Saturday, March 21, 2020

The World of Mother Stole Fire

This one was made with Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator

This map has been in my head for a very long time. That's to be expected, because what sort of self-respecting D&D referee doesn't have a half-plotted, never-started fantasy novel out there?

This one is mine. A place of my own. A daydream that has been the friend of my waking hours for many years, forever changing, subsuming new ideas until I can no longer tell when and where the junctions were made. My notes are both expansive and mostly out of date.

The map itself is unfinished, and shows only a third of one continent and none of what lies to the west and south of the Mare. It is the most well-defined region, however - while the rest of the world is mostly settled down in relation to its components, I've yet to solidify the shape. It's all a bunch of labeled blobs. The shape of this region could use more work as well: the other version looks more like this, which I like a bit more from a shape perspective. Less like the Mediterranean, it's got better coastlines (because it's a collage I made of normal maps).

There are some things to know about the world beforehand.

The Plague Years - An apocalyptic global pandemic that, among other things ended the Second Empire and ushered in the beginning of the modern era.  

The Three Empires - The first was Darvatius', when he conquered the world and destroyed it all. That is ancient history.

The second is the Tlanic: militant sun-worshipers that managed to control much of the eastern continent and several overseas colonies. The last emperor, considered the living embodiment of the sun god, died during an eclipse just as the Plague Years began.

The third is more potential than actual. It is, depending on whom you ask, either Hespir or Draga, if it exists at all.

The Four Families

  • Homini - Idaltu, Neandr, Altai, Flores, Manu, Lilu.These six classical peoples are still useful in a general categorical sense, but people being people they are not accurate to the cumulative lived experience of millennia of intermingling.
    •  Possessors of the Crown of Fire, that which makes and fuels gods.
  • Cetacea - Dolphins, porpoises and whales. Some enterprising wizards have developed mechanical suits for them to walk about on land, but these are still rare.
    •  Possessors of the Riddle of the Deeps, which they have remained tight-lipped about.
  • Elephants - Plains, jungle, mammoths, mastodons, and pygmies on certain Belt islands
    •  Possessors of the Earthsong, an ultrasonic ancestral memory.
  • Corvids - Crows, ravens, magpies, and the occasional parrot.
    • Possessors of the Murder of All Crows, a hidden parliament where all corvids may slip off to when out of sight. They hire out their services as message-carriers for secrets and carrion - most folks keep a jar of pickled sheep's eyes on hand for payment.

Other Thinking Beings

  • Octopi - The "Fifth Family". Octopi are clearly intelligent, but have never shown anyimpulse to communicate with humanity or anyone else, despite attempts by wizards and scholars to breach the communication barrier.
  • Homunculi / Half-Men - An alchemical creation animated by arcane fire. Their skin is hairless, thick, and grey, similar to that of an elephant. The most common body forms are humanoid, equine, and some that appear like giant dragonflies. Universal among forms is the lack of a head - the animating fire is open to the air above the stump of the neck. They are a Bensaeili creation.
  • Devils - Not to be confused with demons, devils are humans who have had their hearts removed via metaphysical surgery. This completely eliminates their empathy, but leaves behind a legal/economic/bureaucratic savant. Anyone dealing with devils must keep them bound by complex layers of strictures, separated from the general population, and secure their hearts to maintain long-term control.The Dispaterian origin of the procedure is clear to everyone. Tanniclen maintains a larger-than-comfortable corps of devil-bureaucrats.
  • The Ape-Men -The great apes do not possess the Crown of Fire and have only limited skills with human languages, but they are still considered members of family Homini and afforded the honors of such. Most of them live in the wilderness of Old Acephavara, Reniriya, or the Belt.

A note on names: I have kept the names of peoples as they were before I began the merge into MsF - as the traits are the same as in the blog posts about them, I am treating them as regional names (a solution of which I am actually quite fond of)

The dayrdan are neandr, the buruq are altai, and the lilifio are hauflin.


Two continents bracket the Mare Interregnum, nearly enclosing it. They don't have names yet. Beyond them there is the Antipodic Ocean, and if there are lands to be found there, their names are secret.

The Dayr

The lands north of the mountains (themselves also called the Dayr, or the Dayrmont). Pine forests, tundra, glaciers. Home of dayrdan, mammoths, black amazons, the Wendish. The air is clear here. Clean. Cold. Keep an eye out for Mundo.

Wend - An isolationist city-state of gleaming white towers. The inhabitants have skin the color of milk, tinged with blue where it would flush pink on another, with eyes like ice and translucent hair as brittle as crystal - they have claimed to descend from unknown Atri-Thul in the uttermost north.

Tin Jacobstown - Once a coastal shantytown, now chief of the prospecting and whaling towns in the Dayr. The compact with Orca grants the inhabitants special dispensation to hunt whales, an act that would be unthinkable elsewhere. It is considered as the northernmost point of civilization that is still culturally linked to the city-states south of the mountains, and so has become synonymous with the hinterlands.

The Wall of Rhavian - An ancient structure blocking off access to a small, mist-shrouded peninsula. The Folk that live beyond have barred all access since the days of Darvatius, and the only humans to have passed over in either direction were the men of the Androgons, and they migrated to the south and east after their crossing.

Urukhá, Akká, Hrunná - "The Three Sisters" of the dayrdan keeps and the oldest continually inhabited settlements on the continent.

The White Pine Confederation

A longstanding set of common laws and peace agreements between local townships and nations that has bounced back and revitalized to fill the gap left after the Plague Years. The city-states in the region are considered the roots of both classical and modern democratic-humanist governance.

Bensael - A thriving city-state formed by an alliance between the remnants of six northern nations, refugees from the Low Countries and across the Mare, the former Imperial provincial capital, the Olen river dolphins, hespermontane elephant herds and the Murder of All Crows. The city is diverse and vibrant, and has only grown more so thanks to subsequent immigration waves (most recently refugees from Pelai across the Mare) and a robust system of public services. Bensael has become a primary cultural power on the continent, and its influence can be felt all the way from Wend to Kara Koren.

Tanniclen - The old imperial city within Bensael proper: wizards' towers and the tightly-clustered manors of the (terrifyingly inbred and honestly quite puglike) leftover aristocracy. In exchange for the arcane and economic aid it provided during the founding years, the Old City is permitted its own laws and governance as a separate polity - it has no representation in local consensus councils and only one seat when an All-Thing is called. It is ruled by the Black Queen and White Queen, seemingly-immortal sorceress sisters(?).

Orlei - A major cultural center with storied traditions in the arts, sciences, and philosophies. It is the only state in the region to have maintained a hereditary monarchy after the Plague Years, though the role is now almost entirely ceremonial. It was from the townships around the city that the sable Maid gathered her first supporters in her war against Hell.

Russet Country - The hill country to the east of Bensael and north of Orlei. Known mostly for a preponderance of goblin warrens and Folk stones, mining townships, the Knights of Autumn, and a very strong witching tradition.

