Monday, September 28, 2020

Play Report: Thousand Year Old Vampire

Following up my run of Barbarian Prince, it's time to move on to something else in the solo sphere. Something more recent.

This play report will be written as it is in my notebook. I will do my best to clarify events as needed. 

(D) indicates the memory was, at one point, stored in a Diary.

(^) indicates a skill was checked

Strikethrough indicates that the experience or memory has been lost

(#) Indicates the chronological order of experiences, as far as they are accurate (my notes fell apart towards the end)

The Record

Background: Jeanne, a runaway Cistercian nun living in northeast France around 1330.
  • Skills: 
    • Polymath
    • Charismatic Talker (^)
    • Sturdily Built
    • Medicine (bleeding and leeches) (^)
    • The Nameless Language
    • Anatomy
    • The Unspeakable Arts (^)
    • The Greater Unspeakable Arts
    • Visionary (^)
  • Characters: 
    • Margot - The other nun Jeanne escaped from the abbey with.
    • Thomas - Margot's husband
    • Alice - Errand girl from the village
    • Abelard - A clumsy physician's assistant
    • Guibert - The fool who seeks to expose me.
    • Charles -A nobleman. Brother of Samuel.
    • Samuel - A nobleman. Brother of Charles.
    • Joan - My scion.
    • The Rock - A very large boulder
    • George - Looking to make a fortune in the New World
    • The Ember-Eyes Man (Immortal) - Appeared when I performed the ritual of the Book of the Night, cursed me with this state.
    • The Man with the Rotten Teeth (Immortal) - Fucker took my eye.
  • Resources: 
    • The Old Mill
    • The Book of the Night
    • Medicinal Garden 
    • Diary 1 
    • Significant Wealth
    • Country Manor
    • Wondercabinet
    • New World Property
    • Comfortable savings 
    • Diary 2
    • Pearl-Handled Revolver
    • The Star Peoples' Cults
  • Marks
    • White hair, black burn scars on hands 
    • Full black eyes
    • Unhealing knife wound
    • Missing eye

Memory 1 (D)

  •  I am Jeanne, once a nun of the Cistercians in the northeast of France, having fled south since my escape. (1)
  • I find myself in Flanders now, living as the widow of a doctor that doesn't exist. Alice is my apprentice, Abelard my idiot assistant, drawn here because he thinks I have the answers to his inane spiritual questions. (3)

Memory 2

  •  I flee through the night with Margot; running through the forest in the moonlight, cutting our hair, taking new names. I had talked her into this, and she followed. (1)
  • Those who come to me for healing are often afraid. I ease their pains as best they can, and feed on the blood I draw. (4)
  • The plague has come. Abelard is dead. I find some solace in the Book (6)

Memory 3 (D)

  • Thomas' lantern bobs up and down in the darkness as he shows me to the old, ivy-choked mill. He's nervous, afraid of me, but Margot persuaded him to help. (1)
  • Alice arrives to me in a dream, saying nothing. She stabs herself in the chest, and when I wake I find the wound on my own body. Damn this English climate. (9)

Memory 4 

  • I am kneeling in the dirt, weeding the garden. Alice leans against the fence, asking pointed questions of herbs and their uses. Too clever to be wasted as a farmer's wife. (1)
  • The village suspects corruption, that I am teaching Alice witchcraft or some other slander. She warns me before they arrive. We flee towards Flanders. The mill is lost. (2)
  • I have killed Alice. I am sorry. She had thought to counter public opinion through truth and gathering more students, and I could not persuade her otherwise. There is nothing left for me here in Flanders. To England. (8)

Memory 5  (D)

  • Deep in the catacombs I stand before the Ember-Eyed Man. He tells me "Keep the book. I've already read it. Terribly boring. But you have potential to be interesting." It burns my hands as I hold it, unable to let go. (1)
  • A new and nameless language, unbidden, rises in my mind as I study the Book. My perception of the world falls into a different order when I think in it. I can more easily discern the secret threads of the world. (5)
  • My eyes have gone black. The people have seen it. They fear it. Damn that Guibert and his shrieking. They call me Devil-Eyed. We cannot remain here for much longer. (7)

Memory 6 

  • The British are a cruel and superstitious lot. Easy to feed upon. I provided free service to the rebels in Wat Tyler's rebellion, and they paid me back in bodies and stolen noble gold. The nobles do not know this, and so still call upon me. I bleed them dry. (10)
  • A wagon of bodies is brought in for dissection, authorities paid off. The human body is a book to me, and I master the arts of anatomy. (11)
  • [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], the bastards, are arguing the paternity of [REDACTED]. I solve the problem. To secure my secrecy, they offer me a country manor. I move immediately. Fuck London. (13)

Memory 7 

  • I fight with the Man With Rotten Teeth. He gouges out one of my eyes and flees with his new trophy. (12)
  • The book! The book! I destroyed it in a rage of my own doing, upon learning of Joan's ultimate failure. (17)

Memory 8 (D)

  • Joan arrives at last at the manor, raised and educated these last twenty years as I dictated. Fathered by a hanged man's seed and born of a dead woman's womb. occult significance abounds in my new scion. She will do well. (14)
  • In our laboratory, we work with the dead; shaping meat, organs, bones, changing their nature and structure to our own purposes. Joan is as brilliant a student as I might have imagined. (15)
  • I sleep, as if all was well, and wake in the decaying manor. A century has passed since last I walked. Joan did well, but she has died. only I remain. (16)

Memory 9 

  • The language has changed since I last woke, and words are clumsy in my mouth. I find myself disgusted by their preening propriety and false manners. (18)
  • The manor became a site of occult pilgrimage during my sleep. They left and still leave tokens here, to gain the favor of the great dead and deathless teacher. (19)
  • Money is tight. I throw open my specimen cupboards and build myself a wonder cabinet for pilgrims to gawk at. (20)

Memory 10 (D)

  • This Great Stone on the manor grounds is like me - it is a companion that cannot age. It is a summer afternoon, and we picnic together.
  • George, all sickeningly bright and optimistic, one of Joan's journals in his hand, standing on my front step, babbling about opportunities in the West Indies. He offers property there...
  • Ha, the fool. The labyrinth I built on that island, the stones I raised...were just to fuck with people.

