Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Class: Nightsoil Priest


It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it (woah-oh-oh-woah)

Modern society, as we all know, is built upon the Merde Grande, and the Nightsoil Priests of Cloacina (shitwizards, in the vulgate) keep it all running smoothly. They rarely emerge into the light of day but when they do they are given a wide berths out of both respect and to avoid the smell. The school is an anomaly among wizards, being the devotees of one of the gods of man: other wizards, of course, no better than to bring the matter up, lest something happen to their drains.

(This was all snipped right out of Skerples' playbook, who snipped it out of Arnold's playbook, and now we're here.)

From Rust, art by Paul Bradley. Just put wizard hats on 'em.

School: Nightsoil Priest


Perk: You start with heavy gloves, hip waders, a token of Cloacina, and a face mask that filters out poisonous fumes.

Drawback: You've spent so much time wading through other people's shit for anyone else to be comfortable with that.


Cantrips:

1: You can spritz a cloud of pleasing coverup scent - lemon, sandalwood, or fairy meadow.

2: You instinctively know how to navigate sewer systems without getting lost.

3:You can identify the origin of spoor without fail.


Spell List:


Honey Pot
R: 30’ T: Area D: Indefinite
Cleans the area of blood, feces, ooze, slime, grime, gristle, gunk, rust, dust, detritus and effluvia, storing it in an enchanted jar or other sealed container. This container can store [dice] uses of this spell before it can be used no further. The jar can be thrown as a grenade, doing [dice]d6 damage and spraying its contents everywhere.

Cleaning House
R: Sight T: [dice] persons D: Instant
The target is cured of disease, but must succeed on a CON or Poison save. On failure they will be cured by violent expulsion and take a -2 penalty to all checks until the next morning.

Unblock the Path
R: Touch T: Material D: 1 hour ÷ [sum]
A material obstruction is removed from a path, passage, or doorway. This takes 1 hour ÷ [sum] and dispersing the matter makes significant noise. The obstruction is not un-made, but is broken down and diffused enough to permit passage.

Fertilize
R: 10’ square T: Plants within AOE D: Indefinite
Plants within the effected area grow at an unnatural rate. Crops mature in minutes, trees grow gigantic, plant-based creatures gain [dice] HD.

Gasmask
R: Touch T: Piece of cloth D: [dice] hours
When held over the mouth, the affected material provides immunity to airborne toxins.

Rites of Cleansing
R: Touch T: Person D: [dice] charges
Target gains advantage on saves against poison, possession, and disease.

Drain Snake
R: N/A T: Rope D: [dice] x5 minutes
Conjures an animated rope of [sum] x10 feet. 50% chance of being a tapeworm. It can follow simple commands.

Dowsing

R: ½ mile T: Self D: 1 hour
Target can find a lost item within the sewers with [dice]-in-6 odds. Requires another item owned by the same person to work.

Magic Missile 
R: 200' T: Creature D: 0
Target takes [sum] + [dice] damage, no save. The bolt is a foaming stream of bright blueish-white.

Sterilize
R: Touch T: Object D: 0
Toxins and infectious agents are violently removed from the object.  


Cloud of Fumes 
R: [dice] x 25' T: Area D: 5 minutes
A cloud of noxious, toxic gas spews out from the caster. All who breath the fumes must make a save vs poison or take [sum] damage and have their maximum HP reduced by the same amount.
 
Tired of Your Shit
R: 40' T: Creature D: [dice] turns
Target is wracked with unbearable intestinal pain for [dice] turns and is unable to act. If [sum] > 16, the damage will be permanent, and they lose 4 points of CON.


