Sinkholes of Evil

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Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Sinkholes of Evil

I am very excited to share one of the final updates to ACKS: Sinkholes of Evil!
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SINKHOLES OF EVIL
Places that are thick with the energies of the Nether Darkness are known as sinkholes of evil. Profane powers and undead creatures are stronger there, while the divine and the living are weakened. Sinkholes of evil can develop anywhere that death and decay predominate. Sinkholes of evil can be shadowed, blighted, or forsaken.
Shadowed Sinkholes
Cemeteries, catacombs, battlegrounds, and other places of death inevitably become shadowed sinkholes over time. The annual percentage chance of such an area becoming shadowed is equal to number of dead interred in the area divided by the area’s size in square feet, rounded up. For instance, a small 50’ x 50’ cemetery with 25 graves has a 1% chance of becoming shadowed each year. An enormous cemetery such as the real-world Wadi Al Salam (5 million dead across 64 million square feet) has an 8% chance of becoming shadowed each year. However, a sinkhole of evil will not develop if the dead are cremated by a Lawful divine spellcaster, or if one or more shrine(s) to Lawful powers are erected on the site. The Lawful shrine(s) must have a gp value of at least 5gp per dead in order to prevent the area from becoming shadowed.
Once the shadowed sinkhole develops, it will extend to the borders of the graveyard, battlefield, etc., and remains shadowed until cleansed. Creatures that die in shadowed sinkholes have a 10% chance to return as undead in 1d12 months unless their bodies are burned. When in shadowed sinkholes, divine spellcasters of chaotic alignment cast the reversed (evil) form of their spells as if they were two class levels higher for purposes of spell effects.
Blighted Sinkholes
If an altar devoted to Chaotic powers is erected in a shadowed sinkhole, the area around the altar will become a blighted sinkhole. The maximum size of the blighted area is 100 square feet per 100gp spent on the altar. For instance, a 100’ x 100’ blighted sinkhole would require a 10,000gp altar.
Creatures that die in blighted sinkholes have a 20% chance to return as undead in 1d4 days unless their bodies are burned. When in blighted areas, divine spellcasters of chaotic alignment cast the reversed (evil) form of their spells as if they were two class levels higher for purposes of spell effects. Divine spellcasters of lawful alignment turn undead as if four class levels lower. Blighted sinkholes can be used for blood sacrifice, as described in Chapter 7.
Forsaken Sinkholes
A blighted area might, through some awful juxtaposition of the planes or terrible ritual magic, become forsaken. Forsaken sinkholes are pits of darkness where the vile creatures and foulest magic can be found.
Creatures that die in forsaken areas have an 80% chance to return as undead in 1d4 rounds unless their bodies are burned. When in forsaken sinkholes, divine spellcasters of chaotic alignment cast the reversed (evil) form of their spells as if they were two class levels higher for purposes of spell effects. Lawful divine spellcasters cast spells as if they were two class levels lower for purposes of spell effects, and may not turn undead. Any undead in forsaken areas gain a +2 bonus to attack throws, saving throws, damage rolls, and AC. Undead created in forsaken areas gain a permanent +2 hit point per hit die, and animate dead spells cast in forsaken sinkholes create twice the normal number of hit dice of undead.
Cleansing Sinkholes
A bless spell will temporarily cleanse a shadowed sinkhole for the duration of the spell. A dispel evil spell will instantly cleanse a shadowed sinkhole, but the area can become shadowed again over time. To permanently cleanse a shadowed sinkhole, a Lawful divine spellcaster must cremate the dead interred there, or erect a shrine to the Lawful powers of appropriate value.
A blighted sinkhole can be partly cleansed, to merely shadowed, by destroying the evil altar. An evil altar can be destroyed magically, with dispel evil; or destroyed physically by smashing it and then either pouring holy water or casting bless on the broken remains.
A forsaken sinkhole can only be cleansed by ritual magic. As such areas develop very rarely, the magic to cleanse them is almost always forgotten in between each such occurrence, and must be researched anew by the forces of Law.

Undercrypt
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Mua ha ha ha ha ha ha!

