Monday, January 15, 2018

The Wanderers

They are wanderers among the stars, descendants of some ancient race that was particularly sensitive to the emanations of the cosmos.

These are based on the format of +Skerples'  races, and are a fine fit for spaceship crews.


Lean and fleet-footed. Grey, pock-marked skin. Hairless.
  • Reroll DEX
  • Will not get tired from from running
  • Will die if more than lightly encumbered

Wreathed in veils of golden haze. Beneath the clouds one might glimpse rugose folds of technicolor fungi. Eyes like stars. Always female.
  • Reroll CHA
  • Take half damage from fire, acid, and heat.
  • Will corrode carried items that are not glass or magical metal

Swarthy brown. Stout. Hair like moss. Smells of petrichor. Tracks dirt and dew everywhere.
  • Reroll choice
  • Can speak with animals and plants
  • Disadvantage on saves against poison

Wiry, rust-red. Hair and beards like dirty snow. Drink blood. Broken teeth. Always cold to the touch. Always male.
  • Reroll STR
  • Does not need to drink water
  • Spites peace in all forms

 Broad shoulders, thundering voice. Banded skin like orange sherbet. Hair like roiling clouds, blue and white. Red right eye socket, empty.
  • Reroll CON
  • Cannot be knocked prone
  • Aura of spell failure (save vs magic to cast), draws spell aggro

Tawny gold skin. Ice-particle halo. Faint hexagon scales. Elegant and calm.
  • Reroll INT
  • Can float atop water
  • Eat their own children

Electric blue and placid. Features are rotated 90 degrees: the upper limbs are one leg and one arm, the line of the face is perpendicular with the ground, and so on.
  • Reroll at random
  • Trained in a random skill (3-in-6)
  • Perpetual target of mockery

Deep blue, splotched with darker spots and ribbed with white.
  • Reroll WIS
  • Half damage from cold
  • Cannot eat cooked or warm food
  • Reroll none
  • Advantage to saves against fear, due to great love
  • Haunted by cold and lost souls

Saturday, January 13, 2018

100 Convictions

These can be used with +Arnold K. 's conviction system , or just on their own.
  1. The aristocracy must be overthrown.
  2. I will take my father's ashes to the summit of Mt Endon.
  3. The dead are a resource we can never run out of: why not use them?
  4. Others exist only to serve my needs and wants.
  5. Gold-Eye Tom is going to pay for what he done to this family.
  6. Health and cleanliness are of utmost importance in life.
  7. The underclass need to be regularly reminded for their proper place.
  8. I've got to take care of my sister's family, what with her ill and her husband a piece of shit (good riddance). 
  9. Money trumps all bonds of blood, king, or god.
  10. Be honest and forthright - duplicity, deceit and hypocrisy are the greatest of evils.
  11. I don't care where I go, I just want to get away from here.
  12. It's turtles all the way down - have a laugh!
  13. Weakness cannot be tolerated.
  14. I will sea the ocean again, before I die.
  15. Love is most noble and beautiful, a perfect and delicate treasure to go a-questing for!
  16. Love is hard work, every day, but it's solid and real and dependable.
  17. Love is for idiots. It never works out.
  18. Nothing better in life than a good fishing spot and some peace and quiet.
  19. The treasures of the past must be cared for and learned from.
  20. I will see the gods of Bathepshaar taken from the temple there, and see the king of that city thrown down at my feet. 
  21. There is a comet fast approaching; I must prepare for the ending of the age.
  22. A person's public face is their worth. I care not for private matters, so long as they remain so.
  23. My body is a loathsome thing, I need to change it somehow.
  24. We are all, all of us, running out of time.
  25. Nothing good ever came from wizards.
  26. You can't just go around life like you're sleepwalking.
  27. City folk don't have a clue what it's really like out here.
  28. It's not an invasion, it's a rescue mission.
  29. All beings possess an innate dignity.
  30. What authority has a king? Countries and borders exist only on maps.
  31. Trust no one and nothing. The world is a sham, the truth is hidden by the powerful.
  32. It's their own fault. Let them die.
  33. This world is hell, I must find a way to escape.
  34. I can't use it now, what if I need it later?
  35. Animals are better company than people.
  36. Personal responsibility must be avoided; it is too great of a risk.
  37. War is man's greatest folly.
  38. With this expedition I am certain that my theories will be vindicated!
  39. I will find my brother, pull him out of that Red Star Cult, and bring him home.
  40. I will give what aid and comfort I can to the suffering.
  41. It is a pleasure to burn.
  42. Sacrifice to the gods and you will be blessed.
  43. Don't fuck with bridge club.
  44. I will become a vampire! I definitely, totally will! And it will not backfire!
  45. The only good is serving the Supreme Leader.
  46. There's so much to be learned from the barbarians outside our borders. 
  47. The rightful king must be restored, and I shall be his right hand.
  48. Cheat to win, back down to live. Honor will get you killed.
  49. My spouse and kids and the most important things in my life,
  50. There are things people don't need to know. Let them remain secret. 
  51. Strive towards balance and fairness in all aspects of life.
  52. I've never experienced this distant foreign culture, but I'm still fetishistic in my adoration.
  53. I must keep my shameful addiction secret at whatever cost.
  54. Make the world yours. Stamp your face upon it.
  55. Things used to be better, now they're awful (and this is not true).
  56. Things used to be better, now they're awful (and this is actually true).
  57. Everything is a wonder, nothing is mundane.
  58. I must complete this work of art, I have come too far to quit.
  59. The world cannot be saved, but I can slow the decline.
  60. We will found a new nation, free from the corruption and tyranny of old.
  61. One cannot grow stronger without being broken first. One must be the breaker.
  62. The moon landing was faked by wizards.
  63. Modernity is full of vice and sin, it's much better to live alone in a swamp.
  64. It may take fifty generations, but we can bring life back to these arcane wastes.
  65. I am motivated primarily by ass.
  66. The gossip and drama of nobility are the great vicarious pleasure of my life.
  67. Peaceful approaches have failed. Justice must now be delivered by steel.
  68. Ironclad faith leads to mad, dangerous, impractical acts of devotion.
  69. I must atone for my crimes during the war.
  70. When you look at the net positives, human sacrifice isn't all that bad.
  71. Contrary to all evidence, you know your nation is the greatest on the earth.
  72. The record needs to be set straight about Amhuld Sanshar.
  73. Everything is a gamble, nothing a guarantee. Bet anyway.
  74. The gods have brought me nothing but pain. I spit upon them all.
  75. Simple, honest living builds a good man.
  76. All sharp edges must be rounded, all roughness smoothed out, all complexity simplified.
  77. We need to teach our ancestors' ways to the younger generation.
  78. Fuck the future, damn the consequences, give it all to me now.
  79. Things will get better, someday. 
  80. It's always better to act from the sidelines, rather than the front.
  81. Everything outside my immediate sphere of comfort is profoundly terrifying and is to be avoided whenever possible.
  82. These new-fangled young professors don't have any respect for academic tradition!
  83. Letting go of the past is difficult, but necessary.
  84. Hell will be emptied, paved over, and laid to rest at last.
  85. Perceptions of reality are malleable: the thing itself might as well not exist.
  86. I am absolutely not controlled by mind-worms.
  87. Induction into the sacred mysteries will reveal the Golden Secret of Creation.
  88. I love ADVENTURECORP (TM)! They made me what I am today!
  89. If we're going to go out, we ought to go out loud.
  90. The magazine wants an article about the flesh-eating insects of the Ranpolog Basin, and by gods they shall have it!
  91. The simple solution is best, no matter who it pisses off.
  92. If you deal with a devil, make sure you can steal your soul back.
  93. All life is based on understanding and our relationships with others.
  94. I live for the approval of strangers.
  95. I've got to avoid repeating my father's mistakes.
  96. Creativity is too big a risk: use what worked in the past, it'll be fine.
  97. Stagnation is just death in slow motion. There must be change.
  98. Chaos will see the end of everything with have worked to build.
  99. See the world! There's so much to explore.
  100. They're going to write a book about me, when I'm gone.