Memory 11 

  • Damn them all! I sleep again, and this time I had to claw my way out after I awoke! The manor is gone. It is time to leave. I take a piece of the Stone with me.
  • Fight difficult bloody large injure flee flee
  • (All else is hazy)

Memory 12 

  • George, idiot George, is to be hung for my crime. I used the Arts to alter the evidence against him. No other choice, I was too closely linked.
  • I had been holding myself back in my practice. I have glimpsed the Greater Unspeakable Arts.
  • I have been on the move too long. My knowledge of the mundane sciences has become worthless.

Memory 13 (D)

  • Selling the misshapen embryos and ancient medical tools of the wonder cabinet
  • There is a Man with Rotted Teeth who claims to know me. He says that he was once an enemy, but now desires peace. I do not remember him. He offers me a book as a gift of friendship: The Star Peoples' Cults. I share in turn my visions for the future.
  • I perform the ritual in the center of the labyrinth, as the book instructs. But the gate to the greater cosmos is not right, I have laid a stone incorrectly, or painted a sigil with improper care. I am trapped between gates, never to arrive nor return. For a time I dream up grand fantasies, before I fall forever into mindlessness.

Final Thoughts

Another winner in the solo sphere. While getting into the groove of non-linear recordkeeping took a while to get into (and you really spoiled for choice in background options), by the end it really felt like it had accomplished a goal - my recollections of the early state of my own game were fuzzy and lost. I had expected the old mill to be important, I suppose. No matter.

It succeeds over many other solo games I've looked into for the strength and specificity of its prompts. I'd love to see the structure applied to other scenarios.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Class: Gun-Saint of An-Hehm



By Beholster eye, Dragun tooth
Gungeon wind do whisper one truth


These are the words of the first Gun-Saint, passed down through the ages from blackened lip to deafened ear. Know this well, for it is the tripartite formula of God.

The chambers and firing ranges of their monastarmories are ever home to those men and women who have become priests of the parish of black powder.

Their sanctuary is the foxhole, their flock is the platoon, their sermon travels at 853.4 meters per second.

Flesh & Grit: d6 Flesh, d8 Grit
Saves & XP: As Mystic

Improved Accuracy – Gun-Saints have an attack bonus equal to their level.

Combat Maneuvers - Gun-Saints can Aim, Fight Recklessly, Fight Defensively, Go For The Kill, and Provide Covering Fire without penalty.

Guns Akimbo – A Gun-Saint can wield two one-handed weapons with no penalty to hit. This does not grant an additional attack per turn.

Starting Items: Firearm of choice. 1 standard ammunition. 1 special ammunition. 1 standard grenade, Reinforced Schema Habit (light armor)

Tinnitus and Other Hearing Damage: You're almost, but not quite, entirely deaf by this point.

The Leaden Sacraments

Gun-Saints undergoing their muninitiations gain access to a new sacrament with each level.
  • Sacrament 1: Nimblefingers – You may reload a weapon or change its ammo type without spending a turn by switching to a different weapon. 
  • Sacrament 2: Quick Draw - With a successful DEX check, you can make your attack first during combat, regardless of initiative or surprise.
  • Sacrament 3: The Coat of Arms – Store up to character level firearms and reloads in your clothing without encumbrance.
  • Sacrament 4: Clicka Clack Bang Bang -You may make two attacks per turn.
  • Sacrament 5: The Magic Bullet – Will instantly kill the individual whose full name is inscribed upon it, should it hit. Takes up 1 equipment slot and can only be removed if fired. A new bullet cannot be engraved until your next level up.
  • Sacrament 6: The Golden Gun - A +4 pistol. It cannot use special ammo, but if it hits it will always damage Flesh directly.

Weapons & Ammo

Several of these were stolen from Swords and Scrolls

Base Weapons

  • Pistol - d8 damage. Can be used in melee combat.
  • Rifle - d10 damage. Can be used as a melee weapon with -2 to hit.
  • Shotgun - d12 damage. Can attack 2 adjacent enemies, splitting damage between them.
  • Sniper - d12 damage. -4 to hit when not used with Aim.
  • Grenade - d12 damage, no to-hit roll (save for half damage), area of effect, one use.

Ammo Tags
  • Standard - Default, no special properties. Always available to purchase.
  • Blessed - Double damage to demons etc.
  • Cold Iron - Double damage to fairies etc.
  • Anathema - Double damage to angels etc.
  • Exotic Matter - Double damage to ghosts etc, no damage to material foes.
  • Flechette - Can attack 2 adjacent enemies, splitting damage between them. If applied to a shotgun, both targets take full damage.
  • Needler - Ignores armor, decrease damage die by 1 stage.
  • Incendiary - Target must Save vs Hazards or be set alight. +1d4 bonus damage.
  • Foam - Expands and hardens. Save vs hazards or immobilized.
  • Hypervelocity - +2 damage, enemies gain no AC bonus from cover.
  • Beam - +2 to hit, rendered ineffective by smoke or fog.
  • Plasma - Damage is split between Flesh/Grit and AC reduction.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Untitled Avatar Post


Mikku Sushi

I was twelve when Avatar: The Last Airbender aired. I watched it on an old Magnavox TV, on a cold Friday evening in February when the world outside the living room windows was black as the bottom of the ocean. I was sitting in my dad's rocking chair, and the rug was the old red one we had before the cats forced its replacement, and the light from the dining room was bright incandescent-bulb gold. We wouldn't get internet in the house for nearly four more years.

I wasn't even that enthused at first: the advertisements had instilled in me a certain degree of hesitation, as western television that tried to be anime had a batting average of 0 in my experience at the time. I had actually missed the first few minutes of that first episode, flipping through channels to see if anything else was on. That didn't matter, in the end.

That night was over half a lifetime ago.


I've been rewatching Avatar. The world is falling apart outside. The lightning crackles and dances in its bottle as I take it down from the mantelpiece. 


It was the agni kai between Zuko and Zhao that really got the hooks in, back then. Certainly in terms of TV at the time I had no experience of "large chunks of episode time given to the antagonist dealing with things that aren't interacting with the protagonist. I don't think I was expecting there to be that much care given.


The average Fire Nation footsoldier will be involved in some kind of joke. Slapstick or comedic misinterpretations, usually.


Poverty is not abstracted here. It happens to people, and those people have faces and names and lives that the Gaang directly intersect with, because they're poor too. The only ones who ever really had any money are Toph and Zuko, and neither of them hold on to it for very long.