James S
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Joined: 2011-07-29 12:36

Some initial observations:
Overall, I love it, with some reservations.
Sinkholes are being linked to Chaotic Powers and specifically to undead rather than simply ‘Evil’.
The rules support chaotic divine casters over arcane ones, implying that divine magic is more powerful than arcane magic.
And some (probably overly long) ramblings:
Shadowed Sinkholes – there’s a certain inevitability to it that smacks of Lovecraftian Mythos to me. Whilst I love the Mythos for all it’s tentacular goodness I feel that it’s a touch *too* inevitable for a well tended, well loved graveyard – though perhaps the assumption here is that there are shrines to the dead here. If the feel of it is ‘whilst a site is actively tended by followers of a Lawful religion, it is safe from falling into shadow, but if those followers leave, if the site is forgotten or allowed to fall into ruin or disrepair, to become overgrown, then there is a chance that darkness will begin to seep into the land’, then there’s a much stronger feel of life pushing back the shadows. The very best sites for evil are the forgotten graveyards, the spooky ones, the ancient battlegrounds that people are afraid of, the vast grave site tended only by a lonely half blind caretaker who doesn’t do a very good job and who knows that several plots within the site now smell of evil because there aren’t enough people to help him do his job, etc..
I’d prefer that a shadowed sinkhole grows over time rather than fills the area of a site immediately, but can be held at bay by shrines or blessed areas – a way of creating islands of purity within a sea of decay (and providing reason for why tomb of Saint Paladinus is untainted whilst zombies prowl the rest of the forgotten graveyard). I also think that whilst there’s some thematic sense to having the sinkhole stop at the borders there is an argument for having it spread to cover the whole village, or town, or city quarter – If you’ve played Half Life 2, I’m thinking about Ravenholm, though equally you could just argue that the ‘undead’ here have burst out of the graveyard and taken the town. I like the idea that shadows can grow (and lends something else for Domain level play too, with Domains of Shadow).
In addition, I’d like to see a way of forcing a sinkhole to develop more quickly. A spell or ritual to create one would be nice (Arcane and Divine), something similar to Desecrate in Pathfinder RPG. Alternatively, something that moves the annual dice roll to a monthly dice roll. I’d also like to see building / creating a Chaotic Shrine on a non-sinkhole area make it more likely for a sinkhole to develop more quickly (though blood sacrifice is ineffective until it becomes blighted).
The methods by which a Lawful divine character can prevent a shadowed sinkhole from occurring are very much in line with Roman funerary practices from what I can tell, and in many ways that’s a beautiful touch and a very elegant piece of campaign as world. It would be nice though if it wasn’t quite so ‘cremation or shrines’. Cremation doesn’t necessarily completely dispose of a corpse unless the remaining bones / fragments are ground into powder, so unless there is a mystical link between burning a body and protection from undeath (which is perfectly reasonable for some religions, but not all), cremation may not be sufficient to protect a corpse from rising as a skeleton. Mummification or Sky Burial are both ancient methods, and if done in the eyes of the gods should have a similar impact to cremation in my view – though obviously, mummification comes with its own interesting undead outcomes if done as part of Necromancy.
Speaking of which, the rules as written are very much a ‘Chaotic Divine’ device, but they don’t provide any benefits to either Arcane casters of necromantic spells (except for forsaken sinkholes and Animate dead), nor to practitioners of Necromancy itself. There’s a lovely opportunity here to boost the powers of Necromancy in a sinkhole, but the rules at Blighted and Forsaken levels actually make it quite impractical unless you’re quick off the mark (which in reality may be a good thing). Was it a deliberate design choice to exclude Necromancy from gaining sinkhole benefits?
Moving on, all 3 flavours of sinkhole include a bit of text that states ‘Creatures that die in...’. I’d like to clarify this. If a creature dies within the sinkhole, but is then moved outside it, does the chance to come back as undead still exist? Is it the *death* that sets this situation up, or is it the *presence* within the sinkhole.
