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What minor pocket dimension have we stumbled into?

1 – First, you need to find a tree that’s stood for more than a century; then it has to get struck by lightning, and die. Then you have to crawl down inside the rotted-out trunk of it, into the ground, and eventually (pray it’s a short trip) you’ll emerge into the garden. There isn’t a name for it, really; no-one really knows it exists, and for some reason there’s a cult of one-eyed priests who are going around and uprooting every lightning-struck tree they can find. The dimension itself is a small rooftop garden, and storm clouds roll overhead, and the air is heavy with the threat of a storm that never comes. But at least it’s quiet.

2 –It’s where cats go. You know, at night? It’s a mix of rooftops, linen closets, the bins out the back of taverns, and blankets. All the ceilings are too low, the stars are blurry and indistinct, and it smells like cat piss.

3 – It used to be a well-maintained graveyard, but it fell into disrepair a long time ago; you don’t think that dimensions can be “hungry,” as it were, but it’s as though it doesn’t want you to leave. The longer you stay here, the more of your vitality drains away, and your colour, and you begin to feel like laying down in one of the (suspiciously) open graves and going to sleep.

4 – You know when you’re drunk – like, really drunk, can’t-find-your-shoes-drunk – and you wake up at home? This is the dimension you use to get there. It’s a universal shortcut, but you can only use it when you’re blackout drunk, so. If you took notice of your surroundings – which you can’t do, you’re too busy throwing up in an alley – you’d notice a cadre of wine-making monks who have set up their monastery here, and who are all several drinks in all the time.

5 – Look, we’re not here to judge you, but: you went to a peep show. We’re sure you’ve got your reasons. But when the partition rolled back, you saw into a different pocket dimension, instead of the dancing sex worker you paid for. Turns out the place is its own shard of reality – in the back, at least – and you can use it to spy on people (or… cats) in other ones. This could be tremendously valuable in the right hands, but at the moment those hands are busy with other things.

6 – It’s a library; you fell asleep face-down on a pile of books, and woke up here. All the pages and covers are blank and it’s utterly, terrifyingly, silent. Your heartbeat begins to deafen you, and you can hear the high-pitched buzz of your central nervous system.

7 – He paints landscape scenes, and he’s very good at it. So good, in fact, that people wishing for sanctuary – usually when they’re running away from something – stumble into these peaceful, tranquil skylines and city-scapes. At the edge of the space there’s a rough pane of glass, which looks out of the painting and into his studio, so you can talk to him if you want. He doesn’t seem inclined to let you out; it’s as though capturing people was his aim all along.

8 – There’s a Screen Omega at this cinema, and you can get into it, if you know how to ask. You don’t recognise any of the films playing here – they’re all one step away from familiar, featuring people who look a little like the stars of yesteryear, and they’re all in black and white. Some of them are in languages you can nearly recognise. Anyway; the rules of cinema, not the real world, apply here. Walk in with a gunshot wound and you can heal it with a bandage and a montage. (Alternatively: walk in with a nasty cough and it’ll develop into full-blown tuberculosis by the end of the film, so be careful.)

9 – There’s a reason you don’t talk to people on the bus – they aren’t people. Every single bus is part of a mass hallucination, and there’s only one interdimensional space that we use to transport between locations; the bus is just a way to let your mind handle it. Why do you think they don’t let you off if it’s not at a stop? You’d be torn to shreds by transdimensional parasites.

10 – Someone built this place – it was a Sorcerer-King’s mind palace, they say, back when you had Sorcerer-Kings – and since then, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a stepping sideways spell has been through here and lifted everything of value. All the majestic tapestries have long since been ripped off the walls and sold; all the devious traps have been triggered, or rusted into inaction, or been deactivated and stripped for copper; even the walls themselves have been chipped away at, the shards of mind-stone sold for a few quid, leaving the place barren, empty, and draughty.

Glimmers is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create an urban horror world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[GLIMMERS.] The city is alive. The city is connected, with streams of light and noise and people, to every other city; they are all the same being, all branches of the same concrete-and-glass tree. There are streets between them, forgotten streets, with secret names and grim inhabitants. (And: there are wild-lands, dark places, the Spaces Between, where nothing seems right. Airport waiting rooms. Churches, at night. Backwater villages.)