War is not abstracted here. Everyone we meet has lost someone to it, or knows someone who has lost someone. No life has gone untouched, whether by open wounds or old scars. Even the safest and most distant enclave can look to the horizon and see the smoke.


We are immersed in a reality that invites us to empathy. Why is it even important that Aang saves the world? Because the world is not abstract. It's right there. It's those people.We've been with them the entire time.


This is a cartoon on Nickelodeon and it contains

  • Militarist hypernationalism.
  • Genocide.
  • Prison camps.
  • Child soldiers.
  • Deliberate strikes against soft targets.
  • Public disfigurement of a child. 
  • The casual disregard of military leadership for the lives of their own soldiers.
  • Assorted additional war crimes.
  • Patricide.
  • Animal cruelty.
  • Secret police.
  • Fascist indoctrination of schoolchildren.
  • Industry-induced ecological collapse.
  • The abuses of the carceral system.


Elizabeth Welch Ehasz carried a whole lot of this show - she was lead writer for both "Zuko Alone" and "Appa's Lost Days", among others, and those are probably the two best episodes in the entire series.


I still polish my service medals from the Kataang Grande Armee off for parade days, but I cannot deny that the entire subplot has the feel of...something that was considered a given. I think there would have been some value if they had sorted out their feelings early-to-mid season 3. Buck the typical "relationship only after accomplishment" of these sorts of hero stories, go into the end strong.


Guru Pathik meant well, but living atop a mountain in solitude did not prepare him to teach a teenager whose entire life consists of the clothes on his back, his handful of friends, and the crushing weight of his responsibilities. He presumed that the student already understood what was meant, that Aang understood the difference between love and attachment. That a kid could sit and let the death of one of his only friends pass by like water over a stone.


There might well be places in the Earth Kingdom that have never heard of the Earth King and his impenetrable city, nor ever seen an imperial tax collector.


The Fire Nation uses shitty iron. Stone hastily earthbent for combat is often less dense and easily broken.


I don't think it sank in the first time, that Lu Ten was 18-20 when he died. I always supposed he was older. Was it in the field? Was it in some medic's tent? What orders had he received that morning - would he have lived if they had been any different? Had he knowingly put his life in danger, or had it been simple happenstance, a lucky shot? Was the body recovered? Did he even have the time to realize it, or did he simply cease?

No answers. Just the space where a man used to be.


I like to think that there are more unique communities that we simply never got to see: bending traditions that grew up in other nations and were influenced by other styles. Influences from India, Persia, the Andes, subsaharan Africa, the Asian steppe, the Pacific coast, the southwest, the Great Plains.


Ozai is a punk-ass loser. The kind of fascist who wears polo shirts and khakis and talks big talk about the weakness of other men and the decadence of society while eating an entire drawer of silver cutlery. He's a fucking nobody. All his talk of strength, all his love of power and domination, and what has he actually done? Disfigured a child and blackmailed his wife into doing regipatricide for him. He sits in his gloomy throne room in ecstatic adoration of his idea of himself but won't lift a finger unless it's against someone who is powerless to defend themselves against him. Characters offering even the least resistance reveal him as the oaf that he is.

He's a spineless, vapid piece of shit. A blunt-force trauma of a human being. The perfect villain for this show - utterly banal, completely without nuance, in cold and unflinching opposition to the protagonists.


The world invites engagement. It motions to its blank spaces and says "here, you already have the tools", and the gaps are filled in by your own hands. There has been a long tradition of fanon here, and contrary to my typical dismissal of fandom as a toxic swamp of sadness and badness, there's actually some quite clever places you can go. A few of my own personal favored theories:

  • The Ember Island Players are wildly popular and have been for a long while, despite being absolutely awful. So that must be the point, you go to see the players to watch a farce on stage. Ursa dragged the family to see the Players butcher Love Amongst the Dragons every year, and I can't help but picture it as this world's variant of live showings of The Room or Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • On the same note, the Players are able to put on these farces prominently featuring the royal family, which would indicate that Ozai either doesn't care or gives tacit approval.
  • Zhao was promoted to commander in the back ass-end of nowhere. Perhaps he had enemies in the navy - it'd make sense considering his age and ambition - but, being commander of the ass-end of nowhere then gave him the ships and the spare time to pursue Aang.
  • Katara and Sokka have a grandfather with a gigantic white walrus mustache, who, given the tone he is referenced in, is still alive. So he's probably Hakoda's father, rather than Kya's. But since he's never seen, we can then assume he lives in a different village.
  • I refuse to believe that Suki and the other Kyoshi warriors don't have a rotating schedule of who gets to make a fool of the dumb out-of-towner, because they absolutely have to do that regularly.

These are aspects of characters that have no actual textual support, but enrich the experience all the same because they make enough sense to fit where they ought.


There is no way Toph became a cop. Katara would have stopped her.


Suki does not get a whole lot of screen time, but by the time she joins the Gaang in the last quarter of season 3 it feels like there had been a place for her there all along. We have seen enough of her own arc from afar by that time.


I remember finding out that Mako had died the day before "Tales of Ba Sing Se" aired.


What would have happened, I thought to myself, had Aang not run away from home and had gone instead to the eastern temple to train as the abbot had decided?

He would not have been ready when Sozin's forces arrived a few months later, certainly, though perhaps he could have been spirited out in the chaos, to learn the other elements in secret. Maybe with a few other companions, likely novices themselves. It would have been a very different story, then.


This part is the Katara appreciation section of the essay.

"The Painted Lady" is a much better episode than folks, now or then, give it credit for, precisely for how well it establishes the person Katara has become at this point in the series: when presented with the scope of the Fire Nation's destruction of its own territory - strip-mining its islands bare to fuel its war machine while its citizens dredge up stunted, mutated fish from polluted waterways - she doesn't hesitate to put her beliefs into action. Even Aang - the pacifist, the vegetarian, the one supposed to right the world's wrongs - says they should be on their way.

Katara, stone-cold comrade that she is, says "fuck that, fuck this, fuck you, fuck the military-industrial complex, I'm going to commit an ecoterrorism"

Which she then proceeds to do. 0 to industrial sabotage in 10 seconds flat.

She began this series saddled with the responsibilities of adulthood while still a child - complaining about having to do all the chores while her jerkass brother goofs off, barely able to keep a fish aloft with her bending, teased for being the worrywart team mom, the nebby-nose moralizer, the preachy crybaby who can't resist giving overemotional speeches about hope all the time.

