Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sons Born of Dragon Lords

Orjan Ruttenborg Svendsen

The Dragon Lords


Ten there were, in the court at the Crown of the World. Mother killed the dragon lords, this we all know, but to think that they are gone and forgotten is folly: Their influence remains strong enough even now, emerging in their descendants as the mark of the old saurian god-kings.

1) Hō-ō, Fire of Heaven
The Mesozoic King, whose majesty was matched only by his pride.

Raiment: Scales like the sunset, feathers as bright as the dawn, eyes of noontide
Breath: Primal solar fire
Aspect: The rage of kings, unquenchable conquest, eyes only for glory days.


2) Qe, Golden One
The haughty god-queen, consort of Hō-ō. The first of felines, by common tradition.

Raiment: Alabaster scales, honeygold plumage.
Breath: Shimmering radiance
Aspect: Superiority and dominion, elegance and cruelty


3) Stvryzon, Cold-Blooded
Unmoved by the politics of the court, he loathed all equally and without ceasing.

Raiment: Shards of glacier blue, auroral fins
Breath: The cold that rots
Aspect: Causeless hatred, immovable conservatism, slow degradation unto death


4) Bennig-Ba, Eye of Eternity
The oracle; a male-female who would speak in riddles and deny the court's purpose through enigma.

Raiment: Scarlet eyes patterned on silver scales.
Breath: Breaker of minds
Aspect: To gaze off the edge of the abyss, and see there truth.


5) Enesh-Kal, Keeper of the Sands
The up-and-comer, the desert-hatched, the self-made lord.

Raiment: Sculpted waves of glass
Breath: Lightning upon dry air
Aspect: The dissonance of inside and out, the unexpected new


6) Va Sin Dahl, Sleeper
Emerging from the lands of dream only on occasion, to give silly and ill-informed opinions.

Raiment: Soft purples pinks, and blues, skin like silk pillows
Breath: Thundering voice
Aspect: The disconnection of the dreamer, misplaced innocence


7) Aunoom, Voice in the Deep
At the base of the mountain there was a bottomless lake, and here did Aunoom live.

Raiment: Vast feathered gill-fans, biolominescent flanks
Breath: Black-and-white hyperpressure fumarole
Aspect: The silence of primordial waters; chaotic undercurrent of deep time


8) Nai-Nom, Steel-Faced
The enforcer, the vizier, chosen confidante and old confederate of the king

Raiment: Layered plates of burnished steel; mane of blackened iron quills.
Breath: An iron tooth, spit at speed
Aspect: Glory through violence and victory through injury; denial-of-life


9) Xebal, Devourer
Gluttonous and glutinous, a perennial mocker and hypocrite; could never be pinned to a position.

Raiment: Mud-brown and moss-green, mottled and peeling
Breath: Bone shards and offal
Aspect: Singularity of self, encompassing greed, false kowtowing


10) Raan, Above the Stars
Distant and silent, alighting upon the world only rarely and saying nothing of what he saw beyond.

Raiment: Vantablack and points of light
Breath: Stellar radiation
Aspect: The great mystery


Dragons Today

In the way that there are still finches at my birdfeeder, echoes of the true dragons creatures survived into the present day: wyrms, wyverns, drakes, sea serpents, rocs, thunderbirds, terror birds, phoenixes, isolated pockets of surviving saurians, and so on. None of these creatures can reach the majesty of their ancient sires nor their power or size. The few that have the potential for speech and higher thought carve little kingships for themselves out in the wilds or find themselves at the heads of guilds and banks.

The more pressing danger are the men who call themselves dragons. Men who believe they are owed the world, and have no qualms about taking it for themselves. They show no allegiance to the gods, reverence for the Folk, nor sympathy for their fellow man.

Many of them are allied with Hell, in full knowledge of the inevitable betrayal. They lose no sleep over it. They don't lose sleep over anything they do.


The Eleventh Dragon


There is one Lord remaining, exiled from the Crown of the World long before all of this happened. He waits sleeping far beneath the land and seas. If he were ever to wake, he would devour the Holocene world and make solid his claim of kingship.

The secret cultists of the Eleventh Dragon are by all reckoning the most dangerous individuals in the world.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Terrible Horrible Beauty and Wonder

It looks so much better in person

S. Petersen's Field Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors makes the Mythos beautiful. This isn't just because of the fantastic art (which is top-tier, top-notch, top-shelf, and top-gun) but for the special way that the art combines with the text, and how that can then be applied.

You see, the Field Guide is written as an in-universe text (complete with fake citations, one of the top 3 ways to pander directly to me) compiled by scholars of the preternatural at good old Miskatonic U. As such, they're significantly more enthusiastic and open-minded about the whole deal - the topics of their study are handled with excitement and curiosity, though still with great care: most can still kill you quite easily. It's closer to how a naturalist would talk about a tiger, or a dinosaur, or something else of that nature

The titular horror has been approached as a living thing, unstuck from the limits and attitudes of its original incarnation. The reaction provided by the text isn't "run away, hide, go insane, and die, in that order if you're lucky" - it's "here's what we know, isn't that neat?"

In short, everything is terrible and horrible, but beautiful and wondrous too: Here's the information, go where you want and extrapolate what you will.

Which is just what I'm going to do. Buckle up, we're doing some setting extrapolation.

The Most Important Fact in the Entire Mythos


Australian physicist Nevil Kingston-Brown dies in 2518. This means that Australia, the profession of physicist, the structures necessary for the previous two things to exist, and boring-ass white guys (alas) still exist on Earth up until at least that date. There is no need to panic.

