Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Esoteric Enterprises Exhibition

Dorohedoro is wonderful, go watch / read it.

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

Gospel of the Festival Squid

Koine Greek, Anonymous, 400s CE

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

Escape Rope and Magic Bullet

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

Movement of the Constellations

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

The Labyrinth

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

Demon Liquor

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

Many-Faced Moon

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

National Restoration Party

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

The Dissector

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

Happy Sailor Rum Company

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

Church of Saints and Watchers

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

Corbin and Cecil

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

The Convocation of Birds

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

The Cthonic Ecumene

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

DER0 Suits

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

The Afterlife Machine

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

The Wasteland Children

Old Occitan, Anonymous, 1150s CE 

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

Bobbit Dogs

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

Book of the 10 Families

Original Language and Date Unknown

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

The Man Who Ate the Gods' Food

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

Book Club

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

Petrichor Dreamland Market

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

108.1 HDAC "The Delve"

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

Boneless Cow Phenomenon

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

The Found Footage Paradox

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

Theophagists

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

Delver's Guidebook

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

ASHERN

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

Blackmoon and the Mercury 13

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

The Towers of the Tiger

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

Spell Tumors

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

Tubetown

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

Red Light District

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

404 House

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

The Trujillo Incident

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

The Titanians

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

Red Demon Tea Shop

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

Pure World Armory

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

Leviathans

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

Abductee Hope and Recovery Fellowship

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

Federal Bureau of Occult Investigation

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

Voxel Blooms

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

Elektrotokos Syndrome

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

FRIEND

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

13 comments:

  1. It's time to play "guess which entries Dan pulled from somewhere else!"

    Even the less-stellar entries on this, I love them too.

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    1. Well, the DER0 Suit seems to be half Death Stranding and half Mince Toad from Incunabuli.

      The National Restoration Party is just pulled from the news.

      Convocation of Birds is probably inspired by Arnold Kemp's recent posts on the Simurgh.

      The Man Who Ate the God's Food is a slightly edited version of the legend of Tantalus.

      Bobbit Dogs are based off Bobbit Worms.

      The Afterlife Machine is pulled from Roadside Picnic/Stalker (I just finished that book this week), but presumably, dragged a chunk of either Heaven or Hell to Earth.

      Escape Rope is the same as the item from Pokemon, Magic Bullet is a more grimdark version of the same item.

      That's all I've got, although I do also want to say that a lot of OSR games where enough people are going out and adventuring to have it be its own subculture/career (Incunabuli's setting, my Sunless Horizon setting, etc.) should have an in-character Delver's Handbook if they ever manage a print release. Anatomical sketches and short descriptions of monsters (often incorrect) with enough space for you to write in your own info, general "how to play a dungeoncrawl" tips given in-character, setting info, all printed in a little zine cheap enough for you not to feel bad when you write in it. If you do it right, it could even tell the story of your campaign, when someone marks over the Wendigo entry with "Rest in Peace, John".

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    2. Convocation and Arnol'd stuff is actually convergent evolution and the Afterlife Machine didn't have a direct inspiration, but the rest is on point.

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    3. Corbin and Cecil are inspired by the Magnus Archives, I'd bet money on it.

      Happy Sailor Rum Company reminds me a little of the Drug Lord from Unsong? Are Leviathans a reference to Silent Titans by False Machine?
      Theophagist gives me both Magnus Archives and SCP Sarkist vibes but I think thats more just a riff on that juicy fun 'meat as god' theme then a specific reference.

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    4. Demon Liquor was a subconscious steal, but a steal nonetheless. Corbin and Cecil are absolutely Magnus,the others have no direct lineage that I can remember.

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    5. Festival of the Freshwater Squid, a la Ambergris?

      Maqāmāt-uṭ-Ṭuyūr ('conference of birds', or 'speech of birds') is an old Persian-sufic teaching parable...but I dunno if you or Arnold were referencing it intentionally.

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    6. ...I'll have to look into this Magnus Archive thing! Would've sworn that Cecil & Corbin were some Nightvale mashup of Smiling God material & the two guys in a truck that show up occasionally...

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    7. @endonaut, absolutely you should listen to The Magnus Archives, it's really good.

      Also Dan, have you read Unsong? It seems like it'd be right up your alley- cool and fleshed out world, secret names of God, horrible plot-relevant puns.

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  2. All hail the immortal Spell Tumor! All hail the eternal passage!

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  3. I am finding useful and inspirational a lot of these things. Thank you for writing it.

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  4. Genius as always. I assume the redacted portions of the Trujillo Incident bear striking similarity to abstruse passages of the Gospel, and Happy Sailor blackout revelations.

    I'm particularly intrigued by the Electrotokoi! What wants to be brought into the world so badly?! Reminiscent somehow of the song "Caterpillars" by The Handsome Family.

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