Blighted Sinkholes – A blighted sinkhole is basically a shadowed sinkhole boosted by the presence of a Chaotic altar, and in addition to the ‘power increase’ it also allows for Blood Sacrifice. On page 122 the implication is that any sort of sinkhole would do, but here you need a ‘Stage 2’ sinkhole. So page 122 may need some amendments to bring it in line with this text. I do however, prefer the idea that *any* type of sinkhole can be used for blood sacrifice, and as I’ve said earlier, I think chaotic shrines have more scope if they can emit their own aura of evil – but I suspect there are play balance or simple logic issues with this approach. I’m also in two minds about whether I like that the Sinkholes are basically tiered. I *do* like that some are more powerful than others, and I definitely like some of the flavour differences between ‘Shadowed’ and ‘Forsaken’. However, I feel that the emphasis is so heavy on the Divine side that the Arcane possibilities miss out. I half think that a pyramid would be better than a tower, so there’s is more than one way to reach a Forsaken sinkhole, or that Blighted isn’t a simple ‘upgrade’ to a Shadowed. It’s only half a thought though, and too ill-formed to propose a useful alternative. I think it’s to do with flavour, and there’s some bleed-through from WFRP going on (which ACKs isn’t..) – so you’ve got Necromancy and you’ve got Demonology which are two different things. You’ve already said you didn’t want to go into the demons and devils arena, but I can’t help thinking the sinkholes provide an ideal lead in for when you do want to go there – but not as written.
Forsaken Sinkholes – These appear to be the purest form of Chaotic power on the material plane aside from perhaps a Chaotic sentient sword, and rightly so. I’m uneasy about the ‘Lawful clerics can’t turn undead’ bit, given the boosts undead do get already. I think it’s awesome that it emphasises ‘this is a place of Chaos’, but at the same time it cripples the main weapon in the fight against undeath. It feels overpowered, but I could easily be wrong. Mind you – having a place that cripples clerics in the same way that an Anti-Magic zone can cripple mages is interesting, and worth a punt!
80% chance to turn into undead in 1d4 rounds unless burned – There’s no way this could be done in a conventional fashion, so a PC would be reliant on magical fire for this. Challenging!
Cleansing Sinkholes – As already said above, I see more play in sinkholes being able to be patchy and piecemeal rather than flooding an area, but I accept that the rules as written are simpler, and therefore easier to apply. With that in mind, in my view Bless should cleanse an area for a time rather than suppress the whole sinkhole, and I think there’s definitely scope here for Holy Water to play a role – perhaps sprinkling it on the ground will cleanse an area for longer than a bless spell, and when used in a burial it may protect a corpse for longer. If Holy Water has a utilitarian purpose for staving off the creation of a sinkhole it adds a market for it to the world, making it a more valuable and potentially scarce commodity and not only something adventurers will want to stock up on before entering a dungeon.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Thanks as always for your detailed feedback.
With regard to Sinkholes in general,, my original (house) rules on sinkholes are unspeakably baroque – they have 12 different categories such as “Blighted Type A” versus “Blighted Type B” with non-linear combinations such that Shadowed + Blighted B yields Ruined, etc.. In actual practice I found I only ever used three types, so to offer something streamlined and elegant that’s what I presented. When I draft rules for review, I aim for a B/X level of elegance and simplicity. In response to forum comments it quickly evolves into a 3.5-level of complexity (hopefully without losing the elegance).
JAMES: Shadowed Sinkholes – there’s a certain inevitability to it that smacks of Lovecraftian Mythos to me. Whilst I love the Mythos for all it’s tentacular goodness I feel that it’s a touch *too* inevitable for a well tended, well loved graveyard – though perhaps the assumption here is that there are shrines to the dead here. If the feel of it is ‘whilst a site is actively tended by followers of a Lawful religion, it is safe from falling into shadow, but if those followers leave, if the site is forgotten or allowed to fall into ruin or disrepair, to become overgrown, then there is a chance that darkness will begin to seep into the land’, then there’s a much stronger feel of life pushing back the shadows. The very best sites for evil are the forgotten graveyards, the spooky ones, the ancient battlegrounds that people are afraid of, the vast grave site tended only by a lonely half blind caretaker who doesn’t do a very good job and who knows that several plots within the site now smell of evil because there aren’t enough people to help him do his job, etc..
APM: The fact that you can prevent a shadowed sinkhole from forming by properly attending ot the dead or building a temple is meant to combat the inevitability to an extent. That said, ACKS as I run it and write does have a certain bleak inevitability to it that is definitely Howardian-Lovecraftian-Pagan.