Re: Elder Things


  • There are still Elder Thing settlements on Earth's ocean floor.
  • Descendant sub-species exist out among their abandoned and collapsed colonies. 
    • [Which may, like their progenitors, be relatively-comprehensible to humanity.]
  • At least one known incident of seeding life on a colony world (see: Earth)
    • [Thus, through action or accident, there is cause to think there might be more planets out there that ended up the same way. No guarantees, but the possibility of alien life more on our level.]

Re: Yithians


  • A cult exists to protect and facilitate Yithian travelers when they are in a modern era.
  • The cult maintains an active trade of information and technology with the Yithians.
    • [This isn't a cult, this is sensible people acting sensibly and diplomatically. This is the foot in the door.]

Re: Byakhee

  • Possess an organ which facilitates flight, capable of reaching 0.1 C in vacuum.
  • Said organ can also facilitate causality-maintaining faster-than-light travel at a speed of ~ 1.1 ly/day, for relatively low energy requirements.
    • [Seriously, they can break lightspeed and only end up really, really hungry.]

 

Re: Mi-Go


  • Are in possession of a sizable interstellar civilization.
    • [Seem to have replaced the Elder Things as the dominant power in local space. Overlap possible, co-existence probability unknown]
  • Only interested in Earth for some rare-earth mining operations, willing to employ and consult with humans to maintain secrecy and security. 
    •  Certainly not entirely trustworthy (see: brain canisters), but they seem to favor worlds inimical to human life and going about their business.]

 

Re: Deep Ones

  • Biologically immortal - their bodies simply don't break down.
  • Originated on Earth, have hybridized with humans and dolphins.
    • [DNA is thus no stranger than any other Earth-based life, splicing possible]
  • Can hibernate for decades, burning off most body mass to survive without nourishment. 
  • Hybrids gradually show more traits before full transofmration, but not all achieve metamorphosis. Specific stimuli or genetic markers might halt full transformation.
    • [Hello CRISPR]
  • Significant and widespread civilization in the oceans, but maintain connection to human coastal settlements for purposes of reproduction.
    • [Perhaps they need us. Perhaps they are sterile on their own.]

Re: Ghouls

  •  Specifically human-derived, means currently unknown.
    • [Similar in traits to those transformed by Ithaqua. Potential link?]
    • [Similar in traits to ghasts. Potential link?]
    • [The state of carnivorous undeath seems malleable in humans.]

Re: Shoggoths


  • Have been domesticated by Deep Ones and Elder Things.
  • Can be conditioned to grow in specified organ-patterns.
    • [Primary danger seems to be conditioning/programming breakdowns. Proceed with great caution, akin to AI development].

So Where Does This Lead Us? 


  • Yithian technology and deep-time knowledge is the foot in the door and the first step to getting off of Earth before the eventual end-date.
  •  Alliance with the Elder Things possible, though I cannot say if it's probable, as it is not explicitly stated if we have anything they want. They may be willing to part with some technical knowledge in exchange for assistance in reaching their old colony worlds.
  • Trade deals and diplomatic agreements can be made with the Mi-Go. Even with the brain in a jar thing, humans are typically a lot worse to other humans than the bugs are.
  • Deep-One hybridization on the small scale should be possible through gene-engineering. Further interaction with the Deep Ones via hybrid proxies can be used in conjunction with Elder Thing knowledge to gain (relatively) safe shoggoth usage.
  • A shoggoth could potentially / should be able to replicate a byakhee's flight organ. (It's easier than catching and maintaining a domestic population in Earth orbit) The terrible hunger caused by FTL usage can be offset through solar or nuclear energy sources.
  • Ghouls and Hybrids can be used as vanguards for long-distance or high-danger expeditions.
And this is without touching the Dreamlands, or half the other things in the book, or all the stuff in my other CoC books, or half of the other potentials that could be here.

Humans being humans, every step here will inevitably be fucked up.

Too Long, Didn't Read


The future of humanity is Abe Sapien riding around the cosmos with his ghoul co-pilot on a faster-than-light shoggoth with solar sails and that's awesome.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

20 Soulslike Bosses


Axel Saurwald

To fill your dungeons, build your worlds around, and use Skerples' super-helpful boss fight design notes with.

1.Rosary-Keeper Tolhei

No words spill from her cracked lips any more; without the other keepers she cannot afford to stop. Her mantras have not stopped since the cathedral collapsed under the weight of its own reliquaries.
 

2. The Lord of Broken Men

"Where are you going, solider-of-my-kingdom?"
"I seek the Lord beyond the dry hills, for he knows the rest of death."

3. Image of the Beloved

When art outlives the emotions that gave it birth, the artist risks possession by a vindictive muse. See here, the damage was not wrought by time or elements, it is too cruel for that.

4. Gallows Knights

They stood at the foot of the gibbet all through the Dying Years, despite their common birth. There were simply not enough nobles to maintain the estate, is all.

5. The Great Gharial

The canny old pet has grown to fill the lily pool of the palace's abandoned wing. Do not trust the birds, for they all whisper little nothings while cleaning his snagglesome teeth.

6. Bladebreaker Jhan

Broken by the wars he led, he threw himself on his shattered sword and became the first Antiwarrior. He brings the peace-war behind him, a tattered banner to smother all conflict.

7. Face of Mercy

"It is of great use, sirs high and low: we are all sinners, and I the worst of all. Does that not make its purpose self-evident?" - the sculptor Maurien, during his trial.

8. The Lonesome Behemoth

It trudges up and down the riverbank at twilight, calling for a mate that will never come home. It is the last. Are you so moved by pity? It is only an animal.

