Monday, September 30, 2019

June Patreon Reward: All Quiet in Canniel!

Canniel District and Environs

Well, it's been three months since I put up my first backer reward on Patreon, so here it is released into the wild. The map was generated using The Welsh Piper's hex-based campaign posts.

All Quiet in Canniel

What You Need to Know

  • Temperate, rainy climate.
  • The city-states in Canniel district collapsed well over fifty years ago under war and plague.
  • The inhabitants of those old city-states dispersed into scattered villages and homesteads throughout the region. These are the “hillfolk” named so by both fort dwellers and themselves.
  • The parent state (whatever it might be) has been reclaiming the region for some years now. They are not putting many resources into the effort.

000.003 - Ruins of Ekt

  • Terraced layers of stone homes with colorful roofs, slowly reclaimed by nature. The streets are filled with the desiccated corpses of those stricken by plague.
  • Haunted by the spawn of Leprosa, the plague spirit. Where the Rotmother went after she arrived in the city during the war is unknown, but her flea-men have remained.
  • Contaminant-of-Blood, a flea-man, has been accepting human sacrifice from the hillfolk on behalf of the Rotmother.

000.008 - Fort Nail

  • Commander: Sullivan Gant - Battered, bad-legged veteran. Memory is fading. Believer in an old, left-behind religion. His men treat him with a mix of respect and great pity. Thinks Tonsure is a useful fool for his magery and Lox a dull, blunt instrument. Fort is properly run by the Castellan Drury.
  • Anarchists are among the camp followers here, using the quiet as a cover while plotting to remove the other two commanders and blackmail Castellan Drury into merging the fort with Din (002.007), then deposing the other two commanders.

001.003 - The Oracle

  • Accessible only through the banshee-haunted Valley of Signs (002.003)
  • The Oracle - species uncertain beneath moth-eaten green veils. Cave is filled with insects.
  • Those wishing to see the Terrible Secret must be stung by her holy wasps, an excruciatingly painful three-day process that will leave the disciple near death for days but capable of walking into and out of dreams.

002.007 - Town of Din

  • Home of the Stewpot Anarchists - most of the town is a member in some way. Very good at turning military oversight to their side.
  • Flea-men in the swamp have been attempting to subvert the movement, sending disguised manipulators in to meetings. Their disguises are getting better.

003.004 - Town of Nod

  • Grim and claustrophobic. Immensely wealthy.
  • Treasures from Ekt (000.003) can be found in nearly every home.
  • Dark secret: people the town doesn’t want around (vagrants, sinners, anarchists) are traded to Contaminant-of-Blood for treasure. Fort Dredge (005.005) has sent prisoners through the town.

004.007 - Old Battlefield

  • Remnant of the old war. Nothing left but rusted scraps and overgrowth.
  • Jona Setter, a traveler, has come here to find some trace of their grandfather, who died in the battle. They are an anarchist, but not a very good one, and will presume anyone meeting them at such a lonely spot is one as well and start talking about their allies and plans in Fort Nail (000.008).

004.009 - Treasure!

  • Deep in the toad-filled festering swamp there is rumored to be an idol of the god interred at the burial grounds (006.010) - a thing of meteoric gold, light as a feather despite size worthy of a king’s ransom.
  • The shrine is empty, save strands of sticky, numbing webbing. The idol was taken by the Cutter-Weaver (009.001)

005.000 - The Old Moot

  • A pre-war meeting place. The Fort commanders believe it abandoned and ignore it.
  • Representatives of several major parties live here, waiting for news by crow:
    • Eriphen Ao Bule - Follower of the Jubilant Sword. Willing to work with the forts, to handle the ghouls.
  • Snaggle Crackmolar - The ghoul. Wants claims on all the ruined cities, battlefields, and forts. Allied with flea-men.
  • Thursday - The anarchist. Wants to subvert the forts through ideology.
  • Tobah Longar - Hillfolk. Wants the forts driven out by force.
  • ???? - A figure in a hooded red robe. Says nothing at meetings.

005.002 - Fort Rust

  • Commander: Elba Tonsure - Arcanist and theosophist. Prone to fits of conspiratorial fancy. Hates Lox for his dull fanaticism, tolerates Gant for his experience.
  • Built directly into the mountainside. Single entrance.
  • Every few nights, a column of hooded, red-robed figures walks up the path and is accepted into Tonsure’s chambers without question. No one is ever seen to leave come morning.

005.005 - Fort Dredge

  • Commander: Burtran Lox - Paranoid nationalist. Hates everyone. Sees knife-wielding anarchists behind every corner (and has been right twice).
  • Walls on the verge of collapse due to shoddy construction. Lox’s paranoia has spread: the soldiers are tense, bottled emotions boil over violently. Clamping down on vices with puritanical ferocity.

