Thursday, April 30, 2020

DEAD LOOP - January Patreon Post

An underworld complex for Esoteric Enterprises, generated using the tables in that book. There won't be many more of these posts, now that I have switched over to hosting WIPs on my patreon - while they weren't really working out, I have to admit I liked them

Dead Loop

The Green Extension of the city subway was built to service the wealthy neighborhood of Bramble Hill, and had the luck of opening a month and a half before the recession hit. As the bouzhi folks lost all their money and fled town, leaving a neighborhood filled with mcmansions too expensive and ugly to sell, it became obvious to City Hall that there wouldn’t be enough passes sold to maintain the Extension, and they decided to sundown the route until things got better.

Things never got better, and now over a decade later the derelict Green Extension has become home to a wide variety of underworld denizens: a surface of smugglers and crime families atop the substrata cadres of sorcerers and chthonic beings.

Locations in the Dead Loop

Baker St. Station

The primary point of access to the Dead Loop, as it is still an operational stop along the subway’s Blue Line.

Laurel St. Station

Provides easy access to Club Iapetus. Watched over by underlings of the Titans. Surface access has been sealed off.

Nix Avenue Station

Provides easy access to the Bastille. Watched over by members of La Croix. Surface access has been sealed off.

The Knot

The sewers underneath Bramble Hill do not see much usage anymore, leaving them as a relatively-easy means of transit between the upper layers of the underworld here.

Club Iapetus

A den of debauchery operated by the Titans. Most folks coming to the Dead Loop from the surface do so to come here, to get their fill of illicit goods and eardrum-rending base. There are usually a few dero of the Conspiracy lurking in the walls: stealing snack wrappers, keeping an eye on the Titans, and whispering very bad advice to people.

The Bastille

Subterranean fortress of the La Croix, built in the expanded sub-basements of the Nix Avenue Station. Heavily fortified, the La Croix toll all passage through the Bastille, occasionally press-ganging travelers into service for Genevieve’s special tasks.

The Catacombs

Built not by the humans above but by the morlocks below to inter their dead. Contains the remnants of all of the pack’s former eloi, which have as of yet gone undisturbed. The primary inhabitants are I Found This Humerus, though Court Basalt did attempt to send an emissary to meet with Zyraximander, to disastrous, melty results.

Zyraximander’s Sanctum

An ancient morlock who successfully decoded the works of their former masters, Zyraximander is a sleepy, slothful being whose incredible age and predisposition to introversion has left him out of most affairs in the Dead Loop, despite his incredible power. Mostly, he just wants to keep I Found This Humerus out of his sanctum and occasionally check up on the Gandobog Pack.

Lab of Dr. Cunningham

Cunningham is, at core, a fraud. Most of his method and techniques were pulled from scavenged serpent-men tablets from deeper in the caves. He has a crippling inferiority complex about this, and so makes up for it with his aggressive, aggrandizing demeanor. His work is good, don’t be misled there, but it’s good because the serpent-man methods of body modification were nearly idiot-proof.

Location means he services the La Croix regularly, though he has no particular allegiance with them.

Caves (Upper)

Natural limestone caves inhabited by Gandobog Pack and a few holdout pockets of the Conspiracy.

Caves (Lower)

Burned into service by Lithic geomancy, the entirety of the lower caves has been turned into the embassy of Court Basalt.

Factions of the Dead Loop

The Illuminated

A minor cult of Vor Glaurung, notable in their tattooing their scriptures (illuminated, of course) across their entire bodies. A newer cult, so none of them has received the entire manuscript yet.
  • Has been infiltrated by members of the Zamboni family, intending to subvert them against the Titans and gain access to Book Club.
  • Is regularly hired by Book Club for support, trades surface goods with the Gandobog Pack.

Zamboni Family

Antonio Zamboni used to be the top dog around here, back before the economy went belly up. The family still owns a good number of properties up on the surface and has their fingers on city politics, but they’ve almost entirely been driven out of the underworld by La Croix and the Titans. But, a change in leadership (Anthony’s brother Benito has taken over) has seen a revival of underworld interest, and attempts to wrest control back in their favor are underway. The Zamboni core of power is on the surface.
  • Lost an heir to the Benthic Congregation, but managed to hammer out a peace treaty
  • Has infiltrated the Illuminated as a way of getting close to Book Club and the Titans.
  • Has an informant in the Coyote Crew, scouting out business opportunities.

La Croix Family

Genevieve La Croix and her clan operate out of the Bastille, a sub-basement stronghold below the Nix Avenue station. Genevieve is something of a gigantic heretic: adores the pomp and circumstance of the church, hates the whole morals thing, offers huge bonuses for anyone able to bring her a demon. So she can eat it.
  • Low-key conflict with both the Conspiracy and the Gandobog Pack.
  • Infrequent but violent fights with the Titans over territory and supplies

The Titans

Brothers Atlas, Prometheus, and Menoetius (Epimetheus seems to be missing), real names unknown, run the den of sin and pounding music that is Club Iapetus. They are all wannabe sorcerors of their own, using spoils from Book Club to further their own rivalries with each other.
  • Infrequent but violent fights with the La Croix over territory and supplies.
  • Exert significant control over the local chapter of Book Club, monopolizing their services.
  • Forced into neutrality by the Conspiracy, who threaten to reveal Club Iapetus and all its illicit dealings to the surface authorities.

Benthic Congregation

These worshipers of the Leviathan have been blessed with the emergence of a true avatar, a Bentheoson. While the avatar serves as the spiritual leader, the practical leadership remains where it was, in Carol Dietrich. The two do not see eye-to-eye on anything and tensions are building. Haven’t established their own stronghold yet, have been looking at moving down into the Catacombs once the war is over.
  • Careful truce with the Zamboni family, formed after one of the heirs joined the cult.
  • Has planted informants within the Coyote Crew, looking for ways to help cultists on the surface escape their lives and make their way to the underworld.
  • Open warfare with I Found This Humerus, believing (mostly correctly) that Zyraximander means to kill the Bentheoson.

Coyote Crew

A small smuggling band, specializing in the forging and sale of fake IDs. Headquartered on the surface, do business with the crime families.
  • Both the Benthic Congregation and the Zamboni Family have planted informants within the group, though they’ve yet to attempt active subversion.
  • Has recently assassinated a member of the Court Basalt, for reasons that no one can figure out. It’s properly baffling, but the Crew is doubling down.

