Sunday, February 16, 2020

Adul-Atpah, Undercity of the Corpse


(This was all generated with Michael Raston's Infinigrad tables, for use with Esoteric Enterprises)

Adul-Atpah was one of the cthonic leviathans, those beings who sleep away the eons deep in the underworld and whose dreams seep into the stone and bone around them. Dreams that became a city of narrow streets, leprosy-grey stone veined with scab red.

The inhabitants are human, but they are not the humans who have livedunder the light of the sun for a long, long time.

An ixionic false-sun offers dim light, but the perpetual haze prevents it from ever shining particularly brightly.

I. The Gate of the Thirty-Three Heresies

A misshapen, crumbling ziggurat of red clay whose peak is forever cloaked with clouds. Its tiers and terraces are engraved with layers of bas reliefs, monsters pulled from the nightmares of Adul-Atpah. 
  • It is the primary means of entry from upper layers of the underworld and the surface. 
  • Its chambers and stairways are covered with desecrated religious iconography. By tradition, new visitors are encouraged to add their own.
  • It is infested with small, monkey-like automata made of clay powered by tiny demon liquor engines. They rove in packs and with steal anything that catches their burning eyes, which is anything that they can grab without getting caught. They have a nasty bite and will attempt to lure visitors into a sense of security with seemingly harmless antics. Their nests are troves of stolen items.

II. The Corpus

The war with the White silk Veil was short, but devastating. While the cult of was driven from the city, Adul-Atpah was killed. Now for beings such as leviathans, death is mere interruption, the city has not recovered: The central district surrounding the gate has taken on the aspects of flesh and bone and organ, as if some grand
  • Many buildings remain abandoned or half-demolished. Rubble and wreckage remains everywhere. Cleanup and repair efforts never seen to go anywhere, thwarted by the ontological fallout of Adul-Atpah's death.
  • The Dreamers of Adul-Atpah have remained here, despite the sharp decrease in their numbers and the loss of their god. The after-effects of the war destabilized them, and their untethered dreams have become chaotic and toxic to those around them. They are still nominally the chief faction of the city, but only by name.

III. The Unclaimed Quarter

A mostly-unpopulated region on the border between the Liquor Farms and the Temple District, leveled during the war and now serving as in-fill for its neighbors.
  • Nearly all maps of the city come from before the war, meaning that none of the streets here have been mapped properly and nothing is labeled with an up-to-date name. Most of the shrines here are covers for liquor-farming operations, and most farm operations are hidden temples.
  • Runoff from the liquor farms has seeped into the ground, causing native slimes and oozes to grow terribly large and uncomfortably volatile.
  • These oozes are cleaned up by egg-shaped creatures with leathery, baggy skins, too-skinny legs, and too-big mouths with too-human teeth. They're horrible and will eat and break anything that isn't an ooze that gets between them and lunch. 

IV. The Demon Liquor Farms

Demon liquor is perfectly fine in a raw state, but proper occultists and gentlebeings of taste demand the refined stuff. It's good money, great money, and so the refineries of the Czapath belch oil and smoke and fire into the shimmering clouds at all hours.
  • The excess waste of the refinery process can still be used as fuel. Terribly cheap and dirty-burning. The district is festooned with iron lamps (despite the general flammability of everything else), and the inhabitants will even mix dregs with wax or tallow for candles.
  • Most of the main thoroughfares have been overtaken by rail lines, where massive carriages ferry the components and products of the refinery process. Pedestrians will either have to catch a ride, or use the knot of side streets even more tangled than the norm of Adul-Atpah.
  • The extraction devices (read: iron maidens) used to procure fresh liquor from living demons have absorbed enough infernal energies to spring to life on their own. They demand sacrifice of fresh / new / unusual bodies and blood, and the servants they procure from themselves are more than happy to carry them to new neighborhoods.


V. District of Feasts

Fog-choked terraces of farmland crawl up the outer slope of the city, taking advantage of the leftover divine vitality of the city's dead patron to supply food for the entire city and regions beyond.
  • The fogs are worse here than anywhere else in the city, drifting in from the liquor farms and never dissipating. The light of the false-sun rarely penetrates the sky of this district, leaving it a place of endless night broken only by the lamplight spilling from doors and windows.
  • A constant surplus of food gives the district an atmosphere of festivity and excess, despite the constant gloom. Enter any given door and you will find a feast. They have run out of names for the foods crafted here and have fallen back upon inventing languages to fill the gap.
  • The distinct is often visited by spotted slug-like beings from deeper in the underworld, come to test their arts and sciences on the populace.


VI. The Leviathan Pits

The dream-larvae of Adul-Atpah and the godling parasites that burrowing in its flanks can be found here, where the ground has opened up into the steaming pits of primal oneiric sludge.Shoddy, leaning shacks and tenements cluster around pit lips, as if hoping to fall.
  • The pits are run by a guild of butchers who supplement the stocks of the District of Feasts with meat cut from the larvae. In terms of raw factional power they are tied with their rivals the Czapath at the peak of the city's politics.
  • The butchers are fond of publicly displaying prime cuts, aberrant organs, sarkic curiosities in glass boxes hung from eaves, poles, and windows, giving the district the alternative name of "The Street of Curious Cuts".
  • The butchers are led by the Union of Knowing Friends, masters of the empathic arts who use their skills to swell the guild's ranks and place moles in other organizations.


VII. The Dead Quarter

Death is strange in the underworld. Sometimes it doesn't stick quite right, and folks have to be careful about what they do. It can't be pushed to the side. Here, as elsewhere, the dead have been given a section of the city of their own, so they cannot be ignored. Blackened columns and markers are pushed together like a jaw with too many teeth.
  • The mausoleum-lined streets are a maze (again, even by the standards of Adul-Atpah)
  • The few plazas in the district are filled with continuous bonfires, where the dead are reduced to ash and cracked bone, the byproducts of life that can be safely interred.
  • The Lightkeepers who tend the bonfires have become so dedicated to their task of keeping the city safe that they have been consumed by a desire to increase the size of the bonfires. Bring them a gift of fuel, or they might get other ideas of how you can pay their toll.


VIII. Ironmonger District

The city's industrial center, exporting crafts and metalworks out into the underworld. Brutalist factories whose flanks bear henna-patterns of rust and bored occultists on lunch break.
  • The dead dreams of Adul-Atpah are strongest here. It's not safe to sleep in the district without aid, and the neighborhood watch must keep the nightmares at bay.
  • Do not fear the cloaked sentinels you might see on roof peaks or street corners or dead-end alleys. They are not part of the neighborhood watch. Again, do not fear them. If you had done anything that would give you reason to fear them, you would not be here.
  • The streets are filled with packs of feral dogs, who with military precision wage their war of domination against the union men and watch. A great Geyr Shepherd wearing a plumed general's cap leads them.

IX. The Market Grounds

The little city, the district of stands stalls and tents. A splash of color and noise against the rest of the city.
  • The Market Grounds are also home to the Silver Eye, the city's sole sanctioned gambling house. Here come the high-rollers, the high society of this god's corpse, to play the numbers at the market and go home with their stocks.
  • The chaos of the market is managed by the Cult of the Black Serpent, whose cannibals are branded across the face with the wyrm that eats its own tail. They are, all considered, fair in their management, and will only demand body parts as payment for high-severity infractions.
  • In the center of the Grounds, filling the fountain that once had the equestrian statue of some man who thought himself more heroic than he was, is a shuddering, oozing mass of fleshy sludge. It cannot die. You are free to try, there's a reward if you can.

X. The Temple District  

Mountains of rubbish fill up the gaps between jutting blades of rock. Where there is space, it is filled up with little temples and shrines to the gods that the city will permit. That they have been relegated to the dumping grounds in the city of the Thirty-Three heresies is not lost upon anyone.
  • The upheaval of the region is the remnants of a long-ago conflict with the Lithic Courts. Some members of the expeditionary force have remained behind, and have taken to implanting shards of themselves into those who stumble upon them and inevitably offend them, just to see what happens with such a union of alien chemistries.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Expanded Pandora Gate Map

Draw.io saves the day yet again.


The Pandora Gates are easily my favorite part of Eclipse Phase. Unfortunately, the book dedicated to them is a mess I'd never recommend to anyone and a poster child for "good idea, terrible execution".  This is an attempt to fix that, consolidating the contents of the proper Gatecrashing book with content from the blogs Farcast, Seedware, and H-Rep.

The map only shows the five Sol system gates (Vulcanoid, Mars, Pandora, Fissure, Discord) and connective systems between them.The vast majority of extrasolar planets are a single transit away from one of the five main gates, as detailed below.

Planets marked with a * are connector systems..

GC is Gatecrashing, FC is Farcast, SW is Seedware, HR is H-Rep.

Planets with a dearth of information got a friendly [REDACTED] from me, because that's a solid way to get something from nothing.

Vulcanoid Gate

Found in the Vulcanoid asteroid V-2011 Caldwell, owned by the TerraGenesis Corporation. They'll work with basically anyone, going real gung-ho on colonization and terraforming efforts.
  1. Aerie (GC) - Watch out for this one, the gate is free-floating in orbit around its parent world.
  2. Chrysaor (GC) - Moon of a hot Jupiter. Only 51 LY from Earth, but nothing else noteworthy.
  3. Hiranyaksha (GC) - Largest colonized world with highest gravity at 1.9G
  4. IronSky (HR) - Terrestrial world that once held a diverse global biosphere before the onset of a "Blast Winter". A single cataclysmic event ejected enough particulate into the atmosphere to block out sunlight, leaving the world with a permanent grey overcast and only extremeophile bacteria.
  5. Mockingbird (GC) - Notable primarily for being destroyed by the inhabitants of Rorty. Reclamation efforts have [DATA EXPUNGED]
  6. Piazza III (FC) - A hot, humid, swampy, fungus-encrusted world. Home to the urvinoids, sluglike beings weighing over a kiloton whose brain and stomach are the same organ.
  7. Portal* (GC) - A frozen terrestrial world notable for containing six gates, all within 1 km of each other. The primary settlement, Isra, is the launch point for career autonomist crashers.
  8. Sky Ark (GC) - A terrestrial planet nearly a mirror to early Earth. TerraGenesis has established it as a reserve world, and has begun to resurrect and rehabilitaate as many species and environments of old Earth has possible. This includes creatures that were extinct before the Fall, ancient megafauna and even neogenic dinosaurs.
  9. Sunrise* (GC) - Life-bearing, tidally locked world, bearing seven different gates along the equator and signs of Iktomi settlement around those gates - the windharps, delicate structures that play musical tones on the constant winds
  10. Takshaka (GC) - Backwater colony. Not noteworthy, save for a disastrous event wherein [REDACTED].
  11. Willowane (GC) - Artifacts found. Further information [REDACTED].