Lilu-Yoya - Chief expansion of the lilu onto the surface (Though the the earthquake that opened the Two-Faced City up to the sky left them little choice), and now treated as synonymous with them. It is the epicenter of the lilu diaspora, the home of the lilu republican movement, its matriarchs were the first to make contact with other world powers...technically true, if one ignores all the smaller instances that have filled up the years. No matter. Given its position, Lilu-Yoya controls passage through the Allecanth Mountains and it consistently has allied with Bensael over Draga despite the matriarchs' distaste for Bensaili civil liberties - Draga-style austerity is the less appealing by far. 


The Necromantic Socialist Republic was born out of the trauma of the Plague Years and the war with Hell as an experiment in utopia. If the dead so outnumber the living, and the dead have no use for their bones, is it not the greater honor for the dead to be of use to their descendants in death? Likewise death had proven itself the great power of the world, and so to give it honor is sensible. The inhabitants want for little, for the dead provide for them - all that is asked of them is their bones.

Di Valeo - Cultural center of the NSR, rebuilt by the hands of the undead after its complete destruction during the war. Despite all the efforts of the necromancer-architects, there is a certain feeling of loss that cannot be shaken, for before the war it had been the most beautiful city in the world. The great cathedral here, dedicated to Ama Adimatha in her aspect of the Lady of Sorrows and her Stillborn, is an ossuary. With painstaking care the necromancers have inscribed each skull with its appropriate name.

The Low Countries

The city-states here share a great deal culturally with those in the north and the east, but the proximity to Dis has led to integration of some hellish aspects - demon engines, infernal architecture, the rusting hulks of Dispaterian war machines. Demons and their hunters are common here.

Bhyor - "In Bhyor there is the House of Sin" goes the story. A vast iron cube nestled in the branches of the gargantuan petrified tree that sits atop the sharp stone outcropping in the bay. Low whitewashed houses with blue mosaic facades and empty doors. The House had been part of a tradition, where those guilty of heinous crimes would willingly choose to enter and never return, to clean the guilt of the many. Everyone knows now of how the sacrifices grew more and more frequent, until one warm night in late summer the entire population got up from their beds, walked along that narrow bridge, up the thin stone steps, and stepped through the black mouth of the House. No one goes to Bhyor anymore.

Dis - Hell is an emergent phenomenon. Provided with a suitable host civilization, it will slough forth in the same form that it always has - the smoke-wreathed towers, the shit-filled gutters, the blood red stone, the hive of the dead-already, the singularity of human suffering. While this incarnation of Dis still stands, it has been hobbled for the time. The blackened fields of craters and trenches and rust-hollowed war machines that surround its pitted walls remain the site of the greatest accomplishment in human history - had Darvatius not taken to the field himself, or if there had been a single spare hour, the Maid's army could have torn the black iron gates from their settings and struck at the heart of Moloch itself. 


The northern capital of the Second Empire, now its own independent state. A dour, puritanical place filled with dour, puritanical people, run by only the dourest and most puritanical theocratic oligarchs. It does not claim direct Imperial political lineage, having always been a rival to the southern provinces even before the collapse. It has a complicated relationship with Bensael, who serves as its common rival and erstwhile ally and whose diverse social democracy is diametrically opposed to the authoritarianism found here. The northern variant of the Imperial Church (that is, the surviving branch) is henotheist bordering on monotheism, centered around a distant and terrible solar deity-judge.

The Dragon Republics - Fourteen city-states built atop what is, as best as archaeologists can tell, the kernel that first formed Darvatius' empire. An economic powerhouse thanks to their elaborate system of guilds and banks. While on paper the Republics follow the Imperial Church, sects of dragon-worship are an open secret among them - even their longtime ally Draga gives them arm's length when the political situation is inflamed (and it often is). There are some who believe that the next emergence of Dis will be here.


Capital city of the amazons, situated at the mouth of the Thermodon where it empties into the sea. Triremes with horsehead prows ply the waters of the Blackwine. Cavalry patrols ride up and down the roads to Kara Koren. Children play in the agora under the bronze eyes of the colossal statue of Tabiti Hipparctrix Hodegetria. Old women still tell the story of how the statue stepped off its pedestal, spear in hand, and waded out into the harbor to fight off the Tlanic navy during the Plague Years. Because of its location, the city sits on a vital artery between the Mare Interregnum and Kara Koren, a state that has permitted its independence despite its neighbors.

The Magelands

Magic flows on the breeze, heavy and sweet as honey. suffusing every breath and cell and thought. The grass is greener here; the sky is bluer. stones are no longer bound by the shackle of gravity, trees pull up their roots, form and purpose lose their concrete boundaries, time and space unspool their tangled knots. It is intoxicating. It will bind you to itself until you are so filled with the freedom it offers that you are wiped clean and made a part of it.

Mund - A fortress city in the midst of the Magelands. A brutalist arcology packed tight with tens of thousands of people who attempt to resist the power of the Magelands through the mindless repetition of enforced hivelike normalcy. Total denial of the life beyond. Sterile. Eternal. Their border wall crumbles after generations of neglect and retreat to Mund.

Kara Koren 

Wide open plains, rolling off into the horizon. The buruq make their home here, their semi-nomadic bands cycling between the small cities on the rivers and lakes and the open prairie. Vast herds of bison, antelope, camels, horses and wild boar can be found here. It is likewise home to the largest population of elephants on the eastern continent.

The Hollowhorn - A long-extinct volcano, rising snow-capped and solitary above the plains. It is a sacred place for the buruq, where their nations gather for jubilee festivals and the practice of peaceful politics in neutral territory. The permanent residents consist mostly of a council of Greyhair'd who have rescinded their tribal membership to act as impartial arbiters. They likewise act as the keepers of the Last King - the last surviving true dragon, who sleeps away the ages in a cave deep within the mountain.


The heart of the Second Empire has been reduced to a decaying, sickness-stricken land. The Plague is still here, seeped deep into the soil and water. Impenetrable swamps and dark forest filled with misshapen, monstrous creatures render crossing the territory by land near impossible. There are still human inhabitants, but they have been changed so completely and severed so utterly from the rest of the world that they are left to their own devices.

Tlan - A metropolis reclaimed by nature. some folks will talk of treasure that remains hidden there, but nearly all was looted during the collapse and any that remains is hardly worth the danger of an expedition into Olabeth. From the harbor, one can still see the gleaming golden dome of the solar tabernaculum where the sacrifices were held.

The Old Imperial Heartland - As the Second Empire collapsed, the aristocracy made a mad dash to secure their holdings in the east. While some of the governors and generals were able to maintain a sense of order and continuity, disease and famine swiftly ended their attempts. Centuries later, the Heartland is a feral wilderness filled with squabbling warlords and the ruins they inhabit. The wars between them are unending, and the region in its entirety has been written off as unmappable - no border lasts long enough for the map to reach publication.


Mangrove swamps and mudflats choked with the thousand-thousand varieties of the bright red panacea flower. Broiling heat. Drowning humidity. Complete isolation. The great ceramic domes and minarets of the Petal Houses are the only signs of habitation along the whole of the river, save for a few desperate villages hiding from the Houses' security forces.