And then she goes and ends it wondering if her inability to kill the man who murdered her mother was a moment of weakness or a sign of strength.

She's always possessed great empathy and great anger, but here in the final season we see that she has unified these traits with the ability and willingness to act directly upon both towards accomplishing greater goals.

I don't know how you would write "all cops are bastards" in Inuktitut, but I feel it would be appropriate here.


Potential alternatives to energybending:

  • Aang uses his trickery and guile to goad Ozai into overexerting himself - what would normally just exhaust him now burns him out like a cheap light bulb due to the influence of the comet.
  • Ozai is imprisoned in such a way to make escape impossible (cave on a mountain far out at sea, surrounded by watchful spirits?)
  • Ozai surrenders. Spineless, vapid piece of shit, right? The fight immediately goes utterly one-sided as soon as Aang enters the Avatar State anyway.
  • Ozai is injured in such a way to make firebending either impossible or nearly so. (Granted "let's break your spine" is hardly much better than killing him outright.)

The fifth is my favorite (Mon helped me brainstorm this).

Aang, desperate for some way to defeat Ozai without, makes a journey to the Spirit World. Maybe the turtle is the catalyst still, doesn't matter. He convenes with the other Avatars there (not just the previous 4, but a vast parliament of them, and after hearing their arguments (which would include everything listed above, plus that given in the show), he's still not convinced. But the seed of an idea starts blooming.

He is going to petition the Sun Spirit to strip Ozai's bending from him. The other Avatars and most of the attendant spirits there are thrown into chaos - Surya does not give a shit. Of all the spirits, he's the one that doesn't even pretend to recognize the Avatar's authority as an intermediary. Reaching the Solar Court is next to impossible even for other primal spirits.

But, Aang has an in: his crush's brother's ex is the moon. Yue appears to him as the council of Avatars dissipates, telling him that, as the Moon Spirit (and thus, Surya's queen), she has access to both the court and Surya's ear.

Travel transition to the Solar Court (possibly on giant spirit rabbit with a mallet), it's practically a dyson-sphere palace, very impressive, blah blah. Throne room, etc. Very impressive.

Surya looks like a character pulled from Asura's Wrath. Absolutely fucking gigantic (Aang and Yue don't even crest the top of his feet), looks simultaneously immensely bored and perpetually pissed off. He demands to know why Yue brought a mortal into the presence of the eternal sun, and Yue (showing a side of herself that is not "mild princess" or "sad princess") manages to argue him into hearing the request.

Aang's request is met with derisive laughter. He had already failed at the eclipse, and how he's attempting to seek the Sun's favor again? Yue moves to argue again, but Aang asks her to stand down and pleads his own case.

Whether he is actually persuaded or just wants Aang to leave, we don't know, but Surya agrees, on one condition - Ozai must be defeated, completely and without question.

Yue returns Aang to the physical world, leaving him with a "good luck" and some message of comedic gold for Sokka.

The rest of the climactic battle goes according to how it is in the show, until the end.

Ozai has gotten the shit beaten out of him, but dime-store fascist that he is, he refuses to surrender. Aang appeals to the Sun to strip him of his bending as agreed - Ozai is beaten, and if the Sun itself will not keep its word, then all creation falls apart.

Nothing seems to happen. Ozai manages to spit out a "I don't think the sun is listening, Avatar" and attempts a point-blank fireblast.

He collapses back to the ground, with no fire. Surya upheld his part of the bargain, but didn't give enough of a shit to even be theatrical about it.

Ending proceeds as normal, except for the final scene in the Jasmine Dragon. Rather than Sokka's inept painting gag, we watch a confused-looking peasant woman clutching a piece of paper in one hand, and the hand of a young girl (~6 years old) in the other. A plain-looking man, clearly a laborer of some kind is there with her.

She tells Katara or Suki that she received this invitation to the Jasmine Dragon out of nowhere, with a passport and money for the trip to the capitol. They assure her she's in the right place, show her to a table, and call in an order for three cups of tea from the kitchen.

Which are delivered to the table by Zuko, of course, because of course it would be. It couldn't be any other way. There's a moment of hesitation (for Ursa never saw him with the scar, and hasn't seen him for eight years plus by this point), and then a moment of realization, and then there is a tearful and joyous reunion.

Sometime later, Aang and Katara share a kiss on the patio, pan up to the sky, roll credits, fin.


I put the bottle of lightning back up on the mantle. The world outside spins towards its apparent ruin, but I find a small peace of comfort here. It is a pin's point upon which to balance amidst the maelstrom, for a moment.

It doesn't matter what the flaws are, in the end. Not really. Perfection is impossible. Overrated, even. 

More important is that it was there; in that time, in that place.

It will never, in all the universe, happen again.


 (PS; here is the class I made for elemental benders.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Solo Grimdark Warfare, Version 1

Wolfdog Artcorner


This is an experiment: a way to abstract a wargame into a solo, no-miniatures experience, which can then have additional story elements and mechanics added to it as one desires.

This template is equal parts Grimdark Future, and a CYOA called A Century At War. It's designed to be played using the army lists in Grimdark Future and Age of Fantasy with no conversion required beyond reskinning to taste.

Battles in this system are abstracted: all that you the player need to care about are the stats and traits of units - position and movements don't come into play.
This is very, very much a work in progress and in many ways just a proof of concept.

Building an Army 

Armies are built using the points values in Grimdark Future and Age of Fantasy - I default in this sketch of the rules to the game's standard 750 points for a standard army and 250 for a skirmish (the former might just be too big, I will have to test and see). The only things you need to worry about are the Attack and Defense rating of each unit, and any special traits they might have. (Special traits will be detailed in a post to follow)

War, Huh? What's it Good For?

Each battle consists of three phases - for each phase, roll 2d6, with any modifiers factored in.

Phase 1: Reconnaissance

  • 10+: +1 to Attack and Defense rolls for all units
  • 7-9: Either no bonus or +1 to Attack or Defense rolls and -1 to the other.
  • 6-1: -1 to Attack and Defense for all units.
Compare the rolls of both armies (factoring in any bonuses you might have) - the winner gains +1 for their Combat roll.

Phase 2: Combat

  • 10+: +1 enemy death rate
  • 7-9: Either no bonus or +1 enemy death rate and +1 self death rate.
  • 6-1: +1 self death rate
This is the part where the actual combat takes place, and at the moment I haven't been able to get it down to less than a metric fuckton of dice rolls. But, you only need to do it once.