Martian Gate

On lock by the corporate bastards of the Planetary Consortium. Sees the most traffic, nearly all of it working for the Pathfinder Corporation.
  1. Arcadia / Overlook (GC) - A venusian world and its rocky moon. Colonization efforts are totally off the books, a single habitat for the oldest and richest gerontocrats the Consortium has in store where they shall never die.
  2. Ascension* (GC) - Consortium-run Earthlike world, home to largest human colony.
  3. Babylon* (GC) - A sun-baked, tidally locked world. The surface displays recent significant impact craters, and long-range telescopes have picked up some kind of vessel hiding out in the stellar corona.
  4. Bacchanalia (HR) - An earthlike world with significant volcanic activity due to tidal stresses from its three suns and large moon, which leaves many rare materials in easy reach near the surface and a sulphurous atmosphere. Outside investment mogul York Aston has flooded the colonization effort with funds in an attempt to make a prize party getaway world, a corporate competitor to Carnivale.
  5. Brak Kodel (GC) - A hot rockball whose sealed canyon habitats are home to horrifically altered TITAN experiments with captive transhuman populations. Whether or not it is a live infection vector remains unknown, but suspected.
  6. Chang-Er* (HR) - Prime terraforming real estate. Alien artifact ("The Eye") several hundred kilometers in diameter floats tethered above the surface, casting a gravitational anomaly that prevents the tidal effects of the planet's five moons.
  7. Dreamgate (FC) - A mirror image of Mars as it was and was thought to be. The oceans are long gone, but the towers and cities of the inhabitants (and most importantly, their computers) are still active. Some folks get lost in the xenoMesh, never to pull their egos out.
  8. Haplopelma (GC) - Minor Iktomi ruins nonetheless attract throngs of xenodeist pilgrims.
  9. Bromeliad / Harker (HR) - An icy terrestrial world and its nondescript moon. Pockets of life can exist in regions where volcanic activity has cut through the glacial cover. Would be a prime target for colonization, save for the packs of psychovore aliens that are clearly not related to anything else on the planet. Corporate is very, very interested in this place.
  10. Krypton (GC) A resort world for the corporate hyperelite, crystal fields under a bright sky-filling nebula. The indentured Martian infomorphs brought in to work the resort are plotting a rebellion.
  11. Nihilus* (HR) - An asteroid mined out by a species long vanished - only bits of tools remain. A group of Buddhists are in the planning stages of building a monastery there.
  12. Nirvana (GC) - A free-floating gate in orbit around a pulsar. The facility there, due to its incredible security, is used both as prison and testing grounds for exsurgent-related experiments under the Consortium's eye.
  13. Nótt (GC) - An icy moon and a corporate research station made significantly more exciting by whatever is stalking the research teams outside the habitat.
  14. Nova York (GC) - [DATA EXPUNGED]
  15. Olaf (GC) - An honest-to-god dyson sphere, built around the red dwarf of a binary pair. The atmosphere is suitable for an unmodified human, the local life isn't particularly dangerous, we've mapped less than 1% of the surface, and it's got an active orbital defense system that'll shoot down anything launched towards space. The interior of the sphere is a complete unknown.
  16. Ruby (FC) - A lumpy planetoid clearly mined in the past for its radioactive materials. Orbiting above is a ring-shaped structure that will draw in nearby objects and launch them at 30 gs of acceleration towards a nearby asteroid belt, which looks like it used to be a single planet. Oops.
  17. Templeton's World (GC) - A Consortium colony that went dark and defected to the Commonwealth when it was determined that the settlers were considered illegal copies.
  18. Tirian (GC) - Hot rockball home to the Singer Institute for Biological Anomalies, who are kind of folks who like doing experiments on outliers of the uplift process. Definitely slept through their courses on consent and ethics.
  19. Thera (HR) - A slushy, cold waterworld. The only land is a chain of volcanic islands, once of which bears the Labyrinth - a maze hundreds of square kilometers on the ground, with walls a kilometer high and passages only 6m accross. No one has reached the center.
  20. Vohaul (GC) - Venusian hellhole world used exclusively as a garbage dump for toxic and exotic materials. Home to a developing sapient species of silicon-based organisms living in the sulfurous lakes of the surface. Transhumanity has no idea about them.

Pandora Gate

Located on Pandora, Saturnian orbit. Run by Gatekeeper, under direction of the Titan Commonwealth cyberdemocracy. Lots of exploratory missions.
  1. Apocalypta (HR) - Hot Martian world home to vast complexes of monolithic pyramids and towers, all containing elaborate vaults touched only by ultrasound for millions of years. Expeditions to the vaults have been put on pause after exploration hit the end of the unsecured sections of the complexes. The builders remain anonymous.
  2. Babylon* (GC) - A sun-baked, tidally locked world. The surface displays recent significant impact craters, and long-range telescopes have picked up some kind of vessel hiding out in the stellar corona.
  3. Candee Apple (FC) - Opens on an island on a pristine earthlike world, home to a species of apelike beings on the cusp of sapience. The leave only footprints factions in the research corp that found the place have held majority so far, but who knows when that will break.
  4. Corse (GC) - A recently-discovered and incredibly distant rocky moon of a typical Jovian giant. A dense, nearby dust cloud (and something indistinct within it) can be made out with telescopes. More concerningly, someone was here recently - not aliens - and they built themselves a ship and headed off towards the cloud. Then they changed course and started heading back towards the gate.
  5. Droplet (GC) - A water-rich (only 8% land) terrestrial world with incredible biodiversity, plus the archaeological remnants of three vanished alien species: the native Amphibs, the Iktomi, and some other spoecies that built at least one settlement on the ocean floor. Of note is "The Toadstool", a curiously shaped stone peak.
  6. Dyggvi (GC) - Ice moon, first colony consider to be a direct extension of a Sol polity (in this case, the Commonwealth)
  7. Echo IV/ V (GC) - Two terrestrial planets. Echo IV has no gate, but is filled with a bustling, megafauna-rich ecosystem. Echo V has the gate, Iktomi ruins, and the complete and total devastation of its entire biosphere at some point in the past.
  8. Indra (HR) - A cold, lifeless Martian world with enough atmosphere to maintain some liquid water. Surface is covered in deep impact craters, all of which line up very nicely with good places to build a colony. Someone bombed this place from orbit, and one of those ships lies buried under just underground - with the reactor still on.
  9. Just-in-Case / Basilica* (GC) - A young and lifeless terrestrial world and it's young and lifeless moon, similar to a very early Earth. It is being set up as a backup world, a planet that could house millions of refugees in case of existential disaster. Cut off the gates, and there's still plenty of untouched planets nearby in its local cluster. Most of the major (non-autonomist) polities are involved - except the Consortium. No invitation for the hypercaptialists. Or for Firewall.
  10. Moravec (GC) - Terrestrial world with a lively oceanic biosphere. The landmasses have very little life, likely extinct due to climate change. Likewise can be found trace remnants of a sapient species, including a distributed computer network. It is abandoned. Where did the uploads go?
  11. Moria (GC) - An icy dwarf planet. The immense caves which house the colony are heated by geothermal activity.
  12. Portal* (GC) - A frozen terrestrial world notable for containing six gates, all within 1 km of each other. The primary settlement, Isra, is the launch point for career autonomist crashers.
  13. Spark (HR) - Tidally-locked vesperian planet. Huge temperature differences mean constant, extreme winds. Crust contains high levels of metallic salts, leading nearly all local life to store or generate electrical current
  14. Synergy (GC) - The second colony ever established went dark for five years, emerged as a networked hive-mind.
  15. Tanaka (GC) - Moon of a hot Jupiter, home to five warring fungal megacolonies, all of which are universally hostile to tranhumans.
  16. Wormwood (GC) - Thousands of kilometers of squirming, tangled tunnels carved out of what is presumed to be an asteroid. No exit to the surface has yet been found.