Mouth of Ool - The only access in or out of Ool and the only permitted source of panacea potion. As far into Ool as most outsiders are allowed, and likely as far as anyone would want to go. The harbor which dominates the city is overseen by the white-robed eunuchs that act as the Houses' proxy guild. Visitors often report a feeling of constant surveillance, which longtime residents and guild-members will confirm as being entirely correct and rational.


Every mushroom grove found elsewhere in the world can trace its origin back to this island. Hairless, blueish-skinned Llaphedoniks sell mushroom ale and woven mycelium crafts to visitors in the ports. Deep in the fungal jungle live the mushroom men, who carry the memories of generations past and build a ziggurat to ends unknown.

Old Acephavara

Acehpavara is a paradox - by all accounts it should have and did destroy itself without the aid of the Plague - through economic catastrophe, incestuous political corruption, and arcanonuclear war - yet it survived all of that and the disease. Not in any compatible state to the empire that was once rival of Tlan, but the city still stands, the state still functions. still, it is Old Acephavara - history has passed it by. The cities that were once under its control have sprung up to outshine it in the modern day.

Meredat - Home to the main means of reaching the Moon, the ship Diamondwing captained by the archmage Balathrysti.

Janashkut - A potent strain of ghoul-leprosy is endemic to the region. Over the centuries, the oldest sections of the city have been sealed off and abandoned, forming the infamous labyrinthine leper districts, as new constructions are built on the border.

Vanidyos - Current chief of the Acephavaran city-states, Vanidyan society actually precedes Acephavaran by some time. Aspects of this that were passed on and remain strong include the city's multitude of martial arts traditions, potently-spiced cuisine (A favorite of the city's very large lilu population), the black-lead musical tradition, skeleton iconography long before the NSR made it cool, and the unique-to-the-city gods The Headless One and The Heart and Bones.

The Belt of Fire

A chain of tropical volcanic islands that stretch across the Mare Interregnum from Vanidyos to Pelai. The main artery of trade between the eastern and western continents, seconded only by the Qaare-Bensael corridor in the north. Home to dozens of lilifio nations, many of them nautical and migratory.

Distant Lands and Parts Unknown

The map does not extend forever, and there are lands beyond its borders whose inhabitants have made their case in clarity to remain undisturbed.

Ghan - East beyond Kara Koren. A hilly, arid land. True desert. Difficult to navigate. Ancient irrigation canals lined with fields of coffee and barley make a grid of the rivers. Clay brick towers offer sky funerals to the vultures. Shrines to the Bull that Carries the Sky rise at crossroads

Reniriya - South of Vanidyos and Old Acephavara. Hot. Wet. Rainforest, mostly. Carnivorous plants. They are not fond of cities here. Beautiful ceramics occasionally traded for necessary goods. Hot air balloons bobbing above the canopy, pulled down to safety when it rains. Tokens of firefly spirits. High fluidity in family structure and gender expression. Devotional cannabis and dreamworld pantheons.

The Trailwards - A chain of islands south and east of Reniriya. Pa'O Pa'O is among them. Known to the outside world mostly for pearl diving and masked wrestlers.


  • The White Pine Confederation is a pretty blatant nod to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) - this is because I think it's rad.
  • Bensael itself is an obvious appeal to the author situation.
  • The Sable Maid is absolutely supposed to be a mashup of Joan of Arc and Fingolfin, I regret fucking nothing.
  • Let this be my manifesto that the four core fantasy species should be humans, elephants, dolphins and crows, on the grounds that treating them more like people is long, long overdue.
  • Before today I had no idea what the cetacean gift was going to be and I am still uncertain about it.
  • This map already has errors in it, namely that:
    • Temiskyra should probably be south of it's current location. Or something needs to be there, it's very awkward and empty.
    • I'm not super happy with Hespir's location, it might get moved westward across the Mare.
    • The location of the Old Acephavaran capital is missing, it should be towards the point of the horn. 
    • Bhyor and the Wall of Ravian are not on the map. 
    • Draga is both the name of the country and of its capital, the latter of which is not shown. 
And there you go: life is rough right now and bound to get rougher, so I thought it'd be a good time to share something that brings me joy in the hope it might bring you some as well.

I will accept any and all questions.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A Last Hope in Hell

Wayne Douglas Barlowe, Inferno

Pandatheist is a bad influence, who encourages me to do RPG things.

This idea is old, and I couldn't tell you how old. I think it originated before I started the blog. I don't know if it will ever see the light of day properly, but here it is.

0) Canterbury Tales + The Inferno + Ultraviolet Grasslands. A game about a pilgrimage through hell. Lots of Darkest Dungeon influence. Very anachronistic, probably.

1) The line between Hell as divine punishment and Hell as an incursion of a hostile alien environment is deliberately blurred.

2) In the center of hell there is a church. No one knows why it is safe there, but everyone is certain that it is the safest place in the world.

3) The emergence of Hell absolutely involves the plague. As far as characters are concerned it is the absolute and real end of the world. It might still be, but not for the reasons they think.

4) Lots of premade characters all known only by their title.

5) The mental image I have for Hell is very much in the horrible fungal disaster zone of the Sepsis in Degenesis. It is not unthinkable that it is some sort of terraforming device.

6) Things might be worse on the outside

7) The more horrible the environment is the more the LISA the Painful OST goes into my rotation. Treat it at given that someone is going to learn Secret Technique: 666 KILL CHOP DELUXE.

That out of the way, where would I go if I wanted to do something with this?

I've considered using David Schirudan's handy guide for translating UVG into Troika! at first. This is an easy and predictable place to start and honestly you could find and replace your way to a very good game based on that alone. The pilgrimage lends itself to a pointcrawl, and combat and exploration can be abstracted into random events such as are already in there. It could even be turned into a solo game with relative ease.

What will come of this, if anything? Who can say.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Dan' Notebook of Unfinished Wonders, Vol 5

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4

As always, I make no promises that what is written here has not already been written.


  1. Diagetic found-footage monster manual entries
  2. Magical desert reclamation, & other major projects you can logically do with magic.
  3. Catastrophe Junction - a town, city, planet, realm, whatever.
  4. Unspooling black holes for matter, drawing out a flow like a thread by temporarily dissolving gravity.
  5. Nativity pageant with a live birth.
  6. Humans considered as "godmakers" by aliens, in reference to the human propensity to create and spread virulent memetic hazards - "We do not wish to come down with a case of the gods."
  7. Planets: Shashanasak, Jonbei, Pauzhe, Rix, Luu, The Worm-King Moon, The Houses of the Shena-B.
  8. "This story was passed on to me by my grandmother, on winter evenings when the night was clear, when we would sit by the hearth and drink yak-milk together. Long ago, when the Silver River was young, there rose a people from a distant star who..."
  9. The First Elders, who learned the secret of immortality, the path called God-Walking, the path that could not be unmade. Those that took the God-Walk became the Great Digitals.
  10. Bands of pink and blue to the west, under a slim crescent moon.Mosquito bites on ankles, lightning bugs above wet grass.
  11. A whorehouse district covered in yellow butterflies.
  12. A profession: hemometeorologist
  13. Ashkedash sky-squid
  14. Straw Hat Ministries
  15. Casings from ship guns floating in the water. Sailors take pot shots at them as a game
  16. “Well, you’ll be dead and I’ll be eating three meals a day.”
  17. And all the choirs of electric angels in the silicon cloisters of its heart proclaimed with joy, “Holy, holy, holy!”
  18. Sandalphon’s consciousness stretched and got up out of bed, as it were. 
  19. Calico the cutpurse with her tricolor bird mask, born on horseback, can speak ogre

20) She left the inn when the scablands were still misty and grey, on a long-necked horse striped blue and black. The crumpled track of dirt and stone twisted out in silence. Aquinas would rise first, then Augustine, and the hard white sunlight would burn away the mist and fill the day with sharpened edges.

