Use this as a hex on your map if you'd like. Put it somewhere incongruous.
|can you tell I've been playing dragon quest? any other fantasy desert image would've done just fine|
Most simply avoid the little desert, being as it is small enough to skirt around with little delay to a journey. The few who explore it perish or leave empty handed. There is, however, one single settlement at its borders.
The free state of Qal Chadora is constructed entirely of tents. A campsite formed then grew, expanded, combined, favela-like, into a single entity. Even those who've lived here all their lives don't know every in and out, but there is generally an atmosphere of calm and community. The people grow comfortably wealthy on trade, but have no desire for more than a life of leisure.
Around the Next Corner
1-2: A living space.
3-4: A purple curtain (visitors will be told this denotes a private area).
5-6: A merchant's tent.
7: A ladder, corridor, tunnel or bridge.
8: An opening to the outside.
1: Bunks and hammocks, hostel-esque communal sleeping space. Lights kept dim red at all hours.
2: Kitchen, tagines on stone ovens steaming, vents open to the sky above. Smells of roasting meats and spices: cardamom, cinnamon, aniseed and thyme.
3: Bunches of dried herbs stored hanging from tassels in the ceiling, jars and bunches. Marjoram, cumin, paprika. 2 in 6 chance of a magic spice that gives visions of dead ancestors.
4: This area is for children, bright coloured wooden toys and little cushioned stools.
5: This area, the children have made their den. They wield wooden sickles and demand a toll in candy.
6: Young men make flatbreads, stacked to one side for a later meal. Chickens roam free.
7: A lounge, bright cushions of various shapes litter the floor. A hookah and tea set in the centre.
8: A library. Searching all day finds any reasonable book, plus a 1st-level cleric spell.
Behind A Purple Curtain
1: A large and plush sleeping chamber, silks and velvets. Wooden chests store undergarments of impressive construction.
2: Private kitchen. Cupboards full of cured meat, silver utensils, good wine.
3: Walk-in wardrobe. Pretty much any item of clothing or disguise the players search for can be found here. One fake moustache is made of iron, allows elementals to understand the wearer, and cannot be removed.
4: Sheriff's office. The lawkeeper is themselves busy with 1: sex, 2: drugs, 3: food, 4: an actual thief, for once.
5: An alchemist's study. Potions are unlabelled. 1: healing, 2: invisibility, 3: scorpion venom, 4: tequila, 5: instant hat, 6: causes vomiting, vomit becomes dog.
6: Orgy room. Mattress-like flooring, many cushions. Outfits and implements provided.
7: Armoury. All the basic weapons, with silver variants too.
8: Empty tent, but for someone bound and gagged. Claims they are a regent from a nearby land, kidnapped and held to ransom by bandits.
1: Selling everyday products of the little desert to outsiders at inflated prices. Spices, souvenir toys, the prickly pears of cactus-folk.
2: Trades in oddities from afar. Will buy magic items at good prices.
3: Nomad trader from elsewhere in the world. Accent, clothes and wares are all incongruous.
4: A tavern. Mostly wine and stronger spirits. Scented smoke thick in the air.
5: This merchant has closed up shop, and leaves tonight for a nearby city. Might want to hire bodyguards.
6: A brothel. While the deed is done behind purple curtains, this lounge allows patrons to meet and mingle with the staff.
7: A druggist's. Medicine, feeble healing potions, powdered bone cure-alls. The fun stuff too.
8: A fabric trader. One of these famous Qal Chadoran tents can be yours.
Just Outside the Doorway
1: A lively herb garden, trellises and plant pots.
2: A well.
3: A fountain.
4: A date palm in a little courtyard, towering over all nearby tents.
5: A chicken coop.
6: A goat tied to a stake, eyeing the tent fabric hungrily.
7: Old folks playing board games.
8: Just desert, dunes as far as the eye can see (but no further than that, it's only little).
Fateful Encounters in the Little Desert (2d4)
2: Wild earwig, stat as a horse
3: A parch-bird, giant vulture with a blunt beak that steals your waterskin on a successful attack.
4: Cactoids. Peaceful, slow.
5: The sounds of war-drums. A band of barbarian Twigs over the next dune.
6: A Twig scout. If she sees you, she'll report back to the warband only if you look worth stealing from.
7: Sandbarons. Hollow and haunted clay men, full of sand that spills out in a whirlwind where their legs would be. The whirlwind attack deals more damage with each hit they take as more sand escapes.
8: A skeleton, died of thirst.
The skeleton carries:
1: Twig clothing.