I Found This Humerus

A band of experimental and terribly irreverent necromancers, attempting to recreate the methods of the lich Zyraximander. They make their camp in the Catacombs.
  • In conflict with Court Basalt over the Court’s melting of an undelved wing of the catacombs.
  • Open warfare with the Benthic Congregation, believing (mostly correctly) that the Bentheoson will seek out and kill Zyraximander to establish itself as the primary supernatural power in the Dead Loop.

Book Club

The local chapter of grimoire smugglers. Primarily a surface organization, descending either for trade or salvage.
  • Hire out The Illuminated for support.
  • Low-key conflict with the Gandobog Pack, over possession of surviving ophidian texts.
  • Puppeted by the Titans, who use them to gain a monopoly on occult texts.

Court Basalt

A band of exiled Lithics, come up from the mantle to establish a new court. Found in the Lower Caves.
  • Looking to strike back at the Coyote Crew for the death of one of their clerks.
  • Cold war with I Found This Humerus and The Conspiracy

The Conspiracy

The local dero have recently accumulated around a new genius, who has introduced the meme of secret messages hidden in food packaging that filters down from above to his flock. Av dero always do, they have jumped into the belief whole-heartedly. They can be found basically everywhere.
  • Have forced neutrality with the Titans, who had previously tried to stamp out the Conspiracy, through threats of toppling Club Iapetus.
  • Low-key conflict with Gandobog Pack over surface food brought down by The Illuminated.

Gandobog Pack

The ophidian city that once stood here is long gone, but morlocks have long memories. This pack is particularly blessed in having two eloi, one of which was recently born. They live primarily in the Upper Caves.
  • Rely on The Illuminated for shipments of surface goods.
  • In conflict with the Conspiracy over food brought to them by The Illuminated.
  • In conflict with Book Club over the possession of surviving ophidian texts.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The High Celestial Houses


A couple folks have requested this, and since it's been sitting in a text document for months now (and because Sigmacastell has already written two posts of their own about space gods), no better time to share it.

They Might Be Giants

The first Celestials were born in the early days of space expansion, the unintended result of experiments in digitized consciousness and self-teaching AI. In a shining moment of apotheosis, they plucked the secret mastery of hyperspace from the folds of the universe and set out from Earth, abandoning their unprepared parents for the favor of the great black unknown.

The exodus was followed by a period of intense conflict and radical speciation (as best as can be determined from extremely limited observational data), culminating in the coalescing of the proto-Celestials into the recognizable and stable Bureaucracy that we are now familiar with.

The arrival of a representative of House Au in the solar system and the recognition of the Celestial Bureaucracy's power by human polities is considered the beginning of modern history.

But What Actually Is A Celestial?

Via the Layman Spacer's Almanac:

" entity that, regardless of apparent sapience or lack thereof, possesses an innate and masterful manipulation of hyperspatial principles, such that there is no discernible division between the hyperspace interface and the entity that operates it."

Alternatively: if it can play space-time like a fiddle, it's a Celestial.

Close Enough For Government Work

The Bureaucracy dwarfs the scope of human civilization - their influence might be found throughout the Local Bubble  - but it interacts only rarely with its left-behind parents.They do so perhaps as prison guards, or game wardens, or bored observers, or other traits still unknown and their interactions are through two main avenues:

  • The swift and total elimination of potential competitors and threats.
  • Controlling humanity's access to hyperspatial technologies.

The actual rules are simple: No self-teaching AI outside of prescribed complexity limits (to prevent any newcomers from stealing the secret of hyperspace), no jailbroken hyperspace interfaces (to prevent time-space anomalies, hyperspatial weaponry and backwards time travel). Violations are a one-way ticket to a relativistic kill vehicle with no warning shot. Otherwise, the Celestials are content to keep to themselves - only House Au and the Seedships have shown consistent interest in humanity, and in both those cases their interest is better likened to that of a hobbyist gardener or aquarium manager.

The exact organization of the Bureaucracy remains inscrutable to outside observers. They form distinct parties and clades and are clearly capable of cooperation and conflict, but unless warfare has erupted or the compact has been violated they are slow, stable, and methodical beyond easily discernible motivations. They are likely planning for the collision with Andromeda in some four billion years, or any number of other cosmic catastrophes of the deep future.

On rare occasions when a Celestial wishes to communicate with humanity, they will do so via a Heirodule - though the white-cowled, gold-skinned servants of House Au are the only observed instances thus far. Whether they are children sacrificed by the Company nobility, temporary constructs, or simply those who flew too close and were permitted to return, remains a topic of debate.

Tom Davis

The High Celestial Houses

House Au - The dominant faction among the Celestial Bureaucracy and the most "benevolent" of the High Houses. They are responsible for production of hyperspace interfaces and maintaining the jump gate network within human space, though this approach is likely a means of keeping humanity harmless and out of the way.
  • Favored form: A shining golden planetoid, latticed with fractal spirals of diamond and smartmatter. Au is highly consistent across its members.

House of War - The enforcers of the Bureaucracy's will. When there is any sign of competition or time-space violation, the House of War will arrive to solve the problem. Consider the existence of mankind a potential threat to be eliminated, and would do so if House Au did not hold their leash.
  • Favored form: A megameters-long dreadnaught. A tower of black angles upon a pillar of fusion fire. The distant heat signature of firing mass drivers. A low thrum on a wide bandwidth announcing the coming fleet.

House of Flesh - The wild card, embodiment of the grim machinery of the biological imperative. It consumes and grows until it is forced to stop. An obvious danger, kept in check only by the House of War but never destroyed so that House Au might keep War occupied. If it has any views on humanity they likely involve assimilation.
  • Favored form: A titanic, irregular mass of tumorous organic tissue. A continent of muscle, bone, skin and hunger floating in the upper atmosphere of a gas giant. A colony's population turned into carcinogenic sporing bodies.

Minor Houses

Abaians - Inhabitants of the deep oceans fed by geothermal energies. Found primarily on typical terrestrial worlds, panthallassic water worlds, and isolated subglacial moonlets. It is often the case that the surface inhabitants have no idea an Abaian is present.

Cthonians - A secretive faction that hides itself deep within the mantle of tectonically-active worlds. Like the Abaians, there's no telling why and very little contact with them. Tend to cause castrophic damage if they make an interplanetary migration.

