Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Ship-Children

Nadia Wendt

The Ship-Children

Homo sapiens cambiatum tecnavis

The tecnavi were the creation of direst necessity. A small population of humans stranded on their ships in a solar system they did not plan on arriving in, with no way out and no way to build the infrastructure necessary for a proper colony to wait out the decades a tightbeam request for aid would take. The early years of warp travel are filled with stories such as this: an extra 0, a misplaced bracket, an engineer who kept clicking "remind me later". In this version the tragedy is averted, but just barely.

The ships of the proto-tecnavis could sustain the population for a time, but not forever. More importantly, among the fleet there were several talented geneticists and enough android logic-cores to rewire into a proper shipmind.

Generations pass. The original crews die. The tecnavi replace them. Help finally comes, and by that point there is no going back.

The tecnavi are small, sexless beings, designed to take up as little space and consume as few resources as possible on board a vessel. Their brains are augmented with cybernetics to make up for the lack of volume, rendering many of their underlying thought processes as transactional and their speech as both incredibly swift and incredibly dense. They wear their environment suits at all times when traveling outside their specific ships - their home microbiomes are so specifically tailored that exposure to foreign bacteria will likely result in swift and terrible illness and highly likely death. So as to better identify themselves to outsiders, they take great pride in the decoration and coloration of these suits: a group of tecnavi arriving on station will be a bombardment of sound and color.

While the tecnavi exist within the same cultural sphere as the spacer clans, hidebehinders, apulmon, and cacogens, they stand apart in one primary way: their naviparens. Shipmothers.

Exowombs are nothing new. Shipminds are established tech. Combining the two is hardly controversial. But generations of wetware upgrades to the ships and hardware upgrades to the children, linking logic cores to brains from fetus to death, have hybridized the two until there is very little difference between. The ship gives birth, the tecnavi grow and live and die, their brain imprints return to the ship and their genes go back into the bank to be hybridized again. When the tecnavi arrive on station in their bombastic hazard suits it is the shipmother that calls for clearance and gets visas stamped.

A tecnavi on their own is either an extreme social outlier, the result of incredible tragedy, or terribly miswired. Otherwise, their shipmother has asked something of them.

Starting Skills: 0-G +20%, Shipwise +15%, Consult the Shipmother +10%, Machine Language +10%

(Note: I only included the starting skills with the intention of plugging this more elegantly into the classless chargen I am working on.)

This post was requested by Zelda (a player in my Mothership game), who wanted me to make quarians to go along with the asari thelychroma I already had. I wasn't planning on using art of quarians for the post, but then I found that piece which is basically exactly what I wanted in all of its wonderful rat-monkey-hazmat glory.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Archaisms and Alzabos

Nathan Anderson

The Book of the New Sun is the story of a morally monstrous and terribly stupid man bumbling his way into highly-symbolic picaresque adventures on a dying planet, and it's one of the finest books I've ever read. A thing of beautiful prose, wondrous words, potent imagination, et cetera and so on ad nauseum. Go read it.

(If you do, I absolutely recommend that you check out the Alzabo Soup podcast, who provide a fantastic analysis of the series and I recommend them without hesitation for those taking the plunge.)

The really important part is that nearly every single thing in Book of the New Sun is fit to be immediately swiped and used in a game. You should do so right now. Daniel Sell did it for Troika!, and Troika! is awesome and should be emulated.

(There was a GURPS book back in '93, but the license expired ages ago.)

But there's a danger in this: making Urth too understandable drains it of the imaginative potency, like how the movie adaptation coalesces all possible interpretations of a character's looks into an actor's face. The summary just doesn't cut it. It needs to be empty space, to be filled in.

So I'm only going to give you the very briefest of openings, a good starting place, and then I'm going to break open this here website and do what Wolfe does - use archaisms in place of making up his own words to give the impression of a thing without exposition of that thing. And I'm not going to tell you what they mean!  Ha ha ha ha!

Apply to UVG and Troika as you see fit.

