Monday, April 30, 2018

Gullet of the Rust Demon

I am not particularly skilled in choosing fonts.
Cut it close to the buzzer, but here it is! My entry to this year's One Page Dungeon Contest.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Monsters of Linnaeus

Matt Celeskey
This little fellow is named "bulbous lizard leaf-razor", a name which proves both that palaeontologists love taking the piss, and that scientific names are great. Especially for games. It's already the default bestiary terminology in the real world, Greek and Latin are already wizarding languages, you get a handy literal descriptor for the monster, and you can just fit descriptors together like puzzle pieces. Roll on the table, get a monster.

(This is all thanks to Luka Rejec pointing out this handy list of taxonomic affixes (don't forget the medical ones too!) to go along with the magical prehistory bandwagon)

Coelcyon ("hollow dog")

Its bones are needles and the rest is skin and fur hanging over empty space. They make a high-pitched whistling near-indistinguishable from tinnitus.

Rhodosuchus ("red crocodile")

It is very much what the name entails, though its snout is long and thin, more like a gharial. They mate during monsoon season, building house-sized nests of mangrove roots and dead fish, designed to topple over just so in the storms.

Chloracanth ("green spine")

The bony ridge that runs down the slow and daftsome creature's back is hollow and honeycombed. Symbiotic mosses grow there, which may be harvested for medicinal purposes. Otherwise unremarkable, though the meat is good.

Brontodromeus ("thunder runner")

Their slate-blue hides coruscate with bright white chromatophore signals. Thick tails provide balance when running, while folding arms and bullet-shaped heads cut down on wind resistance.They run with the rains, and slip away just as easily.

Plesiofelis ("almost cat")

Looks like a sleeping cat at first or second glance, but reveals itself under touch and closer inspection as a gelatinous non-Newtonian fluid covered in fine calico cilia. The tail, curled underneath the central mass, is far longer than it should, and trails off out of sight. The nature of the angler is unknown.

Scoliospondylus ("twisted vertebrae")

Eight-limbed hominids whose spine might only be the result of a cruel and hateful god. Each limb ends in a six-fingered hand with two opposable digits, and their catastrophic backs show clear signs of divine malice. Their black skin is hairless, and decorated with splashes of brilliant orange and blue; this does not do anything to lessen the pain and sadness in their six eyes.

Xanthopepsian ("yellow digesting")

A sort of sponge, about the size of a large melon. It may live upon land, and in desperate circumstances move under its own power. It consumes the color yellow, a diet that leads to it being a most brilliant shade of that color; anything else in its feeding radius will be bleached white

Cacopithicus ("bad ape")

Ratty red-brown fur smeared in shit. Fingernails curved like snail shells. Teeth set in gums like maggots in a side of beef. Crusty black eyes, dribbling snot and spit. Its behavior is self-evident, and all are thankful that they cannot work in unison for more than a few hours before the backstabbing begins.

Platypharyngovenator ("flat throat hunter")

Its wedge-shaped head is attached to a flexible neck nearly ten feet long and an inch thick. It is an ambush predator, burying its cumbersome soft-shelled body in loam or mud and lying in wait.

Squamotherium ("scaly beast")

Its body is like a pillar or a trunk atop ten squat legs surrounding a mouth. The scales decrease from the size of a hand to hardly more than a pinprick as one ascends towards the upper ring of eyes. They are usually a green-brown in coloration, to best imitate trees and avoid predators. It was not called dendromimus due to a certain unnatural philosopher having a love affair with the word "squamous".

Diploteratomaia ("double monster mother")

Unique among the echidnamorphs for possessing two wombs and regular simultaneous pregnancies, this creature's distinct black and white coloration is very much on point. The eyes diverge from this, being blue and ringed in black. Offspring will be of one color or the other, or bear similar separation of color. The back-quills of this variant are shorter than those of more common species. 

Gnathomimus ("jaw mimic")

Descendants of agnathic fish-turned-amphibians, the species' impressive underbite is in fact an outgrowth of the head's armor plating. While useless as a manidle, they are used as weapons during territorial disputes and mating displays.

Polycetus ("many whales")

A horrifying leviathan created when a pod of whales melds into an island-sized fleshbeast of blubber and barnacles and oil and curtains of baleen and banks of paddles, singing apocalyptic songs of the abyss. Mass beachings are in truth mass suicides: the whales know that the melding is near, and their good nature drives them to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the rest of the world.