006.004 - Dead Man’s Mine

  • Uranium mine, once thought to be iron and now thought to be cursed.
  • Commander Elba Tonsure of Fort Rust (005.002) has sent a few trusted men in lead-lined suits to mine for small amounts. He intends to enrich it through magical means.
  • The mine has expanded far beyond its original confines without human touch, winding down into the earth like intestines. Faint grinding noises can be heard from deep below.
  • The miners are growing restless. Several are murmuring about arresting Tonsure for abuses against his men and electing a new commander.

006.010 - Burial Grounds

  • Not of the human inhabitants, but a being claimed to be an ancient god descended from the stars. It is in truth the mate of the Cutter-Weaver (009.001).
  • The body has not decomposed, and thus has proven a lure to hordes of ghosts looking for a potential possession.
  • Drumg, a ghoul, is burrowing away at the mound in secret, attempting to retrieve some god-flesh for his faction back in Jale Attera (009.007).

007.009 - Monastery of the Jubilant Sword

  • Goddess of plenty and warfare. Two dozen adherents plus nearby villagers.
  • Originally built to service the Burial Grounds (006.010), repurposed to current denomination.
  • On-and-off conflict with the ghouls, have been paying protection money to the Grockodile (009.009).

008.007 - Hunting Camp

  • A band of men from Fort Dredge (005.005) sent to the ruins of Jale Attera (009.007) to hunt for Mellifluous Kobbo Birds. Secret mission: assassinate Zin Snap-Crack, the ghoul carrionchief.
  • Yan Kallo, head of the party, has been beset by a succubus in his dreams. He has resisted so far but the intensity of the attacks is increasing, spilling over into the waking world. He has been trying to cover this up.

009.000 - Ruins of Gon Shor

  • At the bottom of the valley between two hills. Abandoned during the war after a landslide buried most of the southern district.
  • The Donnager Party out of Fort Rust (005.002) has been tracking the Cutter-Weaver (009.001), hoping to carve it up for magical reagents. The real plan is to be “attacked” on the way home and hand them over to the hillfolk chiefs at the moot (005.000).

009.001 - Lair of the Cutter-Weaver

  • Described as something like a gigantic arachnid or crustacean with a mossy, pink-blue shell.
  • Heralded by and surrounded by a cloud of toxic, freezing mist.
  • Webbing numbs flesh instantly upon contact.
  • Was drawn here via the Stones of Stars (011.003) and would like to go home. It does not care for you.
  • The idol from (004.009) is here. The Cutter-Weaver has laid eggs within it.
  • Moths and wasps of the Oracle (001.003) are found here, and fly back and forth between the cave and her mountain.

009.007 - Ruins of Jale Attera

  • Shattered spires of brilliant, voluptuous jale.
  • Home to a great number of ghouls, who came to the city after the war destroyed it.
  • The ghoul carrionchief, Zin Snap-Crack, is barely maintaining control over the families of the warren - he is considered a pretender by all and keeps his rule only through the spirits of fire he has bound as his servants.

009.009 - Ruins of Tillan Holding

  • Crumbling fortress on the southern lake edge. The north wall has collapsed into the water.
  • Inhabited by The Grockodile, a crocodile-headed, chaos-tainted ogre. He has trapped a warren of ghouls in the keep’s great hall for a feast that will never emerge and insufferable comedy-of-manners small-talk. The Grockodile will demand that he be brought the Cutter-Weaver as a meal. The ghouls want freedom from their chains, but mostly to attack the hunters at 008.007 for their trespass.

011.003 - Stones of Stars

  • Concentric rings of standing stones, arranged just so to provide accurate mapping and measurement of the heavens. At the center is a crater of smoky glass and a hooded red robe.
  • Individuals who put on the robe fall asleep instantly and, with through terrifying dreams, will learn a spell of their level +2. It will be cast from HP. Upon waking, they will feel alienated from their own body for several days.

Want this stuff early? Hit up my patreon!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Tour of the Solar System

NASA Image Library


Sol - G2V

The sun is a miasma / of incandescent plasma...

Formerly a god. Retains the best claim to the position. Has not forgotten.


  • Sole property of the Mercury Resource Reclaimation Conglomerate (casually referred to as MRRC or MerCon), which has long-term plans to stripmine the planet, hollow it out, and eventually push the shell into Venus orbit, where it will be used to shift that world into a faster rotation.
  • Current habitation is almost entirely mining-related, either in mushroom habs, migratory city-factories, or underground facilities. Most resources are either launched into the inner system via mass drivers or manufactured in orbit as energy collectors.
  • The caves and channels beneath the surface are filled with the broth-creches of the silverworms: neogenic biomechanical that bore through the rock to make it easier to move and export. Their secretions can easily dissolve most metals. 