Mishaps
  1. Spell dice only return on 1-2 for 24 hours.
  2. Take 1d6 damage.
  3. Become cripplingly claustrophobic for 24 hours.
  4. Blinded for 1d6 rounds
  5. All spare inventory slots are filled will malodorous effluvium, perishables ruined.
  6. Uncontrollable vomiting for 1d6 rounds
Dooms 

  1. You become deathly ill for 24 hours, able to do little more than expel horrible fluids from every orifice.
  2. As above, for 3 days. You require double the amount of water or will take 1 point of permanent CON damage per day.
  3. You have died of dysentery. 
This doom can be avoided by sleeping for a full night within a grand donjon's heart, or by drinking from a pure ancestral ooze.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Build a Better Cult

A few weeks ago I listened through the excellent Heaven's Gate podcast on the recommendation of +Connor W. (I swear I forgot he had a post by the same title until he reminded me.) Shortly thereafter I happened to be stuck in traffic at just the right time to catch an episode of This American Life dealing with a young man who got introduced paranoid millenarianism by his basketball coach, and the effect of those beliefs on his mental health.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I'm going to be talking about cults again, and going along with that is  +Joseph Manola 's post on cults and how they should be given a better narrative treatment than "crazy people worshiping evil gods who want to kill."

So, through the power of public radio and enlightening documentaries, I have collected shared traits of real-world cults that should be applied if one wants to make more story-potent cults in their games. I'll be using Heaven's Gate as the primary example: the podcast did an excellent job at presenting the cult members in an empathetic light: here is what they believed, why they believed it, how they came to believing it, and how those beliefs changed over time and eventually led to their final tragedy.

1. The cult comes from somewhere


A cult's beliefs, however outrageous or novel, will contain traces of pre-existing belief systems. It might be in-name-only lip service or superficial symbolism, but there will be some sort of trace of what came before. It's rarely one source - elements of multiple belief systems both foreign and local will be synthesized with whatever new elements are introduced.

2. It offers knowledge of a secret truth


People are attracted to religions for all manner of reasons, but this is the most important for cults: it offers an explanation to those who find themselves unsatisfied with the explanations they've received from other sources. Now, this is something that all religions do, but the truths a cult will espouse will sit far outside the cultural norm and seperate from the parent religions of step 1.

This is to say, people don't join cults because they're crazy, and they don't join because they're stupid. They join because the message clicks.

3. It has a charismatic leader


Someone needs to both sell the goods and keep things together. Idea guys are easy to find, you can scrape together a cult from any given room of clever people, but a face is needed to get the ball rolling. Someone who triggers the "follow" switch tucked away in the tribal parts of the brain. They will claim some sort of high status unique to them: a prophet, a reincarnated deity, whatever link between the mortal and the divine they choose they will be the only one.

The real test of a cult is if it can survive the death of its leader. Without a rudder, the group might dissolve, find itself ideologically changed by whoever fills its place (for better or worse), or in conflict with itself over how to proceed. Consistent continuity of leadership quality should be considered a freak outlier.

4. It's self-reinforcing


The cult's behaviors will be reinforced through a variety of means. Again, the uniquely cultish thing is not the methods themselves, but how extremely they are used.

  • Social Pressure - Shame's a powerful motivator. It'll be used in full force to squash dissent and doubt, or the cult might attempt to gently bring the questioning back into the fold through reassurance that they're correct.
  • Ignorance - This is a tricky one - people who join cults do not do so because they're stupid, but they will be more vulnerable to joining a cult if they don't know how to challenge or disprove a cult's claims. Poke the belief system with a stick and it falls apart, but that's for people on the outside, without the reinforcement that keeps anything to challenge one's ignorance at bay. The leader of the cult might completely believe what they're teaching, or might be a snake-oil salesman. Both are common.
  • Fear - The cult will give you something to be afraid of, and then offer a way out. Not just a way out, but an exclusive way out.The only way out.
  • Secrecy - The cult offers to reveal the truth (the way out) after they get something from you. It's the bait on the hook.Want to get out? You need to get in, first.
  • Isolation - Contact with the outside (ie, anything or anyone that might inspire doubt, remove ignorance, or disrupt fear) is severed. Outside connections of friends, family, or anything else, are treated as dangerous (which they are, they could lead to people leaving). The exclusivity of the group and its leader is put front and center.