21) The ghosts of Mars sing dirges in the red hills and the knife valleys. They sing by the icy streams, and in the chiming bone forests. They sing in the mists and in the rusting iron sky, and the pale Twins at night. In the dust storm and the calm, they are there. They sing in the Smoke-Towers, and the God-places. They are the crown upon the Mountain, and in the canals choked with reeds.

Space Teamster Inspirational Playlist for Mothership 

(my GF helped with this one!)
  1. We All Lift Together (Warframe OST) 
  2. Space Lion (Cowboy Bebop OST) 
  3. Pushing the Speed of Light (Julia Ecklar and Anne Prather) 
  4. Blues 2.0 (Fruteland Jackson) 
  5. Keep the Wolves Away (Uncle Lucius) 
  6. Devil Wears a Suit and Tie (Colter Wall) 
  7. The Chemical Worker's Song (Great Big Sea) 
  8. Your favorite Johnny Cash song 
  9. Internal Conflict (Black Mesa Xen OST) 
  10. Dawson's Christian (Leslie Fish and Vic Tyler) 
  11. What Do You Know? (Annihilation OST) 
  12. Make This Perv (Spewcup) 
  13. The Mermaid Sisters' Song (Carole and Tuesday OST) 
  14. Metallica Goes to Punjab (Wax Audio) 
  15. Demon Days (Gorillaz) 
  16. SILA (A Tribe Called Red ft. Tanya Tagaq) 
  17. Roll Northumbria (The Dreadnoughts) 
  18. Song to Boddho (Pathologic 2 OST) 
  19. Main Menu (Outer Wilds OST) 
  20. She Shines (Transistor OST)
  21. Fingers to the Bone (Brown Bird) 
  22. Kugutsuuta Ura Mite Chiru (GitS 2 OST)
  23. Blood on my Name (The Brother Bright)
  24. Bonya (Fatoumata Diawara)
Or just cheat and play the entire discography of Julia Ecklar.

Remnant notes from the one marathon ironman game of CK2 I managed to complete.

  • King Ailbrend of Ireland is lucky enough to ascend just after gavelkind is tossed in favor of primogeniture. Inherits Scotland when his unmarried niece dies. He marries princess Damiane of Byzantium (Grey Eminance, In the Purple, Kind, Humble, Charitable, Craven)
    • Six daughters over the span of 15 years: Slain, Conchenn, Be-Fail, Dub-Lenma, Eua, Forbflaith
      • Slain is a gigantic troublemaker, gets married off to a prince of Abyssinia because this house values multiculturalism.
      • Be-Fail dies of sickness at age 10. 
    • A son is born! Eochuchan arrives while Ailbrend is off catching pneumonia on pilgrimage to Rome.
  •  I am wounded in battle putting down a rebellion and become known as The Great.
  • Then years later I die and my son is undermined by one of my advisors who was apparently a fervent Scottish nationalist who moved us back to gavelkind which would eventually split Ireland and Scotland apart when Eochuchan's sons take the thrones and it's all a mess and we could have stopped the English, we could have stopped them.
Also Spain was Yazidi until France conquered it and the HRE devoured Hungary


  1. On the Identification of False Magi
  2. The Antarctic Codex 
  3. The Cthonic Sermons 
  4. Arcanum Carcinogenus 
  5. Signs, Works, Symbols 
  6. The Ketrell Record 
  7. The Amber Mysteries 
  8. Meditations Upon the Deep Waters 
  9. The Red Samarkand Letters 
  10. The Demoniac Fragments 
  11. "On Decay" 
  12. The Book of Rust 
  13. Rites and Rituals of the Great Star Family 
  14. Burgess Shale Tablets

Stations and Habitats

  1. Clever Lu's
  2. Cahokia
  3. Amaterasu Station
  4. Icebox
  5. BloodBathHouse
  6. Danny Dregs' Shipyard
  7. Masada
  8. Cheap Date
  9. Relay 23
  10. Sagan Station
  11. The Fishbowl
  12. Ashoka
  13. Lockjaw
  14. The Bastard

Phenotypes of Lizardman

  1. Crocodile
  2. Ankylosaur
  3. Komodo
  4. Gila
  5. Tortoise
  6. Horned devil
  7. Therinzosaurus
  8. Salamander
  9. Ceratopsian
  10. Feathered
  11. Parasaurolophus
  12. Pachycephalosaurus
  13. Sauropod
  14. Tyrannosaurus
  15. Spinosaurus
  16. Raptor
  17. Stegosaur
  18. Iguanodon
  19. Pterosaur
  20. Lambeosaurus

Mothership Tarot

0 - The Astronaut
I - The Scientist
II - The Saints
III - The Captain
IV - The C-Level
V - The Datamind
VI - The Crew
VII - The Ship
VIII - The Marine
IX - The Hidebehinder
X - The Freelancer Board
XI - The Android
XII - The Colonist
XIII - Hard Vacuum
XIV - The Union
XV - Malware
XVI - The Elevator
XVII - The Main Sequence
XVIII - The Eagle
XIX - The Swarm
XX - The High Houses
XXI - The Homeworld

Types of Marriages

  1. Pre-arranged by families
  2. Short-term renewable contract
  3. Subscription fee for civic benefits
  4. Purely economic, consorts expected
  5. Purely personal, property and economic functions handles by other means

Monday, March 9, 2020

The American Powers

Season 5 is nearly here! Time for some preparatory Magnus Archives content, created with the help of Michael Kennedy.

