Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Solo Grimdark Warfare, Version 1

Wolfdog Artcorner


This is an experiment: a way to abstract a wargame into a solo, no-miniatures experience, which can then have additional story elements and mechanics added to it as one desires.

This template is equal parts Grimdark Future, and a CYOA called A Century At War. It's designed to be played using the army lists in Grimdark Future and Age of Fantasy with no conversion required beyond reskinning to taste.

Battles in this system are abstracted: all that you the player need to care about are the stats and traits of units - position and movements don't come into play.
This is very, very much a work in progress and in many ways just a proof of concept.

Building an Army 

Armies are built using the points values in Grimdark Future and Age of Fantasy - I default in this sketch of the rules to the game's standard 750 points for a standard army and 250 for a skirmish (the former might just be too big, I will have to test and see). The only things you need to worry about are the Attack and Defense rating of each unit, and any special traits they might have. (Special traits will be detailed in a post to follow)

War, Huh? What's it Good For?

Each battle consists of three phases - for each phase, roll 2d6, with any modifiers factored in.

Phase 1: Reconnaissance

  • 10+: +1 to Attack and Defense rolls for all units
  • 7-9: Either no bonus or +1 to Attack or Defense rolls and -1 to the other.
  • 6-1: -1 to Attack and Defense for all units.
Compare the rolls of both armies (factoring in any bonuses you might have) - the winner gains +1 for their Combat roll.

Phase 2: Combat

  • 10+: +1 enemy death rate
  • 7-9: Either no bonus or +1 enemy death rate and +1 self death rate.
  • 6-1: +1 self death rate
This is the part where the actual combat takes place, and at the moment I haven't been able to get it down to less than a metric fuckton of dice rolls. But, you only need to do it once.

  1. Roll 2d6 for every unit (individual soldier!) in both armies (different colors help!) - one for Attack and one for Defense.
  2. Rolls above a unit's Attack and Defense values are successful. If they fail, it means that the shot didn't connect, or they got hit, respectively.
  3. Assign all the successful hits of an army to the failed defenses of the other. If failed defense > successful attack, some folks got lucky. If successful attack > failed defense, some units are going to get hit twice.
  4. Hit units need to make a death roll.
All units have the same default death rate of 2-in-6. If they are not killed instantly, they are considered injured. If you're playing multiple battles in a gauntlet, Injured units take -1 to their attack and defense if they take to the field. They can recover from injury if withheld from the battle.

Finally, compare the rolls of both armies. The winner and loser roll on the appropriate tables below.

Phase 3: Aftermath

Loser of Combat
  • 10+: +1 RP
  • 7-9: Both / neither
  • 6-1:  All injured units must be left behind. +0 RP
Winner of Combat
  • 10+: +1 RP & all injured units heal.
  • 7-9: Either +1 RP or all injured units heal.
  • 6-1: +0 RP, no other bonus

RP = reinforcement point, which is equivalent to 150 unit points. These can be stored up for major purchases, and cashed out between battles.

To Do

  • Figure out general special trait list.
  • Figure out army-specific special traits.
  • Make demo armies
  • Playtest
  • Refine
  • Add tables for story events for longer campaigns
  • Promotion mechanic for veteran units
  • Reskinned factions / setting post.

Still rough, still untested, but I think it could turn into a cool little thing to pass the endless quarantine days. Solo games have a lot of untapped potential, and honestly who doesn't like rebranding properties imprisoned by the litigious iron fist of James Blortshorp.

My primary concern at the moment is just how much rolling there is for combat, which really upsets the flow. Century of War solved this by having units give bonuses to a percentile combat roll, but that game doesn't have any means to determine the fate of specific units, which is something I wanted to do for the storytelling element.

Please dump all feedback in the comments I have no idea what I am doing.

Monday, September 21, 2020

DOG GOD Vol. 1 is Live!



DOG GOD is a cut-up zine.


Those old Dragon magazines weren't going to be of any other use and I was bored.


It was me, I did it.





In What Order

This is volume 1. Further volumes are dependent upon me bumming more old magazines off my friends.


In full seriousness though, this was a load of fun to make and I can't wait to make more of them. There is a certain therapeutic joy in cutting stuff up and breaking out the glue sticks. Collage does not get nearly enough play in this weird little rpg scene of ours, despite it being an art form with a barrier to entry so low that you have to dig to find it.

The magazines used for this zines were a pair of Dragon issues from the turn of the millennium (Nov '99 and Jan '00, I believe), which I had bought several years ago in a used bookstore.

They were pretty awful. Turn of the millennium D&D, right on the dying breaths of AD&D and the dawn of 3e, was awful. Modern D&D's milquetoast blandness is manna from heaven compared to the simmering stew of racism, sexism, mediocrity, and utter lack of humor that existed two decades ago. It is from an age before the development of self-awareness.

But at the same time, it is a fascinating archaeological look into the past of the hobby - ads for video games that no one has heard of by companies that no longer exist. Some actually really good art tucked away between pieces that can only can be described as "certainly an attempt". There is a certain personality here, even if it is an odious one.

I cannot believe that Knights of the Dinner Table was a comic that existed.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Stand Still, Stay Esoteric


Minna Sundberg

Stand Still Stay Silent is a great webcomic, go read it (I've been a regular reader for six, seven years at this point!) It's Nordic fun times in the post apocalypse. There's a gigantic backlog and the update schedule is super fast.

Here's a conversion for it for Esoteric Enterprises.

Character Creation

The first step is to choose a nationality, after which you will roll 1d100 to determine immunity and background.

The center of the known world, keeping the technology of the old world alive. They have returned to the worship of the Old Gods - Icelanders with magical potential study at the Academy of Seiður in Reykjavik.

Hunt-masters of beasts, trolls and giants on both sea and land. They have returned to the worship of the Old Gods, and send their mages to Iceland to train.

Now reduced to the island of Bornholm, the Danes have nonetheless attempted to reclaim their homeland - all failed. Still, they hoard records and documents of the old times as best they can. They have not returned to the Old Gods, and so have no mages.

Actively and successfully reclaiming their lands through aggressive wilderness cleansing. Second to Iceland in terms of safety and technology. They have no particular religious persuasions, and so have no mages.

The smallest and least advanced of the five, isolated by geography and language. Finns do have more mages in their population than any of the other nations. They follow their own ancient gods.

What if I want to play somewhere else?
There are options! In the comic, Japan and Madagascar lock down right after Iceland does, so odds are decent that they were able to avoid the disease. I've seen fanmade maps for the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand and Tasmania, and Newfoundland.

Otherwise, you'll want some natural means of protection (if you want something kept safe, it should probably be on an island), and an environment that gets cold enough to force trolls and giants into hibernation.


  • Iceland - 9%
  • All Others - 48%


  • Working Class - Farmers, shepherds, craftspeople, engineers, manual laborers etc.
    • Iceland - 64%
    • All Others - 47%
  • Scholarly - Scientists, historians, skalds, etc.
    • Iceland - 26%
    • All Others - 12%
  • Military - Hunters, scouts, cleansers, etc. 
    • Iceland - 10%
    • All Others - 41%


Don't worry, it's not as complex as it seems!

Players get their native language, plus additional ones equal to their INT mod. Scholars can take languages from the Old World - English, German, Russian, etc.

  • Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish are mutually intelligible, especially when written.
  • Spoken Danish can be difficult, but not impossible, for a Swede to understand.
  • Icelandic is not mutually intelligible, but as the language of the primary political power, it's a common second choice. 
  • Finnish is in its own little world and has no overlap whatsoever.


  • Fighter (Mercenary)
  • Heavy Fighter (Bodyguard)
  • Skald - (Criminal)
  • Scout (Explorer)
  • Doctor
  • Mage (See below)
There are no Spooks.


Magic works differently in SSSS than it does in RPGs - is very much a narrative thing, rather than anything resembling a codified structure. Which makes translating it into a game basically impossible. I don't have any good ideas for it, so this is 100% winging it.
  • Their Flesh, Grit, and saves are both equivalent to the Mystic class, rather than occultist.
  • Mages gain a d6 magic die every level, up to 4 (as per the GLOG)
  • Both mages can access the Dreamworld in their sleep. Among other things, this permits remote communication across language barriers.

Icelandic Mages (Seiðkona (F), Seiðkarl (M)
  • Predominantly female.
  • Receive powers from the Old Gods (Freyja and Oðinn)
  • Channel magic through inscribed runes (Galdrastifur)
  • Can receive prophetic visions in their dreams.
  • Academy trained.
  • Magical ability granted directly by the Old Gods

Finnish Mages (Noitat, sing. Noita)
  • Greater in number than Icelandic Mages.
  • Receive their powers from the ancient Finnish nature gods.
  • Channel magic through invocations of the gods for their aid.
  • Can easily see spirits. 
  • Mentor-student training.
  • Loses potency with distance from Finland.
  • Magical ability is inherited.
The Swedish and Danish have no magical traditions of their own.