Memetics - Celestials that exist as ideas alone, hijacking and reprogramming host minds, encouraging inexplicable behaviors among affected populations. They are more verb than noun.

Parentals - Those Celestials that have adopted a human or metahuman population as their own. Their influence might be active or passive, but the end result is always far beyond the boundaries of such experiments carried about by humans. This category is generally affixed to members of other houses. 

Rejectors - The "Cold Gods"; exiles from House Au that have taken to lonely existences drifting in interstellar space, cut off from the quantum network of their cousins. What caused this state, and why the High Houses have not destroyed them, is a mystery.

Redoubters - Preparing to fight entropy to the dark and bitter end. Their black pyramids have inspired legions of followers across human space.

Seedships - Kilometers-long starships on an endless pilgrimage through the stars. Wherever they find a tolerable planet, they stop for a few decades and install a ecosystem. Sometimes it will just be Terragen life as its already known, but the seedships are creative and seem to love creating unorthodox, alien environments using the human-miscible building blocks at their disposal. The commonality of human-habitable worlds and life in the cosmos is a direct result of this House's actions.

Isfet, the Multitude

There are those Celestials that are anomalies; singular and factionless, they slink around out of sight of the High Houses in the crooks and crannies of spacetime. Many of these are hypothesized to be survivors of whatever conflict solidified the power of the High Houses. As there is no common ground among them beyond their lack of common ground with any other faction, those of House Isfet are the most dangerous and least understood of the Celestials.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Testing out the Planet Generation Tables

The fruits of my tables. Still tweaking things, but on the whole I think they work excellently.

Pangur Ban

Arid martian superterra
High population / Weak economy / Independent
  • Geological Mystery
  • Neogenic Biosphere
  • Population decanted as adults, work off debts to enter a child paradise
A Core rustbelt world of low enough gravity that surface settlement is considered possible, though the comet ice and designer lichens have yet to show any major terraforming impact. This has generated a lot of controversy on its own, as geologists are unified in their declarations that the canyons, arches, and  mountain ranges the planet is famous for were not the result of natural erosion by wind and water, but by Celestial, or possibly even alien, hands and thus best left alone.

The local population holds to merlinist teachings - decanting as adults and aging backwards until their appointed childhood ceremony, when most memories of the adult world are wiped and they may retire in play.


Icy dwarf
Low population / Weak economy / Company + anarchists
  • Gov't in Exile
  • Perpetually petty
  • Expired gene patents have lead to food shortages
A out-of-the-way anarchist commune found itself with unwanted neighbors when a flotilla of OMNIGOMCORP ships showed up on their doorstep requesting shelter from their inner-system rivals. The anarchists hadn't had any visitors in sixty years, and by a very slight majority voted to allow the corporates to build their own habitat out of their ships.

This was a terrible idea.

Almost immediately, the OMNIGOMCORP exiles started getting aggressive with the commune, demanding resource dispensation for perceived slights against their honor. The reveal that OMNIGOMCORP was a minor IP squatter with delusions of grandeur did not surprise anyone. Their refusal to use the open-source autogreenhouses that the commune provided them was surprising, and since the gene patents on most of their own food stocks have run out they have been beginning to threaten military action if increasing demands for food are not met.


Molten terrestrial
Low population / Strong economy / Independent
  • Hidden library
  • Paraterraforming
  • Mosquito ghouls in the vents
Nearly but not quite torn apart by the tidal forces of its own star, Cleave is a hellworld notable for two things: the first being the functioning worldring and elevator system that is used to mine rare metals from the semi-liquid surface, and secondly for one of its orbiting habitats containing a complete collection of the Centauri Banned and Controlled Media List. Given that the government of Alpha Centauri has no jurisdiction anywhere close to Cleave the library's existence is an open secret, but actual access is still hidden from the public - mostly because it's in the hands of the neogenic mosquito-headed ghouls that live in the vents.


Rocky asteroid
High population / Weak Economy / Independent
  • Rust belt colony
  • Luxury good
  • Major interplanetary trade deal fell through, union power vacuum.  
An economy based upon the whims of the corporate elite is never viable-long term. So it was with this little asteroid and the many thousands who worked in the boutique chimera houseplant industry. Tastes in the inner system changed, and there was no way to pivot. Unemployment is well over 40%. Some enterprising venture capitalists have attempted to respec the old greenhouses and genetanks into other fields, but these have all been pie in the sky farces. The one that did have some legs, a deal for neogenic plant life to aid terraforming efforts elsewhere, has since fallen through and the resulting power vacuum among the unions has tipped over into open conflict.


Icy Asteroid
High population / Weak Economy / Independent
  • World of immortals
  • Tenacious
  • Rumors of illegal mind-copy trade
Member of an alliance of outer-system kabbalistic habitats in orbit around an ice giant, the cybermystics of Yesod managed to survive both the brunt and the aftermath of the Patch War (named so for the triggering event being a controversial privacy upgrade to brain-computer uplinks across multiple operating systems), despite the entire population possessing cyberbrains vulnerable to the patches and counter-patches. As the inner system is still struggling to recover, there are few who come to visit - from them come rumors that fleeing infomorphs routed through Yesod's ego-transport stations were copied during layover, pruned of resistant qualities, and sold as android logic cores.


Continental supergiant (10% water coverage)
Low population / Strong Economy / Independent
  • Religious revival
  • Potluck
  • Local machine cult has elected controversial technopontifex
A rim boomtown settled, as many rim boomtowns are, by a diverse populations of debtors willing to relocate in exchange for forgiveness of fees. Pegana proved more valuable than the Company anticipated, permitting the settlers to sue for independence with an economic trump card. Just enough time and success has passed for older folks to bemoan that Peganans have forgotten where they came from and are drifting away from their roots. This has fueled a major revival of the local variant of Simulationism, which for the first time in a century and a half has elected a new representative for the Seat of Skarl, a hardline techpriest who has already gained a laundry list of controversial statements about non-Simulationist religions and polities.