      Thursday, January 11, 2018

      Spaceship as Character



      Spaceship as Character

      Spaceships have six stats. Roll 3d6 for them in order.

      Weapons (WEP) - The ship's ability to successfully hit another moving object with a third moving object.
        Engines (ENG) - The ship's speed, acceleration, and maneuverability.

        Hull (HUL) - The ship's structural integrity.
          Systems (SYS) - The ship's unthinking background functions: life support, communications, sensors and so on.

          Shipmind (SHP) - The ship's built-in intelligence.

          Luck (LK) - The ship's accumulated mana, mojo, and moxie.

          If the ship is operating remotely in a proxy body (robotic, cyborged, or homunculi), substitute the above stats for their standard counterparts. They will act as specialist.

            Other Spaceship Attributes


            HP: None. A successful hit will result in damage being taken directly to your HUL.

            If your ship takes HUL damage, make a HUL save to avoid damage to other systems. Failing the save reduces another stat at random by half of the damage taken, and any modules that would be lost by reducing that stat are rendered inoperable.

            HUL and other stat damage must be repaired in a shipyard, and costs 1000 monies per point recovered.

            Attack Bonus: Base of +1, plus WEP modifier.

            Armor Class: Ships have a base AC of unarmored + ENG modifier. Armor provides damage reduction of 1/2/3 for light / medium / heavy

            Weapons and Armor: A ship's permitted armor and weapon types are determined by its class.
            • Light: Can use light weapons and armor.
            • Medium: Can use light and medium weapons and armor.
            • Heavy: Can use all weapons and armor types.
            To avoid needless granularity, the above weapons are to be treated as all of a ship's weapons of a certain type combined, rather than individual gun emplacements. 

            Light weapons may reduce incoming damage by half with a successful WEP save.

            Heavy weapons take up 2 slots, and must spend a turn between shots to recharge.

            Heavy armor takes 2 slots, and incurs a further -1 to ENG

            Saves: Roll under the appropriate stat.

            Additional Class Modifiers: A ship's class carries additional traits.
            • Light
              • +2 ENG (for purposes of AC calculation only)
              • -2 module slots
            • Medium 
              • +0 ENG (for purposes of AC calculation only)
              • +0 module slots
            • Heavy 
              • -2 ENG (for purposes of AC calculation only)
              • +2 module slots
            XP and Debt: Ships comes with debt. Characters level up by paying off the debt of their ship. Starting debts are as follows:
            • Light: 120,000 XP
            • Medium: 240,000 XP
            • Heavy: 360,000 XP
            Additional fees may be added during ship construction.

            Ship upkeep between major voyages will cost a fraction of the ship's cost, depending on the state of the current port. Upkeep and repair do not count towards XP debt. These values are pulled from Coriolis.
            • Substandard: 1/500
            • Average: 1/1000
            • Superior: 1/2000  
            Alternatively: Use SWN system of 5% per six months. 
            (The base XP value for a medium ship was calculated as what is needed for a 4-man party of fighter, wizard, cleric, and specialist to reach level 7. Maintenance rates were plucked directly from Coriolis.)

            Modules: You know how gear works in Veins of the Earth? Use that.

            This thing.

            1 module = 1 slot unless otherwise stated.

            Spaceship as Race

            Where a ship comes from is often just as important as the crew running it.

