This entry is part 3 in the series The Flói Af Loft & The Ryk Bolti
The view from the cavern floor

The view from the cavern floor

Within The Flói Af Loft

Finally, the characters have reached the floor of the great chasm, and started looking around. It is even colder than expected, no more than 10°C, and there is perpetual dust and ash in the air. The sand dunes underfoot are treacherous; seemingly-solid surfaces offer no more support than smoke. As feared, lighting is at a twilight level, broken by the occasional flash of lightning from dust ball to dust ball, or dust ball to ground. The sand itself is more multicoloured than would have been expected from prior observation; what has been presumed to be an illusion of the distance was not, and individual dunes are predominantly one type of mineral sand or another in relatively pure form. There are blues, and purples, and greens, and golds, but the majority comprise four colours: yellows so light they are almost white, dirty greys, blacks, and deep red-browns.

The relative purity of the individual dunes should be puzzling. They consist of light and loose sand, often with no more solidity than smoke, as described, and there are perpetual winds to mix one with another. Characters should expect relatively consistant colouration throughout, created from a blend of the different sand grains, but something seems to be acting to organise them into coherant mineral types.

The only life that the characters have been able to identify other than the occasional clump of cactus are the tiny plant spores that have populated every speck of dust they have seen since they swam into this pocket reality, which are present in abundance. The largest specimen they are able to find is no more than a couple of millimeters across, a free-floating moss of some sort. Certainly, there appears to be nothing of enough sophistication to be the agents of this relatively organised patterning of sands, even at an instinctive level.

It’s almost as though different rules control natural behaviour down here, though anyone with Knowledge (The Planes) can make a check at DC 5 to realise that this is not possible – within the one reality, there is only one set of rules. There may be rules that can only manifest in certain conditions, but no matter where in the reality those conditions are created, the same rules – the natural laws of the plane – will hold true. In order to create an exception to that truism, you have to establish some sort of boundary or barrier between the area in which rules are different and the rest – such as the barrier that seperates this subplane from the rest of the world.

The other puzzling aspect of what can be seen is the continued strange behaviour of the dust balls. From ground level, it can be seen that they never quite touch the surface, bobbing up and down like bouncing balls in slowed motion, bouncing off the cliff faces, the chasm floor, and each other, never quite making contact – except when they pass completely through one another!

The party are the greatest source of heat in the region (with one exception), and hence are the centre of gravitic attraction. Every time one raises a cloud of dust (which occurs with each step taken), a significant quantity of dust “sticks” to the person. By deliberately raising a large cloud of dust, you can completely coat yourself, providing natural camouflage, in effect ‘painting’ yourself the same colour and surface texture as the particular sand that surrounds you. Characters of childish dispositions can play with this for a while, and other characters will never be sure quite what colour the players will be when they turn around next. Doing so also incurs a mild shock of an electrical nature which appears to dislodge the old ‘dust’, so it’s not a case of gradually becoming encrusted in layers of sand, and there is no effect on movement. Of concern to the more sober-minded, the same technique could conceal any number of predators; this area is teeming with plant life, there’s undoubtedly something here that consumes that – and that invites meat-eaters.

Another consequence of the conditions and that rule of gravity is that there isn’t a lot of it down here. For warm bodies, it is perhaps 1/4 normal, while for colder objects it is perhaps 1/16th normal. This makes leaps and jumps dangerous, because you will hit much harder than you expect, given how slowly you seem to fall – at first.

The obvious exception to the “PC’s are hotter than anything else” statement is a lake of molten magma, located at the foot of the lava fall. Another peculiarity of the region is that even though the falling lava has cooled into ash long before it reaches the lake, the lake is nevertheless molten.

Examination of these clues may enable a character to reason out the true behaviour of gravity.

The Flói Af Loft is the least chasm-like chasm they party will have ever encountered, it’s more like some vast lake that’s been drained. If there was some underground channel connecting this lake with the volcano, and the true nature of gravity has occurred to someone, they will realise that the heat of the volcano would draw the cooler lava to it, eventually spreading it all over the place through the magmaspouts. What started as a vast lake of lava would soon be almost empty, but eventually all that lava would become dust and ash, and sooner or later that dust and ash would end up back here – to be drawn back into the volcano by way of the lake. The volcano would act as a great pump, recirculating lava in an endless cycle. And since it’s the heat that produces the air currents, it also keeps the air moving – so that it stays fresh. Without that, nothing could live here.

If any of the characters have discovered the ‘disguise yourself’ technique described above, they will become the centre of attention for a number of the dust balls, which are now swarming around them.

Encounter: Refer Ryk Bolti, below.