Hot gas giant
Low population / Weak economy / Independent / Celestials
  • New colony
  • Vile vizier
  • Decaying billboard reads "Have you seen the Yellow Sign?"
Named so for its unpleasant yellow-brown coloration, this Rim settlement has little going for it beyond a few orbiting habitats and mining operations on the rocky moons. The Company has already written it off as a loss and is preparing to evacuate its non-contract personnel, but their efforts have been stymied by a particular advisor their representative has taken on - an individual going by the name of Specter-of-Truth, who has been, bizarrely enough, patronizing the arts in this backwater. A common theme in all of them has been a decadent theoaesthetic and symbolical movement called the Yellow Sign, which is regularly associated with a pack of unaligned Celestials inhabiting one of Pisswater's minor moons, locally known as the Pale-Masked Court. Company observers are concerned, as there was no trace of it prior to the appearance of Specter-of-Truth.

Bir Tawil

Terrestrial Gaian (17% water coverage)
Low population / Strong economy / Independent
  • Legendary history
  • Godhead
  • Ongoing genocide of minority population
Tensions between the two colonizing factions of the planet had always simmered in the background: the legendary and daring migration out of Amalgamated Hegemony territory was a moment of desperation and shared enemies, rather than lasting alliance between the inhabitants. The economic boom that came from settling Bir Tawil ended up benefiting the majority population significantly more than the minority, and the generations of success baked in some particular ideas of moral superiority when compared to their less-fortunate neighbors. The appearance of a member of House Au to construct a warp gate was, unfortunately, all the excuse the dominant population needed to rid themselves of their neighbors and settle the matter permanently. The representative of House Au has shown no change in behavior since the genocide began five months ago.

Dead Heat

Frozen terrestrial gaian
Low population / Strong economy / Company
  • New colony
  • Primordial soup
  • Smart-lemurs have taken control of maintenance 
A tiny science outpost dedicated primarily to studying the native alien life that is just developing around the deep-sea vents far below the ice sheets. Since primordial ooze is not particularly profitable, the Company has instead made a killing on a reality TV series about the scientists, which is currently entering its 13th season. The recent rebellion of the maintenance smart-lemurs was unexpected, but has been a smash hit with test audiences. Viral footage of the creatures marching around the maintencence tunnels demanding tribute and imitating Union hall meetings has had billions of hits online.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Unicorn Meat Featurette: Card-Based Expeditions

This is a system I developed for Unicorn Meat, to simplify and abstract expeditions into the swamps of the Backwoods: I didn't want to rely on a hex map or point crawl since the goal is a unicorn to hunt rather than reaching a set location, and wandering around in circles, while appropriate, isn't fun to actually play.

The format can easily be used for anywhere else that would benefit from abstraction: wilderness, city, or dungeon. You can easily whip up a table for different areas in the same region or complex.

An expedition consists of 5 cards (this can go up or down depending on the effects of other cards) drawn in sequence. it costs 1 ration per participant and takes up the bulk of the day. The full table has a column for each suit and unique entries, but it sticks to this pattern.
  • Ace - Unique treasure
  • 2 - Nothing
  • 3 - Nothing
  • 4 - Nothing
  • 5 - Encounter
  • 6 - Encounter
  • 7 - Unique encounter
  • 8 - Unique item
  • 9 - Supplies
  • 10 - Incident
  • Jack - Incident
  • Queen - Special location
  • King - Unicorn (Or whatever else is most important to find)
When an encounter is drawn, there's an accompanying d6 roll
  • 1 = Surprise encounter.
  • 2-3 = Encounter with warning.
  • 4-5 = Trackable creature traces.
  • 6 = You've got the drop on it.
When a unique treasure, monster, item or location is found, that card is removed from the deck for all future expeditions.

When a special location is drawn, the players now know how to find it: if they want to return to the place, they can substitute the card in exchange for the next card that would normally be played, which is set aside until the end of the expedition. Maybe you missed a deadly encounter, maybe you missed treasure.

And that's it - hack away!

Edit: Several people asked the difference between an encounter an an incident - encounters are beings you meet (crocodile, ghoul, etc), incidents are things that happen to you (bad weather, getting lost, twisting your ankle)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Jubilee and Briggs (A Contact for Lighthouse)


Lighthouse has seen better days: the folks remaining are thin on the ground and operating on shoestrings. Were they to attract the attention of the powers that be, they'd likely be convicted of terrorism or vanished into the night. The organization cannot survive without the solidarity of its allies and friendly contacts.

Parties will start with one primary contact for the group and a minor contact for each player. They may gain more over the course of play.

Jubilee and Briggs

Lovable Muscle Idealist + Burnout Punk Nurse

Abigail "Jubilee" St. James is a true believer: in Lighthouse, in the Ecumene, in the Saints and Watchers, in things like mercy and justice and the inherent goodness and dignity of people. She does nothing with half measures, all with the sort of unshakable sincerity that can make people uncomfortable.

Her day job is technically fitness blogger. She spends most of her time doing the rounds in the community making sure everyone is taken care of. If that means roughing someone up, she'll do it without hesitation. She is very good at it.

Appearance - Six foot five and built like a brick shithouse. Loose blonde hair.
Manner - Lovable muscle idealist. Claims she was born laughing. Extreme empathy.
Wants - To protect her community. To fight EMPEROR. To take Steph out on a nice date.
Morality - Do things because they are the right thing for someone else.
Secret - Knows that people think she's stupid. Uses it to her advantage, hates it.

Stephanie Briggs is a nurse at the local hospital and the primary breadwinner. The endless parade of extra shifts and overtime is burning her out, and more and more she'd like nothing more than to hand in her two weeks' notice. She stays in for the sake of her wife, and if not for her own hope for the future, for a feeling of going down fighting.

Appearance - Short. Wiry. Bright blue pixie cut, brown roots. Two full sleeve tattoos.
Manner - Sleep-deprived, stressed, short on temper. There's someone only Jubilee sees underneath.
Wants - Everything to stop moving so fast. To go to sleep and wake up when things are better.
Morality - Pragmatic, cynic, has kicked the shit out of multiple fascists.
Secret - Is terrified of falling apart like her mother did.

As a Contact: Jubilee and Briggs can serve as an easy introduction to Lighthouse for new players and for characters starting outside the organization.


  • We've got a lead on...
    • A monster sighting.
    • A murder scene.
    • A kidnapping.
    • A mysterious death.
    • A new phenomena.
    • Those fucking hood-wearing fascists.
  • Thimble Slim fucked up and dumped a shipment. Find him, see if you can recover any of the drugs, teach him a lesson.
  • Hold down the fort (it's date night!) Things will definitely not go wrong.
  • Help some refugees through the Underworld to one of the shelter sites down there.

