Hyperborean City Geomorphs

I wasn’t originally going to post this publicly, but several of you have expressed interest. A few years ago I swiped an excellent writeup by Rodger Burns on the Vaults of Pandius website (dedicated to the Mystaran gameworld). I was looking for a way to procedurally generate the urban ruins of an “alien” culture, and his post about Tslani ruins really fit the bill. I spent some time re-writing it from a Hyperborean perspective, for use in both the Black City campaign and my old Astonishing ACKS game.

As with most of my game stuff, this isn’t my original ideait’s a re-skin of somebody else’s work. You should check out the original writeup by Rodger Burns, or see his other Mystara material at the Vaults of Pandius.

Little doubt exists that the ancient cities of the Hyperborean peoples are the oldest in the world. However, the spiral towers of black gneiss that dominate both the Black City and Khromarium seem not to have been carved by human hands; neither were they intended to accommodate bipedalism, but rather something altogether inhuman.

Ancient cities of this type can be found throughout the Hyperborean mainland, with Khromarium being the most notable example. Hyperborean ruins can potentially be found in other worlds and places, however, such as the Black City of the Thule Archipelago of Old Earth. In many cases, only the subterranean under-levels still exist, with the surface structures reduced to rubble.

The Hyperboreans who fled Old Earth initially thought that their great capitol of Khromarium was lost. However, they quickly discovered that city – or at least some version of it – existed in their new realm as well. They also found other abandoned Hyperborean cities throughout the continent, but no trace of living inhabitants. Somehow, earlier Hyperborean peoples had managed to travel to this new realm and begun building their own civilization there.

Meanwhile, on Old Earth, human explorers eventually discovered the Hyperborean Black City amidst the retreating glaciers of Thule. They, too, found the city abandoned and have never managed to find any living Hyperboreans – something that troubles and discourages them. Either the Hyperboreans have left, possibly fleeing some terrible fate, or else they somehow managed to destroy themselves in a manner that left no traces of their downfall.

Hyperborea HR

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Mi-Go in ACKS

Mi-Go sketch by Kurt Komoda

In the most recent Black City session, the Wolverines encountered Mi-Go for the first time. I had prepared ACKS stat blocks for the creatures, but misplaced them for the actual game and had to improvise. So I’m going to post their base stats here for future reference.

  • Special: Ultravision 60′, winged flight, space travel, immune to cold and vacuum, daze living creatures (as ensorcellement).

A “typical” Mi-Go has the following stats:

  • Mi-Go: MV 30′ (10′) / fly 180′ (60′), AC:6, HD:6+6* (hp 33), #AT4 or 1 (Base Atk 4+), D 1d4/1d4/1d4/1d4 or by weapon, Save M6, ML +3, XP 680

Note that Mi-Go are an extremely diverse species and most individuals will have special mutations, eldritch powers, surgical alterations, or technological artifacts.

They are treated as “summoned creatures” with respect to monster type.

Hyperborea HR

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Further Inscriptions

Well I’ll be damned. A player figured out the Mysterious Inscriptions.

Congratulations! That was unexpected.

Here are some more, continuing from the first writings:

Hyperborea HR

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The Wolverines are my current crop of PCs. They are Norsemen (plus a few Scots) exploring the Black City under the command of the Vengeful Lord Swayze.

The Vengeful Lord Swayze

The Wolverines are an unusual group of Vikings. Fierce adherents of the Old Faith, they have resisted all attempts at Christianization and claim to possess the wolverine’s great strength.

Needless to say, this strange group has been met with skepticism in Trade Town. Their friendships with the Tolberts of the Dark Spire does not improve their reputation, nor does the prevalence of magic-users among them.

Here is a link to their ACKS stat blocks:

These characters use the ACKS Heroic Companion, as well as my own house rules.

Hyperborea HR

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Berserker chess piece, depicted as a warrior biting his shield.

Many of the characters in my Black City campaign are Viking warriors with the Berserkergang proficiency. Since a number of the players are new to ACKS, I thought I’d describe how this fighting style works – as well as provide some background info on historical berserkers.