Fissure Gate

Located on Oberon, Uranian orbit. Overseen by the Love and Rage anarchist collective, and as such is open to anyone with good rep.
  1. Bluewood (GC) - Terrestrial planet and one of the major autonomist colonies. Named for the forest that covers almost 60% of the single landmass and the vibrant azure trees that make it up. The entire ecosystem seems engineered - there are no predators, it self-maintains, it strikes back if threatened, and it actively grows to encompass settlements built within it.
  2. Carnivale (GC) - A bunch of extreme hedonist anarchists partying it up on an paradisical earthlike world. Even the grass will give you a high. Only line is consent, everything else is on the table. This entry has aged very poorly in the last decade.
  3. Emmerich's World (HR) - Earth-sized moon of the superJovian Anchorhead. Great night sky, local bacterial and fungal life provides a bounty of fun narcotic and hallucinogenic toxins. The gate to Nihilus is built atop a spiral-helix-pyramidal structure on the opposite pole from the main gate; within the structure is the WETWARE AUTOMATA artifact, that triggers compulsive and repetitive minor actions in nearby sapients.
  4. Etched (GC) - [DATA EXPUNGED]
  5. Fortean (GC) - Icy moon host to a bunch of really out there researchers big into neogenic life, genesplicing, and cryptozoology. Makers of specialty morphs.
  6. G'harne (HR) - A Titanian ice world, boasting a robust hydrocarbon-and-ammonia-based ecology. Impressive volcanoes. 
  7. Isolation (HR) - via Carnivale gate only. An icy moon of a Neptunian giant (Mirror) with a high albedo and pretty rings. Used as a cool down colony for folks from Carnivale. Exploration has found twenty-six precision-carved cliffside alcoves of unknown maker and purpose.
  8. Krapotkin (GC) - Icy moon, anarchist settlement, somebody once told me the world was [DATA EXPUNGED].
  9. Lassiter (GC) - via Carnivale gate only. Does not officially exist. A tiny moonlet orbiting the gas giant Lassiter, now home to one of Firewall's friendly Promethean AI, Asterius. It's already begun disassembling the other moons.
  10. Logos (GC) - Moon of an ice giant. Colony established by AGIs wanting to get away from transhuman societal strictures and norms.
  11. Luca* (GC) - A cold marslike world with a native biosphere. A native sapient species was wiped out by an asteroid impact about a thousand years ago. Conflicts between anarchist preservationists and TerraGenesis terraforming efforts are commonplace, and get even more heated when folks discuss resurrecting the lucans from the preserved bodies that have been found.
  12. Merowech (HR) - A frozen, airless, tidally locked world. Crystalline artifacts colloquially called "elf trees" can be found on the day side, which give off a soothing humming when in an atmosphere demonstrate anomalous responses to outside stimuli (ie, crumbling under the higher gravity of a planet, but not that of a rotating habitat)
  13. Nightfall* (HR) - A rocky moon with extreme temperatures and high radiation. Enough resources to spark conflict between TerraGenesis resource extraction and autonomist synthmorph settlers.
  14. Portal* (GC) - A frozen terrestrial world notable for containing six gates, all within 1 km of each other. The primary settlement, Isra, is the launch point for career autonomist crashers.
  15. Tempest* (HR) - An ocean world with a venusian atmosphere. Notable primarily for the permanent hurricane caused by the heat and rotation of the planet and the aerostat filled with art and non-active servant bots built by a single, vanished colonist.
  16. Veronica* (HR) - A slightly-more-habitable martian type world originally settled by a few bands of anarchists. Quiet and unnoeworthy, until the gate to Ascension opened up and the Consortium started dumping thousands of its own colonists onto the world.
  17. Wonderland (HR) - Heavy, hot atmosphere, home to a single, highly-differentiated colonial fungal megaorganism. Ground-penetration scans reveal widespread tunnel networks with clear nanotech toolmarks.
  18. Ymir (FC) - A banded gas giant. Gate situated on a small icy moon. Upper atmosphere of the planet home to pods of gigantic invertebrates nicknamed "frost giants".

Discord Gate

Located on Eris. Run by the Go-Nin group and a band of ultimates who are very vocal about being over the whole morality thing and have been fighting back and forth with fringe exhuman clades. Even getting out there is difficult, and it's unpleasant when you get there.
  1. Giza (GC) - An earthlike world with early plant life, bearing hundreds of black pyramidal structures. These are interfaces to what appears to be a galaxy-spanning anonymous interspecies chat room with aggressive content moderation bots. Everyone is paranoid about information leaks. 15% chance of helpful comunication, 35% chance of trolls.
  2. Mishipizheu / Nanabozho (GC) -A life-bearing water world with a rocky moon, famous for colorful reefs of gas-bladder floaters. Its sun will soon run out of hydrogen to burn (though it should by all means last much longer) and begin to contract, freezing the planet solid. Its moon has less gravity than it should; hypothesized to be hollow or artificial.
  3. Ne No Kuni (GC) - Metal-rich cthonian, home to largest exoworld mining operation.
  4. Oyamatsumi & Konohana* (HR) - A high-pressure CO2 world bearing impact craters believed to be from the debris of a large space-faring vessel. Its red-and-white moon, Konohana, is so strictly geologically stratified that it is clearly artificial, though its poisonous atmosphere makes investigating whatever is under the crust extremely difficult.
  5. Rorty* (GC) - Cold, lifeless world home to exhuman dreadnaught-minds chased there by Go-Nin's ultimates, planning on further raids of other colonies.
  6. Skoyz (GC) - [REDACTED]
  7. Tartarus (SW) - A rogue planet, a big black iceball drifting between suns with a complex microbial ecosystem feeding off the radioactive elements at the bottom of the subsurface ocean.
  8. Vortex (GC) - Gate is suspended in the depths of a gas giant's lower atmosphere. Leaving the gate proper would be instant death from the pressure.

Connector Systems

  • Ascension (GC) - Consortium-run Earthlike world, home to largest human colony.
  • Babylon (GC) - A sun-baked, tidally locked world. The surface displays recent significant impact craters, and long-range telescopes have picked up some kind of vessel hiding out in the stellar corona.
  • Boreas (HR) - An icy moon of a subNeptunian giant. The survey mission to found a second settlement vanished in the subsurface tunnels, which appear now to mirror TITAN structures on Iapetus. Singularity seekers have started to gain access to the world, and are being turned away at the gate.
  • Cairn (HR) - The hellish tomb world of an insect-like species that was driven extinct by runaway greenhouse effect. Pathfinder and TerraGenesis are squabbling rights to the site,
  • Chang-Er (HR) - Prime terraforming real estate. Alien artifact ("The Eye") several hundred kilometers in diameter floats tethered above the surface, casting a gravitational anomaly that prevents the tidal effects of the planet's five moons.
  • Cocytus (HR) - A cold, dark world orbiting a brown dwarf formation. Nearly all light to reach surface is infrared. Massive doses of ionizing radiation make long term survival difficult. The atmosphere is thick enough to support a biosphere capable of gathering energy from magnetic interference.
  • Emmerich's World (HR) - Earth-sized moon of the superJovian Anchorhead. Great night sky, local bacterial and fungal life provides a bounty of fun narcotic and hallucinogenic toxins. The gate to Nihilus is built atop a spiral-helix-pyramidal structure on the opposite pole from the main gate; within the structure is the WETWARE AUTOMATA artifact, that triggers compulsive and repetitive minor actions in nearby sapients.
  • Just-in-Case / Basilica (GC) - A young and lifeless terrestrial world and its young and lifeless moon, similar to a very early Earth. It is being set up as a backup world, a planet that could house millions of refugees in case of existential disaster. Cut off the gates, and there's still plenty of untouched planets nearby in its local cluster. Most of the major (non-autonomist) polities are involved - except the Consortium. No invitation for the hypercaptialists. Or for Firewall.
  • Luca (GC) - A cold marslike world with a native biosphere. A native sapient species was wiped out by an asteroid impact about a thousand years ago. Conflicts between anarchist preservationists and TerraGenesis terraforming efforts are commonplace, and get even more heated when folks discuss resurrecting the lucans from the preserved bodies that have been found.
  • Nightfall (HR) - A rocky moon with extreme temperatures and high radiation. Enough resources to spark conflict between TerraGenesis resource extraction and autonomist synthmorph settlers.
  • Nihilus (HR) - An asteroid mined out by a species long vanished - only bits of tools remain. A group of Buddhists are in the planning stages of building a monastery there.
  • Oyamatsumi & Konohana (HR) - A high-pressure CO2 world bearing impact craters believed to be from the debris of a large space-faring vessel. Its red-and-white moon, Konohana, is so strictly geologically stratified that it is clearly artificial, though its poisonous atmosphere makes investigating whatever is under the crust extremely difficult.
  • Rorty (GC) - Cold, lifeless world home to exhuman dreadnaught-minds chased there by Go-Nin's ultimates, planning on further raids of other colonies.
  • Portal (GC) - A frozen terrestrial world notable for containing six gates, all within 1 km of each other. The primary settlement, Isra, is the launch point for career autonomist crashers.
  • Set (HR) - [DATA EXPUNGED]
  • Simulacra (HR) - A barren terrestrial world with a toxic atmosphere and a few extremophile bacteria. Absolutely nothing of interest, despite the area around the gate being a perfect replica of London in 1920, sans inhabitants. The simulation breaks down the further one goes from Charing Cross, however, devolving into unfinished buildings and fractal streets.
  • Sunrise (GC) - Life-bearing, tidally locked world, bearing seven different gates along the equator and signs of Iktomi settlement around those gates - the windharps, delicate structures that play musical tones on the constant winds
  • Tempest (HR) - An ocean world with a venusian atmosphere. Notable primarily for the permanent hurricane caused by the heat and rotation of the planet and the aerostat filled with art and non-active servant bots built by a single, vanished colonist.
  • Ulmo (HR) - An ocean world with a thin atmosphere, now home to a growing population of uplifted octopi, cetaceans, and amphibious humanoid morphs.
  • Venom (HR) - A molten, Co2-choked world with seas of sulfuric acid. There's literally nothing here.
  • Veronica (HR) - A slightly-more-habitable martian type world originally settled by a few bands of anarchists. Quiet and unnoeworthy, until the gate to Ascension opened up and the Consortium started dumping thousands of its own colonists onto the world.
  • Void Reef (HR) - A band of resource-rich asteroids in a mostly-empty system. The gate location contains traces of fossilized marine life, indicating it was once part of a life bearing planet. A hivemind nest of Rortian-allied exhumans have settled in the Reef, lashing out at the Go-Nin miners sent in-system.

Jokers  

There were  whole lot of fanmade planets that didn't have gates listed, including thirty-seven different locations from the Renegade Octopus blog alone. I decided to not use these just to make it easier on myself.

What We Learned

  • Most of the fanmade planets interested me more than the default ones in GC, and even those that weren't were much easier to read on account of being shorter and single-column.
  • No one, not even Posthuman Studios, likes the Discord Gate. For good reason, I say, exhumans and ultimates always struck me as two bands of terrible folks who deserve each other.
  • Please please please please front your planet entries with tags for if it has a settlement, if it has life, what you need to wear to go outside etc. Open with those. That is stuff I as a sci-fi game referee absolutely need to know.
  • Carnivale (and the scum in general) sounded way better in 2010. It's bad. There's a very short list of folks I would trust to write hyper decadent sex drugs and rock & roll RPG material and none of them worked on this book.
  • Overwritten first-person narrative is guaranteed to make me have a bad time reading whatever game thing is being made. Give me bullet points.
  • Making a single interesting planet with interesting people is more worthwhile than an entire system of nothings.
  • If you only get a sentence to describe it, at least put something interesting there. I shouldn't have to dump [REDACTED]s in there to give it the appearance of something interesting.
  • There was a point I wanted to give up on this. Gatecrashing is a painful book to read, and I hate that it is compelling enough to drive me to do this out of love for the idea.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Esoteric Enterprises Exhibition

Dorohedoro is wonderful, go watch / read it.