I’d prefer that a shadowed sinkhole grows over time rather than fills the area of a site immediately, but can be held at bay by shrines or blessed areas – a way of creating islands of purity within a sea of decay (and providing reason for why tomb of Saint Paladinus is untainted whilst zombies prowl the rest of the forgotten graveyard). I also think that whilst there’s some thematic sense to having the sinkhole stop at the borders there is an argument for having it spread to cover the whole village, or town, or city quarter – If you’ve played Half Life 2, I’m thinking about Ravenholm, though equally you could just argue that the ‘undead’ here have burst out of the graveyard and taken the town. I like the idea that shadows can grow (and lends something else for Domain level play too, with Domains of Shadow).
In addition, I’d like to see a way of forcing a sinkhole to develop more quickly. A spell or ritual to create one would be nice (Arcane and Divine), something similar to Desecrate in Pathfinder RPG. Alternatively, something that moves the annual dice roll to a monthly dice roll. I’d also like to see building / creating a Chaotic Shrine on a non-sinkhole area make it more likely for a sinkhole to develop more quickly (though blood sacrifice is ineffective until it becomes blighted).
APM: Blood sacrifice could cause an area to become shadowed, because you are causing lots of death there. Also, in my original (house) rules establishing a Chaotic Shrine on normal land made the land Shadowed. Basically it was EITHER (shrine) OR (dead) = Shadowed; (shrine) AND (dead) = Blighted. This is easy to add back in, and I think addresses what you are trying to achieve.
The methods by which a Lawful divine character can prevent a shadowed sinkhole from occurring are very much in line with Roman funerary practices from what I can tell, and in many ways that’s a beautiful touch and a very elegant piece of campaign as world.
APM: Thanks. Yes, there is lots of inspiration drawn from Roman and other ancient funerary practice.
It would be nice though if it wasn’t quite so ‘cremation or shrines’. Cremation doesn’t necessarily completely dispose of a corpse unless the remaining bones / fragments are ground into powder, so unless there is a mystical link between burning a body and protection from undeath (which is perfectly reasonable for some religions, but not all), cremation may not be sufficient to protect a corpse from rising as a skeleton. Mummification or Sky Burial are both ancient methods, and if done in the eyes of the gods should have a similar impact to cremation in my view – though obviously, mummification comes with its own interesting undead outcomes if done as part of Necromancy.
APM: This is where the Auran Empire as the “default” or implicit setting is relevant. In the Auran Empire, Lawful religions dispose of their dead by cremation. Chaotic religions embalm or mummify their dead.
APM: From the writings of Phimon, Sage of the Tower of Knowledge, Imperial Year 331:
“The Empyreans believe that after death, the body must be burned so that the spirit can swiftly travel to the afterlife, where its valor is weighed by Türas. Noble souls pass to the Empyrean Heaven, to dwell in the light of Ammonar forever. But most souls drink of the waters of sorrow and return again to the realms of man in a new body.
“Chthonic faithful do not believe in this cycle of life, death and rebirth. They believe that upon death, the Empyrean gods consume the soul, and then use it as fuel in the creation of new life. They see reincarnation of the soul the same way we see fungus growing in a corpse – new life, yes, but not the same life. They see, not a choice between undeath and reincarnation, but undeath and oblivion. They thus seek to keep their souls and their bodies intact until the time of the Awakening, lest their singular identity be destroyed by the cycle of death.”
APM: No decision I make here will work for every metaphysical setting, so I went with our implicit setting.
Speaking of which, the rules as written are very much a ‘Chaotic Divine’ device, but they don’t provide any benefits to either Arcane casters of necromantic spells (except for forsaken sinkholes and Animate dead), nor to practitioners of Necromancy itself. There’s a lovely opportunity here to boost the powers of Necromancy in a sinkhole, but the rules at Blighted and Forsaken levels actually make it quite impractical unless you’re quick off the mark (which in reality may be a good thing). Was it a deliberate design choice to exclude Necromancy from gaining sinkhole benefits?
APM: No, it wasn’t a deliberate choice to exclude Necromancy research. The rules for Necromancy and Sinkholes were written at different times. They should be integrated. The benefits of being in a sinkhole should be similar to those of possessing Black Lore of Zahar.