2: a magic wand, has a little lantern in the tip that never goes out, can float alongside the wielder when not in use
3: a coin from a nearby empire
4: a book containing a spell that ferments grape juice into wine over minutes.
|the monster manual-est pic I could find of what is tbh quite a cute and nonthreatening insect|
Raiders of the desert sands, the Twigs are a motley barbarian tribe who keep giant earwigs just as easterners might horses. The docile creatures are surprisingly easy to train and ride.
If you have traversed the dunes, you have likely seen a caravan of them, and even if not then you have no doubt heard their war-drums on the wind. (use a clave or something - a short, repetitive, memorable musical phrase that can be clapped out or drummed on your gaming table.)
Stat a Twig and their mount as a horse and rider w/ spear/lance, if the horse had pincers (3d4 damage, nasty but avoidable if you stay in front). 1 in 6 earwigs can spurt a foul stench from betwixt the pincers, save or lose a round to retching.
Looting a Twig:
1: small jar of god brains, worth 1 gold
2: small jar of plant jelly, tasty
3: a cactoid's prickly pear
4: just the waterskin
All that remains of a deity without disciples. Like so many sacred places, it has been repurposed - the Twigs use the hollow of the ear as a stables (while they are nomadic, the earwigs like a secure place to spawn and rest).
It should be easy enough to sneak in and take a look around while the Twigs are out on a raid or patrol, and some wealthy benefactor may well have hired you to such an end.
|i am, 'ow you say... "not an artist"|
The walls within the god's body are akin to bone, or perhaps stone. To call them flesh would be a blasphemous understatement.
Thick, wiry black hairs make progress slightly slower, but not difficult. If they are hacked away, the Twigs will surely notice upon their return.
The Drum Chamber
Wherein sits the great war drum. The drummers of the Twig warbands are also their navigators, and while their people hold no religion the drummers fulfil a motivational role, akin to spiritual leaders.
If someone plays the rhythm overheard on the desert winds on this drum, the secret door to the inner chambers opens.
The Lesser Chambers
One stores weaponry, and has supplies of water and dried foods for the Twigs, and jars of agar and fruit syrups for their steeds. One concoction smells particularly strongly - by the label it is meant for "hatchlings only". (It is made of a particular peach. If players eat it, they grow 1d4 years younger per spoonful.)
In the next is a small forge, with smoke exhausted through a drilled-out chimney and thence the dead god's tear ducts. The hammer and anvil are made of god-stuff, and the weapons they forge can 1: spin like a compass and point to the nearest extraplanar item, 2: eat lightning, 3: start fires that only burn ghosts, 4: kill one immortal being before turning to dust.
In the third, larger chamber, earwigs are saddled and fitted for riding.
The Inner Chambers
Earwig eggs and larvae are kept in a giant snail's shell. The females are highly maternal, and the Twigs leave them to tend to their young without supervision, except to bring food.
If the inner chambers are entered by someone who does not smell like they brought food, the females become territorial and attack. When fed they relax, and ignore any intruders as long as the young are not approached.
God brains are a valuable commodity, worth their weight in gold to wizardly-inclined traders. They also stink, appropriately enough, to high heaven.
Mining for 10 minutes nets one 10 gold's worth of grey matter, and there's enough left to do this 1d10 times. Heady cosmic visions come from such proximity to a god's mind, even a dead one; save or take 1d12 damage (cannot be reduced in any way).
The Other Facial Features
The remaining eyeball is glassy and grey, lifeless since ages past. Perhaps it is a trick of the moonlight, but by night, its gaze always appears to be fixed on a particular star.
The meteor is worthless space rock to mortals of this plane, but a cheap source of 1: repairs, 2: fuel, 3: rations, 4: ammunition for a spacefaring race.
The nostrils provide another entrance to the brain, bypassing the barbarians' stables, but they are clogged up thick with briar-like hair. If burned out, the head cavity is filled with smoke, and any earwigs within die.
The god's teeth, when planted in sand, grow into little castles under the next new moon. Each castle contains:
1: A treasure with a terrible curse.
2: A polite, middle-class family, startled at your entry, their dinner interrupted.
3: A painting with a star-map on the back.
4: Frogs dressed in the livery of a royal court, from page boys to dukes. Just normal frogs.
5: A star princess, trapped there for ages.
6: A tunnel and a staircase leading down, down to goblin town.
7: A ghost who can teach you how to speak to ink. Tell words to rearrange on the page, etc.
8: Just a fuck ton of skulls. It's completely full of skulls.
9: The castle is also a starship, cosy and retro but fully functional.
10: Nothing. Guess you have a castle now.