9. Fleshmerchant Kataz

He set up shop wherever he pleased, but his favorite of all was beneath the Bloodsopped Bastile. Fresh cuts at dawn, every day; sweet meats and chitterlings in the afternoon, marrow in the evening.

10. Frost-Rimed Monolith

It appeared without sound nor warning in the cold mists of autumn. Will you kneel, or approach it with back straightened and sword oiled?

11. Contessa's Dread Desire

The nature of the Contessa's hidden lusts was never confirmed by the gossiping multitude, but the object of her affection could not be questioned; Ash-Face the clown, who suspected nothing.

12. Dollmaker Quill

The princes' demands grew too much for the poor old dollmaker, in time. She retreated to her tower, and her manikin daughters said nothing of the projects worked on within.

13. Glistening Husks

Some higher power scooped out all their innards and soul-stuff, leaving empty skins brittle with want. The touch of the faint-glowing slime is enough to inspire dream desires so strong as to be toxic.

14. Dreameater Matriarch

She wears two faces and two bodies; one the sweet and beautiful-terrible slumbering shape, the other has yet to be seen.

15. Wistful Stargazer

So great is its desire for the heavens that its body has become thin as wires. Moths in their hundreds fill out its patched golden robes.

16. Butcher Rubicon

He supplied the fleshmerchant loyally for decades, until that misbegotten morning when he spied lovely Rachella tiptoeing through the bastard's back door.

17. Royal Librarian

He never misplaced a book, but could never find what shelf he left his soul on. Keep your eyes on the floor, look for the footprints with the freshest blood.

18. Atavist Drole

"I am an animal!" he cried as he leapt upon the banquet table, knife in hand. "All of us, animals!"He carved out a handful of brain and ate it there, happy as a free man can be.

19. Drowned Choir

With their white robes rippling beneath the holy lake, one asks what they did to be drowned so; they are so placid and peaceful! The truth is that they walked in on their own, no reason more.

20. Eater of the Sun

Once upon a time, a young man stumbled across a piece of fallen starflesh. He has wanted for nothing since, besides his youth and his humanity.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Néandr and Idaltu

The four core races of D&D aren't human, elf, dwarf, and halfing. They're all human: H. sapiens, H. sapiens idaltu, H. neanderthalensis and H. floresiensis. Elves and dwarves belong with the Folk, ineffable and inherently magical. The demihuman classes never really had a lot to set them apart, so why set them apart all that much?

I did a post a while ago on the florens, and you're all pretty well acquainted with the manun, so here are the other two peoples among Mother's children.Everything listed applies on top of whatever old school class you are using, and presumes LotFP.

Tom Bjorklund

Néandr


Stocky and hirsute, the néandr were first born into the Snows and thrived in those cold days. In these warmer ages they have retreated to the mountains and tundra where it is more comfortable for them, but they can still be found in healthy numbers throughout the lands of their cousins. The shape of their mouths and throats can make it difficult to speak many other human languages, and so they will typically stick to their own or speak simply.

Clan Membership: A néandr who has not been exiled from their clan might always find sanctuary and support from their kinsmen and their allies. Conversely, their clan’s enemies are also their enemies, and an individual might be called on by their elders to perform a task for the clan.

Old Man's Song: Néandr with a WIS of 13 or an INT of 15 know the sacred language used in oral histories. It is possible to hear it up to 5 miles away (given clear air and strong lungs), so long as the listener understands it. 

Clans of the Néandr

Roll twice for allies and twice for enemies. Repeated rolls indicate factions within a clan.
  1. Roving Tusk – Heavy fur collars and ivory mead-horns. Headbutt hellos and iced mead.
  2. Fire-Belly – Bright red tattoos on bared stomachs. Fire-eaters, fire-breathers, spice merchants.
  3. Stone-Head – Born under the ceaseless stony vigilance of Azad, god of the Old Men.
  4. Blacktooth – Betel-leaf chewers and tale-spinners. Never entirely trustworthy, by purpose.
  5. Redwood – Spirit-keepers of the misty rain-forests. Adherents of balance in all things.
  6. Hearth-Keeper – Keep the fires going, the stewpots full, and the communal halls warm.
  7. Chalk and Tar – Paint their skin white and black before entering battle. Badlands nomads.
  8. Mound-Builder – Descendants of those who built the ancient funerary grounds.
  9. Stone-Raiser – Astronomers and architects, who build the star-hearth ritual sites.
  10. Seeking Wolf – Tamers of wolves and lovers of DOG. Paired with a pup at birth.
  11. Iron Mountain –Purplish-grey skin; disciples of cold, snow, steel, stone, and blood.
  12. Cloud People –White-haired; commune with the gods who live high in the cloud palaces.
  13. Bone-Eater – Huge-framed cannibals and scavengers of meat; fair and honorable warriors.
  14. Pearl Moon –Oracles and dream-readers, finding omens in the reflections of the great lakes.
  15. Wide River – More comfortable  in the water than out; taller, sleeker, less hairy than most.
  16. Corn-House – Adobe huts on the cliffside, corn-husk dolls, masters of making do with little.
  17. Marsh Fisher – Stilts, spears, and reed hats. Secret meanings and swampland slang.
  18. Blue-Tongue – Long distance runner-messengers. They cannot ever divulge a secret.
  19. Woven-Beard – Pride is their downfall; they have become too good at war for their own sakes.
  20. God-Drum – History-keeping priesthood that may call the clans together in times of need.
Tom Bjorklund

Idaltu


They were the first among Mother's children to master the arcane arts and settle themselves in cities. There are few of them left today; their ancient golden age was achieved through magical means, and those means came with the condition that their age would fade away in due time. They have come to terms with this, though it took a long while.

