Friday, 22 May 2009

The Ferris Wheel of Doom - WIP

My personal homage of the infamous Hellevator of Castle Greyhawk is the so-called Ferris Wheel of Doom which connects the first 6 levels of the Vaults. Why anyone would choose to use a giant observation wheel as a major internal transfer system in an underground complex is an open question.

The Wheel Chambers
When initially encountered it is unlikely that the player will realise that the Ferris Wheel is in fact a wheel. The majority of the workings are hidden behind stone walls, with only the doorways and switches that allow access to the transport capsule visible. The doors, of which there are one on each of levels 1-6 of the Vaults are made of heavy bronze, elaborately-decorated and surrounded by a baroque profusion of pilasters, architraves, and friezes. A single "call capsule" button (each of unique appearance and operation) is generally to be found in the same room as the door.

Random Call Capsule Buttons

1a statue of a succubus holding a bowl. The bowl must be filled with 1d6x1d6 hp worth of intelligent humanoid blood to call the capsule.
2a gong. Possible secondary effects as per Amityville Mike's fine article on gongs and the bonging thereof
3 small silver butler's bell on a podium. When tinkled the bell unleashes a full 8 bell carillon which attracts monsters as a Shrieker.
4an open-mouthed idol. 1d10x1d10gp, a gem, or a magic item must be fed into the mouth.
5a 3-foot long railway signal locking lever. Expect catastrophic consequences if pulled by a dorf.
6a chased and enamelled hunting horn chained to the podium. Can only be blown by someone of Con 13 or above.
7a chased and enamelled drinking horn containing 2 pints of:
1 - a light ale - heals 1d6 damage (as Grognardia Jim's liquid courage rule)
2 - a heady mead - gives a +2 bonus to Int, Wis or Cha checks (choose, or determine randomly) for next 1d3 turns
3 - a burning winter ale - heals 1d10 damage, character is -2 to all checks for 1d3 turns
4 - a smoky arval ale - grants +4 bonus to the next save the character makes
The horn must be drained in a single draught (unmodified Con check) by a single drinker to call the capsule.
8a wire and nail puzzle (plonk one in front of the players if you have it handy)
9an elemental focus. Must be dealt a particular amount of elemental damage to call capsule.
1 - fire/heat
2 - water/cold
3 - air
4 - earth/stone
5 - quintessence (weird sh*t of the DM's choice - wood, void, heart, molybdenum, etc.)
6 - two of the above (roll twice)
10a speaking tube. The requirements to call the capsule (singing, speaking a particular phrase or language, having the players recite some verse, etc.) are at the DM's warped discretion

There is a 1 in 6 chance that the capsule is absent when the button is pressed. Absent capsules will return in 1d6 turns.

The Capsules
There is a 1 in 6 that a capsule is occupied when the door open. The DM should create a random encounter from a randomly determined level to which the Ferris Wheel has access. There are no limits on creature types or number due to size, intelligence, etc. (Yes, vermin and dragons both love to ride the Ferris Wheel)

The Ferris Wheel chambers are 10' x 20' rooms of mutable appearance and decoration. Sometimes there are seats, sometimes not. Sometimes there are windows onto strange vistas, at other times the walls are panelled with inlaid maquetry of exquisite design, or with diamond pattern sheet steel, or with marble. Sometimes the light comes from torches in wall sconces, at other times it radiates from ceiling panels, wall-mounted globes, or even the floor. The one commonality is the control panel, which is mounted at human eye level to the right of the door (when facing it).

The Control Panel
The control panel (however it chooses to appear today) has 12 buttons/settings/plugs. These are numbered 1-10 (in a random alphabet), with the last two buttons being invariably marked with a hold door button, and with an infinity symbol.

Numerals 1-6 - roll 1d6, add number pressed, count in base 6. The capsule ends up on that level of the Vaults. How often the sequence changes, or if it is entirely random, is at DM discretion.
Numerals 7-0 - By themselves these numbers do nothing. But, when used in combination with others, they can be used to reach particular areas outside the Vaults (see Combos section, below)
Hold Door button - can be used to hold doors open or closed.
Infinity symbol - When pressed a demonic, gape mouthed green face appear, laughs maniacally, and then vanishes. The capsule jerks violently. Roll 1d30 on the table below...

