Monday, April 15, 2019

Harry Clarke Bestiary Project: Jon Tatterdemalion

For Emmy Allen's Harry Clarke bestiary project

Jon Tatterdemalion

Armor Class: Unarmored
Hit Dice: 3 HD
Move: Double human
No. Appearing: 1
Attacks: See below
Morale: 10
Treasure: See below
Alignment: Neutral

A wanderer from an ancient land, hovering half a man's height or more above the desert sands with his feet never touching the ground. He was once married to a spirit of fire, but was exiled from her homestead for dalliances he only ever hints at. He spends his days searching for the stylites of Irem, City of Pillars, hoping to join them (and perhaps run away with their stolen knowledge).

Jon is guileful, haughty, gossipy, terribly intelligent, easy to flatter and difficult to fool.

If he is given a magical item, he will exchange it for another. There are no takebacks. On request, he may offer to teach a spell instead.

If attacked, he will surround himself in a whirlwind and fly away in the chaos. He may also create illusory copies of himself and throw his voice to further confuse matters.

He wears the Ghibli Cloak, which permits him to fly. If given clues towards Irem's location, he will give travelers strips of his cloak, which will slow their falls when held or worn.

Jon's ex-wife is...
  1. Amassing armies against the greater outside world.
  2. Really just glad he's gone, frankly.
  3. A mercantile genius, head of every caravan in the desert.
  4. A fragment of the sun, preparing to return home.
  5. A mirage-illusion that slipped out of Jon's control.

Item, City of Pillars, is...
  1. A myth; it never existed.
  2. Under new management. 
  3. The hollowed-out shell of an underground megabeast.
  4. Undergoing a bloody schism.
  5. Filled with black magic goats for some reason.
  6. Built upside down, with pillars reaching deep into the earth.
Jon is...
  1. Not human and never has been.
  2. Guilty of at least fifteen murders.
  3. Avoiding creditors from the homeworld.
  4. Excessively fond of prophetic limericks.
  5. Cursed to speak backwards.
  6. An escaped wizard's assistant.

(Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A Look at Lancer

This is such a rad cover.

So Tom Parkinson-Morgan (Abaddon) of Kill Six Billion Demons fame just launched the kickstarter for his mech RPG Lancer.

Being a huge mark for anything that man has creative input on, I thought I'd finally get my ass in gear and do a read through of the beta document.

The Basics

It runs on Shadow of the Demon Lord bones (what I always want to see!): d20 + bonuses, try to beat 10. Target number varies in combat for attacks and save rolls.

Boons and banes appear as Accuracy and Difficulty. They work the same as boons and banes.

Skills can add bonuses, as well as a general Grit bonus of 1/2 player level.

I don't know how much I like Grit. At level 6 you only fail on a 6 or less before skills and Boons are even calculated. Seems to be an extra number that doesn't need to be there.

Cycle of Play

Split between missions and downtime. You level up after every mission. More Shadow shows itself. I like that the game is based on this framework, makes it good for stringing together sessions.


Characters have:
  • A background
  • Four personal skills at +2
  • +2 to a single mech skill or  +1 to two
  • 3 talents (you can do a special thing, each has 3 levels)
  • Your gear
Okay, all good so far.

What I don't like here is that it's falling to the PbtA "renaming things that already have names" method of game design. There's no reason to name "get a boon / bane because your background is relevant" as "Invoke" and spend four paragraphs on it. Or naming pilot traits / skills as "triggers"- they're traits. If I say "character traits", everyone knows what I am talking about automatically.

Just say "if your background is relevant, you get a boon / bane". The wheel is perfectly functional, we don't need it re-invented.

Note Well: I have a bizarre, irrational hatred of this sort of mechanical name-changing. Read forward with bias acknowledged.

The more flavorful descriptors of traits ("Blow something up" instead of "Demolitions") is fun and pretty easily understandable, so I am not against that in practice.


They're like big characters. They have stats, they have skills, they have a base frame with a special ability and certain number of slots for modules. Neat. I can get behind it, will be a lot better when it's formatted and I can read it better.

The mech designs are fucking fantastic, of course.