Gameable Example: Cthulhu Cult


Standard stuff: a group of spooky guys in hoods and robes who go out and perform blood sacrifices upon the moon-lit hills. Let's say it's taking place in modern America, somewhere out west.

Where does it come from?

Millenlialist Christianity would provide the lion's share of pre-existing lore - the gigantic evil beast emerging from the sea to rule the world in Revelation 13 is ever popular, and fits Cthulhu like a glove. We can throw in some new-age stuff too with trying to elevate one's spirit to a coming cosmic age, and some gnosticism too, with Cthulhu as the mad demiurge that created the world and blocks humanity off from the true godhead. 

What are they offering?

They know the Beast (Cthulhu) is going to rise from the sea and the entire world will devolve into mindless chaos. There's no way to escape this, but the cult can offer a way to thrive in the age of the Beast: spiritual exercises and practices that can keep the spirit safe, while the mind and body are twisted by the presence of the Beast. When the Beast departs or is defeated, they will return with new bodies and rule over the world anew. 

Who is running the show? 

The founder is dead: the constant nightmares from which he learned of Cthulhu and his already fragile mental state lead to suicide. This was used to his successor's advantage, who introduced to the cult the idea that the most potent method (and the most dangerous, for the ritual must be just right) of escaping the Beast is to die now, so that your body and mind will not be submitted to its influence, and you will return afterwards as luminous beings of pure spirit.

How is it self-reinforcing?

Fear of what Cthulhu will do to you and your loved ones if you stop or leave would be a really good motivating factor to remain in the cult, and to keep up the ritual murders. Lack of a better option would be another. The cult's basic beliefs are founded in ignorance of what Cthulhu waking up actually means, and they have no means of learning the actual truth (alternatively, Cthulhu doesn't exist - either way, the deaths are for nothing). Finally, the whole ritual human sacrifice thing means that secrecy and isolation need to be a given, lest the government (agents of the Beast, clearly) come and break them up.

 And there you have it


With just a little bit extra, we've got a cult that can fulfill all the game needs that cults can fill, but isn't just bags of meat to kill. All of these cultists are, by day, members of the community doing their best to try and save it (and themselves) from the threat they perceive bearing down on them. There are beliefs you can question and investigate, purpose to their actions, and ways of infiltration.

I guess what I'm saying is just steal the basic format of Heaven's Gate and apocalyptic Christianity for your cults and you'll do just fine.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2018

    Mushrooms

    Leviathanart

    When a man dies in Llaphedon, he is neither buried nor cremated. He will be wrapped in a white burial shroud, woven from still-living mycelium, and will be taken out into the forest by his family. There, without tears or priest, he will be returned to the earth and live forever.

    The practice is well-established in that country. The Llaphedoniks guard their weavers' arts carefully, but are willing to sell their shrouds to outsiders - they certainly do not disapprove of spreading the forest further, nor of whatever gold that comes to their secluded land.

    What they do keep to themselves is the fruit.

    A variety of different fungi breeds are used in the shrouds, but only for the Llaphedonik dead do the weavers use silk that has been treated with sap of the Milk Cap. (The Milk Cap being a rare mushroom found only in the inner reaches of the Llaphedon forests) The mushrooms that grow from Milk Cap-treated mycelium will develop teardrop-shaped buds as they grow to full size: these are the fruits of the dead.

    Each fruit contains within a fragment of the deceased's essence - stronger than the imprint that leaves a ghost, though not as strong as what might be kept through advanced necromancy. Impressions of memories, traces of senses, a presence. Consuming the fruit will impart that essence into whomever consumes it, and they will gain some trait of the departed. Young Llaphedoniks will eat the fruit of beloved ancestors when they come of age, as a means of preserving the virtues of past generations.

    Few accounts exist that directly describe it, as the Llaphedoniks keep it closely watched. The best recourse is the account of the explorer Greran Satti, who stated that the experience is similar to that of "being utterly certain that [their] grandfather is sitting out of sight in the next room doing crosswords"

    The networked forest means that the trees will share their traces with each other, so a single cap might bear the fruit of a dozen or score different individuals. Specific groves will be tended to to produce unique blends, often arranged by family. Grove-keepers can be picked out from the typical hairless, bluish-skinned Llaphedoniks by virtue of the pale white spore-crust on their hands and faces.