  • Currently inhabited by a patchwork confederacy of aerostat city-states. Varied government types, but several successful experiments in the creation of Autarchs - individuals invested with total political power, but also the memories and experiences of thousands of different individuals from all walks of life. 
  • Long-term plans for terraforming are underway, including the importation of iceteroids and the construction of sunshades. The aerostat cities are designed to eventually transition into orbitals when the time comes to leave the atmosphere. The proposed future planet is jokingly nicknamed "Bluecifer", and the perpetually optimistic Venusians talk about it like it's already a done deal.
  • Friendlier to anarchists, communalists, and uplifts than the rest of the inner system.
  • Cloud-folk drift between aerostats on chimeric bubble-beasts.


  • The environment is in better shape than it has been in centuries due to concerted reclaimation, but the surface will remain forever out of reach for all but the scions of the wealthiest and oldest Companies.
  • O'Neill clusters sit at all 5 Lagrange points. An orbital belt containing hundreds of habitats held up by 24 space elevators rings the equator.
  • Old Money rules here. While it is still technically the capital of the Inner System, Jupiter is swiftly becoming more important, and the old families don't like that one bit. 
  • Those Terrans seen off-world wear elaborate, all-covering biosuits, used to filter sensory inputs to be pleasing to the hyper-elites and maintain a barrier between the dirt and grim of the outside cosmos.


  • Nearly completely subsumed by the orbital infrastructure of Earth. The old lunar culture of the earliest settlements has been pushed into reservation habitats to make room for the influx of the hyper-wealthy of reclaimed Earth.
  • The fact that Luna successfully achieved independence in the past, only to lose it again without a fight, does not sit well with the native Selenians.


  • Remnants of the original, failed, terraforming dot the surface - shallow, salty comet-water lakes, wide plains of lichen and moss, nanocloud "ghosts", icewater canals, atmosphere factories, and engineered life (distressingly, most of it is both non-sapient and human derived)
  • On top of this are the ruins of the warships and other great engines the Companies fielded in the war for Mars after the collapse of the original colonies.
  • Finally, there's the current para-terraforming effort - craters and valleys are sealed off and pressurized for settlement and the introduction of ecologies. Center of current-day Martian civilization is in the Valles Marinaris. 
  • Some Martians, in a bid to escape the Company, have taken to secret holdouts in the wastelands, living off the two prior ages.
  • While still an economic power, most of the Companies on Mars are those who do not have the prestige to be based out of Earth, nor the ability to carve out a spot in the lucrative Jovian system.
  • This still leaves a brutal corporate oligarchy commanding vast fiefs of indentured serfs, all competing over the currency that permits them to remain alive. It is the single worst place in the system to be if you are poor.

The Belt

  • Thousands and thousands of independent stations, many of which are linked in a loose trade confederacy based on the smart-contracts of the Mutual Cooperation Pact.
  • Some major first-wave Companies are still here, but many have moved the bulk of their operations on to Jupiter and beyond and left behind gaps ready to be filled. Real estate in the Belt is incredibly cheap, if you're okay with buying used.
  • Cultural enclaves and groups found nowhere else in the system thrive here.
  • Absolutely the space Rust-belt - the gold rush is long over.


  • Economic (and de facto political) capital of the solar system, with the planetary capital located on and around Callisto.
  • Primary junction point between inner and outer systems - most traffic will either stop here or use the planet as a gravity slingshot.
  • Every major Company and Union has offices in the Jovian system. This predictably leads to a state of constant political chaos boiling over into open warfare on a regular basis.
  • Government is, by and large, ineffective and corrupt.
  • Europa has been claimed by the Cetacean Nation, which puts them at odds with the preservationists attempting to maintain the alien biosphere within.
  • Will occasionally host a Celestial of House Au, come to check in on the jump gates.
  • Company-Union Conflict made more complicated by the Priests of the Red Eyed All-Father, who possess the lion's share of cultural power and the secrets of the whale-hunts of the tumultuous upper atmosphere.


  •  Most settlements in Saturnian orbit and among its moons are home to Companies specializing in android and AI production, due to the proximity to the Titanian Dataminds. 
  • The peace and quiet is superficial: conflict between AI factions is throughout the datasphere, and they are more than willing to hire flesh-and-blood saboteurs as deniable assets.
  • Several AI data-clades have taken to building the Void Reef, a vacuum-adapted ecosystem built out of the carbon and water of the rings.
  • Ulthar Station, vacation destination and home of thousands of smartcat swarms, orbits Iapetus.


  • Home of the Dataminds, the highest-powered thinking machines permitted by the Celestials.
  • Highest quality uploads, simulations, and cyborging services available in the system.
  • The Dataminds seek a third path for themselves, avoiding both human domination and the wrath of the Celestials. The groundwork is already in place.


  • The primary home of anarchists in the solar system.
  • Have maintained independence by filing as a Company, and taking the legal protections that gives, while reporting a profit of 1 credit per year to maintain license.
  • Habitats called "The Panoply" or "The Zoo" for their eclectic nature - more varied and bizarre even than the aerostats of Venus.


