Sunday, November 17, 2019

Pandeimos - A New New Crobuzon

So Jack and Anne brought up this old post on Discord with talk of making a blog challenge. Some other people have done it too, listed here.

When Terror Came

Pandeimos is a city that would have been a killing blow. It was the vanguard of Vastoprian's colonial invasion force, prepared to strip the savanna bare, blacken the bay with industrial filth, and tidily clear living space with alchemically-engineered plagues. Would have been. Its distant imperial parent collapsed less than a decade after its founding, when the Red Leviathan rose from the ocean and the Five-Nation Alliance swept in from the northeast with its own armies. There hasn't been any official contact since then. The few refugees are tight-lipped about what happened.

Pandeimos is a half-finished city. Without additional supplies from Vastoprian, and with all the imperial contract-mages dead in the riots, the brutal black metal buildings typical of the empire were not able to complete their growth. The factories are stunted, the walls incomplete, the soldier-hives too cramped to function. The other half - the characteristic stone buildings with high-peaked red-gold tiled roofs, built in tiers along the hillside - comes from the colonists, mostly Binni-Tadhi who had been forcibly relocated after their country was flooded by dam construction.

Three Humanoid Minorities

  • Illumian - The scribal caste, intended as functionaries and bureaucrats within the empire's vast offices and as assistants to its contracted mages. They are the chief controllers and practitioners of literacy (for the empire took care to render comprehension of unspelled writing impossible, and this taboo remains in effect post-independence). There aren't, unfortunately, enough of them to safely maintain the structure of the city over a long period of time. Cracks are already starting to form as the paperwork piles up.

  • Mul - The slave caste of Vastoprian. Whenever a conquered population was considered too intractable, they were thrown in with the criminals and domestic dissidents and bred with the last remnants of the dwarven mead-unions to birth those who would carry the empire upon their backs. There are no words to express the hatred within the hearts of those muted multitudes, and so it has been expressed in the form of a god. A dark and venge-full thing served by the warlocks trained in those darkened slave-pits and factories.

  • Gnoll - The first waves of plague wiped out a quarter of the population and drove the survivors deep into the savanna. Those that live in the city now are here because there is little choice - the plague is still out there, as is starvation and warfare. That the city is technically free of its parent empire is meaningless to them, as the damage has already been done. The Reform Party, still in power but only tenuously after the most recent elections, has made a platform of outreach and repatriation to the gnolls, but progress has been slow.

Other Beings

  • Giant Sea Urchin - A common pest in the city. All that's needed is moisture and refuse, and the city has plenty. They will affix themselves to walls, fill up alleyways, cling to eaves and doorframes. They're decent eating if you can get past the spines - the homeless of Pandeimos form hunting parties nearly every day, and the government sets aside a small amount of cash to repay them for pest removal.

  • Stitched Devil - Vastoprian, for all its advantages, was never particularly skilled at demonology. Their contract-mages were persistent, though. Their summonings failed catastrophically, splattering infernal viscera all over as the summoned beings burst apart due to differences in pressure and atmosphere. What parts could be recovered were bathed in alchemical reagents and stitched together into something that passed for a functioning whole, though what resulted was hardly capable of imparting knowledge or writing up contracts. After the contract-mages were all hung in Baker's Square, their experiments vanished into the winding side streets where the sun never shines, living off of stray cats and the thin miasma of sin given off by petty thieves and adulterers.

  • Gargoyle - A resurgent remnant of Binni-Tadhi religious practice that the empire was not able to snuff out. The statues are appointed with bundles of dried herbs and sacred dyes and made vessels of the spirits of the family ancestors. From their perches on the roof they keep watch out for burglars and snatchgrabber ghosts. They cannot speak, but there is a familiarity that can't be precisely named - it is as if a beloved grandparent is asleep in the next room. Those who lose their family will search out another household to carry out the rites, and the mourning cries of these lost creatures trickle through the dark hours of the night.


  1. I have a soft spot for weirdass 3.5 monsters.

  2. In regards to the Giant Sea Urchin hunts, I'm just going to leave this here...

  3. Damn, Illumians! Those are my fave weird race.

  4. Dan, I love some weird 3e era monsters as well. "Lords of Madness" was one of the first D&D books I bought. I couldn't get the image of the Flehswarpers and that troll with the aboleth-slime-shooter-graft out of my head after flipping through it at a used bookstore.

    The half-unfinished city feels like a very cyberpunk intrusion into the fantasy world, and I like it. Considering that purple sea urchins are the invasive species du jour, your monster choice also feels creepily contemporary!