Saturday, August 21, 2021

D20x5 Sword & Sorcery City-States

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D20This city-state lies 
1 piled atop an ancient tel, swollen with the waste of a thousand generations.
2 like an overfed hog clogging a mountain pass, the only way past remaining being through.
3 at the mouth of a river delta, draining it to fill its canals and waterwheels.
4 ringed around a cenote into which live sacrifices are tossed.
5 astride a raging waterway. One half has been abandoned by the law for generations, and respectable folk don’t cross over anymore, at least not when they could be seen doing it.
6 at the base of a gargantuan toppled tower, its oldest and proudest buildings constructed from the thing’s fallen bricks.
7 arranged along an abstract petroglyph the thing’s lines making its roads and its tangles the city’s centres. 
8 deeply carved into a cliff-face, its stairs and towers puckered out in urban relief.
9 layered again and again upon its own ruins, destroyed and rebuilt over the ages.
10 in a lonely harbour on a deadly shore.
11 atop the canopy of a fossilized forest.
12 floating atop a crater lake which glows an otherworldly colour at night, fed by its deformed yet fecund flora and fauna.
13 in the shadows of the bones of some long-dead behemoth. Scrimshawed splinters of them make up the city’s finest weapons and works of art.
14 on a cluster of mesas, bridges stretched between them and over the sprawling slums below.
15 on a mostly-reclaimed marsh, endless disenfranchised drudgery required to keep the flooding waters at bay.
16 on top of and around an enigmatic bronze mechanism, long ago stripped of the parts necessary for all but its most perfunctory functions.
17 like a blanket over a conquered metropolis, the signs of the old regime and culture defaced where they could not be coopted.
18 in a state of constant half-completion and omnipresent scaffolding, as plans for grand, self-congratulatory monuments are scrapped and reworked due to administrative bickering.
19 on a jagged peninsula like rust on an old dagger.
20on an island undermined by an antediluvian labyrinth.

D20The corrupt government of this city-state 
1 is staffed by a bureaucracy of eunuchs stolen from their families and indoctrinated into its ideology. The nobility of the city are figureheads who rise and fall on the whims of these eunuchs.
2 is a feuding collection of noble houses who have molded themselves into unique visions of inhuman enhancement through breeding programs and vile flesh-magic.
3 is a senate of oligarchs who have purchased their positions at an exorbitant fee.
4 is a paranoid coven of seers who interpret every occurrence as a sign of an oncoming apocalypse.
5 is headed by a god-king whose authority can command death with a glance.
6 keeps meticulous and intrusive records on its inhabitants, feeding the information into an ancient machine to derive potentials of rebellion and suppression.
7 forsake their names and faces to be known only by their stations and the grotesque masks that come with them.
8 have their heads preserved in foul solutions after death so that they can be tapped for knowledge by those who follow in their footsteps.
9 possess human bodies, but have the souls of things far older than humanity.
10 are executed in horrifically creative manners for the slightest dissent from the party line.
11 are all members of the same mystery cult, which casually kills outsiders to protect its macabre arcana.
12 is a sometimes-literally incestous nightmare of nepotism and incompetence.
13 is a junta of its most canny generals, who use wars abroad as political playing pieces back home.
14 has no actual central, executive power in charge of everything, but is so bound up in calcified procedure and ceremony that it keeps chugging along with gnarled inefficiency regardless.
15 is commanded by a sacred monarch who is selected at random at the start of each year, and executed at the end of it to ensure future prosperity.
16 is driven by the clay-written algorithms of its accounting department, which have grown so complex they verge on sapience.
17 is a noocratic rule by a council of philosophers. Unforuntately, the benchmark for wisdom in this city-state is embrace of nihilism.
18 is technically headed by an archmage, who prefers isolated contemplation and sends created servitors to handle day-to-day issues.
19 is dominated by a single clan that bullies others into subservience.
20is a brutish mob democracy. Lots are cast with coloured stones, people who make unpopular proposals are pelted with the same stones.

D20This city-state’s power 
1 flows from its location at a nexus of geomantic energies. Armies that march against it are crushed beneath uprisen stone.
2 rests on the spears of its soldier-fanatics, converted by brutal initiation and mystical indoctrination into fearless, unquestioning killers.
3 is sheltered in its stables of mutant war-beasts.
4 stems from its control of the supply of a narcotic nectar.
5 springs from the mad inspiration of its engineers and the impossible war machines they build.
6 is bestowed by the blasphemous blessing of its defiled patron deity.
7 is in its undead legions, shaken from peaceful slumber by the foulest necromancies.
8 is bartered from demons with the innocent as currency.
9 is enforced by its ravening hordes of half-human hybrids, bred in lightless pits with sorcery and unspeakable cruelty.
10 is exemplified by its giant black-iron golem that consumes enough fuel for activation alone that its people feel the sting of extractive taxation for years afterwards.
11 is the shadow of a paper tiger. It’s stretched too far and too thin to be anything else.
12 is a double-edged sword, based on overwhelming its enemies with curses and cursed artifacts before the backlash grows too intense to manage.
13 seeps from its poisonous retributions against those that defy them. Salting the earth would be a mercy compared to what they do to desolate their enemies' territory.
14 is on a marked decline, and all its old enemies recognize this. Its current state is one last hurrah before the jackals close in.
15 is the result of its military's innovative tactics and relentless drilling.
16 is bound up in its allegiance with a neighbouring tribe of giants.
17 is worked from behind the scenes with a web of spies and blackmail.
18 is concentrated within an order of assassins who reside in it, experts in infiltration and esoteric murder.
19 relies on its old and long-unproven reputation to intimidate challengers.
20is projected with the aerial supremacy of its decaying fleet of poorly understood flying vessels.

