Nightfall

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Krimson
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Nightfall

Post by Krimson » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:56 pm

So I have an idea. This one came to me while thinking about Ravenloft and in particular Bluetspur. I wanted something in the same vein but something that could stand alone as well, working it's way into other settings.

Nightfall is a renaissance level city, full of humans and other races living out their lives in relative peace and harmony. The problem is, you can't leave. There are no exits out of the city that can be found and the only way to leave is over the immense wall which surrounds and "protects" Nightfall. Mind you, that is where the city gets it's name. There is no day in Nightfall, only an endless starry night. It's quite pretty actually. From the wall you can see out and the stars are truly endless, even when you look down where the ground should be. It's as if the city is floating in space. Sometimes people do try to escape this way, but they are never heard from again.

The dark of the city is that it was created by illithids under the instruction of an Elder Brain. The city itself is a marvel. Stone towers reach into the sky. There is plumbing and the streets themselves are lit by gas lamps. Beneath the city is an extensive sewer, drain system which is very well maintained. Further beneath that are caverns which lead to the Underdark and where the illithid community and their most important thralls reside. You see, Nightfall is a farm and the sentient life above are the crops.

So my other main inspirations are the old Doctor Who story, Castrovalva. And I guess a little of The Time Machine, with the mind flayers taking place of the Morlocks and the life above taking place of the Eloi. Of course, an ambitious party of Player Characters as well as some helpful NPCs, could change that. Including an Alhoon, living in exile imprisoned in Nightfall's highest tower, as far away from the Elder Brain as they could put it. The tower the Alhoon lives in is Nightfall's prison/asylum, and the undead mind flayer is not only the prison's most important prisoner, the Alhoon is also the Warden.

I'd probably like to make the city around the size of Waterdeep, though it would be a mostly round affair, well thought out and easy to navigate. Food production is interesting, with most farming occurring along the tops of buildings as well as the wall. Buildings might be covered in vines and many of them would yield fruit and vegetables. Keeping livestock is not easy and most denizens probably just raise chickens due to space as anything larger would be impractical. They might also rely on insects and other invertebrates for protein, with the creatures taking the place of seafood in the food chain.

The idea would be to explore the city, learn it's secrets, be duly horrified by them before realizing the real horror is having to ask The Alhoon for help. The Alhoon demands a price for it's help. Just a little bit of brain fluid would do, extracted from the nasal cavity. :D

I was thinking of the idea of factions as well. Life under Nightfall in the Underdark might be different than that in the city. There would be the main faction of illithids that rule, which could be opposed by a rival group which is less nefarious and more interested in cultivating brain fungus than victimizing sentients. I'd be tempted to have a drow community which might be more social and agreeable out of necessity (survival) and I'd like to toss in Neogi in there somewhere. Some intelligent monsters live in the city, but many opt to live underground as well.

Yes, the city that floats in nothingness has an extensive underground despite no evidence of the place being on a planet or an asteroid. Still it could be easily adapted to work with either Planescape or Spelljammer or the previously mentioned Ravenloft.

More on this to come as I think of it.

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Re: Nightfall

Post by Angel Tarragon » Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:55 am

Perhaps [Mordenkainen's] Magnificent Mansion could be altered to create farmfields and grazing pasture.
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Krimson
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Re: Nightfall

Post by Krimson » Thu Jun 02, 2016 4:39 am

A problem I am thinking of is a lack of sunlight. Nothing that grows in sunlight is going to grow all that well in Nightfall. Come to think of it, their diets might consist of chicken and mushrooms for the most part. Though apparently a light cantrip can be made any color, so the caster only needs to choose sun colored. Bleh... now I'm looking up which crops would be best to be grown in an urban setting. There goes my night.

I looked up the 5e version of Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion and... you might as well cast Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion. The thing comes with a nine course banquet for 100 people with 100 spectral servants to pamper you. Alrighty then, making a new spell could be easy. Basically you know it can produce enough food to stuff 100 people, or likely feed twice that amount normally. So you apply it to produce and maybe livestock. Since it's a 7th level spell conceivably the produce could be washed and ready to go, and the meat prepared as well - and 100 transparent farmers to haul it all into a wagon for you. Tentatively calling it The Alhoon's Glorious Garden which could be something a fortunate spellcasting PC might learn as a reward.