Magic Tongue: Arcane language is a core part of Idaltu education, and so they have deep knowledge of all manner of magical shorthands (see: Read Magic). This skill is extended to decrypting codes and ciphers in languages that they know normally with an hour of focus and quiet.

The Star of Your Birth


Idaltu magical practices came about as part of their studies of astronomy, and so the two fields have always been taught intertwined with each other. The traditional zodiac signs are linked with an associated spell, as well as the more folkloric broad personality traits. Planets are more associated with the broad social stratum of Idaltu civilization.

  1. Red Watcher in the East  – Careful, distant, collected, cold, consistent (Summoning)
  2. The Summer Eagle  – Lively, outgoing, (Feather Fall)
  3. The Dancer – Wild, untamed, joyous, free, unrestrained (Charm Person)
  4. The Fox – Clever, coy, quick-witted, little sense of consequence (Faerie Fire)
  5. Mouth of the Whale  – Vast, encompassing, overwhelming (Message)
  6. The Bull’s Horns  – Possessing of a mighty presence; stubborn, unstoppable (Knock)
  7. Weaving Girl  – Innocent, daydreamer, lax, contented (Sleep)
  8. The Belt  – Striving, seeking, improving, admonishing (Hold Portal)
  9. Little King in the North – Caring, calculating, maker of difficult choices (Unseen Servant)
  10. The Windmill  –  Heroic, foolhardy, noble, incompetent, friend (Shield)
  11. The Old Bear  – Solitary, enduring, of few connections and rare emotion (Enlarge)
  12. The Arrowhead  – Direct, cutting, no mind for norms or propriety (Magic Missile)

Planet in Ascension

  1. The Messenger – Athletes, clowns, merchants, explorers
  2. The Shining One – Courtesans, aesthetes, lovers
  3. The Marcher – Soldiers, workers, farmers, craftsmen, commoners
  4. God's Red-Eye – Priests, scholars, scientists, wizards
  5. Ring-Bearer – Rhetoricians and artisans
  6. Lunatic King –  Princes and philosophers
  7. The Depths – Those whose souls cannot be named
  8. The Small One – The forgotten and overlooked



Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Podcast Post

I listen to a lot of podcasts. A LOT of podcasts. So, taking a page out of Connor W's book, here's a selection of what I've been listening to. Podcasts with an extra recommendation will be marked with a [GOLD STAR].

Several of these show up on Connor's list too (that's where I was introduced to them in the first place), and they're well worth mentioning again.

Podcasts

 

The Dollop

David Anthony and Gareth Reynolds

Two comedians discuss obscure and absurd American (and sometimes Icelandic or Australian) history. Lots of interesting and gameable things here, and a certain amount of zen that comes with the acceptance of the perpetual insanity of the world. [GOLD STAR]

Sequelisers

Jack Chambers, Stuart Ashen, Alec Plowman, Matthew Stogdon, Tim Maytom

Four British men propose re-writes of bad sequels to good movies. Played as two teams competing against each other for the completely arbitrary favor of the judge. The end results are always interesting, with plenty of left field curveballs to go along with the more true-to-the-original pitches.

Blogs on Tape

Nick Whelan

Fun, interesting, and useful blogposts from the OSR / DIY RPG community for your listening pleasure.

Bad Books for Bad People 

Tenebrous Kate and Jack Guignol

Do you like people talking about horror-gothic-weird-sex-stuff books, and occasional other books? Good, they do that. It's fun.

The Magnus Archives

Rusty Quill

A god-damn excellent horror serial series. Spooky stories, intricate metaplot, excellent acting, a mythos ripe for exploration, and a plan to see through things to the end at episode 200. Top marks, an absolute must-listen. This will not be the last time I talk about them. [MANY GOLD STARS]

Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur

Isaac Arthur

An actual rocket scientist talks about big picture concepts in space exploration, colonization, the Fermi Paradox, and more. Absolutely worth a listen if you're in the mood for some more optimistic ideas of future technology, or really feel like some mind-bending huge scale. It takes a little bit to get used to Isaac's speech impediment at first, but you get used to it soon. [GOLD STAR]

Gastropod

Cynthia Graber, Nicola Twiley

Fun food history and science. Always puts you in a good mood, if a hungry one.

TFS Bento: Anime FMK

Kirran Somerlade, Scott Frerichs, and Ben Creighton

Three guys watch a bunch of anime that no one has time for, and sort out the chaff from the good stuff. Actually works decently well as entertainment with no context at all for the shows in question, but I might be an outlier on that.

Heaven's Gate

Glenn Washington

A detailed and empathetic look at the Heaven's Gate cult, from inception to end. A fantastic documentary. Don't take the lack of words here as lack of content, it is fantastic [TWO GOLD STARS]

Mission to Zyxx 

Audioboom

Improv sci-fi comedy, right in the Star Wars / Star Trek / Hitchhikers'. Great for a laugh. Season 2 is underway! [GOLD STAR]

LeVar Burton Reads 

LeVar Burton

The man himself reads his favorite short stories. Loads of great sci-fi and fantasy here. Further explanation unnecessary. Start with "The Second Bakery Attack" if you want a blind jump-in point [GOLD STAR]

The Diecast

Shamus Young and Paul Spooner

A laid back show about games and programming. Lots of letter-bag segments, occasional themed episodes. Easy listening, good if you like programmer dads being chill.