Moving on, all 3 flavours of sinkhole include a bit of text that states ‘Creatures that die in...’. I’d like to clarify this. If a creature dies within the sinkhole, but is then moved outside it, does the chance to come back as undead still exist? Is it the *death* that sets this situation up, or is it the *presence* within the sinkhole.
APM: What a great question. A corpse in the sinkhole for the listed period of time may rise. The deceased being doesn’t have to have died in the sinkhole – it could be interred there after death. That said, if you kill something in the sinkhole and drag it out of profane ground, it won’t rise.
Blighted Sinkholes – A blighted sinkhole is basically a shadowed sinkhole boosted by the presence of a Chaotic altar, and in addition to the ‘power increase’ it also allows for Blood Sacrifice. On page 122 the implication is that any sort of sinkhole would do, but here you need a ‘Stage 2’ sinkhole. So page 122 may need some amendments to bring it in line with this text. I do however, prefer the idea that *any* type of sinkhole can be used for blood sacrifice, and as I’ve said earlier, I think chaotic shrines have more scope if they can emit their own aura of evil – but I suspect there are play balance or simple logic issues with this approach.
APM: No, that was actually my original idea too, and it doesn’t impact play much. I just went with something simpler for the rules draft to see what feedback people had.
I’m also in two minds about whether I like that the Sinkholes are basically tiered. I *do* like that some are more powerful than others, and I definitely like some of the flavour differences between ‘Shadowed’ and ‘Forsaken’. However, I feel that the emphasis is so heavy on the Divine side that the Arcane possibilities miss out.
APM: The arcane/divine gap is just poor integration on my part.
I half think that a pyramid would be better than a tower, so there’s is more than one way to reach a Forsaken sinkhole, or that Blighted isn’t a simple ‘upgrade’ to a Shadowed. It’s only half a thought though, and too ill-formed to propose a useful alternative. I think it’s to do with flavour, and there’s some bleed-through from WFRP going on (which ACKs isn’t..) – so you’ve got Necromancy and you’ve got Demonology which are two different things. You’ve already said you didn’t want to go into the demons and devils arena, but I can’t help thinking the sinkholes provide an ideal lead in for when you do want to go there – but not as written.
APM: In my baroque 12 stage system it’s definitely a pyramid, but it was too much – too confusing and largely unplayable. But I think adding a second “leg” to the shadowed stool would work. There is definitely a connection between sinkholes of evil, and demons and devils, but since we didn’t go into such much in ACKS it’s not something I’m exploring in the rules too much. It’s easy to add on when we go there.
Forsaken Sinkholes – These appear to be the purest form of Chaotic power on the material plane aside from perhaps a Chaotic sentient sword, and rightly so. I’m uneasy about the ‘Lawful clerics can’t turn undead’ bit, given the boosts undead do get already. I think it’s awesome that it emphasises ‘this is a place of Chaos’, but at the same time it cripples the main weapon in the fight against undeath. It feels overpowered, but I could easily be wrong. Mind you – having a place that cripples clerics in the same way that an Anti-Magic zone can cripple mages is interesting, and worth a punt!
APM: It’s very similar to how anti-magic messes with mages. This is where the spells Smite Undead and Dispel Evil become crucially important.
80% chance to turn into undead in 1d4 rounds unless burned – There’s no way this could be done in a conventional fashion, so a PC would be reliant on magical fire for this. Challenging!
APM: Yep!
Cleansing Sinkholes – As already said above, I see more play in sinkholes being able to be patchy and piecemeal rather than flooding an area, but I accept that the rules as written are simpler, and therefore easier to apply. With that in mind, in my view Bless should cleanse an area for a time rather than suppress the whole sinkhole, and I think there’s definitely scope here for Holy Water to play a role – perhaps sprinkling it on the ground will cleanse an area for longer than a bless spell, and when used in a burial it may protect a corpse for longer. If Holy Water has a utilitarian purpose for staving off the creation of a sinkhole it adds a market for it to the world, making it a more valuable and potentially scarce commodity and not only something adventurers will want to stock up on before entering a dungeon.
APM: The intent was that Bless would cleanse its area of effect. I need to make that clear. Love the idea that Holy Water could cleanse.