Downtime has certain actions you take between missions (like preparing reserve resources for future missions or other assorted options that have a lot of PbtA influence. At least they are named appropriately). Before a mission starts, you get briefed on the goal and can make preparations, before cutting directly to deployment. I like that. No futzing around. We're here for mechs to fight each other and that is what we are gonna get.

Got some good tables, that's all good.

But then we get to the part where we get multi-paragraph descriptions defining and codifying things like briefs, goals, stakes. A bullet point would suffice. We get this. Anyone opening up this book will get this. Small children will get this.

Being able to push a failed roll and risk major consequences, that's good. Like that as an idea.

From this point on there are a lot of subsystems. Combat and movement and whatnot. It's what you'd expect.

You can clone characters and there's a table of glitches, that's cool.

Big list of equipment tags, also cool, I like tags.

List of backgrounds is not connected to character generation section in the beta.

Then there are about four hundred pages of equipment, mechs, and lore. The mechs in particular border on unreadable in their current state - each takes about 4 pages, single column, and they overlap. That'll be fixed in formatting.

The Bad

This book is too goddamn big. The beta is 566 pages, and there's 71 + 38 + 46 + 174 = 329 additional supplement pages in the docs folder. Unformatted, sure. Mostly artless, yeah. Nit too big.

In the year of our beloved Holocene 12019 this amount of bloat in an RPG book is ludicrous. By Dan standards. Dandards. Too many words. Too much wasted space. It's Shadow of the Demon Lord at its core and you can fit those rules on five pages or less.

There are just too many words.

Likewise, I'm sad to say "there should be less lore" (it feels like blasphemy!) but there needs to be less lore. Minor factions (not the main corporations) can get 2-5 pages of 12 point, single spaced, single column font. Just cutting direct lore dump would drop it to 452 pages.

Lore doesn't help me run a game. Flavor does. The major corporations overflow with flavor, and I can get that all from small descriptions and art. I can take one look at one of those HORUS guys and know exactly what I can use them for. This is the greatest strength of the book and should be leaned into hard. More art, fewer words.

Final Thoughts

I love this idea. I love the core mechanics. I love the art. I want to love it as a book, but to put things into perspective my DCC hardcover is 476 pages (with, it should be noted, quickstart rules at 47 pages total including 2 dungeons). If your core book is 100 pages longer than DCC and has a further 329 pages of supplements it might be a bit too big.

Now, the properly laid-out pages on the Kickstarter have dual-column formatting, so shorter it will probably be. Hopefully this is me going on and on about nothing. But it makes me hesitant to say "yeah, I'll go for the hardcover." The Kickstarter still says 560 pages, and that's a book to be read and looked at, not used. If any would be worth it, it would be this one, but...

I can get over my irrational fear of renaming mechanics that already have functional names.

I trust it will turn out great, grand and wonderful.

But 560 pages is unwieldy as hell no matter how you slice it. I want to actually run this game, which means I the referee and my players need to be able to reference information fast and efficiently with 1 physical book at the table and the pdf on my computer. I'm thrown out of whack by this, because such an issue is a solved problem. It's been a solved problem for years. That the solution has not traveled particularly far saddens me.

Final Final Thought

The pdf better have some incredibly thorough bookmarks and internal hyperlinks.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Layman's Guide to Hard Sci-Fi and 200 POSTS!

Listening to the recent Mothership episode of gg no re, I thought it might be useful to provide a helping hand for people who are interested in running a sci-fi game but don't have the time or inclination to do a research deep-dive.

I will be linking to the videos of Isaac Arthur throughout this post. If you want more in-depth exploration of any of the topics here (and many more besides), absolutely listen to him. 

Light is Law

299,792,458 meters per second through vacuum. Round up to 300,000 km/s. Nothing goes faster. (Except, perhaps, monarchy)

Information and radiation travel at light speed. Getting anything made of matter even close to that speed takes a whole lot of energy and is subject to all manner of weird effects like time dilation.

Space is Big

In short:
  • Interstellar travel is not a casual affair. Interplanetary travel isn't either, but interstellar travel is always a big deal.
  • Interstellar travel takes a long goddamn time. Long enough that cryo, digital storage, or life extension will be more or less required.
  • Interplanetary travel can still take days, weeks, months. 
  • Rerouting a ship in transit is not a lightly-taken endeavor.
  • News travels at light speed. Long-distance communication will have lag.  
  • Don't expect big interstellar empires to form. Communication lag and travel time will put hard limits on that quickly. Expect to see a lot of small alliances and confederacies, getting smaller as you go up from habitat to planet to system scale.
  • If you use space habitats a lot a single solar system can contain trillions of people and more places to visit than you can actively comprehend.