  1. Roll 2d6 for every unit (individual soldier!) in both armies (different colors help!) - one for Attack and one for Defense.
  2. Rolls above a unit's Attack and Defense values are successful. If they fail, it means that the shot didn't connect, or they got hit, respectively.
  3. Assign all the successful hits of an army to the failed defenses of the other. If failed defense > successful attack, some folks got lucky. If successful attack > failed defense, some units are going to get hit twice.
  4. Hit units need to make a death roll.
All units have the same default death rate of 2-in-6. If they are not killed instantly, they are considered injured. If you're playing multiple battles in a gauntlet, Injured units take -1 to their attack and defense if they take to the field. They can recover from injury if withheld from the battle.

Finally, compare the rolls of both armies. The winner and loser roll on the appropriate tables below.

Phase 3: Aftermath

Loser of Combat
  • 10+: +1 RP
  • 7-9: Both / neither
  • 6-1:  All injured units must be left behind. +0 RP
Winner of Combat
  • 10+: +1 RP & all injured units heal.
  • 7-9: Either +1 RP or all injured units heal.
  • 6-1: +0 RP, no other bonus

RP = reinforcement point, which is equivalent to 150 unit points. These can be stored up for major purchases, and cashed out between battles.

To Do

  • Figure out general special trait list.
  • Figure out army-specific special traits.
  • Make demo armies
  • Playtest
  • Refine
  • Add tables for story events for longer campaigns
  • Promotion mechanic for veteran units
  • Reskinned factions / setting post.

Still rough, still untested, but I think it could turn into a cool little thing to pass the endless quarantine days. Solo games have a lot of untapped potential, and honestly who doesn't like rebranding properties imprisoned by the litigious iron fist of James Blortshorp.

My primary concern at the moment is just how much rolling there is for combat, which really upsets the flow. Century of War solved this by having units give bonuses to a percentile combat roll, but that game doesn't have any means to determine the fate of specific units, which is something I wanted to do for the storytelling element.

Please dump all feedback in the comments I have no idea what I am doing.

Monday, September 21, 2020

DOG GOD Vol. 1 is Live!



DOG GOD is a cut-up zine.


Those old Dragon magazines weren't going to be of any other use and I was bored.


It was me, I did it.





In What Order

This is volume 1. Further volumes are dependent upon me bumming more old magazines off my friends.


In full seriousness though, this was a load of fun to make and I can't wait to make more of them. There is a certain therapeutic joy in cutting stuff up and breaking out the glue sticks. Collage does not get nearly enough play in this weird little rpg scene of ours, despite it being an art form with a barrier to entry so low that you have to dig to find it.

The magazines used for this zines were a pair of Dragon issues from the turn of the millennium (Nov '99 and Jan '00, I believe), which I had bought several years ago in a used bookstore.

They were pretty awful. Turn of the millennium D&D, right on the dying breaths of AD&D and the dawn of 3e, was awful. Modern D&D's milquetoast blandness is manna from heaven compared to the simmering stew of racism, sexism, mediocrity, and utter lack of humor that existed two decades ago. It is from an age before the development of self-awareness.

But at the same time, it is a fascinating archaeological look into the past of the hobby - ads for video games that no one has heard of by companies that no longer exist. Some actually really good art tucked away between pieces that can only can be described as "certainly an attempt". There is a certain personality here, even if it is an odious one.

I cannot believe that Knights of the Dinner Table was a comic that existed.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Stand Still, Stay Esoteric


Minna Sundberg

Stand Still Stay Silent is a great webcomic, go read it (I've been a regular reader for six, seven years at this point!) It's Nordic fun times in the post apocalypse. There's a gigantic backlog and the update schedule is super fast.

Here's a conversion for it for Esoteric Enterprises.

Character Creation

The first step is to choose a nationality, after which you will roll 1d100 to determine immunity and background.

The center of the known world, keeping the technology of the old world alive. They have returned to the worship of the Old Gods - Icelanders with magical potential study at the Academy of Seiður in Reykjavik.

Hunt-masters of beasts, trolls and giants on both sea and land. They have returned to the worship of the Old Gods, and send their mages to Iceland to train.

Now reduced to the island of Bornholm, the Danes have nonetheless attempted to reclaim their homeland - all failed. Still, they hoard records and documents of the old times as best they can. They have not returned to the Old Gods, and so have no mages.

Actively and successfully reclaiming their lands through aggressive wilderness cleansing. Second to Iceland in terms of safety and technology. They have no particular religious persuasions, and so have no mages.

The smallest and least advanced of the five, isolated by geography and language. Finns do have more mages in their population than any of the other nations. They follow their own ancient gods.

What if I want to play somewhere else?
There are options! In the comic, Japan and Madagascar lock down right after Iceland does, so odds are decent that they were able to avoid the disease. I've seen fanmade maps for the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand and Tasmania, and Newfoundland.

Otherwise, you'll want some natural means of protection (if you want something kept safe, it should probably be on an island), and an environment that gets cold enough to force trolls and giants into hibernation.


  • Iceland - 9%
  • All Others - 48%


  • Working Class - Farmers, shepherds, craftspeople, engineers, manual laborers etc.
    • Iceland - 64%
    • All Others - 47%
  • Scholarly - Scientists, historians, skalds, etc.
    • Iceland - 26%
    • All Others - 12%
  • Military - Hunters, scouts, cleansers, etc. 
    • Iceland - 10%
    • All Others - 41%


Don't worry, it's not as complex as it seems!

Players get their native language, plus additional ones equal to their INT mod. Scholars can take languages from the Old World - English, German, Russian, etc.

  • Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish are mutually intelligible, especially when written.
  • Spoken Danish can be difficult, but not impossible, for a Swede to understand.
  • Icelandic is not mutually intelligible, but as the language of the primary political power, it's a common second choice. 
  • Finnish is in its own little world and has no overlap whatsoever.


  • Fighter (Mercenary)
  • Heavy Fighter (Bodyguard)
  • Skald - (Criminal)
  • Scout (Explorer)
  • Doctor
  • Mage (See below)
There are no Spooks.