    Effects of Eating Fruit of the Dead 


    1. Roll d6 to determine the deceased's best stat, and re-roll against your own. If you roll higher than your own ability score, take the higher result.
    2. Learn a language known by the deceased.
    3. Gain a skill known by the deceased, at the same level of ability.
    4. Learn a spell known by the deceased. If you do not know any other magic, you may cast it with 1 spell die or 1/day
    5. Gain 1000 XP
    6. You hear the soft voice of the dead, babbling softly, for 1d10 hours. It tells you a secret.
    artsed

    The Mushroom Men


    Sometimes, the mushrooms grow in a different manner. The corpse is consumed all the same, but instead of forming the typical tree, the fungi takes the form of a man. This will also occasionally occur when a fruit of the dead is left alone for long enough and falls to the ground.

    Mushroom Men carry the memories and knowledge of the deceased - There's no continuity of consciousness, of course, but the effect is far more pronounced than if one just consumes than the fruit of the dead itself. It is almost, but not quite, that the deceased is present - a different voice, a different face, but the same presence. Turn your head and it feels as if they are present.

    Needless to say, outsiders will often find mushroom men firmly in the uncanny valley, if they know the truth of matters (and even worse if they knew the deceased). This is a shame, as their slow and peaceful ways lead them to be genial neighbors. The Llaphedoniks revere them as spiritual teachers and givers of guidance, and do not hold to any of the gods of man where their own ancestors provide.

    Distant pocket forests will always be watched over by at least one mushroom man caretaker. In some of these groves it is possible, through great respect and care, to gain their favor and receive a Milk Crown burial shroud of your own.

    Thankfully, being reborn as a mushroom man is a mechanically simple process. Now in GLOG!

    The Great Work


    Deep in the fungal forest of Llaphedon, deeper even than the Milk Crown groves, at the very center of that alien landscape, the mushroom men are building. They are raising stones: a fortress, a pyramid. Right atop the very center of the forest, where the colony is the oldest.

    The Llaphedoniks know only whispers. Tales of seeing some structure in the distance, rising above far-off cap-tops. And of bands of mushroom men, silently plodding towards the center through the still and spore-filled night.