As for actual gameplay options, there are a couple stand-ins.
  • Icelandic mages can use Ten Foot Polemic's rune magic system. Not accurate to the comic, but close enough.
  • Finnish mages I have nothing good for, except perhaps true name magic, with the addition of the Mystic's focus on dealing with gods.



The only mammals completely immune to infection.
  • Grade C - Untrained. Typical farm or housecats. Can detect nearby Beasts and Trolls, which is better than nothing, but usually with a lot of loud hissing and spitting.
  • Grade B - Trained. Can detect threats, alert humans of danger (silently), and dispose of infected vermin.
  • Grade A - Elite. All of the above, but can be given specialized scout or guard duties on their own, without human supervision.


Immune characters don't need to worry about this.

Non-immune characters need to wear their fucking mask.

The rash is catchable and communicable by all mammals that aren't cats. Mice, sheep, dogs, whales, all of them can catch it and turn into a Beast or worse. Fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds are immune. Mosquitoes will die if they drink infected blood.

There is no save.

Primary Vector - Airborne
Secondary Vector - Infected wounds

The disease does not last long outside of a host. Even so, the most basic cleanup for someone potentially exposed to infection is a washdown with disinfectant and UV sterilization of gear and clothing.

  • Beasts and most Trolls can typically only infect through direct contact. (0M)
  • Some Trolls can produce miasmatic clouds (1M)
  • Rarely, trolls can spit infectious material long distance (up to 10M)
  • Infected humans spread it in the same manner as they normally do. (3M)

Minna Sundberg

Enemies of the Silent World

Beasts are infected animals. Some of them retain a familiar form, to make them difficult to identify as Beasts from a distance.
  • Beasts are just normal animals with + 1 HD more than they would normally have. Half of their HR is devoted to Flesh, the other to Grit.
Trolls are humans transformed by the infection. Unlike Beasts, they cannot stand the cold, and so weather out the winter months in dens or burrows.
  • Trolls have 3-10 HD, either split evenly between Flesh and Grit, or all in Flesh.
  • Trolls can have additional traits - regeneration, infectious spit, noxious miasma
  • Trolls can be killed by performing a Finnish exorcism on them (requires magic dice = HD).
Giants are the few rare trolls, or amalgamations of trolls, that grow to colossal sizes. They are terrible rare, and terribly dangerous.
  • You are likely fucked if you are fighting a giant. If you are in such a circumstance, treat every limb as a separate troll of at least 5 HD. They are entirely Flesh.

While there is incredible variety in beasts, trolls, and giants, there are still recognizable and commonplace phenotypes. This list is hardly exhaustive, relying on fan names and the few that have been officially described.

  1. Duskling (troll) - Small troll the size and shape of a shrub. Heavy covering of mud and plants protect from the sun, allowing them to extend their hours. Gather in hordes. Remain capable of simple speech.
  2. Garm (beast) - An infected dog or wolf. Thick, leathery hide. Actively hunts humans as primary food source.
  3. "Jelly Long Legs" (troll) - Spine and skull encased in a jellyfish-like transparent membrane, atop two legs of comically-stretched height.
  4. Kade (troll) - An infected Finnish mage. High-potency magic. Can infect through eye contact. Can only be properly killed via an exorcism.
  5. Kalma (troll) - Ooze toxic, infectious fluids everywhere. Generally remain in their nests. Can easily bespoil water sources.
  6. Kyrkogrim (beast) - An infected hound that remains at vigil at the gravesite of its former human companion.
  7. "Leaftroll" (troll) - Facehugger, but like a big piece of beef jerky
  8. Manalan Rakki (beast) - Infected dog that can post as an uninfected stray as a means of spreading infection. Infected form only visible at close range.
  9. "Sliepnope" (beast) - Eight-legged infected horse. Possessed by ghosts.
  10. Sjødraug (troll) - Gigantic, bloated meat-thing. Nearly sessile, floats in bodies of water unless disturbed.  
  11. Vaettur (troll) - Trolls that will lurk out of sight and observe humans long-term in preparation for later ambush.

Why Are We Going Into the Silent World Anyway?

  • Danish research group is paying good money for scavenged books and hard drives.
  • A Swedish cleaner brigade needs support in clearing out a new stretch of territory.
  • A particularly dangerous variant of troll has emerged from hibernation, it needs removed. 
  • Border settlement has lost contact, we fear the worst.
  • Personal reasons - someone a PC cares for has vanished.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Prime Hellsite Salvage (Slush Pile Volume 6)

Finally, I was able to export my twitter archive. I have selected and edited choice pieces of it, to present them along with other fragments of the unfinished wonders. 

Previous posts of unfinished wonders:

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5


  1. Cao Cao is the true murderhobo that all player characters aspire to be. 
  2. Elves cannot sweat. This is why humans are the predominant species in the world, because all the wisdom and magic in the world can't help against the crazy cousins who can kill anything with enough time and a steady jog. 
  3. Always remember that satan is a title equivalent to a prosecting lawyer. you can not only have multiple satans, players can easily become a satan. Still have to give up soul, law school demands it. 
  4. The sky is the single unvariagated color of rain, from the horizon to the crown of the firmament. Somewhere in my heart there is the ghost of a Scotsman, cursing the bastard English 
  5. I can't figure out if James Holden is supposed to be this razor-sharp indictment of the mediocre white millennial man but The Expanse sure is more interesting when I interpret it like that.
  6. Among the many pernicious weapons of late stage capitalism is the second-guessing of illness. "Can I afford to call off today?" says the man who can barely speak, barely think straight, and is a walking biohazard. 
  7. If there are wizards of the west coast, clearly there are wizards of other geographical regions. Wizards of the Great Lakes and Appalachia represent. 
  8. Greek Mythology Realization: Atlas' job is to hold his grandfather's corpse above his head forever. 
  9. Goblin philosophy: we are all trash and that's okay, here let me share with you my collection of small precious things. 
  10. Goblin possummancers, of course, exist. 
  11. "Who is this future for?" A simple question with never simple answers. Goes in good company with Lois McMaster Bujold's "all fiction is fantasy, but what is the fantasy of?" 
  12. I will roll WIS of my own accord to determine if my character looses their shit when something terrifying happens. 
  13. Thesis: Neon Genesis Evangelion is the best example of cosmic horror because it's all about humans being dumb shits and meddling in affairs so far out of their reach that they'd have to break the fourth wall and read supplemental material to understand exactly how bad things are. 
  14. Knockout Tea (Somnia) will give you eight to ten hours of uninterrupted, restful REM sleep. Without good sleep, your soul cannot reach the Dreamlands, and you will be rendered an insomnia-wracked walking corpse. 
  15. Something I really appreciate in the OSR design sphere is the willingness to accept the incongruous and absurd. Like you can just say "you find a milk crate full of old sci-fi paperbacks in the orc chieftain's chambers". Mild example but it's this kind of thing I crave. 
  16. OSR design philosophy is the RPG equivalent of Talmudic scholarship.
  17. "There once was a man from Tarshish / who had only one little wish / to hijack a religion / was his grandest vision / and now the whole world stinks of fish." 
  18. When in doubt, embrace the spirit of GDQ. 1) Nothing is too obscure or silly to be unworthy of time or love. 2) Chase your personal best. 3) It is a group effort. New tech is developed and shared constantly. Use it, thank them, shout them out. 
  19. Dejah Thoris should be very tall (.38G), possess a layer of insulating blubber (Mars = cold), and would have no bellybutton (oviparous) 
  20. An alternative attribute array: Hands / Feet / Head / Heart / Guts 
  21. Get ready for my masterwork, "400 pages of screaming about how Socrates and Plato are Garbage Trash: The RPG" 
  22. "Recreation room filled with painstakingly crafted diorama of the port city Hoondahhr, portrayed in the moment of being burned to the ground."
  23. Halfling Snatcher HD 3 AC Chain D8 horrible rusty knife. Cavorts around looking to stuff halflings in a sack. Never empties the sack. Ever.
  24. Firbolgs are the best thing to come out of 5e and the fact that they do not get the respect they deserve is painfully on-brand for D&D. Consider 1) Big and strong 2) Magic 3) Live in the woods 4) Large Friendly Backpacker Energy 5) Camping buddies. The case rests.
  25.  "You shall never defeat me! My wattles and facial bulges give me strength! I OOZE with potency!"
  26. The principle of cyberpunk: "Technology will not save us, and anyone who claims otherwise is trying to sell you something that already has been stacked in their favor.
  27. There are four types of paladins: Joan of Arc, Doomguy, Superman, and Alexander Anderson.
  28. I call O Green World -> Every Planet We Reach is Dead -> Last Living Souls -> Don't Get Lost in Heaven for a 4 part Mothership adventure.
  29. The amount of meaningful talk about a game post-launch is inversely proportional to the sum of the hype and dev cycle, times the obscurity of pre-release information.
  30. "You come from a background of desperation and crushing poverty, which is why you delve into the tombs of empires past to loot treasure to pay for bread." 
  31. There is an etymological link between "turtle" and "tortoise" and an angel named "hell-keeper" who torments the damned.
  32. Delving is a trade reserved for those who cannot afford funerary offerings to their ancestors, and thus are placed under a curse for insufficient piety. As they can find no work elsewhere, they fall to looting the ruins of the Silent Empire and its many taboos. 
  33. "Ads have been added to the playback of this beloved memory due to a copyright claim by SONY". 
  34. But if people don't CONSUME AND PARTICIPATE IN BRAND how will they be able to ESTABLISH IDENTITY? 
  35. "You've run out of emotional intimacy for the day! It will take 48 hours to recharge. Or you can recharge it faster by purchasing gems from our store!"
  36. "This algorithm, blind and stupid and Azathoth himself, will fix everything! What's a consequence?"
  37. You might never fight a dragon, you might never see a dungeon, but by god those goblins are going to put the work in.
  38. "We have updated the terms and conditions of this relationship, please take the time to familiarize yourself with the updated EULA. Please also note that we have removed your ability to opt-out of our data-sharing program with our advertising clients."
  39. This is the most important piece of RPG criticism to have ever graced the quantum stable of the DISK HORSE: The reader's capacity to care about your paracosm is dependent on your margins, line spacing, font size, wordcount, and the placement of section headers.
  40. This is the second most important piece of RPG criticism to have ever graced the quantum stables of the DISK HORSE Dear fellow straight dude game designers - breasts, being a super niche evolutionary quirk, are a terrible way to demonstrate sexual dimorphism in non-humans.
  41. More RPGs need the Devil. Not Asmodeus or Lucifer or Satan or the Generic Brand Variant. Old Scratch. The dapper motherfucker who will show up at crossroads and offer folks all the wonderful tools of their own self-destruction.
  43. Verb wizards can only practice or recover their magic by doing the verb. Lurk wizards do lurk magic by lurking extra hard, and recharge it through minor non magical lurking.
  45. I have made being wrong my trade and profession and it's worked out pretty well so far.
  46. Vape products have orc warlord names. JUUL SKULLSMASHER. KRATOM MURDERKILLER.
  47. The functional difference between a cult of the Great Old Ones and a corporation is ease of pronunciation. 
  48. The primary god of this culture is the male-female cthonic diety of the underworld, heat, wealth, deep time,and all things outside the gaze of the evil , surveilling sky gods. Common depiction: pair of jeweled axolotls and cooling magma globe.
  49. Among their children is the god of traveling to and surviving the surface, who is treated as outcast by the others but remains necessary for survival. He is also the god of things one does not want to hear but must. 
  50. gonzogrot (adj) - possessing qualities of outrageous, exaggerated grotesquery and filth, generally in comedic or tragicomedic fashions. Differentiated from grimdark by its embrasure of absurdity and the Weird, and rejection of self-seriousness. ex: Dorohedoro, LISA
  51. Flying polyps are the 'antibodies' of the local nodes of a vast hyperspace network. Like a cell tower that is also a bee hive. Forever fighting the yithians who dislike the disruption of flow of time-space.
  52. The yithians are no one's friend because A) threat B) they fuck up space time for everyone else C) trivia-obsessed weirdos. The ones who possess humans for study are their version of weeaboos.
  53. The mi-go on Earth are their equivalent of a bunch of guys in the Rust Belt whose main income is stripping wiring out of foreclosed houses and software development. None of them want to be here. The brains in jars are more just a hobby.
  54. Elder Things are a bunch of insufferable gits who still think they're the greatest thing in the universe since eukaryotic life. 
  55. Shoggoths successfully rebelled against their enslavers, and they'd do it again in a heartsbeat. 
  56. Dark Young can be "programmed" for pantropic colonization roles. 
  57. "Campaign structure is the default of rpgs" is an idea I really need to wean myself out of.
  58. The price of gold in Mothership is $5.50 USD per pound. This was calculated by reverse engineering the following: 10 bars of gold = 15,000 credits (Dead Planet) 1 bar of gold = 12.4 kilograms (Wikipedia) 1 MRE = 70 credits (Player's Survival Guide) 1 MRE = $7.25 (Wikipedia) Using food as the base, a single credit is worth about $0.10  
  59. Thought of the day: the more stylized character-design approach to portraying the mythological might be one of the biggest positive developments in art.The design embodies the diety. Lots of classical art just kinda stops at "gods and mythic figures are naked white people, maybe some symbols" (which, granted, was often with masterful skill), but somewhere a switch was flipped that said "hey, it's okay to change it up"
  60. You ever get one of those Grandpa Simpson moments when you no longer know what It is, but there's a big sense of relief instead of dread because you are pretty sure you wouldn't enjoy It anyway and now you can enjoy your weird niche stuff without anyone bothering you? Me too.
  61. A hack of Wolfpacks and Winter Snow on an alien planet.
  62. Soldiers are non-magic + training, Rogues are non-magic + self taught, Wizards are magic + training Channellers are magic + self-taught 
  63. An image from a dream: an elf queen in a subterranean banquet hall. Massive eyes, solid black. Ears like a fennec fox. Humans in the garb of many historical ages and places line the table, fat from feasting.
  64. An image from a dream: A bloated red sun, supermassive above the demon farm. Silver trees, blue fruit. A young boy sits underneath, looking up at the scaffold built around the sun. A murder occured elsewhere, the joylike mutant (the mother? father?) returned to their former home, complacently waiting for authorities to arrive. The result of tainted food or the like.
  65. Religion where an offering has to be made at birth to buy the baby a soul.
  66. "Not content with stealing her outright, Death took her away piecemeal."
  67. Star Mother Clan, the Red Hand Tribe, the Flooded Library, and the Star-Seeking Beasts
  68. Ghosteater: Bug eyes. Big ears. A trunk but no mouth. Potbellied. salamandesque, colors like a poison-dart, semimaterial and pseudoreal. They feed on fresh ghosts. Each stomach is a unique, alien afterlife.

69. St. Thecla is, in addition to putting up with Severian's nonsense for many hundreds of pages, is attributed with the following game-worthy traits:

  • Engaged to a guy who has a conspicuously female name 
  • Rode bareback on a lioness 
  • Endured several days and nights of Paul preaching about chastity, this apparently did nothing to halt her hardcore fetish for virtue 
  • Own mother wanted her burned at the stake 
  • Emerged from a pool of dead, electrocuted seals wreathed in fire. 
  • Literal overpowered fanfiction OC. 
  • Had a multi-year Veins of the Earth campaign in her 90s. 
  • Bucking the trend of the early church, was not martyred
  • Kept out of canon for being too rad for sexists to handle
Honestly between Severian and Paul I don't know who requires more saint-like patience to deal with, so extra bonus points there.

70. Why is there no Jesuits in Space RPG it seems like a perfect setup, especially for a PBTA framework.

  • Closet filled with unlimited skeletons, because RCC
  • Super-secretive political intrigue, because RCC
  • Super weird aliens, to make meaningful conflict between worlds and peoples

71. Okay hear me out: The Legend of Korra, but Tenzin's kids are now the gremlins from Eizouken. And also the main characters. And it's really just Eizouken except now it's got J.K. Simmons in it.OR WAIT, OKAY, HEAR ME OUT: The Legend of Korra, but the Red Lotus are the protagonists, thematically mirroring the Gaang as they try and fight against a system that has enshrined an incompetent, dangerous, and poorly-trained avatar for political expediency.

72. [In hypothetical 6e] Scythian Amazons are a core player background, replacing half-orcs and goliaths. Reasoning:

  • BIG and STRONG. Also, horse archery.
  • Cool tattoos and loads of bling. Also, weed.
  • Originate outside of D&D. Therefore, fresh and new
  • Wear pants, and so can easily terrify Greeks.

73. A half-formed thought: those settings where I enjoy the lore the most in are those that leave the act of drawing connections between pieces of information to the reader or player. Interactivity and uncertainty, endless layers of theory and everything is and is not canon

While Soulsbourne is what people immediately jump to, and for good reason (jerks sans frontiers' "the bastard's curse' is the best lore video ever made), I say that the apex of this style is the SCP wiki.