City at the End of the Sun

The City of Nessus is too large to be effectively taxed, too populous to be effectively censused, and too old for any building to maintain continuity of purpose. It creeps up the banks of the River Gyoll, with each generation moving northward to fresh land and clean water and abandoning the polluted southern stretches.

On the southern margin, in the most impoverished district still part of the city, is the Citadel; a fortress with many towers, home to the remnants of many guilds - torturers, witches, warbeast-breeders, librarians, artillerymen, and so on. This complex was once a spaceport, once the seat of the Autarch before he moved to the House Absolute - but the rockets will never fly again, and the inhabitants have long forgotten that they ever could.

d30 Unexplained Archaisms

  1. "Several members of the family suffered from grotesque alogotrophy. I recommended a swift and severe course of medical poverty, but the jest was not welcomed."
  2. "The balizes, though battered, still stood on the shoreline, giving me a certain amount of comfort."
  3.  The brephophagist who had terrorized the neighborhood was found and killed
  4. "A cowcat can be hired for a halfpenny an hour, fullpenny for talking, two pennies for shouting, three for violence."
  5. "The criophore atop the fountain had been defaced - one horn and the manhood knocked off and the once-colorful paint stripped away."
  6. "The celebration was to be one of degustation from dawn until dusk - it was popular to appear starving while stuffing oneself."
  7. "He handed over the demijohn  and settled into his hammock, murmuring something about tides and ships and stars."
  8. "Faviform buildings climbed up the hillside - from this distance I could just make out the inhabitants scurrying about. The gunshots followed."
  9. "'Let me consult the festilogy' he said, pulling the tome from its shelf. I was astounded he was able to carry the thing, and from its extensive wear I was more surprised he did not have it memorized."
  10. "The entire household had moved north to the hibernaculum, overnight, leaving her alone with neither husband nor servants. It was, she said, the greatest day in ten years."
  11. "I recalled from boyhood lessons that the creature could inlapidate its victims and at once threw on my cloak, to gain any amount of protection from its touch."
  12. "She handed me a jeton stamped with a bleeding swan. 'Don't lose it," she intoned. 'The armsmen will ask to see it.'"
  13. "He sprayed a lucigen from some capsule at his belt, filling the hallway with light and heat and the smell of burning hair."
  14. "Lychnobites emerged from their tenements in the twilight with silvery eyes and shouldered tools. The rest of the party gave them wide berth."
  15. "Buried in the mulm I could see the glint of the pommelstone. Kicking off my boots, I took a deep breath and dived."
  16. "The bright nacarat banners on the wall were new, as was the armor on the guards."
  17. "A school of nepheliads, freshly emerged from their pools, rose above the treetops towards the approaching thunderhead."
  18. "Among the oose below I found nothing but abandoned stockings."
  19. "The panchymagogue had wrought itself on his innards, leaving him pale and shaking. Without any other aid, I washed him down and wrapped him in blankets."
  20. "A doctor of ptochology was called in to explain matters - I don't think the govenor understood even after over an hour of detailed recounting of conditions in that district."
  21. "Her collection of rarissima was
  22. "The schismarch had been executed some months ago, but it seemed that only his followers thought him truly dead."
  23. "Three soleated friars clipped through down the street, singing out donation carols and jingling the box in time with their steps."
  24. "The stagma was among the most pungent I had ever encountered, smelling something of peaches and much more of gasoline."
  25. "The rimestock on the desk was several years out of date.
  26. "A parade of tecnolatrists fell into chaos when the child at its head called the high priest a tremendously rude name." 
  27. Picking tots out of the Tot - bones found in a garbage pile
  28. "The homesteaders revere Wormcast, and kept a safe and sacred distance from any new mounds, taking care to walk without rhythm."
  29. "A merchant of yetling  goods had struck him over the head with one of his wears, killing the man on the spot."
  30. "The sister zelator had been discharged for turning a blind eye to several instances of sapphism among the convent."

