Friday, June 10, 2011

Caverns of Lakoma: Some Background Notes...

Good Morning, All:

While the Pueblo Indians and their cliff-side dwellings were the initial inspiration for the Caverns of Lakoma (with a nod toward the old Judges Guild module Caverns of Thracia, I was intrigued to discover that there were once actual underground cities in Turkey. I particularly enjoyed reading of Derinkuyu, Kaymakli and Ozkonak. Apparently, though, there are many more of these underground cities in that region, and so these are going to inform my creation of the Caverns of Lakoma. While many of these cities are much larger than the four levels I'm using for my caverns, there are still plenty of details that are just too awesome not to include. Below is a short synopsis of the information I think is relevant to the setting I want to create as the final piece of Adventure Material needed before the Egyptian Great Plains sandbox setting is ready to begin use.

Caverns of Lakoma
The Caverns of Lakoma were originally based on a natural cavern system, before the Lakoma tribe discovered them and moved in, excavating as they went. While the caverns could house as many as 10,000 people, the Lakoma numbered only a thousand or so at the height of their civilization.

Heavy stone doors seal off sections of the underground city. These have a hole in the center to view the other side, or to allow the doors to be rolled open or closed through the use of a bar inserted within. In some cases, the passages beyond the stone doors sometimes have murder holes and narrow chambers above them used for dumping hot oil on their enemies. Discreet entrances give way to elaborate subterranean systems with air shafts, waste shafts, wells, chimneys and connecting passageways. The upper levels were used for living quarters while the lower levels were used for storage, wine making, flour grinding and worship in simple chapels. Everywhere, walls have been blackened from the use of torches.

Passages tend to be fairly narrow affairs, steeply inclined to lead from one level to the next. Only one vertical stairwell exists in the complex, connecting the third and fourth floors.

Long, narrow tubes often connected rooms to different levels, primarily for ventilation but with the added benefit of communication. Unfortunately, these small shafts also allow snakes, rodents and insect vermin to travel throughout the underground village as well.

The first floor contains stables, cellars, storage rooms, etc. Both natural caves and a ventilation shaft that appears as a well amidst ruins on the surface.

The second floor contains an amphitheater where rituals were once held, and several underground tombs which contain dessicated bodies mummified by the dry conditions. Many wall paintings depict the spirits and gods worshiped by the Lakoma.

The third floor consists of mostly living quarters, kitchens and grain storage.

The fourth floor is primarily storage, particularly through the use of earthenware jars.

More inspirational material, particularly pictures of the interior of Derinkuyu, can be found here, here and here.

The Lakoma had not yet reached their prime when they were struck down by disease, a ravaging illness brought to their lands by travelers from a distant shore. Many tribes were hit hard by the disease, but the close quarters of the underground city proved devastating to the Lakoma. For over a century, the Caverns of Lakoma lay abandoned, save for a number of plague-ridden undead driven to haunt the halls of the city. Humanoid raiders moved into the caverns a few decades back, waging a battle with the undead as they expanded into the abandoned city. Two years ago, a cabal of diabolists seeking a location to perform their profane rites discovered an entrance into the caverns, and have claimed a portion of the ruins for themselves.

This simple history provides me with three factions to develop: plague-ridden undead and spirits doomed to haunt the city until the end of days, the humanoid raiders that have forged a home for themselves here, and the diabolists and their demon servants/masters. This should give me plenty of fodder for adventure opportunities and site design.

Next post, I will start working through the various elements of dungeon design, putting it all together to create the first level of a colorful site for exploration.

With Regards,

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