Did you know there are 37 different canons on that site? And that's by their own 3+ authors / 5+ entries criteria. If you add in single-author series and other hubs I lost track after 200 Without an overarching canon, interpretation falls to the individual.

There ceases to be a right and wrong way to interact- only like and dislike. Everyone is free to self define the setting and everything in it, and is beholden only to what they want out of it. This is rad as hell.

74. A creature from a dream: Gigantic (30 ft+) birdlike being. Feathers broad, ragged-edged, and navy blue. Head in similar shape to human skull, leathery brown with age. No beak or mandible: gristly-pink tendrils hang down in a bundle beginning in the nasal cavity but could separate into strands. Pose is upright, almost like a perched owl. This was specifically an enemy in a Dark Souls game (though I don't think it was something you could fight), as I witnessed it grab someone off of a rampart and then fly up to the top of a larger structure (some sort of basilica) where 4 others waited.They were evenly spaced and facing the same direction, outwards over the wall towards the lands below. Sky is scabrous and reddish-grey. I think Vaatividya was narrating theories about it, and while I couldn't make out what he was saying, he was definitely wrong.

Notes for a D&D Movie Never to Be Made.

There are four characters, two men and two women. None of them are named - even in the credits they are identified only by their visible traits. The brown-haired soldier. The bearded soldier. The beggar. The scholar.

It is almost a silent movie. Fewer than fifty spoken lines in its two hour run time. There is little music, and what music there is is used to disorient. It is Annihilation's soundtrack. Ordinary noise is amplified by the utter, untouched stillness of the depths: leather, water, metal, flame.

We do not know why they are going into the dungeon, why they are going deeper and deeper into the seemingly-endless layer cake of civilizations so old that the names and the ideas of their names have been forgotten, erased. We do not know why they are so desperate, why they are so obsessed, only that they are driven ever deeper.

They will not return to the surface. The last to die does so propped up against vault doors that could not be forced open even with the entire party. The lamplight sputters out, and as the soft chittering of blind and nameless things ushers in the credits, we find ourselves infected, just as they were, with that terrible curiosity dragging us down - what is behind those impossible doors, what was worth this?

The Stages of a Project in Reverse Order

  • On the table
  • In the oven
  • The good front burner
  • The other front burner
  • The back burner
  • Prepared and on the counter
  • In the pantry
  • On the grocery list
  • "We should make this!"
  • Vague plans for dinner
  • That one nonstandard meal you've talked about for months but never buy the materials for.

Veteran of the Fandom Wars

Elves, being immortal and freed from material want, often devote themselves to the arts. Chief of these is animation, to which they can devote decades to, rendering each frame a masterpiece. They take this all very seriously.

Elves take everything seriously, of course, but elf-animation is most serious of all. Sometimes, as is the case when things are taken very seriously, squabbles break out. But, of course, elves do not squabble. They plot, conniver, plan, outline, direct and scheme.

Direct fighting is the sort of social flub that will irrevocably destroy an elf's standing for eternity. So they pawn off magical trinkets and useless gemstones, whatever is not beautioful enough for them, to humans, to hire armies to fight their squabbles for them.

Squabbles about elf animation. This is your fighter's background.

ADDENDUM: While elf animation is among one of the most beautiful crafts in all of creation, they are absolute garbage piles in terms of plot and character. Straight up burning trashfire garbage pile because they've been recycling tropes from before humans developed agriculture.


Three Unfinished Spell Lists

A very silly post that wasn't made. The three lists in question were spells named after Spongebob quotes, spells named after Homestar Runner quotes, and spells named after episodes of Castle Super Beast.

Hierarchy of Bad Games

Type A: It's just like D&D (or WHFRPG), except with less flavor and somehow clunkier. 
Type B: Incomprehensible simulations of charts and tables 
Type C: Nifty ideas but bad execution that undermines their very existence.
Type D: The very clear artistic vision of an incompetent artist 
Type E: Edgy and/or fart sniffing bullshit that doesn't give you anything to actually do
Type E-II: It's actually quite nice to look at and neat enough but there's still nothing to fucking do
Type F: Have you considered not being a bigot

Bad games can, of course, belong to multiple categories, and there are many categories I have no personal knowledge of and so cannot include. 

Always remember: Bad games are good teaching tools. 

Revised Class: Priest

A reskin of Joseph Manola's Rake with a little expansion of the religious orders I featured in my previous version of the class. Likely belongs in a completely different kind of game, probably one with those Disco Elysium rules.

The Four Fleshcrafting Castes of ATCG

  • Those who deal in meat - Red - Those that work
  • Those who deal in bones - White - Those that stabilize
  • Those who deal in nerves - Yellow - Those who direct
  • Those who deal in organs - Black - Those that change
Together they Form the Great Helix of Being.

Mindscape Wars

Wizarding wars are fought in the mind - they have to be, if you don't want the planet to be swiftly rendered uninhabitable. In daydreams and restful nights the liner up their toy soldiers and send them abroad to invade the cranial castles of other wizards.

Every night, roll on the 6-dimensional warfare grid to determine the state of your spells in the morning.

  • Minor victories grant 1.5x PC lvl spells for the next day OR learn 1 new spell from opponent.
  • Major victories grant 2x PC lvl spells for the next day OR learn 2 new spells from opponent
  • Stalemates grant 1x PC lvl spells for the next day
  • Minor defeats grant 1/2 PC lvl spells for the next day OR lose 1d4 HP / lvl
  • Major defeats grant no spells for the next day OR lose 1d6 HP / lvl
Other events on the table provide boons / banes that I have not written down.

A Solar System

  • The Warden - Hot neptunian in very close orbit to the sun. Mythologically characterized as the prison-keeper of the ill-tempered sun god
    • The Warden's Aide - Largest moon. Molten and oblong from extreme tidal stress.
  • The World of Four Faces - Dry, tidally locked world. The four faces are Noon, Dawn, Dusk, and Night.
  • The Twins - Dual rocky worlds orbiting each other.
    • The Jeweled Flock - Small moons of the Twins, vibrant colors.
  • The Dreaming Giant - A hydrogen gas giant known for vibrant coloration.
    • The Harem - Minor moons of the Giant.
    • The Lookout - Largest moon of the Giant, likely a small rocky world captured in its orbit. Characterized as either the Giant's eunuch or one of his wives, who stands guard to prevent anyone from killing him in his sleep.
  • The Motherworld - A cold, but vertile life-bearing world.
  • The Stepstones - Asteroid belt
  • The Bitter God - Frozen titanian world with a dense methane atmosphere.
  • The Great Emptiness - A worldless gap between the middle and outer systems.
  • Gate of the Edge  - An icy dwarf
  • The Night Watchman - Largest of the distant ice-rock bodies

Framework for a Wretched and Alone Hack

You are the last surviving original disciple of a certain Teacher of ethics and religion, nearing the end of your life. You have seen their teachings blossom into a religion, but at cost. It has gotten away from you.
  • Who are you? How did you come to meet the Teacher?
  • What was your Teacher like? What did they do and teach?
  • Who else was in your group? What happened to them?
  • How has it changed? How has it become unrecognizable?
The order of play is similar to other Wretched and Alone hacks. It's split into rounds (here representing the letters you are writing to various faith communities), and for each round you roll 1d6. This indicates how many topics you will cover in your letter, and thus how many cards to draw from the deck.

As your failing eyesight and shaking hand may attest, you are dying. You will draw one block from the tower for every topic. Drawing four kings is still a loss.

  • Hearts deal with the teachings themselves, clarifying questioning followers according to how you were taught.
  • Diamonds deal with your memories of the Teacher and the early days, those that don't have to do with faith or dogma. The events as your remember them (for no one else still living can)
  • Clubs deal with power and persecutions. The political status quo shifts between apathetic and malicious. The followers in your communities are scared, and in need of guidance and comfort.
  • Spades deal with heresies and change. The teachings are slipping away into others' hands, and these new teachers have confused and misled communities. Here things must be set straight.

Demon Liquor 

  • 1 unit (1 slot) Restores 1d8 HP and / or 1d4 spells. HP can be raised above normal max.
  • Provides charges for magical items.
  • Powers engines (1 unit = 6 hours of operation)
  • Corruption mechanic: gain Toxicity = to points regained. Decrease Toxicity 1 pt / day. If TOX = CON, gain mutation. If TOX = CON x2, gain second mutation, roll WIS to resist addiction. If TOX = CON x3, the character is lost.
  • Creates poisonous, greasy, burning smoke when burnt.
  • Mental & physical side effects of inhaling smoke - frenzy and / or fear.