After driving off the attacking Ryk Bolti, characters will probably pay closer attention to their antics and soon realise that characters are not the only thing about which they congregate. Where someone has stamped their feet to coat themselves in a different coloured sand, they left a splotch of mismatching colour atop a dune, and the Ryk Bolti also swarm in such locations, After a few minutes, they lift off again – leaving no sign that the dust was ever disturbed. The dust balls themselves are the organising principle that created this sandy wonderland.

Click thumbnail for a larger image

Click thumbnail for a larger image

Efri Undirheimar (The Upper Underworld)

This shows the underground rivers of dust at the aproximate depths of the floor of the Flói Af Loft as well as the cavern floor itself.

Flói Af Loft East

The Eastern end of the Flói Af Loft (upper right on the map) is just as fertile and dust-covered as anywhere else, and seems to receive as much light and moisture, there is no evidence of living plant life on the floor of the cavern, while the walls of the Chasm abound with the plants that might ‘normally’ be expected to grow on the floor. Cactus patches grow so thickly that in some areas the cavern wall seems covered in ivy.

As characters approach, it becomes evident that this is the most densly-populated region they have yet entered. The area teems with what appear, at a distance, to be birds, nesting in trees of some diamond-like substance. If suppositions are correct and the Flói Af Loft was originally a vast reservoir of molten magma that has been pumped throughout the realm by the Great Volcano, they might even be diamonds!

As the diamond trees are approached more closely, it can be seen that what originally appeared to be birds are in fact the same peculiar mammals that would have been observed just when encountering the ape-like Ishka. At the time, characters would have been unable to get a close view of the creatures, but here they are so thick that you can start to see details.

Recipe for one flying creature: Take one four-legged mammal. Transform the forelimbs into bird-like wings, lengthening them substantially, relative to the body in the process. Add a duck-bill to the melange, obviously for scooping up a load of sand, and a throat that’s almost gelatinous in appearance, shaped into wrinkles and folds, like an extra intestinal tract that’s on the outside – obviously a set of filters for seperating the dust from the mosses on which the creatures live. Then miniaturise the creatures so that their bodies are – for the most part – the same size as mice.

These are already known to be the primary food supply for the Veiði Risastór and Aava, which is another reason why these carnivores prefer the walls of the cavern to nest. Even with the abundance of plant life in the area, there does not seem to be enough food here to provision a large population of Veiði Risastór, once allowance is made for the competition the Aava provide. The Veiði Risastór would be compelled to seize any opportune food supply, explaining their periodic aggressive raids against the Dwarvlings.

Flói Af Loft West

Like everywhere else in this cavern realm, this location features some unique geography with it’s own significant features. The walls of the Flói Af Loft come together and fold into a cleft after a turn to the left (as viewed from the central regions), forming a narrow ravine. The rivers of heated softsand that line the edge of the chasm converge, forming a U-shaped lake of softsand that stretches the width of the chasm floor. The ‘lake’ surface is 50′ lower than the multicoloured dunes, creatng a softsand waterfall more than 2 miles in length. From underneath the bridge of the ‘U’ runs a deeper channel of hotter and faster-moving softsand. The channel is perhaps 30′ lower than the surface of the lake, creating a second, inner, waterfall, of hotter sand emerging from the base of the U and cascading down to the lake surface; a water-feature within a water-feature!

The rivers of dust

Note that the underground dust rivers are not completely shown on this level; these are three-dimensional features, and so the deeper (hotter, faster-moving, more dangerous) parts of the dust rivers are shown on the same level as the initial entrance to the plane. If the river seems to come to a dead end, check the other level, and you will find a corrosponding river appearing from nowhere, and vice-versa. Some geographic features are common to both, especially larger hollows, some of which have “islands” and air-pockets above the river surface.

Encounters

  • Eel Beetles – Role as Dung Beetles (waste recycling) – Modify Stirge: no wings, + gills, leaping)
  • Shadow Wight – incorporeal undead – Use Remorhaz with the Shadow Element (Manual Of The Planes p190)
  • Earthdead – Use Chuul+Earth Element (Manual Of The Planes)
  • Fire Scarabs: flesh-eating insects, small, operate in swams. Based on Miniaturised Chuul (3 hd, -4 CR, half stated damage) (refer Monster Manual)
  • Magmarast – carrion & flesh eaters – Use Rast but give them the ability to spin webs of Magma as per Huge Spider (+2 CR)
  • Dust Vultures – carrion eaters – use Yrthak + Air Element (Manual Of The Planes)
  • Scorpio Mantis (Use Monstrous Spider, Gargantuan, -Webs, +Tail Attack (wyvern) + Earth Element) (Manual Of The Planes)
Click thumbnail for larger image

Click thumbnail for larger image

Ryk Bolti (Dust Balls)

Air Elemental, Earth Subtype

Hit Dice:

  • Small: 3d8 (14hp)
  • Medium: 4d8+8 (26hp)
  • Large: 8d8+24 (60hp)
  • Huge: 16d8+64 (136hp)

Initiative:

  • Small: +6
  • Medium: +8
  • Large: +10
  • Huge: +12

Speed: Fly 100′ (Perfect), Burrow 20’

AC:

  • Small: 14 (5 +1 size, +2 dex, +6 natural)
  • Medium: 15 (5 +4 dex, +6 natural)
  • Large: 18 (5 +6 dex, +7 natural)
  • Huge: 17 (5 -2 size, +8 dex, +6 natural)

Attacks, Damage: Slam:

  • Small +6 melee, 1d4+1
  • Medium +9 melee, 1d6+2
  • Large +13/+8 melee, 2d6+4
  • Huge +20/+15/+10 melee, 2d8+7

Face/Reach:

  • Small: 5′x5′ / 5′
  • Medium: 5′x5′ / 5′
  • Large: 5′x5′ / 10′
  • Huge: 10′x5′ / 15′

Saves:

  • Fort: Small +0, Medium +3, Large +5, Huge +9
  • Reflex: Small +5, Medium +8, Large +12, Huge +18
  • Will: Small +0, Medium +1, Large +2, Huge +5

Characteristics:

  • Str: Sml 12 (+1), Med 14 (+2), Lge 16 (+3), Huge 20 (+5)
  • Dex: Sml 15 (+2), Med 19 (+4), Lge 23 (+6), Huge 27 (+8)
  • Con: Sml 10 (+0), Med 14 (+2), Lge 16 (+3), Huge 18 (+4)
  • Int: Sml 4/0 (-3), Med 4/0 (-3), Lge 6/0 (-3), Huge 6/0 (-3)
  • Wis: Sml 11/0 (+0), Med 11/0 (+0), Lge 11/0 (+0), Huge 11/0 (+0)
  • Cha: Sml 11 (+0), Med 11 (+0), Lge 11 (+0), Huge 11 (+0)

Key Skills:

  • Listen: Small: 5, Medium 7, Large 11, Huge 18
  • Spot: Small: 5, Medium 7, Large 11, Huge 18

Climate/Terrain: Earth Elemental Planes
Organization: Pack: 2d8 Small and 1d6+2 Medium and 1d4 Large and +d3-1 Huge
Challenge Rating:

  • Small: 1+2=3
  • Medium: 3+2=5
  • Large: 5+2=7
  • Huge: 7+2=9

Treasure: None
Alignment: Always lawful neutral

Special Attacks & Abilities:

  • Air/Earth Mastery (Ex): +1 bonus to both attack & damage rolls if both it and its foe touch the ground. If opponant is airborn , -3 penalty. If opponant is waterborn, -4 penalty.
  • Burrow (Ex): Can glide through stone, dirt, or almost any other sort of earth except metal as easily as a fish through water.
  • Whirlwind (Ex): Once every 10 minutes, transform into a whirlwind for 1 round per 2HD. Refer Monster Manual p95.
  • Shock (Su): As a free action, Ryk Bolti can deliver an electrical shock of 1d4 per HD. The first d4 is subdual, the second is actual, the third is subdual, the fourth is actual, and so on. Separate FORT saves for half damage. The Ryk Bolti suffers half the damage and loses sentience for as many rounds as it has taken subdual damage from the Shock. If multiple Ryk Bolti are occupying the same space, damage from Shock is split amongst them.
  • Catastrophic Shock (Su): If it suffers more damage from Shock than it can endure, Ryk Bolti explode, doing 1d6 per HD damage to all physical creatures located within 2xHD feet of the explosion. Other Ryk Bolti are immune to this damage.

Special Qualities:

  • Immune to Poison, Sleep, Paralysis, Stunning, and Negative Energy Effects.
  • Not subject to critical hits.
  • Darkvision: 60’
  • Damage Reduction: Small, Medium: None; Large: DR 5/+1; Huge: DR 10/+1
  • Tremorsense (Ex): Automatically sense the location of anything in contact with the earth within 60’
  • Permeability (Su): Up to three Ryk Bolti can occupy the same space at the same time. Damage is split amongs them, round down. Each can attack while in this state.
  • Regeneration (Su): Ryk Bolti regenerate 2 hp per HD each round (while sentient) or 6 HP per round per HD when not sentient. If “Killed,” Ryk Bolti will reform with no memory of previous events at the rate of 1 hp per round. They cannot act until fully reformed.

Feats:

  • All: Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Weapon Finesse (Slam)
  • Large: Dodge
  • Huge: Dodge, Mobility, Cleave (Slam)

Description:

Ryk Bolti are giant balls of dust. Teeming with tiny plants, they are not obviously sentient. Only when the temperature drops sufficiently are they awakened, and in the thermally extreme Earth microplane, that only happens at the floor of the Flói Af Loft, aka the Great Chasm.