Though, for the most part denizens wouldn't have access to magic. I might make an exception though for the aforementioned Light cantrip. I could see them being heavily employed. Fortunately nearly anyone can learn Light by either being a spellcaster or having the magical aptitude feat. Farmers would probably be obligated to learn it. Or the illithid farmers that are farming the sentients could simply provide psionically empowered lights and just not tell the poor food creatures where they came from. Easiest way to do that would be to simply have the lights already be in the towers of the vertical gardens already. The city was constructed long ago for this purpose, so it would probably be a prudent design feature to give your bipedal livestock a way to grow their own food. And preferably lots of it with lots of Omega 3. Heh heh... Subterranean fish... And probably Aboleths. Sorry, just thinking while I'm thinking.

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Re: Nightfall

Post by Birchbeer » Thu Jun 02, 2016 5:15 am

The base concept sounds similar to Dark City sci fi movie from the 90's. Good film not sure if a lot of folks saw it.

If you wanted to adapt some concepts from the movie (hmm possible spoilers from the movie, but adapted for your world): The people in the city believe they can leave it, yet no one actually ever does. Food is provided via shops, possibly altered via psionic means. Folks assume the food is grown outside the walls. Also, people never realize they haven't see the sun rise... they have memories implanted in them every so often that they have, but in reality they may not have seen the sun in many many years.

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Re: Nightfall

Post by Krimson » Thu Jun 02, 2016 6:38 pm

Now that you mention it, it does seem to have similarities. Hmm... Perhaps I should let this idea go.

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Re: Nightfall

Post by Birchbeer » Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:06 pm

I would still develop it. Like I pointed out, you could use the movie as a hook to implement some peculiarities for the setting. The more I look at it, it sounds like something the Illithids would do, keep a captive population for food, trap them within the city (or demiplane). I'm also thinking maybe it opens gates up into other plans to trap people into the city (gotta restock the food ;)

Also, technically the movie seems like a variant of the Allegory of the Cave by Plato. ;)

- edited for readability :)

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Re: Nightfall

Post by Big Mac » Thu Jun 02, 2016 9:34 pm

Birchbeer wrote:I would still develop it.
Birchebeer has a point. Just because something is similar to something else, it doesn't make it a bad idea.

But, I think you have a number of challenges that you need to look at, to make this into a tabletop setting.

The "can't get in - can't get out" thing (what I call a "Hotel California" effect) means that you are not going to be able to bring your PCs to this city from anywhere else, unless you do something like teleport them in. And if the PCs just get obsessed with finding their way out of Nightfall, they might not pay attention to all the cool towers and stuff.

I wonder if this "trap" could be less of an obvious trap, with the "Hotel California" effect swapped out for something that attracts PCs and NPCs (rather than something that imprisons them).

There was an episode of the TV show Battlestar Galactica (the original - not the remake) where the fleet fleeing the cylons stumbled onto some sort of casino planet, where lots of people were winning lots of money. Eventually, it was revealed that guests using the lifts to go to the hotel rooms were sometimes being diverted to a secret underground level where they were being captured and put into beehive-like cells, so that giant insect larvae could eat them alive.

I wonder if you could give Nightfall a tweak to make the "sealed city" effect into some sort of "protection" from something outside the city that lasts a fairly long time.

Have you read A Song of Fire and Ice or watched Game of Thrones? That has a house with the moto "Winter is Coming" and in that world, they have very long winters that a lot of people do not survive. If you go with a theme like that, but swap out a "long winter" for a "long night" you could create a land around Nightfall that fits in with your city.

Have you seen the movie Pitch Black? That has a moon orbiting a giant planet with aggressive creatures that come out at night. I'm not saying that you should copy those exact critters, but if Nightfall was located somewhere that had a long night that was dangerous, the walls could protect the people inside from something that is outside and the illithids could use the "long night" to encourage a ton of people to flock to the city to wait out the "long night".

Maybe you don't even need to go as far as the planetary setup in Pitch Black to create a "long night". In the real-world, if you travel further north than the artic circle, you can get to places that have sunlight at midnight for some of the year (and darkness at midday at other times).

You might be able to get away with creating an area that has a "long night" without putting your city that close to the North Pole or South Pole. If it was a bit further south, but built inside the crater of an extinct volcano, that might give you the effect you want. (And if you want to stick with your city surrounded by walls, but no gates theme, you could maybe even have a bunch of illithids find an extinct volcano, and work on the walls inside the caldera to make them look like they are man-made fortified walls. Then they could build a bunch of buildings inside the caldera to disguise the fact that it is a crater, as well as to give their cattle places to live.)