Unused Discape Spell List

  • Moon's Insight
  • Tentacular Spectacular
  • Mutagenic Panacea
  • Honeyed Words
  • Sugar Spike
  • Form-of-Yak
  • Sign of the Eye
  • Human Resources
  • Under the Grindstone
  • Burning Finger
  • Hide Your Power Level
  • Deformation
  • Sakuga Strike
  • Awaken My Skeleton
  • Drinking with the Dead
  • Gritty Reboot
  • Sacrifice Background Character
  • Detect Hidden Fascist
  • BEHOLD! A Goat
  •  Holy Hand Grenade
  • Filibuster Fisticuffs
  • Invoke the Old Sin
  • Mammoth Smash
  • Cave Story
  • Deflective Ignorance
  • Ping the Server
  • Command Line
  • Overclock
  • Exploit Glitch
  • Gravy Train

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Along the River Petrichor: A F-122 Challenge Setting

My response to my own challenge.

The river Petrichor winds sluggishly southeast across the grasslands. Past those seas of green, there are the hills, and beyond the hills there are the mountains, and then the Great Dust beyond them.

The city states here were built in the shadow of the Old Ones, by their crumbled ruins and long dead war machines. The people here tread lightly on that legacy, for though they are ignorant of that secret history, it is clear that the Old Ones died, either by hubris or their own hand.


  1. Swordwife - Women who have forgone land or marriage for mastery of the blade.
  2. Earthsea Mage - Those who know and keep the secret names of all creation.
  3. Adipomancer - If magic stored in the body, a vast body means vast magic.
  4. Mech Pilot - War machines of the Old Ones still wander the world. Enlist and fight them.
  5. Bell Exorcist - Those sworn to quieting the restless dead.
  6. Mouse - Quick-pawed, honorable folk from the grasslands.
  7. Zouave - Not all is peaceful along the river, nor in the grasslands nor the hills nor beyond.

(This was to keep it all in the GLOG and each one from a different source. Lucky runners up were the Cryptozoologist, the Elephant, the Goblin , the Adept the Canonneer, Sanctioned Cambion, and the Inventor Necromancer.)

The Questions

1.What wizard is anathema?
Dominators, those who use true names to control the actions of other people, are reviled across cultures. They are hunted down without hesitation when they emerge.

2. What existential threat exists that locals don’t understand?
The environment is holding on by a thread thanks to the careless malice of the Old Ones, and is still subject to the poisons and depletion of the Old Ones. Worse, the Old Ones are still alive out among the stars, and in hindsight they consider the billions dead in their wake "acceptable losses".

3. How are membership societies structured for initiates?
Entry into one of the Lodges requires the sponsorship of a member, though ancient compact dictates that all Lodges must grant an audience to all applicants. This is often abused, and there is constant struggle between conservative and new-blood factions. One can always tell there is drama afoot when new Lodges sprout up like mushrooms.

4. What is the highest complexity of metallurgy attained? 
The metals the Old Ones used their machines can be smelted and recast, but not replicated. The most common of these, orichalcum, is lightweight, easily shaped, and resistant to corrosion and damage. Its primary use is in the construction of war machines for the Mech Lodges.

5. What crafts are constrained by resources?
Artistic use of Old One metals can produce some of the most beautiful metalwork crafts in the world, but as nearly all of it goes to weapon making and industrial uses (mechs do not build themselves), it is terrible difficult to acquire more than a few ounces of it at a time.  

6. How do you know someone is a magic user?
Lodge exorcists are easily identified by their regalia, and adipomancers are just huge and terribly hard to miss. True-name wizards are more difficult to identify, but their slow, careful, and respectful manner is easy enough to pick out when one is familiar with the signs.

7. Are ancestors spirits ransomed from the church?
Soul-ransom is the domain of the Ancient Church and has been since only a few centuries after the departure of the Old Ones. What began as a means of placating lost and tormented spirits of that terrible, death-filled era, swiftly became the primary money-maker for the Ancient Church. It was their attitude towards actually leading the dead to rest, and their exploitative stance towards the public, that led to the formation of the Exorcists' Lodge.

8. What cults venerate pleasure?
The venerable House of Red Silk has long been the proprietor of all manner of nightly delights, but in recent years it has been challenged by the bacchanal practices of the Carniphile Carnival

9. Are wizards registered?
The Lodges keep extensive ledgers of their members, but secular authorities go through certain channels to gain access to those records.

10. What foods are associated with major festivals?
Yearlong Eels are caught in the river en masse during the New Year celebrations, to be cleaned and pickled and stowed away so that their fine fermented odor might grace the palate next year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

CK3 Religion Generation Tables + Church Schism Simulator

All right folks, new Crusader Kings game, that means its time for the greatest of internet pastimes, laughing at goofy shit people manage to do from the sidelines.

Also random tables, swiped directly from the wiki.

Tenets (d50, reroll 46-50)

The core of the faith's beliefs. Roll three times, rerolling any doubles. Some of these options will automatically populate Virtues and Sins - you can ignore those as you like, as a paradoxical beliefs are where the fun is at.
  1. Adaptive - The faith has proven well-suited to many different cultures, nations, times and places. (Pluralist doctrine)
  2. Adorcism - Possession of clerics by spirits is a common part of religious observance.
  3. Ancestor Worship - It's good to know where you come from.
  4. Aniconism - Your faith does not approve of material representations of the divine.
  5. Armed Pilgrimages - Like normal pilgrimages, except with swords.
  6. Asceticism - Giving up worldly pleasures and goods for solitude and reflection. (Temperate is Virtue, Gluttonous and Greedy are Sins)
  7. Astrology - Study of the heavens and their movements, and their effects upon the world.
  8. Carnal Exaltation - Sex is pretty great. (Lustful is Virtue, Chaste is Sin)
  9. Catechism  - There's a book analyzing and cataloging the precise dogmas of the faith, and their reasoning. (Cannot be Fundamentalist)
  10. Communal Identity - The faith is integral to the identity of the population.
  11. Communion -Ritual oneness with the divine / the state of unity with the faith and its members as a whole.
  12. Consolamentum - Ritual consolation and shedding of regrets before death.
  13. Divine Marriage - Option A: Individuals can be ritually wed to their deity. Option B is the Hapsburg one.
  14. Ecclesiarchy - The secular authority rules in conjunction with religious authorities. (Cannot be Pluralist)
  15. Esotericism - Focus on the symbolic, obtuse, and spiritual.
  16. Gnosticism - The physical world is corrupt, sinful, and fleeting, the spiritual world is good and eternal. (Temperate is Virtue, Gluttony is Sin)
  17. Hedonism - Party party party, I wanna have a party, I need to have a party, you better have a party. (Gluttonous a Virtue, Temperate a Sin)
  18. Human Sacrifice - The gods want blood - are you gonna fucking argue with them?
  19. Inner Journey - The faith puts great emphasis on solitary meditation. (Patient is Virtue, Impatient is Sin)
  20. Literalism - 'Round these parts, we do it by the book.
  21. Legalism - It's moral because it's the law.
  22. Mendicant Preachers - Begging for your bread.
  23. Monasticism - Cloistered faith communities are common.
  24. Natural Primitivism - Clothes, laws, social structure, who needs it? (No doctrines can be Criminal).
  25. Pacifism - Violence in shunned, to various levels. (Calm a Virtue, Wrathful a Sin)
  26. Pastoral Isolation - Out here in the fields... (Cannot have a Head of Faith)
  27. Polyamory - Multiple partners are A-OK. (Male and female adultery are Accepted)
  28. Pursuit of Power - Fuck everyone, get yours. (Ambition is virtue, Content is Sin)
  29. Reincarnation - The soul is reborn after one dies.
  30. Religious Law - A special code of behavior that is in play even if secular law changes.
  31. Ritual Cannibalism - If you're going to eat someone, do it proper-like.
  32. Ritual Celebrations - Really big, but relatively contained, parties.
  33. Ritual Hospitality - Offered to friends, strangers, and enemies alike. (Generous is Virtue, Callous is Sin)
  34. Sacred Childbirth - The act is of religious significance itself, and well-cared for.
  35. Sacred Lies - Keeping intentions secret from those outside the faith is A+. (Deceitful is Virtue, Honest is Sin)
  36. Sanctioned False Conversions - If you are forced to convert to a different religion, you have express encouragement to keep practicing this one in secret.
  37. Sanctity of Nature - Take care of it, it takes care of you.
  38. Sky Burials - The dead are offered up to carrion birds.
  39. Struggle and Submission - Expansion of the faith via military means is encouraged.
  41. Syncretism - Faith contains many traits picked up from other religions.
  42. Tax on Nonbelievers - What it says on tin. Indicates a significant minority group.
  43. Unrelenting Faith - The faith prides itself on stamping out all doubt and questioning with surety. Tends to be a bit (a lot) militant.
  44. Vows of Poverty - It's common for clerics to forgo property and physical possessions.
  45. Warmonger - LET ME SEE YOUR WAR FACE


The faith's stance on matters. Roll for all of these.