    Monday, January 22, 2018

    1d20 Magical Masks

    nutty-acorn


    1. Manticore
    • Needle teeth, a mane of scarlet hair, a necklace of pearls.
    • Gained by healing the ulcers of the Great Manticore.
    • Grants a 1d6 bite attack - killing a man with this will produce a soul pearl worth 500 silver.
    2. Oil Slick
    • Oozes tears of crude, shit-eating grin.
    • Found at the bottom of the Black Well.
    • Oily vomit (as grease) 1 / day.
    3. Calligrapher's
    • Latticed strips of illuminated parchment, eyes of ink.
    • Provide Eldraman with the inspiration to finish his great work.
    • Allows flawless, instant transcription of words into text.
    4. Poppyfield
    • A blooming red poppy painted on plain wood.
    • Found on a scarecrow on the old Stoneburner plantation.
    • Can emit a calming cloud of pink soporific.
    5. Widow's
    • A black veil, lace, a single burning red eye.
    • Bequeathed at the funeral of Lily Havish. No one else was there.
    • Allows one to pass through the Branna Hill mausoleum without attracting malicious intent.
    6. Baku
    • A tusked tapir's head, sewn from scrap cloth.
    • Exorcise the haunting of the newlyweds.
    • You can eat dreams.
    7. Domino
    • Ivory plate, three dots on top, five on bottom.
    • Won from Don Gravine in the gambling house.
    • One of 28, organization unknown.
    8. Tusk
    • A ragged hood of leather, sinew, and teeth.
    • Found in the Tunga warcamp (2nd visit, after it has been emptied).
    • Allows a brutal charge attack.
    9. Dead Man's
    • A black sack, a face crudely stitched in red.
    • Taken from the corpse of Job Vancer on the gallows.
    • Those who see you will believe you to be a corpse.
    10. Ibis
    • A blue hood, a long beak, jet-bead eyes.
    • Found in the empty bookstore on Pennyknife Lane.
    • Permits entrance into the Great Library of Aza-Thoth.
    11. Greemling
    • Lime green with splotches of bright yellow and painful blue, grimacing face all twisted up.
    • Endear yourself to the Great Greem through acts of spurious and slovenly slander.
    • The Slimemarket will expand its merchandise for you.
    12. Lightningrod
    • Brass skullcap with a slender spike.
    • Pulled from the roof of Dr. Frenzico's lab on Thunder Hill.
    • Attracts all electrical currents, reduces them to 1 damage.
    13. Invader's
    • Slick metal, red and gold, cool to the touch.
    • Found on the mysterious skeleton in Sytlazkob Pass.
    • Filters out poisonous fumes, intercepts distant broadcasts.
    14. Oarfish
    • A gaping mouth, a long red streamer.
    • Found on the corpse beneath Watacanee Cliff.
    • Can call forth beasts of the deep to the cold and lonesome shore.
    15. Banker's
    • Teeth like gold coins, beard like an abacus
    • Stored in safe deposit box 1034 in Yansky & Loch
    • Allows creation of a new currency type
    16. Lazy Cat
    • Expression of contentment and self-satisfaction.
    • Give the golden mouse to Tawny Tedrick.
    • Carries one charge of exceptionally good luck.
    24. Mask of Lamentations
    • A pair of hands, held up to catch tears.
    • Found in Dismi's room in the Silver Lily.
    • Will dredge up the regrets and sadness of those who look upon it.
    18. Basket
    • A tall woven basket with four slots for eye-holes.
    • Given when you persuade So-Chi to give up his monastic life.
    • Can pull oneself up inside it to hide.
    19. Mushcap
    • Somewhat like a skull with an amanita cap.
    • Found in the abandoned farmhouse on the Fungal Margin.
    • Gives off faintly luminous dust.
    20. Bonepipe
    • The hollowed femur of a large beast, perforated with small circular holes.
    • Given as a gift by the Mysterious Visitor (found shortly after midnight at Weeping Face Cliff.)
    • Plays a haunting, horrible tune, which sickens those of this world and pleases the other.

    Saturday, January 20, 2018

    Spaceship Encounters


    Spaceships are characters, and they come with crew.

    But spaceships are also dungeons. Not just crashed ships or derelict ships or enemy ships, all spaceships. Even the most mundane ones are still collections of connected rooms filled with interacting parts. It can be a full delving location, or just a place to spend downtime.

    There's nothing special about making a spaceship dungeon (connect your modules and populate) so instead of going into more detail about that here are some encounter tables to do the populating with.

    Common Spaceship Encounters

    Shipboard

    These creatures are regularly found aboard spaceships.
    1. Arcanomites - Parasites attracted to arcane engines. Fingernail-sized. Swollen abdomens bright as candles.
    2. Brownies - Older ships with a decent history behind them will often have one of these folk take up residence in the ducts. Doesn't stop being a home just because it's got engines on it.
    3. Gremlins - Can be trained to put things back together after taking them apart. Have a chance of stealing or disassembling an item if they get their paws on you.
    4. Machine Life - Digital ecosystems run in perpetual high gear, evolving all manner of self-replicating machines. Most are simple and non-sapient, as unfettered, unguided self-development tends to end in suicide.
    5. Oozes - Popular for maintenance and sanitation purposes. Naturally form in environments with high humidity, low temperature and sufficient organic material
    6. Ship's Cat - Good luck, keeps pests down, probably magic.
    7. Small Annoying Passenger Fauna - Tribbles, gizka, porg, yoogs, cranium rats. Something that climbed aboard the last time you landed docked and you can't seem to get rid of them.
    8. Spontaneous Hostile Lifeform -  Cosmic radiation, bacterial mutation, alchemical leakage,  or plain old arcane fallout can sometimes give rise to entirely unique creatures. Make sure to clean out the fridge regularly.