Scenario Starter: The Story Contest

The player characters are all soldiers of the Commonwealth, wounded in a battle against the Ascians at the northern border. They have come from all corners of the Autarch's dominion, though the destruction of their original companies has brought them together here, in the field-hospital of the scarlet-robed Pelerine sisters.

d10 Terrible Injuries

  1. Broken skull
  2. Shattered leg
  3. Missing limb
  4. Gangrenous wound
  5. Third-degree plasma burns
  6. Fever and delirium
  7. Mental trauma
  8. Mauled and trampled
  9. Impaled
  10. Exsanguinated

In the ward there is a woman, Folia, who has had her fill of soldiering and wants to settle down. With all her potential suitors (the PCs) of similar financial situation (poor, wounded veterans) and equally acceptable as far personal chemistry goes, she has laid out a contest: whoever tells the best story (as judged by a third party, being a sickly weirdo in black) will win her hand in marriage.

Each player should get a short time to tell a story (or the summary of one) of or from their character's homeland or personal history. Given the far-future dying Earth nature of the setting, basically anything goes. Use this for background and setting building. Steal every hook you can.

Over the course of the storytelling, there will be several NPCs around the ward, to interject and be interacted with.

  • Severian, journeyman torturer - The creepy guy in a tattered fuligin robe. Recovering from fever caused by infected wounds. The judge of the story contest.
  • Loyal to the Group of 17,  Ascian prisoner of war - Folia can translate his rote aphorisms into discernible speech. The Pelerines, though they consider him to have been stripped of his humanity, still tend to him.
  • Ava, a sister of the Pelerines - Very knowledgeable in theology and medicine. Debates Severian over the nature of the Pancreator and Conciliator and regularly astounds him with basic logic.
  • Winnoc, a slave of the Pelerines - An older man who changes bandages and delivers food to patients. Sold himself into slavery.
  • Chatelaine Mannea, directress of the Pelerines - Head of the field hospital.
When all the stories are told, Folia will announce that final judgement will take place tomorrow. Severian will be summoned by Mannea for an urgent task elsewhere.

The field hospital is hit by an artillery strike during the night.

What follows is to the players - to the north is the battlefront. To the south is miles and miles of wilderness: Lake Diaturna, the rainforests, the mountains, the pampas, and eventually to Nessus. To the east and west, who can say what other lands are within the Commonwealth?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Dan's Notebook of Unfinished Wonders, Vol 4

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3

I am certain that I repeat entries in these regularly. I do not care. I overflow with minutiae.