James S
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APM: Blood sacrifice could cause an area to become shadowed, because you are causing lots of death there. Also, in my original (house) rules establishing a Chaotic Shrine on normal land made the land Shadowed. Basically it was EITHER (shrine) OR (dead) = Shadowed; (shrine) AND (dead) = Blighted. This is easy to add back in, and I think addresses what you are trying to achieve.
James - According to my reading of the rules text in your first post here, blood sacrifice *cannot* cause an area to become shadowed. Blood sacrifice can only be performed in a Blighted sinkhole, which requires a shadowed sinkhole and a chaotic shrine. The shadowed sinkhole must come first. The relationship between blood sacrifice and sinkholes needs to be clarified, because I can't see any other references to sacrifice outside of blighted sinkholes. I think the original text on page 122 is closer to what you want than what is written in the rule above, based on what you've said in this thread.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

James: What I meant is that killing a lot of people could make an area shadowed.

Aldarron
Joined: 2011-08-02 21:17

Love the concept, not the name. "sinkhole" strongly implies the ground is being sucked assunder. In fact I kept rereading the thing looking for the part about how big the hole was and how fast it grows, until I realized there is no sinkhole in a "sinkhole" of evil.
So...
How about Vortex instead? Much the same but Vortex of Evil sounds way cooler and magicky sounding.

Duskreign
Joined: 2011-08-10 17:22

Duskreign's Minion here.
I personally love sinkhole. I find myself chuckling every time I read it. Vortex is cool too.

James S
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I found I wanted to call them Shadowlands, but that's a White Wolf Exalted term (or Legend of the 5 Rings).

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I called them Sinkholes because:
1) Metaphorically, the Nether Darkness is "below" the material plane, while the Empyrean Heaven is "above" the material plane. Ergo, sinkholes of evil, pinnacles of good.
2) The Sinkholes have tiers measuring their depth of evil.
3) Ravenloft used the term and I thought it resonated.

Aldarron
Joined: 2011-08-02 21:17

Part of my sensitivity to the term possibly comes from having just been to an actual sinkhole with Tavis. Anyhow, given that caverns and dungeons feature prominently in the game, it doesn't seem the best idea to me to use a confusing term with the given refferent. For example, one couldn't say "As the party approaches from the west you come upon a sinkhole", without someone immediately wondering if its an evil or geological feature.
Ravenloft used the term? Heh - that might be another good reason to change it.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

That's a good point. I''m open to other ideas. I don't like "vortex" as it sounds too science-fiction for my taste.
I will now share the sad truth that in my very first Auran Empire campaign, 5 years ago, the sinkholes of evil were called "tainted lands". There were "taint elementals" and "taint demons" and so on. Unfortunately I was not aware that taint has an urban dictionary definition that is at odds with my desired sense of the macabre. Let us say that the atmosphere of bleak evil I sought to create ended every time I mentioned taint anything.

Aldarron
Joined: 2011-08-02 21:17

Blighted zone? I dunno.

James S
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I dunno about geographical confusion, I think it kinda suits the idiom, as Alex explained. However, if you want to monkey with some alternatives:
Shadowlands (which I have to confess is a favourite of mine)
Bitterlands.
Charons Callings
Dead Zones
Hell Manse
Miasma of Chaos (a bit 40K that one..)
Orcan Wastes (From Orcus, the Roman god rather than the D&D entity)
Desolations
Ravagings
Black Fields
I'm sure I could bore you all with more, but I shan't.

Charlatan
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Maybe 'hollow', which is both related to sinkhole and more metaphorical? Evil hollows, shadowed hollow, blight hollow, forsaken hollow.
I also see a more obscure, but kind of cool, archaic word: "Thester", meaning "Darkness. lit. and fig." Evil thesters, shadowed thester, blighted thester, forsaken thester...
(One of the joys of D&D for me, as a kid, was having to look words up periodically.)

blizack
Joined: 2011-07-16 15:35

I have a similar concept in my homebrew campaign. In it, such places are called "cysts".

James S
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Thester... I quite like that! Though i guess there is a risk that the more archaic a word, the less accessible the concept. Course that may not be a concern :)

Longshanks
Lairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2011-09-15 12:31

Here's a vote for Desolations. Sounds good to me, and doesn't have the drawbacks of either being another geographic term, having to be a compound descriptive word (Shadowlands), or make a reference. In my book, I might call them Orcan Wastes or whatever as well, but the game term should be something like Desolation. I think it sounds cool too. I'd also be down with Blights for similar reasons.
Note: I know you could call a place a desolation, but it would have to come from fantasy fiction or something. Other Desolations in geography are american canyons or lakes, which fits the mold anyway.

Undercrypt
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I thought "Sinkholes of Evil" was pretty understandable as a metaphor.
I wonder if the opposite is also a spontaneous occurrence - martyrs dying causes a place to be hallowed, that sort of thing. Much more rare, obviously.

Aldarron
Joined: 2011-08-02 21:17

I like most of those too. I'll just toss out another:
Unhallows

James S
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This might be an obvious place to go, but.. I find that in RPGs or fantasy novels (and in real life) people often name things for what they see, or smell, or feel about a thing, or for their purpose - often in an unimaginitive but descriptive way. That's at least as often as they're named for metaphor or mystical connections. So, instead of plucking (more) new names for Sinkholes of Evil out of the ether, I've got a couple of questions:
1) Aside from the mythic connection with the Underworld, is there anything about sinkholes that lends them to be called such, in a way a person could sense?
2) What does a Shadowed Sinkhole, a Blighted Sinkhole, or a Forsaken Sinkhole look, smell, taste, sound or feel like?