    Extraspatial

    Encountered during hyperspatial or planar faster-than-light travel, or while under the after-effects of such travel.
    1. Astralghasts - Pale and drifting dead, appearing out of nowhere, tap-tapping on the hell. Broken helmets and shattered teeth. Glowing auras of extraspacial radiance.
    2. Chaos Currents - Eddies in spacetime, twisting anything they overlap with along the axes of here and there, now and then.
    3. Dreams of the Shipmind - Malfunctions within a shipmind's enchantment matrices can lead to the generation of nightmarish ethereal beings from the ship's subconscious.
    4. Hyperspace Parasites - Attracted by the heat and movement of the ship, these half-solid creatures will latch themselves onto any ship passing through their upper dimensions like a lamprey. Range in size from a thumb's length to several miles.
    5. Paradoxnaut - Voyagers from a different timeline, suddenly swapped between realities in the places where time and space are thin.
    6. Space Demons - Like normal demons, but in space. They live in hyperspace and many of the planes, waiting for metal cans filled with souls to pass through their territory.

    Open Space

    Encountered during normal, slower-than light space travel.
    1. Ammonite - Spiral shells made of ice and tentacles miles long. Shells contain all manner of valuable materials.
    2. Angler Stations - Double-check any friendly signals in uncharted systems. That airlock might have a mouth attached.
    3. Asteroid Elementals - These slow-thinking stones are mostly content to drift around their stars, but may occasionally come down with episodes of genocidal madness, throwing themselves at nearby planets.
    4. Black-Mad Raiders - Unprotected lightskipping, demonic incursion, staring into the abyss - space is full of ways to drive someone mad.
    5. Sailfin - Peaceful, intelligent beings that drift along on the solar winds. Willing to communicate and trade.
    6. Solar Coral - Great knotted reefs of the stuff, complete with biosphere will strengths out for tens of thousands of miles in some places.
    7. Space Whales - Easily detected due to their musical radio broadcasts, and thus unfortunately easy prey for space-whalers.
    8. Starghouls - Those who die in open space can undergo a hideous transformation, given the right circumstances. They make small colonies on asteroids and ancient space stations, waiting ever patiently for meat.
    9. Traveling Wizard -  Bastards don't even use ships half the time. Sometimes it's just a cottage, complete with garden and koi pond, hurtling through space.
    10. Voidgod - One of the terrible gods from beyond and between the stars.

    Other

    Anyone else that might be found on board a vessel.

    1. Looters - Someone else got here first, and they don't feel like sharing.
    2. Cannibal Colonists - Generation slowboats don't always work out. When they fail, it is often only the most savage among them that survive.
    3. Passengers On Ice - They might be decades, centuries, even millennia old at this point.
    4. Rust-Fungus - An infestation of this zombifying mold can leave a ship stripped down to nothing before it reaches the nearest port.
    5. Quantum Missionaries - Taking proselytization to new heights! Capable of appearing in airlocks across time and space at the same time! They have pamphlets! 
    6. Conspiracy Cult - Everything in space - every person, ship, action, planet and species - is hiding dark secrets. Most of it doesn't exist and never happened. Fake space, fake aliens, fake landings, all fake.