  1. Hell is the furnace which fuels the universe
  2. Chamenotheism - the gods are lost, dead, gone away, or revealed to be false
  3. Thousand-Eyed Wa, great sage of the Fourth Path
  4. Watchers on the River and the Red Deer Cave People
  5. The Pith Street Rebellion
  6. Flower urchins, found near seashore tidepools
  7. Duselains - a people
  8. Giraffe-riders and the Witches of Pough
  9. Acupuncture drains out demons residing in the spinal column
  10. A gospel of angels, a party of demons
  11. Sphinx with a porcelain mask and calico coat
  12. Class/game based around reincarnation. A hellcrawl - defeat your demons, work towards enlightenment.
  13. Octopus-hide cloak
  14. Mantis shrimp folk
  15. Religion - evil cannot be defeated, all effort goes into outwitting it
  16. Alewife witch - a class
  17. Last Dangerous Visions as an Esoteric Enterprises grimoire
  18. Pelagy the mermaid, living in a well.
  19. The 15th Black Painting, Francisco Goya's Rey Con TĂșnica Amarilla.
  20. Fortress on the Tumorous Sea 
  21. Caste determined by language
  22. [DIDACT], a six-eyed god
  23. Dungeon - based on a convention hall, where the contents of each room rotate on a schedule
  24. Nyarlathotep's job is to make sure all of reality doesn't collapse back into Azathoth.
  25. Translated alien speech is rendered in diagrammed sentences.
  26. "There's an alien in the terminal, says he wants to tell me about Jesus."
  27. "You can't collect back taxes on people who enchant their gold."
  28. "There's a worm in my blood - I need to keep drinking to keep it suppressed."
  29. The watcher-angels rebelled against God after He cut out and murdered his female component.
  30. The Janissaries of the Tower are loyal in the absolute to those who hire them, but follow above even that the three laws:
    1. They cannot partake in harmful action against their home.
    2. They must maintain proper worship of Janis at all times.
    3. Each must spare one life per military operation. Those spared become ehnigan - the ritual imparts irreversible change of spirit in them. They are not permitted to worship Janis, but are called to bear witness.
  31. The only fantasy timeline you ever need is the Holocene Calendar.
  32. Containment facility and model town, deep in the Antarctic waste.
  33. Class/Race - The Chessmen. Pawns level up and gain options to change into soldier-Knights, defensive rooks, or leader-bishops. Some might even become incredibly powerful Queens, or the weak lynchpin Kings.
  34. Technomeditation - freeing one's mind implants from outside memefluence.
  35. A ship's identity is beholden to many factors: date of launch, size, purpose, origin, crew, first destination. No explorer names, always have a cat (even fake), hang a toy in the cockpit.
  36. Prompt - Kidnapped, imprisoned. Cinderblocks and plywood in a basement, somewhere. The man in the next cell shares stories of distant worlds. Is he lying?
  37. AI that serve as the decomposers of information in the cybersphere.
  38. Meatslugs! Meal of the future.
  39. Zombies possessed by demons and angels, dragging their war into physicality for the end. 
  40. The "nation with no borders" - the distributed cyberstate.
  41. A message from a fetus to its mother: "there is something outside my house."
  42. Giant squids everywhere and no one really notices.
  43. The view outside during RTL travel is a Mandelbrot fractal.
  44. Peace-foam, a nonlethal restraint weapon. 
  45. "No, We Don't Cut off Our Boobs", and Other Stories of Growing Up Amazonian - a memoir.
  46. FTL-capable ships are mostly converted asteroids and iceteroids, carrying thousands of smaller ships inside them for jump.
  47. A tiefling wizard - white skin, blue face, gold hair and filigree.
  48. Death sipping at a juice box, offering it to the grieving daughter at the bedside.
  49. A missionary world goes dark, then word emerges: "They're eating their sons."
  50. "Like a man with no tongue trying to describe a star to a man with no eyes."
  51. "The Rabbit Hole" - a network cafe.
  52. The return of names-as-power in an internet-heavy world.
53. "I have built my own religion in the halls of my dreams. I can no longer see through my window. The grime sits so thick now that the world beyond is a smear of grey-brown, the color of empty stairwells."

54. There was a war, once. You lost. You lost the one after that, too, and the one after that, until you had no leaders left and it was no longer a war and all memory of the time before was severed neatly by the marching lines.

55. Mjoll Mjollsdottir...
  • ...was made of debts. Debts on her heart, her lungs, her bones, her brain.
  • ...kept a faded poster behind the bar. "Visit scenic Olympus Mons". A pale red print of the great Martian mountain.
  • ...had no mother and no father. Mjoll the chimera, the self-made.
  • ...came down from the north to pay a visit to the Apostate.
  • ...once killed a man, a man who served a dragon.
  • ...dragonslayer. It would not be tonight, Nor tomorrow. Victory in her lifetime, unlikely. Victory in death, impossible. Dragonslayer still. 
56. Granma had three grey teeth and moss beds in her gums, skin like an old oak and hair like wet thatch (birds nested in it).
"You do this thing too fast!" - she said this constantly, demanding careful slowlness of a dozen simultaneous tasks.
Everyone called her Granma, relation or no. That was who she was.

Class: The Wagon

The colorful caravan wagons of professional dungeon hobos.