My intent here was to create a set of Powers that was more culturally keyed to America, just to see what sort of differences would spawn from a different cultural tableau.They're not meant as a replacement for the Core 14, more of supplement / tranformation / what-if, adding the mixing or specificity that comes with time and place.
  1. The Wilderness / Far-Away-From-Home - The terrible distance between you and safety. Being at the mercy of men, beasts, and the elements. The revelation that human mastery of the world is a dangerous falsehood.
  2. Conspiracy / They-Are-Controlling-Us - The knowledge that parties outside of your reach and sight are organizing events around you. Being the only one aware to a great danger. To make warnings that go ignored.
  3. The Left Behind / There-Once-Was-Something-Here - The absense of something that was once great and good. To watch it decay and be forgotten, with the knowledge that something better was once there.
  4. Oppression / Stamping-Down-Forever - Organized violence, directed towards you and yours.
  5. Repression / Hidden-Thing-Gone-Rotten - The hidden horror, the decay that writhes and squirms beneath what is presented as good or holy or upright or clean.
  6. Exploitation / We-Will-Be-Ground-Into-Dust - The awareness that one's suffering profits a power beyond one's influence. The clear lack of escape. Grindstone despair.
  7. The Stars / I-Cannot-Explain-This - An Outside Context Problem. That which violates all logic. The break in the facade. The intrusion upon the perception of a peaceful life.
  8. Waste / It-Has-No-Value / What-Has-Been-Discarded - Everything has been thrown away. Not even destroyed or altered, just abandoned. To witness the evaporation of worth. Ultimate apathy. Idolization of usefulness.
  9. Judgement / I-Am-Found-Wanting - The dissection of a life to make moral judgement. The unpleasable powers. Exposure of shame that can't be forgotten or covered up. Never being enough.
  10. Apocalypse / We-End-The-World - The recognition that the violent change that has assaulted the world is in some way your doing. The death-instinct inculcated by years of propaganda. To know that it cannot be stopped nor put back in the box.
  11. Glamour / It-Is-Dressed-In-Lies - What you are seeing is not the truth. What you are hearing is not the truth.You know this, but you want to believe it. You want to share in the lie. You want to worship the image of the lie.
  12. Stagnation / Death-Before-Change - The instinct to remain still. Resistance to all change. Submission to status quo. The part of you that will watch a crime, a disaster, a horror occur and do nothing, that will hunker down and scream that the only possible option is to do nothing.
  13. The Neighbor / They-Are-Not-Like-Us - Fear of those closest to you for differences you neither recognize nor understand.
  14. Drifting / I-Don't-Know-Me - Loss of the sense of self, of noticing changes that you can't counter, unable to trace the path of how you became like this.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

d20 Magical Precipitations

That's rough, buddy.

A payment to Erika on the Discord for helping me out with formatting woes.

  1. Rain of Frogs - The classic. Where do they come from? Where do they go? No one knows.
  2. Blessed Rains - A little extra divine influence has rendered the coming rains at least mildly devout. Anyone who has recently been sinning that gets caught in it will come down with skin irritation and a bright red rash.
  3. Manna from Heaven - A glistening, milky-colored dew. When it evaporates in the morning, it leaves flaky residue of the same color everywhere. Edible, but tasteless and labor-intensive to gather.
  4. Reverse Rain - Water on the ground now goes up into the sky. If particularly strong, it'll start affecting the sewers and groundwater.
  5. Chaos Storm - Coruscating auroras of red/purple/black/octarine lash the world, mutating what they pass over.
  6. Death Rain - It's like normal rain, except it corrodes your soul to the breaking point of its tether to your body.
  7. Devil Eclipse - Many cultures think that eclipses are some monster eating the sun. This is not true. The moon is in fact doing its best to protect us from the unbridled screaming hate of the sun when it occasionally remembers that we exist.
  8. Abyssal Snow - Exactly the same as it is at the bottom of the ocean, now falling on land. Drifts and drifts of decaying organic particulate. Entire region will smell like a low-rent fish market for weeks afterwards.
  9. All-in-One - Sun, snow, rain, hail, sleet, wind, thunder, dark of night, all dumping down on your head like some titanic meteorological patchwork quilt of misery.
  10. Paradox Ice - Freezing rain that remains ice at room temperature.
  11. Devouring Mist -The pepto pink is not a friendly color. The pink is liquefied meat from the last person who stepped in it.
  12. Rods from God - An iron dowel, two meters long and just wide enough to fit in the arc of your thumb and forefinger, and thrown down from the heavens at catastrophically high fractions of a percent of C.
  13. Spore Clouds - Yellow-green-brown thunderhead formations darken the western sky, coming in fast, The fungal jungle has been agitated.
  14. Godsfall - When goes fight, gods will occasionally die. Those that do crash down to earth with all their blood and meat and shit, and all their angels too.
  15. Fertile Fall - A gentle, sweet-smelling rain that makes plants grow violently vast and impossibly healthy. Makes animals and people both rather fruitful and in the mood for it. Always a baby boom nine months later.
  16. Fairyrain - It shimmers, it glitters, it is repulsed from worked metal, and there's a five-times greater chance of being abducted by the Kindly Folk if you are caught out in it.
  17. Voxels - Ineffable glossy black cubes that sprout after the rain. They will stick together weakly, and after eight to ten hours will float up into the air and dissolve
  18. Soup - "Ow! That was a full carrot!"
  19. Meteor Shower - As the typical variety, but much more numerous. Pack a sturdy umbrella.
  20. Antiwater - Little pellets of mineral salts with bismuth angles, so dense and potent to be extremely poisonous.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Lighthouse Rules 0.1

This idea has been percolating for a while. Not just a hack, but an actual ruleset.

Everything here is subject to change according to foppery and whim. 


Players are members of Lighthouse, a civilian volunteer organization that serves as an intermediary between the public and the paranormal, be that investigative, protective, interpretive, diplomatic, or scholarly.
  • The first notes for this idea are dating to the summer of 2012. Let it never be said that I am not terribly patient with my ideas.
  • Surprising no one, I am straight mainlining a whole lot of SCP influence on this one. More on that down the page.

Pithy Elevator Words

  • A game about the paranormal, poverty, and holding on to hope in a fucked up world.

What is the paranormal?

  • There is the 'normal'- the world defined by the laws of coherent cause and effect. The paranormal is everything that violates and bypasses this - paracausality. It shouldn't work, but here it is.
  • The world is anticanonical - fluff will be provided as starting points and leading questions, the reader will draw the connections between points.
  • No real-world folklore or esoteric tradition carries over into the setting. There are no fairies, vampires, werewolves, etc. If it ever looks like something like that, you ought to be suspicious, because it is definitely not the truth.
  • The paranormal is absurd, as well as terrifying and often beautiful.

What about the poverty?

  • You are neither rich nor powerful. You aren't playing as an organization with bottomless military black budget and cool toys. You have to make do with what you have.
  • Rich and powerful people do not have your interests in mind and they will do everything they can to fuck you over.
  • Humza Kazmi's community rules have a high priority of getting adapted in some way.

What's up with the fucked up world?

  • Police brutality, the surveillance state, voter suppression, catastrophic climate change, insulin rationing, ultranationalists in the streets, pick an expression of systematized oppression and it will fit here.
  • Because it is anticanonical, whether or not it is our own fucked up world is preferential. I prefer it as our own through a mirror darkly.
  • Players have to navigate, survive, and resist the course of the fucked-up world.
I love myself some new-weird-modern-paranormal-conspiracy-horror, but (and I am certainly not the first person to say this) conspiracies aren't particularly fun anymore. They are something to be resisted.

Really Though, What Do You Do? 

  • Weird shit is going down, go investigate it and try to keep everyone relatively safe.

