Saturday, September 03, 2016


The wayob is the animal spirit inside every character in Itza. As a character you are born with it, and you can learn to tap into the immense power it can grant you, but such power also poses great risk. Tapping too much or tapping recklessly can make your character succumb to the animal nature of the wayob.

Wayob powers are tempting as the game mechanics allow you to succeed while failing. This presents a great temptation as you can try to tap into powers way beyond your character's reach and preparation, and still succeed in triggering them. As a player I can deliberately try to tap into a power far too strong for my character's skill level, a power so strong I'll certainly fail in invoking. Yet it will succeed. How is this? Simply put, it's the animal within your character taking over and turning a success into a failure. My character isn't very skilled, but wants to grow bat wings and fly out. Such a task is beyond the character's current skill, I roll and get a terrible outcome and my character grows wings and flies out. What happens is that it's the bat within my character flying out and taking temporary control over my character.

This control can affect the character physically and mentally as well as affect fellow party members. There is nothing stopping the bat within turning against party members and draining a fellow player's character dry. Your character may also start to develop permanent physical changes such as fangs, leathery skin, strange eyes, etc., changes that may pose risks in towns and cities afraid of such creatures.

Overall, the final result is a grey zone of failure bordered on both sides by a zone of success when the character can control the wayob and a zone of success when the character can not control the wayob. Yielding control to the wayob can be tempting for a short term benefit with a superb and uncontrollable power.

How much are you willing to pay to gain such an advantage? As a player it may be seem ok to tap into such immense power once to save the character, but if you know there's this "safety net" wouldn't you be tempted to run greater risks in the adventure which may corner you to tap into uncontrollable wayob powers more and more often? Can you, as a player, roleplay the wayob against your own character's interest?


Image source

Sunday, August 28, 2016

You're on a need to know basis

The hardest part of writing Itza was boiling the player's handbook into two sheets of paper. That's it! Four pages going from 1 to 4.

Get your stats, write your character out, understand the skill system and get down to playing. You're on a need to know basis, and the less you know the better off you are.

That is the basics of old school gaming I grew up with and the basics of the games I want to design from now one (at least for the foreseeable future). The less you know about the rules the more creative you'll be as a player.

As a GM I want you to tell me what your character is and how such description will lead to a kick ass scene.

A few points:

  • Less rules means you get down to playing the game sooner.
  • Less rules means you get to play your game rather than the "rule's games".
  • Less rules means there's a lesser divide between the "rules savvy" and the "noob players" (more fun for everyone)
  • Less rules means a lot more burden on the GM or person running the game. Trust and communication is a must (which of course is a must in any situation involving many humans).
Of course all this goes against the intuitive business logic of selling more shit. So how do things unfold?


Friday, November 20, 2015

Firearms, cover and damage in Weapons Free

As a modern warfare game you can imagine firearms and damage take a center roll. Yet surprisingly damage is something that's rolled less often than you might expect. You and your opponents will take a lot of precaution in not getting hit. Actually achieving a hit should be an uncommon event. Suppression and rolling for damage on armor and cover, well that's quite another thing. Suppression plays an important roll in the game and is something you need to learn how to leverage as a player and use it to move around the battlefield and obtain a better position against your enemy. As a GM you should see few deaths and should remember that your NPCs don't want to die. They will seek to retreat if they can and surrender if they can't do anything against an advancing force. Of course history is full of cases in which troops fought to the end, but aside from a one shot session it is highly discouraged that you engage in these types of style of play. NPCs should not stand up fearlessly to take that shot that would kill the characters. Play it out as if you want to live through the campaign and get back home or at least live to fight another day. Now without further delay let me jump into the actual example.

First of all the thing to remember is that combat and attacks is just a more specialized version of a skill check. As such it is resolved by two die rolls just like skill checks, one for the attacking party (skill roll) and one for the defender (task roll). The outcome is determined by the difference between the rolls. The character's skill determines the skill roll and the distance to the target determines the difficulty of the attack and thus the task roll. The possible outcomes are: critical miss, miss, suppression, hit cover, hit, or critical hit.

