Tortoise

City Settings – Padmeir Upon Tortoise

The land of Ophiel is a vast land of deep time and wide vistas. A year lasts one hundred and eleven months and the sun travels slowly across the blue-green sky. The Keebra people are one of many nomadic tribes but they only have one beast of burden. For their town, Padmier Upon Tortoise is built onto the shell of a mega-testudinidae, a tortoise whose shell is eleven kilometres across and three kilometres high.

Six Cities in 2018

The first in a series of posts exploring cities as the focal point for RPG world building. This city explores nomadic behavior and mega-fauna.


The tortoise, called Ogan by the Keebra, moves at the speed of a human crawl and despite its size its footfall barely shakes the ground. The land behind Ogan is deeply carved by its footprints and the forests are left shredded by its grazing. Ogan moves ever onwards, its movements driven by hunger and instincts the Keebra do not understand or control. The deep green eyes reveal nothing of its mood or thoughts. It only stops in winter, when it digs its lower half into the ground and hibernates until spring.

The city’s structures are built on top of wooden posts that are driven into holes bored in the outer shell. The Keebra don’t know how thick the shell is but don’t like going to the expense of boring postholes more than two metres deep. Though the tortoise’s movement are gentle, no building is taller than two stories as anything higher wobbles excessively. Wood is the most popular building material as the shell isn’t a steady enough foundation for a stone building. The prized locations are those in the recesses between shell ridges as they offer shelter from the wind.

With the city on the flatter top of the shell, it’s a significant descent to reach the ground. To make life easier for the regular hunting parties, dedicated ladder ways have been built to provide access to the rope lifts. Quite a few of the hunting parties have taken to living in vertical villages that cling to the steepest part of the shell. It is mostly meat that is brought up from the ground, as trenches and pits in the shell have been filled with soil for growing crops. The soil is replenished in the winter when the tortoise stops long enough for extended expeditions onto the ground. Any metal the Keebra need is also mined and smelted in winter as such work needs stone structures. Water is collected from rainfall channelled into artificial ponds and wells. If the tortoise wanders into a dryer climate the hunters will be sent to gather water from rivers. The Keebra are able to avoid complete drought because the tortoise does not travel into desert or tundra.

Ogan will occasionally encounter other mega-testudinidae but such is the size of Ophiel it is a once in a generation event for the Keebra . The meeting tribes host lengthy celebrations for as long as the two tortoises are in sight of each other. Maps and goods are exchanged and the hunters engage in athletic competitions. Permanent cities are avoided by Ogan as there is little of the trees it grazes on near them. If the city looks strong then the Keebra trade with them for metals and ceramics. Should the city be unfortunate to appear weak, then the Keebra will form a warband and take what they want. They feel so safe aboard their tortoise that they fear no reprisal.

Plot Hooks

  • Another city carrying mega-testudinidae has been spotted. The Keebra must make careful first contract and negotiate through complex traditions.
  • A nearby city doesn’t have any walls. Raid their foundries.
  • Winter is coming to end and your hunting party must get ready for the waking festival.

Image Credit – Tortoise at Birdland by kennysarmy – CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

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