Actual Plays


The Foreign Beggars

Tabletop Twats

An excellently edited and acted two-man DCC adventure. Hilarious and great listening, irregular uploads but lots of care given to presentation. [GOLD STAR]

Role Playing Public Radio

Ross Payton et al.

High-quality APs of a variety of games. Lots of Eclipse Phase, Base Raiders, Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, Red Markets, and one-offs. The recent Zweihander episode and "Somewhere Lane" are some of the best APs I've ever listened to.

Film Reroll 

Paulo Quiros and many other people

Famous movies are played through using GURPS. Shenanigans ensue as scripts are thrown right out the window and movie logic is overturned.

Orpheus Protocol

Rob, Staci, Dan, Jhan 

Long-running AP of the game by the same name. Lots of weird magical-horrific conspiracy stuff going on (this appears to be a theme in my picks). The GM knows what he's doing when it comes to slow burns, unsettling imagery, and cranking up the nightmare fuel

Not Actually Podcasts

Down the Rabbit Hole

Fredrick Knudsen 

A look into bizarre and forgotten corners of the internet and unsettling stories that have slipped through the cracks of memory. Deep well of gameable material.

Game Maker's Toolkit

Mark Brown

In-depth, but approachable, discussions on specific mechanics in video games and how they work. [GOLD STAR]

Like I said: A LOT of podcasts...

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Danscape Planejammer

Space is so cool.

When life gives you a book filled with superpowered monsters and high-magic weirdos, you put them in space. You can only have so many high-level wizards running around before someone builds a moon base. It's self-evident.

Mordenkainen's Tome got me thinking about 5e, and this is the result. If we're going to go high-magic multi-species cosmopolitan, then by Jove we are going all the way!

The planets below are listed in order according to distance from their sun.  Names have been changed to protect the delicate sensibilities of those poor IP lawyers, but you can figure them out.

Last note: you can help! 

Yes, you! Simply head over to this spreadsheet and add whatever pre-existing D&D species or original aliens you want. There are plenty of examples already there, and I'm planning on making some big old tables out of it, so fill it up till your heart's content.







The Cosmos


The universe consists of five primary parts: the Firmament, the Astral Sea, the Gods Themselves, the Twin Suns, and the Elemental Worlds. One might also find the City in the Center, the Great Machine, and the Clouds of Chaos within.


The Firmament

The wall between the universe and the unformed Outside. It is, to mortal knowledge, unbreachable by science or magic, but cannot provide complete protection against the eldritch influence of the Old Ones. Those who approach the Firmament without adequate protection will begin to suffer deleterious effects upon their mental state days before reaching the wall, increasing with great intensity as they approach.

The stars seen on the wall of the Firmament were once believed to be holes that led to the Outside; recent expeditions have indicated that they are bioluminescent organisms tens of thousands of miles across.


The Astral Sea

The medium which fills the cosmos, a mix of aether and phlogiston in which float the corpses of the gods, the Suns, and the planets.

Unprotected exposure to the Astral Sea is not recommended for those who are not constructs, undead, or obscenely powerful, as it will generally involve one’s lungs acting very much like a combustion engine.


The Gods Themselves

They are all dead. Clerical magic is derived from their remnant sparks. Their calcified, ossified, mummified, fossilized corpses float in languid orbits around the cosmos. Their hearts, burning still with phlogiston, can serve as miniature suns. Most of the cosmic population lives on, around, or inside these divine bodies.


The Twin Suns

The White Sun and Black Sun chase each other around a central point. Each harbors orbiting worlds

The White Sun



Empyrean

A golden fractal puzzle box, resplendent and radiant, within which are the tablets bearing the words of the deceased gods. The angels and their associates are quite proud of this accomplishment, though no known beings have ever laid eyes upon the tablets, and their writings are unknown. The Cosmos beyond the White Sun


Elysium

Breadbasket of the White Sun system, every spare square foot of the planet is devoted to food production. The grids of meticulously-kept fields and fish farms can be seen from orbit.


Homestead

Pleasant and pastoral, forever on the edge of the Industrial Revolution. Filled with a great variety of lands and cultures. Filled with legions of bright-eyed youths looking to make their fortunes in the distant reaches of the Cosmos. Considered a boring backwater by nearly everyone else.


Huxley

What happens when the unimpeachable State takes advantage of the population’s self-suppressing behaviors of pleasure-seeking, submission to authority, self-delusion and lack of long-term planning? Huxley happens. Do not stay too long, visitors are surveilled with vigilance.


Muirheim

A dyson tree grown out of an ancient comet. Home and crucible of the great ecological movements, a close ally of the Kingdom Animalia on Zoan. The laws of peace and care of nature are enforced without delay or indecision.


High Hrothgar

Chilly militarist fortress-world. Most of the planet’s industry is devoted to building war material to be used against the inhabitants of the Black Star. Technically aligned with Empyrean, the Hrothgari might be contracted by outsiders easily enough if the pay and glory is right.


Zoan

Untamed wilderness world, home to the Kingdom Animalia. Off-world access is limited to a single spaceport atop a high plateau: any of the beasts may leave as they will, but outsiders are not permitted farther than the port without permission of the Kings.

The Black Sun



Sheol

Wet, polluted scablands overrun with a singular species of underworld maggot. The planet is a soul-trap, stealing wayward souls mid-upload and embodying them in the gigantic larvae, to serve as a food source.


Tophet

A dumping ground for the Cosmos’ refuge. Continents of garbage, perpetually smoldering. Volcanoes oozing like zits. Unlikely home for high-end resorts and casinos, catering to the tastes of the decadently rich.