Unlike normal skill checks with just four outcomes: critical failure, failure, success and critical success; combat has two more outcomes and a deeper interpretation of each. Suppression is the outcome of an attack that misses the target but comes close enough to scare or hits the target's cover without actually penetrating through. Thus a hit to cover also produces suppression as we'll see below. The second additional outcome is hit cover. This is when the attack would actually hit the target but something stands in between, be this an obstacle or body armor.

Simple attack

Lets take for example an attacker who rolls 3d8 and a target that rolls 3d8.

For this simple attack example if the result of subtracting the target roll (difficulty) from the attacker roll (skill) is less than -4 the attack totally misses(cyan area). If the roll falls between -4 and -1 (yellow) it generates suppression. If the roll falls between 0 and 5 it hits cover (green) and also generates suppression. Depending on type of cover and damage it may penetrate and hit the target. If the roll is 6 or better (orange) it hits the exposed parts of the target. If it rolls 10 or above additional effects will be experienced due to a critical hit and if the roll is -10 or worse the inverse happens due to a critical miss.

The image visually represents the example mentioned above.

The values for cover and suppression depend on the degree of cover (obviously) and the weapon being used. Higher rate of fire will lead to better suppression. Thus heavy machineguns and Gatling guns can generate suppression on a -6 or better.

Complex Attack

Now let me analyze a more complex real life situation as shown in this diorama. A group of GIs are protecting a point from an Axis advance. We've got men in the open, prone, behind sandbags and in the trees. This presents varying degrees of cover and targets with different cross sections to the advancing Axis soldiers. Needless to say the smaller the cross-section the harder it is to hit the target.

Let's take a look at what the German soldiers see from their point of view (POV).

As you can see from this photo the same targets that were easily visible from the eagle eye view shown before are now very hard to distinguish. Cover, cross-section and camouflage make them hard to spot and even harder to hit, and I'm not even adding movement to the equation.

In the following image I'm overlapping the eagle eye view and the Axis POV and labeling targets so I can work out the mechanics for each in this and upcoming posts.

A is the rifleman kneeling behind a tree. His cover is so good it hard to distinguish from the German POV. Instead, from the German point of view you see the GI throwing the grenade from behind.

B is the rifleman prone by the tree. This target isn't even visible from the German POV.

C is the bazooka kneeling in the middle of the road getting ready to zap the tank.

D is a rifleman prone in front of the sandbags.

E is the rifleman standing behind the sandbags.

F is the MG crew kneeling behind the sandbags.

G is the rifleman running toward the Germans.

The Germans are in turn armed with MG-42 by the looks of it, some rifles, submachine guns and of course a StuG IV, a formidable armored vehicle with a 7,5cm (StuK 40 L/48) cannon and a MG-34. With this the Germans can attack point targets, attack an area or shell a target.

The German riflemen and the MG in the ruins have a clear view of the treeline and the man with the bazooka, but the tank blocks the view of the Allied MG and most of the men behind the sandbags. The Germans at the other side of the tank have a clear view of both, but their weapons have shorter range and the Allied treeline is much further away. You're the attacking German force, what do you do?

As the Germans in the ruins you have two clear targets the bazooka GI and the grenade GI. Initiative aside, which I'll cover in another article, lets say the MG goes for the bazooka and the rifleman for the grenade GI. 

Basic Example Rifleman vs Grenade GI

The basic rules are simple:
  • Get a result of 0 or better and you hit.
  • Skill determines attack roll and distance determines difficulty roll.
  • Skill and difficulty determine the value on which your d8 dice get to explode. The least skilled and easy tasks explode no dice at all, novice characters explode on 1, experienced characters explode on 1 and 2 and so forth up to legendary, and the same for difficulties.
Lets say for the sake of this example that the targets are at short range for the weapons at hand. This means the difficulty roll is easy 3d8(1) (the value in parenthesis indicates up to what value to explode on). The German soldiers are experienced and roll with 3d8(2) and thus explode 1s and 2s.

Rolling for the difficulty I get 18 (6, 4 & 8) and rolling for the grenade soldier I get 18 (7, 1, 2, 4, 1, 3). Since I got ones and twos I added that value and rolled the dice again until I stopped getting 1s and 2s.

