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Now here’s a nice treat. I got together with the designers of the Retroverse Setting. They’re Lasers & Liches and we came up with a cool crossover.
If you don’t know about it, you can visit the main page of Lasers & Liches here. They have running funded kickstarter for the Retroverse Setting here.
The profile art for the Yggdrasaur is work by Lluis Abadias (@LluisAbadias)
About this Resource
This resource features the general description of a giant dinosaur known as the yggdrasaur and the town and population that lives on top of it. It includes adventure ideas that are appropriate for low to mid-level (Levels 1 to 10) adventuring parties.
Many are the wonders that one can see in this wide world. But few compare to the first time you see an adult yggdrasaur roaming the wild lands. Yggdrasaurs are the stuff of legends, a true marvel, a creature brought forth from a fairy tale for others to worship and wonder. Some even go as far as to say that yggdrasaurs are a kind of lesser god. Despite the many opinions and beliefs about the ancient creatures, the truth is that very little is known about their origin and nature.
Yggdrasaurs are enormous dinosaur-like creatures. Anatomically, they are similar to a brontosaurus or a diplodocus but the height of the shoulder area is taller. They also feature a particular glowing crest on their heads. The crests glow in ever-changing patterns that are unique to each beast. Scholars theorize that yggdrasaurs can see these glowing patterns from afar to recognize each other.
Yggdrasaurs grow big enough to sustain plant ecosystems on their backs. Young yggdrasaurs might support but a few trees or a glade, but adult yggdrasaurs feature entire forest environments on their backs. The animals are impossibly tall. An average adult yggdrasaur may measure over seven hundred feet. An infant is never under 140-feet-tall.
Yggdrasaurs are calm, docile creatures under normal circumstances. An important fact about them is that they never stop moving. Yggdrasaurs never stop their slow plodding path. It may take them a day to make it a mile or less. They move in a fashion similar to that of elephants. They take one step at a time, always keeping three feet on the ground, for balance.
When threatened, an amazing feat to accomplish, they can move quite rapidly and the destruction this causes is considered a natural disaster. There are only a few recordings of this happening in written history. The most recent one occurred seventy years ago. Thankfully, the yggdrasaur will naturally avoid heavily populated areas, though they have been known to crush remote cabins and outposts.
Due to their calm nature and the welcoming environment on their backs, humanoids have settled the backs of yggdrasaurs. Many yggdrasaurs feature towns and even small cities on their backs. (See Humanoid Settlements).
Life and Sustenance
How yggdrasaurs sustain their incredible mass is not fully understood, as no food could possibly sustain them. Religious texts say they “eat the stars from the sky” and their paths follow a line towards the next edible star.
Fortunately, there are a few explanations that scholars have yet to prove beyond dispute. But their current findings and theories are as follows: The backs of the great dinosaurs are porous, like a mixture of cork, rotten wood, and moist soil. It is very fertile land in which most plant life can live and thrive. The yggdrasaurs also produce ponds of water and shallow streams to move the liquid around the surface of its back. Scholars do not know yet where the water comes from but it seems to come from the beast itself. The combination of fertile land and abundant water well explains the permanent presence of lively ecosystems on the yggdrasaurs.
However, it has been observed and documented that the yggdrasaurs draw sustenance from all the wildlife that lives there. Scholars theorize that as plants grow and produce their own food, they also feed the yggdrasaur. The same happens with animal populations on the creature. When an animal dies, its body and energy are reabsorbed by the yggdrasaur. As if the soil were a permanent compost zone that reabsorbs all that lies on it. Even humanoid populations experience this phenomenon, as the bodily remains of relatives that are buried on an yggdrasaur are never to be found after a few days of burial. To some scholars, this behavior would suggest that there is a strange relationship in which the dinosaur could be compared to a large parasite or a symbiotic entity; a theory refuted harshly by those who worship the creatures.