9 Rings

A police-state ecumenopolis split into nine rival princedoms. Billions live in the lightless hives below the infernal nobility, slaving and warring away in ignorance of any other world or any other life. Order is maintained by an impenetrable bureaucracy, and the Princes’ inability to overpower each other.


Xibalba

The moon of 9 Rings, used as a prison for those the Princes wish to torment beyond the cruelties of life on the city-world. Is ruled over by six houses of demons shipped in from Grinding-of-Teeth ages ago.


Charnel House

A scab-brown gas giant with a necklace of pocked iron moons. Constantly fought over by the forces of Grinding-of-Teeth and 9 Rings.


Grinding-of-Teeth

Homeworld of all demonkind. Scarred and broken continental shelves rise up above ocean bottoms now filled with everchanging jungles. The temperature fluctuates between boiling hot and freezing cold, the humidity shifts between oppressively liquid and dry as a bone. What water is left is mostly poison. Everything is attempting to kill everything else.


Wailing

A slightly large asteroid with a trace atmosphere, honeycombed with caves to the point that it is more like sponge than stone. The winds that flow through its inner halls form a constant keening moan, granting the place its name. The only people to live here are those who have managed to escape the other worlds of the Black Sun, but cannot find their way out. It is the last stop on a dead-end road.

The Elemental Worlds



Aeros

An immense, pale blue-white gas giant, around which the other Elemental Worlds orbit. In the calm upper layers there are many floating palaces and sky-islands, where those without wings, sails, or flight bladders may live.


The Big Empty

A delicate spherical framework of diamond and graphene. Transparent habitat-bubbles house the wealthiest inhabitants of the Elemental Worlds, who praise a life lived nextdoor to complete oblivion.


Thundercrown

A squat golden disc some thousand miles across. Its rim is thorny with thin protrusions. Lightning dances among its branches, arcing out across the aether to any ship that comes close. Exploration has been sporadic, and answers to its nature and origin few.


Pelagia

A water world, spotted with young volcanic islands and tossed about by great storms. Beneath the surface one might find coral reefs a mile deep, thousand-mile kelp forests, and the single greatest display of biodiversity in all the cosmos. Boat cities, tropical hideaways, seabottom stations, and ice-cap settlements


Nacl

A small moon of Pelagia. Its shallow seas dried up long ago, leaving behind a dry expanse of salt crust and the fossils of what once lived there.


Kettle

The second moon of Pelagia. A small rocky world with little atmosphere to speak of, its internal ocean strains to break free, and shoots up in great boiling geysers a hundred miles tall at times.


Fimbul

A world trapped in winter. There is just enough heat and light to support life, but the summer melts are still frigid to offworlders. Those who live here receive guests rarely, and with distrust.


The Pit

An oozy, muddy slimeball; a dense atmosphere of mostly water and soil that has been reduced to mostly muck. Avoided by all who enjoy living in places that are not constantly and aggressively moderately unpleasant.


Vault

The greatest source of mineral wealth in the Cosmos. Mining conglomerates and banking families keep their home offices in the badlands, overseeing the stream of gold and gemstones pulled up from the depths.


Terragio

A high-gravity terrestrial world, sculpted by the masterful hands of wind and water over millions of years.


Choke

The moon of Terragio, named so for its near-perpetual storms of red-brown dust. It is a place for desperate types who wish to remain unnoticed and unseen. A planet of dry wells and ghost towns.


Halo

Angelic travelers from Empyrean once settled here, but vanished generations ago. The world was shaped according to their whims and needs


Pyre

A desert world whose biosphere can exist without any water at all. The sands are brilliant bands of red and orange, and the skies are alight with hurricanes of fire.


Cinder

Ash and coals, nothing more. Smote to ruin for sins not even remembered.


Blacksmoke

A greenhouse atmosphere of boiling black smoke drives off most visitors. Some spacers tell of a world hidden beneath the clouds, but rarely when sober.

The City in the Center


The City sits in the very center of the Cosmos, at the point both Suns and Aeros orbit around. It is neutral ground, a hive of scum and villainy, the cage in which god-killers are kept, the gate and key to all the Cosmos, and so on. You know the deal.

The Great Machine


There was a third Sun, golden-yellow. The progenitors of Machine-Life saw that it was good, and took it for their own. It sits now nested within a sphere of metal and law, all of its energy feeding the lockstep legions of mechanical beings who inhabit its boundless depths and vast chrome continents.

Clouds of Chaos


A roiling nebula of cosmic amniota filled with teratomatous, unborn worlds. Immensely dangerous to those that pass through without defensive preparations. Tracking their movements through the Cosmos falls to the Free Navigator Network - make sure to have it on your spaceradio presets!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Some Thoughts About Degenesis

Marko Djurdjevic

Degenesis Rebirth is the strangest goddamn RPG I have ever experienced.

I paid 120 dollars for it. Yet, I feel no real buyer's remorse for it, despite that price point being well past where I would normally begin to have second thoughts. I attribute it to the books' quality: they're head, shoulders, and most of the torso above everything I've seen that isn't Lamentations. The covers are great. The binding is great. The paper quality is great. The art is as close to perfect as one can get. These are good books...if we focus on the book aspect.

The first of the two books, Primal Punk, is lore. Entirely lore. No game mechanics at all. 346 pages of straight, uncut lore. I love it.  It's evocative, it leaves open ends and dangling mysteries and in some cases just doesn't tell you at all what's going on. And it's a translation! Sniffing its own farts more than a bit, but I can forgive it. I can forgive a lot when I'm given something both cool and new.