Preliminary Rules

Corewise, this is a whole lot of GLOG and Black Hack, but for Esoteric Enterprises
  • I love me some EE for it's compatibility with basically everything else I own, but I want to experiment with making a rule set more directed to the theme I have in mind.
Core mechanic is roll-under stat on a d20
  • Straight from Black Hack. No need to change what works. It's nice and clean and I like it more than modifiers.
Stats are generated by rolling 4d4.
  • Pulled directly from GLOG. I like the range this gives, as even at the absolute minimum you still have a 20% chance of success, and at highest you end up with 80%. 
If for whatever reason a stat would go above 16, you get Advantage.
  • The only competition to advantage in my books is boons / banes from Shadow of the Demon Lord and since this is roll-under there's no simpler option than
The stats are (names subject to change) Body, Reflex, Mind, Spirit, Violence, and Thaumics
  • The Tough / Fast / Booksmart / Emotional Intelligence quartet is solid as hell and sells itself. It works in Shadow of the Demon Lord, it works in Disco Elysium, it just works.
  • Combat and magic get their own stats because they are separate disciplines. Just because someone is strong doesn't mean they are necessarily good at committing violence against other people, and just because someone is smart doesn't mean they can figure out the ontological knot of paracausality.  
  • Thaumics is absolutely getting a different name, probably an acronym because "applied paracausality" is a mouthful.
Skills, I'm not certain about skills.
  • Option 1: Skills work kinda like how they do in Troika!
    • Skills are added to the appropriate stat when you try to roll under. 
    • Minimum of 1, maximum of 4. Freeform, no set list.
    • Any skill can be used for any stat, if you can swing the reason why halfway well.
    • Skills that raise a stat above 16 just give you advantage vs 16.
  • Option 2: Skills give you advantage on that thing.
    • Can still be used for any stat if you can swing the reason,
Things That Are Definitely Going to Be Involved
  • Lateral Advancement -You will be able to spend Insight gained while out to unlock new abilities, learn new spells, purchase items, upgrade your hideout, or unlock changes to the world around you. Think of it has your carryover currency in a roguelike.
  • Armor negates damage - Straight from Black Hack. Since weapons will not do traditional damage in points, having typical damage reduction isn't needed.
  • Spells for everyone - Magic is fun, everyone gets to use the fun things.This is what the Thaumics stat is for - spells have a cost, and if you fail your roll, you get a fun backfire table!
  • Violence will fuck you up - Explanatory on its own.
Things That Are Definitely Not Featured
  • HP - If the hit is successful, there shouldn't be 'not getting hit points" to make it a technical miss. That's boring and I don't like it.
  • Levels and Traditional XP - Busywork. Toss it all.
  • Money - The only time money has ever been fun for me was a Unicorn Meat playtest where the players had to budget out their rations and decide how much they could afford to spend on supplies, if they could risk hunting for more meat, and how much was to be kept to eat and restore HP. I want that. Any currency (Demon Liquor, likely) will only be in single digits.
  • Worrying about food or light - Modern day game, these are irrelevant outside of special circumstances.
  • A traditional bestiary - No stats, just descriptions of how they interact with their environment.
Stress and Keeping Your Shit Together
  • Stress is player-directed. No interruptions from the referee calling for rolls breaking up the flow. When a player sees something that they would expect to freak out about, they make a Spirit check. On failure, they are forced into a fight/flight/freeze scenario, which might have an additional die roll (weighted according to the likeliness of outcomes)
Character Creation
  • As of now it seems to be a choice of three "cards", essentially - archetype, background, and occupation. Each of these will have a trait and 3-4 points of skills (if that is indeed how skills will go.)
  • It is very Troika! at the moment but I won't lie Trophy Gold is a fine piece of chargen too.
  • This part is the most up in the air at the moment. I might even choose to forgoe it entirely and just lead with a bunch of premades.
Other Things
  • Players will have input on creating the City, their hideout, and Delvers' the underworld hub-bar.
  • The scope is tightened to the City, the surrounding environs, and the Underworld.
 And that's where we are so far. Tell me what you think!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

RiseAndShine.Exe - November Patreon Post

Jasper Francis Cropsey

Referee Forward: I built this as a way of introducing people to Eclipse Phase blind - use a simulation to run folks through character generation and the basic mechanics without overloading them on rules and setting fluff. Still works with people who know what they are getting into, but I want to experiment with those who don’t and see how it works out (This is as-yet untested, by-the-by.)

Basically, as the players progress through this scenario they will be posed questions. Their answers will determine the skill packages (background, career, interest, and faction) that will make up their character on the outside.

Treat everyone as having a 30 or 40 in all skills. Don’t worry about what packages give people until session 2 - those will be determined by how they answer the questions of the locks. (See the core 2e rulebook for those)

The Players: Modern-day vacationers (In reality the infomorphs of Firewall agents)
The Setting: A secluded campsite; rustic cabins around a mountain lake. A summer evening.
The Hook: There’s a cry from down at the beach: a corpse has washed ashore.

Before Everything Begins

All players should answer the following question and take the appropriate aptitude template. If this is a meatspace game, I suggest putting this front and center on the character sheet / index card.

Stats are Cognition / Intuition / Reflexes / Savvy / Somatics / Will

I would describe myself as…
  • Physical and athletic - 10/15/20/10/20/15
  • Extroverted and outgoing - 10/20/15/20/15/10
  • Good at planning and organizing - 15/15/10/20/10/20
  • Never really sticking out - 15/15/15/15/15/15
  • Creative and inquisitive - 20/20/10/15/10/15
  • Hardy and adaptable - 15/10/15/10/20/20
  • Adventurous and thrill-seeking - 20/10/20/15/15/10

The Corpse

A pale, waterlogged man, chained to a steamer trunk sealed with five sturdy locks. There is a heavy iron key tied to his wrist.

When the first lock is opened, the players will all receive a text message (if they do not have their phones on them, which is likely, they have appeared in their pockets)

First Question: What was your childhood like?

  • We wanted to start a new life somewhere else (Colonist)
  • We had a safe and stable life (Enclaver)
  • We moved around a lot (Freelancer)
  • My parents had gigantic debts they couldn’t pay off (Indenture)
  • I spent most of my time online (Infolife)
  • My parents were never around (Lost)
  • We were always just scraping by (Underclass)
  • I got a lot of shit for who I was (Uplift)

The Phone Call

After the question is answered, one of the phones rings. No one should be getting service up here. Caller ID is blank. It keeps ringing until it is picked up.

“You are in danger. Get that chest open as soon as possible. The keys are around here. I promise it will make sense as soon as you open up that chest.”

The Campground

Ten rustic cabins, clustered on one side of the egg-shaped lake. No cell reception. If the players try to leave by car, the batteries are dead. Also of note:
  • An old fire-tower.
  • An island in the middle of the lake. A bonfire appears there after the phone call.
  • A small ranger’s cabin.

The Four Remaining Keys

These may be found and used in any order.

  • At the top of the fire tower.
    • A player will have to climb up a rusty, unstable ladder without falling. The edges are sharp and will injure their hands without protection (difficult to hold or grab things).
  • In a computer-controlled safe in the ranger’s cabin.
    • The computer can be hacked, or with more time the lock can be picked (triggers monster).
  • On a 12’ tall pole in the center of the bonfire on the island.
    • Attempting to put out the bonfire will take enough time to trigger the monster
  • Hanging from the belt of the monster.
    • The monster will appear after the third key is found, or when triggered.

The Monster

A huge, slow, hunchbacked thing with a single red eye like an ember, dragging a heavy maul behind it.

It can always be outrun, but has a tendency to show up out of nowhere.