D20This city-state’s people 
1 are branded like cattle, slaves one and all in a pyramid of domination that goes right on up to the highest elites.
2 are cosmopolitan in makeup, but not in attitude. They’re set against each other by xenophobic sentiments stoked by the elite.
3 are born with too many eyes, or too few fingers, or some other tell of the city’s contamination.
4 will never smile or laugh where a stranger could see them.
5 observe holy rites forbidden to them by those in power, hidden in dark and reeking places.
6 often bear the marks and mutilations of draconian punishment.
7 share the same nightmares, every few nights.
8 wouldn’t hesitate to snitch on even their own family.
9 feel a towering chauvinism towards outsiders. The city is seen as an island of civilization in an endless sea of barbarity.
10 swear loyalty to their neighbourhood’s criminal gang before even the government.
11 suffer from far higher rates of mental illness than those from elsewhere.
12 have a strong sense of gallows humour about everything, and die chuckling.
13 have a common cant that lets them disguise subversive statements as everyday conversation. Visitors are often shocked to find that in asking for directions they've advocated overthrowing the government.
14 practice a bone-breaking martial art that specializes in inflicting pain and disability. Masters of the art become surprisingly good at healing wounds in addition to inflicting them.
15 are quick to try to fit newcomers into the patterns of a messianic prophecy, and just as quick to dump them when they disappoint.
16 believe alopecia to be the height of attractiveness, and pluck the hair from their bodies when they have the leisure to.
17 treat corses with a complete lack of reverence, eschewing funerals in favour of dumping them in mass graves, or leaving them where they lie if they were particularly disliked in life.
18 take pride in the strength and variety of their moonshine. Every family worth its name has a makeshift still.
19 believe in a cycle of eternal civilizational recurrence. The degradation of current times is accepted as the lowest point before their city's glorious rebirth.
20raise blood-sucking bats as pets, and read omens into the patterns of their bites.

D20A decadent temptation of this city-state 
1 is its library, a labyrinthian collection of scrolls which could wrap around its walls seven-score times seven times if unspooled. The inbred caste of librarians who never leave its halls whisper that every secret of the world lies somewhere within.
2 is the beauty and skill of its hierodules, the primary recruiters for its myriad morbid cults.
3 is its delicate gardens, which abound with alchemical, medicinal, and intoxicating herbs. Only the constant exertion of a legion of slaves keeps it healthy.
4 is its fighting arena, where fortunes change hands over the bloodbath below.
5 is its grand bazaar, where goods pilfered from every corner of the world (and a few from even further beyond) are purveyed.
6 is racing its pleasure-yachts down tamed streams.
7 is its charnel fountains that roil with the blood of the earth. Bathing in them can bestow health, youth, and beauty, or else exsanguinate the bather if not thoroughly satiated first.
8 is its vaults of ghastly forbidden artifacts and lore.
9 is its fashion-houses, which produce the most elegant, most useless accoutrements. Being seen wearing one is an immediate, immense status boost.
10 is its festivals, which are legendary in their Saturnalian debauchery. The festivals act as a psychological pressure-release valve on the otherwise-constant grind.
11 is the skill of its weaponsmiths, whose dedication to pure violence lets them produce wondrous and slaughterous things.
12 is the gate to the underworld contained within it, which leads to an equally-depraved city of the dead.
13 is the luxury and lawlessness of its gambling-dens, where it's said anything can be wagered and won.
14 is the talents of its puppeteer-magicians, who can manipulate shadows and implant impenetrable mental programming in hapless people.
15 is its world-class cuisine. A good chef is the most valuable retainer one can keep here. Treasuries are emptied and lives are squandered to import exotic foods and spices.
16 is narcissistic immortalization in masterpieces of art. There is a veritable ecosystem of patrons and artists seeking employment by flattering them.
17 is a moment of political vulnerability offering the chance to take it over for yourself, or extract great favours from the one who does.
18 is the opulent performances of its operas and theatres, which encode in their drama the keys to legends of lost cities and treasures.
19 is its vast open-air slave market, where people of every sort and specialty are sold as chattel.
20is its boulevard of temples of stolen gods, where dark divinities (and the darkest aspects of more benign divinities) can be communed with and sacrificed to for uncommon favours.


  1. Is "yoink!" or "yeet!" more appropriate here? Top drawer, as we've come to expect.

  2. Thank you very much, this is very inspirational.

  3. This is just first random result but there is so much good here.

    "This city-state, Rehenna, lies on top of and around an enigmatic bronze mechanism, long ago stripped of the parts necessary for all but its most perfunctory functions.
    The corrupt government of Rehenna is technically headed by an archmage, who prefers isolated contemplation and sends created servitors to handle day-to-day issues.
    (her servitors are complex hydraulic network of glass vessels, half-formed organs swim through the amniotic fluid within and swathed in a whirlwind of numerals and glyphs.)

    This Rehenna’s power is worked from behind the scenes with a web of spies and blackmail.

    People of Rehenna believe alopecia to be the height of attractiveness, and pluck the hair from their bodies when they have the leisure to.

    A decadent temptation of this city-state is the gate to the underworld contained within it which leads to an equally-depraved city of the dead. The abovementioned bronze mechanism was a complex seal used to separate living from the dead, but dead made such good spies that eventual greed and desire of power corrupted the city into keeping it all but barely functional. This goes both ways and uncommon but not at all unusual sight is wraith-skeleton visitor dressed in black and white livery, with bones linked by tied hair and ivory nails rather than ligaments."