Another theory suggests that the feet of the creature leech life force from the ground. Scholars rest their case on the fact that yggdrasaur footprints feature no evidence of plant life and that the land remains barren for several years after the creature passes.
There have been humanoid settlements on top of yggdrasaur for as far as written history goes. Most of them are comprised of human populations but exceptions exist.
On an yggdrasaur settlement, life is simple. Everyone must work if they desire to eat. Nothing comes for free in the small settlements. Due to the limited space on the animal’s back, people must make the best of their time and abilities to survive.
Many townsfolk do farming. The soil is fertile but farmers use advanced vertical techniques to grow produce in the small space they have. Other people hunt the few wildlife that is always around. Many are expert archers, their job is to hunt migratory birds and other small flying dinosaurs.
People that live on yggdrasaurs are like other people but they often become secluded societies that only deal with their own. These wandering settlements create a unique balance of nomadic and settled life, allowing for travel without leaving the comfort of an established home. Typically, the citizens of one yggdrasaur do not get along with another, citing ancient feuds and religious doctrine differences to justify violence against one another.
Each settlement has its own political arrangement. Sometimes there is no leader and all citizens are held in the same stature. In other yggdrasaurs, hierarchies arise and the towns and cities elect their own leaders. The leaders are often priests but there are exceptions. In some exceptional cases, nobility titles arise and a very small oligarchy is in charge of the settlement. Most yggdrasaur settlements are independent.
Some yggdrasaur settlements are more warring than others. The defense force of most walking cities is comprised of dino-riders, specialized warriors that ride dinosaurs. When a population attacks another, their objective is to kill them all or make them flee down to earth. After that, they sometimes take the yggdrasaur as their own or let it roam free. If a settlement is defeated, a fate that most consider the worst humiliation of all, the survivors become an itinerant caravan of pilgrims. Their pilgrimage shall only end when they find a pregnant yggdrasaur. After birth, they nurture the massive youngling to restart their society, and the ancient feuds, all over again.
Yggdrasaurs offer a welcoming environment for plants, animals, and even humanoid races to live. In exchange, these creatures or plants pay back with their life force. Plants feed the yggdrasaur with their own systems of sustenance. Animals and humanoids shall feed the beast when they die and are buried on its back. A perfect circle of equilibrium is a common fact on yggdrasaur ecosystems. However, this does not happen by happenstance, at least not for intelligent animal life or humanoids.
It is the water. The water produced by yggdrasaurs features a psychoactive component that causes the animal or person that drinks it to become dependent on it. But it is not only that, it also causes a state of happiness, complacency, and worship, in humanoid races. This is the reason why so many yggdrasaurs have living populations on them. They are in a way prisoners to the dinosaur, but they receive a great place to live in return. The mental effect of this water is also what sprung all the different religions and beliefs systems where yggdrasaurs are the central point.
The water from one yggdrasaur is different from another’s and it causes dependency to that beast in particular. It is the effect of this water on intelligent races which causes squabbles between them. Also, even if two different yggdrasaur populations are on amicable terms, it is known that people from one yggdrasaur find a terrible taste in the water from the other one.
Luminaria – (Settlement Example)
Luminaria is the name of a settlement on the back of an adult yggdrasaur. The town has a population of 150 inhabitants; most of them are human. People in Luminaria live an idyllic life of farming, hunting, and communing with nature. For some unknown reason, the yggdrasaur they live in does not come close to others of its kind most of the time. It roams slowly on the southern wild lands unimpeded and alone. Thus, Luminarians have no conflict or feud with any other yggdrasaur settlement. There are three lifts that townsfolk often use to go down to earth when the yggdrasaur passes close to a town or crossroads. The townsfolk who do such things are considered brave by the rest of the community as they can fathom no worse fate than to be left behind by the yggdrasaur. Of course, this never happens. The yggdrasaur is slow enough that they could visit a nearby town to sell and buy things, stay the night, and then return to the yggdrasaur by foot.
