“… A river of pus? Yeah, this is the perfect place to build a summer home.”
~ Loretta Walsh, Recursion Miner
Also known as the Place of Fear, the sprawling underground city of Xibalba truly earns it unsavory title. Ruled by seven Death Gods, its labyrinthine halls, overgrown gardens, vaulted chambers, and Mayan structures brim with traps and tests meant to confound and slay the unworthy. Those foolish enough to venture into the shadows find themselves stalked by a myriad of creatures like giant scorpions, diseased bats, relentless undead, and cunning jaguar men. And, even though the city is far beneath the ground, unnatural weather patterns like hail, freezing cold, and blistering heat can appear at random and with deadly consequence.
The city expands outward from a centric point (The Ball Court) to roughly form a ‘clock’ shape with twelve temple complexes built at regular intervals. Five of these complexes have fallen into ruin, while seven are the homes for the Xibalba’s remaining Death Gods. Three rivers divide the city’s convoluted interior like canals – one of scorpions, one of blood, and one of pus. Scattered throughout the city are the terrifying Houses – nightmarish structures where travelers are ‘tested’ by threats such as complete darkness, bottomless pits, flying swords, and monstrous creatures. Worse yet, one may not even realize they’ve stumbled into a House until it is too late. The city shifts constantly, rearranging its internal structures, confounding even the most wizened inhabitant.
First-time Recursors arrive in the Ball Court. Once built for deadly competition, the city’s human inhabitants have transformed the extensive area into a small village. In this sanctuary, one can find food and shelter – as well as trade for usable items, such as substandard tech-level armor and weapons. Some stalls even offer the occasional Cypher, although prices are far higher. Maize, beans, and other food stuffs are farmed in sacred caverns around Xibalba, which provide magical daylight and weather. Some underground pools are teaming with blind fish and shrimp. Guinea pig is the main source of meat. Bartering is the main currency, supplemented by the various items of value found in the city – such as beads, shells, jewels, Cyphers, and other trinkets dropped by the unfortunate.
The twelve Temples resemble Mayan pyramid complexes, guarded by powerful jaguar men, ghosts, zombies, and terra cotta warriors. The temples of the Seven Death Gods are continuously under siege with running battles played out in the tunnels and buildings around them. The temples of the Five Fallen are now moldering ruins, and occupied by the former God’s retinue – as well as deadly traps, both physical and magical. They are also brimming with forgotten treasures, waiting for those brave – foolish – enough to enter their darkened halls.
Also known as The Lost, the human population of Xibabla resembles the people of Mesoamerica, culturally and technologically equivalent to the Mayan Classical Period (250AD-900AD). Their society is hierarchical, highly religious, and sophisticated. Elders from each Household answers to a single King or Queen, who in turn makes most of the decisions for the community. Their understanding of astronomy is extraordinary, which has allowed them some insight into The Strange
Original ruled by twelve Death Gods, the centuries of infighting and power struggles have reduced their number to only seven. Each Death God is a force to be reckoned with – on par with a Dark Energy Pharaoh (p. 264, The Strange Core Book). They reflect various aspects of human suffering – such as disease, fear, pain – both in temperament and physicality. Their powers also reflect this aspect – Chamiabac (Bone Staff), for example, transforms its victims into walking (and endlessly aware) skeletons. Each of the Seven desires total domination over Xibabla, but they are now so evenly matched, it has resulted in a complete impasse.
Other inhabitants stem from the Mayan mythology, such as jaguar men, zombies, ghosts, and demonic animals – such as scorpions and bats. These creatures are usually under the sway of the Death Gods, but many follow their own designs – more so with the fall of the Five. Finally, a cult of necromancers has begun to rise within the city, intent on replacing one of the Fallen.
In order to break the impasse, one of the Death Gods offers the players riches beyond their wildest dreams for their assistance against one of its competitors. Of course, whether or not it honors the deal is entirely up to chance.