A wagon levels up like a normal character (or a fighter, if using class-differentiated XP), but only gains XP when silver is spent on it. (ex. If Ayo the gutter monk has 500 silver, spends 200 on the wagon and 300 carousing, she gains 500 XP, but the wagon only gets 200)

Upon reaching a new level, a new module can be added to the wagon, examples on the list below.
  • Oven - Can prepare food while traveling.
  • Forge - Can repair broken items or create new ones.
  • Lockdown Mode - Wagon can be fortified against outside assault.
  • Telescope - Look at things far away and navigate accurately by the stars.
  • Storage - Can carry double provisions or 5 large items.
  • Rookery - Long distance communication via raven.
  • Distillery - Brew booze and potions.
  • Brownie Hutch - A brownie lives here! He's your friend.
  • Shrine - Characters that leave an offering will be Blessed. This may occur only once per day.
Methods of Movement
  • Blue Ox - Sturdy, good on rough climates, temperamental
  • Infernal Engine - Fast. Prone to breaking. Imps are little bastards.
  • Tracks - Slow, hard to steer, can go off road.
  • Chicken Legs - Wagon clearly stolen from a witch, she wants it back.

Modular Armor

Each set has three pieces: torso, legs, head. Each piece is rated at +1, +2, or +3. AC is 10 + sum of bonuses, nothing new there. Each armor set has a bonus for the complete set, and mix-matched sets likewise have specific bonuses.

The Joy of Premade Characters

As per Troika!, Godkillers, that Darkest Dungeon for Lamentations pdf I show off to everyone, etc.

Emergent narrative and backstory is the backbone of an OSR character, but it's nice to have a nudge towards how a character might act, a rough sketch of personality that can be filled in and detailed as time goes on. You can build a setting through people and items.

I like it. I should do more with it.

The Basics of Spiritual Engagement

I have Monsieur to thank for the basis of the mechanics, and Charles Dunbar's excellent panels on Shintoism for keeping this all in my head.
  • WIS deals with Understanding, your ability to comprehend a spirit.
  • CHA deals with Power, the strength of your own spirit.
Both of these stats provide a modifier as normal, and serve as the equivalent to AC. Spirits you encounter will retain their normal AC stat, and add their usual attack bonus to their own Understanding or Power rolls.

Items, spells, and other preparation can provide bonuses to Understanding and Power.

More Mystic Cults for Esoteric Enterprises 

Each cult in EE has eight signature spells of levels 1-8. In a coincidence of massive convenience, cleric domains from back in 3.5 have signature spells from levels 1-9. And an overarching theme.


Friday, July 5, 2019

Mothership Play Report: Gospel of the Throttle

Yeah lets go! Space! Horror!

The Players

Luciamandis "Lucy" Delillo - Teamster (Slantio Pink)
Ilse Lopez - Debtboy (Volkavoy)
Zint Tchoxo - Teamster (Oblidisideryptch)
Lizana Gadora - Thelychroma chaplain (Zelda)
Solid Squid - Uplifted octopus (JOZO)
Berkeley - Liberated karaoke idol gynoid (Mike K.)

The Setup

The planet I set this on (and plan to set games on for the forseeable future) does not yet have a name. I'll get to that later It's a shithole, one of hundreds of marginal worlds bought on the cheap, terraformed to the border of habitability, and used as a dumping ground for the unwanted poor.

The CEO of the company running the colony died a few years ago, setting off a succession crisis that boiled over into a civil war when the company pulled out with the sole warp-capable starship.

The one company scion that remained controls the space elevator and primary orbital habitat. The rest is carved up among dozens of competing factions.

It's Borderlands meets the Sengoku period, basically.

The Job

The Phreak Police (for that is the name of the group) are called up by a repeat client: an anonymous benefactor who just goes by "Friend". Voice changes every time they call, no one trusts them an inch, but they pay well.

The job Friend is paying for is simple. Move a crate from Central to a city a few hundred miles eastward. Straight shot down the highway. Go to the given address, ask for Scipio. He'll take it off your hands. Do not open the box.

They load it up into the truck and with Lucy at the wheel, head out onto the highway. It's looking to be an all-night job and the sun is setting.

Solid Squid, letting cephalopodic curiosity get the best of him, investigates the box with tentacles and a thermal scanner. While he can't see the contents inside, he can clearly see that the crate is giving off heat from a web of fractal threads covering its entire surface.

Metamaterials. A payday far bigger than what Friend is offering if it can be fenced properly. Lucy brings up an occasional associate, one Thimble Slim, but the group decides that the risk is too high until they learn more - Slim's got connections with some of the more stable zaibatsus, but he's a pustulent little ratass and has let them down before.

