There are places where our world bleeds over into another place, there are lots of places where different worlds and places and even times overlap. Most of the time we are lucky and the two dont mix, save for a strange flash, a moment of deja-vu, or some other ephemeral instance. But the Misocaine Utility System, that is a place where our own world leads into the wrecked bowels of another place. I've been there twice, and barely survived both times. That's where these scars came from, and why it pains me when the weather turns bad. Yes, that's also why I take a strong fear when the pipes rattle and knock.
Misocaine Utility System
The Misocaine US is a maze of sewer tunnels, conduit access lines, mechanical ports and strange ventilation systems. It is difficult to find from the mundane world, and it is most often found by city utility workers and would be urban spelunkers who venture off into a tunnel that isnt on their planning maps or blueprints. These poor souls are either lost forever or come back haunted men who last a few nights or weeks destroying their wits with drink, drugs and other forms of self-destruction. Their sanity broken and souls often in tatters, the police are usually called to deal with the violent suicides, often with multiple murders that end up on the evening news.
Most cities, unless they are on the older side, do not have the brick lined dungeon-esque sewer and sanitation lines underneath them. As such, the Misocaine can only be stumbled into by getting severely lost in the maze of sewers and drains under cities such as New York, London, or such. Like getting lost, intending to find the MUS is very difficult and there is no magic portal, no incantion, or any other magic key to get there. Instead, it is a feeling of disquiet and uncertainty that is recognized in retrospect.
Paulie checked the line-map again, this junction and the last two were not on the map. If he guessed correctly, then he should be standing somewhere around the newstand at subway platform 16. Except that he was looking at a five way split in the line. He looked at one of the lines, it had the word STEAM written on it in faded lettering, and more beneath it. He brushed the lettering to wipe away some of the grime. The letters looked funny, like the gibberish on his cell-phone battery or the sign at the asian restaurant where the local kids had always joked that chicken beef and pork were really cat, dog, and rat. He picked the second tunnel and headed back towards where he parked his truck, with his lunch box in it. He sighed, ignoring the incessant tapping and vibration that rattled through the pipes around him.
The most obvious feature of the Misocaine are the pipes, and there are uncountable miles of pipes. They range from one inch lines to bloated concrete tubes two and three feet across. Most of the time these lines are silent, but at random intervals a line will give a groan and rattle as some unknown substance gushes through them. Unlike most supply lines, these pipes will often have pointless structures, splitting into strange shapes and junctions that split in two direction and come back together in a few dozen yards.
Steam lines are the most common, and are easily picked out for the thick rusticicles that dangle from them and they way they rattle and hiss as superheated steam rushes through them. There is a moment of warning, and then small geysers of steam vent from joints and cracks easily scalding anyone unfortunate enough to be standing in the way. The line runs hot and is constantly damp.
Liquid lines usually drip and stink, leaking hard to identify substances, though only at room temperature. Some lines have been found to carry oil, water, untreated sewage, crude oil, blood, and other stranger substances such as an amber colored panacea, semen, or diet cherry coke.
Umbilical Lines are possibly the most dangerous as these leg thick cracked plastic lines are packed with wires and metal leads. Obviously newer than the steam lines, these carry heavy voltages, hum erratically and can range from hair raising static to instantly fatal current. As these lines are new, they often are found overhead, or snaking around the larger pipes. A common hazard is a puddle of water that is grounding out an umbilical, creating a shocking surprise for anyone who steps in it.
Three steps forward, five back, Paulie thought to himself as he returned to a familiar and completely wrong junction. He recognized the three green valve handles and the strange pressure dial that the numbers were missing from. He grimaced as his flashlight started to flicker. The rattling in the lines was maddening, tatatat-tat-tat tattatata, it didnt stop. He swung his pipe wrench and knocked a ringing tone against one of the thick iron pipes. Instantly the tapping stopped. Paulie's guts clenched and he soiled himself as the creatures came boiling out of the tunnels, all teeth and claws. He screamed for a long time.
