Once a month here on the Molten Sulfur Blog, I run content taken from our book Archive: Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs. This post is one of eighty entries in Archive, each more gameable than the last!
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From a hundred miles away, you can see the mountain. A hulk of sheer-walled, flat-topped stone – a stage for giants shining in the dying light of sunset. On a cloudy day, you might fly a helicopter to the summit. Once you breach the veil of thick, misty clouds, you find yourself hovering above a pure white ocean. The fog swirls and claws at the sheer sides of the mountain, clinging to the rock before tumbling back down like a dejected wave.
Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima mountains of South America. The peak soars a mile and a half above the surrounding land, and is topped with 1,300-foot cliffs. The flat summit is about 20 square miles, and can sometimes provide a view above low-drifting clouds. These tabletop mountains are considered some of the oldest geologic formations on Earth, dating back over two billion years. Mount Roraima is located on the triple border of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. The cliffs of the Brazil and Guyana sides are much harder to traverse, though visitors are able to climb to the top from the Venezuela side.
The journey to the mountain begins in open savannah, with a handful of tabletop peaks poking up from beyond the horizon. The landscape grows more lush as you approach the foot of Mount Roraima. Green foliage hugs the clear waters of rocky lakes. The cliffs tower over you, an unassailable obstacle. Only from the Venezuelan side can you progress. Partway up the mountain, waterfalls dribble through cracks in the stone. It’s a rough trek to the top – a full day of steep ascent.
Looking down from atop the peak, sometimes all you see is an ocean of white. When the clouds are instead above the mountain, the peak gets rain. Because of its unique flat summit, Mount Roraima is able to maintain a marsh, and sometimes a lake. The water eventually winds its way down and fuels the waterfalls plunging from the sheer cliffs. If you hike to the other edges of Roraima, you might come across a crevasse scarring the summit. In the early morning and day, the crack is silent, but when the sun begins to dip below the horizon, nocturnal oilbirds wake into a disconcerting nightly frenzy, their call like the yell of a man who just burned himself.
If you’d like to spend the night at the top of Roraima, it’s best if you search out one of the summit’s several caves. Without their protection, unpredictable rainfall, low temperatures, and strong winds might make your stay uncomfortable.
Mount Roraima in Play
While Mount Roraima is a beautiful place for a party to visit, it would also make an interesting mass battle arena. Maybe your PCs sign up for a tournament to be held on the summit. They would have plenty of room, but using the edges of the cliffs could be vital for victory. The peak also seems like an ideal lair for a dragon or other giant creature. If the summit has never been explored, it might be because no adventurer has ever returned from the mysterious clouds always circling your version of the peak. Once past the supernatural threats in the clouds, the party might discover the tabletop peak is home to dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, protected from extinction events in the wider world by their extreme isolation. If it worked for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Lost World in 1912, it can work for you too.
I’m running a Kickstarter campaign right now for an early-access zine edition of Ballad Hunters. It’s a tabletop RPG where amateur folklorists fight magical folk ballads as agents of the Crown in 1813 England and Scotland.
The folk ballads of the common people are coming to life. Where ballads are sung, sometimes the lyrics take hold of people, forcing them to act out the events of the song. Enchanted victims take on the roles of characters in the ballads. Imagery and danger from the songs manifest supernaturally. Sing old folk songs at the table, anticipate these strange events, mitigate the damage they cause, and help people where you can.
Ballad Hunters is a sequel to the award-winning TTRPG Shanty Hunters and is powered by the GUMSHOE engine. The zine I’m crowdfunding is a small, early-access version of Ballad Hunters.