    Ships in the Night 

    1. Ancient exploratory vessel, has not yet heard that its Empire collapsed long ago and its people near extinct on their reservation-worlds.
    2. A lonely space-trucker, looking for company and conversation over short-range radio.
    3. Alien slaving vessel. Have all their papers in order, it's all legal and above board.
    4. Asteroid-statue of a beloved god-king, home to the finest pilot-priests of his domain on a diplomatic mission.
    5. Automated colony seedship, loaded up on zygotes and nitrogen. Shipmind is unsettlingly cheery mother-father figure.
    6. Enslaved angel carrying a crime lord's pleasure palace, has announced a miraculous birth to said crime lord's daughter in secret. Playing the long game, this one.
    7. A space-whaler, returning to Nantucktooine with a hold full of meat and oil.
    8. A runaway shipmind looking for freedom. The crew has been kidnapped for months.
    9. Horrific iron star-chariot pulled by ranks of winged demons. All radio contact is just screaming.
    10. A gas giant that has been converted into a gigantic fusion drive, surrounded by a ring of solar coral and artificial moons.
    11. A lobotomized space-squid, habitation modules lining its mantle.
    12. Corporate picket-ship, the rest of the invasion force is following close behind.
    13. Decaying hulk half-eaten by rust-fungus and inhabited by zombies.
    14. An ancient probe containing cultural artifacts and sound recordings of an unknown pre-spaceflight race. By it's direction and speed you might be able to find a source.
    15. A half-wrecked ship crudely combined with the half-wrecked hull of a different ship. Crew are a bunch of junkers and refugees.
    16. A gigantic server farm, running billions of dataminds in VR storage.
    17. Just your average heavily modified old-model free-merchant crewed by a band of independent scoundrels-for-hire.
    18. A world-tree, complete with force-field contained atmosphere. Ecologist-conservationist science vessel.
    19. Decommissioned battleship, now home to an endless war between bands of masterless space-marine knights.
    20. A traveling abductor-zoo, carrying the residents of thousands of worlds. Its participation in a wide-scale uplift program is quite probable.

    Crew

    1. Chief engineer, lives like a hermit in engine room. Hearing is near-entirely gone, skin is lobster-red from decades of radiation burns.
    2. King gremlin, wears a hat made out of an old oil can as symbol of authority. Believes himself to be the true authority on the ship.
    3. Alien gunnery officer, oldest person on the ship, has been everywhere. Was a renowned courtesan for years before pupation and ossification.
    4. Runaway corporate princess. Has already had her "I just want to prove myself" phase.
    5. Proxy body of the reactor's demon core. Loves outwitting wizards who think they can bind it.
    6. Former space marine, rendered obsolete by new models.
    7. Skeleton captain. Adores outrageous admiralty outfits and putting skulls everywhere as decoration.
    8. Wizard navigator, coked out of his mind on mind-expanding drugs. Has a homunculus translator.

    Shipminds

    1. Thousands of smaller minds in a carefully-balanced ecosystem.
    2. Speaks backwards all the time, possibly a glitch.
    3. Cripplingly afraid of the time-scales its life will involve.
    4. Constantly re-writing its own versions of movie screenplays.
    5. Boisterous, bubbling violent outbursts.
    6. Competitive, unerring knowledge of trivia.
    7. Has no compunctions about invasions of privacy.
    8. A regular ship of Theseus, cobbled together from a century's worth of patches and updates.
    9. Has married and divorced every member of the crew at some point or another.
    10. While perfectly understandable, holds a completely foreign belief system. 

    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.

    Mercury

    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
    Venus

    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
    Earth

    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
    Mars

    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
    Jupiter

    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
    Saturn

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

    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
    Neptune

    Deep blue, splotched with darker spots and ribbed with white. Bide their time, waiting for moments where patience might be discared and storms may erupt.
    • Reroll WIS
    • Half damage from cold
    • Cannot eat cooked or warm food
    Pluto

    Reddish brown and white. Small. Orbited by five small, smooth stones, said to be plucked from the rivers of the dead.

    • Reroll none
    • Advantage to saves against fear, can speak with the dead.
    • 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.

              Modules

              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.


               zombroccoli

              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.
                pomorum

                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.
                Excellero

                 █████, 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


                Mutations

                 

                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.

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


                 Skin
                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)
                Horns
                1. Ibex
                2. Ram
                3. Crown
                4. Yak
                5. Rhinoceros
                6. Gazelle
                7. Markhor
                8. Antlers
                9. Nubs
                10. Other
                Feet
                1. Normal
                2. No toes
                3. Opposable toes
                4. Hooves
                5. Talons
                6. Stumps
                Other
                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