This conversation is interrupted by the swift appearance of a sizable animal corpse in the road. Lucy's not able to brake or swerve out of the way and runs right into it. The engine is making not-great sounds.

The crew pile out of the truck to investigate. It's one of the native lifeforms - a large grazer with two legs and a stiff counterbalancing tail. Lucy and Zint grab the jack from the truck and start working on repairs. Squid, Ilse, and Berkeley investigate the creature - the body is fresh, within an hour or two, and from the blood on the ground looks like it was dragged onto the road. It smells sweet even in death, a quirk of native biochemistry.

When they return to the truck the radio's gone to static and, more worrisome, the cargo compartment is filled with handprints - all left, all is sticky black grease, trailing across the floor and up the walls from the crate.

Berkeley tries to sing a song to calm everyone down, and fails. Her logic core is not handling this well. The box is slightly hotter under the thermal. They decide to get back on the road as fast as they can, Lisana driving now.

The static on the radio shifts to a modulated voice as the red blinker of a transmission tower appears on the distant horizon.

"Deliver us, O Lord", followed by a string of numbers.

[Aside] I messed up the cipher here, but the moment was still pretty good. I'll mark puzzle improvement down on the list.[/Aside]

Lucy ends up running a program on Berkeley's logic core to get the solution: TO US TO ME BRING IT.

It's well past dark now and they haven't seen a single vehicle the entire trip. There's no change when they pass by a tiny truckstop town - no lights at all. In the beam of the headlights they catch a humanish shape leap off a decaying billboard into the darkness beside the road.

Thirty long seconds pass, and there is a thump from the crate. Then another. A steady thump of rising tempo, coming to rest at a breakneck pace. Solid Squid looks out a slot at the back of the truck with his thermal goggles.

There is a red smear behind them. Squid screams. Lisana floors it. The rest open up the back doors and start dumping whatever junk is still in there - the runner leaps over the obstacles handily.

Ilse grabs her laser cutter and sets the beam in a broad wash, illuminating the road with pale, sickly red.

Seen there, running after the truck, is something that looks like a man. Ten feet tall and clearly not meant to be that big, with mottled, wrinkled skin. The jaw and head are at an obtuse angle. Something, a new head, is emerging from the torn hole that was a mouth.

Panic grips the crew, hitting Squid and Lisana the worst. Squid gnaws off an arm in a moment of stress atavism, and the cephalopod sociopathy that sits underneath his more superficial emotions rises to the surface.

Lisana's player request that, instead of the Death Drive panic result, that she be allowed to crash the truck and die, for the kind of isolation that result would bring would be unbearable for a thelychroma (it was getting late to boot). I said sure, and the truck crashed.

No one lived. The entire party died, even the ones who only took half damage. A true and proper TPK.

Berkeley remains active long enough to pull her head up from the road. She watches as the creature slows to a walk, and ignores the fresh bodies of the Phreak Police. It strides over to the box and rips it open. From within it pulls a limp, naked man, emaciated, cybernetics on his cranium and spine. There is a glow and a distortion of space around his head like a halo. The creature bites it off, and that is all Berkeley sees.

Berkeley's player elected to not use a backup and will begin the next session with full robo-trauma.

Some thoughts now that I actually ran Mothership properly
  • Folks really got into choosing character options that sounded fun, though I still need to streamline my house rules.
  • Don't use a cipher generator website ten minutes before the game when you need a puzzle.
  • I had to houserule a default check of 30+skill for Berkeley's singing, as it didn't fit intelligence.
  • Intelligence governs a whole lot of skills, not sure my feelings on that but I think there's room to fiddle. Social attribute, possibly.
  • I liked handing out stress rather than halting the flow of action to call for a save. Multiple times I got so caught up in making sure the horror was amped up that calling for a roll would basically have been in retrospect.
  • 2d10  is a shit-ton of a damage.
  • I feel like Mothership is strangely really good at campaigns. Or not really campaigns, but living worlds. Like there are consequences from this I can spin out in later sessions without worrying about levels and continuity of player group or burning out on a single dungeon. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Fellows at the Bottom of the Stairs

I gotcha covered, Furt.