There is vast power in the thrum of machines and the buzz of traffic, and it can be yours, for a price.

Image by Eelke on Flickr

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What’s under the church?

1 – Another church. Older, for a different religion; lots of crows, tapestries of a great and terrible crown. Roll again on this table to see what’s under this one.

2 – A roiling mass of worms. You can’t tell how far down they go, or what they’re surviving on down there. The door slams shut behind you.

3 – An underground cave system. Mostly it’s flooded, but the one dry-ish tunnel leads to the basement of a brothel in town.

4 – A forgotten library. It’s got the original religious texts of the church above it in there, but it seems like no-one knows it’s here. This would be an excellent opportunity to set yourself up in a prophecy of your own invention, if you’ve got a pen to hand.

5 – The anti-church. Built by a sect of True Neutral monks, this anti-church dwells beneath the above church and espouses completely different values for the sake of balance.

6 – A vault containing contraband treasure. Looks like it’s stamped with the insignia of the evil overlord who was cast down from his throne of blood thirty years ago. They (or anyone else who picked it up) would have a hell of a time shifting this. Why do they have it, anyway?

7 – A labyrinth, made out of repurposed wood. It’s filled with half-starving feral boars and the scant remains of the last people who came down here.

8 – A portal to heaven. At least: they reckon it’s a portal to heaven. It’s definitely a portal. The priests here are rapturing people from the local community after deeming them worthy of entrance into the great eternal. (God knows where it really goes, though. Would be a laugh if it actually was heaven, eh.)

9 – An enormous chasm, going way, way down. You can hear music – bells, flutes, pipes etc – and cackling coming from the bottom.

10 – A dark void. A magic hole in space and time, a portal to the elemental plane of No. The church was built on it to contain it, but their wards are failing, and now it’s only a couple of feet beneath the main altar.

11 – A vampire. Leave him alone! He’s trying to sleep.

12 – A suspicious quantity of arms and armour. Good stuff, too. Non-magical (aside from a handful of potions) but it’s of strong make, and there’s enough here to outfit a squad to do some serious work. Which is odd, because it’s hidden beneath a godsdamned church.

13 – A prison. They put sinners here. Sometimes they put food here. The town is calm and peaceful and crime-free, and they like it that way, so no-one asks too many questions about the black-masked priests who walk the streets at night and drag away the undesirables.

14 – A wizard’s tower. You’d think it’d be the wrong way up, but there’s a sky under here and everything; the tower is on a promontory overlooking a wild sea, and you can see something huge shifting under the waves. Wizard’s a bit of a weirdo; she says she’s studying the air currents here, and refuses to believe that there’s a church in her basement.

15 – Catacombs. But: round here, while you’re in mourning, you go and live with the dead under the church. Some folks never come out of mourning. There are about thirty people down there at any given time, and at the end of a funeral, family members are escorted down into the depths with the body.

16 – The same church, but last week. It’s one of the weird sharding effects of the cataclysm; the church is underneath itself, inverted, but the one underneath is a week in the past. As long as you visit the church once a week and stay on good terms with the vicar(s), you can effectively cheat death so long as you don’t mind getting kidnapped by your mates from the future every now and again.

17 – A hospital. The staff here are trying to hide the fact that there’s an outbreak of plague in the area; if it gets out, the panic would be impossible to handle. Their beds are filling up, and they’re on the verge of uncovering a cure, but time is not on their side.

18 – An opium den. None of the priests are actually priests; they’re drug dealers, and most of the town is in on it. They run a pretty solid operation, and don’t care about killing people who shove their noses in where they don’t belong.

19 – An orcish invasion. They’re tunnelling in from their world of darkness and fire and hate, and they’re hungry to see the light and feast on the pleasures of the surface world. You find evidence of an orc camp in the cellar, and then hear the unmistakable sound of iron-shod boots clattering against flagstones.

20 – Cogs from the machine that keeps the world turning. They creak and click at an incredibly slow rate, and beneath you, the sound of vast cthonic rumbling hints at something far larger beneath you. This is a maintenance access panel, but: do you really want to go exploring down here?

Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

Header image by fly on Flickr