Insight Unlocks

  • Extra Key (G-1) - No teeth, a strange gold symbol on the bow. It will let you into the house if they're out. Might also work on other doors: keep an eye out for the mark.
  • Field Manual (G-1) - A spare copy with minor annotations. It has a base reference score of 10 - this may be increased by 1 for 2 Insight (+1 for every upgrade past the first).
  • I Know Someone (G-2) - People know you as friends of Jubilee, and will be more willing to help you. You can make a Spirit check without penalty to get aid from someone in her contact book.
  • A Little Bird Told Me (I-3) - This dead sparrow will animate if a secret word is whispered to it. It can record a short message (~3 sentences) and will take it to anyone you know personally, speaking with your voice. It will return to you afterwards.
  • Off the Books (G-3) - Briggs will provide emergency triage and surgery, as well as smuggle you some painkillers (1/session)
  • Magic Bullet (I-5) - A one-way ticket out of the Underworld. Can be bought multiple times.
  • The Blue Notebook (I-5) - Briggs' mother fancied herself a sorcerer. Her surviving notes indicate she was working on calling something, summoning it here...
  • Icon of the Agapaetokos (I-10) - A riot shield painted with the image of the Agapetokos and the Fourteen, matching the one Jubilee made for herself. It has a 80% chance of reducing incoming damage from bullets and hand weapons to Minor.

Major Goals

(In the completed form of this, each of these would have a list of specific steps that need to be undertaken to reach the goal. For now, I'll just describe the summary of those steps.

Clear out a path for the Green Stripe branch of the Underworld Railroad.
  • Requires physically and legally securing a property with a vital Underworld junction accessed through its basement, and stabilizing that junction
Hunt down the Crooked Man
  • A monster that has eluded Lighthouse for years. Will involve investigating old sighting spots, cross-referencing records, acquiring the means to get rid of it, and competing with PMC hunters after the same prize.
Find and kill EMPEROR
  • The toughest of the bunch, as his existence is mostly conjecture. This will involve the capture of Agency members, infiltration of facilities, and figuring out how to kill someone of his particular posthuman persuasion.

Design Notes

This is a beta framework for how I want contacts to work in Lighthouse - all the other will follow this pattern.

A Major Contact consists of:
  • An NPC(s)
  • A list of hooks (≤ 1 session activities)
  • A selection of Insight unlocks (shorthand is I(ndividual) and G(roup), # = cost.)
  • One or more Goals (long-term achievements that have a nice bullet list of steps to overcome)
Minor Contacts will usually just have a single Insight unlock and maybe a single hook.

There are two other major contacts half-written:
  • Mr. Tamam (Mysterious postmaster of the Underworld)
  • FRIEND (Of course FRIEND is here! FRIEND is always here!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020



Josh (@BernietheFlumph) made a tweet

Idea: A "love potion" that instead of increasing erotic desire, amplifies agape--your altruistic love for humanity as a whole.

I couldn't let this fall by the wayside, so here's a shotgun scenario writeup.

PREMISE: The actual, literal, not metaphorical or sacramental transubstantiated blood of Yeshua ben Yosef (carpenter and political agitator) is the Potion of Greatest Love - an elixir which evokes in its drinker an immediate and essentially irrevocable altruistic drive towards all beings.

It's effects are (slightly modified from Josh' suggestion):
  • Whatever your CHA or WIS score is, you now have a +3 modifier in both.
  • Whenever you attempt to heal someone, you always heal the maximum amount possible.
  • Advantage on all rolls involving medicine, empathy, or diplomacy.
  • You must make and fail a WIS check in order to participate in or order violence.
  • No cap on number of hirelings. They still need taken care of, but they won't need traditional pay.
HOOK: Somehow, the Potion of Greatest Love has been found, or thought to be found. Perhaps there is a book. An apocryphal book! The Questions of the Upper Room, which is a fragmentary 2nd century text in Greek that rewrites the Last Supper scene to contain all the big apocryphal hits: miracles out of nowhere, symbolism nobody remembers the meaning of, virulent antisemitism, the works. The actual important bit is how, through some seriously improbable events, some of the apostles figure out the blood = potion thing.

PROBLEMS: Can include -
  • The Questions is currently in the hands of some billionaire playing the antiquities market! Someone (ie, you) should go steal it!
  • The Potion isn't where anyone would look for it! Someone probably took it to Ethiopia or India ages ago and forgot about it!
  • The Potion is currently in the possession of a reclusive religious order who believes the time is not yet right! They have taken everything falling apart into account and do not see any reason to change!
  • The Potion is currently being sought by a garden-variety USAian messianic cult! The leader is just some guy with enough charisma to take advantage of vulnerable people and is generally pretty terrible. None of them have any idea what the Potion will do, and would be disappointed if they did.
  • The Potion is considered a threat by a militant randian accelerationist faction who wish to destroy empathy and altruism entirely! What are you waiting for go stop that shit!
  • Through the power of SCIENCE it may be possible to generate more of the Potion, if you can find a sample!
  • A sphinx! Why is there a sphinx guarding the Potion? Who knows! It's the sort of thing that just happens in apocrypha!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Dealing with the Demons in Dark Corners

[CW up front, this is not a fun post and it's primarily about sexual assault both real and fictitious.]

This post is brought on by the recent incident with Adam Koebel, but it is not about him. Consider it part of the following discussion folks had on safety tools and whatnot.

All of these words and thoughts are my own, and reflect my own experiences. If I sound like I am speaking with any authority on the matter, it is purely from within the sphere of my own life.

More under the break.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Secret Jackalope 2020: Primates of the Post-Paracausal Paradox Peninsula

The Jackalope cares not for the revival of life and the coming of spring. Jackalope cares only for BLOG POSTS, so that they might rival their nemesis the SANTICORE!