It's a downright unicorn: a detailed setting that has an incredibly strong identity. You can recognize it at a glance. It draws you in. Post-apocalyptic new-ice-age Europe infested with alien fungus of spiritual significance barely understood? Yes please.

The second book, Katharsys, is where the system is laid out, and it is here that the terrible secret of Degenesis is revealed: I don't think the designers ever intended for people to play this game.

The basic game system is a pretty standard dice pool mechanic: roll X dice, anything above Y is a success, the task at hand has a difficulty of Z and requires that many successes. I find it clunky and unintuitive, but it's not the worst in the world. This isn't the problem.

The problem is that the book seems designed to make it difficult to use. The fart-sniffing prose that I forgave and praised a few paragraphs ago has intruded upon the mechanical underpinnings. I was fine when it was on its own - that's actually a pretty fine idea, splitting up lore and mechanics into different books - but it is now officially in the way of running the game.

Add to this a death by inches, of little things that make no sense building up into the damning blow.

Say you want to look up the rank progressions for your cult. You're playing an Anabaptist. Obviously, since Anabaptist starts with A, that would be at the start of the section, right?

Wrong. The Spitalians are first. Anabaptists are twelfth out of thirteen. Is this an issue with the translation? I don't know. But have fun having to flip through the entire section to find what you are looking for, every time you go looking.

There's no end to this sort of thing.
  • There is no entry for a day's rations anywhere in the item lists. Rules for scavenging and trapping, yes, but not buying. Scavenging for food and scavenging for scrap are in different sections of the book.
  • There are enemies listed that have no stats provided at all. This includes human opponents. Not even a quick-use template for "clan warrior".
  • The bestiary is anemic; with the above taken into consideration, there are four non-boss enemies in the entire book that have stats listed.
  • The list of minor clans, which is supposed to cover the entire setting, has several that are all locked in their own little isolated conflict within a tiny pocket of one particular region.
  • Certain cults not only don't play well together, but are practically "murder-on-sight". A mixed team of European and African cults is possible with some wrangling, but the Apocalyptics (whose entire deal is dealing in alien fungus dust drugs) would run afoul of the Spitalians, Judges, and Anabaptists (who are practically guaranteed to be in the party.) This used to be worse in the original version of the game, but that's faint praise.
  • Character generation is all about assigning skill points, and you are required to dump into your toughness skills if you don't want to be killed by stiff breezes. I had a player who would be instantaneously killed by any given attack, because she wanted to be a charismatic and social character.
  • The item lists are needlessly subdivided, with no overarching order to them. Most are overloaded with specific cult items.
  • Items / characters / concepts / places will be referred to multiple times, without any proper explanation of what they are or (more importantly) how to use them in an actual game.
There's also the flip side of the praise I gave to the setting: it is, frankly, overwhelming. There's a relatively easy in, one particular region more newbie-friendly and recognizable, but the book's scope is broad and the referee needs to do the leg work. Here is the deep end, swim or bounce off.

Speaking of referees, the referee tools are essentially nonexistent. Of a 350 page book, there are 17 pages devoted to that end, all of which are devoted to topics such as "Believable Characters", "The Three Act Story", and assorted broad-strokes conflicts. There are some bullet points offering some suggestions for content, but it's not enough. There's nothing in the way of practical tools for building, populating, and running a session.

The referee tools do not contain the following:
  • Quick NPCs
  • List of old world artifacts found while scavenging
  • Travel times between major locations on the provided world and regional maps
  • Encounter tables in general or specific to region or environment
  • Interesting sights along the road
  • Ruin generator
  • Town and settlement events
  • Town and settlement generator
  • Rumor list
  • Consolidated secret list 
  • Player-facing reference sheets
There is one proper random table in the entire book, for clan generation. They included a decent started adventure, so there's that, at least.

The one non-setting related positive I can offer is how I really like the rank-based progression. That's worth swiping and tinkering with. But the rest? Utter chaff. Useless.

It's a useless game book.

Final Thoughts


I still have no idea what to think about this game. Who was it made for? Why was it made? Are all these quality-of-life-improvements I take for granted still nestled in one specific subset of the hobby and unheard of by those outside the circle?

Still, even for every complaint I have, the setting scratches an itch that other games haven't. In light of all its many failings, I still love the setting that's been built. I'm a sucker for unique apocalypses and rebuilding from them, I suppose.

120 US dollars plus tax worth of a sucker.

That's enough to buy six copies of Yoon-Suin.

What the hell is this game?


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Shadow of the Eschaton (Draft 1)

Marko Djurdjevic

I hacked Degenesis into the Shadow of the Demon Lord system. You can find it here. It's neither pretty, complete, or tested, but it should work well enough to not immediately collapse. Mostly it's a means of getting ideas out of my head and testing out some mechanical waters. Depending on how things go, there might be further drafts down the line.

Right now, it contains:
  • Character creation
  • 7 cults, with progression templayes
  • Cult-related items
  • Spore infection mechanics
While making this, there was a lot of translation of progression via ranks within a faction (rather than "get X money and go up a level"), and so character growth is focused on accessing better equipment and greater privileges. I really like this idea, and will certainly be returning to it elsewhere later.

If anyone happens to take this for a spin, let me know! I'll do my best to fix any breakages.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Some thoughts about Mordenkainen's Tome of WORDS

 

Words Words Words


Words words words words words words words words words words words words words words words words words oh God make it stop.