The winds in that location blow constantly across various mineral sands generating electrostatic charges which hold the dust particles that comprise the Ryk Bolti together. While in their sentient state, the Ryk Bolti can manipulate and control that static electricity, releasing it in small doses to shock anyone who disrupts their unique environment, or using it ignite their bodies with explosive force.

The sands of the Floi Af Loft are organised into different mineral types by the Ryk Bolti instinctively, so that they can incorporate the correct minerals into their bodies without contamination. Trace elements within the dunes of minerals give each a pronounced colour difference – red, green, blue, purple, black, white, and gold. These colours are also reflected in the colourations of the Ryk Bolti as they grow.

Small Ryk Bolti are Red with a Gold-coloured heart, and are almost completely transparent due to the absence of solid matter in their construction. Medium Ryk Bolti add small amounts of blue to this, but remain predominantly red and gold, and are still largely transparent except at the heart. Growing to Large size involves adding small traces of purple and white, and large quantities of black to the creature’s internal structure, which begins to look more solid as a consequence. Growing to Huge size requires more of everything, especially white, gold, green, and red. Paradoxically, these appear less solid than their large kin, though with more defined internal structures.

Although the larger types of Ryk Bolti have sufficient intellect to communicate, they have never invented language. A “speak with animals” or equivalent magic is required to establish communications. The smaller the Ryk Bolti, the more playful it will be in nature; larger versions tend toward the sober and serious. That said, the depths of their intellect should not be measured by the agonsiingly slow rate of thought that the Ryk Bolti display. They may take centuries to think about something, but their thoughts can be quite profound – when they are finally able to deliver them.

It is a consequence of the conditions within the Cavern Realm of Earth that the Ryk Bolti are very much creatures of two natures; in the main, they are nothing more than free-floating balls of dust and vegetable matter. It is only after passing through the terrible windstorms of the Barmur Af The Veröld that their second nature, as a living thing in their own right, can be discovered. Those windstorms periodically subside sufficiently for the free-floating Ryk Bolti to enter and exit their natural habitat. Since their sentience in no way impacts their behaviour, they will frequently do so, only to lose their intellect until chance brings them back to the Great Chasm.

The Ryk Bolti utilise electrostatic discharges as a method of asexual reprodiction. By generating the right static charges within their internal structure, it seperates and divides in two. Their (limted) intellect and ability to Shock are developments of this natural function.

Combat:

Battle with the Ryk Bolti is challenging, to say the least. They occur in large numbers, and their natural quality of Permeability with respect to each other enables several to attack a single target at once. The fact that they are electrostatic in nature, and that this electrostatic charge is naturally replenished by the environment around them only increases the difficulties they pose. This gives them natural regeneration as well as an electrical shock capability. However, this electrical shock is (effectively) the very intellect of the Ryk Bolti; if they use too much of it in electrical discharges, they become temporarily mindless.

When losing a battle, Ryk Bolti pull out the heavy guns: using internal electrolysis to generate a pocket of inflammable gas within their structure, which they ignite with a spark. While the resulting explosion tears the Ryk Bolti apart and scatters its construction over some distance, other Ryk Bolti are unaffected.

Since the fundamental structure of the Ryk Bolti is that of a cloud of dust, even when “destroyed”, they will eventually refornm. They will have no recollection of the previous events, but will react instinctively to rejoin the battle if combat has not been concluded in the meantime.

Game Significance:

The Ryk Bolti may be significant discoveries from a game perspective in that they are elementals who partake of two elemental natures, and that they are completely non-magical in nature.

Two Natures: It has previously been believed that elemental natures are mutually incompatable. An air elemental was purely an elemental of air; an elemental of water was purely an elemental of a water nature; and so on. The Rik Bolta violate that truism; they are an earth subtype of an air elemental, and both natures are essential to their existance. Their discovery is a significant advance in the understanding of the natural laws that form the universe.

Non-magical: Most origin theories of Elementals discuss them in terms of pockets of arcane energies manifesting sentience within the elemental planes. Since everything there is a reflection of a particular natural aspect of existance, so were the creatures that so manifested. In other words, they all consider Elementals to be inherantly arcane in nature. This belief has persisted despite the repeated failure of DIspel Magic to disrupt the body of an elemental. The Ryk Bolti, however, are inherantly non-magical in nature, and prove that elementals are as much natural creatures as any inhabitant of the prime material plane.

Conclusion

The Flói Af Loft and its inhabitants, the Dwarvlings and Ryk Bolti and all the other creatures that inhabit it, should be an interesting addition to any campaign. In fact, there’s enough material there to be a campaign in and of itself!

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