            • Cat's Eye Shipyards - Slick, sleek, and fashionable. For those who want to live fast and look good.
              • Reroll ENG
              • Makes a good impression.
              • Does not sell heavy vessels.
            • Runkadunk-Voix - Family owned and operated for three centuries. Sturdy, affordable ships, though you'd best look elsewhere for fancy.
              • Reroll HUL
              • x0.9 cost
              • SYS and SHP stat maximum of 13. Sometimes have to kick things a few times to get it working.
            • Sunstreamer - High-end, experimental vessels built by a start-up company of hip transhumanist venture cybercapitalists.
              • Reroll SYS
              • Free computer uplink implants for all crew members.
              • Distinct lack of privacy due to data collection, adblock doesn't work
            • Bubo Works - Alien mercantile hegemons. Bright colors and bulbous shapes.
              • Reroll SYS
              • Advantage defending against digital warfare.
              • The shipmind will not reveal itself, if it exists at all.
            •  Blood and Thunder - A PMO that got into the spaceship business.
              • Reroll WEP
              • Intimidating exterior commands respect.
              • Small print states you are now members of Blood and Thunder and are thus obligated to fulfil contractual combat obligations, whether you want to or not.
            • The Womb
              • Reroll SHP
              • Begins with Cloning Wombs module
              • Gross flesh-tech, shipmind is a star child fetus, ship is vulnerable to contagious diseases.
            • Astromechanico
              • Reroll choice
              • Repair costs cut by 50%
              • BECOME AS GODS
            • Big Dipper Star Pilgrims
              • Reroll LK
              • Magnet for benevolent astral spirits
              • Magnet for malicious astral spirits
            • Standardized Interstellar Transports, Incorporated - Mass produced budget ships. Blocky, bland, utterly soulless.
              • No reroll
              • x0.5 cost
              • Stat maximum of 12
            • Lichyard Union - The finest necromatic astronaval vehicles in the galaxy.
              • Reroll HUL
              • Begins with Skeleton Crew module 
              • Internal atmosphere is thin and desiccated; cracked lips and bad skin are guaranteed.


            There are six required modules in every ship: 
            • Bridge / Cockpit
            • Computer
            • Drive
            • Life Support
            • Quarters
            • Storage 
            These modules count against your module total.

            50 Additional Modules
            1. Alchemical Distillery - A potion brewery and reagent workshop. A normal brewery too.
            2. Ancient Astronaut Starter Kit - Comes with everything you need to pose as gods to pre-contact civilizations.
            3. Angel Choir - Rows of electrum and silver choir lofts. The colony of angels that calls this place home will provide navigational aide, and protection against most magical threats. 2 slots.
            4. Aquarium - A glass tank filled with fish and other aquatic lifeforms. Can be used as quarters for amphibious crew.
            5. Armor - Comes in light (as leather, DR 1), medium (as chain, DR 2), and heavy (as plate, DR 3, 2 slots, -1 ENG)
            6. Asteroid Smelter - A small factory, capable of mining and smelting rocky bodies. Provides an additional 2000 monies per month. 2 slots.
            7. Backup Shipmind - A 10 SHP computer that can be used in case the primary mind is damaged.
            8. Cloning Wombs - Can grow a clone of anything in its memory in 9 months.
            9. Cold Storage - Cryogenic chambers for long-term storage of organisms.
            10. Data Storage - A secure computer, separate from the ship's main system.
            11. Diplomatic Lounge - For impressing heads of state, alien ambassadors, and people you pick up in bars. 
            12. Dragon Roost - Provides amenities for a visiting space dragon. Highly radioactive. 3 slots.
            13. Entertainment Suite - For when you just want to watch space-Netflix, or play space-video games. The whole nine yards.
            14. Escape Pod - A short-range emergency pod, can survive atmospheric entry.
            15. Exorcism Field - Keeps etherghosts and space demons out of the ship.
            16. Gravity Generator - Provides a down direction to the entirety of a ship. 3 slots.
            17. Gremlin Nest - Happy home to a family of maintenance gremlins.
            18. Hydoponics - The ship's garden. Supplements food supplies but can support a small crew in case of emergency.
            19. Illusiondeck - Uses high-potency illusion magic to make a completely interactive environment out of an empty room. Comes with a limited number of pre-enchanted scenarios.
            20. Impossible Space - Spacial anomaly leads to a room containing several square miles of uncharted and dangerous alien wilderness.
            21. Kitchen / Mess - A proper place to eat and socialize.
            22. Laboratory -  A place where science happens.
            23. Lightskipper Drive - A potent arcane device allowing travel between stars. Can be integrated into an existing drive for 10,000 monies.
            24. Lucky Charm - An object, an image, an old spot of damage, something of great personal importance to the crew. 1 / session, a roll result can be flipped on a successful LK check.
            25. Lure Launcher - Used to distract astral predators.
            26. Map Room - An interactive display that will provide up-to-date information on the system and region. Reduce travel times by a quarter.
            27. Medical Bay - Halves recovery time from critical injuries.
            28. Ooze Tanks - Storage for cleaning and repair oozes.
            29. Ornate Prow - A battering ram, a gigantic android mermaid, a Gothic nightmare battle cathedral, whatever you want.
            30. Planejumper Drive - Permits travel between stars by flying through an overlapping plane. Attracts the attention of extraplanar entities.
            31. Pilgrim Shrine - Dedicated to the panoply of astral gods and spacer saints.
            32. Printer - A 3D printer with a sizable blueprint catalog. Can create standard items.
            33. Privacy Suite - A soundproofed chamber permitting a moment of quiet while aboard the ship.
            34. Probe Bay - Holds and launches satellites, drones, and probes.
            35. Re-entry Modifications - Allows the ship to enter and exit a planet's atmosphere safely.
            36. Rotating Ring - Provides gravity for a segment of the ship.
            37. Scrying Mirror - Provides low-lag communication with other mirrors within 10 LY.
            38. Sealed Environment - Useful when taking aboard aliens of differing biochemistries.
            39. Secret Compartment - Hidden storage, insulated from most forms of remote detection.
            40. Shield Chamber - A warded and engraved sphere with a single door. Will keep those inside safe from any malicious astral magics directed at the ship.
            41. Ship’s Brownie - A little dwelling place for the ship's small god.
            42. Shuttle - A smaller vessel from transfer between ships, or between the ship and a planet's surface. 2 slots.
            43. Skeleton Crew - This necromantic core comes with 10 dutiful and enthusiastic skeletons.
            44. Solar Sails - Permits a ship with damaged engines to course correct. Reduces resupply costs one step.
            45. Storage Cells - Additional storage, can also serve as a brig.
            46. Summoning Room - A relatively secure chamber for summoning astral or hyperspatial entities.
            47. Teleportal - A short-range spatial gate, permitting access to another gate on the surface of a planet or nearby ship.
            48. Thaumatorium - A wizard's study, fit for the copying and learning of spells, as well as general research.
            49. Trophy Room - A place to display the spoils of one's adventures.
            50. Weapon System - Comes in light (d6, reduce incoming damage by 1/2 with successful WEP save), medium (d8), and heavy (d10, recharge 1, 2 slots)