Now this gives a result of 0 (18-18) which hits the target and damage should be dealt with now.The rifle's ammunition does 2d8 points of damage and I get 5 & 7. It is important to keep the values separate for now as damage depends on the point of the body hit. Since I just barely achieved success (got a 0), the success is marginal and the GM dictates its a hit to the arm or lower leg. This provides a -2 modifier to the damage (we'll get back to damage by body area later) and the result is 3 and 5 points (5-2 & 7-2) for a total of 8 points. The hit soldier has a pain threshold of 3 which acts as a buffer and subtracts from the damage leaving only 5 points to be dealt with to hit points. This is one third of the total hit points and the character suffers a serious wound and drops to the ground. It was nonetheless a good shot. Had it been a better roll, say for example a 22 vs 18 the GM could have dictated a hit to the torso with no -2 modifier. This would have produced a total of 10 points of damage and left the GI in a very delicate situation.

Revisiting Range and Modifiers

In the previous example I skipped a lot of modifiers to get the example through and through covering damage as well. In a real life situation the target isn't static and movement adds to the difficulty of the attack. There is also the element of visual range. The same rifle is more effective if optics are added. The quality doesn't change, just the ability to spot the target better. An iron sight is not as good as a scope and although the rifle is good at such short range the soldiers visual precision is not.

So at such a range the attacker suffers a -2 due to movement and a -2 due to visual range which  turns the 18 into a 14. This in turn produces a -4 outcome (14 - 18) which is not good enough to hit the target, but good enough to have the character suppresses and looking for cover. The GM can dictate that characters close to this GI can also come under the effect of suppression even if they're not the target of the attack roll.

Counter Attack

The GI prone on the ground sees the German firing and shoots back. For simplicity's sake let's say the M1 has the same performance as the K98. The difficulty roll is 3d8(1) and the skill roll is 3d8(3), the GI has been on since Normandy and is quite an expert by now. His rolls explode up to a 3.

I roll for the task (7, 3, 1, 8) getting 19, and then for the GI (5, 5, 2, 3, 5) getting a 20. Notice how I rerolled the 2 and 3 for the GI but only the 1 for the task.

The result is a 1 (20 - 19), certainly a hit, but the German is behind cover 50% this gives a 4 cover modifier which means I need a 4 or better to hit the German directly. The shot hits the wall and stops there but it generates suppression which will have the German running for cover unless it can be overcome it through a mettle attribute check.

Now, lets imagine for a moment that the wall is some material the bullet could get through, like wood or thin metal. I'll roll damage and apply the stopping power of armor. 

The damage is once again 2d8 and I get 3 and 7. The wood has an armor 2d4 and I roll getting 4 and 3. The dice are compared linearly against the damage from highest to lowest. The 7 vs the 4 and the 3 vs the 3. Since 7 beats the 4 it goes through leaving 3 points of damage (7-4) and the other 3 totally stops the bullet's 3. A total of 3 points make it through to the target and since the shot was marginally successful (only a 1) the GM dictates once again that it hit a non vital body part like the lower leg. The body part modifier of -2 is adding dropping the damage down to 1. With a pain threshold of 3 the German absorbs it all with no damage going to hit points. It's just a simple scratch not even worth calling a flesh wound.  Notice that if the shot had hit the torso which has no -2 modifier the full 3 points would be delivered to the character. Nonetheless this is still not a wound as it is easily absorbed by the character's paint threshold and stamina.

Damage and Pain

Before closing this post I'd like to comment on the damage mechanism. Characters have two pools of points: stamina and hit points. Stamina is a buffer that represents lesser damage and can be replenished quicker than hit points (in a matter of hours). Hit points is serious physical damage that can take days, weeks or even months to heal. The amount of damage that can be absorbed by stamina at any one point is determined by the pain threshold. This is a window below which all damage goes to stamina and above it goes to hit points. This article covers the mechanics in full detail.

In the next post I'll go over the scenario in which the MG is used against the tree line and the rifle is used against the bazooka.

Diorama source

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Metal is so, uh, un-cyber-punkish

Plastics, polymers, and ceramics. These are all the future materials. What are all these metal borgs, androids and air-filter-for-eye-wear things on my sci-fi episodes?