Can be distracted, tripped up, snuck up upon, etc. It can smash down walls and recover, but it will always take a second blow.

It is scared of being burned, but not so scared that it ceases to be a threat at all.

A successful hit will cripple / incapacitate a player. A second will kill. We’re not worried much about HP at this point.

Dead players are, of course, not actually dead. They can communicate with other players via their cellphones. Any questions not answered will be randomly rolled.

Questions of the Keys

Each new key will ask a new question of the players

Second Question: Tell me how you see yourself.

No matter their answer,  roll 2d5

  • 11 -Arachnoid
  • 12 - Bouncer
  • 13 - Dragonfly
  • 14 - Exalt
  • 15 - Fury
  • 21 - Futura
  • 22 - Galatea
  • 23 - Ghost
  • 24 - Hibernoid
  • 25 - Menton
  • 31 - Neo-Avian
  • 32 - Neo-Ape (1. Chimp / 2. Bonobo / 3. Gorilla / 4. Orangutan)
  • 33 - Neo-Neanderthal
  • 34 - Neo-Octopus
  • 35 - Neotenic
  • 41 - Novacrab
  • 42 - Olympian
  • 43 - Pleasure Pod
  • 44 - Ruster
  • 45 - Security Pod
  • 51 - Slitheroid
  • 52 - Splicer
  • 53 - Steel Morph
  • 54 - Sylph
  • 55 - Synth

Third Question: Which statement do you agree with most?

  • I love teaching people new knowledge and skills (Academic)
  • I like working behind the scenes (Covert Ops)
  • Sometimes you have to be rough to get things done (Enforcer)
  • I like going new places (Explorer)
  • I like meeting new people (Face)
  • I like studying plants and animals (Genehacker)
  • People come to me to fix their computer (Hacker)
  • I like solving difficult problems (Investigator)
  • Healthy living is a priority (Medic)
  • I want to know how people think (Mindhacker)
  • One man’s trash is you know the rest (Scavenger)
  • I’m always looking to discover and learn (Scientist)
  • It’s important to protect your country (Soldier)
  • I like tinkering with things and seeing how they work (Techie)

Fourth Question: Which have you done recently?

  • Got a new pet (Animal Handler)
  • Made something beautiful (Artist / Icon)
  • Experienced an altered mental state (Async)
  • Led people on a project (Commander)
  • Practiced a martial art (Fighter)
  • Solved a puzzle (Forensics)
  • Drifted along your own way (Jack of All Trades)
  • Raced drones (Jammer)
  • Met and talked to new people (Networker)
  • Saved someone’s life (Paramedic)
  • Flew a plane (Pilot)
  • Lied to someone (Rogue)
  • Sat around and played video games (Slacker)
  • Went starwatching (Spacer)
  • Went back to school (Student)
  • Took a long, difficult camping trip (Survivalist)

Fifth Question: What of these do you value the most?

  • Community (Anarchist)
  • Scientific inquiry (Argonaut)
  • Freedom from oppression (Barsoomian)
  • Introspection and distance (Brinker)
  • Me, myself, and my money (Criminal)
  • Self-reliance (Extropian)
  • Exerting power (Hypercorp)
  • Security (Jovian)
  • Cultural heritage (Lunar/Orbital)
  • The right to self-define (Mercurial)
  • The study and safekeeping of history (Reclaimer)
  • Hedonism (Scum)
  • Living the high life (Socialite)
  • Civic duty (Titanian)
  • The status quo of liberal democracy (Venusian)
  • Local politics (Regional)

Final Question

The chest is open.

Option 1) “Are you afraid to die?” - The chest is empty. Scene pans to outside the simulation, where the players’ main bodies are just about the destroy the server containing their illegal, compromised forks.

Option 2) “Do you remember who you are now?” - The players are sucked into the chest, taken out of the simulation, and sleeved into the bodies rolled for question 2.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Blood Slaves of the Conqueror Worm


What the Fuck are Vampires Anyway?

Vampires are a narrative construct, a memetic lifeform. They live in your head and reproduce through bad urban fantasy potboilers. They're imaginary, but not harmless: they can, and often will, lead to fatal mistakes when dealing with things that can actually bite you.

Vampires are a memetic virus (as per the EE book) and will cause the infected to either believe that they themselves are a vampire, or that anyone who even vaguely fits the infectee's idea of a vampire is a vampire. They will be completely blind to the signs of a Victiscolex infestation.

Blood Slaves of the Conqueror Worm

Vampires don't exist, but Haemohelotes Victiscolex does.


No bigger than grains of sand or rice to begin with, little beads of translucent jelly floating freely in the water, waiting for a host. They want humans, they can only mature in humans, but they will burrow into the gum linings of other mammals as transportation. If there are too many any they can find no blood to sustain them they will bloom, turning the waters scab-red and killing everything within in their own death throes.

If they manage to find their way into a human, they will burrow in the tongue and begin to grow, lengthen, solidify. They form pale strings barbed with a single white tooth at one end and splitting halfway down into ten even-thinner tendrils. The first task is to burrow its gangliar tendrils to the brain, as after that is done there's no hope of the victim removing it.

Larvae count as a disease. They can be killed through thorough boiling water, Cure Disease, or the surgery of a doctor. The save vs. poisons does not prevent the infection, but success means that the target is aware of it. The infection takes lvl + INT modifier days to complete.


The larval worm has devoured the victim's tongue and finished its work on the brain. The frontal lobe is gone, the lizard brain is rewired. The person is dead, self-awareness snuffed out, but at this point in the process the ghoul has not gone completely feral - they can still use tools, they still wear the rags of their former life, they can mimic the actions of life. Their eyes are sensitive to light, their skin has gone pallid, they feast on flesh and blood.

Ghouls have the vampire powers Darkness Affinity, Unnatural Strength, and Paralyzing Bite


The ghoul has reached the precipice of metamorphosis, and the transition to its mature form requires flesh. They are filled with a terrible hunger, distending and bloating on accumulated mass as maggots on a corpse. When the time has come, they will drag themselves to a body of water - fresh, salty, sewage - for the final change.

Feasters have the powers Darkness Affinity, Claws, and Poisonous Bite


After the cocoon of pockmarked skin bursts open like a rotting tomato, the thing that remains is not entirely a car-sized mass of tumors, not entirely squidlike, and not entirely unlike a jellyfish made of raw ground beef. The cyst is now capable of spawning viable larvae, and has developed a method of achieving this while simultaneously increasing its own mass - specialized larvae that cannot progress past the ghoul stage will be spawned, and these lureghouls will then be used to draw in unsuspecting and chemically-addled humans to the cyst, where they will be broken down for meat, bone, and zygotes.

Lureghouls  have the powers Darkness Affinity and Hypnotic Gaze.


The largest cysts will grow to bus-sized cronenberg nightmares with up to a dozen linked lureghouls, and sometimes even further (rumors persist of the Zaratan, the island-sized elder). By this point they are biologically immortal, and will only die through violence. Recent behavioral studies have shown that elders will, after an active period of some decades, will seek out deeper waters and descend into the oceanic abyss (burrowing themselves in mud for a hibernative stasis if this is not available). They are heading for the vents, that much is clear, but the submersible sent to investigate further stropped transmitting will before reaching its destination.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Blame The Discord for This Post About Malazan

Some folks in the OSR Discord goaded me into a review, and they are gonna get a god-damn review.