            Spaceship as Dungeon

            Take all the modules you rolled and arrange them on a sheet of paper. Connect them as you see fit. Fill them with inhabitants and interactives. Use whatever generators you want to fill them out, I'll probably supply one in the future.

            Now you have a downed or derelict vessel to explore, or even a way of passing time on your own ship as you travel between locations.

            Tuesday, January 9, 2018

            Drow-Shaped Space

            If you asked me what my favorite D&D races are, I would say without hesitation that they are drow and tieflings. Not for what they necessarily are, but because I can turn them into all sorts of fun things. They're weird, and they're the right kind of weird where they get the hooks in and make you think "I can do this, I should do this."

            When the spider-themed dominatrices don't cut it, there's plenty of fuel for the mind. I would be remiss at this point to not mention +Patrick Stuart 's Aelf-Adal, +Skerples ' roses-and-cities drow,  +Jacob Hurst and his Hot Spring Elves, and +Chris Kutalik with the Eld. This sort of creative variety is precisely why this topic is so fun.

            Sometimes the space around the center is better than the center itself. Like prime farmland surrounding a dilapidated house. There were good ideas here: they just got stalled out, sidetracked, ignored, or overpowered by bad ideas. But there were ideas, ideas with enough promise that you find yourself drawn back to it and start poking around in the guts of that dilapidated story. There are ideas that worked, and ideas that work that can be reconstructed.

            So then! Drow. This is a post about drow.


            The Lilu


            Mother had a sister, did you know that? The gods cast her deep into the earth for sins we know not, and imprisoned her there along with all her children. This was many long ages ago, perhaps even before the snows melted.

            They are like men seen through a darkened mirror, reflections shaped by the veins of the earth.

            They have lived too long in the presence of demons, in the same way one might live too long in the presence of a leaking nuclear reactor.

            They are impish, capricious, riotous, gregarious, violent and lustful; their blood burns brightly with their appetites and vices. They love fire, pipe smoking, strong drink and burning spice.

            Imagine yourself starving and alone in the dark veins of the earth, and to hear from the cave ahead the stamping of feet, the clapping of hands, the bawdy chants of their drinking songs. They offer you liquor, spiced meat, a pipe, sex. Bounty enough to think you have gone mad. Perhaps you have caught some of theirs.

              The Matriarchs


              Imagine yourself a root of a great fungal tree, a strand of mycelium probing through the fertile earth. Trace yourself up that woven family-organism, all the way up to the crowned and you find her: the beloved autocrat.

              They are the architects and gardeners of the lilu; grow this branch, prune that branch, cross pollinate here just so. Perhaps that is too much of a lie, for they are not gentle and they do not nurture. The dark mirror manifests in them as a megalomania befitting their station: obsession and excess, cruelty and cleverness sharpened by the merciless caves below. Singular identity

              And love, which is perhaps the most terrible madness of all. It's all family business, after all.

              With rule that has gone unquestioned for so many centuries, made even more complete with the death of █████, contact with the surface has been nothing short of catastrophic for the Matriarchs. There are suddenly too many moving to keep track of; do they extend further on the surface or remain below the earth? How much superficial influence may be safely permitted? Ought we change what has been changeless?

              Families have split apart or turned on longtime allies over the matter. It will only get worse.

              Know this: one does not say no to the matriarchs.
              1. Has grown corpulent on the profits of her opium dens. Wears a full-length tapestry-veil of golden thread, embroidered with erotic acts. Extends no kindness, permits no complacency.
              2. Collects the eyes of her husbands and tattoos her wives with poetry. Sickness as a child left her with a permanent wet cough. Believes unquestioningly that she will become her own assassin.
              3. Takes immaculate care of her garden, where she grows rare mushrooms in the still-living bodies of her enemies. Wishes to see the sun murdered, for it is a terrible and evil god. Walks with a painful limp.
              4. Abnormally young for her position. Rarely emerges from the clan distillery. Outwardly friendly, speaks in a booming voice: it is well-known that this is an act, but not what it conceals.
              5. Melancholy and inquisitive. A sorceress by trade. Wears a blind cave eel around her neck, treats it as if it is someone else's infant.
              6. Wears mail of cave-crawdad shells, stamped with wax seals of old family conflicts. False teeth made of obsidian. Whispered to be an usurper, to have killed her aunt and taken her wife as trophy.
              7. Slick and decisive. Spider-silk robes and alkalion-hide boots. Ain't no one's fool, didn't raise no fools neither.
              8. Regularly descends further into the earth, to parley with the deep families. Keeps immaculate records, carved in lead. Reputation as a very dangerous neutral party.