Ridley Scott nailed it. Ash has no metal parts showing. The future is plastic. Metals are out and organics are in.

Terminator? Blhahhh!

Skynet? Double blhahahhaahh!

When the shit really hits the fan with DNA manipulation, oh you're going to be in for a great surprise!

Just take a moment to think how much we've moved forward in 3D printing when it comes to roleplaying stuff: figures, tabletop items such as dungeon passage, etc.

Just imagine 3D printing on a molecular level?

What will the conventional weapons race look like in the near future as complex armor counteracts weapon systems?

A metal robot requires a factory and facilities to repair itself. A molecular printable cyborg only needs to touch a tree big enough to supply enough organic material to repair all battle damage.

The challenge in creating a cyberpunk setting is making today's fears inconsequential and tomorrow's horrors very, very real.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Storyline distances

Game storylines are quite complex things. You start at some point in the story and begin to move forward. One action takes you to the next and options seem to unfold in front of you. You take one path and then the next and the next. The result is something like the image to the right. A very complex and possibly n dimensional figure of interwoven paths moving away and towards each other.

Lets look at the following image. Imagine your main storyline going from the top center downward and slightly to the left. Each action you and your fellow players take moves the story a bit forward. This movement process is not automatic, it requires an effort and not all moves are possible. The white space around the path is space your story can't occupy. There are, so to speak, no "viable scenes" there. Let me make a parenthesis here to clarify that this is not railroading, I will get to that in another post, this is just marking a path through a set of options which are not all equally probable or 100% probable.

As you can see there are other clusters to the right, these are alternate storylines with interconnected moves. These storylines are separated from the main storyline by white space. A story can't simply move from the main story to these alternate storylines without the action being disruptive (that is tunneling from one storyline to the other).

Now how do I envision the concept of "rolling for impact" that +Brent Newhall brought up. Well that downward storyline I'm talking to you about could be a success or failure streak. In Brent's comment he mentioned failure being certain and we'd only be concerned with the degree of impact, but this could very well be turned around to success. Not all failure is automatic and equally impacting and not all success is automatic and equally impacting.

Lets revisit the diagram and start from the bottom center on our way up and work around degrees of success. I find that going upwards and talking about success is more inspiring that downward and failure, but the example can be very well examined in the opposite direction by yourself. That being said let me move ahead. If we assume we will succeed and the only important thing to determine is the degree of success we are then placing a mechanism at work to determine this. This mechanism is die based since we are after all "rolling for impact". Each roll adds a bit of information that is quite different from other rolls. That means we can NOT have binary outcomes. As you can see the path upwards is composed of small and large steps, and there is always a step. Some steps move you sideways and hardly forward and some steps are pure forward moves.

This is what I call the impact of the highly expected. We know we will succeed (or fail), success is expected, what is important now for the story is its degree. It is very hard to obtain a degree of success out of a binary die roll mechanism that signals success (1) - failure (0) as possible outcomes. Unless of course we keep rolling more dice to subdivide the success space into smaller "partial success" spaces, but this is tedious and time consuming.

A storyline with binary mechanics might look like this:

A storline space with very short and fragmented story segments. You either succeed and move on or fail and get stuck. Every so often you might end up with outstanding success or failure which jumps you to another fragmented storyline. It becomes easier to visualize player uncertainty and loss of narrative control. All those places you want to go as a player are now white space, unreachable, and that which is reachable seems so far out of reach.

Now let me talk a bit about move-roll and roll-move mechanics. In move-roll you call your move and then roll to see what happens. In roll-move you roll and then do what's best with that roll. Graphically this looks something like the following:

In move-roll I'm in Pi and say I want to move to Ps. If I make the roll I get to Ps if not I don't get to Ps. The green area is called the inclusion zone. It's where I can move to if the roll succeeds and the red area is the exclusion zone, places I can't reach. In move-roll my statements are defining the inclusion zone and then I roll to see if I can reach it. All the other P points on the diagram are outcomes that I didn't choose to reach. I will address them later.