  • Under lockdown by a faction of paranoid militarist milleniarists (The Anointed Temple of Christ, Redeemer and Conqueror), who are preparing for the end of days, wherein Jesus Christ himself will ride into the system on a white spaceship at the head of a massive alien armada to cull the sinful.
  • "The sinful" being everyone else, of course. Don't ask for their opinions of uplifts.

Pluto and the Kupier Belt

  • A tattered mix of isolationists, outlaws, exiles, cultists, metahumans, spacers, migrants, colonists, and other ne'er do wells.
  • Hub for the outer system laser communications network.

Mothership-Specific Locations

The Dead Planet

  • Is actually Earth, tens or hundreds of millions of years in the future. Your jump drive fucked up real bad. Everyone's jump drives have fucked up real bad. Everything is fucked up real bad.

The Skaana

  •  Casino barge. Currently in orbit above Ceres.

Prospero's Dream 

  • Scumhole space station. Currently stationed in the Jovian L5 Trojans.

Tenum Research Station

  •  Somewhere in the Kupier Belt.


  •  Crashed vessel. Asteroid in the L-4 Neptunian trojans

Ypsilon 14

  • Mining facility. Somewhere in the asteroid belt.

Hive Mind  Locations

  • Amaterasu Station - Venusian orbit. Current home of the Imperial Regalia of Japan.
  • Westerfield Station - Autonomous station taken over by Jesse Arthur Davidson and his Church of the Right Redeemer. On a long elliptical orbit towards the Inner System.
  • Weeping Star - Derelict star-fortress hemisphere.
  • Hynd's End - Patchwork tape-and-prayers pirates' haven. Uranus orbit.
  • Alphie's - Android-run pharma lab, home to a hiding unbraked AI. Jovian L4 Greeks.
  • Camelot - Dedicated Arthurian LARP at the Earth-Sol L1 point.
  • Ptacek's Hollow - Mining colony now rented out to Martian elites for slum tourism. Asteroid belt.
  • New Tigris - Primary food production for Venus. Run by Neo-Mesopotamian sect.

Eclipse Phase  Locations

  • Meathab - A space station made out of meat, for art. Station intelligence is a bit of a trickster. Saturnian orbit.
  • Hexagon - Finest guns-for-hire in the system. Earth orbit.
  • Horeb - Orthodox Jewish community. Near-Earth asteroid.
  • Valley of the Apes - City-sized dome with system's largest population of uplifted apes. Mars
  • Moustier - Primary home of the Neo-Neanderthals. Martian Trojans
  • Winter - Community working towards a genderless, ambisexual society. Jovian Trojans.
  • DIY Shipyards - Union-owned construction company, will take commissions. Saturnian orbit.
  • Oberon -  Home of the largest anarchist community, the Love and Rage Collective. Moon of Uranus.
  • Mushroom and Jacques - Hyper-paranoid isolationist habitats deep in the Neptunian atmosphere.

Factions (Great Screaming Hell and Delta Eclipse)

  • FRIEND -  A smiley face, a vocoder, and a paycheck.
  • Lamplighters - Fanatic soldier-cult lead by the enigmatic (and missing) Lantern Boy.
  • United Planetary Front - Garden-variety space-fascists.
  • Calamity Jean - A thelychroma fixer, out to show the Company what kind of fight they signed up for.
  • ISWU - The Interstellar Sex Workers' Union. One of the oldest and toughest unions out there.
  • Dog Knights - Cynic swordmasters. The gutter-ronin of Diogenes.
  • Redoubters - The builders of black pyramids, preparers for the end of all time.
  • Trollgarden - Slumtown gang of flower-wearing mutants, led by a most infamous glutton.
  • Bon Morte Society - Death counseling and hospice care for those of extended life. 
  • Monks of Primus Oort - Cyborg followers of the old Cold Gods far away.
  • Tiger Lilies - Anti-indenture, anti-slavery cooperative.
  • Barn Swallows - Collective support network for drifters and wanderers.
  • Postmen - Deliver secure physical messages throughout the system.

More Factions (adapted from Umberwell and Krevborna)