Blame LawfulNeutral for egging me on.

Playing with the Big Boys Now

Look, you knew it was going to be those chuckleheads from The Prince of Egypt. The guardians of the Gate of Deeper Slumber could not possibly be anyone else. They've been at it for four and a half thousand years plus and they're showing no signs of stopping. The only thing worse than living with each other is living with anyone else. Besides, who would look after the cats? Mix with Ningauble and Sheelba, to taste.

1. "Quickly! Go fetch medicine. Nasht is ill. Very terrible, bound to die any moment. Free me from the agony of his presence. Can't leave him alone for a moment. Vomit all over the futon. You'll find the herb on Mt. Ngranek. Get going!"

2. "The Lady Bast has invited her elder sister Lady Sekhmet to a banquet in honor of her birthday. It seems that the two have not entirely settled the matter of their ancient and obscure quarrels and an insult was loosed; now the Lady Sekhmet has murdered most of the guests and is, at the time of the penning of this message, eating the clown. I believe that a rescue is in order."

3. "Look at this! Absolute rubbish. Last time I buy a used golden barge. You may have it. There is a tiger inside. You must deal with it."

4. "I have an appointment this afternoon with some members of the ordo obscurum librorum. Refreshments are available but I seem to have misplaced my copy of the book of the month. Go forth to the Library Stygian and retrieve a replacement. Here is my card."

5. "Alzabo in the garden. Ruining my tomatoes. Take care of it."

6. "The nightgaunts that deliver the mail have ceased operations, claiming they are on strike against poor working conditions. I applaud this. Deliver these baked goods to the picketers. I am certain nothing bad will happen."

If you find yourself unable to reach the Dreamlands, these two certainly fit in some cave up on Vungelbraeskulnuk in the central Discape.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Great Discape Arises From the Deep!

Micah did the cover!

Almost two years ago I came up with a silly little setting. "What if Planescape, but also Discworld"?

You can download it now! It's 36 pages of setting tables, primed and ready to plop down wherever you see fit. 180 monsters! 180 locations! A quest generator!

Enjoy, everyone.

(If you find any mistakes let me know and I can fix them)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Of Baba Tubalkhan

Raph Lomotan

As the peoples of man and their gods made their long journey through the Snows, they came at a certain time to the land of Endor, in the shadow of the Mountains of the Moon. In those days starvation struck out at the peoples with claws of want, and bands of wendigos often came down from the glaciers in the long nights; those terrible demons made bloody raids against the peoples, stealing their infants and killing their dogs. There was great fear among the peoples.

Seeing this, and hearing the cries of the peoples, Baba Tubalkhan was heavy of heart. Taking up his walking stick and his cloak and his tools of firemaking and flint-knapping, he entered the tent of his wife and said:

"My heart is heavy and my thoughts are sick and sad. I desire to go out into the wilderness, to have solitude there. I will meet you again in nine days time, at the standing stone that marks the end of the pass."

Seeing her husband's distress, Mother asked what troubled him, and offered her aid and counsel. Baba Tubalkhan told her of the secret pains within his heart, and upon hearing these she said: "I trust you and the counsel of your heart my husband - we shall see you at the stone."

"If I should not return on the ninth day, do not linger in this place. Lead the people onward, out of the land of Endor. If I yet live, I shall follow your trail and meet with you further down the way. If I am dead, then I am dead." 

To his sons, Baba Tubalkhan said: "Know that I love you, my sons, and I place my trust in you to guide the peoples.

To his daughters, Baba Tubalkhan said: "Know that I love you, my daughters, and I place my trust in you to save your brothers from their foolishness."

And so Baba Tubalkhan left the camps of the peoples and walked out into the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon. For five days and five nights he climbed; twice he fought a wendigo, and three times a blizzard. By cliff and switchback he reached the summit of the tallest of the mountains, whose name was Chomolungma. At its peak there was a cave, and within the cave there was a depthless pool. Sitting by the pool were three who were guardians of those waters, and of the contents within it.