In roll-move I'm in Pi and I roll, this in turn opens up an inclusion zone from which I can choose a set of possible Ps (portrayed in the image as {Ps1, Ps2, Ps3}). There are still exclusion zones to the left and right they're just defined "a priori" by the dice. I have deliberately selected the roll-move roll to be lower than the move-roll. This to portray the fact that the player is still bound by the die roll. None of the Ps outcomes in roll-move is better than the Ps  outcomes in the move-roll, they're just a lot more and the player has the impression of more outcomes to choose from.

This takes us to the very important question. If I "fail" in the move-roll shouldn't I be entitled to one of the multiple Ps in roll-move? That is, I strive for Ps and roll low, but still within the green inclusion zone of the roll-move diagram. Why do I get nothing instead of a choice between Ps1, Ps2 or Ps3? More so, if I get a way better roll than required to attain Ps, why am I stuck with Ps? Shouldn't I be entitled to P4 or P5?

Lets revisit move-roll from a roll for impact perspective. In this case all outcomes are within the inclusion zone. The player calls Ps as the goal outcome and then rolls. The roll will determine if Ps itself comes up or if any of the alternate {Ps1 to Ps6} outcomes occur. Some are less favorable than Ps and some are more favorable. 

We can now put these little steps together to build the original image and see how these small and sometimes larger steps move the story up the diagram. Sometimes we get a good roll and move upwards a lot, sometimes not so much and we seem to move sideways rather than forward, but we always move, and we do so coherently. No awkward moment when something that should be obviously possible does not happen. No wasting minutes coming up with an action that does not materialize itself due to a bad roll. 

That to me is rolling for impact.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Huitzi 3021

Christopher Columbus never made it across the Atlantic. He drowned at sea or fell prey to mutiny which in turn led his ships astray. Whatever his fate, he never made it back to Spain. Europe never found a short route to the Indies and without the gold that would bring and riddled with towns infested with plague it would fall into another thousand years of darkness.

Fifteen hundred years into the future the world is a very different place. Mesoamerica has risen as technological and spiritual superpower. Fueled by advanced technology and ancient magic it has forged a world of warring states. The gods were real all along and they are creatures who came here from distant planets. A mixture of humans and extraterrestrial beings has emerged as extraterrestrial technology and human magic intermingle.

Earth is a very violent and dangerous place. The ancient gods have revealed themselves as powerful beings from other worlds and xenomorphs live among us demanding tribute in blood. This allows for a fragile balance between life and utter destruction. Magic and supernatural powers tops it all, adding to the powerful mix of science and technology.

Huitzi (hummingbird) 3021 is a game set in Earth's distant future. It takes place fifteen hundred years after what would have been the fall of Tenochtitlan which never really was. Magic and ritual has forged a path to technological revelation which has opened the eyes of mankind to the creatures that walk among them. These extraterrestrial beings have in turn shared their technology with us and fused sorcery with technology. The terrible creatures from Aztec folklore exist. Such creatures as the Tzitzimime are real. They walk among us and are horrible monsters from other worlds who have imposed rituals of blood and sacrifice that have shaped the very essence of the world's culture.

The world is divided into various warring city states ruled by powerful kings under the oversight of powerful patron godlike beings. Society is highly stratified and many still see these beings as great gods with unstoppable power. Ancient shaman magic has intermingled with technology to produce powerful forces that war against each other in an attempt to achieve world domination.

On which side do you stand?

Huitzi logo source

Huitzilopochtli 3021 AD

Huitzilopochtli, patron god of war to the Aztecs (Mexicas), was born fully armored and armed from the womb of Coatlicue, herself the goddess of fertility, rebirth and goddess of life and death. As with so many things in mesoamerican mythology she's a symbol of duality. A goddess who's head is a pair of snakes, who's skirt is made of interwoven snakes and even her arms are snake heads! A fearsome creature portrayed in the image bellow in which you see all the features aforementioned as well as the necklace of skulls and amputated hands that encircles her neck. Makes you wonder what the goddess of the underworld looks like.

Legend says she became pregnant with Huitzilopochtli when a beautiful feathered crest fell from the sky while she was sweeping the temple at Tollan. At that time she was doing penance on the hill of Coatepec and her duty was to tend to the cleaning of the temple. Seeing such a beautiful crest she picked it up and admired it, bringing it close to her and contemplating it for a long time. It was when she was laying the crest down to return to her chores that she noticed a feather missing. No matter how much she cleaned and looked for it in the temple she could not find it. This feather was already on its way to become Huitzilopochtli.