Cephalospadias ("head fissure")

A gangly, chalky-white hominid. The head contains no eyes, nose, or ears, and is disproportionately large compared to the body. Each specimen has one or more deep clefts in their heads, the insides of which are the color of a blood orange and peppercorn seeds. Each individual has a unique pattern of fissure.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Ancient Epochs of the Fantasic World

+Arnold K said: "HEY How come all these D&D settings have the same assumed evolutionary paths. Like they have weird shit like dragons evolving from jealous snakes and yet when it comes to looking backward all the dinosaurs look the same. Why is only the current world fantastic, instead of the entire biologic prehistory?"

Here's ten of them.

1. The Elemental Epoch 

A period of constant conflict. Alliances among air elementals violate the precepts of the Noble Gases and create water elementals. Earth elementals get their shit together and start the Protoplanetary Revolution. Fire elementals undergo species-wide existential crisis after realizing that phlogiston doesn't exist. Ends with the formation of the Periodic Congress.

2. Ooziphorous Period 

95% of the planet's water in this period existed in the form of oozes. There were puddles of ooze, lakes of ooze, aquifers and rivers and glaciers and oceans of ooze. Non-ooze life specialized in hunting and harvesting oozes sustaining themselves on organelles and cytoplasm. The dominant solid being of this age was the thooblethimp, being about a foot in length, possessing four articulated legs, bulbous eyes, a long proboscis, and a lightweight exoskeleton.

3. Meathell Megayears

Wherein the world was dominated by the singular (and thankfully, only) known colony of carnecordyceps deus. Nightmares still plague the collective unconsciousness to this day.

4. Regellian Mistake Era

Planet terraformed by distant alien race, but no official colony was ever established. The unwatched seed-biosphere drifted accordingly with the changes of the local environment, reaching equilibrium with the original life-forms due to insurmountable bio-chemical barriers.

5. The Stone-and-Chicken War

Passing asteroidal basilisk petrifies an entire hemisphere and drops eggs from orbit. Enterprising species from the surviving hemisphere colonize the granite wastes, mostly gallusiform avians who fill the nice of apex predator after evolving the kill-signal crowing lethal to basilisks.

6. Lakgulethian Era

A relatively stable period dominated by the lakgululengu, noteworthy for the remarkable deep-time forethought of those amber-shelled, elephantine beings. They purposefully fossilized specimens of local flora and fauna, themselves, cultural relics, even entire structures, to pass on to future ages.

7. Malatmospheric Period

Defined by the upswing of evil-aligned bacteria in the planetary atmosphere. At least two world-spanning civilizations, the ostracodermic pseudo-equine ptherians and the crustacean-piscine valdver, lived during this time, and may have overlapped.

8. Daemononovore Period 

 The material world's greatest response to infernal invasion was an order of warm-blooded pseudo-amphibians (here termed the yagher-voz) that developed the ability to summon and consume demons for their own nourishment. Sapient offshoots tended to found vast, decadent societies, as depravity was as good a lure to demons as their own summoning methods.

9. The Skeletal Singularity 

 A super-civilization of modular bone-entities, the ascendant descendants of some unknown mammal-like reptilians. Collapsed only due to the slow degradation of their phylacteries. Nearly all solar systems within sixty lightyears bear the traces of a colony, whether atavist osteoforms, orbital lichyards, or defunct von Neumann tomb-colonies.

10. Doppelgangerdammerung

Mimicry emerges among freshwater cephalopodic echinoderms as a method of imitating larger, scarier organisms. Over the next few million years the biosphere becomes so adept at mimicry that few organisms even know what niche they actually fill, being so skilled at imitating other beings. Land predators imitate aquatic herbivores. Airborne detritovores imitate subterranean autocannibals. Organisms emerge from the egg-sack imitating another species entirely. Successful mating becomes impossible.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dan's Notebook of Unfinished Wonders

I accumulate ideas like pockets accrue lint, which means my apartment is filled with notebooks and scraps of paper covered in ideas for story and game material that might never see the light of day.

So instead of letting that happen, here's some of the decent stuff. I'll pass on whatever I can to Hex Describe, and expand / revisit whatever strikes my fancy down the line.