All of this is canon, especially the things that contradict, but not all of them are canon in the same place.

Gospel of the Festival Squid

Koine Greek, Anonymous, 400s CE

A codex detailing the culture and customs of an unnamed island nation in the eastern Mediterranean. The island is said to come together during the late spring for a city-spanning celebration of excess and catharsis, heralded by the arrival of a gargantuan squid and its swarms of progeny in the city harbor to confers blessings for the entire week of the festival before it returns to the deeps.

Escape Rope and Magic Bullet

A heavy, frayed cord, the kind that tears up your hands with its fibrous splinters. A milk-white bullet that shines pearl-like under the light. These are grim, but effective, single-use methods of escaping the underworld; both are painless in application but do nothing to ease the psychological burden of their use. When used in the underworld, the user will return to the entrance by which they descended. If used on the surface, they will return the user to a prepared location.

Movement of the Constellations

The titans of the firmament do not rest still. They march and dance across the black sky, with movements so vast it becomes difficult to comprehend. There they debate, place dice with the universe, make love, give birth, war with each other. Can you imagine the smiting stroke of a celestial club, the spilling of bloody nebulae?

The Labyrinth

The underworld itself, the eternal and endless shifting maze that resides in the center of the world. The god-machine of cthonic bronze and lithic panoply that waits past those gigantic engraved gates set deep int the bedrock. The monster-haunted abode of the gods below.

Demon Liquor

The first demons were single-celled organisms that filled the world's oceans in the ages very near the beginning. All of those uncountable demons, buried by the incalculable weight of the miles and miles of stone above them and heated by the fires below, have been converted into an oily liquid, filled with clouds of bloody scarlet, abyssal blue, and bruise purple. It smells of pepper, sulfur, and undiluted grain alcohol. It tastes the same. It shimmers sickly and iridescently under light. It leaves behind a film on whatever it touches. It gives off a mirage haze in the heat. It flakes as it dries. It gets in the drinking water. It gets in the soil. It gets in the rain. It is mutagenic. It is carcinogenic. It lets you do magic.

Many-Faced Moon

A spherical golden mass of androgynous faces great and small; babbling, screaming, groaning, whispering. Slick black oil drips from lips and gums and teeth, leaks from the seams between masks, dissipating as it falls into a streaming trail stain on the sky. Orbits high above the earth - a second moon, smaller and closer than the first. To hear it is difficult, to discern its secret meaning yet impossible. It is dreaming.

National Restoration Party

The end result the terrible machine of power. A bunch of pasty-faced, turtle-necked old fascists that clawed out a fortress of business interests and misinformation to weather the Progressive Years, emerging to run on a platform of reversing civil rights legislation, overturning environmental protections, loosening corporate oversight, stamping down on the press, writing a blank check to the military, and brutal repression of the supernatural. They are currently in power, and this has given nearly-free reign to allied hate groups to terrorize vulnerable populations.

The Dissector

A glossy red sphere of opaque, nonreflective liquid. Hovers off the ground under its own power, average height of ~3 feet, has been seen to rise up to half a mile on one occasion. Highest clocked speed of 400 mph on that same occasion. Organisms brought within ten feet will be paralyzed, suspended in air, and cut into pieces as if by an invisible blade. Victims will remain alive through procedure, blood will remain in body, etc. When its curiosity has been sated, the organism will desiccate of all moisture and reduced to dust.

Happy Sailor Rum Company

There's an anchovy with a beard and a captain's hat on the label, smoking a pipe. The rum is dark and smells of nutmeg, allspice, orange peel. It goes down smooth, puts a fire in your belly and sometimes, just sometimes, you think you can hear the Cap'n talk to you through the haze. He says to drink more rum. Definitely drink more rum. There's something else, but you can't make it out. More rum should help with that.

Church of Saints and Watchers

The splitting of the monad drove God mad, an insane creator who could not care for their creation. Among the ranks of the ancient angels there were those fourteen Watchers descended from the golden realms of thought and fire, to share fragments of the divine wisdom with the inhabitants of the cooling universe so that they might not die in darkness and violence. This they did in ancient days and remained to watch and guard, but could not overstretch their influence lest God notice. They failed, the world fell into darkness and chaos anyway. They attempted again, visited a young woman and blessed her with their fourteen gifts and proclaimed that the child she bore would bring the world to the light. The child died of sickness in three months after birth. The woman took up the mantle instead and founded the church, first of the litany of saints.

Corbin and Cecil

They drive an old white van, rust in the wheelwells and scratches on the sides. Big red text reads SPEEDY MEAT DELIVERY underneath a smiling man embracing a smiling cow, smiling chicken, smiling pig. They say they're identical twins, but one looks like he got six inches cut off him and the scars have reshaped their faces. Bushy salt and pepper mustaches, brown flat caps, stained aprons. Can't place the accent.

The Convocation of Birds

The ranks of the Simurgh's priestly hierarchy may be easily distinguished by the color of their vestments. The Doves, who deal with matters of peace and diplomacy, wear white. Cardinals, who deal with the church's internal affairs, wear red. Crows, who deal in heresies and militant actions, wear black. Sparrows, whose place is with the poor, wear brown. The occasional Jay, who deals in arcane affairs, wears blue. Their holy days are migratory, announced by the bishop-augurs who read the entrails of their sacred avians. That all inducted members may speak the language of birds is a given.

The Cthonic Ecumene

A doomed attempt to form a demosoc polity that tied together the surface and underworld, founded in a major manufacturing city that could see that the coming post-industrial era would be their ruin. Despite the upswing in supernatural events and spike in dangerous sorcerous activity, it was mostly successful, until the winds shifted with the national election and the full weight of government-sanctioned violence was brought upon it. The Oikouménē Khthónios was murdered; hung from lamp posts, stood before the firing squads, dumped in the mass graves of the public parks. Long ago now, only sad memories remain.

DER0 Suits

The 0-Series Dungeon Exploration Rig comes complete with an integrated containment unit for a fetal Australopithicus demens. This allows the wearer to safely travel the lower levels of the underworld without falling prey to geographic or structural malleability, as well as access to the "air loom" mass communication methods used by those creatures. This suit's very existence constitutes a crime against humanity. 

The Afterlife Machine

There is no telling if the project would have been more successful had its proponents been less desperate; certainly all would have been much better off had they been less successful. An exclusion zone of four miles' radius has been cordoned off. Trespassers to be shot without warning. In twilight hours one can see a sort of fractal pattern shimmering on the air, like curtains of soap bubble

The Wasteland Children

Old Occitan, Anonymous, 1150s CE 

A lurid apocryphal work. Eve, pregnant with her third child, abandons a drunken, abusive Adam in the aftermath of Abel's death and Cain's exile and travels westward across the wasteland. Reaching the desolate coast near dawn, she finds an island where thousands of screech owls are landing to roost. Building a raft of reeds she paddles to the island to discover it is the home of Lilith, Adam's first wife, cursed to forever birth monsters in isolation. After a long dialogue between the two detailing the injustices that have befallen them, Eve decides to remain on the island. The remainder of the book details Eve's romantic and eventually sexual relationship with Lilith, the birth and youth of Seth, and a fragmentary story of Seth departing from the island with a party of his monstrous step-siblings for purpose unknown.

Bobbit Dogs

"Just a pack of mangy ferals, all thin and sick. Wouldn't have thought twice about them, but one of them stopped under the streetlight, one paw up like a pointer that heard something. I could see spines, thin ones like needles, running down its back. It didn't have a head, not a proper one, just this stump of one, but after a moment it fucking extended, wiggling around like a worm. Could see fangs on it long as my hand. Then it darted off after its pack. That neighborhood's fucking lost, mate, if things like that are roaming around."

Book of the 10 Families

Original Language and Date Unknown

A codex detailing the cosmic hierarchy of gods...
  1. Zodiac Gods
  2. Higher Wanderer Gods
  3. Gods of the Labyrinth
  4. Fossil Gods
  5. Gods of the Obet
  6. Wild Gods
  7. Little Gods
  8. Ascendants
  9. God-Kings
  10. Mortals 
 and the outline of their powers.
  • Throne - Extension of the god's self. A soul-world.
    • No Throne - Wandering - Gods stuck in the material world. Easily killed.
    • Only Throne - Imprisoned - Gods trapped in themselves, alone, unreachable.
  • Crown - A god's ability to influence the world outside their Throne.
    • No Crown - Impotent - Possesses worshipers, but no power.
    • Only Crown - Powers - A cosmic law.
  • Domain - The extent of a god's influence, its magic and worshipers.
    • No Domain - Secrets - Gods whose rites and signs have been lost.
    • Only Domain - Vagaries - Schools of magic with no god to speak of.

The Man Who Ate the Gods' Food

Folk story about a man who attended a banquet in the house of the gods and stole food off the plates reserved for divinity. Eating it, his eyes were opened to the secrets of the gods, and he came to know that the gods fed on cruelty. After returning, he went on to invite the gods to a banquet at his own home, where he served them the cooked and butchered remains of his own son. The immediate and incredible punishment delivered on him by the gods was not out of a sense of justice, but rather to prevent him from spreading the knowledge. But he escaped; the gods killed an innocent man...

Book Club

Witch coven descended from an ancient cult of a scholar-god. Bookleggers embroiled in conflict with the creeping chaos that eats at the world. Your go-to for rare books and magical grimoires. Intermediaries among underworld factions and beings. Access to the Stygian Library.

Petrichor Dreamland Market

An underworld black market close enough to the surface for significant overlap with the mundane affairs of the surface. The proprietor (or at least, the guy who is always there) has a bunch of vending machines rigged up for ammo, toiletries, trinkets and drugs, plus a rotating selection of goods mundane and anomalous, whatever you might want. He's a big guy, doesn't talk much, has a shrine to a god no one can identify, really likes playing central Asian heavy metal at high volume.