              The Republicans


              Contact with the surface led to all manner of funny ideas filtering into the heads of the poor. Ideas like rights and representation and voting. Ideas like printing presses and coffee shops and civil liberties and independence from the matriarchs.

              Ideas that get you killed down below.

              They are True Believers, idealists dreaming of a republic untainted. They will fight and die for that dream with broadsides and pamphlets and soapboxes and firebombs and hidden rooms and sit-ins and protest marches. A hundred different inner circles with a thousand different plans forward and ten thousand arguments about it. The movement grows. The matriarchs have taken notice. The republic slouches towards the ballot box to be born.

              They will see the lilu dragged kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat, with or without the matriarchs.

              The Two-Faced City

              There was an earthquake that split open the land, so terrible that all the world's maps had to be re-made. In a single night the barrier between above and below was torn down: towns leveled, mountains built up, rivers diverted, valleys carved out, lakes born in pock-marked scars, caves opened to the sky.

              And from the veins of the earth came the lilu, blinking in the light of the moon.  

              They raised a city there, a city of towers and stairs and bridges, like bones cast for omens on the earthen scars. No space is wasted. Everything is connected. By day it rests near-empty, a nest of stone; by night, it teems with the mad energy of the lilu.

              In the lower city,  the veins have not yet released their grasp. There are passages here that lead further into the earth - if one follows them, one could find those lilu that remained in the darkness.

              City Districts

              1. Broken Clock (Upper City) - Puts forward a modern, surface-world air. Republicans are everywhere among the merchants and middle-class families. Book stores and coffee shops and newspapers. The lilu have never been gifted with timekeeping, thus the name of the district's great landmark.
              2. Paradise Pools (Lower City) - There are sulfuric hot springs here, along with opium dens, distilleries, and pleasure-houses. It is the bottom of the mug, where all the dregs settle.
              3. Whitechasm (Upper City) - The canyon walls are white, stuffed with fingertip shells. The constant carving of those cliffs into beautiful forms leaves the neighborhood cloaked in chalk dust.
              4. Firepit (Lower City) - Every surface of the bowl-shaped depression is coated in glazed tiles, the color of an autumn sun. When a lucky ray of light pierces the upper city the pit and all the buildings within look as if set ablaze.
              5. Tanglebridge (Upper City) - Dozens of tiny precipices linked together through walkways of wood and stone and rope, like a spider's web. It is functionally superfluous, and people like it that way.
              6. Path of Banners (Lower City) - A knotted thoroughfare, festooned with colorful flags and paper lanterns. It is the primary way into the lower city, and home to the best merchants.
              7. Silent Faces (Lower City) - Hundreds of massive  stone heads in black and white. Why were they built? Why is it untouched by noise and chaos? Why do the inhabitants go about masked?
              8. Sun Quarter (Upper City) - The foreign quarter, where the city's human inhabitants live. It is amenable, if cramped. Take heed: The matriarchs will have no gods of man in their city.
              9. Eunuch's Spire (Upper City) - The scholar-castrati of the great families hold their wise counsel within this stone spike. Here there is a semblance of order, but only so much.
              10. Shadepier (Lower City) - A small, quiet dock, where one may set out in a white-hulled coracle to the seas beneath the earth.
              11. The Houses' Hold (Upper and Lower City) - A great superstructure like a hollowed mountain or an inverted valley containing the family homes of the matriarchs. It is called by some the Third Face, a city within its own city.
              12. Shoulder Keep / Giant's Ward (Upper and Lower City) - When the ground opened up, it was found that a great  stone form like a man stood in the rubble, holding aloft an island of earth on its broad shoulders. The keep has long been home to sorcerers and mages, mad inventors and the like. The hollow bones and muscles of the giant are a hive for the poor and family-less.

               █████, their Mother's Sin

              It was killed, after all those eons of its dominion. Champions among the lilu went forth to its chambers, all but three died. Spikes of molten lead were driven into its side, its heart was torn out, but still the blood flowed for nine months and the severed head screamed for ten before at last it died.

              The name has been excised. Hieroglyphs were chiseled away, books burned, tongues torn out, graven images ground into dust. All that remains is an empty space, an anti-name, a blank hole in the collective consciousness. Great pains have been taken to keep that space empty. To fill it up again with euphemism or title or the idle daydreams of the forgetful is a danger that no one among the lilu would dare.

              Its magic, stripped from its master, still lingers heavy in the veins and wombs of the lilu. It is their heritage now. It is no curse, they grin. Why curse yourself? Let others curse at you.

              But in whispers there are some who still ask: what sin was so great to warrant this?

              Language of the Lilu


              Blacktongue is an incomprehensible mash-up of slang, idiom, neologism, and vulgarity. Unnecessary speed and wild gesticulation are necessary. Intoxication makes it easier. It sounds like gargling curry and tobacco smoke. Lilu speaking human languages will carry over many of their habits.

              It is possible to learn Blacktongue through carousing in a lilu settlement. 100 monies spent carousing will provide a basic understanding of the language, upgraded to passable and finally fluent with another night and another 100 monies for each stage.

              And his name...his name will  be KILL SIX BILLION DEMONS



              The lilu lived too long in the influence of demons, in the same way that one lives too long in the influence of radioactive materials. Their bodies have been changed beyond the simple pressure of darkness and want.