Magic works differently in SSSS than it does in RPGs - is very much a narrative thing, rather than anything resembling a codified structure. Which makes translating it into a game basically impossible. I don't have any good ideas for it, so this is 100% winging it.
  • Their Flesh, Grit, and saves are both equivalent to the Mystic class, rather than occultist.
  • Mages gain a d6 magic die every level, up to 4 (as per the GLOG)
  • Both mages can access the Dreamworld in their sleep. Among other things, this permits remote communication across language barriers.

Icelandic Mages (Seiðkona (F), Seiðkarl (M)
  • Predominantly female.
  • Receive powers from the Old Gods (Freyja and Oðinn)
  • Channel magic through inscribed runes (Galdrastifur)
  • Can receive prophetic visions in their dreams.
  • Academy trained.
  • Magical ability granted directly by the Old Gods

Finnish Mages (Noitat, sing. Noita)
  • Greater in number than Icelandic Mages.
  • Receive their powers from the ancient Finnish nature gods.
  • Channel magic through invocations of the gods for their aid.
  • Can easily see spirits. 
  • Mentor-student training.
  • Loses potency with distance from Finland.
  • Magical ability is inherited.
The Swedish and Danish have no magical traditions of their own.

As for actual gameplay options, there are a couple stand-ins.
  • Icelandic mages can use Ten Foot Polemic's rune magic system. Not accurate to the comic, but close enough.
  • Finnish mages I have nothing good for, except perhaps true name magic, with the addition of the Mystic's focus on dealing with gods.



The only mammals completely immune to infection.
  • Grade C - Untrained. Typical farm or housecats. Can detect nearby Beasts and Trolls, which is better than nothing, but usually with a lot of loud hissing and spitting.
  • Grade B - Trained. Can detect threats, alert humans of danger (silently), and dispose of infected vermin.
  • Grade A - Elite. All of the above, but can be given specialized scout or guard duties on their own, without human supervision.


Immune characters don't need to worry about this.

Non-immune characters need to wear their fucking mask.

The rash is catchable and communicable by all mammals that aren't cats. Mice, sheep, dogs, whales, all of them can catch it and turn into a Beast or worse. Fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds are immune. Mosquitoes will die if they drink infected blood.

There is no save.

Primary Vector - Airborne
Secondary Vector - Infected wounds

The disease does not last long outside of a host. Even so, the most basic cleanup for someone potentially exposed to infection is a washdown with disinfectant and UV sterilization of gear and clothing.

  • Beasts and most Trolls can typically only infect through direct contact. (0M)
  • Some Trolls can produce miasmatic clouds (1M)
  • Rarely, trolls can spit infectious material long distance (up to 10M)
  • Infected humans spread it in the same manner as they normally do. (3M)

Minna Sundberg

Enemies of the Silent World

Beasts are infected animals. Some of them retain a familiar form, to make them difficult to identify as Beasts from a distance.
  • Beasts are just normal animals with + 1 HD more than they would normally have. Half of their HR is devoted to Flesh, the other to Grit.
Trolls are humans transformed by the infection. Unlike Beasts, they cannot stand the cold, and so weather out the winter months in dens or burrows.
  • Trolls have 3-10 HD, either split evenly between Flesh and Grit, or all in Flesh.
  • Trolls can have additional traits - regeneration, infectious spit, noxious miasma
  • Trolls can be killed by performing a Finnish exorcism on them (requires magic dice = HD).
Giants are the few rare trolls, or amalgamations of trolls, that grow to colossal sizes. They are terrible rare, and terribly dangerous.
  • You are likely fucked if you are fighting a giant. If you are in such a circumstance, treat every limb as a separate troll of at least 5 HD. They are entirely Flesh.

While there is incredible variety in beasts, trolls, and giants, there are still recognizable and commonplace phenotypes. This list is hardly exhaustive, relying on fan names and the few that have been officially described.

  1. Duskling (troll) - Small troll the size and shape of a shrub. Heavy covering of mud and plants protect from the sun, allowing them to extend their hours. Gather in hordes. Remain capable of simple speech.
  2. Garm (beast) - An infected dog or wolf. Thick, leathery hide. Actively hunts humans as primary food source.
  3. "Jelly Long Legs" (troll) - Spine and skull encased in a jellyfish-like transparent membrane, atop two legs of comically-stretched height.
  4. Kade (troll) - An infected Finnish mage. High-potency magic. Can infect through eye contact. Can only be properly killed via an exorcism.
  5. Kalma (troll) - Ooze toxic, infectious fluids everywhere. Generally remain in their nests. Can easily bespoil water sources.
  6. Kyrkogrim (beast) - An infected hound that remains at vigil at the gravesite of its former human companion.
  7. "Leaftroll" (troll) - Facehugger, but like a big piece of beef jerky
  8. Manalan Rakki (beast) - Infected dog that can post as an uninfected stray as a means of spreading infection. Infected form only visible at close range.
  9. "Sliepnope" (beast) - Eight-legged infected horse. Possessed by ghosts.
  10. Sjødraug (troll) - Gigantic, bloated meat-thing. Nearly sessile, floats in bodies of water unless disturbed.  
  11. Vaettur (troll) - Trolls that will lurk out of sight and observe humans long-term in preparation for later ambush.

Why Are We Going Into the Silent World Anyway?

  • Danish research group is paying good money for scavenged books and hard drives.
  • A Swedish cleaner brigade needs support in clearing out a new stretch of territory.
  • A particularly dangerous variant of troll has emerged from hibernation, it needs removed. 
  • Border settlement has lost contact, we fear the worst.
  • Personal reasons - someone a PC cares for has vanished.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Prime Hellsite Salvage (Slush Pile Volume 6)

Finally, I was able to export my twitter archive. I have selected and edited choice pieces of it, to present them along with other fragments of the unfinished wonders. 