Ryan
Dwimmermount Backer
Joined: 2011-06-30 00:28

I've been watching this conversation unfold - as a GM I'd inevitably like to turn a longer, more descriptive name into an abbreviated colloquial sounding name. 'Sinkholes of Evil' may be what the mages in the tower refer to them by since they have a more literate background and can bear to enunciate 5 whole syllables to communicate the thought, but the rest of the population would call them 'the 'sinks', or the 'holes' (or hollows), the blights, or the wastes, etc. I think I would prefer a descriptive term for this reason - something too specific and technical sounding doesn't jive right with fantasy - especially when religion and myth are incorporated into the setting (which is typically true of any game with clerics). Cursed Desolations, Sinkholes of Evil - these sound fine to me.
Your post about 'Taints' was hilarious, Alex!

James S
Adventurer Conqueror King BackerPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2011-07-29 12:36

That's kinda where I was going Ryan, only you used colloquial, which is a great word ;)

Ryan
Dwimmermount Backer
Joined: 2011-06-30 00:28

I am with you :)

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Having done a quick count of the various viewpoints expressed here, it doesn't look like any other name captures a plurality and that Sinkholes of Evil is at least as popular as any other option. So I'll just leave it be!

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Updated - See Below!
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SINKHOLES OF EVIL
Places that are corrupted by the energies of the Nether Darkness are known as sinkholes of evil. Profane powers and undead creatures are stronger there, while the divine and the living are weakened. Sinkholes of evil can develop anywhere that death and decay predominate. Sinkholes of evil can be shadowed, blighted, or forsaken. The table below summarizes the effects of the various types of sinkholes of evil.
Shadowed Sinkholes
Shadowed sinkholes develop from two sources of corruption: Chaotic altars (such as those in evil shrines, temples, or churches) and places of death (such as cemeteries, catacombs, and battlegrounds).
Chaotic altars create shadowed sinkholes as soon as they are erected. The size of the shadowed sinkhole around the altar will be 100 square feet per 100gp spent on the altar. For instance, a 10,000gp altar would create a 100’ x 100’ shadowed sinkhole around the altar.
Places of death create shadowed sinkholes naturally over time. The annual percentage chance of such an area becoming shadowed is equal to number of dead interred in the area divided by the area’s size in square feet, rounded up. For instance, a small 50’ x 50’ cemetery with 25 graves has a 1% chance of becoming shadowed each year. An enormous cemetery such as the real-world Wadi Al Salam (5 million dead across 64 million square feet) has an 8% chance of becoming shadowed each year. Once the shadowed sinkhole develops, the size of the shadowed sinkhole will be 100 square feet per 20 dead interred in the place. However, a sinkhole of evil will not develop if the dead are cremated by a Lawful divine spellcaster, or if one or more shrine(s) to Lawful powers are erected on the site. The Lawful shrine(s) must have a gp value of at least 5gp per dead in order to prevent the area from becoming shadowed.
Corpses in shadowed sinkholes have a 10% chance to return as undead in 1d12 months unless their bodies are burned. Chaotic spellcasters who cast reversed (evil) divine spells or necromantic spells (such as animate dead or death spell) in a shadowed sinkhole calculate the spell effects as if they caster were two class levels higher than their actual level of experience. Characters performing necromancy (described in Chapter 7) in a shadowed sinkhole gain a +1 bonus to their magic research throws. A shadowed sinkhole can also be used for blood sacrifice (described in Chapter 7).
Blighted Sinkholes
When a chaotic altar stands on a shadowed place of death, a blighted sinkhole develops. The blighted sinkhole will extend only within those regions that are shadowed by both the altar and the place of death. An area affected by one, but not both, sources of corruption is merely shadowed.
Corpses in blighted sinkholes have a 20% chance to return as undead in 1d4 days unless their bodies are burned. Chaotic spellcasters who cast reversed (evil) divine spells or necromantic spells in a blighted sinkhole calculate the spell effects as if they caster were two class levels higher than their actual level of experience. Divine spellcasters of lawful alignment turn undead as if four class levels lower. Characters performing necromancy in a blighted sinkhole gain a +2 bonus to their magic research throws. A blighted sinkhole can be used for blood sacrifice.
Forsaken Sinkholes
A blighted area might, through some awful juxtaposition of the planes or terrible ritual magic, become forsaken. Forsaken sinkholes are pits of darkness where the vile creatures and foulest magic can be found. Such places are very rare (Judge’s discretion).
Corpses in forsaken areas have an 80% chance to return as undead in 1d4 rounds unless their bodies are burned. Chaotic spellcasters who cast reversed (evil) divine spells or necromantic spells in a forsaken sinkhole calculate the spell effects as if they caster were two class levels higher than their actual level of experience. Lawful divine spellcasters cast spells as if they were two class levels lower for purposes of spell effects, and may not turn undead. Any undead in forsaken areas gain a +2 bonus to attack throws, saving throws, damage rolls, and AC. Characters performing necromancy (described in Chapter 7) in a blighted sinkhole gain a +3 bonus to their magic research throws. Any undead created in forsaken areas gain a permanent +2 hit point per hit die, and animate dead spells cast in forsaken sinkholes create twice the normal number of hit dice of undead. A forsaken sinkhole can be used for blood sacrifice.
Cleansing Sinkholes
A bless spell will temporarily decrease the effect of a sinkhole within a 100’ diameter area for the duration of the spell. While subject to bless, the affected area is cleansed if shadowed; shadowed if blighted; and blighted if forsaken. A vial of holy water can be sprinkled on a 10’ diameter area with the same effect as a bless spell.
To permanently cleanse a sinkhole of evil, the source of corruption must be removed. If the sinkhole is being generated by a chaotic altar, the altar must be destroyed. A chaotic altar can be destroyed magically, with dispel evil; or destroyed physically by smashing it and then either pouring holy water or casting bless on the broken remains. This will remove the sinkhole created by the altar.
If the sinkhole is generated by a place of death, the sinkhole can be instantly cleansed with dispel evil. However, the area can become shadowed again over time. To permanently cleanse a sinkhole created by a place of death, a Lawful divine spellcaster must cremate the dead interred therein, or erect a shrine to the Lawful powers of appropriate value.
Cleansing a blighted sinkhole, with a chaotic altar standing on a place of death, requires that both sources of corruption be dealt with separately.
A forsaken sinkhole can only be cleansed by ritual magic. As such areas develop very rarely, the magic to cleanse them is almost always forgotten in between each such occurrence, and must be researched anew by the forces of Law.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I think that the above rules accommodate all of the suggested improvements, including (a) usefulness of holy water, (b) effects of bless spells, (c) ability to create shadowed areas manually, (d) ability to have radius created by places of death extend outside the limits of the cemetary, etc., and (e) "pyramidal" structure of sinkholes.