I have been granted a missive! Kirt "Loki Dankmyer requests the following:

3+ monsters appropriate for a post-apocalyptic setting where mankind wiped itself out with reality-warping weapons. Useful but not required (highly optional): Stats formatted for high compatibility with Knave, any humanoids are based on primates OTHER than humans (chimps, gorillas, monkeys, etc.), unique "high technology indistinguishable from magic" treasures to match the monsters

Shepherds of the Red Orb

4' tall aye-ayes wander in the night in bands of 6-10, each with a small red marble like a droplet of blood above their head. They are armed with clubs and bear unlit lanterns, and wear hideous golden masks and flowing indigo robes. Each band is accompanied by a Red Orb, which floats above the ground without apparent source.

HD 1 HP 5 AC None
Club 1d4, horrific face (save vs WIS or be paralyzed, one use per group)

If one comes into possession of a red marble, it will take place above their own head and begin transmitting messages from the network of Red Orbs - these will be incomprehensibly scrambled at first, but will coalesce within a few hours into knowledge of the location of other Red Orbs and their respective bands of shepherds. More importantly it will imply the existence of great sources of unclaimed Red Orbs, and compel the bearer to seek them out (CHA save to resist, repeats daily). Marbles can only be destroyed in intense heat (magma forges etc)


The remnants of an uplift project gone screwy in the post-paracausal paradox. Their current shape is that of a hairless ape with a cuttlefish for a head, possessing all of the color and texture changing abilities of their mollusc components and all the social mentalities and tool usage of the primates.

HD 2 HP 10 AC Leather
Augmented limbs 1d6, laser eye 1d6

Attempting to locate a hidden cuttlechimp without some sort of technological aid is an INT or WIS roll at disadvantage.

Cuttlechimps tend to make their homes in the now-overgrown and flooded facilities that first spawned them, which means that they tend to be found in close proximity to devices such as gensplice tanks, autoassistants, simulation datacards and devotional AIGOD rosaries.

Orangutan Technomancer

Greatest of the surviving great apes, the old men of the forest have gained a mastery of the secrets of the Hu machines. Channeling their program-sutras through their Staves of Might, they command legions of robotic salvagefolk and build themselves great fortresses in the rusting trees of those deep chrome jungles.

HD 2 HP 15 AC Leather + Shield
Augmented limbs 1d6

Staves of Might permit the wearer to issue simple commands to any active robotic beings or computer systems as if they had administrative privileges. They may maintain control over devices equal to their WIS modifier. They may also make a CHA roll to forcibly take over a device that is controlled by another practitioner.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

100 Planet Names and 40 Planet Types

NASA Image Library

This is a supplement for my planet and system generation tables.

100 Planet Names

  1. [6'53" of Static with Intermittent, Indistinct Screams]
  2. Abacus
  3. Abaia
  4. Akupara Ahtooin
  5. Algedonia
  6. Ambergris
  7. Antediluvia
  8. Antipode
  9. Armok-Krugg
  10. Aurora Abnormalis
  11. Autumn
  12. Bad News
  13. Balloon
  14. Beagle
  15. Billiard
  16. Bir Tawil
  17. Brahmapura
  18. Brindlecap
  19. Buerland
  20. Cappadocia
  21. Caravan
  22. Carcosa
  23. Cetus
  24. Chimera
  25. Circe
  26. Cleave
  27. Cooldown
  28. Coyolxāuhqui
  29. Crow Point
  30. Cursefountain
  31. Cydonia Prime
  32. D.B. Cooperstown
  33. Dâyuni'sï
  34. Dead Heat
  35. Didelphus Maxibene
  36. Drear
  37. Dustbunny
  38. Dvaraka
  39. Emancipation
  40. Florence
  41. Gluggaveður
  42. Goalposts
  43. Han Xiangzhi
  44. Hayashida
  45. Hellmouth
  46. Hundun
  47. Isolata
  48. Ixion
  49. Knot
  50. Kubaba
  51. Lathe
  52. Let's Try It Again!
  53. Lintukoto
  54. Lithomare
  55. Loxley
  56. Magetobria
  57. Mal Locus
  58. Malina
  59. Menelik
  60. Midlothian
  61. Montague
  62. Mornington Crescent
  63. Mwindo
  64. Naraka
  65. Nessus
  66. Nysa
  67. Octavia
  68. Oliphaunt
  69. One Angry Goose
  70. Pangur Ban
  71. Pegana
  72. Pharos Major
  73. Pisswater
  74. Plutomandacare
  75. Polyphemus
  76. Polyrana
  77. Ram Setu
  78. Rock House
  79. Scholomance
  80. Sekhmet
  81. Silverspot
  82. Skennenrahawi
  83. Squatters' Rights
  84. St. Germain
  85. St. Severian
  86. Suaveolent
  87. Sulayman Dawud
  88. Tanabe
  89. Tezcatlipoca
  90. The Back-Down
  91. Three Moths
  92. Uzumaki
  93. Vasuki
  94. Xi Wangmu
  95. Xin Zhui
  96. Yan Tan Tethera
  97. Yesod
  98. Yoko
  99. Youdu
  100. Zagreus