It's the Great Filter, Charlie Brown!

The apparent discrepancy between the size and age of the universe and the total lack of detectable alien life (for an interstellar civilization would get HUGE in a relatively short amount of time) is called the Fermi Paradox. The reasons offered to explain why this might be are many, ranging from the plain (the physical conditions for life are rare, intelligent life is rare) to the more elaborate (the aliens are all just really, really good at hiding from us) and among all of these proposals are and a category of them are called Great Filters: factors that prevent life from reaching an interplanetary or interstellar civilization.

There are a whole lot of them. The most plain are just that the physical conditions for life as we know it are rare or that intelligent life is rare. Sensible, but less gameable. Other options include but are not limited to:
  • They died off from nuclear war / catastrophic climate change / plague / etc.
  • They are trapped by high gravity, icy crusts, hyperdense atmospheres, etc.
  • They are intelligent, but lack the ability to make tools. 
  • They aren't intelligent, and their tools don't have proper analogs to normal technology.
  • They're not going to progress past simple tools for a few hundred thousand years.
Skerples  also offers the following: "Planets do not all have 1 earth gravity, a breathable atmosphere, life we can eat or understand, etc." (Check out his full post on the matter), but a solid summary is that the most human aliens are still nothing like us, and the most Earthlike worlds are nothing like Earth. Anything that resembles humans or Earth was probably designed as such (metahumans and space habitats can come into play here.)

Every Gram Counts

Mass needs energy to move it. Fuel and propellant have mass. The more mass you have the more fuel and propellant you need.

Space aboard a ship is at a premium. You've got to balance everything for your specific trip, because you are trying to hit one moving object with another moving object launched from a third moving object all while trying to keep some fragile bags of mostly water and meat from dying. 

It's Not Easy Getting Into Space 

Gravity is fighting you the entire way up and rockets are inefficient. So there are a lot of better ways to get up there. Including but not limited to!
  • Space elevators - A hugeass cable stung up to a space station in geosynchronous orbit. 
  • Skyhooks - A rotating cable that dangles down into the atmosphere and swings a ship up and around to launch them into orbit.
  • Mass drivers - A fucking huge railgun. Great for launching raw materials off of whatever airless rock you're mining them out of, and if it's long enough you can just make a launch loop.

O'Neill Cylinders are the Shit

Imagine a cylinder 20 miles long and 5 miles across. You can make it bigger if you have better materials. Rotate it so that the interior walls have 1 G of gravity, while the caps and central axis will have none. String some together in a chain or cluster, embed them into an asteroid, surround it with all the support systems you might need.

Congratulations, you have just made where most of the population in a space-faring society will live and the easiest way to do a classical space opera. Now you can hop between radically different environments and cultures in a couple hours, in a spaceship that's more like the family RV.

The important thing to remember is that space habitats like these are better for human habitation than planets: you don't need to fight a gravity well to leave, you can tailor the interior environment much more easily, you can churn them out by the dozens or hundreds from single asteroids. 

Stellar Laser Highways are the Shit

Imagine a laser. Now imagine that it is so fucking huge that it can push a spaceship. Build an entire network of them. Now you have a means of accelerating (and slowing) your ships that doesn't require them to spend fuel, thus allowing them to carry more stuff and more people.

It's still slower than light, but it's damn effective. Can be used as communication hubs too.

Spaceships are not Boats

James Cameron's Avatar was not a good movie. But it has one thing going for it: The Venture Star.

Missing the solar sail, alas.

This is a proper spaceship. Just look at this beaut, this sheila, this absolute unit. Mwah! Look at those radiators! See that little bit by the debris shield, with the two rotating arms? That tiny thing there? That's the crew capsule.

This thing has a maximum cargo capacity of 350 tons, a max speed of 0.7 C, and can get you to Alpha Centauri in six and three quarters years flat.

What I'm getting at here is that this is what a hard sci-fi ship will end up looking like: a tiny little submarine attached to a whole hell of a lot of propulsion.