Upon hearing the news of her mothers's mysterious pregnancy her 400 sons, the Centzon Huitznáhuac (gods of the stars), became deeply offended and enraged. Instigated by their sister Coyolxauhqui they decided to turn against their dishonored mother and kill her. It is at this time when confronting their mother with the intent of killing her that Huitzilopochtli is born fully armed and armored. He confronts and defeats his sisters and brothers and dismembers Coyolxauhqui throwing her head to the heavens to become the Moon.

This is all nice and well. Goes along the lines of one of the most popular legends around the birth of Huitzilopochtli. He is also known as the blue Tezcatlipoca and is one of the four Tezcatlipoca alongside Quetzalcoatl (the white Tezcatlipoca), Xipetótec (the red Tezcatlipoca) and the black Tezcatlipoca known simply as "Tezcatlipoca". The Tezcatlipoca are sons of  Ometecuhtli y Omecíhuatl, the creating couple whose offspring also include figures such as Tlaloc (god or rain), Mictlantecuhtli (god of the underworld) and Xiuhtecuhtli (god of fire). As you can see family ties ran deep!

Now I want to revisit the legend from a more futuristic cyberpunk-futuristic-mecha setting inspired from last nights artwork.

Who are these gods? Who is this Coatlicue? A goddess who can give birth to a fully armed and armored son who defeats 400 fully armed gods of the stars, dismembers his sister and turns her head into the moon. Aside from the physical impossibility of giving birth to an adult, there's the added complexity (not to mention pain) of the armor and weapons!

An impossibility easy to overcome if Coatlicue is a mother ship and her son Huitzilopochtli is a fully armed mech descending to defeat the armies of opposing stellar forces (Centzon Huitznáhuac, gods of the stars). The dismembered Coyolxauhqui? Some remains of mech technology on the Moon?

I want to spin this off into an interesting setting that adds bits and pieces of mesoamerican mythology into a futuristic technology and magic mix. Who are these Atlanteans in Tula?

Lets bring these stone monoliths back to life with technology and magic mixed together. Letting the long lost mesoamerican culture jump 1500 years into the future and create an interesting futuristic setting with strange and at times very deadly rituals and values from the past.

A time when this to the left becomes that to the right. A hyper technologically advanced society ruled by fearsome gods of war, life, death and the underworld.

Let me introduce to you a goddess known as Itzpapalotl. She is the obsidian butterfly, the goddess of war and sacrifice, and of course death. She rules over the paradise of Tamoanchan, a place said to be the origin of man who was created out of sacrificial blood and ground up bones stolen from the underworld of Mictlan. If Tamoanchan is heaven just imagine what Mictlan (the underworld) looks like!

What is really frightening about Itzpapalotl is her description. She is described as a black skeletal figure with obsidian claws. She's said to be butterfly like with large skeletal wings tipped in sharp blades as well. Also notice the crest on her head! On top of this her neck is said to be surrounded by a necklace of hearts and hands taken from her victims. The image to the right shows a figure of her on top of a temple taking on human sacrifice. It is said she'd also incite men into cannibalism to give tribute to her and gain her favor or pardon.

Reminds me of a terrible creature that lives in the deepest, darkest, most feared corner of our mind. The dreaded alien queen.

If this is the goddess what is Tamoanchan? Where is this paradise she rules over? And most important of all who or what inhabits it?

Ahh! Overall a great deal of inspiration to bring together prehispanic mythology and folklore with future technology and beings from other worlds. What role would you play?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Seven temples of the underworld

Pyramids in Mesoamerica are not solid rock structures meant to be climbed for the purpose of worshiping some god. They're living structures that grew over centuries and have layers upon layers of lesser pyramids within them. There, are as you would have guessed, tunnels within. Unlike their Egyptian counterparts which are said to be built for the purpose of being a tomb, these pyramids were ceremonial and government centers. The complexity of them is outstanding and no pyramid shows this better than the one in Cholula, Puebla.

