Vertigo-1Found this at deviantart.

In last week’s article found here, I talked about my dystopia themed paragon campaign that my players and I decided to embark on.  I took a lot of time formulating ideas in my head of the twisted world and what could/would be found by the players.  I wanted them to have a sliver of a home base, though something very unprotected and weak.  I was hoping to give them a little security, right before I snatched it right out from under them, to really give a sense that there is nothing secure in the world they live in.

Their home base, was a town at the base of an inverted mountain, the peak of which was driven two-thirds of its height, straight down into a dense wooded quagmire.  A mountain that is a daily reminder that the world has forever changed.  I decided an appropriate name of the town, would be Vertigo, due to the unsteadiness of this world, as well as the feeling one might succumb to when looking up from the base of the town, up to the bottom of the inverted mountain.

The impact, when the mountain hit the quagmire, was so intense that the surrounding 5 miles of land at the epicenter of the collision, was driven fifty feet down and out, creating a depressed valley.

The town of Vertigo was built with purpose, constructed on the south side of the mountain, so that it would make the most of the little sun it receives. It also provides a fairly defensible position with the mountain at its back and overhead, the rough terrain of the swamp and the additional shelter of the thousands of surrounding broken, scarred and twisted trees provide.  The makeshift town consists of a small network of caves carved into the middle of the mountain. It is not without its dangers though; cave-ins and large pieces of the mountain continuously break off, killing more than a few of its inhabitants.

Inside the caves are for the most part, the bare essentials.  The small caves are used as improvised residences; a larger one has been carved out for the tavern/inn, used as the local gathering place, as well as small caves carved out for shops.  The town consists of maybe 100 people and they are tightly cramped within the caves.  Many are living together in large groups, having to stagger sleeping times, because not everyone can physically fit in the caves at the same time. New caves are being worked on each day, but are done carefully, so as not to have them collapse in on themselves.

Most of the drinking water comes from a small waterfall, which is one of many that collects on top of the mountain, runs down its sides (or straight down in some cases) and into the land below. Vertigo was specifically built near one of the larger waterfalls; a well was constructed to capture the water in its descent and is used by all of Vertigo’s residents for drinking, bathing and cleaning.

The large wooden stockade fence was constructed by using the surrounding broken lumber of the forest; it stands almost 30 feet high and is constantly being tended to, with the continuous bombardment of debris breaking off of the mountain above. Within the stockade fence, the land has been built up; utilizing the dirt carved out of the mountain, they fortify the fence posts and provide firm farmland to grow crops on. There are two sets of front gates, one at the bottom and top of an incline that leads down, out and into the swamp.  Also wooden buckets hanging from each of the large wooden stakes of the stockade fence, are an additional means to collect rain water.

The tavern is where most people call home in Vertigo. It’s where everyone congregates after a long day, not wanting to be in the cramped spaces of their meager homes. The barkeep, a human man by the name of Rory Goodfellow, has, through great tolls, taken upon himself the task of re-creating a pre-dystopian tavern inside the cave. With the help of the community and their leader, a dwarf by the name of Thorin Woodcrafter, he has carved out the 1st and 2nd floors of the tavern, fixing the tavern with wood built from the inside, putting walls, floors, ceilings and a bar, in order to give it the feeling of what once was. The second floor is built as an inn, but is housing a large number of the community, including Rory, Thorin and Corsica, the barmaid. It’s not entirely completed yet, but has made some great progress. Only a small area on the west wall is left to complete.

The general culture of the people in Vertigo, is that all work is to help the betterment of the community, under a general purpose and through the direction of Thorin Woodcrafter.  For instance:

  • To make sure the town remains safe
  • That crops are continuously being tended to
  • Caves are being carefully carved into the mountain
  • Keeping watch for invaders
  • Generally just doing whatever needs to be done at any given time.

In doing so, they receive food (in limited portions) and drink (as much as they’d like) and a place to sleep at night. The sleeping conditions are tough for most, as of right now, not enough caves have been carved out to allow each family their own living space, so sometimes they sleep in shifts, in order to accommodate this issue.

Those with special skills, like healing, weapon-smithing and what not, do what they do best, helping out with other tasks, when their services are not required.

Everyone also has to take turns venturing out into the wilderness, usually under the protection of Thorin, to gather needed materials (wood, stone and metal, if it can be found), however there are some that are more adept at doing so and end up helping more often, taking the shifts of the weaker community members.

This is how I started the campaign, with the following narrative:

It’s been about two years since the gods brought their wrath on this world, tearing it asunder.  The world nothing more than a bleak, broken, empty shell of what it once was.   Civilization has all but crumbled. Great empires are nothing but whispers on a tempest wind. The world… is in complete CHAOS.

No one truly knows how many survived the upheaval, but one thing is certain…people are few and far between. Venturing outside only when they must, they are a generally frightened, lost and depressed people. The apathy, the anger…and the utter hopelessness has taken hold deep within all.

Even the sky is in constant turmoil… changing from its gloomy and brooding shade of gray only to suddenly unleash a freak acid rain downpour or an icy blizzard. The air itself always feels alive, buzzing, like the calm before a storm. Every once in a while, the sun tries to peek through and penetrate the murkiness…giving only the slightest glimmer of hope to those who so desperately need it.

The world is in a very dark place and is in need of something…ANYTHING to look forward to.

Since I wanted the players to get their feet wet quickly (and to drive home the insecurity of the land), this is what happened next:

Your paths have led you all to Vertigo. Currently, it is fairly late in the evening and you all are relaxing in the tavern, the only public place to really be.  It’s crowded tonight, which isn’t that surprising, considering the nerve-wracking thunderstorm and pouring rain that is shaking the mountain with its ferocity; nobody wants to be alone tonight.  A fire dances in the make-shift fireplace, the wind from the storm able to reach its tendrils deep inside the mountain itself and tease it. The barkeeper chats up a couple of men at the bar, while the one waitress, Corsica, keeps herself busy by swiftly and deftly taking care of the patrons who so desperately need a drink this evening.

SUDDENLY, from inside of the inn, a portion of the west wall comes crashing down!  As the dirt and debris settles…a 9 ft. tall creature steps out and into the inn, with a wicked looking smirk on its face. It has long, greasy, black hair and filthy claws that extend at least 6 inches out from its fingertips. Its skin glistens with a thin sheen of slime, easily visible on its elongated nose. Its skin thick and tough, like gray leather, barely covered by tattered clothing.  Small, deep-set beady eyes look around the room with hunger…the bright yellow orbs denoting feral viciousness, but also understanding. Two more creatures enter behind the first, though smaller in stature, through what looks like a makeshift tunnel.

The thunder outside, seems to crackle and rage even louder; a huge gust of wind howls in fury, blowing through the caves with unnatural speed & force. The warm fire and the candles perched atop the wall sconces, all go out at once, leaving you in complete…. and utter….darkness.  INITIATIVE!

In next week’s article, I’ll go over the specifics of the encounter from a DM’s point of view, as well as to allow my co-authors Bright-matrix and Ness to provide their recaps of the first battle!  If you want to get some information on Bright-matrix’s character, you can find it in his earlier post, here.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts thus far!



About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called "The Fall of Astia". Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at for any questions, thoughts or things you'd like to see featured on our site.

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