You Will Not Explode and or Immediately Freeze in a Vacuum

You can survive in open space for as long as you can hold your breath (get the air out of your lungs first, lack of pressure will make it expand and that's no good at all). Still likely to get a nasty dose of radiation but having no air is the big danger.

In Knowing the Rules, You May Now Break Them

Arguments over the relative hardness / softness of any given science fiction media are both stupid and dumb. You're making a story or running a game, and that's the most important thing. Do what works for you, do what makes sense - I like aliens, so I tend to be looser on them than I am with, say, FTL communication. Tweak what you want, gloss over what bores you. The opposite is also true - if there's something that really gets you interested, embrace it and see where it can take you.

Bonus: 200 Posts!

I was going to have post 200 be announcing my Patreon, but that's taking its time and I want to keep making things. So this is post 200 (and the first of the post-G+ era).

Holy shit. 200 posts in just a scrape (month and a week) under two years. I can't say much else besides thank you. I certainly wouldn't have kept it up this long without all of you out there reading and commenting and providing feedback.

There's so much yet to do, and I have barely begun.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

A Creature, a Character, and Warframes for Mothership

Micah (via OSR Discord)


Hits: (3)15
Speed: 55
Instinct: 30
Attack: 2d10 bite
  • Pack Hunters: Generally coordinate in groups of 3-6. Loners are almost always scouts. Their typical tactics are to flank, separate, and ambush prey.
  • Anticoagulant Saliva: Those bitten by a chupacabra will continue to bleed until they receive medical attention. They will take 2 damage / turn until treated.
  • Extending Neck: The bulk of the neck is coiled like a spring in a cavity within the upper torso. At full extension, it has a reach of 10 feet.
  • Limb Sever: On a critical hit, the chupacabra is able to neatly sever the target's 1: right arm 2: right leg 3: left arm 4: left leg 5: lower right arm 6: lower right leg 7: lower left arm 8: lower left leg 9: 10: head.
  • Extra Sensory Awareness : Chupacabras rely on chemical, vibration, and electric field sense to track down prey. For these reasons (and their lack of eyes) they hunt nearly exclusively at night.
Who the fuck designed these. Who the hell decided to create something that is, for all intents and purposes, a bobbit worm stuffed inside a mangy dog. They smell like old fish. They will tear your guts out. They mutilate cattle for fun by tearing their guts out through their assholes. The cows' assholes, not their own assholes. What the fuck. Who made these. They will live just about anywhere below the frostline and generally seem to do better for themselves the shittier the climate is. They really love deserts and rainforests.

Kim Rukiana

Dr. Mei-Ling Zhou

Professor of Climatology and Terraforming at Dì Kù Planetary University (Scientist)
Stats: Strength 26 / Speed 26 / Intellect 43 / Combat 19
Saves: Sanity 44 / Fear 31 / Body 27 / Armor 34
Skills: Cryogenics +10%, Climatology +10%, Planetology +15%
Equipment: Heavy survival jacket (As hazard suit sans vacuum seal), foam gun, personal assistant drone ("Snowball").

Ice Queen of the Planetology Department. Somewhat infamous for her years-long interstellar research sabbaticals. Lone survivor of a catastrophic cryobay malfunction during her graduate program's research expedition to Parashurama (Epsilon Eridani VI). Indefatigably upbeat.

Kevin Glint

Bullet-Jumping Space Ninjas

You are a space ninja. You have a space mom. You are a bullet-jumping murder machine whose primary motivation is looking fucking fabulous. There's something else about maintaining balance of power in the solar system but who cares about that. Get paid.

Pfft. Who am I kidding? You just found the thing in an old cryopod. No idea what it was or what it did. There's no manual for one of these things. 

You're wearing one of the most valuable pieces of biotech in the universe, and now everyone else is more than willing to peel it off your cooling corpse to get their hands on it.