              40% chance of basic albino coloration
              50% chance of horns
               # of Mutations = 1d4 - 1

              1. Black
              2. Dark Grey
              3. Ash
              4. Red
              5. Blue
              6. Gold
              7. Burnt umber
              8. Dark green
              9. Rotten flesh pink
              10. Jale, ulfire, or octarine
              11. Stripes or bicolor (roll 1d10 twice)
              12. Mottled (roll 1d10 twice)
              1. Ibex
              2. Ram
              3. Crown
              4. Yak
              5. Rhinoceros
              6. Gazelle
              7. Markhor
              8. Antlers
              9. Nubs
              10. Other
              1. Normal
              2. No toes
              3. Opposable toes
              4. Hooves
              5. Talons
              6. Stumps
              1. Smells of incense and spice
              2. Third Eye
              3. Polyphonic voice
              4. Hermaphrodite
              5. Impossibly thin
              6. Grotesquely fat
              7. Carapace (roll second color)
              8. Digitigrade legs
              9. Head tendrils
              10. Seething with parasitic worms
              11. Metallic halo
              12. Blood tears
              13. Shaggy hair
              14. Asymmetrical
              15. Goiters, tumors, and boils
              16. Burnt and shriveled
              17. Folds of rugose skin
              18. Vestigial additional limbs
              19. Osteoderms
              20. Smoldering breath 
                Cosplayer Irina Sabetskaya


                Lilu Player Characters


                • d4 HP / level for veins-born lilu regardless of class.
                • d6 HP / level for surface-born lilu.
                • Blinded if they are without protective eye gear in open sunlight.
                • Can see in dim and low light without penalty. Cannot see in complete darkness. 
                • Are usually specialists or wizards. Rarely fighters. Clerics are automatically suspect and prone to prosecution. 
                • Or just use Daniel Sell's tieflings.

                And some extra details

                • Veins-born are deathly thin and rarely more than four and a half feet tall. 
                • Surface-born are of typical human size from the significantly better nutrition.
                • Excellent low light vision, as well as touch, smell, and hearing. If active in the day they must go about with tinted lenses or igaak goggles.
                • Will eat just about anything that is not overtly poisonous. Possession of or access to adequate food is a sign of social status.
                • Veins-born lilu tend to be intensely agoraphobic when on the surface. Many will be either terrified or hateful of the sun.
                • Without the sun enforcing a circadian rhythm, lilu do not have a recognizable sleep cycle. They sleep then it is needed and wake when they are rested.On the surface, they tend towards nocturnalism. Easier on the eyes.
                • You are born into your mother's line. If you are male, you are married off and will join your wife's family (or for rich families, harem). If female, you probably have at least one wife of your own for political reasons. Sexual relationships are a category all of their own, which is summarized as "fuck it, let's fuck". Child-bearing unions are orchestrated by professional matchmakers who keep pristine genealogies, to cut down on the worst mutations.
                • If you've got no family, whatever the reason may be, you have no social standing. Lots of houseless men and lesser daughters who can't be married take up lives as dungeon hobos for this reason.
                • The surface world has three things lilu society desperately needs: light, food, and space. Even those still deep in the veins will be willing to trade. 
                • Sex, drugs, rock and roll
                • Party hard.

                Thursday, January 4, 2018

                Horror is a Living Thing

                "The kids'll love it! The kids fucking love Slenderman!"
                - a Sony executive between cocaine binges

                (I started watching season 2 of Stanger Things last week. This post has nothing to do with the content of that show, but it is inspired by it. And by the fact that there's a Slenderman movie coming out nigh on a decade after the character first appeared and certainly after it's been run into the ground.)

                Horror is dynamic. It has to be, in order to frighten us - there has to be some sort of violation of the status quo, some toppling of our constructions of how the world around us works, some transgression of what we know or think we know. The placid world is shattered by something that ought not be so, and we are no longer safe.

                All fine and good.

                But the world is not static. Time passes. People adapt. Events occurring cause other events to occur.

                For the purposes of a single horror story, this isn't an issue. The narrative is only dealing with the initial event and its immediate aftermath.

                But if the scope is broadened (by the development of a larger mythos or an interminable string of sequel films, for example) we can run into a problem: time is passing, and nothing is changing. All the monsters are named and known, but we still linger on the moment of impact. The horror element, introduced with such a complacency-shattering bang, is now left with nowhere to go. Actor and acted-upon go through the motions.

                To an extent, I think this is inevitable. But just because horror (being the genre of sudden and terrible change) cannot remain horror, doesn't mean this has to have a negative outcome. If the scope of the work is wide enough that the ripple effects will come into play, I think it by far the better option to let the changes play out.

                Now, in terms of game usage this schema can be used for just about anything that would constitute a dramatic, dangerous change: a Cthulhu cult, a certain school of magic, an invading army, coming home to find the dog writing WELCOME HOME HUMMAN on the wall in blood. You don't even have to start with stage 0 / 1, the horror could be at any point along its development and you have a built-in helping hand at both background and where things might be going.

                0. Everything is Normal

                The world is acting according to consensus. Our troubles are those we can wrap our heads around. Everything is working as it is supposed to.

                1. Discovery

                The status quo is shattered, an outside element is introduced. We have no idea how to respond. There is confusion and chaos, injury and death. We attempt to escape, our countermeasures are hurried and desperate. The greatest damage is done in this stage, and there is the highest chance of death.

                There are occasions where survival of the discovery is the end of the path: the horror is a single instance, and either defeated or departing, it will not return. 

                2. Engagement

                Those of us who are able to survive the initial encounter with the horror, and those who engage after the initial event, are able to regroup and further engage with it. Ground rules will be falling into place at this point ("it's afraid of crosses", "it only comes out at night", etc.). There is evidence of what the horror is capable of. Expectations form, though at this stage they are incomplete and may lead to further danger.

                The threat of being overpowered is still very much on the table at this stage. Engagement with the horror is still very dangerous.