  • 3rdEye.exe - A path to apotheosis based on expanding the scope of the mind, rather than its raw power. Corps and anarchists together shut the host site down with prejudice wherever the file is found.
  • Army of the Lilim - Servants of the Countess Alcesta, looking to find the one who will help her conceive her god-child. 
  • Circle - Mendicant ascetics and information brokers.
  • Choir of the Spheres - A cult that found an alien organism and, through eating of it, have started taking on its properties.
  • Concordance Corporation - HR-for-hire. Dedicated to peace through memetic domination.
  • The Defiant Collaborative - Fractious, violent collection of Unionists and anarchists.
  • Dredgers - Explorers of the ruins and tombs of old Mars.
  • Destiny Manifest - The other band of garden-variety space fascists. Go really hard on the "pure human" bullshit. Can't stand the UPF for their equal-opportunity membership.
  • Gunner's Union - Utmost scientific dedication to the Bullet Arts and Path of Explosions.
  • The Maelstrom - Followers of the black ship Azazel, whose algorithms show where and when to cause chaos to counteract the status quo to the greatest extent.
  • The Misericorde - Consorts and puppeteers of the elite, pulling strings even in the favor of their hidden teachers and patrons.
  • New Progress Association - Saturnian technocratic movement. Unpopular with the unions for their dismissal of the working class in their plans for an automated utopia.
  • Prometheus Chimera Works - Creators of new forms of neogenic and cybernetic life.
  • Rat-Catchers - Hunters of rogue pests on abandoned stations.
  • Ruin Night - They dream of a future without thought or death, of philosophical zombies animated by cybernetics.
  • Sacretta Carnifexa - Torturers and executioners of an ancient and outdated sect. Their journeymen are easily spotted by their vantablack cloaks.
  • Salon Sublime - Hangout for the hedonist hyper-elite. Chapters for the lower-classes are found easily enough.
  • Scourge of Evil - Gamified hyperviolent vigilante justice.
  • White Ravens - Union of bounty hunters, private investigators, and contract killers.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019

    Web of Million Lies

    The internet was a mistake. Everyone knows it, but we're stuck with it. The breakdown of reliable information transfer is a Great Filter - there are dozens of failed civilizations in human space as testament to that. The passing centuries have made the net as dangerous to use as uncharted jungle is to walk through without boots, thanks to an overflowing ecosystem of constantly-adapting hostile data-life and the eternal shore of perniciously nasty humans.

    Using the Internet

    Unless there is something terribly wrong going on, players can always access the internet when in a station or colony that has a civilian population - military and corporate bases will have secure, pared-down networks that will have to be directly accessed via a terminal.

    Basic usage includes things like looking up something on Space Wikipedia, hiring someone for a simple job (rideshares, etc), viewing a public personal page, making financial transactions with the Company, using a chat client, and so on. Players can just do this normally without incident.

    Hacking a computer means getting access that you aren't supposed to have - getting into someone else's account, spoofing administrator privileges, and so on. This requires a skill check.

    Venturing off the beaten track (weird imageboards, shady download sites, seemingly-abandoned conspiracy blogs, domain squatter hives) is dangerous: players should make a Sanity save (modified by a relevant computer or cultural skill).

    On success, you find the information you want.

    On critical success, you find the information you want AND either find something else interesting OR heal 1 stress.

    On failure, you find nothing of worth and gain 1 Stress. Further research cumulatively increases Stress gained by failure by 1.

    On critical failure, the player's device has picked up some hostile datalife. Gain 3 stress and a virus:

    1. Identity stolen
    2. Porn spambot
    3. Advertising spambot
    4. SEO spambot
    5. Ransomeware
    6. Datavore


    Every settled system has its own separate network(s), but nearly all are built on the same foundation of nodes - overarching categories that sort the zillions of sites available into relatively-useable umbrellas. You'll always have a search engine, a wiki network, social media, and so on. If a site exists in real life, it's safe to assume that there's a space version. Just add '.space' at the end.