A warframe rig has the following traits:
  • +20% armor
  • Advantage on speed checks
  • Special ability. Each frame has a different ability, which has a certain number of usages (1/3/5) before it requires recharging at a stable and sizable power source (i.e. hooked up to some kind of reactor).
There are, as of writing, a downright excessive number of frames out there. Ain't no way I am converting all of those, so here's a bulleted list of some potential options
  • Enemy-stunning smokescreen
  • Enemy-detecting sonar ping
  • Create protective sphere of ice
  • Monomolecular blade
  • Gain a protective outer armor
  • Twin heavy revolvers
  • Create a wormhole with a 50-meter exit range
  • Release a toxic miasma cloud
  • Attacks on targeted enemy restore life
  • Create a shield aura around allies
  • Turn invisible
  • Summon thrashing tentacles
  • Chain enemies in place
  • Everyone gets a speed boost!
So on and so forth.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

You Remember Our Venerable House...

Joseph Manola made a player class for gothic villains. It's great, it's hilarious, and it's a bang-up scenario and NPC generator. So to that final end, I ran through ten levels of dark secrets to determine what has befallen the once-great house of Lethelock, centered on its current scion, Heironymus.

  1. My brother stole the inheritance of the entire family.
  2. My mother committed incest with my son.
  3. My wife usurped the title of my sister.
  4. My daughter was deliberately driven mad by my son.
  5. My true love was murdered by my mother.
  6. My father was driven mad by my daughter.
  7. I was brought into a life of crime and vice by my brother.
  8. My sister was lured into heresy by the family.
  9. My father murdered my father.
  10. My mother imprisoned and faked the death of my daughter.

House Lethelock

Erasmus Lethelock

A man too mild for his station: too immersed in his library, too easily trodden underfoot by the machinations of his wife, too indulgent of his children. His crimes were those of cowardice and omission, for while he never agreed with the , his silence offered tacit acquiescence. Perhaps he doted upon and tutored his grand-daughter Odette as a form of penance, knowing that it was too late to change his own course or clear the fog of age from his mind. It was not until after her madness and institutionalization that his guilt mastered him: just before dawn, he put a pistol in his mouth and blew his brains out across his precious books.

Odelia Lethelock née Beldevere 

The family's fortunes had already been on the decline when she married Erasmus, but she exacerbated the rot to such an extent that one would not be wrong to trace all the ills back to her. She introduced the worship of the dark old gods of the Seven Heresies to the family. She ordered the killing of Bianca, to maintain control over Hieronymus. She seduced Tobias and furthered his corruption, encouraging him to aim his cruelty towards Odette until such a point that she and her dangerous ideas could be removed. She believes still that she might return the family to its former glory, but she has yet to reveal how this might be so.

Hieronymus Lethelock

Woe-begotten scion of the Lethelock estate. As a young man, his dissolution was legendary: whoring, drinking, gambling, blood sport, sorcery, nothing dark was beyond his sight. All of this was encouraged by his brother Balthazar, with whom he destroyed the family's fortunes in a failed brothel management scheme. Destitute and abandoned by his elder brother, he returned home to manage the estate for his ailing father. For a time he was happy, finding a dalliance with the townswoman Bianca, until she was killed by the order of Odelia and a marriage was arranged with Jessamine. In the two decades since, he has been left a hollow shell of a man, lingering in the shadowed halls of his ancestral home.

Balthazar Lethelock

A most brutish appearance belies a charisma fit for kings and prophets. He spends it all in the gambling houses and brothels in harbors up and down the coast, picking up doxies and diseases without care. He is struck by wanderlust, returning home only for a few weeks after months abroad. While the oldest of the siblings, he willingly gave up his inheritance of the estate to Hieronymus. He was the mind behind a venture that destroyed what remained of the family's fortune: a floating brothel, filled with the delicacies and courtesans of exotic lands. The keel never touched water. Hieronymus was always his accomplice in debauchery, until the younger brother lost his taste for it and the elder went further abroad.

Hippolyta Lethelock

Joined an order of mendicant nuns as a teenager, devoting her life to charity and service. It would have remained so perhaps even to the end of her life, were it not for the letters from her brothers and mother that arrived at the chapterhouse. Through canny argument and dread revelation, they cracked her faith in the Bene Dei and sowed the ruinous seeds of heresy beneath. Unable to wrestle her struggling soul into submission, she blasphemed in the presence of the Mother Superior and was sent to a hermitage for penance. Isolation and rigorous chores have done nothing to dissuade her of the horrible truth.

