I started to play a computer game called Sunless Sea. It is dark steampunk fantasy/horror game where London „was stolen by bats“ (yes, that made me scratch my head, too) and now rests in a gigantic cave at a dark oceaon. Welcome to the Underzee. It is about steampunk, being a captain, exploring the ocean and its stone island, meeting the pockets of victorian civilization there, stories, plots and machinatios of the factions, facing underzee monsters and strange things, adventures, and about three (non-lovecraftian) chthonian gods.
This is post is not a review so ( I may write one later… or not), but about one encounter in the game that inflamed my mind with an idea for Veins of the Earth.
That screenshot made me think about an unnatural cavern, shaped roughly like a church room and as large as a small chapel. A cavern with a spiry ceiling and rough walls stained red, as if they have been smeared with blood. About broken of stalagmites that were rowed up like church pews. About a large basalt altar, neatly cut, with a painting of a church window behind it, painted by even thicker strokes of dried blood. And the words from the screenshot engraved right into that very part of the wall, behind the basalt altar.
The Chapel of Starvation and the Altar of Fleshing Bone
The rules for Veins know three conditions of an adventurer when it comes to nourishment: hungry, starving and dying (see p. 322).
A hungry character that enters the chapel would have to pass a Saving Throw vs Magic, our would be starving all of a sudden.
A starving character that places a bone onto the altar (even a dry one, with no marrow left in it) and prays for food for at least a turn would have a x in 8 chance of this bone suddenly manifesting meat on it, where “x” is the number of sentient beings present in the chapel that pray for food plus the number of consecutive hours spend pleading for nourishment. The meat on a finger bone will only be an appetizer, the meat on a human underarm will be enough to feed one person while the meat on the bones of a rather complete human (or humanoid) skeleton will be equal to a slain foe or comrade. The flesh that manifests on the bone (by suddenly and rapidly growing out of and around it) will always be of a carmine red, juicy and with no bone to be found inside. The flesh grows on the bone with seconds, but in the end the bone is no more, only that lump of delicious, raw meat.
When the flesh manifests, the detrimental effect of the chapel-cave on “hungry” characters (see above) stop for a turn.
If a “1” comes up on a roll, all present sentient beings that pray for food must pass a Saving Throw vs. Magic Devices. Those who fail experience how their hunger worsens, just like they would have spend another day without nourishment. There is no limit on how many times the pleading characters may roll the dice (it is up to the one leading them in prayer), but the Chapel rewards those that spend time (hours) in hunger and desperate reverence. Those who die while praying will waste away within moments, their flesh and skin will shrivel and then turn to dust. All that is going to be left of the victim will be the the dried out, marrowless bones.
Knowledge of the Chapel of Starvation and the Altar of Fleshing Bone may be a secret that is guarded (or traded) within the Veins. Among those in the know, regular pilgrimages are common,as those are a means of survival also an encounter with another group of “pilgrims” may become a grim one. Hungry beings may stalk the tunnels leading into the cavern, or prey on those who pray. Their may even have developed a number of nomadic mini-tribes centered on this place.