                3. Learning

                Engagement and observation of the horror has allowed us to codify the base rules, expand upon them, and make hypotheses of potential properties. We know enough at this point that the horror can be treated, prevented, or the effects blunted. New information may be revealed that invalidates the previous stages, kicking us back to stage 1.

                The horror may not be stoppable, but at this stage it will become a known factor.

                4. Growing Pains

                There is now enough understanding of the horror to begin experimentation with its principles. Primarily reactive action has been replaced by active action. The primary danger of this stage is blind spots - properties unknown or poorly understood that allow the horror to once again break

                5a. Integration

                The horror is now understood well enough that it has been woven into the fabric of society. Any remaining danger is either distant or improbable.

                5b. Equilibrium

                The horror is effectively contained, separated from society at large. It cannot be mastered or integrated, but a balance between the horror and the world around it is manageable, and becomes the new status quo.

                6. Mastery

                The horror element is now so well understood that it can be replicated, modified, and built upon. Further threat would come from uses of the horror in unorthodox ways, rather than the horror itself.

                The Pithy Example

                0. Everything is fine, no xenomorphs around.
                1. Currently being attacked by a xenomorph.
                2. Realizing that the blood is acid, eggs are bad news, it's scared of fire and weak to bullets.
                3. Can deal with xenomorph infestation with minimal casualties, bringing samples back to the lab.
                4. Experimenting with breeding, taming, controlling xenomorphs, with predictable results.
                5a. Domesticated xenomorphs used as guard animals, cereal mascots, and anime protagonists.
                5b. Wild xenomorph populations are kept under control by specialists, livestock deaths are down.
                6. We can create new xenomorphs, safely integrate xenomorph DNA into humans, uplift xenomorphs. Dangerous traits have been removed or significantly weakened.


                Tuesday, January 2, 2018

                Ordinary Magical Animals

                The Aberdeen Bestiary

                (This is all inspired by Arnold's secrets of mundane animals, and fueled by wanting to replace my empty complaints on how boring the MM appendix is with actual content. Also Wikipedia's unusual articles index.)

                Ape - Capable of creating simple gods of their own. Tend to imitate human behavior, but the amount of understanding of these things varies dramatically. They've got politics down pat, though.

                Awakened Tree - Lovers of gossip, the trees are constantly after news from abroad. Being immobile (and tree-to-tree communication being incredibly slow), they will recruit birds, beasts, bees and men to pass on messages, usually offering magical flowers or fruit in exchange

                Barnacle Goose -  Grey, flightless, armored, foul-tempered, and stinking of sea salt - this is the barnacle goose. They make for excellent guard animals, if one can train them.

                Bishop Fish -  A rare piscene genus, of which all members are ordained priests. Occasional specimens may be found in a cathedral-aquarium, or delivering sermons to beachgoers.

                Boar - Pigs that eat the flesh of man will become more man-like, inheriting everything foul in human nature and nothing of the good.

                Bobbit Worm - Popular familiar with wizards who like outward displays of hostility. There are rumors of a tapeworm variant.

                Bonnacon - A species of cow with a horse's mane and ram's horns, capable of launching high-velocity burning feces across an acre or two.

                Borometz - Vegetable lambs, connected to their parent trees by a rootlike umbilical. Used and sold by wizards for lawn care.

                Camel -  Occasionally carry water nymphs in their humps. Intense study has revealed that camels give the fewest fucks of all animals.

                Cat - Can see ghosts, walk through shadows, and can walk among even the most monstrous of Folk as equals.

                Crocodile - Engage in ritualistic wrestling for territory and hunting grounds, complete with individualized techniques.

                Death-Watch -  A sort of pocket-watch on insect legs. It buries into the walls of a house and makes a faint ticking noise there

                Dog - Actually a god.

                Dolphin - Apocalyptic sex cults.
                Elephant - Will bless or curse a human according to their actions, lasting long past the death of both parties.

                Frog- As a means of preserving an emergency heir, royal bastards may sometimes find themselves polymorphed into frogs and hidden away until needed.

                Giant Spider - The canniest of arachnids have embraced the silk-weaving industry with all eight limbs, trading fine goods for blood sacrifice. A pig or cow is fine, but they are quite fond of human meat. If you're offering.

                Globster - Primordial oozes from the deep ocean that occasionally wash ashore. Their corpses are filled with all manner of benthic treasures and are greatly valued by fleshcrafters.

                Goat - The natural enemy of trolls. Absolutely know more than they're letting on.

                Hippopotamus - A great and terrible demon, feared even in Hell.

                Hydra - The kind that look like trees with no leaves, made of jelly. In good, clean water, they can grow ten to twenty feet in height and will not die on their own.

                Lion - Befitting their station as the first estate of Kingdom Animalia, they require a writ of causus belli before going to war.

                Manta - Capable of launching itself out of the water at such speeds that it takes to flight like a great bird.

                Moon Tree - Grown from seeds taken to the moon and back. Silver-white trunks and fleshy leaves of pink and ulfire.

                Octopus - Comes in 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 100 tentacle variants. Often domesticated by wizards as familiars and assistants.

                Owl - Omens and spells can be read from their pellets. Canopic breeds have corkscrew heads that can be safely removed, and spell components stored inside.

                Phoenix - A small, sunset-orange bird similar to a pigeon or dove, with the unfortunate habit of spontaneously combusting. Their feathers are, among other properties, fireproof.

                Pelican - Pelican blood is a valuable alchemical reagent, known to provide energy and sustenance to those who drink of it.

                Rhinoceros - When ground up, the horn creates a gritty powder that tastes of fingernails and provides absolutely no benefit to anyone.

