Somewhere, beyond the veil of dreams, beyond the bounds of sanity or reality, lies the dread realm of Corpsefall. A desert without end, with a sunless, yet dreadfully intense sky above, adorned by swirling white clouds. From time to time, a titanic beast of strange form will come crashing down from the heavens, providing life to the desperate inhabitants of the realm with its gruesome bounty. It these corpses which give the realm its name, and provides all that is not sand.
Few are the ways to come to Corpsefall, and fewer still are the ways to leave. It has served as a final resting place for many criminals from many worlds, and not a few persons who had dabbled in arts that had best been untouched.
This realm is huge - immense enough that its size is largely irrelevant. It is a vast, red-stained desert under oppressive, ambient light with the intensity of a blacksmith's forge. Weather is normally the same - a constant hot wind fragrant with carrion, and cloudy skies, though bright and radiant with heat. Sandstorms on occasion pick up, and these are every bit as dangerous as those on normal worlds. There is no night on Corpsefall - naught but eternal, unyielding light and heat.
Water is very rare, normally drawn from the carrion, though if one digs deep enough, water can be found below the surface. These wells are dangerous to make, for their depth makes the digging challenging, and only bone is available as a construction material on this world.
Anything beyond sand is brought by the Corpsefalls; food, fuel, building materials and anything else, or it is wrested from those who have it. It is the corpses drive life on this world, that bring plenty and conflict.
Getting crushed by the great falling corpses is as likely as getting struck by lightning, but unlike lightning, is invariable fatal. Though frequent, the lands are wide enough that most falls are no closer than 5-10 miles. One can hear the impact from at least that distance, so once or twice a day, a low rumble can be heard. Being near one is nearly as dangerous as being struck, for the noise will bring scavengers running from all directions towards the corpse, and those between them and food will most assuredly be considered food as well.
Inhabitants of Corpsefall
Unlike most worlds, vegetation does not form the base of the food chain - instead virtually everything feeds upon the ever-falling corpses or in turn, upon those that so feed. Even those few plants that exist are invariably found near old corpses, and are quite often carnivorous themselves. In some areas, Fungi has taken hold, forming temporary jungles while the food lasts.
These dreadful beings are of truly abhorrent appearance. They appear as furless humanoid rats with vulture-like beaks replacing their jaws. Their naked skin is tanned dark from the hostile sun that bakes the lands of Corpsefall. They are short, slender and emaciated, but capable of great feats of strength. They do not shy from battle, as many scavengers do, but will fearlessly swarm their enemies. Outside of battle, the Griz are unpleasant company, being both arrogant and insulting. Surprisingly enough, they take great care to be clean, using sand to remove the remnants of prior meals from their flesh.
The Griz have a city, though its name is never spoken - they have only the one and have not needed to name it.
Only vaguely humanoid, these creatures have huge, bullet-shaped heads with six bladed mandibles. A toothed mouth opens at the apex of their odd skull, and at the base of their skull hangs a fringe of eyestalks bearing blueberry-sized eyeballs. Their bodies are long and thin with slender but strong arms and legs. The skin is thick and leathery, ranging from dark brown to pale white. Renders feed, as most inhabitants of Corpsefall do, on the leviathan corpses which fall with mad frequency onto the desert world. Having to move quickly to profit from new corpses, they can run much faster than their odd appearance would suggest. They prefer to feed by burrowing deep in the fleshy parts of their meal. They are, of course, more than happy to eat smaller meals, using their burrowing mandibles to shred prey.
Perhaps the slowest of the scavengers, the Boneslug is not overly concerned with speed. They range greatly in size, from small, finger sized specimens, to enormous specimens the size of small cities. They are slug-shaped with a skin of articulated bony plates. Their head has a cluster of eyestalks and a pair of crushing mandibles. As suggested by their name, they feed mainly on bones, and can burrow through solid bone should the opportunity arise. Like all other inhabitants of the world, they are not above taking fresh prey, but they usually do not get the opportunity with their slow speed. It is they that keep the world of Corpsefall from becoming a simple pile of bones, for they are able to consume even the largest bones in time.
Locations of Note
The Bone City
A massive structure built from bone and rolling on massive bone rollers, this moving city is drawn by a herd of huge Boneslugs. The slugs have been altered - most of their eyes have been removed, with the remaining pair fitted with restraints that allow the driver to direct the slug. The city is home to a mixed population, mostly Anon, with a large number of Griz as well. Humans and other peoples from other worlds dwell here as well, lucky individuals who came upon the city before falling to the hazards of the world.