Previous posts of unfinished wonders:

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5


  1. Cao Cao is the true murderhobo that all player characters aspire to be. 
  2. Elves cannot sweat. This is why humans are the predominant species in the world, because all the wisdom and magic in the world can't help against the crazy cousins who can kill anything with enough time and a steady jog. 
  3. Always remember that satan is a title equivalent to a prosecting lawyer. you can not only have multiple satans, players can easily become a satan. Still have to give up soul, law school demands it. 
  4. The sky is the single unvariagated color of rain, from the horizon to the crown of the firmament. Somewhere in my heart there is the ghost of a Scotsman, cursing the bastard English 
  5. I can't figure out if James Holden is supposed to be this razor-sharp indictment of the mediocre white millennial man but The Expanse sure is more interesting when I interpret it like that.
  6. Among the many pernicious weapons of late stage capitalism is the second-guessing of illness. "Can I afford to call off today?" says the man who can barely speak, barely think straight, and is a walking biohazard. 
  7. If there are wizards of the west coast, clearly there are wizards of other geographical regions. Wizards of the Great Lakes and Appalachia represent. 
  8. Greek Mythology Realization: Atlas' job is to hold his grandfather's corpse above his head forever. 
  9. Goblin philosophy: we are all trash and that's okay, here let me share with you my collection of small precious things. 
  10. Goblin possummancers, of course, exist. 
  11. "Who is this future for?" A simple question with never simple answers. Goes in good company with Lois McMaster Bujold's "all fiction is fantasy, but what is the fantasy of?" 
  12. I will roll WIS of my own accord to determine if my character looses their shit when something terrifying happens. 
  13. Thesis: Neon Genesis Evangelion is the best example of cosmic horror because it's all about humans being dumb shits and meddling in affairs so far out of their reach that they'd have to break the fourth wall and read supplemental material to understand exactly how bad things are. 
  14. Knockout Tea (Somnia) will give you eight to ten hours of uninterrupted, restful REM sleep. Without good sleep, your soul cannot reach the Dreamlands, and you will be rendered an insomnia-wracked walking corpse. 
  15. Something I really appreciate in the OSR design sphere is the willingness to accept the incongruous and absurd. Like you can just say "you find a milk crate full of old sci-fi paperbacks in the orc chieftain's chambers". Mild example but it's this kind of thing I crave. 
  16. OSR design philosophy is the RPG equivalent of Talmudic scholarship.
  17. "There once was a man from Tarshish / who had only one little wish / to hijack a religion / was his grandest vision / and now the whole world stinks of fish." 
  18. When in doubt, embrace the spirit of GDQ. 1) Nothing is too obscure or silly to be unworthy of time or love. 2) Chase your personal best. 3) It is a group effort. New tech is developed and shared constantly. Use it, thank them, shout them out. 
  19. Dejah Thoris should be very tall (.38G), possess a layer of insulating blubber (Mars = cold), and would have no bellybutton (oviparous) 
  20. An alternative attribute array: Hands / Feet / Head / Heart / Guts 
  21. Get ready for my masterwork, "400 pages of screaming about how Socrates and Plato are Garbage Trash: The RPG" 
  22. "Recreation room filled with painstakingly crafted diorama of the port city Hoondahhr, portrayed in the moment of being burned to the ground."
  23. Halfling Snatcher HD 3 AC Chain D8 horrible rusty knife. Cavorts around looking to stuff halflings in a sack. Never empties the sack. Ever.
  24. Firbolgs are the best thing to come out of 5e and the fact that they do not get the respect they deserve is painfully on-brand for D&D. Consider 1) Big and strong 2) Magic 3) Live in the woods 4) Large Friendly Backpacker Energy 5) Camping buddies. The case rests.
  25.  "You shall never defeat me! My wattles and facial bulges give me strength! I OOZE with potency!"
  26. The principle of cyberpunk: "Technology will not save us, and anyone who claims otherwise is trying to sell you something that already has been stacked in their favor.
  27. There are four types of paladins: Joan of Arc, Doomguy, Superman, and Alexander Anderson.
  28. I call O Green World -> Every Planet We Reach is Dead -> Last Living Souls -> Don't Get Lost in Heaven for a 4 part Mothership adventure.
  29. The amount of meaningful talk about a game post-launch is inversely proportional to the sum of the hype and dev cycle, times the obscurity of pre-release information.
  30. "You come from a background of desperation and crushing poverty, which is why you delve into the tombs of empires past to loot treasure to pay for bread." 
  31. There is an etymological link between "turtle" and "tortoise" and an angel named "hell-keeper" who torments the damned.
  32. Delving is a trade reserved for those who cannot afford funerary offerings to their ancestors, and thus are placed under a curse for insufficient piety. As they can find no work elsewhere, they fall to looting the ruins of the Silent Empire and its many taboos. 
  33. "Ads have been added to the playback of this beloved memory due to a copyright claim by SONY". 
  34. But if people don't CONSUME AND PARTICIPATE IN BRAND how will they be able to ESTABLISH IDENTITY? 
  35. "You've run out of emotional intimacy for the day! It will take 48 hours to recharge. Or you can recharge it faster by purchasing gems from our store!"
  36. "This algorithm, blind and stupid and Azathoth himself, will fix everything! What's a consequence?"
  37. You might never fight a dragon, you might never see a dungeon, but by god those goblins are going to put the work in.
  38. "We have updated the terms and conditions of this relationship, please take the time to familiarize yourself with the updated EULA. Please also note that we have removed your ability to opt-out of our data-sharing program with our advertising clients."
  39. This is the most important piece of RPG criticism to have ever graced the quantum stable of the DISK HORSE: The reader's capacity to care about your paracosm is dependent on your margins, line spacing, font size, wordcount, and the placement of section headers.
  40. This is the second most important piece of RPG criticism to have ever graced the quantum stables of the DISK HORSE Dear fellow straight dude game designers - breasts, being a super niche evolutionary quirk, are a terrible way to demonstrate sexual dimorphism in non-humans.
  41. More RPGs need the Devil. Not Asmodeus or Lucifer or Satan or the Generic Brand Variant. Old Scratch. The dapper motherfucker who will show up at crossroads and offer folks all the wonderful tools of their own self-destruction.
  43. Verb wizards can only practice or recover their magic by doing the verb. Lurk wizards do lurk magic by lurking extra hard, and recharge it through minor non magical lurking.
  45. I have made being wrong my trade and profession and it's worked out pretty well so far.
  46. Vape products have orc warlord names. JUUL SKULLSMASHER. KRATOM MURDERKILLER.
  47. The functional difference between a cult of the Great Old Ones and a corporation is ease of pronunciation. 
  48. The primary god of this culture is the male-female cthonic diety of the underworld, heat, wealth, deep time,and all things outside the gaze of the evil , surveilling sky gods. Common depiction: pair of jeweled axolotls and cooling magma globe.
  49. Among their children is the god of traveling to and surviving the surface, who is treated as outcast by the others but remains necessary for survival. He is also the god of things one does not want to hear but must. 
  50. gonzogrot (adj) - possessing qualities of outrageous, exaggerated grotesquery and filth, generally in comedic or tragicomedic fashions. Differentiated from grimdark by its embrasure of absurdity and the Weird, and rejection of self-seriousness. ex: Dorohedoro, LISA
  51. Flying polyps are the 'antibodies' of the local nodes of a vast hyperspace network. Like a cell tower that is also a bee hive. Forever fighting the yithians who dislike the disruption of flow of time-space.
  52. The yithians are no one's friend because A) threat B) they fuck up space time for everyone else C) trivia-obsessed weirdos. The ones who possess humans for study are their version of weeaboos.
  53. The mi-go on Earth are their equivalent of a bunch of guys in the Rust Belt whose main income is stripping wiring out of foreclosed houses and software development. None of them want to be here. The brains in jars are more just a hobby.
  54. Elder Things are a bunch of insufferable gits who still think they're the greatest thing in the universe since eukaryotic life. 
  55. Shoggoths successfully rebelled against their enslavers, and they'd do it again in a heartsbeat. 
  56. Dark Young can be "programmed" for pantropic colonization roles. 
  57. "Campaign structure is the default of rpgs" is an idea I really need to wean myself out of.
  58. The price of gold in Mothership is $5.50 USD per pound. This was calculated by reverse engineering the following: 10 bars of gold = 15,000 credits (Dead Planet) 1 bar of gold = 12.4 kilograms (Wikipedia) 1 MRE = 70 credits (Player's Survival Guide) 1 MRE = $7.25 (Wikipedia) Using food as the base, a single credit is worth about $0.10  
  59. Thought of the day: the more stylized character-design approach to portraying the mythological might be one of the biggest positive developments in art.The design embodies the diety. Lots of classical art just kinda stops at "gods and mythic figures are naked white people, maybe some symbols" (which, granted, was often with masterful skill), but somewhere a switch was flipped that said "hey, it's okay to change it up"
  60. You ever get one of those Grandpa Simpson moments when you no longer know what It is, but there's a big sense of relief instead of dread because you are pretty sure you wouldn't enjoy It anyway and now you can enjoy your weird niche stuff without anyone bothering you? Me too.
  61. A hack of Wolfpacks and Winter Snow on an alien planet.
  62. Soldiers are non-magic + training, Rogues are non-magic + self taught, Wizards are magic + training Channellers are magic + self-taught 
  63. An image from a dream: an elf queen in a subterranean banquet hall. Massive eyes, solid black. Ears like a fennec fox. Humans in the garb of many historical ages and places line the table, fat from feasting.
  64. An image from a dream: A bloated red sun, supermassive above the demon farm. Silver trees, blue fruit. A young boy sits underneath, looking up at the scaffold built around the sun. A murder occured elsewhere, the joylike mutant (the mother? father?) returned to their former home, complacently waiting for authorities to arrive. The result of tainted food or the like.
  65. Religion where an offering has to be made at birth to buy the baby a soul.
  66. "Not content with stealing her outright, Death took her away piecemeal."
  67. Star Mother Clan, the Red Hand Tribe, the Flooded Library, and the Star-Seeking Beasts
  68. Ghosteater: Bug eyes. Big ears. A trunk but no mouth. Potbellied. salamandesque, colors like a poison-dart, semimaterial and pseudoreal. They feed on fresh ghosts. Each stomach is a unique, alien afterlife.