108.1 HDAC "The Delve"

Phoenix Marino and his merry band of paracausal pirates dance up and down the radio bands, providing news, music, and entertainment to the delvers with the know-how to tune themselves in. They are on the government's most-wanted watchlist for aiding and abetting esoteric and occult crimes.

Boneless Cow Phenomenon

A spate of incidents over the course of five years and several neighboring countries where entire herds were discovered, overnight, to have lost every bone in their bodies.

The Found Footage Paradox

A question: why is it that there is never any evidence of the events recorded on those unlabeled VHS tapes until after they are watched? An answer: don't ask questions you already know the answers to.

Theophagists

Devotees to a god of flesh, who seek communion by butcher's blade and blood pitcher. They are damnably good at hiding their god from both the public and authorities, no matter how many raids are carried out, no matter how many freezers and smokehouses and stewpots filled with godmeat are seized. They are becoming more militant under outside pressure, circling the wagons, preparing their defenses.

Delver's Guidebook

Both oral history and living document, chronicling discoveries in the underworld and supplemented by the discoveries of others. The average guidebook is full to bursting with additions, edits, commentaries, rumors, trade secrets, folk wisdom, superstition, bullshit, and unvarnished truth. Thanks to the internet, several traditional lineages have been consolidated and shared broadly for the first time.

ASHERN

The American Supernatural Hazard Emergency Response Network was originally intended as an easy way to report supernatural events, but it proved an exorbitant cost for relatively few true reports. Decades of budget cuts left it little more than a skeleton when it was mothballed for good. A few regions of the country still have access, thanks to a dedicated but overwhelmed cadre of citizen volunteers.

Blackmoon and the Mercury 13

Of the eight vantablack tensegrity spheres that have appeared, only one has been breached. The inhabitants: thirteen women claiming to be members of NASA's Mercury program. None of the Thirteen bear any resemblance to the known members of the Mercury 13. None of the Thirteen have been permitted groundside access.

The Towers of the Tiger

Three towers of light orange clay, rising for several hundred feet of the ocean at a nearly 45-degree angle. The exterior is an intricate layer-cake of bas-reliefs; the interior has yet to be mapped. Named so for the adult tiger that lives atop the southern tower, a creature estimated to be the size of an adult elephant. Communication has not yet been attempted.

Spell Tumors

The ultimate end of a life spent drinking demon liquor and meddling with paracausality. Arcane carcinogens ravage living cells, forming hideous growths that contain significant charge on their own, enough that they can be transplanted into new bodies and still retain potency. Plus, feed it enough and you can grow new ones! 

Tubetown

An underworld settlement consisting of a single metal tube three meters in diameter and twenty-six kilometers in length. It twists back in upon itself intestine-like. Additional entrances had to be dug out by the inhabitants with hand tools.

Red Light District

The inhabitants are called succubi, but that's not quite right. They are strangers here, refugees tucked away in the crooked back alleys under the soft lights that won't hurt their eyes, forgotten.

404 House

A home of unstable placement. Experimentation eventually revealed a way of locking it in place and unplugging it from reality when secrecy or relocation was needed. 

The Trujillo Incident

Peru. May 23, 2002. The corpse of a giant squid washes up on shore. Dozens of genetically-identical human embryos are found fused to the inside of the mantle. [REDACTED]

The Titanians

A band of experimental mages attempting to formulate a ritual that will open up a portal to the moon Titan, as well as change their bodies to survive the environment there. They have grand designs of uplifting the simple life they suspect lives there and ruling over it as gods, or something of that nature. They are a bit out there.

Red Demon Tea Shop

They brew a good cuppa, and often serve sturdy-looking men with tattoos. An obvious front for organized crime, and they don't care that everyone knows. If the sturdy-looking men with tattoos show up in bug-eyed and befanged red masks, you stepped in on their business. The boss, the Lady in the Back Room, is rumored to be the kind of woman who could break any of her bruisers over he own knees.

Pure World Armory

Militant cultists with an unyeilding, violent moral code. They stoop down to the fallen and sinful world to work as guns for hire for the funds to construct their Pure World Sanctuary, and they hate every minute of it. They see every person outside their ranks to be steeped utterly in moral decay (usually involving sex of some kind), both incapable or unworthy of escape. They are very open about how they hope to gestate a god in their sanctuary that will wipe the world clean of all they hate.

Leviathans

Godlike beings of earth, sea, and sky, whose eternal slumber births pockets of dream so potent they seep into the world of matter and energy as stable loci. often worshiped by human cults, though they are not gods known to answer.

Abductee Hope and Recovery Fellowship

A volunteer network that hosts group counseling sessions for the targets of alien abductions. Backed by a very small UFO-centric religion, but it's been harmless so far. No other organization can confirm the events.

Federal Bureau of Occult Investigation

The public face of the government's paranormal affairs, meant as a cover and smokescreen for the unseen inner machinations. Derisively called the "F-Bois" by denizens of the underworld.

Voxel Blooms

Ineffable glossy black cubes spring up after rain. They stick together, but can be pulled apart with a little effort. Within ten hours they will gently float up float upwards and vanish in the atmosphere.

Elektrotokos Syndrome

Initial incident of a woman (age 29) giving birth to an eight-pound chunk of smoothed amber, containing within a bloated mosquito. Over two hundred subsequent incidents have occurred worldwide, with chunks ranging from four to twelve pounds and contents expanding to include ticks, spiders, centipedes, earwigs, and flatworms.

FRIEND

You didn't think they'd leave you behind, did you?

Saturday, February 8, 2020

JOESKY TAX PREPARATION

The Joesky Tax is a necessary part of a healthy RPG environment and chief of the weapons against the disc horse. Unfortunately, there are many people who do not know of the power of the Joesky Tax and are thus left defenseless to the horrific beast.

Never fear! I have created a list, better than a list a random table, that when the disc horse arrives at your door and demands engagement you can say NO, DISC HORSE! I HAVE PAID MY TAXES!

100 Methods of Paying Your Joesky Tax

  1. Revise & polish an old module (or even game) you like.
  2. Outline a new game using 5 core mechanics taken from other games.
  3. What genre of games needs a revival, change, start or renewal?
  4. You are a goblin. What is today's scheme?
  5. What horrible internet rabbit hole did the occultist fall into?
  6. Favorite children's book + favorite adult book = game setting
  7. Your favorite PC.
  8. Lost tomes of the Stygian Library.
  9. Make your least favorite monster cool.
  10. What's a myth that begs for an adaptation (that doesn't have one)?
  11. Your favorite weird Wikipedia article & how to use it.
  12. What holiday festival did you stumble onto?
  13. Goblins have a food truck! What are they serving?
  14. Funerary beliefs of the local culture.
  15. Common pets for adventurers
  16. What monster lurks in the hearts of men?
  17. Make or modify character creation into a solo game.
  18. Who are these chucklehead novices from the Temple of the Centipede?
  19. Describe the place you long for.
  20. What songs do you faintly hear on the lyre, and what do they mean?
  21. What world lies beyond the hidden door?
  22. Make a family tree generator or table.
  23. Revise & renew an old post.
  24. What terrible fortune has befallen, to drive so many into the life of a delver?
  25. What great journey has just left to where you cannot follow?
  26. Take a class; make its opposite.
  27. Shotgun scenario! Any game, 1500 words max.
  28. Why is that starfish latched to that man's face?
  29. Character creation via a novel form of life path.
  30. Who carries that lantern across the mist-shrouded moor? 
  31. What sort of monstrous roadkill is that?
  32. Explain what a gorbadrex is.
  33. Notable pilgrimage points.
  34. Name the threat that seeks to eat the sun.
  35. Character creation through memories.
  36. Describe the other planets in the solar system.
  37. Take a given in society, flip and extrapolate.
  38. Take a given about human physiology or behavior, flip and extrapolate.
  39. Who bears delvers and cutters to the afterlife? Which afterlife?
  40. Make a map.
  41. Using the above map, apply this post from Sword of Mass Destruction
  42. Patch notes from the gods.
  43. Super-specialized non-hostile magical creature.
  44. What avoidable tragedy started this terrible conflict?
  45. Take a game you've never played, make a character for it. Write about the experience.
  46. Take your favorite class, remake it even more favorite.
  47. The council failed at its appointed task. What consequences will come of this?
  48. Non-dinosaur prehistoric creature class or monster.
  49. Formative myths of this culture.
  50. Organizations for making parties.
  51. What intolerable injustice must be righted?
  52. Blow the conch! Who answers?
  53. Loopholes in fairy contracts.
  54. Terrifying threat that is actually misunderstood.
  55. Stranded alien colonists.
  56. Guests at the mad magician's tea party.
  57. What did you see on that unmarked VHS?
  58. What is trapped in the roots of that tree?
  59. What great filter killed these aliens?
  60. What's something you like in a game you don't?
  61. So where do these monsters come from?
  62. Make a short adventure about a marriage.
  63. Using magic to solve big, but mundane, problems.
  64. Get the PCs to the moon using default rules in a game where that is not normally an option.
  65. What is the Hand of Trax and why was it stolen?
  66. Critique a video game RPG.
  67. Fishing minigame!
  68. The hideous secret vices of notable nobles.
  69. Read & review a game book you own but have not played.
  70. Non-racist ancient alien scenario.
  71. Build a city in a very unlikely place.
  72. Cryptids! Make some cryptids.
  73. Nonstandard monstrous humanoids that are more than one note.
  74. A broken artifact and how to fix it.
  75. Leviathans of the abyss, sky, and mantle.
  76. Make a script / alphabet.
  77. An ancient song that contains clues to ruins and treasure!
  78. Make a Wonder and Wickedness style magical school.
  79. Take a genre, approach it from a different angle and perspective.
  80. Notorious pieces of high art worth heisting away.
  81. What lurks inside the labyrinth? Why is it there? How?
  82. What are the gifts of the Great Machine God?
  83. What government is funding these privateers?
  84. Cobble together a map of your favorite adventures.
  85. Who is this future for?
  86. What brings the Gazelle Queen to court?
  87. Who built these terrible tombs?
  88. Fun with obscure Biblical stories.
  89. What nonviolent interactions exist with these creatures.
  90. A forbidden spell; why was it censured?
  91. What secrets have these hallucinogenic snails divulged?
  92. What did this magical creature look like millions of years ago? What about the future?
  93. Who will inherit the world after humanity has passed?
  94. Write about a topic that inspires you. The thing that instinctively makes you want to create.
  95. Myths and legends told in the twilight days of the climate apocalypse. 
  96. What is the snake-headed salesman selling?
  97. Society-upending magical or technological development.
  98. An unusual shapeshifter.
  99. A collection of final thoughts.
  100. Make a similar d100 list, link it to this one.
PAY YOUR TAXES

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Estoeric Enterprises Actual Play: TAKE-HOME CONTAINER

Mon did this!