- This basalt spire, hundreds of feet tall, stands like a horn protruding from the red-stained sand. Once in a long while, a corpse will directly strike the spire and become impaled. This is considered a bad omen, and the scavengers will leave the corpse to the elements rather than approach.
The City of the Griz
The city of the Griz is a massive, underground city where thousands of Griz reside. It is one of the places here considered 'civilization', though the hostile Griz make poor company. However, beings powerful enough to cow the Griz are not unknown, and beings of great power live side by side with the teeming scavengers. The Bone City will arrive, time to time, to trade with the Griz, though this is always a short, tense visit.
The Skull of the Leviathan
The single largest enduring structure in Corpsefall, this is a skull of immense proportion, being nearly a mile long from jaw to back. It is strong enough to have survived other Corpsefalls to this point and is the home of a teaming host of Renders and Boneslugs. There is also, nestled in one of the cavernous eye sockets, a monastery of the Monks of the Grey. These monks are a group of exiled criminals who formed a society in this cursed land. They hold in their numbers a few sorcerers of fell power that help them survive in this terrible world.
The Shunned Lands
This expanse of land is rarely if ever visited by the inhabitants of Corpsefall, for the simple reason no corpses fall here. No corpses to provide food or other resources, only more, featureless sand. What lies in the center of this expanse, none alive outside of the region know.
The Great Mound
An immense pyramid of bone and leathery flesh, this place was the location of a tremendous succession of Corpsefalls, with such frequency that it caused the slaughter of countless legions of scavengers. All within many miles were drawn to their destruction, as titanic corpse after titanic corpse rained down. Only the limit of sound stopped the victims from coming, and then the Boneslugs arrived. This great store of corpses is now infested by Boneslugs beyond number, riddled with tunnels carved by the creatures.
Items of Corpsefall
These are huge drums used by the Griz to deceive and prey upon other scavengers. When sounded, their boom resembles that of a nearby Corpsefall and will draw other scavengers to be ambushed. The drums are nearly 8 feet in diameter and weigh about 250lbs. They are constructed from bone and leather and inscribed with Griz runes.
This item, a small bone container filled with optical jelly and containing a specially runed sliver of bone, will direct the user to the nearest Corpsefall, and will spin wildly if one is falling dangerously close. Usually, this means so close that it is too late to run.
Built and used by the Griz, these are usually just breastplates fashioned from Boneslug plates. The bones of the Corpsefalls are usually too large to be made into something as small as armor. Similarly, single Boneslug plates are used as shields.
Campaign Use of Corpsefall
Um, where _are_ we?
Through action of an enemy, a cursed item http://strolen.com/viewing/The_Damning_Sack, a trap or their own meddling, the PCs have been cast into this realm. They need to survive long enough to get out,
We've got to go there?
Whether it is an item, a person or information, the PCs find that they need to go to Corpsefall.
The realm could be the location of something or somewhat that needs retrieval or rescue.
Where am I from, mortal? An interesting question..
The PCs enter conversation with some foul creature from beyond, one that calls the realm of Corpsefall home. GMs can use the material here to flesh out the dialog, and perhaps prepare the PCs for more direct future involvement. "Oh crap, isn't this the place that demon told us about?"
A Cursed Land
Corpsefall could be a location on the regular world, found in the center region of a normal desert, or even a large island far from the known lands. This avoids the need for an extraplanar nature, but makes one wonder what other horrors could exist in the world.
A land of Nightmares
Corpsefall could be solely a dream realm, not existing physically. PCs travelling through dreams may find this realm and become trapped at first.
The Mystery of Corpsefall
The most obvious one, where do the corpses come from, is deliberately left unanswered. It really should not matter - unless the PCs possess very powerful flying magic, they cannot investigate. I personally think it should be left unanswered, having a mythic origin like that of magic. Explaining why these corpses rain down would be akin to knowing the tricks of a magician - a killer of wonder and atmosphere.
Additional Ideas (2)
Different kinds of corpses:
Every hundred years (or some distant time), a unique corpse falls. It is unique in the fact that it:
1. Mutates the eaters. This mutation could make colossal sized boneslugs or perhaps a form of lycanthropy in the Griz or Renders.