Challenge Mode: Roll a 1d60 (or look at a clock), take that thing, make something cool out of it, and tell me.
  1. Refined folk, dark of countenance, who wear robes of tiger hides.
  2. Colorful jellies containing the torn-up heads and bodies of alien beings.
  3. Blind religious order - white robes and boxlike hats, stripes and lips of red.
  4. Insectoid race that lives in the desert mountains. Scavengers of the dead and dying civilizations around them. Strict feudal hierarchy.
  5. Aboleth's Head Bar - Opium den, building carved of a single piece of jade, operated by drow refugees.
  6. Bill Norman the Doorman, dolorous guard of the Whitecliff Academy
  7. The Blood Rites Movement - marchers are the spawn of the late vampire lord Osrick the Shrike, trying to get the courts to recognize them as legal kin to the Shrike's estate.
  8. Library of Khutal Nan guarded by a pair of Sphinx sisters constantly playing cards, checkers, backgammon, etc.
  9. The mountains of Bismuth
  10. 37,000 foot drop in a giant cave; demon with a secret guard and a stone gaze (confession, this was a hand of Superfight)
  11. Project "Forget-Me-Not", a counteragent for rampant contagious memory loss
  12. Submersible stranded on the ocean floor, terrible fate within
  13. Dugen Baroo - a monster of sorts
  14. The Bulls of Newtown
  15. Anatomical museums run by the mob for money-laundering purposes
  16. Radioactive clone-fruit
  17. The Left-Hand Inscriptions of Tzegeim
  18. Exotic brothel on an abandoned oil rig
  19. Phaenan Triptoline - a drug
  20. The Martian Cathars
  21. Ravens on the eaves, singing the Poetic Edda
  22. The Emerald Emperor, king of all elves, who ended the human race
  23. Orders of Chromatic Mages - Black / White (0th Order), Red / Blue / Gold (1st Order), Green / Purple / Orange (2nd Order), Brown (3rd Order)
  24. Giant crab fortresses wandering across the shallow seas. Coral and barnacles on their shells are carved into settlements.
  25. Trollhiemen Cider Company
  26. Yunaska Island Island Zombie Reserve
  27. Soldier subclasses: war priest, savant-fanatic, peacekeeper, antisoldier
  28. The great goddess Jubilee, golden cherub-maid of good fortune.
  29. Hundred-Handed Ones are arms dealers - simple daggers all the way up to legendary astra. Weapons are forged in cyclopian volcano-factories by blind craftsmen. Each HH1 has a personal coat of arms in which it stores its weapons.
  30. Dryads are parasites, eating away at treants until both die and the dryad births its swarm of nymph-larvae..
  31. Beastmen are the result of giant psychic druid drug-orgies.
  32. Swordwife - a class
  33. "Only in Haign-Lota would someone call a theologian for engine repair."
  34. Gorgon - A hunched figure in rags. A mane of many snakes emerge from the burlap hood. The host is trepanned, and a hydra egg is implanted in the brain.
  35. Great alien machines offering technological Faustian bargains - accept the gift, and you are now an acceptable target.
  36. Abandoned church with three tigers sitting out front.
  37. The moon changes every month, taking an alien form after each new moon. It never repeats itself.
  38. Cigarettes that coat the lungs in sporicides.
  39. Caste bred specifically as maturation vessels for potent corpse medicines.
  40. An organ like a second heart holds the humours in its four chambers, and is thus the emotional seat of the body rather than the brain.
  41. Slave Lake, in the Redlands.
  42. The camp at Lake Stoneburner.
  43. The Language of Shouting
  44. City dependent on the summoning and binding of succubi and incubi, lost generation of cambion mules.
  45. The Wherehouse, where lost things go.
  46. Written language that looks like coils of barbed wire.
  47. "Flowers for Oberon."
  48. Mail-order magical girl powers.
  49. Crowns are parasites, they make kings.
  50. Giant squids everywhere and no one really notices.
  51. Dying season - undead are seasonal, rising up in the spring and summer, hibernating in the winter.
  52. Decameron in a villa on the slope of Olympus Mons
  53. The Paracelsus Engine
  54. Planet with breathable air only during certain seasons.
  55. An elf's body will live forever, but their minds will unravel just like a man's. The live in a cycle of aging to madness, mind-death, and rebirth.
  56. Dungeons are subterranean food-production centers gone feral.
  57. The anti-environmentals, actively attempting to kill the earth-goddess
  58. Dissol Varut - A person
  59. Synaethetic monks
  60. Giant sky-corpses, floating limply through the clouds

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Three Beasts of the Public Domain

This was actually PKD's first published story.