                Seahorse - Believed by many to detect poisons on contact, grant potency if dried and eaten, stave off seasickness if worn around the neck, and determine the direction of incoming storms. All entirely true, but they cannot breathe underwater. No one is sure how they survive.

                Tiger - Becomes a manticore if it eats 100 men. A man that eats 100 tigers becomes something far more horrible

                Warhorse - Carries a sword in its mouth and canters in marching time.

                Wasp - Requires an exorcism to truly kill: poisons and fire will only do half the job.

                Whale, Exploding - They throw themselves up onto the shore and explode with mighty force

                Sunday, December 31, 2017

                2017: The Year In Review Adventure Setting

                Favorite TV of 2017
                The rogue city-state of Hellsalem's Lot sits like a madhouse on the borderland between worlds. It is a city of chaos and crime, of uncontrolled magic and regularly scheduled existential threats. Terrorist cells breed like fruit flies, cults pop up like weeds, rogue sorcerers lurk in every unattended alleyway, gang wars are so regular they're made into serialized television, and the eclectic members of Libra have to, as their name suggests, keep the balance of it all.

                And deal with the vampires.
                • It's very easy to die and very difficult to stay dead in Hellsalem's Lot. Don't question it, it stops working if you question it.
                • The Blood Breed don't fall prey to typical vampire weaknesses: you're going to need a true name and some potent blood magic to seal those bastards away.
                • It's easy to tell if Femt is behind the current disaster; The King of Depravity loves hacking into video billboards to make his announcements. What a ham.

                Favorite game of 2017
                In the harbor there is an island: a prison that once housed the city's criminals, now overrun with beasts and monsters. The prison's layout is ever-changing, kept a-flux by the weakened dimensional boundaries of its parent city. Creatures within are often possessed of dead cell mutagens, which may in some cases become self-aware and capable of puppeting about corpses as their own bodies.

                • A mad inventor is known to live on the Island, trading powerful magical weapons for dead cells harvested from the bodies of fallen monsters.
                • The great eldritch Watcher still keeps its post in the Insufferable Crypt, guarding the depths of the island from any intruders or would-be escape artists.
                • There's an assassin up in the Clock Tower - who was she sent here to kill, and why is she still here?

                Other favorite game of 2017
                Beneath Hellsalem's Lot there is another city: the ancient grounds of Hallownest, home to the old insect-folk. But the city's time has passed, and the lonely tunnels are now filled with the remnants of that lost civilization. Spelunkers and treasure-seekers are still found every so often in the caves, uncovering the mysteries of the long-dead and long-forgotten.
                • The caves are filled with undead husks, possessed of a terrible infection. The vessel within the Temple of the Black Egg is breaking apart, but none can get inside without releasing the Dreamers' seals.
                • The moth-shaman in the Resting Grounds knows how to cut ones way into the dreams of the dead.
                • The fungi are not to be overlooked. Simple-minded they might be now, but with the leadership of Mr. Mushroom they will inherit the age to come.
                Favorite game-book of 2017
                Further below Hallownest, in the furthest dark abyss, there are the Veins of the Earth. Here there are no friendly faces, there is no bench to sit awhile and listen. There is only darkness and death and unimaginable hunger. There is only cold, blood-slick stone.
                • In the terrible black abyss did the Pale King and his five great Trilobite Knights discover the Radiance ages ago, and build the city of Hallownest by her light. When they turned from her, she delivered a terrible infection upon their dreams, and Hallownest was no more.
                • Fossil vampires, older and more cruel by millions of years than the Blood Breed, still lurk in the stony dark. They are feral and mindless, and can smell blood spilled even miles above.
                • The dErO conspiracy seeps outward, like lead in an aquifer. Rumors of it have even reached the Thinking Machines of the surface world. Tell us what you have seen in the Thinking Machines. There are no Thinking Machines. Tell us what you have not seen. We know what you have and have not seen.

                Other other favorite game of 2017
                Far beyond the walls of mist that wreathe Hellsalem's Lot there is the Downside: a purgatorial landscape of great beauty and great danger. Bands of outcasts make a rough life here, partaking in the holy Rites that might see them returned to civilization
                • The Nightwings have been broken apart. In their absence, the Liberation Rite atop Mount Alodiel cannot be held, and no one may be freed from this hellish land.
                • The bog hags of Flagging Hands have gathered at the Pit of Milithe, to call forth Yslach Astral-born. The stars are not yet right, but soon they shall be so, and the earth ripe for its devourer.
                • "I hear that bastard Volfred Sandalwood is trying to fix the Rites, just to stick it to the old Archjustice. And get this - he knows how to build a machine that can make books! Can you believe that?"

                Other other other favorite game of 2017
                Out past even the Downside there are ruins of an older world, green with life and brown with dust. Here the YoRHa androids do battle with the alien machine lifeforms over a world that has lost both its human and alien masters.
                • Broadcasts from the secret human moon enclave are a regular occurrence, but lately they have been a bit irregular: they've always lacked specific details, that came with the territory, but now they keep mentioning something about dErO machines, and YoRHa hasn't got a clue what the old humans are on about.
                • A pacifist machine enclave has emerged in the forest out near the old amusement park, and to everyone's surprise they've decided to focus their single-minded obsession with imitating the humans of old through the study of existentialist philosophy. YoRHa hasn't got a clue what they're going on about.
                • And now a message from everyone's favorite immortal gay teenager junk salesman, who is also a magical skeleton and has definitely seen some shit: "Every day's a sale, ever sale's a win!" 


                Man, it's been a big year. A pretty rough start and a lot of shakeups throughout, but you know, it turned out pretty okay. The blog's going strong (Seven months now? Holy guacamole.) and I feel like I'm in a better place than I was this time last year, even if only for having a place to yell about games online.

                Happy new year, folks!