    d50 Space Websites

    1. I Know Someone - All-purpose find-a-service app.
    2. Big Brother - Corporate search engine
    3. Scrounge - Open-source and usually illegal search engine.
    4. Silicon Fantasies - Forum for android fetishists
    5. Mosaic - Hub for dedicated-topic forums.
    6. Vent - Screaming into the abyss. Also provides counselors.
    7. Corporate Core - Company social media.
    8. Indenture Zone - Buy and sell yourself and others.
    9. The Campfire - Home of creepy esoterica, errata, apocrypha, rumor and tall tale.
    10. Interstellar Academic Database - Primary source of corporate-funded scientific studies.
    11. Interstellar Pirate Academic Database - As above, sans paywall and DRM.
    12. Green Market - Listings for terraforming jobs and planetary relocation.
    13. DoubleTake - Unravelling hoaxes, countering propaganda, identifying deep fakes.
    14. Matchbox - Dating service. Squeaky-clean corporate shlock.
    15. Rabbit Hole - Algorithm-guided tour of the net's bizarre underbelly.
    16. Union Square - Hub for union services and social media.
    17. Lonely Star - Dating site. Shitty and hasn't been updated in forever, but less invasive.
    18. Transistor Railroad - Forum for supporters of android emancipation.
    19. Scrapyard - Everything you wanted to know about fixing old out-of-date junk tech.
    20. Lend a Hand - Public board of volunteers offering services.
    21. Swapworld - Swap your junk for their junk.
    22. WIKI - Still doing its thing.
    23. Open Blueprint Database - All the public domain printer blueprints that compiled in one place.
    24. 5 Rivers - Shipping and warehousing conglomerate. Universal storefront.
    25. The Longhauler Boards - Home for spacers out on the fringes. Filled with wild tales.
    26. Ulthar Station - Popular slice-of-life VR sim based on the real space station.
    27. Rot Luck Club - Commiserating over awful happenings.
    28. CTANN - Colonial Trade Alliance News Network. Finest propaganda in the core.
    29. Peanut Gallery - A cyberdemocracy moot specializing only in inconsequential or silly choices.
    30. Freshers - Social network for those new to the system.
    31. Yomi - Black market for slaved logic cores.
    32. Bathroom on the Right - Venerable general-purpose community with devoted core user group.
    33. The Quarantine - A site that is still up, but has been encrypted for so long and so thoroughly no one knows what is behind the wall.
    34. Lady & Tiger - Possibly a mystery religion, we're not really sure. Paywalled community.
    35. Go Hack Yourself - Biohacker forum.
    36. The Allthing - Cyberdemocracy moot.
    37. Neighborhood Network - Local community news and chat
    38. Boarding Action - Social network for marines and mercenaries.
    39. Mornington Crescent - Long-running hub of a still-fake game.
    40. DevJam - Open coder community. love doing challenges with specific handicaps.
    41. Fester - A livestream of a regularly-replenished pile of rotting foodstuffs.
    42. As You Like It - Algorithm-generated media tailored to your tastes.
    43. Fatberg - The weird, gross dregs of the internet.
    44. Mud Blood and News - Crowd-sourced anarchist muckracker news.
    45. Soapbox - Near-abandoned corporate social media platform. Was always awful and kept getting worse.
    46. Atarexia - Laid-back friend-finding discussion forum.
    47. Slipstreamline - Video streaming and hosting site.
    48. The Altar - Payments of cryptocurrency and personal data will get you an AI-generated oracle.
    49. Speak With Dead - AI replications of the beloved dead, for affordable per-minute fees.
    50. The Embassy - Online home of Dog Knights.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2019

    Let's Look at Some More Books

    I read a whole lot, y'all.

    Sabriel & Lirael, Garth Nix

    I love these books. There's a special place in my heart for young adult fantasy from before YA was a marketing behemoth, as well as for the lesser-known titles of the pre-LotR movies era, even though I'm reading it for the first time just now.

    It breezes along at a wonderfully swift pace without skimping on memorable imagery. The main character is well-realized as a young woman taking on a great responsibility, and a proper breath of fresh air in her not being defined by violence either done to her or done to others.

    I kept comparing it to FMA (down to imagining individual scenes as animated by Bones, no less) and I will stick with that. Sums up my feelings on the matter quite nicely.

    Lirael is interesting. In terms of quality it is a fine follow-up to the first, but it's very clear that a sequel (and then the third installment) were not intended from the beginning. It's much more of a "first book is solid standalone, then the latter two books form a duology that attempts to make a trilogy." But, given that the quality remains high (aided no doubt by a decent timeskip and new main characters) it is not an issue.

    The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi

    1) Resource conflicts among space-faring civilizations are, by and large, incredibly stupid.
    2) Acknowledging that a scenario is incredibly stupid does not make the scenario less incredibly stupid.
    3) There is a point where the scenario and the people responsible are so incredibly stupid that the reader can only declare that they deserve all the consequences and thus the tension evaporates, tedium filling in the space left behind.

    That sums up this book to a T.

    Some damning praise must also be heaped upon the character of Kiva Lagos, who manages to be one of the most singularly unpleasant individuals I have read in quite some time (and I am grading on a curve that's got Severian on it), swaggering about with the puerile braggadocio of a drunken collegiate slacker - the teenage boy's idea of a "strong female character", all swearing and aggressive sexual appetite. She's neither funny nor clever, and yet always seems to end up in the right when everyone else should be shutting her shit down.


    The Vela Episode 1, SL Huang 

    DNF at very quickly

    I get what you were going for, Huang, no shame in a good "hey climate change will fuck you up" story.

    But in order to siphon off enough hydrogen to actively affect a star's mass and temperature within human-comprehensible timelines you need some crazy Kardashev 3 spacegod techmagic bullshit and if you have access to that, a wee bit of cold isn't going to bother you.

    The Black Tides of Heaven, Jy Yang

    DNF at 16%

    I will never ceased to be amazed at how dry the prose can be in some fantasy works - you're describing a thought-to-be-extinct magical beast and the words embody no majesty, no wonder, not even the mundane thoroughness of a veterinarian's anatomy manual. Calling the ineffable magical force "The Slack", especially in a faux-Chinese setting, took me out of the story every time it was mentioned, which bordered on every page.

    There was one mildly-interesting tidbit of how children in this setting are considered gender-neutral until they reach adulthood, but a good book one mildly-interesting setting detail does not make.

    Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer

    A gibbering, incoherent whirlwind of sound without fury, signifying nothing. Powerful descriptive ability abounds and it all flows nicely while reading, but the complete and total lack of connection with any of the characters, or the setting, or the scenario, means that the unknowable mysterious force is just as unknowable and mysterious as the narrator and everything else which means that it is literary teflon. Nothing matters, nothing means anything, nothing sticks.