TAKE-HOME CONTAINER


Rare book dealer Virginia_Woolf vanished without a trace, leaving Half-Light (Evoro, mercenary), Crocodile (Monsieur le Battalier, doctor), and Michael (Isaak, criminal) not only without their promised 1593 Japanese printing of The Divine Comedy and all three volumes of a 1979 The Last Dangerous Visions, but down their entire deposit. That's enough to go fuck someone up over.

After paying even more (in the form of hard cider, instant noodles, and the last of the weird porn) to the oracle in the abandoned mini-mall, they were able to get a trace on their seller, a trace that sent them five hours away and across state lines, to an abandoned-looking farmhouse in the middle of grey, dead farmland.

They pull up the dirt driveway to find a truck and a sedan already there. The house's windows have been boarded up, but the door is ominously open.

The trio investigate the sedan first, with Michael easily jimmying the lock open. Inside they find a couple boxes of paradox paperbacks (such as Mark Twain's The Alchemist and His Dog), old fast food wrappers for Great Googly Moogly's, and a duffel bag containing a man's clothes, toiletries, and an ID for a youngish, bespectacled man with curly brown hair named Archie Staller. They move it all to their own car.

Michael makes sure that he can hotwire the car if he needs to, as the house door is caught by the breeze and swings wide open. The trio sweeps in, guns in hand.

The scene that greets them is mountains of trash ringing a carved-up corpse in the middle of the floor, surrounded by sinuous symbols in white paint. The corpse's head is missing, and one of the legs has been cubed and dumped in a wok on a camping stove. The whole thing smells like roadkill dunked in a spice cabinet. Crocodile is able to recover from the extreme nausea caused by stepping over the ritual circle and decides to take the wok with her. Half-Light and Michael rummage through the trash and find a pair of pants and an ID: the same face as before, now with the name Seamus McMann. Plus $500 in cash.

Brief reconnaissance of the dining room shows that the table has been sloppily and not-entirely cleaned of the paint and blood that once covered its surface. The kitchen is a disaster: shelves torn out of the cabinets and fridge, more stains on the walls and floor. A black 3-ring binder lies open on the floor, ignored. They pass through and on to the black mouth of the basement steps.

Down in the darkness, they find cubicles of plywood lining the walls and bungee cords tied to the pipes above. On the floor, there is the fleshy mess with a ragged mouth that used to be a man named Leonard. He's chatty, explaining how he deserves his lot for his failure to fulfill the principle act of power, how Chuck in the barn succeeded, and how Rachel might still be around. Leonard wishes for death, for in his current state starvation will take a terribly long time: he's already been here a week.

Crocodile, ever a sensible woman, runs up to the mud room to grab a snow shovel and trash bag to stuff Leonard into and carry him around as if she's some horrible anti-Santa.

As the group emerges back in the kitchen, a scraping sound from outside runs across the window boards. The silence to follow is oppressive, as they tread up the creaking stairs to the upper floor.

There's relatively little of note upstairs: a grimy bathroom and a trashed bedroom. The computer is still on (3d pipe screensaver!), despite there being no power to the rest of the house. They strip out the hard drive and the flash drive that was plugged in (they do not view the "untitled.mp4 video contained thereon). On the hard drive is:
  • Ye gods that is a lot of porn. It's not even good porn. It's bad by Deviantart standards.
  • A 300-page manifesto detailing global catastrophe and the rise of an eternal capitalist technofascist government.
  • Financial records, though not particularly illuminating ones.
  • A pdf of an Chinese text, with a machine translation.
Elsewhere in the room is found a hardware shopping list, a crude drawing of a man turning into something not unlike a butterfly, a photo of two soldiers (presumably Chuck and Leonard) and Chuck's wallet with his credit card.

Something scuttles on the roof above them.

Down the stairs. Thuds on the kitchen door. Crocodile pulls away the boards on the kitchen window, grabs her pepper spray and hits Leonard full in the face with it before tossing the screaming flesh-thing out the window.

The distraction doesn't work.

There's a woman silhouetted in the front door against the grey light of mid-afternoon for a moment before she rushes across the living room. There is the glint of a cleaver.

Michael is on his toes and leaps out the window, sprinting around the house. Crocodile blasts her pepper spray to no effect, but is able to follow behind as Rachel's cleaver comes down a hair too late, biting into the sill. Half-Light, who had her rifle prepped from the kitchen, takes a shot and books it to the front door. she is just able to make it before Rachel slices open her back. Crocodile and Michael sprint around the house to jump in their car. The cleaver finds Half-Light's eye. Blood is pouring everywhere, she will not last. The car starts, Crocodile fires off a shot from the passenger side, Half-Light throws herself to the side, Michael floors it.

With no time to spare they hit Rachel with the car and send her flying. Crocodile throws open the door, grabs Half-Light, and drags her inside. Michael floors it for a second time and they tear off down the driveway, spitting up gravel as Rachel rises from the ground and howls at the receding car.

Crocodile is able to stabilize Half-Light before she bleeds out with the first aid kit she brought with her, and it's a terrible five hours home.

Michael has a hideout underneath an abandoned factory in one of the City's old industrial districts. Crocodile gets to work repairing Half-Light's eye (it'll be a bit blurry but will remain intact if it isn't injured again), and Michael gets to work at draining Chuck's credit cards with bulk buying gift cards.

They're able to break even, more or less, though they still don't have the books they wanted.

The barn remains sealed.


Monday, February 3, 2020

Thirteen Items

Months ago, Michael Prescott issued a challenge to make the most evocative setting possible using a 13-item inventory.

I am nothing if not exceedingly timely and on the ball.

The Possessions of Sen Mazzaroth, Wanderer



1. Acupuncture Needles and Thread

The golden needles and silver thread favored by the chirurgeons of Iln is hard to come by, especially by foreigners, and all the more desired for their potency in cleaning the spirit and drawing out corruptions.

2. Bottled Demon

Steeped in its own liquor, the putrescent bruise-blue embryo still glares through the murk with burning gold eyes and serrated smile. It offers a boon if released.

3. Hand-Woven Scarf

Long nights of work by one beloved went into this long strip of scarlet and gold. The family histories going back eight generations are embroidered in careful calligraphy, ending in the twined circles of rings.

4. Horned Pilgrimage Mask

A plain mask, lacquered white. Such masks serve three purposes: The first is to maintain the Law of Humility whilst traveling abroad. The second is to denote the profession of the wearer, by shape. The last is to state their purpose, by color. 

5. Patched Traveling Clothes

Insulated against cold, repaired against damage, over and over again. With enough time, all kin of the road wear the same garments.

6. Obsidian Sword

Certain smithing enchantments will draw the shattered fragments of such a weapon back into a whole piece. This one was clearly performed by a master, for it draws upon all seven humours of the soul.

7. Red Ocarina

Certain melodies, when played on instruments made of clay from the sacred river Gyensol, allows for the calling up and binding of misborn and miscarried spirits. They flock to it as if to the distant call of a mother.

8. Road Cakes

A small loaf of this dense black bread can be rationed out over days. It tastes faintly of honey from the high hidden valleys

9. Icon of Safety

The terrible appearance of this leering visage is more than enough to scare away most nightly ambushers. The ancestral memory of the monsters that once worse such faces is still strong.

10. Rosary of Fire-Pearls

A mantra to collect the mind, a mantra for the emptying of vessels, a mantra for seeking of secrets.

11. Golden Bell

The clerics of the gods in the Oubliette are known to carry these ritual tools while making their rounds. How did it arrive here on the surface?

12. Iron Rod Rifle

The gunpowder societies of the Delta keep their secrets, leading other armies to unorthodox alternatives. The weapons of the Edhaspar Regulars launch white-hot iron spikes at speeds below sound, spawning dozens of widespread cliches about porcupines and pincusions.

13. Sturdy Boots

Tradition has it that every cobbler who repairs a wanderer's boots will apply their brand to the leather, making a permanent mark of the roads they have traveled.



Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Therefore Game

I was incredibly, absolutely, unreasonably bored at work, so I came up with a solo game.

The Therefore Game


This game has only two parts. Both of which are stolen. The first part is the FU Freeform/Universal RPG. The second bit is a nifty piece of writing advice that apparently comes from the South Park guys (whom I have no particular fondness for) that goes something like this: instead of "and then", events in a story should be chained with "therefore" or "however".

How to Play


Start with a character statement: "X, a Y, wants Z."

Then, add a "therefore..." and make a follow-up statement, presumably the first step in X's attempt to acquire Z.

When you have written that, roll a d6 to determine how that therefore statement turned out.
  1. Negative / Failure, with a malus or just huge.
  2. Negative / Failure
  3. Negative / Failure, with a bonus.
  4. Postive / Success, with a malus.
  5. Positive / Success
  6. Positive / Success, with a bonus or just huge.
If you are at work and can get away with it, just type "d6" into Google.

If you are dealing with two parties in competition with each other and want a change of POV, you can just reverse your outcome.

Repeat until X has achieved Z, or you feel a good place to end.