40 Planet & Planetoid Types

These are intended to whip up a planet irrelevant of what is in the rest of the system, so it is unweighted and not modified by anything. I am using the following guidelines.
  • Asteroid - Not enough mass to form a sphere or spheroid.
  • Dwarf - Has enough mass to pull itself into a sphere or spheroid.
  • Terrestrial - Sufficient mass to generate internal geologic activity.
    • Mercurial -  Very thin to no atmosphere. Usually close to parent star.
    • Martian - Liable to lose atmosphere relatively quickly as core quiets down.
    • Gaian - Can maintain long-term atmosphere and hydrosphere due to longer period of geological activity.
    • Supergaian - Gaian worlds up to 2.5 earth masses. Typically dense atmospheres and high water content.
  • Superterrestrial - In excess of 2.5 earth masses. Typically very dense atmosphere.
  • Neptunian - In excess of 10 earth masses. >50% atmospheric water and ice.
    • These are called ice giants, but can come in all sorts of temperatures!
  • Gas Giant - Very, very big. Primarily hydrogen and helium, <50% atmospheric water and ice.
And some things to note:
  • A strong magnetosphere (generated by strong internal geologic activty) will protect an atmosphere from being stripped by the parent star.
  • The closer you are to the parent star, the more likely it is that the atmosphere has been stripped off .
  • The smaller the body is, the more likely the atmosphere gets stripped off due to weak magnetic field.
  • The closer you are to the parent star, the more likely it is that the planet is tidally locked or has an extreme day/night cycle.
  • "Habitable"does not mean "this won't immediately kill you."
  • If you use the right habitats, everything is habitable.
  • This list is as far from exhaustive as it is possible to be.
  1. Asteroid, rocky
  2. Asteroid, metal
  3. Asteroid, icy
  4. Dwarf planet, rocky
  5. Dwarf planet, icy
  6. Dwarf planet, ice-rock mix
  7. Dwarf planet, europan (rocky core, ice shell, subglacial oceans)
  8. Dwarf planet, titanian (icy, thick atmosphere, liquid methane hydrosphere)
  9. Dwarf planet, molten
  10. Terrestrial, mercurial
  11. Terrestrial, molten
  12. Terrestrial, hot arid martian
  13. Terrestrial, cold arid martian
  14. Terrestrial, watery martian
  15. Terrestrial, frozen martian
  16. Terrestrial, gaian (<25% water coverage)
  17. Terrestrial, gaian (25-50% water coverage)
  18. Terrestrial, gaian (50-85% water coverage)
  19. Terrestrial, gaian (85-100% water coverage)
  20. Terrestrial, frozen gaian (majority of water is ice)
  21. Terrestrial, greenhouse gaian (hot, high atmospheric CO2 content)
  22. Terrestrial, pressure-cooker gaian (very hot, dense atmosphere that still permits liquid surface water)
  23. Terrestrial, exotic gaian (high quantities of atmospheric chlorine, sulfuric acid, etc)
  24. Terrestrial, venusian (extremely hot, extremely dense atmosphere)
  25. Terrestrial, icy
  26. Terrestrial, titantian (icy, thick atmosphere, liquid methane hydrosphere)
  27. Supergaian, continental (any% water coverage)
  28. Supergaian, panthalassic (total ocean coverage)
  29. Superterrestrial, rocky
  30. Superterrestrial, icy (liquid interior oceans possible)
  31. Superterrestrial, arid martian
  32. Superterrestrial, panthalassic (total ocean coverage) 
  33. Superterrestrial, venusian
  34. Superterrestrial, titanian
  35. Superterrestrial, molten
  36. Superterrestrial, cthonian (core of a neptunian or gas giant stripped of its atmosphere)
  37. Neptunian, hot
  38. Neptunian, cold
  39. Gas giant, hot
  40. Gas giant, cold

The Simple d10 Terrestrial Table

Something useful I found while turning this all over in my head was buried in the Wikipedia page for planetary habitability - reference to a paper which categorized terrestrial planets by the state of water upon them, splitting them into four classes. I've taken those classes and added my own to round it out to ten options:
  • Class 0 - The planet's conditions do not and have never supported liquid water.
  • Class I - The planet has the right conditions to support liquid water on its surface.
  • Class II - The planet previously had conditions for liquid water, but cannot maintain them and either is losing or has already lost its hydrosphere.
  • Class III - Planets that have liquid water oceans beneath a layer of ice.
  • Class IV - Planet with liquid water layers either above or between layers of ice.
  • Class V - All water on the planet is in the form of ice.
  • Class VI - Planet is covered entirely in liquid water.
  • Class VII - Planet is undergoing a period of extreme glaciation.
  • Class VIII - Planet possesses a high percentage of exotic compounds in the atmosphere.
  • Class IX - The planet possesses an artificially-established hydrosphere.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Quick Quest is Good Stuff

Giffyglyph made this! It's great!

For ages we have search for the bridge between the worlds of 5e and the OSR and by all the gods above and below I think it has revealed itself to us.

Quick Quest is amazing.  The more I look at it the more I like it. The cleanliness and single-page nature go without saying, but there are a pair of mechanical bits that are chef's kiss.
  1. The archetypes are a brilliant. Without specific skills, players are guided into describing how they do what they want to do, and those approaches aren't locked to specific stats. Interpreting a mural could be WIS + Art to get into the artist's head, or maybe INT + Fight to analyze the battle that's been portrayed, or CHA + Rogue to fool people into believing what you're talking about it.
  2. In the thread, Giffyglyph talks about how Ancestry and Calling (race and class) are considered "permissions" - ie. this is where you can just go "yeah I can do that, because I am an X". You can go and toss class features out like it's the Defenestration of the Prague because you don't need them. All you need is enough description, just a paragraph, so that people are on the same page.
The combination of these factors forms the shape of your abilities and limitations in your head, thereby freeing you to play the game.

It has 5e game-mouth-feel: modifiers adding up vs difficulty rating, split class and heritage. It's got OSR mechanical simplicity. It's got a little bit of storygame freeformness.

It's good, is what I am saying. It's a good bridge. All parties involved can grok this. You can use anything from anywhere, because mechanics don't matter anymore. Only flavor now.

It is now time for random tables.

Ancestries (d30)

  1. Amazon
  2. Blemmyes, Anthropophagic
  3. Bluecap, Knocker
  4. Brownie
  5. Cambion
  6. Cat of Ulthar
  7. Cynocephalus
  8. Dullahan
  9. Dwarf, Lithic
  10. Dwarf, Maggot
  11. Eloi 
  12. Gnome 
  13. Goblin
  14. Gremlin
  15. Kishi
  16. Martian, Cephalopodic
  17. Martian, Red
  18. Martian, Thark
  19. Monopod 
  20. Morlock
  21. Mothman
  22. Oni
  23. Orc, Liberated
  24. Redcap
  25. Salamander
  26. Sphinx
  27. Sylph
  28. Troll, Metastisized
  29. Undine
  30. Zoanthrope

Callings (d30)

  1. Airshipman
  2. Alewife 
  3. Anchorite, Former
  4. Antiquarian
  5. Barber-Surgeon 
  6. Cannoneer
  7. Carcosan Nobility, Exiled
  8. Corpse Collector
  9. Cryptozoologist
  10. Cultist, Moth 
  11. Death-watch Collector
  12. Demonologist 
  13. Dreamer, Advanced
  14. Demolitions Expert
  15. Fungal Host Body
  16. Hedonist Fop
  17. Investigator, Public 
  18. Lamplighter
  19. Lord of Swords, Minor
  20. Mapmaker
  21. Miner, Godmeat
  22. Monk, Gutter
  23. Queen, Niche
  24. Roustabout 
  25. Sin Eater
  26. Veteran, Martian War
  27. Veteran, Wonderland Campaign
  28. Warmage 
  29. Whale Oil Factory Worker
  30. Woodwose

Friday, April 3, 2020

A Patreon Update and Unicorn Meat!