HD: 4
Appearance: A flabby, blobby grey thing with big, sad eyes. Reminiscent of waterbear, mole rat, pig.
Wants: Food, lots of it. Discussions of art and philosophy. An easy and peaceful life of pleasure.
Armor: None
Move: Minimal
Morale: 12
Damage: 0
Number Appearing: 1

A single wub contains enough meat for 150 rations. It is delicious and its meat lasts twice as long as normal rations before spoiling. There are several catches attached to this:
  1. The wub is both sapient and psychic.
  2. The wub will latch on to one or more of its more benevolent captors and strike up conversations of its favored topics, usually philosophy, art, and comparative mythology.
  3. The wub will beg for its life in a piteous and fatalist-melancholic manner to anyone intending to eat it.
  4. The wub is not actually the creature seen, but the psychic presence inhabiting it.
  5. The killer of the wub will become the new host for the wub, and will in a short amount of time devote itself to the lazy life of indolence that wubs favor.
  6. Currently unproven: the wub wants to be eaten for this very purpose.
Resisting wub influence requires a daily WIS save. It may potentially be cast out through exorcism or a Remove Curse spell.

W.W. Denslow

Appearance: A tiger's head on a bear's body.
Wants: To hunt, to protect its territory, to scare the shit out of people
Armor: As chain (thick fur and insulating fat)
Move: Normal
Morale: 8
Damage: 1d10 claw or bite
Number Appearing: 1-2

Most terrible and terrifying hunters along the Yellow Brick Road. Being the biggest and the scariest, they are remarkably unaccustomed to anyone standing up to them, and so their wills might fail them if their target stands up to them.

Wayne Douglas Barlowe

HD: 2
Appearance: Pale and hairless pig-faced humanoid.
Wants: To eat human flesh, to gain entry into the House
Armor: None
Move: Normal x1.5
Morale: 6
Damage: 1d4 claw
Number Appearing: 3-18

The swine-things emerge from beneath the earth and dusk and flee at dawn. While neither particularly intelligent nor possessing of tools, they use their own numbers and the isolation of their victims as their effective methods of attack. In one account of their hunts, it is implied that they are extensions of a greater being from beyond the universe: appendages of some cosmic god. This is unproven.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Some thoughts about Shadow of the Demon Lord

This here's an honest cover.

I got sold on Shadow of the Demon Lord in the space of about fifteen minutes by some fellow on Discord. These are my thoughts from the initial read through.

The art sells the premise

There are some great pieces in there. All of them do a good job at emphasizing the grody, grimy, gritty nature of the game. Strong, consistent art direction is always an A+.

The mechanic changes are a fresh of breath air

Of note:
  • Your modifier is the stat minus 10. No muss, no fuss.
  • The target number for everything that is not an attack is 10.
  • Boons and banes are a fine system to factor in everything else.
  • Insanity and corruption mechanics are nice and simple to use.
  • Advancement is done via group accomplishment, rather than by combat or treasure. I like this as a change of pace, and it's especially nice for a game where characters might undergo radical changes upon leveling up.
You may notice a running theme here. This game is simple. It is easy to grok. You could teach the mechanics to a small child or a complete newbie and they will understand it.

So about that class system... 

Highlight of the entire game, as far as I'm concerned. Each template (ancestry, novice class, expert class, master class) grants you traits at a specific level, and so there's no overlap. There are also no requirements for taking on expert or master classes outside of narrative ones - hand your sword-and-board warrior a letter and a "yer a wizard", and it's not going to hurt your warrior skills.

There are 30,336 ancestry / class combinations possible in the core book

Six races, four novice classes, sixteen expert classes, sixty-four master classes (plus the remaining 15 expert classes if you want to double up). In the core book.

The fact that I mention this in a positive light (instead of "harumph it's so bloated and unwieldy") is the greatest sign of how easy and human-understandable the class system is in this game. It's nice, it's easy, if you want to be a thing you can just go and become the thing.

You can be a witch, who is also a robot piloted by a soul scraped out of hell. And then become a bard.

There are lots of good random tables

Schwalb knows what's up.

The setting is a light touch

It does what it needs to do, which is provide a framework. There's enough to get inspiration a-rolling, it's generic enough to fit into whatever setting you're already using, and the system is flexible enough to easily homebrew as you see fit. Win-win-win.

Look at this fucking map.

It's beautiful. It's fucking beautiful. It does everything I want to see out of a fantasy map, namely:
  • It is visually interesting (the hide, the blood, the  style of it all)
  • It's filled with evocative names that make me the player / GM want to fill it out.

Female dwarves have beards

It's not mole people, but it always makes me happy to see this.

By Jove, they actually went and did it, the absolute madmen!

The bestiary has generic templates for animals, demons, and monsters, arranged by size. Never thought I'd see the day.

The character sheet fits on one page

Glory glory Hallelujah

Final Notes 

This is a damn fine looking game and I want to run it.