Here’s the proficiency description (ACKS Core Rules, p.59):

Berserkergang: The character may enter a berserker rage. While enraged, he gains a +2 bonus to attack throws and becomes immune to fear. However, the character has a -2 penalty to AC and cannot retreat from combat. Once it has begun, a berserker rage cannot be ended until combat ends.

It’s pretty straightforward. I think in-play I’ll use sticky notes with “BERSERK!” written on them to designate berserk PCs.

(We also have one character – the Vengeful Lord Swayze – who picked the “Berserker” class from the ACKS Heroic Companion. He has the option to enter a greater berserkergang, which provides damage reduction against non-magical attacks.)

If you have a chance, you should take a look at the Berserker Wikipedia entry. It has info on Bear Warriors, Úlfhéðnar (Wolf Warriors), and Svinfylking (Boar Warriors). Of course, my players had to be different and selected the Wolverine as their totem animal. (I guess that would make them “Jervkriger” or something similar.)

I’m setting my campaign in the year 1015 CE. One interesting tidbit – in that year, Jarl Eiríkr Hákonarson of Norway outlawed berserkers. Perhaps this is one reason why the PCs have ventured to THULE this year?

Hyperborea HR

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Black City – Campaign Play

Leif Erikson discovers THULE in 999 CE

One of my goals for my current campaign is to handle time management in the manner which God and Gygax intended. I’ve never run a game with strict tracking of time, but apparently Gygax felt it was critical:

“Game time is of utmost importance. Failure to keep careful track of time expenditure by player characters will result in many anomalies in the game. The stricture of time is what makes recovery of hit points meaningful. Likewise, the time spent adventuring in wilderness areas removes concerned characters from their bases of operations – be they rented chambers or battlemented strongholds. Certainly the most important time strictures pertains to the manufacturing of magic items, for during the period of such activity no adventuring can be done. Time is also considered in gaining levels and learning new languages and more. All of these demands upon game time force choices upon player characters and likewise number their days of game life…


Dungeon Master’s Guide (page 37), Gary Gygax

The structure of the Black City campaign actually helps to reinforce this. The THULE summer season lasts between June and August, when the sea ice north of Lappland thins enough to sail to the archipelago. Characters are assumed to have assembled enough supplies on their boat to support their activities for this duration, but they have to leave before the ice returns.

I figure that gives PCs between ten and twelve weeks to get set up in Trade Town, mount expeditions to the Black City, return to base to rest and recover, and then prepare for the journey home (laden with loot, hopefully).

Axioms – Campaign Play

Sea ice forming offshore of THULE.
Hope you’ve set sail by now!

As part of their Patreon, Autarch released guidelines for Campaign Play – providing systems to track character activities week-by-week in a fairly detailed manner. It breaks down adventuring activities, professional and mercantile activities, arcane/divine research and item creation, etc. A lot of it is geared towards higher-level domain games, but I’m going to use it to track PC activities in the Black City.

So I’m going to grab a calendar pick a date for the PCs’ arrival at THULE, and start tracking time from there. The PCs probably venture into the Black City about once a week, so I’ll also need to provide the players with a list of plausible activities to perform between expeditions. This will be a good opportunity to try out the rules for creating magical trinkets from the ACKS Heroic Companion.

(As an aside, I think I’m going to set the current campaign in 1015 CE. One interesting tidbit – in 1015, Jarl Eiríkr Hákonarson of Norway outlawed berserkers. In my game world, Leif Erikson was blown off course and discovered THULE in 999 CE, then was followed by Thorfinn Karsefni in 1010 CE. The date is now 1015 and it’s been two years since Bergfinn the Bold established control over Trade Town, and increasing numbers of Viking ships arrive each summer at THULE.)

Hyperborea HR

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Mysterious Inscriptions

The builders of the Black City engraved texts in an alien script. The meaning of their language has been lost and the writing has not been translated.

There is one message that has been found repeated throughout the Black City. It appears on basalt monuments and gneiss tablets, it has been scribed into the walls of buildings and onto roadways:

Mysterious Inscriptions

It appears to be the final communication recorded by the inhabitants of the Black City before their disappearance.

Perhaps it is a message to future explorers?

Hyperborea HR

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