Let's talk about Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen.

The One Million Scolville Summary

The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a bloated, incomprehensible ten-novel series in the 'sword-and-shit' subgenre

[That is, the genre dominated by totalitarian empires, professional assassins, sexual violence, no one washing their hands, and gigantic neon signs declaring THE WORLD IS BAD, DO YOU GET IT?]

characterized by never explaining anything, repeatedly jettisoning supposedly important plot points and characters, the most emo elves you ever done seen, woefully inadequate maps, obvious novelized GM notes, a major antagonist that isn't introduced until the back half of the final book, and the complete lack of anything that could be construed as a temporally-coherent timeline. The supplementary novels by Ian C. Esslemont are worse.

And yet...

I loved it once. A college fling of eighteen months or so that I spent too much money on and got unhealthily emotionally invested in. We've all been there.

This review will be mostly negative, but this is my bad book breakup bias coming through - there is actually good stuff here. There's actually a lot of good stuff, but I wouldn't recommend the effort of trying to find it to a single living soul. Lots of people online cite the "it doesn't hold your hand" as a positive trait, and my love of Book of the New Sun would make me a hypocrite if I said that they were entirely wrong... but all four parts of Book of the New Sun have the same page count as a single Malazan volume and I found BotNS to have significantly more emotional satisfaction for me at the end.

All right. The hot air is out for the time being. Where were we?

Notable documentary series Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a joke where Terry's favorite fantasy novel is a gigantic doorstopper with a silly name, and the similarly absurdly-named characters and events within are mentioned with absolutely no context and incredible enthusiasm. It's a clear pastiche.

Malazan is that book in reality. A parade of made-up terms with apostrophes in them, dumped upon the reader with no explanation through narrative voice and only very rarely through character exposition. Considering the sheer amount that is in here, that might be a good thing, but the end result is drowning in chaff. Everything feels like it comes out of nowhere with no context or connective tissue, and after a while it collapses under its own weight, while simultaneously feeling like there is nothing under the hood at all. Yet, it is compelling in its own way. Writing this review and browsing the wiki is dredging up some dusty old feelings of wonder, seeing all this stuff to discover and catalogue and tie into the great whole of the thing. Erikson is, at the least, utterly devoted to the creation of something his own.

It's very painfully clear, even more than in regards to the obvious player characters, that this series started as a tabletop campaign, and these are his GM notes put in the absolute wrong medium. One gets the feeling that he wanted to write a history textbook or encyclopedia. I wish he had, because diagetic in-universe documents with fake citations are my jam, and piecing together and grander story from fragmentary records in a Dark Souls or Destiny way is super fun if done well. At the very least, that approach would have saved us the tedium of yet another chapter about the god-damn mopey elves.

The elves (the Tiste, rather) are insufferable, and every moment they are on the page. It's survivable enough when literal-brooding-anime-swordsman-with-a-cursed-sword-played-absolutely-straight Anomander Rake is the only one featured, but then more of them show up and it's eventually revealed that there are three entire civilizations of these mopey assholes. All of them, every single one, just mopes and mopes and mopes about how unbearable immortality is. Three entire factions of elves who all hate each other, the world, themselves, and the continued existence of things, all of whom, get this you won't believe it, have nothing to do with the main storyline. Rake just kinda shows up sometimes and the others are all in their own world, except when its time to bog down books 9 & 10 with interminable battle scenes of elves I don't care about. They are the best representative of all the things in the series that just don't work.

But what is the main plotline, you might ask? I will summarize.

  • Basics: Malazan empire exists. Emperor got offed by the head of the secret police, she's an idiot running everything into the ground.
  • Books 1 and 3: The empire's decade-long military campaign on a completely different continent.
  • Books 2 and 6: On another completely different continent, colonies are in open rebellion, everything is fucked. Death march time! Book 6 is when the reinforcements finally show up and they're able to mostly put the fires out with help from veterans of books 1 and 3.
  • Books 4 and 8: Side stories.
  • Books 5 and 7: Let's go to another another completely different continent, one that the Malazans aren't currently invading, and have a completely different storyline that ties in with the other two at the very end when they do invade, but not for different reasons.
  • Books 9 and 10: The three main threads now converged, time to go solve the problem and do the thing. Padded out with at least four sideplots that go nowhere and are only tangentially connected to the main characters and the actual end goal, another death march across a desert, and this was originally supposed to be one book. There is actually a major plot thread that is resolved, but not in a satisfying way.

If you cut out 4,5,8 merged 9 and 10, and then applied an editor who was not deliberately negligent, you'd actually have a really good story. Sleek and healthy like a well-rested big cat. Use novellas and sidestories for the rest (something that he has already done!). Or even better, forgo the novel entirely as a literary form and get experimental with something more effective at organizing all these worldbuilding notes.

Going further in depth would be running in circles - There is more material than one can feasibly summarize, and for a note of positivity, here is a bullet list of all the cool things I can remember.
  • Immortal orcs with hyper-powerful ice magic that spend all their time being goof-offs
  • The once-richest man in the world tossed all his wealth in the river because it was only worth anything when it was fun to achieve. He lives in a tenement with his butler / assistant / caretaker (who is actually a major god of the sea).
  • Undead armies of neanderthals. Also, dinosaurs with swords for hands.
  • Man becomes god, uses newfound position to fuck with people constantly and hang around with man-eating shadow-hounds.
  • There's an entire civilization that rides around on giant dragonflies.
  • Book 2 is just really, really solid all around, as it's well before exhaustion kicks in and is mostly self contained. 
  • Notably racially diverse in casting, though the treatment of queer characters definitely needed some help.
  • Book 8 was actually very emotionally satisfying, though that is absolutely because it was a contained side-story that had an actual ending point. This is in spite of the other side story about even more stupid elves.
  • The main military unit are sappers, which means regular creative use of explosives.
  • Magic evolves and branches over time and is exactly as messy as that would imply.
  • The fan art for this series has an unnaturally high average level of quality.

Final Notes

A review of a book is a snapshot of the reviewer, and it should be obvious my feelings remain complicated. Opinions of myself at the time I was engrossed with the series have bled into my opinion on the books themselves, for a lot of the reason I liked the books at the time was the feeling of self-importance (elitism, even) that came with it - part in parcel for a younger, dumber, more assholish me. I slip into treating the books as representative of myself during that time and that is certainly unfair to some extent.

But then I see yet another thread praising the series as another work of genius for the same exaggerated reasons I once gave (It's so complex, and therefore good! You have to work at it, which means you get to weed out the casuals! The constant suffering is meant to drive home a central theme of compassion and isn't just an exhausting monotonous slog!), while simultaneously recommending it to everyone with thumbs and a pulse, and I think to myself "wait, no, it's not that unfair."

Whomst among us can even say. Books are a strange magic, and we readers all the stranger for how they burrow into our brains and echo themselves among the neurons there.

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 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.


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.