Luminarians have their own version of the religion that worships yggdrasaurs. The call it the Church of the Way. They study and worship the incomprehensible path that the yggdrasaur chooses to walk. The one priest in town traces lines on maps and spends hours and days trying to find the patterns or clues that will reveal the higher purpose of the creature. If anything, their religious beliefs are self-fulfilling because they will invariably follow the way as long as they remain on the yggdrasaur’s back.
Luminaria is ruled by Lord Ademestis Gurinth. The lordship of his family goes back seven generations and shall be continued by his son, Armin Gurinth. Despite their noble origin, the Gurinths share the responsibility of the land and work on the fields like everyone else.
- The Sacred Pond
A natural source of water that springs from the yggdrasaur itself. People in Luminaria drink nothing else than this water. They use it for the fields too. Trees grow greener and faster the closer they are to the sacred pond.
- Church of the Way
Reverend Hartke is the only religious figure in town but a most respected one. He is currently training a young lad to be his successor as he already feels his time is running out. Reverend Hartke often mentions he can feel the pull to the ground as each day passes. He organizes a mass-like ceremony each night at sunset to celebrate a new day of following The Way.
- Grand Flophouse
This building is a large main room with scores of beds and sleeping pads. Newcomers to the yggdrasaur come often to follow the Church of the Way. The town does not have ample space or motivation to build more houses so all new people live here. There are currently about 20 people sharing this space.
- Town Hall and Tavern
The town hall is the preferred location for the many parties and festivals that Luminarians celebrate throughout the year. The place doubles up as a tavern where the townsfolk can drink ale. This ale is made in town with a portion of local water; while not great, it is the only one available so it is appreciated. Occasionally, explorers will bring a barrel or two of wine or beer from a nearby town and the drink will be shared among all inhabitants.
- Town Barn
Cattle farmers keep a few cows, horses, and sheep in the barn. But it is mostly used to house an indigenous small reptile people call “earthsaur”. These small reptiles can only live on the yggdrasaur and feed on the soil itself. The townsfolk breed them for their meat and hides. People believe they come out of the ground as no one has never seen them mating or giving birth.
- Access Lift
People use these lifts to go down to earth and to lift people or materials from the ground. Climbing the yggdrasaur’s legs is a dangerous activity most people are unable to accomplish. The lifts work with a complicated pulley arrangement. A pair of people can use the pulley to operate the lift.
- Gurinth Keep
The Gurinth family built the keep two generations ago. They built it on a whim as a tribute to classic nobility and how they tend to live in keeps or castles. Not that a keep is of any use on top of the yggdrasaur. However, no one thinks ill of them. It helps people sleep better at night knowing that there is a fortified place people could hide in case of a real problem.
These are the general features of the Luminaria town. It is located on the back of an yggdrasaur.
Terrain. The soil is fertile, green, and full of life. Due to the limited space on the creature, most things are crammed together. There are enough trees that most locations are in the shade.
The Water. A visitor who drinks the water on the yggdrasaur will find it sweet and fresh. After a few days, it causes a dependency effect and a sensation of worship for the great creature.
Smells and Sounds. The smell of greenery, plants, and manure is ever-present in Luminaria. A keen nose might also pick up a faint sweet smell that comes from the yggdrasaur itself. Every ten minutes or so, the yggdrasaur takes a step forward. It causes the whole settlement to vibrate with the sound of all its weight switching places.
Government. The Gurinth Family have a self-appointed lordship. It has lasted seven generations. People respect them because they still work the land like everyone else.
The Retroverse is an unbound universe bursting with half-faded memories, barely remembered songs, lost childhood friends, outdated styles, abandoned dreams, lost playthings, vaporware, and time corroded nostalgia. A place both strange and familiar. A place for adventure, chaos, friendship, and the magic of yesteryear. In short, a place that combines your love of the present with your adoration of the past.