It is legitimately difficult to read the first five chapters. Eyes go glazed like a donut almost immediately. It is so bloated, so vacuous, so pointless. It's the text equivalent of using sawdust to extend mashed potatoes. Sifting through for the interesting stuff is a chore, made worse because there is actually good stuff in there, but there is a tenth as much usable material in a book of this length as there should be.

The Blood War is nonsense


I actually really like the law / chaos division between devils and demons, I even like them fighting each other, but this is nonsense. An entire chapter is spent detailing in painful specificity their endless conflict, and not once did I see a phrase rhyming with

"delatavistic pill treehicle greathed pin goalie pyre ruccompanied guy gosts dove lung-do pain-gel gorbital crop clock goopers"
in the entire blasted thing. It's a prime scenario for the players to get their E1M1 on, and there is no support for that whatsoever. There's some babblety-bibble about keeping balance between the two forces so that neither wins, but that is boring.

It's a poor man's Perdition, is what I'm getting at. Below a poor man's Perdition, because a poor man's Perdition would still be pretty good.

Devil military units being named like Culture spaceships is cool though.

The new elf lore is pretty okay when you strip away the WORDS


Corellon is an abusive dad-mom who has entrapped his/her children in a neverending cycle of death and rebirth, unable to permanently return to elf heaven, in which they are perpetually reminded of all their past lives and the boundless disappointment of their mother-father, because he-she disapproves of their life choices. The book tries to frame this as a good thing, but Corellon's really just an asshole.

The whole "elves can transition their sex" thing is limp-wristed faffery, so I am going to stat up Gethenians instead


Gethenian player characters receive the following traits:
  • +1 to two chosen attributes, +1 CON
  • Immunity to all cold weather effects above freezing, and resistance to all cold damage.
  • Kemmer - Gethenians have a 26-28 day sexual cycle, as follows:
    • Day 1 - Day 21 / 22 - Sexually inactive, no outward sex traits.
    • Day 18 - Preparatory hormonal changes are triggered, individual remains androgynous.
    • Day 22 / 23 - Individual enters first stage kemmer. Will only gain sex traits in the presence of another individual also in kemmer. Establishment of sex takes 2-20 hours. The sex assumed by an individual in kemmer is random.
    • Day 24 - 28 - Culmination of kemmer, height of sexual drive. If conception has not taken place, individual returns to latent state within a few hours. A pregnant individual will remain female for 8.4 months gestation and further 6-8 months of lactation.

Lolth is Darth Vader now

 
The book inadvertently her look sort-of in the right, at least in the beginning. She started out heading the faction of primal elves that wanted static bodies so they could do something with their lives instead of farting about being fey and twee and mystical all the time.

She immediately takes a heel-turn into weird femdom fascism, so that doesn't last long.

I should note that, in circumstances where elves are not nature spirits intrinsically linked to the earth, I prefer drow (for many strange and silly reasons, stone me as appropriate), so I am absolutely reading this as pro-Corellon propaganda and presuming that there is a far longer period of being a hero for a people who just want to live their own lives outside of the whims of their mom-dad before she falls and goes femdom fascist.

Also Ellistrae is Luke, I guess.

The Duergar did nothing wrong


Moradin is just a dick who blames the victim. They're got the best lore so far, too - duergar are teetotalers because booze triggers their horrific ancestral-memory PTSD.

The Astral Plane is apparently just space, but filled with god corpses


Right then, I know where we're headed in the future.

The art is excellent 


This really isn't much of a point, as the official 5e stuff is overall fantastic. This keeps up the good trend.There are a few re-used assets here and there, but hey, I don't own those books.

None of the archdevils are wearing business suits, though


This is a silly way of saying that I don't feel that there's enough stylistic differentiation in how devils and demons are presented. The archdevils do not say "this is a being of terrible law" to me. The demon designs are okay, though. They get the point across.

The bestiary is A++  


Now we get into the actual good stuff. The major complaints are done and over with, this is the worthwhile part of the book. They brought their A-game, and it's nice to see that there's life still the dusty corporate bones

Giff! 


While part of me says it'd make more sense for hippo-headed guys to be demons, on account of the oceans of bloodshed that inventively follow in their wake, I love seeing them. You can do silly British voices for them, it's great.

Seasonal Eladrin get a thumbs up 


Anything that makes elves more nature-spirit-like and less like humans with pointy ears is great in my book. The art for them is fantastic, too. It's mostly just ornamental, but hey, it's something. 

Sorrowsworn are better demons than the demons are


They're the embodiments of mundane aspects of suffering: anger, hunger, loneliness, being lost, overall wretchedness. They make sense as lost souls given in to despair. I want to use these guys to that very end. They get the point across.

Star Spawn get the short end of the stick


Five monsters with one piece of art. There's so much space wasted on elf gods and halflings being twee, but we get no support for the big lads from beyond the stars. There's a name list and some cultist blessings, and that's it. Why bother having them, then? Devote to your bit, guys! They have always felt like a fifth wheel, and that's because they never get the support that's needed. I'd almost want to devote a lore chapter to them, but that would involve making a large new lore thing that shakes up the status quo. Having nothing is probably better.

Final thoughts


This is a book that epitomizes "if you want something done right, you'll have to do it yourself." If you want it to work, you have to work for it. In a lot of cases I would say that the work required isn't worth it, but here that's not really the case. Long expanses of WORDS are annoying only as long as I have to read them, and I shan't be doing much of that. I've got sticky notes, I can find what I like and ignore the rest. The bestiary is what I am here for, and it has delivered. I'm interested in 5e for the first time in a very long time, so that is an accomplishment in itself. I want to run something with this book. It seeks to be used...

Guess what time it is, kids


You know exactly what time it is.