Odette Lethelock 

For a time, she seemed destined to break the chains of decay that shackled the family. She was sent abroad to study with what little money remained in her grandfather's coffers, far from the influence of Odelia. She was a bright and shining paragon of all good things in the Century of the Fruitbat, but all bright times end. She returned to the estate. As the elder sibling she would inherit the title, and this would not do for the plans of Odelia. The psychological tortures inflicted upon her by her brother Tobias proved too much for her; after half a year, she suffered a mental break. Odelia did not hesitate in sweeping her away to a mountain asylum, and with some hush money paid to the owner, fabricated her death, leading to Erasmus' suicide. Years of isolation and negligence have ruined her.

Tobias Lethelock

If his father and uncle were exemplars of vice in their youth, he has revealed them as rank amateurs. He spends his days in an opium haze, he tortures animals and servants for amusement, he had no qualms about his grandmother's advances, and his hatred for his sister is bottomless. When given an excuse to destroy her and become heir of the family, he leapt at the opportunity. Witless, illiterate, slothful, gluttonous, he is a puppet of Odelia through and through, though he imagines himself fit for a king.

Jessamine Lethelock née Grund

Daughter of a distant noble house, brought in by Odelia to marry Hieronymus. She cannot stand the sight of him and considers the family to be a wasted ruin. Her keen analytical eye gave her some benefit, though, in that she was able to find a means by which a lawyer could transfer the small amount of inheritance still in Hippolyta's name to herself. She has safely stored it back at Grundhome, for such a time when she might rid herself of this damned family.


A candlemaker, beekeeper, and herb-seller from the hamlet. Killed by the command of Odelia, so as to make way for Hieronymus' marriage to Jessamine Grund. By all accounts she was a plain woman with ordinary virtues and ordinary vices.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Mother Stole the Background Kits #4

Marc Scott

Previous Tables:
  1. Basic Kits
  2. Uncommon Kits
  3. Knightly Orders

Table 4: Assorted Professions 

1. Prostitute

Honorable painted ladies of the night.
  • Pigsticker (d6, 1s)
  • Perfume
  • Elegant Clothing
  • Union Membership

2. Antiquarian

Delving dust-choked archives.
  • Rare Tome of Eldritch Lore
  • Relic of an Ancient Civilization
  • In-Progress Dissertation
  • Map of Distant Lands

3. Cook

  • Set of Knives
  • Pots and Pans
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Finely Tuned Smell and Taste

4. Astronomer

"And if you look past the shoulder of Orion..."
  • Portable Telescope
  • Big Book of Star Charts
    • Spell: Navigate the Night Sky
    • Spell: Read the Heavens

5. Apothecary

No! Don't eat that!
  • Assorted Herbs and Unguents
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Bottles and Vials
  • Book of Herb Lore
  • Book of Prescription Records

6. Fisherman

Well, it's not called catching...
  • Fishing Pole
  • Tacklebox
  • Sun Hat with Lures
  • Net
  • Canoe and paddles

7. Sailor

And we’ll roll the old chariot along
  • Mooring Hook (d8, 2s)
  • Rope
  • Tattoo
  • Ticket to a Certain Brothel in Port

8. Farmer

Just like your pa, and his pa, and his pa
  • Pitchfork
  • Old Mule
  • Sack of Produce
  • Straw Hat

9. Artist

Pouring out soul into form.
  • Tools of the Trade
  • Work in Progress
  • Completed Work (For Sale)
  • Completed Work (Not For Sale)

10. Teacher

The sustainers of civilization.
  • Bundle of Textbooks
  • Packet of Fresh Pencils
  • Area of Expertise
  • Spell: Alma Mater

11. Gongfarmer

It’s a living.
  • Shovel(d8, 2s)
  • Wading Boots
  • Bucket of Shit
  • Incredible Stink

12. Houndmaster

On patrol with man's best friend.
  • Blackjack (d6, 1s)
  • Gambeson (12ac, 1s)
  • Dog Treats
  • Loyal Wolfhound

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Fun with Linneaus II

Last year I brewed up a post where I made a bunch of monsters based on cobbled-together scientific names. Now that I'm halfway through The Book of the New Sun the itch has struck again, inspired by Wolfe's love of archaisms and his own Greek and Latin rootwords.

For this installment, I'm expanding beyond creatures and applying it to whatever makes sense for the name.