Example: Sir Percival, the Dragon, and the Princess Pat


  • Sir Percival, a knight, wants to slay a dragon.
    • Therefore, he begins his preparations by reading about them in the scriptorum (5)
  • He learns that they love treasure and devouring maidens.
    • Therefore, he plans a way to bait out the dragon with gold and one of the princesses. (5)
  • He's able to get a chest of gems from the king and the Princess Par is on board with the idea
    • Therefore they ride out to where the dragon lives. (6)
  • They are able to set up an ambush outside the cave. Percival takes his position, Pat takes hers with the chest of gems and calls out to the dragon.
    • Therefore, the dragon emerges from his cave to investigate the sound and smell. (2)
  • The dragon pick's up Percival's scent and stays by the mouth of the cave, on guard.
    • Therefore, Pat gives Percival a signal to back off and let the dragon come out. (2)
  • Percival doesn't pick up on it and gets closer to the edge of the cave mouth.
    • Therefore the dragon tries to sweep him off the cave lip with its tail. (4)
  • Percival is knocked off, but manages to land on top of the dragon's back.
    • Therefore he tries to plunge his sword into the dragon (3)
  • The sword bounces off the dragon's scales, but Pat has thought of a recovery plan!
    • Therefore Par begins to sing a magic song (4)
  • The dragon falls asleep, but so does Percival.
    • Therefore, Pat undoes the rope tying her to the tree to solve the problem herself (2)
  • Unfortunately, Percival is really good at tying knots.
    • Therefore, Pat tries to grab the pocketknife she always keeps with her (3).
  • It falls from her hand, but it looks like Percival is waking up! 
    • Therefore a terribly embarrassed Percival runs over and unties Pat (2)
  • But the dragon wakes up before he can get there!
    • Therefore it tries to roast them with its fire breath (1)
  • The fireball gets caught in its throat and explodes! The dragon is wounded terribly! Pat is untied!
    • Therefore Percival and Pat go in for the finisher! (5)
  • With vorpal blade and Rigabamboo (it's red and gold and purple too) they chop off the dragon's head! Victory!
The story could, of course, keep going from there, but I think this is a suitable example. If you end up trying it out, let me know!





Friday, January 31, 2020

The Dryad Queen Mother - October Patreon Post

Dmitry Khrapovitsky


I was playing around with the fantasy pantheon generator on Abulafia by Dave Younce, and ended up with this in the results:

Kendryalara, mother of gods, a rotting young woman with leaves for hair.

There’s no way I’m letting a description like that just sit there and not be used. Let’s go.

The Tree of Life


Long ago the world was a waste of bare red stone. There was no water upon it, and the sky was empty. So it remained for ages uncounted until a star fell from the heavens. It came to rest in the highlands, and there it cooled and became a great metal flower. From the flower there rose a tree, and this tree was Kendryalara. It was her appointed task to bring life to the world, and so she did.

Birth of the Gods


Kendryalara did not arrive alone: with her came her consort Iathemis, who lived above the sky and filled it with clouds, so that rain might fall on the world and the oceans be filled. Ice was thrown down from the heavens to melt and flow in rivers. Here Kendryalara planted her garden of paradise, and tended to it as the bare red waste turned green.

Through this intercourse with Iathemis, Kendryalara conceived the gods. When the time was right, she released them into the garden of paradise and gave them her instruction: the gods created man and the other creatures of the world according to her direction, and ruled over them so that there was no conflict between the peoples. This was the great age of the world.

The Collapse of Paradise


The end of the great age did not come from a single event, but instead a slow collapse of interwoven causes. At the first, the heralds of the tribes beyond the sky ceased to sing, and the heavens were silent. At the second, there was grumbling among the gods, and the new fear caused many of them to act rashly or foolishly, bringing forth vendettas and hatreds that had long been kept under control. This led the peoples they had created into conflict with themselves, each other, and their gods. Great injuries were made to Kendryalara during the conflict and several of the gods perished, and it became clear to all that there was no means of preventing the world from returning to the red waste it once had been. So mankind sought out secret gods of iron and silicon and raised cities and split atoms in service of their survival: they still revered Kendryalara and the surviving gods, this is true, but they knew a day would come when all of them had died.

The Worship of Kendryalara Today


Man’s relationship with the gods is tenuous in the modern age. They were designed for the garden of paradise and so have adjusted poorly to the reddening world and the cities of man. For all of them the primary form of worship is the sending of praise-songs by way of a messenger- scribe-shrines dedicated to the gods may be found commonly but not blatantly: it is considered unfashionable to be too overt in ones religious practices, even though nearly everyone still makes offerings.

Kendryalara in particular is worshipped through what are essentially long-term funeral rites in preparation for her final death. There is a lightly-organized priesthood but little barrier to entry beyond appropriate practices. They may be identified easily, wearing brown robes and a green or orange stole.

Kendryalara has a few servants remaining in the world; radiant angels like spiders or cuttlefish made of smoothed, petrified wood.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Florentine

Evlyn started up a project where folks would write up author avatars and the assorted Lovecraftian tomes they had authored. Since Evlyn has only recently returned to Twitter, I don't know if there's been any more talk or progress on it. Hopefully this will jumpstart other people to join in.

Domenico Frazzini

(b. 1460 d. 1516) 

Few details of Frazzini's life as a minor clerk in the Arte del Cambio survive. His poetry gained little traction in the Florence of his day and in the following centuries languished in obscurity. The fragments of his letters paint a picture of a man withdrawn from general social life for the company of a small circle of close friends, beset by fits of melancholy and chronic insomnia and with little love for the trade he found himself in. (From one of his letters: "How I hate the florin. I cannot think clearly with the clink of gold in my ears.") At some point in his early life he had intended to become a monk, but for unclear reasons chose a different path. Later documents contain spirited critique of church corruption. It was in the dreams and daydreams of the landscapes and inhabitants of fantastic worlds, and in the poetry inspired by them, that he found his great escape.

The date of Frazzini's death is known, but not the cause. It's suspected to be from complications caused by years of stress and lack of sleep.

Bibliography


The majority of Frazzini's works were destroyed during the Bonfire of the Vanities in 1497. The surviving poetry and letters were left in the care of his close friend, Giacomo Betori. Of these,

The Little Dream Book / Piccolo Libro dei Sogni

  • Journey to the Moon - A comedic picaresque adventure wherein a peasant girl travels to the moon to free her betrothed, who was imprisoned there by horrible toadlike monsters. On her way she encounters a pair of Egyptian priests, an enchanted forest, a band of talking rats, and other such picaresque adventures. It is Frazzini's longest surviving work.
  • The Republic of Cats - A political satire where barely-renamed notable Florentines are rendered as cats deciding what to do while the owner of the house is away. Naturally, they come to no conclusions and all fall asleep long before the man's return.
  • The Androphagi - An account of the man-eaters who live "south of the world and below the world", as told by a visitor in their lands. The Court of the Marrow King is convened to throw a feast in the visitor's honor, and unable to contain his disgust the visitor flees through subterranean warrens, pursued by the Marrow King's soldiers and glimpsing even more horrific sights before reaching the safety of the sun above.
  • The Golden Lady - A short poem from Frazzini to his wife, expressing his affection and admiration for her. If nothing else, it seems that they were happy together.
  • Tambifilotopa - A nonsense poem describing the bizarre creatures that live in the enchanted forest featured in "Journey to the Moon".
  • Across the Burning Desert - A trading caravan is beset by water thieves, and the merchants find that the god they carry with them has gone silent. Ends in uncertainty as night falls and the moonlight reveals amorphous shapes among the rocks.
  • House of the Spider - The spider in question never appears, but the house and all its decrepitude are described in great detail. A pair of goat-eyed men from a distant duchy arrive to hunt down the spider (against the counsel of the townsfolk) and are last seen entering through the front door.
  • The Worms that Duel - A town suffers a devastating earthquake, caused by a pair of miles-long worms, one black and one white, fighting each other deep beneath the ground.
  • The Devil Arrives - A nameless Tuscan town is visited on Carnivale night by a man whose clothes are black are tar and whose scarf is red like a bloodied tongue. He offers boons to anyone who asks; those who accept the offer find themselves cursed by misfortune or madness. As he leaves, the man delivers a message from his "old master, blind, deaf and dumb" - but this is written in indecipherable scribbles.
  • Flight - An aging Frazzini in declining health describes his sleeping spirit flying out of his body and soaring over the lands he has explored in earlier years, holding on to a night's freedom before he must return to mortality.
  • Notes and Letters - Precisely that.

Editions

  • Original Manuscript - Handwritten. Everything that avoided the bonfire and made its way to Betori's care.
  • 1550 First Printing - Betori's grandson edits the surviving manuscripts into a single work and oversees a small printing of The Little Dream Book.
  • Translations
    • 1760 - Initial rediscovery and translation into English and French.
    • 1833 - Bowlderized run, no known surviving copies and they were awful anyway.
    • 1879 - A second, more faithful English translation. Treated as the standard, available on Gutenberg Project.
  • Modern translations
    • 1974 - A scholarly edition, with footnotes and everything.
    • 1999 - Republished version of the 1974 text.
    • 2017 - New English translation with the Italian on the opposing page. Has been translated into 9 additional languages. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Random Tables from Twitter: Part 3, Enterprises Edition

Buckle up folks, it's a double header via @imaginaryhallw1

d20 Things Underworlders Desperately Need

  1. Fresh fruits and vegetables
  2. Vitamin supplements (C&D especially)
  3. News and mail from the surface
  4. Soap, toothpaste, toilet paper
  5. Spices and seasonings
  6. Water filters 
  7. Canned food and dried goods
  8. Antiseptics and OTC meds
  9. Tampons, pads, birth control
  10. Underwear and socks
  11. Replacement computer components
  12. Smut
  13. Batteries, chargers, adapters
  14. Music, movies, games, books
  15. Up-to-date maps and guides
  16. Ammunition
  17. Camping supplies
  18. Magical reagents
  19. Memetic vaccinations
  20. Translators, doctors, therapists

d20 Paranormal Youtube Rabbit Holes

  1. Fleshcrafter beauty / workout vlogs.
  2. The Dero got into the  Indian nursery rhyme spam accounts again...
  3. Stygian Library explorations with the Book Club.
  4. Ynnian gardening tips.
  5. Those idiots trying to do the King in Yellow in 15 second clips.
  6. In-depth literary and lore analysis of Madotsuki's dream diary.
  7. Identifying underworld graffiti tags.
  8. That one guy who homebrews his own space mead.
  9. Clips from a popular delver podcast, animated in SFM.
  10. Official channel of the Lithic embassy at Bárðarbunga. The ambassador really loves his flintbirds.
  11. Livestream of a silent delver's campsite. They wear a mask and occasionally play the banjo.
  12. Mad scientists unboxing and testing new tools.
  13. Ghost hunter drama channels.
  14. Investigations into missing delvers, attempting to find what happened to them.
  15. Faerie sightings, plus the creepy fandom around them.
  16. Obvious serpentmen-created homunculi attempting social engineering
  17. People really into occult cryptocurrency.
  18. Underworld cooking channels
  19. Technomancer-modified Let's Plays
  20. Lo-Fi Cult Music Study and Chill Infinite Mix