Allow yourself to travel back in time a few centuries. Your party has traveled through a mountain pass between two huge volcanoes and is finally making good way over the grasslands and sparse forests that populate this valley. You quest the famed Tlachihualtépetl, the hand made mill as it translates from the local language. It is said that below the now abandoned abbey is an ancient temple filled with great riches. You're now seeking to reach this abbey and enter its crypts in search of a passage to the temple rumored to be below. 

It is late in the fall and the winter is coming quickly. Already all around you you see preparations in anticipation to the celebrations of the dead. You pass a local cemetery dressed in the classic yellow of the zempoalxochitl flower, the flower of the dead.

You pass the cemetery paying respect to the passers by and those in ritual around the tombs and quickly turn down the road to the local town. Once there you find your way to the local market, the center of all commercial activity and a sure place to find information and directions to the abbey.

The market is packed with merchants lined one next to the other and selling a multitude of products, from flowers, spices and seeds to fish, cloth, pottery, candies and all types of foods. In the multitude of merchants, guards, soldiers, nobles and slaves you find a few who can give you directions to the abbey you quest for. Being late in the day you decide to stay in town and journey early tomorrow morning. Who knows what spirits may roam the roads this night. It is not a good trecena (13 day week) to be out and today's sign favors the west, an ill fated direction that points to the falling of the sun everyday and the arrival of the gods of darkness. Better to journey on a less ominous evening. You find a local house to stay in and settle down for the night.

The next day you set off early in the morning and within a few hours you arrive at what you expect should be your destination. You meet a local farmer taking care of his zempoalxochitl. You make small conversation on the matter of his flowers and he expresses his delight at the good season and harvest and the proper time of year to have these flowers for the celebration of the dead, he's hopeful that no external ill will come to this land this time. When asked about the abbey he retracts himself from you and his expression changes to a cold look. He insists you should not be going there, that it is an ill fated place and only harm will come to you and to those who you return to after visiting it. He points at the building to his back and bids you not to return through these roads should you bring bad luck and ill to his land.

You thank him for his good advice and mention that you only wish to see the place and not actually enter it. He seems to see clearly through your lies and only says, "Yes, like all those who've come before you. Just for a look. Don't come back this way!", he turns and leaves you to your travel. You walk the short distance covering a small forest and come up to an amazing sight as the road leaves the bush.

The amazing sight of the abbey standing on top of a hill, a hill so large it seems impossible to think there's a temple beneath it. If so, if so, what's the size of this beast?!?! What dwells within it?

The Cholula archaeological complex is a temple built over a millennium. Its construction is estimated to have begun in the second century BC and construction stopped around 1100 AD with the downfall of Teotihuacán. As you can see, compared to the church on top, the temple is beyond huge. It is composed of seven temples built one on top of the other. This lead to the expansion of the base which reaches 450m (1485ft) per side for the 7th and largest temple built on top of the previous six. The overall height is 65m (215ft).

The ceremonial site is a walled behemoth that has various entry points to tunnels that run into its insides. This has the potential of being an incredible dungeon to explore. The site of seven temples built one on top of each other over one thousand years. Rulers, priests, rituals and sacrifices taking place here for the span of a millennium. What type of creatures and spirits have been buried here with the construction of each new temple. What fate awaits those who journey deep into it going back one thousand years in history.

Imagine dark underground passages covered with images and strange writings. What stories do these murals tell? What magic is at work here? What powers and spirits could be released? What was the purpose of building a whole new temple above the current one? When was this done? Does it coincide with some cosmic timing, the beginning of a new era? Did the old temple become so corrupted and fill with ill spirits the priests required a whole new temple for the next era? What evil has been dormant in here for centuries? Just waiting for an unaware party of adventurers to release them.

Consider that such cultures built their pyramids with tiers representing different planes or levels of existence. Like the Chichenitza pyramid to the left, whose nine tiers represented the nine planes of Xibalbá, the Mayan underworld.

It is easy to see how going down a pyramids tier can take you deeper into unknown worlds of existence. Bringing you closer to the demons that dwell these mesoamerican underworlds.

Welcome to the seven temples of the underworld, journey on brave adventurers.

Image sources