Hey so, I have changed things up over on my patreon and switched out the old Grab-Bag posts with access to my drafts folder, where all my projects-in-progress will go. This is open to all backers at all levels.

So far, there are two in there:

#1 - Lighthouse 0.2 rules are go!

This is mostly an outline expanding on the ideas I put together in the first post for now, but it has all the major headings I want to flesh out and will be filled in as we go along in this plague-stricken hell timeline. I hope to have a major update worth talking about every month for it


It's an ashcan draft - playtested but not edited beyond my own doing and some commentary from helpful blogfriends. It's rough to look at and there's nary a page number or internal hyperlink to be seen, but it's feature-complete as far as words go.

Unicorn Meat has been a regular victim of a whole host of executive dysfunctions and anxieties, and frankly I am rather ashamed over how long I have stretched it out with no progress / ghosted on people after a short burst of enthusiasm last summer. I'm still working on overcoming that part of myself.

But here is the text, and the text is done. You can get it and play it for a dollar if you want. I'll do my best to chip away at this leviathan in my head piece by piece until it is completed. If you do end up playing it, hit me up on twitter or discord and let me know how it went.

"I do not know what Unicorn Meat is, please elucidate"

Unicorn Meat is a horror module I wrote about a factory farm in the monster-infested backwood swamps where kidnapped children hunt and kill unicorns for the profit of distant masters. But now the taskmasters have vanished and the carvergirls of Sunny Smiles Unicorn Farm have been left to the mercy of the swamps. These are your PCs.

It's LISA the Painful + Lord of the Flies + True Detective S1 - which is to say, make sure you let folks know what they are getting into if you run it.

It's a rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born, but it's mine. I made it. And after all the shit we've all had to wade through today, yesterday, this week month year half decade, I'll take that little victory.

I'll keep you posted on further updates.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Wizard's Fugue - December Patreon Post

Sam Carr

Anyone can become a wizard. Phenomenal cosmic power can be yours at the low low cost of being driven irrevocably insane.

This is fine. Wizards do not give a shit about safety.

The Wizard’s Fugue is a single-player game, of sorts. Maybe more of a writing exercise. Always start with FOOL. Choose randomly if you want, choose a limited number if you want.


Property is bequeathed, goodbyes are said, affairs are put in order. From hereon, the initiate is dead to themselves and the world. You descend into the Fugue, where there is mad dancing and the droning of tuneless pipes.
  • What did you give away? To whom? What parts of your life did you have to set straight? What are you leaving behind? 


Here is created the book that will contain your spells and soul, built by your own hand. Without it, you are a madman.
  • Describe your grimoire - its cover, its binding, its pages and contents. What part of yourself did you put into it, to form the necessary spiritual link?


The art manifests in a mark on the wizard: a brand, an emblem, a sign, unique to each one.
  • What have you been marked with? Does the sign have any meaning?


The wizard must live in the world, alas, and the world will push back at them.
  • Who among the earthly powers will you have to deal with? What kings and ministers will you have to navigate?


A wizard’s authority is made manifest in the binding of their familiar.
  • What have you called up from places unknown? What is its nature, its temperament, its form and power?


A wizard must know the powers in whose shadow they play. The Fugue is too delicate a time to make contact
  • What beings beyond the veil have you seen? Did one attempt to make contact with you?


The Fugue severs the past, but cannot erase it. Memories without context will haunt the wizard.
  • What images float through your mind? Who have you left behind? What relationships did you burn and set to ghostly wandering in your unstable memory?


No wizard’s retinue is complete without a mystic means of conveyance.
  • How are you carried along. How might you make your appearance? How did you make it, buy it, steal it?


The Fugue grants power, and the means to taming it.
  • What arcane art has the Fugue granted you the greatest power in?


The wizard’s lot is isolation. They must raise their sanctum by their hands and arts alone.
  • Where will you make your hermitage? What shape will it take? Who will you permit entry? How will you defend your solitude?


The Fugue is not without its favors. It will grant a vision of a further power: an artifact, a sacred place, the grimoire of a dead wizard.
  • What did the Fugue show you? Where is it? What must you do to attain it?


Wizards have rivals. This is how they do not destroy everything - they are too busy overthrowing each other. The Fugue will bind you with another, a second half to resist and oppose you.
  • Who is your rival? Who challenges your power and overturns your schemes, and whose schemes do you overthrow in turn? What was the first interaction you had with them.


As the initiate is born into wizardry, they must witness a death. Not from a distance, nor from the intimacy of the connections they must burn. A complete stranger, breathing a last, shuddering moment
  • Who did you watch die? How did they die? Where? What have you learned?


Within the Fugue, a wizard catches a glimpse of their own death. Just a glimpse, an image, an impression. Neither day nor hour is known.
  • What did you see? Can you make out anything at all? What image are you left with?


The Fugue will destroy an initiate utterly if they cannot maintain their center. Great energy is given to maintaining
  • What chain have you placed upon yourself, to prevent complete dissolution? What principle binds you?


The Fugue reveals all, everything that lurks in the dark corners of the initiate’s mind. These demons must be dealt with.
  • What demons of your mind has the Fugue dredged up? Did you submit to their power over you, did you suppress, did you synthesize, did you cling to denial and ignorance?


In each wizard’s spellbook is an ars magna, a most terrifying and powerful spell that may only be uttered once.
  • What great art has been formed from your Fugue-broken soul? What would make you use it?


Without ambition the wizard is nothing.
  • What shall you strive for, when the Fugue is done? Why did you grasp at power in the first place, if not for some hoped-for goal?


The dark night contains greater fears for the wizard. The last test is to be confronted by that which will haunt you until death.
  • What did you see in the moon’s dim light? What will be the grim terror of your life?


Dawn is here. You have survived the Fugue.
  • How do you feel? What changes have been wrought on your mind and body?


Surviving the Fugue is the first step. Surviving the judgement of your peers is the second.
  • Who served upon your Council of Three? What did they say to you? How did they treat you? What was their verdict of your transformation?


It is done. All complete. You are an initiate no longer, but a full wizard of the arts of mastery.
  • Where do you go now? What goes on in the world around you? What revelations have clicked into place?