A single lurker isn't really a threat to a prepared human. They are about three feet tall and weigh thirty to forty pounds. A strong kick can break their ribs, and a grown man with a baseball bat can literally remove their head with one swing. Their bodies are bleach white and they are gaunt to the point of looking skeletal. Lurkers have large mouths filled with needle like teeth, long spider-like hands and serated claws. They are completely blind despite have eyes the size of tennis balls, they compensate with enhanced senses of hearing, smell, and touch.
Lurkers are dangerous because they are intelligent and they exist in large numbers in the Misocaine Utilities. The creatures, mute as well as blind, communicate with one another by tapping on the pipes with their claws. Their language functions like morse code, and a character with a solid understanding of cyphers and morse code might be able to determine that the sounds vibrating down the pipes arent random noice, but are intelligent in origin. Lurkers will wait until a prospective meal becomes disadvantages, such as getting stuck in a small area, injured by a conduit or fall, or simply stumbling into an area where the Lurkers can press their advantage of numbers against a disoriented foe.
Only cracked bones and inedible inorganic matter is left behind after a Lurker feeding frenzy, and they will often devour their own injured and wounded in this feeding orgy. Meat is rare in the Misocaine and none is wasted when it ignorantly wanders down.
Cyclopean Cities and Urban Legends
The short answer is that the Misocaine is the supply system for either ancient and giant alien cities on a surface utterly unlike our own world, or it feeds needed things down to infernal cities underground. All the things from sewer urban legends are likely to be found here, such as giant albino alligators, rats of unusual size, dead bodies dumped into storm drains, and places built and long forgotten, things that should be forgotten.
The Misocaine ended up playing a large part in a one night game, a halloween horror romp. A group of six PCs entered the tunnels under the city, and through the course of the adventure ran out of ammunition, improvised weapons, found a subterranean city full of mutant homeless people and freaks, faced a Lurker swarm and three survived to return to the surface, their psyche's forever brutalized by the horror under their very feet. The Lurkers are based on the basic kobold, just blind. Most of the game was played outside and I simulated the Lurker's language by tapping on various parts of a BBQ grill while we were playing. It was a great game, and two of the players (one of which was among the survivors) told me the next morning that they had nightmares about the Misocaine and the Lurkers. When the game was played, neither the setting had a name, nor did the lurkers. If it has a name it isnt unknown, if the DM won't even give it a name, it becomes even more disturbing.
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? Responses (9)
YES! Finally something I can wrap my mind around. This is splendid Scrasamax. I love to gamemaster one-night sessions and guess what? Both CoC and Kult is right up my alley. The visuals are great, the pipes, the tapping and steam filled tunnels. I would hint at some darker purpose behind the lurkers in my game. Nothing comes to mind now though.
One of the reasons why I like this so much is that there is something beyond. What IS THIS PLACE? You never know what's beyond the next hall. It can easily become a micro world in itself that hints at a macro world.
The only thing I can pick on is that I want more. MORE I TELL YE! :)
This I will use.
There wasn't much to the Utility System, it was mostly atmospheric, most of the locations were either tunnels lined with pipes, or random pieces of subterranean locations, the big final fight of the evening occured in the rusted out remains of a subway station with the surviving PCs fighting lurkers and other menacing monsters that had roosted in the rotting hulks of pneumatic subway cars.
I love it! It's perfect for a detective/horror story I'm running right now, a really fantastic idea.
I agree, this one stuckwith me troughout the day. Ideas just keep popping up.
Veddy Good Mr. Scrasamax! Nice piece indeed!
I don't play CoC or Kult, but second Mike's comment!
Fantastic! Highly atmospheric and the best sub I've read in quite a while.
I love to play Call of Cthulu as one night sessions. You should really try that sometime, I think you would be a superb horror GM:)
Excellent! This is simple, to the point, and perfect for its purpose. It can be dropped in just about any location, even in a more fantasy-oriented campaign (in which case the PCs are probably going to be a bit confused by the pipes if they haven't hit steamtech yet, but the players will recognize maintenance tunnels...probably). I love the simple horror of the unknown here. It's so simple and uncomplicated, yet it reeks of terror.
Could have sworn I voted on this before, I know I read it.
Good stuff, non-tradionational.