View on Gender (And Inheritance)
  • 1-2: Male Dominated
  • 3-4: Equal
  • 5-6: Female Dominated
Religious Attitude
  • 1-2 Fundamentalist - You hate basically everyone who isn't you.
  • 3-4 Righteous - Willing to be tolerant of other religions, if they stay over there.
  • 5-6 Pluralist - Encourage acceptance and co-existance.
Clerical Tradition
  • 1-3 Theocratic - There is a formalized, organized hierarchy of clerics.
  • 4-6 Lay clergy - Anyone can become a cleric, no or low barriers to entry.
Head of Faith
  • 1-2 None - There's no central leader.
  • 3-4 Spiritual - A leader in religious matters only; temporal ones are left to temporal authorites.
  • 5-6 Temporal - Has proper political power: lands, levies, vassals, all of it.
Marriage Type
  • 1-2 Monogamous - Marriage with a single spouse.
  • 3-4 Polygamous - Marriage with multiple spouses.
  • 5-6 Consorts and Concubines - Marriage with a single spouse, with additional partners permitted.
Views on Divorce
  • 1-2 Disallowed - Can't back out once you put a ring on it.
  • 3-4 Must Be Approved - Have to make your case, and you might get rejected.
  • 5-6 Always Approved - Just need someone to sign the paperwork.
  • 1-2 No Bastards - Any provable parentage is legitimate.
  • 3-4 Legitimization - There is a process to make bastards legitimate heirs.
  • 5-6 No Legitimization - A bastard is always a bastard.
  • 1-3 Close Kin Taboo - Don't fuck people you're related to.
  • 4-5 Cousin Marriage - Cousins, preferably distant ones, are okay to fuck
  • 6-9 Avunculate Marriage - Different branches of the same broad family group are okay.
  • 10 The Hapsburg Option - I wonder if the gene pool has a dead end?
Clerical Function
  • 1-2 Control - Keeping society ticking along to the desired status quo.
  • 3-4 Alms and Charity - Caring for the poor and in need.
  • 5-6 Recruitment - Gotta bring people into the fold.
Clerical Gender
  • 1-2 Men Only
  • 3-4 Either
  • 5-6 Only Women
Clerical Marriage
  • 1-3 Yes
  • 4-6 No
Clerical Appointment
  • 1-3 Temporal, revocable - Appointed and removed by the secular state.
  • 4-6 Spiritual, revocable - Appointed by faith authorities, removed by the state.
  • 7-9 Temporal, for life - Appointed by the secular state, here to stay
  • 10-12 Spiritual, for life - Appointed by the faith authorities,here to stay.
These last few all have the same options: 1-2 Criminalized (Specific punishment), 3-4 Shunned (Folks don't like it but no special criminal punishment), 5-6 Accepted (It's cool)
  • Same Sex Relations - Honestly this can be expanded to other gender stuff as well.
  • Male Adultery - Dudes sleeping around.
  • Female Adultery - Ladies sleeping around.
  • Deviancy - We'll leave this open to interpretation.
  • Witchcraft -"Magic type stuff that isn't ours."
  • Kinslaying -Is murdering family normal murder, or extra murder?

Virtues and Sins (d30)

The faith's favored and disfavored attitudes. Roll 3 times for virtues and 3 for sins, rerolling doubles.
  1. Brave
  2. Craven
  3. Calm
  4. Wrathful
  5. Chaste
  6. Lustful
  7. Content
  8. Ambitious
  9. Diligent
  10. Lazy
  11. Fickle
  12. Stubborn
  13. Forgiving
  14. Vengeful
  15. Gregarious
  16. Shy
  17. Honest
  18. Deceitful
  19. Humble
  20. Arrogant
  21. Just
  22. Arbitrary
  23. Temperate
  24. Gluttonous
  25. Trusting
  26. Paranoid
  27. Zealous
  28. Cynical
  29. Compassionate
  30. Callous

Putting it in Practice.

Let's see what we've got.

Tenets: Unrelenting Faith, Adorcism, Ritual Celebrations

So we've got a very zealous faith that focuses around huge celebrations where clerics are possessed by spirits - likely the spirits whose honor the celebrations are being held in.

View on Gender: Equal
Religious Attitude: Fundamentalist
Clerical Tradition: Lay
Head of Faith: Spiritual
Marriage: Monogamous, divorce by approval.
Bastardry: No bastards
Consanguinity: Avuncular Marriage
Clerical Function: Recruitment
Clerical Gender: Either, marriage is approved
Clerical Appointment: Spiritual, revocable

Same Sex Relations: Accepted
Male Adultery: Shunned
Female Adultery: Shunned
Deviancy: Criminalized
Witchcraft: Accepted
Kinslaying: Shunned

Virtues: Content, Compassionate, Lustful
Vices: Fickle, Lazy, Craven

Church Schism Simulator

All right then so you've got yourself a religion. You know how to make that sucker interesting?

Heresies and schisms, motherfuckers.

Everything that you generated is a point of contention for someone.

Pick one of the things you consider the most important about your religion. Or more, more is good. Then replace it with something else. Roll, choose, doesn't matter. By default, I imagine that the religion you generated is well established and has a history. This means you can heresy-fy both forwards and backwards in time - what did you branch off of, and who is branching off of you.

Whatever that change is, it is going to have a cause - political, social, cultural, even technological. Use that to inform the rest of the world.

For this example, let's keep it simple.
  • Schism: Unrelenting Faith replaced with Catechism, Ritual Celebration replaced with Inner Journey. A branch originating in the literati (and thus, those more influenced by foreign philosophy) that says that the channeling of spirits is primarily a personal practice of self-discovery and self-definition, rather than a communal one. To this end much of the priesthood has been replaced with a series of manuals and enchiridions detailing the types of spirits, their natures and behaviors, and the ways to best use them as guides during meditation.
  • Heresy: Fundamentalist replaced with Pluralist - A swiftly-growing movement that believes that the spirits of other peoples and nations are equally legitimate, and so can and should be channeled by clerics. This attitude is not popular in the homeland, but has grown up in the diaspora community, as since they are very far away, the spirits cannot possess as strongly as their do back home. They are similar in practices and dogma with their parent faith in all other ways.
If you want to start with the very beginning and work forward, use the (very definitely stolen from Early Christianity) model presented below.
  1. Original Teachings - No matter how revolutionary, these will be some variant of an existing faith.
  2. First Generation - The religion is spread and taught by those who were among the original disciples and have first-hand experience of its origination.
  3. Second Generation - The religion is spread and taught by people who have no direct connection to its originator. It has likely spread far enough to exist in multiple cultural contexts.
The first schisms and heresies will emerge between the first and second generations. You can make a good handful of them at this point on the big friction points.

At this stage, it's a good idea to look and see where the political power is. It's probably going to be with the parent faith, but time and distance has a way of corroding that influence. Things get fuzzy on the borders.

Eventually, one of these branches will catch the eye of political power, and from then it's off to the races. The other branches will either die out or transform to survive their obscurity, while the new politically-advantageous branch will in time have its own fragmentation over dogma. There aren't any strict stages at this point, but it's a good idea to make a timeline of major political events and see what changes will be wrought.

Always remember: the dumber the reason is for the schism, the more realistic it is. Like people died over the difference between homoousious and homoiousious and eagle-eyed readers might take note that that particular debate has very little to do with the practical ethics and business of living in the world.

This has gone on long enough for certain.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Play Report: Barbarian Prince

Over at DIYanddragons I was introduced to the wonderful hidden gem of Barbarian Prince, a game that's been out of print for nearly 40 years and some A-grade prime solo RPG play. I want to see this take off, I want to see hacks and tributes and improvements.

Naturally, I played it. Here's what happened.

Several times I misinterpreted rules, forgot rules, or cheated by rerolling. Certain elements have been modified for story's sake.

The game map, clumsily edited by me.

The Journey

Your younger brother has murdered your father the king and taken the throne for himself. He commands a sizeable mercenary force and has connections with a powerful overseas empire that will support and reinforce his rule.

You managed to escape through the aid of your servant Ogab, who smuggled you out in a merchant caravan and covered your trail. He is likely dead.

You are heading south, to gather up enough funds and allies to retake the throne.

Day 1
You sneak out of the caravan at dawn, in the shadows of the ruins of Jakor's Keep. In another time you would have wanted to explore them, but your brother's forces are still abroad so you must cross the Tragoth River as soon as possible.

You're able to do so safely, and in the flatlands on the other side you encounter a wizard and his servant (Xeno [pronounced shenno] and Rus), traveling by foot. As it happens, they are your own countrymen, fleeing your brother's coup. They pledge themselves and the resources they have to your cause.