2. It has inedible, close to indestructible bones. One of these corpses produced the skull that makes up 'The Skull of the Leviathan'. This corpses' bones are the finest material to produce weapons, armor, or other structures.
3. Not quite a corpse. Where almost everything that falls is dead, this one is alive, Perhaps it's critically injured from the fall, the titanic beast gets up and is capable of action for a time. The climate and lack of food will undoubtedly kill it within the space of a few days if the scavengers don't kill it first.
A way out:
1. Veshpether is actually hollow. At the very peak, there is an opening, which one can climb into and drop through the whole plane of Corpsefall and land in another hell dimension which lies below. Without the ability of flight, this is an extremely risky venture.
2. Elder Boneslug. Hidden in a strange part of the land (perhaps the Shunned Lands) is a gigantic boneslug. This boneslug has unusual markings and seems to be immobile. Visitors will find that it can move and is exceptionally hungry. The boneslug bowel is a dimensional door that will send the person the boneslug eats into a world between worlds type of location. Slaying the Elder Boneslug will destroy the portal and all hope of escape.
3. Semi-frequent dimensional visitors: A certain greater demon has taken a liking to this location and uses Corpsefall to punish his minions in their failures. A desperate and charismatic person may be able to hitch a ride out of Corpsefall after signing a pact with the demon. A devious person may be able to sneak through any portals when the punished minion is welcomed back home.
4. If one could combine the magic of flight with prophecy. One could figure out where & when the next corpse will fall and be able to fly up through the portal before it closes. This upper dimension is probably another hell dimension, where the reptile beings are continuously clothed in flesh and tortured to death. With their 'used' up bodies being dropped into Corpsefall.
Corpsefall Life Cycle
Working with ideas Valadaar posted - I suggest the following time line for an extended campaign or stay in Corpsefall:
0-5 hours after impact: Dust settles, perhaps half burying the corpse. Griz and Renders would be well on their way.
6-12 hours: Griz and Renders begin consuming the remains. Naturally the Griz would be farming it for useful by-products (bone, leather, maybe some tasty gland full of "nom-noms" the baby Griz like or require). The Renders I suppose would have established a colony and proceed with their natural life cycle.
1-3 days: The Griz have left or are leaving, the meat is mostly rancid and the smell overwhelming. Visitors to Corpsefall not immune to this kind of environment would be at least feeling queasy. Bone slugs now start to arrive, hatch or whatever. Render - Bone Slug conflict ensues over the choicest remains.
3 days to 1 month: Render colonies well established, Bone Slug infestation is extensive. Many tunnels network through bone and flesh. Some maybe collapsing, or huge chambers of fetid flesh have formed, maybe some filled with pockets of poisonous gases.
Fungal Forest Stage
1 to 6 months: Most of the corpse is covered in a variety of molds and mushrooms. As a game playable stat, assume that the Forest grows at a rate of 1% a day. So as an alternative this stage starts when 30% of the corpse is covered in fungi. Assume most corpsefalls occupy approximately 250 sq. miles.
Sometime in this stage the body would likely bloat and explode in a rain of rotting meat, spores and other disgusting gizzards. By now most Render colonies are collapsing and moving off to the next meal. Bone slugs and fungi remain - any non-native would not only become ill but also contract one of several diseases, growths or fungal infections. The bloat could last a few days leading up to the last stage.
Corpse Swamp Stage
6 to 12 months: The rotting remains would now be nothing but a sickly grey ankle deep goo or stinking rotting biomass. Whatever bones remain stick out of this mess and a cloud of poisonous gases forms a mist that shrouds the corpsefall. Entry into this is deadly for most creatures, although it does not affect the Bone Slugs.
After a year or two the remaining bio-matter has vanished into the sand leaving whatever bones the slugs haven't consumed exposed to the sky. Eventually they would also vanish.
"Corpsefall never strikes in the same place twice, well...uh, once in while, actually more often than you think."
At the stated frequency of one or two Corpsefall a day, it is inevitable that an impact site will be hit again. This is unlikely within the first stage, however within Fungal Forest stage there is a growing chance the forest is destroyed in a new Corpsefall, this is roughly 5 to 30% depending on its age. From the time a corpse swamp forms until it is reclaimed there is an increasing chance of about 5% a month. Only a third of Corpsefalls make it to the swamp stage and even less are reclaimed.
This way the GM can have a reasonable stay in Corpsefall with some variety in the topology to work with. For a longer stay the players will have to deal with a changing landscape every couple of months.