1 Adamantinarx-on-the-Acheron (Wayne Barlowe's "God's Demon")
2 Altdorf (Warhammer World)
3 Atlantosh - the cheap theme park version of Atlantis
4 Erelhei-Cinlu or Menzoberranzen (50/50)
5 Lankhmar or Viriconium (50/50)
6 London (roll 1d8)
-- 1 Ruined London (Diamond Dogs/Steel Tsar)
-- 2 Londres (Hawkmoon)
-- 3 Steampunk London 1855 ("The Difference Engine")
-- 4 5,000AD - After London (Forgotten Futures 5)
-- 5 Puritan London ("The Adventures of Luther Arkwright")
-- 6 Elizabethan Londinium (Moorcock's "Gloriana")
-- 7 New Crobuzon or Armada (50/50)
-- 8 Sigil or Earth 2009 (50/50)
7 Ancient Rome, Athens or Alexandria (1in3)
8 MegaCity 1 or Mos Eisley (50/50)
9 Metropolis (50/50 - DC Comics or the 1926 movie version)
10 Taashban (Narnia) or Kublai Khan's Xanadu (50/50)

11 Doomed City (roll 1d8)
-- 1 Atlantis - the day before
-- 2 Numenor - the day before
-- 3 Pompeii - the day before
-- 4 London - the day before the Great Fire
-- 5 Lisbon - the day before the 1755 earthquake
-- 6 Port Royal - the day before the 1692 earthquake
-- 7 Tokyo - the day before (roll 1d6)
-- -- 1 - 2 the great Kanto earthquake
-- -- 3 - 4 the Tokyo firestorm
-- -- 5 - 6 "Gojirah!"
-- 8 San Fransisco - the day before the 1905 earthquake
12 The Lost World
13 Skull Island (50/50 - Treasure Island/King Kong)
14 Mythic Lands (roll 1d8)
-- 1 Khemri (Egypt)
-- 2 Achaeia (Greece)
-- 3 Midgard (Norse)
-- 4 The Four Worlds (India)
-- 5 Chung Kuo (China)
-- 6 Sinbad's Araby
-- 7 Mandevillean Asia
-- 8 The Seven Cities of Gold
15 Swiftian Lands (roll 1d6)
-- 1 Lilliput
-- 2 Brodingnad
-- 3 Laputa
-- 4 Luggnagg
-- 5 Balnibarbi
-- 6 Glubbdubdrib

16 Tekumel
17 Arrakis (Dune) - "Spice must flow" (25% chance Didcot 3 (Urn) - "Tea must flow")
18 The Dying Earth
19 The Mighty Land of Vanth
20 Middle Earth (roll d3 for Age of the World)
21 Gamma World/Mutant Future
22 The Hyborian Age of Thuria (Conanistan)
23 Pavane Europe (steam-Catholicism)
24 Naziworld (The Man in the High Castle)

The Depths of Space
25 The Moon (roll 1d8)
-- 1 Wellsian Selenites
-- 2 Baron Munchausen/de Bergeracian allegorical oddness
-- 3 ...made of Green Cheese
-- 4 Lunar jungle (Aldiss' Hothouse)
-- 5 ...dominion of the Feral Clangers
-- 6 The Tibetan Afterlife
-- 7 ...of the Lovecraftian Dreamlands
-- 8 You gatecrash the Apollo 11 landing
26 Venus (roll 1d4)
-- 1 Saurian-infested jungles
-- 2 Weird Tales/Northwest of Earth-style
-- 3 The Treen Empire
-- 4 Militaristic Teutonic craftsmen (Mutant Chronicles)
27 Mars (roll 1d4)
-- 1 Burroughsian
-- 2 Wellsian - "Uuuuuuh-lah!"
-- 3 Mad Gods and Moravecs (Dan Simmons "Ilium")
-- 4 Canals and Colonies (Space:1889)
28 Mongo ("Flash! (Aah-ah)")
29 Skaro (Dalekworld)
30 Deep Space (roll 1d6)
-- 1 Wildspace (Spelljammer)
-- 2 Hippyspace (spacewhales, nebulae, etc.)
-- 3 The Ulyssesverse
-- 4 Starship Warden
-- 5 Moonbase Alpha
-- 6 Chiron Beta Prime or The Dark City (50/50)

Where exactly in this new world the door opens, whether the PCs are forcibly ejected, and how long the door remains open are entirely at the DM's option.

Poking at mysterious, inexplicable objects in the underworld is rarely a wise choice. The Ferris Wheel of Doom is no exception. Random button-mashing may have no result, may cause dangerous environmental effects, or may take experimenters to particular locations.

22 - Glorantha
34 - You really don't want to know.
42 - Earth, Galgofrincham or Ursa Minor Beta
69 - San Dimas ("Excellent!")
410 - The Library of Babel
666 - Hell (Barlowean, Dantean, cartoony...)
9001 - DBZ world
1010001 - the machine realm (Mechanus)
5550690 - a dark-skied world where self-willed automata farm human beings
0112358132134 - Leonardo Fibonacci's study in 13th century Florence

(bronze door image plundered from


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. @Jeff: A suitably enigmatic comment sensei.

  3. This is bloody brilliant :D

  4. @taichara: It's ok. I can't help getting the nagging feeling I'm reinventing the wheel though...


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