    The movie, though, is excellent. Having sound and sight (plus an adaptation that shares almost nothing with the book) helps immensely.

    The Silent Tower, Barbara Hambly

    Another throwback book, with all the pleasant charm of solid mid-to-late-80s fantasy. Read this one quite some time ago so my opinions have moved on, but I enjoyed it quite a bit, particularly in its very 80s computer programmer protagonist. Big old "mid-to-late-80s homosexual villain" warning should probably be slapped on there, though.

    City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff VanderMeer

    A complete turnaround from the other VanderMeer book on the list, this story collection is some quality weird - a simmering pot of bizarre imagery repeated and contradicted as needed, a place of fluid canon dynamics yet fleshed out to the point that you can name it Ambergris whatever form it is taking.

    I am a sucker for grotty, overpopulated fantasy metropoli (and in-universe historical documents with fake footnotes), and Ambergris delivers in spades.

    Seveneves, Neal Stephenson

    Rare is the book, but convenient, when you can provide a specific page number for when it goes bad. It's page 542. Stop there, tear out what comes after it, though you could actually probably stop reading a few chapters earlier. You'll be left with a gut-gripping seat of your pants hard science tech-thriller and some of the best suspense I've read in a good long while.

    This is spoiled utterly by Act 3 of the book, which seems to be the opening arc of an entirely different novel, which is a lackluster attempt at social science fiction involving descendant human clades that you could write a solid sized essay on how his treatment of genetics and race is...a bit wonky. Stevenson's love of disconnected asides describing technology in excruciating detail, no longer a matter of survival, are interminably long and unbearably dull in this section.

    Burn, James Patrick Kelly

    Never thought I would see a story about Transcendentalist firefighters in the far future, but here we are. Enjoyable light read. Does a good job hinting at the bizarre high-tech universe out beyond the planet Walden, though the colonization plot fell a bit short for me because we never actually meet or properly interact with the locals (descendants of a centuries-old mining colony) who are fighting the terraformers.

    The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander

    This story has more weight and value in 60-some pages than books ten times its length. You should definitely track down a copy and give it a read - what can be safely said is that this is a story that had me hooked from the first sentence, and executed on its concept with impeccable skill. Novel alternate history that is also thoughtful and humane science fiction is a precious thing.

    Plus, it has elephants in it. I like elephants.

    The Emperor's Blades, Brian Staveley

    DNF at 1%

    Had to mention this one, because it might be the fastest DNF I have ever had: one page. In the space of that one page there were four nonsense proper nouns, two of them with unecessary apostrophes and such a complete lack of Show that I wouldn't even say that it is all Tel, because that sells the art of having a strong narrative voice terribly short.

    From the cover and title I thought "This is a Malazan ripoff, isn't it?", and even after one page I feel terribly confident that it is.

    The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle 

    Audiobook in progress, part 7/14

    On the short list for preservation, Leibowitz-style, through whatever coming catastrophes that may arrive. A thing of beauty that makes it very difficult to read anything else in close proximity to it.

    Sunday, September 8, 2019

    Mothership Play Report: 4:33 Intermission

    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3

    A short intermediary session, featuring
    • Manny the scientist (JOZO)
    • Jes, the tecnavi (Zelda)
    • Zach, permanently drunk biker gang member (thatotherguy)
    Several weeks after the events at the weather station and dealing with the Church of Skin, the gang has collected their payment from FRIEND and returned to life in Wasteland Park (generated via Michael Raston's Infinigrad tables).

    Wasteland Park was one of Colony Central's public parks, but over the course of the war has turned into a kowloonlike warren of shipping containers, groundcars, cargohaulers, tents, lean-tos, and clapboard sheds. The warren is so tightly packed that most passages are single-file. Disease is rampant and it is one of the poorest districts in Colony Central. Paradoxically, it is also among one of the safest, due to the actions of the Trollgarden, the dominant gang. These malfomed folks (signified by the exotic flowers always on their person) are led by a notorious glutton, but have managed to maintain the stability and safety of Wasteland Park against threats both outward and inward.

    Using Humza K's community rules , Wasteland Park has Identity 6, Prosperity 4, Safety 11, Governance 7, Legitimacy 10, Sustainability: 8

    Manny takes the plunge and, using some of the funds gained through the job for FRIEND and some support from the Trollgarden, establishes a small clinic to treat the sick in the community, increasing Identity by 1. In the weeks since the clinic started he has made friends with the local drunk Zach, and now has run into the tecnavi Jes, carrying a message from Shipmother Talibiri.

    It seems that the tecnavi the group found at the weather station put in a good word for them, as Talibiri is offering a bit of aid. She is willing to help crack open Dess Kartz' logic core, in exchange for access to the information. The trio take up this offer, as while beaming it to lunar orbit is a bit slower than trying it in the clinic, it is safer.