James S
Adventurer Conqueror King BackerPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2011-07-29 12:36

Alex - I think the new version is much better for the reasons you say. I have a couple of questions about Chaotic Altars (and Lawful Altars I guess).
You say 'Chaotic altars create shadowed sinkholes as soon as they are erected'. Am I wrong in thinking that, in Christian belief, an altar must be consecrated before it is regarded as 'holy'? Is there any mileage in there needing to be some sort of consecration rite for either a Lawful or Chaotic shrine before it forms the shadowed sinkhole or pinnacle of good (or whatever they'd be called). For Chaotic this could be blood sacrifice, or sacrifice of something appropriate to the chaotic deity in question.
Also, Chaotic altars have to be valuable to create the area of effect. In most fantasy tropes, altars to the dark powers tend to be adorned with 'things that are blatantly evil' rather than gems and valuables. Aside from an obvious more value = more power mechanic, what's the inspiration behind this, and do you have any good examples of a 'valuable' chaotic shrine? I'd be tempted to say that the value of an altar could be driven by the value of sacrifices made upon it - partly to discourage PCs from carting off chaotic altars worth thousands of gp for loot. Although that could be entertaining.

sean wills
Joined: 2011-07-07 19:39

I like sinkholes, having used a couple in my Orkney Isles 'Barrowlands' camapaign as they really suit the creepy atmosphere. It's getting a bit gonzo though - The Sons of Northern Darkness (the adventuring party) are currently travelling with a combined English/Scottish/Norwegian army (an ill-starred horde formed after much diplomacy and oneupmanship at King tier) about to make a stand against an Undead Giant (shadow of Colossus-type scale) who has an area effect inspired by shadowed sinkholes.