Monday, January 20, 2020

Random Tables from Twitter: Part 2

The sequel to part 1.

d10 Dread Staves

(via @lithyscape)
  1. Hawthorn with a skull on top.
  2. Thin obsidian dowel.
  3. Petrified wood nymph.
  4. Dragonbone double helix.
  5. Elm with a hand of glory.
  6. Quicksilver needle.
  7. Hunchbacked spine.
  8. Pitchfork with a bloody history.
  9. Rusted drill shaft.
  10. A coiled diamond 

d10 Methods For Getting Out of Funks

(via @will_brunn)
  1. Exercise.
  2. Changing routine.
  3. Spending time with friends.
  4. Meditation.
  5. Getting more sleep.
  6. Playing with animals.
  7. Listening to new music.
  8. Have a good cathartic cry.
  9. Medication.
  10. Positive existentialism. 

d10 Ynnian Pathways

(via @macpheed)
  1. March of the Ladybugs - A red-and black carpet of beetles forms a roadway under your feet.
  2. Bramble Tunnel - The thorns tear at your clothing and skin. Take 1 Flesh damage.
  3. Topiary Road - Winding gravel lined with beautifully-cut images of your friends and family.
  4. Around-the-Vast-Oak - Walk around the trunk counter-clockwise, and you'll end up where you're going.
  5. The Garden Gate - An iron gate set in an ivy-choked brick wall.
  6. The Snake - A big old snake head. Walk into its mouth, its throat becomes
  7. The Deluge - Black, pregnant storm clouds burst open, washing players away to the next region.
  8. The Meadow - A wide field of grass and pale flowers under a bright midmorning sun
  9. Pond of the Sword-Naiad - A wooden bridge over a placid green pond. It's inhabitant has a 50% chance of chucking a magical sword at someone in the party.
  10. A Dirt Trail in a Darkened Wood - Nothing unusual but the shadows of your own head.

 d10 Art styles for Underworld Gangs

(via @cherok_a4)
  1. Lascaux cave paintings
  2. Hellenist amphora paintings
  3. Dogū figures
  4. Art deco
  5. Ukio-E
  6. Impressionist
  7. Brutalist
  8. Classical Egyptian
  9. Gothic stained glass
  10. Outsider art

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Random Tables from Twitter: Part 1

I've been feeling dreary and uninspired of late, so I took to twitter to get some requests for random tables. Here's the first batch.

d6 Reasons Lord Cobain and Lady Malton Confiscate all Horses of Visitors to the Stranded Isles 

(via @shutteredroom)
  1. Epona is worshiped here, all horses are hers by right.
  2. Very little can live here. The Lord and Lady have a taste for fresh meat.
  3. Those horses were theirs in the first place.
  4. It's a tradition dating back to the Iron Years. Just a formality nowadays.  
  5. They are specialized cavalry psychopomps. War ravages the waking world.
  6. They honestly don't know.

d10 Strange Potion Containers 

(via @anxietywizard)
  1. Insulated thermos
  2.  Hollow basilisk skull
  3. Cow's udder
  4. Miniature aquarium
  5. Portable puddle
  6. Quantum glassware
  7. Compressed beadlets
  8. Squeezed from a stone
  9. Psychedelic cactus
  10. Breastfruit

d10 Magic Bullets (for EE, obviously) 

(via @imaginaryhallw1)
  1. Gun-Saint fingerbones - Counts as blessed.
  2. Dissolvershot - Dissolves into mist after impact.
  3. Segmentation rounds - Bullets can split in two at a -2 to hit and 1 damage die penalty
  4. Moonlight bullets - As cold iron vs fae or ghosts.
  5. Needle ammo - Pierces armor.
  6. Plague rounds - Carries a disease, one per ammunition unit.
  7. Foamshot - Save vs stunning as it rapidly expands and hardens.
  8. Delayed reaction ammunition - Hits target 30 seconds after it is fired.
  9. Brimstone bullets - Catches fire on contact with air.
  10. The Legendary - A bullet that was used to kill a notable figure.

d10 Rumors about the Sea goddess' Temple 

(via @marshallbrengle)
  1. There are pearls the size of a fist down there!
  2. The rooms surrounding the sanctum are a gigantic puzzle.
  3. Yeah! Makin' out with merfolk!
  4. Access is granted only by casting fresh blood on the coral doors.
  5. The cyclops stonemason who built it still lives on-site.
  6. Rare fish swim through the corridors as if the air was water.
  7. It has been swallowed up by an enormous whale!
  8. Sludge spirits from local industrial cites infest and desecrate the temple.
  9. Priests of the rival earth god have been camping outside and issuing challenges for weeks.
  10. A star declaring a miraculous spawning has risen.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Organically-Grown Investigations

Take all this with a salt block: however good a game I might talk, I have never seen an investigative game to conclusion. But I think I have gotten the knack of beginnings for sandboxy investigation games after four sessions of Great Screaming Hell, (and a first aborted attempt at Esoteric Enterprises). If not a knack, at least a decent enough starting point to start refining. My own brand of mind goblins tends to burn out campaigns after a half dozen sessions or sooner so I don't know how viable it is for long-term investigations - I also tend to plan far too big and so folks never get to a proper answer.

Those caveats out of the way, here are some of my thoughts on the matter and how I set up the components of an investigation. I'll be diving into my notes for this one, so expect to see behind the curtain of GREAT SCREAMING HELL.

Avoiding the Mystery Box


You can throw all sorts of stuff into an investigative sandbox with no plan. That's cool, go wild. It helps to have a couple big picture movers-and-shakers out there but they can be buried under layers of other aspects.

In the aftermath of that initial burst it becomes necessary to do a bit of retroactive tissue connection. If X person did action A, whatever motivation they are revealed to have later on should be consistent with that action.

Inciting Event


Something has to kick off the investigation. Whether the players are proper investigators or just folks caught up in things, the best way to kick off the investigation is something big, mysterious, and in-your face.

Example: The players are ambushed by a monster while transporting a strange cargo.

Seeds and Threads


The core of an investigation. Seeds are the clues found during play, and Threads are the things that connect or expand upon those seeds. Simple enough. To ease up on work for the referee's end of things, the inciting event should open the door (If the players are birds, dump a bucket of suet on them), and further sessions can focus, connect, refine, and tie in new stuff. It's okay to come up with answers after the fact - I actually really like the mind game of tying together disparate parts into a whole. It's also okay that the players don't get those answers handed to them.

Basically, when prepping for your next session, make a bullet list of your available seeds and see where they might connect and lead, which ones might interfere with the players, and how thread (especially ones involving factions) will act and react to changes in the world.

Example: The first session of GSH contains a truckload (har) of seed questions.
  • Who is FRIEND? Why are they shipping the Box?
  • Who is Scipio? Why did they want the Box?
  • What was in the Box? Where did it come from?
    • [Behind the Veil: The box contained a Navigator, and thus the only remaining functional warp interface in the system. It was presumed lost or destroyed during the aftermath of the Zaibatsu's departure. FRIEND was apparently trying to get it out of Colony Central.] 
  • What was and what was up with the Beast?
  • What was up with the radio station?
I don't need to come up with all the answers to these at session 1 - but I do need to remember that the questions exist.

For the second session the players ended up investigating the radio tower. (As a strike against myself, this was not under their investigative power but me guiding things as referee), and moved right on in the third to the abandoned Weather Station. This brought with it its own seeds.
  • Dess Kartz' testimony  
    • He and his companions were attempting to recover the "Holy Interface" (IE, the cargo)
  • The android cult of the Church of Skin 
    • Had its own Interface (the  horrible thing in the garage)
    • Under investigation by both the tecnavi ship-mother in orbit around the moon, and by a couple of mercenaries of the Legio Africanus (Scipio's boys)
      • [Behind the Veil: I never decided if the Legio Africanus guys were killed by the tecnavi agent or by Lady Badgerlock.]
In session 4 the logic core is cracked open, revealing that the Church of Skin began after the androids were gifted with a carapace of some unknown creature by a man who came down from the High Desert, and that this was the origination of the cult and the breaking of the androids' programming.

[Behind the Veil: The carapace is actually from what would have been the central, overarching threat of GSH. Had this campaign continued, there would have been a thread pointing north to the Redoubts and beyond to the High Desert to find out the truth.]

[Behind the Veil: The radio tower was essentially a last-ditch effort by the Church to get the Interface. Something spooked them (a visitation by Lady Badgerlock) and in their panic they attempted to bootstrap themselves into their own Interface, hoping that they could grab the Navigator and use it to patch over the crippling flaws of their own and help them ascend to divinity]

[Behind the Veil: The Beast, Lady Badgerlock, and the Third Man are all members of the same group. Their plans and rivalries were not yet developed by the time things fell apart, though I had some imaginings that the Third Man had his own agenda.]

So you see the basic pattern. Scatter seeds, a thread or two become major developments, others are weaved in where they might make sense. Don't let new elements overpower learning more about what's going on with the current thread. Make sure new developments are consistent with what happened previously.


Taking it Forward


I hope to be running Esoteric Enterprises soon, and that'll be a good opportunity to put this all into practice once again. Perhaps get better at converting my own notes into usable-for-other formats - seeds and threads lend themselves well to flowcharts (or if I wanted to get really out there, something like a Twine story with hyperlinks all over...wait...wait a god damn minute)

BRB that Twine idea is taking off you are witnessing the creative process in real time.