Around the fire that night, Xeno informs you of a treasure supposedly buried nearby, across the Nesser River. As you remain in need of a good deal of funds, you draw up a plan to head south, and then cross the river at Cumry.

Day 2
Travel without incident.

Day 3
Moving into the caves north of Cumry, you stumble across a cave containing a tomb of a scion of an ancient empire. The tomb was looted long ago, but you are keen enough to determine that the sarcophagus can be shifted to reveal a hidden pocket of grave goods. You take the gold - the amulet is so corroded that it disintegrates in your hands.

Day 4
You arrive in Cumry and have the first proper meal and bath since fleeing home.

Day 5
(This was a mistake - you can't make temple offerings in towns!)

You visit the temple in town and make a donation. Your piety plus the omens moves one of the priests there to send along with you an apprentice monk, named Thelonius.

Day 6
You attempt to cross the Nesser River by raft, to disastrous results. Feral crocodiles, driven out of the nearby swamp by poaching of their normal food, attack your party. You are able to escape, but not before Xeno gets his leg mangled by one of the beasts. Making matters worse, you weren't even able to cross the river, and were stuck on the shore some miles north of Cumry

Day 7
Rest and treatment of Xeno's injury

Day 8
River crossed successfully.

Day 9
You reach the hills where the treasure is rumored to be.

Day 10
Searching the hills, you find another cave-tomb of the old empire, but this one is not empty - a pair of warrior wraiths have been bound to it, and they do not care for intruders. You manage to overpower the undead and take the grave goods for yourself.

Days 11, 12 & 13
Rest and recovery of injuries for all party members

Days 14, 15, 16, 17
Travel without incident

Day 18
You get lost while trying to navigate out of the foothills and down into the great basin of the Kabir Desert (once the Kabir Sea)

Day 19
You are still lost in the foothills near the desert.

Day 20
You finally reach the desert basin, and in doing so run across a quartet of amazonian battle-sisters: Atalanta, Astarte, Tabiti, and Tomyris. They are running low on their own funds, and so are willing to join you for equal shares of all gold taken in the future.

Day 21
Exhaustion strikes the party as the desert saps your will to go on and devours your resources.

Day 22
You finally reach the Temple of Donat, which sits at the end of a great pilgrimage road. You make an offering to the temple to have your omens read - they are favorable, and say that it would be good to return again tomorrow.

Day 23
You return to the Temple to pray, and find that the gods have a strange sense of humor. One of the priestesses by the name of Zoe, dissatisfied with a life of displaying fish fossils and sweeping out pilgrim dust, has joined your party. Half of infatuation with you, half out of simple desire to get the hell out of there.

She also stole a whole lot of the temple treasury to do so.

You book it to the hills along the road.

Day 24
Rest, recovery from exhaustion, and replenishment of supplies

Day 25
Travel without incident

Day 26
Arrive in Cawther.

Day 27
Stock up on food in the town market.

Day 28, 29, 30
Travel without incident

Day 31
You arrive in Huldra Castle

Day 32
You attempt to get an audience with the Baron, but your request is ignored.

Day 33
Seeing no other options, Xeno pledges his service to the Baron of Huldra, using that as a way in to an audience. You pay your respects, and the Baron gives you a decently-sized purse.

Day 34
You check the rumor mill of the Castle, and learn a secret about Lady Aeravir of Aeravir Castle far to the south - for the chief priestess of a vestal cult, the Lady has a very long list of paramours. Armed with blackmail, a plan forms.

Day 35
Halfway to the deadline. Travel without incident.

Day 36
Rest, replenish food stores.

Day 37
Travel without incident.

Day 38
You encounter a traveling merchant, who points you towards a local rich farmer, who houses your party for the night.

Day 39
You would have made it to Tulith today, were it not for a torrential downpour driving you to a halt.

Day 40
You are low on money and food, and so move to the flatlands outside Tulith to replenish supplies.

Days 41 & 42

Rest, replenish food stores

Day 43
A day of rest is interrupted by the sighting of a band of swine-things in the distance. The amazons  have been spoiling for a fight, and so your party follows them to their camp. You ambush the swine-things, kill the boar and two others before the rest flee. With the cut that the amazons took, it's hardly worth it.

Day 44 & 45
Rest, heal, replenish food stores

Day 46
You move back to the road, passing by a merchant caravan without stopping to chat.

Day 47
You arrive in Turith.

Day 48
You seek an audience with the mayor, but the Master of the Household bars your way. You refuse to pay his bribe.

Day 49
You manage to fall in line with a gang of local thieves planning a heist on the corrupt mayor. You walk away with a heavy purse, which ends up significantly less heavy very soon. You flee the town in the night, headed south.

Day 50
You see a pack of lesser swine-things, and avoid them.

Day 51
A second pack of lesser swine-things, likely part of the same band as the previous day's group, crosses your path, but you do manage to avoid them.

Day 52, 53, 54, 55, & 56
With no money and no food, you are stuck hunting and gradually increasing your supplies. A band of elves (likely out hunting swine-things) pass you by on Day 54, and a lone halfling on Day 56.

Days 57, 58 & 59
Travel without incident. You pass by a second halfling without speaking to them on Day 57.

Day 60
You arrive in Lullwyn

Day 61
You spend almost all of your remaining gold on food at the market.

Days 62 & 63
Travel without incident.

Day 64
You arrive at a farmstead. The family houses and feeds you without charge, and in the next morning their oldest son, Buck, joins your party. His pa says he's a horrible farmer anyway, best let him do something he's good at.

Day 65
Arrive at Aeravir Castle

Day 66
You attempt, and fail, to get an audience with Lady Aeravir.

You sell your excess food to afford rooms for the last night.

You're dead broke and your haversacks are empty.

That blackmail info better fucking work.

Day 67
You are able to get an audience with Lady Aeravir. The Trousers of Time split, and there are two ways it can go.

Pathway A - You attempt to blackmail Lady Aeravir, and she no-sells you. She gives you a small purse, not even enough to feed your party for another night after the amazons take their cut. With only three days left and not enough money for crumbs, you disband your party. Rus goes back to Huldra Castle to meet back with Xeno, Buck returns to his father's farm. The amazons take their money and depart. Thelonius is reluctant to leave you, but remains in Castle Aeravir.

You and Zoe head south on the road, into kingdoms you do not know.

Your brother rules for a short, brutal time, before he drunkenly falls down stone stairs and dies. His son, an idiot, takes his place, and proves completely incapable of standing up to his imperial "allies", their paper money, and their infectious social mores. The north is stripped bare of resources, culture, and people.

This is the one that happens.

Pathway B - Lady Aeravir is swayed by your story and you are given 900 gold pieces - nearly enough to pay for twice the army you needed, as well as three Aeravir knights as your retainers. The amazons do not like that you reneged on your agreement, and so it is likely there would be a fight, and you might very well die.

But, if you manage to persuade them to leave without a fight, or persuade them to remain, you are able to hire enough soldiers to march north and retake your home from your brother. You marry Zoe and establish yourself as ruler of the north. Lady Aeravir remains a stalwart ally.

This one does not happen. It could have.


I love this game - sat down and churned it out in two sessions over the course of a single day. It's old and janky, certainly, but when you figure out the logic behind it, the pieces fit together smoothly.

Most solo games I see around that have emerged recently are more like journalling affairs - often very open ended and vague. This is the opposite - it is procedural, random, and out of your hands, for the most part. And that excites and interests me much more than the journal prompt. For all the jank, Barbarian Prince gives me something to work with, to go off of. It is able to replicate an RPG experience with all the ups and downs.

But it's still got that jank.

Things to change

  • The description of how hunting worked made me think it was the opposite of what it actually was. Several other entries have slightly confusing wording.
  • Combat is rough, and the flow you settle into can be thrown out of whack when you have to recalculate modifiers when someone gets injured. It's kinda a mess.
  • The fact that you can't take other party members hunting with you unless you rested that day is bullshit. Like you see how many days, especially at the end, I wasted just trying to not starve. Even with the extended hunting party I was barely able to feed my party for that night, let alone actually stock up supplies.
  • Gold and food melts. Soon as you think you're safe, you're fucked. This plays into the sort of roguelike difficulty, but runs afoul of one of the prime roguelike issues - the pain of loss scales directly with the time investment it took to get there. Adding in a DOTA-style "you know you're going to lose but you're going to limp around for another hour" does that no favors.
  • Granted, those amazons did not do me any favors either.
  • Not being able to do a town action when you arrive in a town is also bullshit. You just end up wasting gold on room and board with no benefit.
  • Buying rations should be a free action.
  • New party members should definitely have their own rations when they join.
But you know what? The principle is sound. It is very sound.