The first was most ancient, whose countenance was as the oldest tree, whose shawl was of swan-feathers and spoke in the voice of a snowmelt stream.

The second was pale as bone, who wore nothing but long hair the color of sunset and spoke in a voice of the birds of the air.

The third was as an infant, with skin as black as the dome of the sky and eyes of stars, who spoke in a voice that rumbled as the earthquake.

Baba Tubalkhan showed them great reverence and said: "Guardians of this mountain, you three great powers of Chomolungma, I come to seek answers for the troubles within my heart."

So you have spoke the first.

We shall give counsel to you spoke the second.

Know that no truth comes without price, god of man spoke the third.

"I wish to know the means by which I may drive away the demons that assail and attack my sons; I wish to know by what means I might banish them and what powers I might destroy them."

Ah, that is a terrible truth spoke the first.

We shall give it to you so that you may see it spoke the second.

 Look into the well, spoke the third.

Baba Tubalkhan, knowing what he must do, plucked out his eye and cast it into the well. In the dark heart of Chomolungma, he saw this truth: if he wished to drive away the demons forever, to protect the peoples from their predations, he must simply kill his sons. For the dead have nothing to fear from demons, and without the sustenance of man such evil beings swiftly starve.

Baba Tubalkhan recoiled in horror.

You have seen it then spoke the first.

The truth of the matter spoke the second.

What follows is yours alone spoke the third.

The mountain had been slow to climb - if he were fast, he might make the end of the pass by the end of the ninth day. But his heart was more troubled than when he had left; he had found only despair in the knowledge he bought. He could not return to the peoples with such news.

In great shame of his failure, Baba Tubalkhan remained in the cave for three more days and three more nights in thought, trapped by the knowledge that the evil that stalked his sons and daughters could not be destroyed. He suffered greatly, tearing at his beard and beating his fists against the wall and floors until his knuckles turned bloody, weeping until he was half-blind from tears.

It was on the fourth morning, the ninth since his leaving the camp, that a change came upon Baba Tubalkhan. For three days and three nights he had felt as if dead to the world, but on this morning some change he could not name came upon him. His despair had fled him. He sat by the pool with the three guardians and meditated upon the reflections within it. He remained in stillness for three days and three nights more until the twelfth day dawned.

He had come to know a great truth in casting his eye into the pool, but the ripples it caused had distorted the surface. In stillness he could then meditate upon the reflections of its surface and the greater truth was revealed.

Baba Tubalkhan could not destroy the demons of cruelty and hate which assailed his sons. The language of power would avail him nothing beyond the destruction of what he loved. This was truth. But the greater truth was that he need not destroy those demons through destruction of his sons. Instead he might teach the peoples the means of defense which demons hate more than all things - brotherhood, peace, justice, and compassion. To speak in wisdom is to teach, to speak in power is to destroy teaching.

And so Baba Tubalkhan came to wisdom in the cave of the three, as Mother would come to wisdom beneath the banyan tree, and his wisdom has been passed down from father to son each generation since.

He stepped out of the cave beneath the glittering mantle of the starlit heavens and called to him brothers among the wolves, and built himself a sled with which he might descend the leeward slopes by their aid.

He rode through the night upon his sled, as fast as the eagles. He passed out of the valley, past the great standing stone at the far mouth, along the trail of the peoples.

By dawn, exhausted, Baba Tubalkhan came upon the camps of the peoples. He was embraced by Mother and by his sons and his daughters with tears and laughter, for many thought him dead. He shared with all the peoples then the wisdom he had found upon the mountain, and the peoples passed out of the demon-haunted land of Endor protected by what they had been taught. Here were forged those friendships among the peoples that exist until this very day.

Romain van den Bogaert

A wise father teaches his son three lessons: the first as a child, to show love and know responsibility. The second at the threshold, to combat the demons that will assail him and try to prevent his passage along the years of trials. The third as a man, to learn the funeral rites that he will one day will need.