    A few hours pass before the cracked monitor in the clinic switches to a public newsfeed - hundreds of Lamplighters, more than anyone has seen in the years since Lantern Boy's presumed death, are marching against Zaibatsu riot cops near the space elevator. Violence is already breaking out and looks like it only going to get worse.

    Manny takes charge, whipping up a plan to run to the front and helping injured civilians - neither the militant Lamplighters nor the Zaibatsu are particularly friendly towards those outside their respective factions. They sneak out of Wasteland Park to where Zach is keeping his delivery van, and book it downtown.

    There's tear gas and molotovs in the air when they get there, rubble and wounded in the streets. Taking care to stick to the sidelines, the crew are able to pick up the wounded and set up a makeshift clinic in an abandoned cafe. By the time the violence lulls, six folks who would otherwise be dead aren't. Talibiri had finished cracking the core by this point, and had the information ready for them when they made it back to the clinic.

    The logic core contents are as follows: the androids had gathered at the weather station as part of typical android behavior - non-emancipated androids will, in the absence of direct command, gather together in herds at the nearest place of authority. So they were standing around exchanging minor bits of data for months until someone - a tall, gaunt man with lank blond hair and the disheveled appearence of the truly apathetic - arrived and presented the herd with what appeared to be a sizable fragment of carapace.

    There are no insects or crustaceans of that size known to live on Maha Raurava.

    After that, it was a swift course in the establishment of the Church of Skin. Dogmas are set down and debated in gigabytes of raw text files. Sermons are recorded, as are the murders and skinnings. This continues for some time, until Dess Kartz is sent off by truck to the radio tower he was found and killed in. Of note is that the man never returns, and that the garage has no horrific amalgam of flesh and metal in it when he leaves (and the core has no mention of plans to build such a thing), which is only shortly before the events of Episode 1 and less than a week before the events of Episodes 2 and 3.

    Manny grabs his phone and calls FRIEND. The line rings for abnormally long before FRIEND's cheery voice comes over.

    "I'm sorry I missed you, but I'm dead!"

    Thursday, September 5, 2019

    The Dragon Republics

    This post is old as hell. Like, probably around 3 years old. Back before I decided that the dragons were all murdered and they sat around running banks and monopolistic guilds. This was back in the days when I still brainstormed 5e stuff, it's that old.

    It's been a good long while since I've done a straight-up random table like this.

    The Dragon Republics

    1. Arretin – Destroyed by volcano and buried in ash. A new city was built on top of the ruins. Haunted. Demons live in the sewers.
    2. Hannia – Home of Sarino’s leading mage college, master gunsmiths, an alchemists’ symposium, Tinker’s Alley and epidemic lead poisoning.
    3. Potenzi – Home of the church-in-exile after the dragons burnt its home city to the ground. With the line of the pontiff severed by the market, the surviving bishops are trying to piece together a working hierarchy again. Golems made of saints’ relics are a growing sight, as are heresies.
    4. Ciarri – City run by mercenaries – the previous doge was drawn and quartered during a coup. Famous for breeding war-dogs.
    5. Valduchu – A colorful town built around the base of a mountain. The mountaintop holds two ancient monasteries of a revered order (Order of Sts. Rotechto and Naisani).
    6. Leodoa – A port city of canals and islands. Pirates welcome. Buildings on stilts. Home of the Tower of Commedia, Sarino’s grandest school of humor and clownery.
    7. Vi’Sanno – Gigantic baroque opera house. Duchess is eccentric lesbian who plays dumb as cover to undermine the dragons’ control of the city and its economy (also writes horrible operas filled with equally horrible puns)
    8. Szelio – Famous for their lamprey farms. Good vacation spot. Esoteric occult orders and secret societies behind every door.
    9. Pantria – Former home of the church – dragon inhabits once-grand cathedral. Partially rebuilt after the dragons burnt it down – majority is still slums and shantytowns. Population consists of guild members and the incredibly poor.
    10. Zanis – Operates on a pre-republic caste system, now modified to elaborate political parties. The forum never sleeps in Zanis, and the soapbox-sellers make fortunes.
    11. Barrana – Best vineyards on the continent. Best whorehouses on the continent. Best gambling houses on the continent. Dominoes is serious business. Duke is has a secret police devoted to enforcing a mandated level of good cheer, to nefarious ends.
    12. Zhrone – Former leper colony. Rebounded very nicely. Locals fond of decorative scarification, heavy body piercing, and coffee.
    13. Ensil – A recent acquisition to the north. The local dialect is difficult to parse. The cobbles in the roads are all mosaics, writing out a history that has yet to pass.
    14. A’Fostuna – Sorcerous mafia families called truce to practice eugenics. It’s really an elaborate play orchestrated by the city’s dragons for their entertainment.