Folks need to get in on this.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Highlights from Herodotus' Histories

This post was brought to you by "getting back into writing cursive, and realizing exactly how much more I can write, and write faster, if I do it longhand."

Also because I have a copy of the Histories sitting on my bookshelf.

Peoples of the World

If a man's father dies, his body is cut up and mixed with the meat of sacrificial sheep provided by other family members, and then cooked and eaten in a banquet. The head of the deceased is set aside, cleaned, shaved, set in gold, and brought out in a yearly festival. Women have equal authority and rights under the law as men do.

Women wear bronze rings on their legs, grow their hair very long, and have a habit of killing vermin they catch with their teeth. The king of this nation selects his wife from the entire population.

Numerous, polygamous. Drink goat's milk mixed with the powder of dried locusts. Swear oaths upon the tombs of the dead, and divine the future by sleeping in the tombs of their ancestors.

Live in the wilderness among animals, avoiding contact with other humans. They have no weapons of war.

Grow their hair in crests, high on the crown and trimmed down elsewhere. Their war gear predominantly features ostrich skin and feathers.

The women here wear leather anklets, each one a gift from a different lover.

Wear their hear long in the front, short in the back. Yearly festival where young women form two teams and fight each other with clubs for the glory of Athena. One girl is chosen to lead a procession around the lake by chariot, in full armor. There is no marriage here, and children are raised as a group until they come of age.

Have no personal names. Curse and insult the sun daily at its rising.

Baster beekeepers. Pain themselves read and eat monkies as their primary food source.

Wear black cloaks, regardless of season, sex, or circumstance.

Deep blue eyes and red hair. Hold Bacchic furies every three years. Were "driven out of the factories along the coast" in the past and now live as nomads.

The men favor luxurious clothing and gold decoration. Wives are held in common, and all men are considered brothers.

Said to transform into wolves a few days a year. Nomads whose home was destroyed, now sheltering among the Budini.

Worship a god named Zolmaxis, who they believe they will go live with when they die. Every five years a messenger is chosen to be sacrificed, to carry their prayers to Zolmaxis.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Excerpts from the Lighthouse Field Guide: Part 3

Dorohedoro, naturally

First installment can be found here.

The second installment, here.

As always, all of this is canon, especially the parts that contradict, but not all of it is canon in the same place.

Venus Protectrix Gentium

Street art depicting paleolithic goddess-figure carrying aloft a war banner. In the more elaborate pieces, she is often attended by smaller, simplified human figures, handprints, herds of aurochs, elk, horses, wolves, etc. Often accompanied by selected lines from the Exaltation of Inanna, or simply the cuneiform for hè-zu-ám - "It is known" or "Let it be known".

The Red Letter Day

The last best hope for the future. The day the revolution comes.

The Bullet That Will Kill the Last Elephant

Taking the item's ontological properties into account, the agreed-upon disposal method is as follows: encasement in lead followed by dumping in randomized location in north Pacific ocean. The agents responsible will be selected according to ideological alignment, covert operations experience, and proximity to natural death.

Malebolge Manifest

Manila folder containing 17 pages, typewritten on both sides with two columns of names. 12 names are redacted, 9 are of individuals who were born after the manifest was recovered, and 27 cannot be matched to existing persons. The only other text present is a header on the first page - "ACCOUNTS PAYABLE DEBT COLLECTION AUTHORIZED".

Antarctic Express

Rail line running from Palmer Land through Ellsworth and Marie Byrd Lands, crossing the Transantarctic Mountains near Mt. Kirkpatrick for the final leg across the plateau to the Pole. A full-length trip. Passengers are encouraged to socialize with anyone boarding from mid-transit wilderness stations, but should avoid prying questions or disembarking at stops marked with a red chevron. Pamphlets with common phrases in express argot are available at the main stations.

Mouse Friend and Comrade Rat

Animated television series featuring the eponymous anarcho-communist rodents aiding the humans in their apartment complex launch organized resistance against their landlords. The six known episodes end in the middle of a plot arc (police siege of the complex), and it is unknown if any further episodes exist. There are no broadcast records of Mouse Friend and Comrade Rat; the earliest copy found so far is a VHS home recording dated to the summer of 1990.

Unnamed New Religious Movement

Apocalyptic transhumanist ideology commonly found among those in the finance or tech industries. Cult-like in its secrecy, zealotry, and recruitment tactics, though it lacks established orthodoxy, texts, tenets, rites, and other markers of a new religious movement.

Central to the movement is the shared certainty that climate change will, eventually wake a diefic alien intelligence slumbering deep in the ocean. The process of this being's waking will wipe out the majority of humanity in the process of leaving the planet. Those who survive, protected by an assortment of patent paracausal technologies, will emerge from their bunkers and use the knowledge gained from the being's passing to ascend to a posthuman state and follow it out into the stars, where they will inherit the universe.


A cracked glass bottle containing about half a liter of pale golden liquid. Reports of its effectiveness as a cure-all are currently unsubstantiated. Records indicate that twenty liters of the substance existed at one point - whereabouts of the rest are unknown. Reacts violently when combined with other liquids.


A common Delver pet, typically six inches to two feet in length. Intelligent, affectionate, and easy to care for. Hundreds of cataloged species. Immense variety in shape, size, and coloration, with clades localized to specific Underworld water bodies. Some rare varieties have retained limbs.

The Theoretical Bureaucracy

A non-organization wherein one might apply for licenses and permissions for nonsensical, nonexistent, improbable, or entirely hypothetical circumstances. These documents will be regarded as legitimate by mundane authorities without question, though only for the specific circumstances outlined within.

Access to the Bureaucracy is relatively easy, requiring only knowledge of the Bureaucracy itself and a suitable go-between - someone whose typical occupation involves a great deal of other peoples' paperwork. Whether or not the targeted person is aware of the Bureaucracy is irrelevant, so long as the request is made appropriately. Acquiring a specific license is more difficult, as they tend towards great, and obtuse cost. 


Delver slang for law enforcement. "Fred the Badger" indicates police working alongside federal agents, "the old badger clan" indicates police working alongside white supremacist militias, and "badger found a mushroom" indicates police working alongside Agency operatives.

The Basilica

A gothic revival cathedral located on the Utopia Plantitia, Mars. The structure is constructed of local stone and is almost entirely buried by sediment, with only the two spires, the peak of the roof, and the rose window visible above the surface

Coitus Mentalis

Nickname given to task force that took part in a successful, if high-casualty, raid of the laboratory used as centerpiece of the Project HIMALAYA psy-ops program. Survivors can be identified by badges or tattoos of a cracked skull with lipstick marks on the exposed brain.

"The Stink"

Field tests are still ongoing to determine the reliability of identifying paracausal events or beings by smell.The current hypothesis is that the smell is not of the paracausality itself, but caused by a chemical reaction in the surrounding environment by the presence of a paracausal instance. Described as "somewhere between the smell of bleach, a live wire and wood smoke."

The Tampa Incident

A lopsided tugboat, taking on water and in clear disrepair, appears offshore in the early morning of June 14th. Unreadable symbols written across hull and cabin in mixture of blood and feces. Intestines wide enough for a man to crawl through and oversized balloons drape across the deck and bob in the water nearby. Those present at recovery report a sure knowledge that this is the aftermath of unknown, but assuredly terrible, events from the previous night.


Recovered agency documents detailing incident in May 2015. Acephalic, hermaphroditic humanoid falls from sky in rural Washington state, severely damaging parked car. Exaggerated male and female sexual characteristics. Skin translucent; hair sparse, pale and feathery. Eventually tracked to cabin in southeast Alaska where originating actor was found dead in presence of 48 severed human heads. Notes indicate that the procedure was regarded as a failure by its practitioner, with hopes that some subjects succeeded in their escape to the "upper air".

White Lily Society

Predominantly but not entirely female organization. Primary motivation appears to be cutting down numbers or eliminating individuals possessing enough power to upset the existing factional balance of the Underworld. Typical form of dress is umber or rust colored, with white gloves. Considerable wealth used to hire out contractors - direct engagement with members is limited to lavish and strictly controlled social functions used to exert soft power among other faction. WLS banquets are the place to make history, if you're patient enough.

"Idam lo hapt, Idam lo det"

A call-and-response signifying neutrality or non-hostility; when used in entirety by a single speaker, it indicates detached resignment to the situation at hand. Nonsense, belonging to no language. Origin unclear, though it is believed to have migrated from the Underworld to the surface.

Principle of Causal Influence

Hypothesis stating that the stability of a paracausal phenomenon outside of the Underworld is inversely influenced by its scope and the degree of causal violation, thus preventing major paracausal shifts to the state of the world as a whole. Prosaically: it won't destroy us all, but it can't save us from the forces that can.