A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.

In Between Veins

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on April 01, 2018


When I ran my Carcosa game it was centred around a few “safe” home bases. Players would adventure in the wilderness and return to a town at the end of each session. Initially there was only one such town, but as the game moved on they became friendly with other villages and fortifications. The players themselves were part of the “Rainbow Connection”, a travelling troupe of adventuring actors. This whole set up made it easy for players to drop in and out as needed. I wanted a similar set up for adventuring in the Veins of the Earth.

Many weeks ago I asked the nerds on Google+ how they’d run such a game of crap sack adventuring in the Underdark. Since that time I have done fuck all with their useful advice. Rather than sit on it, I think it’s better to share it with the world.

To start, Hans M. and Ian B. suggested a route I had considered myself: peppering the veins with the occasional friendly town equivalent—a gnomen village for example. This would let you run the game like you might any other overland wilderness adventure. My main issue with this approach is that it seems like I’d want people exploring the Underdark to venture further and further into the darkness. I struggled to get people to explore in my Carcosa game because much of the action was centred around their home town. Ian suggested having players being involved in setting up supply caches and building these safe places in the Underdark. That might work, though I think i’d prefer something weirder for my Veins of the Earth game.

The always epic Daniel Dean offered up some straight up Veins of the Earth:

Tiny hands grip you and carry you in the night and leave something in your stead, sometimes another person they have taken sometimes a valuable or inscrutable token, like a trade rat. When and if you are returned it is in similar circumstances, you are here but something is gone, and you have no memory of the time between then and now.

Joshua B’s suggestion reminds me of the above, though its execution is different:

In the grim darkness of the Veins there is only survival. Sometimes people get separated, and wander the darkness, silent and cold, until finally regaining light and companionship.

In a similar vein Dan D. suggests the party travels with a “pack mule”:

Your pack mule is a giant spider that wraps people up in silk cocoons for transit and sometimes forgets to let them out.

This could be fun: you could make the giant spider part of the game proper or something more meta. Perhaps the party needs to protect the creature at all times, or it’s simply something that shows up at the end of each session to gobble the players up.

These ideas could be turned into something gamier, which Brendan suggests:

If regular settlement areas kills the bleak vibe too much, maybe figure out some sort of symbolic save point thing akin to Dark Souls bonfires with just enough fictional logic to not be distracting. Something like pure springs.

Patrick chimes in and expands on Brendan’s idea with a suggestion I like, and might be what I end up using in my game:

A particular kind of dark is ‘safe’ for the Party, maybe they have a contract or agreement with that particular quality of dark so people in it can find each other or rest safely, expeditions are between patches or volumes of that kind of dark. Other darks may be enemies and could be dark-elemental politics.

You could probably mix and match these suggestions nicely as well. Players would be venturing towards the next safe darkness. If they make, great. If they fail, they are gobbled up by a spider or snatched up by the tiny hands, and will need to deal with the complications that come from that.

There are more suggestions in the original thread, but these are my favourite. I think they highlight the general approaches one can take: from reproducing the overland in the underworld to something more “gamey”.

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