You mentioned Spelljammer and - if you put this city into a Spelljammer context, you could roll a lot of these ideas together and make this into a caldera on a moon, where the crater is so deep that there are only a few days in each month when the sunlight comes all the way down to street level. And you could either go for the entire crater being the city - for a closed in effect - or have a fortified city within a very large and deep volcanic crater - where some sort of monsters (probably planted there by the illithids) attack anyone who stays outside the city during the long night.

If you did have a "short day" then perhaps you could have fast-growing crops, that the city-dwellers could rush outside to harvest. And if you wanted to create a feeling of easy-wealth perhaps you could have some fast-growing trees ("Nightwood Trees" perhaps) that have special properties that make Nightwood lumber worth ten times the amount of regular lumber. Do it right, and you could perhaps create a "gold rush" feel, where people come to the city to get rich and people leaving the city quietly vanish. The people buying the Nightwood lumber could even be a part of the con, as they could be thralls sent in by the illithids to collect supplies and distribute money. Anyone who ships out with them could be murdered...or delievered to the mind flayers...with the money taken off of victims, so that it can be given to the people in the city to keep them "happy". And if Nightwood was actually useful and valuable, the illithids could genuinely sell it somewhere too, and make money legitimately from trading.
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Re: Nightfall

Post by Krimson » Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:14 pm

Big Mac wrote:You mentioned Spelljammer and - if you put this city into a Spelljammer context, you could roll a lot of these ideas together and make this into a caldera on a moon, where the crater is so deep that there are only a few days in each month when the sunlight comes all the way down to street level. And you could either go for the entire crater being the city - for a closed in effect - or have a fortified city within a very large and deep volcanic crater - where some sort of monsters (probably planted there by the illithids) attack anyone who stays outside the city during the long night.

If you did have a "short day" then perhaps you could have fast-growing crops, that the city-dwellers could rush outside to harvest. And if you wanted to create a feeling of easy-wealth perhaps you could have some fast-growing trees ("Nightwood Trees" perhaps) that have special properties that make Nightwood lumber worth ten times the amount of regular lumber. Do it right, and you could perhaps create a "gold rush" feel, where people come to the city to get rich and people leaving the city quietly vanish. The people buying the Nightwood lumber could even be a part of the con, as they could be thralls sent in by the illithids to collect supplies and distribute money. Anyone who ships out with them could be murdered...or delievered to the mind flayers...with the money taken off of victims, so that it can be given to the people in the city to keep them "happy". And if Nightwood was actually useful and valuable, the illithids could genuinely sell it somewhere too, and make money legitimately from trading.
Well I think that's the wall I hit last night. I see the comment about the movie and then I started realizing that this probably should be a Spelljammer setting. I was thinking of more an asteroid or planetoid than something as large as a moon. Another thing I realized was turning the city in to a trap is completely unnecessary. Having a fully habitable city on an asteroid in Wildspace would draw people in willingly. The majority of the population would probably be too settled in or even too poor to leave, and if the mind flayers mostly preyed on the most vulnerable, the elderly, the poor, orphaned children, then you might never even know they were there.

Part of me thinks this could be a fun adventure path. There is certainly stuff for high level characters to do, and the city itself can be adventure aplenty for low level characters. Building probably wouldn't be necessary since everything is built and built well though I could imagine building materials being useful for maintenance and repairs. Maybe even some of the less hostile underdark races could mine metals and gems for use as well.

I had thought of the Drow and I might be tempted to replace them with something different, such as Imaskari/Albino like humans. That might scream "Morlocks" especially since Morlocks from the most recent movie were Elric expies, but subverting the trope and making them into a non-hostile race would make it seem less of a rip-off.

As for the surface of the Asteroid, if we are going by Spelljammer rules than there is probably gravity or a gravity plane which means it can hold an atmosphere. Not that you'd want to do much exploring what with all the Chuul roaming the surface. :D

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Re: Nightfall

Post by willpell » Fri Jun 03, 2016 6:25 pm

I thought sure from the first part of the description that you would be listing Dark City, my #1 favorite movie of all time, as an influence.

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Re: Nightfall

Post by Krimson » Fri Jun 03, 2016 7:29 pm

willpell wrote:I thought sure from the first part of the description that you would be listing Dark City, my #1 favorite movie of all time, as an influence.
I saw it once and forgot most of it. :D Honestly I couldn't even tell you what the movie is about nor who even acted in it.

