.

Next: Plundering some ruins deep in the jungle!
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Some thoughts on the next adventure:

- The PCs start as new members of the Turquoise Seekers, though they have demonstrated that they are fairly competent (they have started at 3rd level). Now I need to come up with the expedition leader and its other members. Any suggestions?

- The site is in the jungles west of Ulatos. Any suggestions for some interesting encounters (combat or role-playing) along the way?

- I plan to largely recycle an adventure I had ran for my previous Returned Maztica campaign - the site is inhabited by a kobold tribe, and beneath one of the Pyramid a low-ranking vampire of the Court of Night has her lair. However, since the PCs are higher level and are accompanied by combat-capable NPCs, I can elaborate and add further enemies. Any suggestions?

- One addition I plan is that of a Sacred Cenote, or sinkhole. The expedition leader knows that sacrifices were thrown into such sinkholes, and thus are worth checking out - but obviously they are hard to get into. This one is also inhabited by a tribe of Crabmen who have collected all the shinies. If defeated or driven away, the underground river it is connected to represents another point of access to the vampire's pyramid.
 
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