Acanthomata ("tumor back")

Stoop-backed from the weight of the bulging, pulsing growths that weigh down its spine. Head bowed to the ground, as if in prayer. Yellow eyes burning with the fervor of endurance.

Apulmon ("without lung")

A wizard's homunculus, grown for manual labor in orbit. Paper-thin bones. Shiny black mosaic scutes shield from radiation, solar sails fold against the back when not in use.

Arsenasthenia ("male weakness")

A terribly polite way of saying "vulnerability to being kicked in the dick."

Bidactylocide ("two-finger killing")

A martial art capable of killing a man using only two fingers. Each combination might cause death through a different means - explosion, implosion, liquification, excrutiation, exsanguination, etc.

Electrocrinus ("amber lily")

A rare water flower with petals of fossilized sap. Ancient insects can still be seen inside. Coveted for its conductive properties, used in a variety of folk medicine traditions.

Endodynamodynia ("internal power pain")

A medical condition caused by an inbalance of mana within a practitioner of the thaumaturgical arts. Symptoms include swelling of the lymph nodes, persistent headaches and light-sensitivity, bright discolorations of yellow, blue, red, and octarine starting at the navel and spreading outwards across the abdomen, excessive flatulence, and agonizing pain in the gut when attempting to cast a spell. The condition is not fatal, though any graduate student who's come down with it will argue otherwise.

Glaucoglott ("blue-grey tongue")

A vast salamander thing, twice as long as a man is tall. It can never completely reel its tongue back into its mouth, and uses the bright and flicking tip as a lure for creatures along the shoreline.

Homohippus ("man-horse")

The body of a horse, the legs of a man. The skull is twinned: a tilt of the head up or down reveals one face, and then the other. One neighs and whinnies, the other screams and stops only when it passes out.

Lacrimognosis ("tear knowledge")

With certain secret alchemical reagents, one might gather and consume the tears of another to gain insight into their lives and loves.

Lactolestes ("milk robber")

Its truest form is a sort of fat lamprey with a dozen stumpy legs. It may lull its prey into believing it to be their infant, thus nursing on stolen goods while the true offspring goes hungry.

Magniporphyrhino ("great purple nose")

An ape with a shaggy grey mane. Its face is flushed red, and the bulbous protruding nose a brilliant violent. Males will inflate this mighty shnozz to attract females during the mating season, an act terrible to behold.

Nocinax ("pain king")


Octodon ("eight-tooth")

The teeth like shovel blades, each on its own mandible and arranged in a circle, fit for burrowing through soil and stone. It is blind and ill-suited to the light and nosie of the surface, but its skin contains many valued anticancerous unguents.

Osteopsy ("inspection of bones")

A divinitory practice, now banned by the new government. In it, one who wishes to have their future read will offer up a bone or bones, from the tip of a finger to an entire leg, to their shaman. The offering will be presented to sacred flesh-stripping beetles, and the cleaned bone will be placed in the fire until it cracks and can be read. If the proper ceremony is made, this prediction will always be accurate. The larger the bone, the more detail can be gleaned.

Spondylscolio ("twisted spine")

Thin and lizardly, coiled up like a spring. Can stick to walls using the gripping pads of its feet and launch itself great distances. Beloved for their cheerful chirps and eating of pest insects.

Striatocetus ("striped whale")

A cachalot named so for its bands of pale grey and deep blue. Known to launch itself out of the water to do battle with its favored prey, the pelagic sky-squids.

Tachystomy ("swift creation of a circular opening")

A finishing move in martial arts: punching a clean hole out of a target with a single blow.

Tritympani ("three eardrums")

Like a three-armed starfish, with a taut membrane between each arms. Arboreal, use vibrations of their membranes for simple humming and buzzing calls, and to attract insect prey.

Umbilicodendron ("umbilical tree")

A tree that is too much like a spine, with leaves too much like teeth. Meat-rope branches dangling down to raw red fetal-curled forms by the yellow-grey roots. They stir. Ride faster.

Xenula ("small foreign thing")

No bigger than a marble, but clearly alien in substance. Flit away from contact. Scrawl signs in the dirt. They may very well think.

Xiphzymy ("fermentation of swords")

Ritual preparation of dueling swords, where the chosen blades are steeped in a mixture of goat's milk, wild honey, and alcohol.