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Re: Nightfall

Post by Big Mac » Sat Jun 04, 2016 10:59 am

Krimson wrote:Well I think that's the wall I hit last night. I see the comment about the movie and then I started realizing that this probably should be a Spelljammer setting. I was thinking of more an asteroid or planetoid than something as large as a moon. Another thing I realized was turning the city in to a trap is completely unnecessary. Having a fully habitable city on an asteroid in Wildspace would draw people in willingly. The majority of the population would probably be too settled in or even too poor to leave, and if the mind flayers mostly preyed on the most vulnerable, the elderly, the poor, orphaned children, then you might never even know they were there.
If you used an asteroid, you would (usually) be getting binary gravity, and could put the city of Nightfall on the entire "topside" (or most of it) and hide an entrance to an illithid base on the "underside". It might be a bit tricky for the mind flayers to approach and leave the asteroid, without being seen, but if they used black nautiloids and approached and left from below the asteroid, they would be a lot less likely to be seen by anyone on the topside.

You might also be able to keep your "walls around the city" effect, by making Nightfall into a city within a crater. Some impact craters have a pointy bit in the middle (where molten rock has splashed up) as well as walls around the outside. This could give you a backstory for what looks like fortified walls from inside the city and also add a "keep" that reaches up into the sky.

If you use that, or another reason to keep your high city walls, you will actually create an asteroid where it is harder for people to see the horizon. Visibility will be limited to the sky. The locals could feel safe inside their "walls" but the walls would actually be making it easier for spacefarers to steak up on them. And that could help with the plot-device of the mind flayers being able to sneak ships full of slaves away unnoticed.

High walls around an asteroid city could also give you a long nightime/short daytime day (such as 20 hours of daytime and 4 hours of daytime), while still allowing for plenty of sunlight to help plants grow on the underside and supply fresh air. (Outside the crater there could be a normal 12 hour day.)
Krimson wrote:Part of me thinks this could be a fun adventure path. There is certainly stuff for high level characters to do, and the city itself can be adventure aplenty for low level characters. Building probably wouldn't be necessary since everything is built and built well though I could imagine building materials being useful for maintenance and repairs. Maybe even some of the less hostile underdark races could mine metals and gems for use as well.
Are you going to make this into a city full of underdark races (like Skullport)?
Krimson wrote:I had thought of the Drow and I might be tempted to replace them with something different, such as Imaskari/Albino like humans. That might scream "Morlocks" especially since Morlocks from the most recent movie were Elric expies, but subverting the trope and making them into a non-hostile race would make it seem less of a rip-off.
Don't forget that the Realmspace deity Eilistraee is a non-evil deity that encourages drow to go up to the surface of the planet. Perhaps you could make this into a city that was founded by Eilistraee worshippers.

Then, if you wanted to have some people working alongside the illithids, you could sneak in a few regular drow (from a slave taking house) who worship one of the evil drow deities. These infiltrators could pass themselves off as Eilistraee worshippers, while occasionally kidnapping select natives, carrying them deep into Nightfall's Underdark and passing them onto the illithids. The drow could then be working on a long term plot to smash the chruch of Eilistraee and take over the asteroid for their own deity. That could give them a motivation that is more than "they are mooks that have been brainwashed by the illithids" (although the illithids might have tried to brainwash some of them).
Krimson wrote:As for the surface of the Asteroid, if we are going by Spelljammer rules than there is probably gravity or a gravity plane which means it can hold an atmosphere. Not that you'd want to do much exploring what with all the Chuul roaming the surface. :D
There would normally be a gravity plane, an air envelope that is three times as long as Nightfall's asteroid, three times as tall as the asteroid and three times as tall as the asteroid. And, like I said above, there would normally be reverse gravity on the underside.

Perhaps you could put your Chuul on the underside of the asteroid, to make it a deadly place.

Perhaps you could put a small hole onto the underside (an "exit wound") from whatever caused the impact crater on the topside. That could look like a sinkhole from the surface of the underside, and the deadly sudden drop could kill any Chuul that accidentally fall into the sinkhole. (It would need to be large enough for a nautiloid ship to get in and out of the underdark.) If the illithids were very sneaky, they could actually dig out the side of the sinkhole, so that illithid ships that decend into the sinkhole, could fly off to the side and be totally out of sight of anyone who hangs over the edge of the drop. Then they could only be seen at the exact times they were flying into or out of the hidden slave-port.
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