Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the Gloom

This is a follow-up to my discussion of the gray dust earlier this week. Experienced astral projectionists and other sorts of planar travelers from the City know that all the outer planes between the unassailable heights of Heaven on high, and the abyssal depths of the Pit where the qliphothic things dwell, are conceptual places--and the prevailing concept of the Wasteland is gloom.

The Wasteland, Plane of Despair, is an expanse of cinereous, dessicated land and sunless, graveyard skies, but its not entirely featureless. An arthritic creaking might announce the appearance of corroded and broken playground equipment from the mists. One might stumble into a mire of quicksand ash or find a burned out and derelict house from either a recent or historical era.

Then there are the human forms coated in hardened ash, like the victims of a volcanic eruption, dotting the landscape at intervals like anguished sculptures. These are said to be the final remains of souls given over to an afterlife of despondency.  They arrive in the Wasteland as filmy shadows and over time petrify to immobile, tortured forms.

The inhabitants of the Wasteland are just as grim. The Faceless Mourners appear as women dressed in funeral veils and black dresses of a century ago. Sometimes they carry straight razors and sometimes ink black ichor drips from underneath their long sleeves and runs down the creases of their ashen hands. Sometimes they can be glimpsed in mirrors by a person contemplating suicide. It’s said that their appearance unsummoned on the Material Plane harbingers death.  Their keening causes stillbirth.

Particularly loathsome are the Lonely Husks. These creatures appear as androgynous human skins, as if the skin was shed whole like a snake’s. They attach themselves to sentients and slowly drain the life from them. They lie in bed. holding the victim close like a lover, whispering in the person’s ear of their undying devotion and begging--pleading--for the victim never to leave them, and to love them in return. First, the victim is weakened and fatigue, then over days, paralyzed. Finally they die in a period of 4-8 weeks as their lungs or heart gives out.

There are also fiends, likely relatives of demons or devils, which have adapted to life in the Gray Gloom. These entities claim rulership, but no one truly rules the Wasteland; It’s sufferings domain.


Porky said...

That's powerful, even by your standards. A lot for players to come across there, and to think about. I was reading Strange Trails again a few days ago, mesmerised anew by the scope. It's a world full of potential, for all those suggested spaces and relationships too.

Padre said...

Awesome stuff Trey! I particularly like Faceless Mourners and Lonely Husk. I really like the names and your great description of them. “They attach themselves to sentients and slowly drain the life from them.” I fear some of these may have escaped into real life and I have encountered them in the past. Thanks for the awesome post, I may borrow some of these for various undead types in one of my Dragonquest campaigns that I hope to plan & play.

Trey said...

@Porky - Thanks Porky. I'm glad you find it inspiring. Hopefully, you'll find Weird Adventures of a similar utility (when I finally get it done).

@Padre - As silly as it sounds, after writing that last night, it the Lonely Husks were unpleassantly on my mind as I was drifting off to sleep. If you use them in a game, I'd love to hear about it.

The Angry Lurker said...

The Lonely Husks are especially unpleasant, excellent work.

Unknown said...

Seriously creeped out. You've outdone yourself.

Now, I think the trick would be to use this in game. Anything longer than a brief trip would, I think, overstay its welcome with players. But in very small doses, this could provide a powerful RP experience. And do you take the PCs there physically/spiritually? Present a vision of the Gray Gloom? Rumors in hushed whispers?

I can imagine a story where you rescue somebody who is trapped there, requiring both astral projection to confront spiritual threats and untangling the source of their despair on the material plane.

Trey said...

@Angry Lurker - Thanks!

@Risus - Thanks. I agree it takes some thought for the game. Like you say, I think it would be a place for a quick trip. I envision player's being able to go there mostly physically--the the world of the City I view the outer planes as being made of "lighter" stuff than physical bodies. Spells and devices that allow planar transport either shed the physical body or (more likely) someone translate it into lighter stuff. I suppose in that case though, its a distinction without a difference.

I think hints or brief glimpses of the Wasteland come first. Perhaps encountering creatures from there on the Material Plane, or items from there like the gray dust? Really, that's how I involve most planes beyound the astral interacting with the Strange New World. YMMV, as they say.

I think an adventure as you describe it sounds great. :)

Aarneus said...

Great stuff! In my mind's eye, I see it as a kind of a monochrome mix of Pompeii and a war-torn city.

I'm confused by the husks though. Do they attach themselves like a second skin and if they don't how do they prevent the victim from escaping during the 4-8 weeks it takes to kill them?

Scrubby Bear said...

amazing.. I always wished to have such experiences mate..

+followed ;)

Trey said...

Thanks, guys.

@Arneus - Good question, and one I should have been clearer on. I dropped a few more explicative bits in favor of mood. Anyway, I picture the husks embracing a victim like a lover (or perhaps an oversized infant). They're actually invisible (mostly) to normal sight. The victim will see them in the night, but will be unable to shake them off (they're magically attached), and only half-remember it in the day--until close to the very end. Of course, your Lonely husks may vary ;), that's just what I envisioned.

Needles said...

The unifying theme seems to be the dreadful forces that lurk just beneath the veneer of what we, in immense folly, believe to be "reality". Malign forces may surface at any moment to drag us to destruction or worse.

Trey said...

I think that's part of the Despair the plane exists to evoke. :) Other planes present rosier views, maybe.

Anonymous said...

Nice and bleak. Threatening to exile someone there could be a useful tool for the Hell Syndicate.

The faceless mourners remind me of the pleurants,

Anonymous said...

Nice and bleak. Threatening to exile someone there could be a useful tool for the Hell Syndicate.

The faceless mourners remind me of the pleurants,

Trey said...

Thanks. Yeah, the threat of exile might even be useful. The pleurants are cool, thanks for the link. I think they fit right in the Wasteland.