69. St. Thecla is, in addition to putting up with Severian's nonsense for many hundreds of pages, is attributed with the following game-worthy traits:

  • Engaged to a guy who has a conspicuously female name 
  • Rode bareback on a lioness 
  • Endured several days and nights of Paul preaching about chastity, this apparently did nothing to halt her hardcore fetish for virtue 
  • Own mother wanted her burned at the stake 
  • Emerged from a pool of dead, electrocuted seals wreathed in fire. 
  • Literal overpowered fanfiction OC. 
  • Had a multi-year Veins of the Earth campaign in her 90s. 
  • Bucking the trend of the early church, was not martyred
  • Kept out of canon for being too rad for sexists to handle
Honestly between Severian and Paul I don't know who requires more saint-like patience to deal with, so extra bonus points there.

70. Why is there no Jesuits in Space RPG it seems like a perfect setup, especially for a PBTA framework.

  • Closet filled with unlimited skeletons, because RCC
  • Super-secretive political intrigue, because RCC
  • Super weird aliens, to make meaningful conflict between worlds and peoples

71. Okay hear me out: The Legend of Korra, but Tenzin's kids are now the gremlins from Eizouken. And also the main characters. And it's really just Eizouken except now it's got J.K. Simmons in it.OR WAIT, OKAY, HEAR ME OUT: The Legend of Korra, but the Red Lotus are the protagonists, thematically mirroring the Gaang as they try and fight against a system that has enshrined an incompetent, dangerous, and poorly-trained avatar for political expediency.

72. [In hypothetical 6e] Scythian Amazons are a core player background, replacing half-orcs and goliaths. Reasoning:

  • BIG and STRONG. Also, horse archery.
  • Cool tattoos and loads of bling. Also, weed.
  • Originate outside of D&D. Therefore, fresh and new
  • Wear pants, and so can easily terrify Greeks.

73. A half-formed thought: those settings where I enjoy the lore the most in are those that leave the act of drawing connections between pieces of information to the reader or player. Interactivity and uncertainty, endless layers of theory and everything is and is not canon

While Soulsbourne is what people immediately jump to, and for good reason (jerks sans frontiers' "the bastard's curse' is the best lore video ever made), I say that the apex of this style is the SCP wiki.

Did you know there are 37 different canons on that site? And that's by their own 3+ authors / 5+ entries criteria. If you add in single-author series and other hubs I lost track after 200 Without an overarching canon, interpretation falls to the individual.

There ceases to be a right and wrong way to interact- only like and dislike. Everyone is free to self define the setting and everything in it, and is beholden only to what they want out of it. This is rad as hell.

74. A creature from a dream: Gigantic (30 ft+) birdlike being. Feathers broad, ragged-edged, and navy blue. Head in similar shape to human skull, leathery brown with age. No beak or mandible: gristly-pink tendrils hang down in a bundle beginning in the nasal cavity but could separate into strands. Pose is upright, almost like a perched owl. This was specifically an enemy in a Dark Souls game (though I don't think it was something you could fight), as I witnessed it grab someone off of a rampart and then fly up to the top of a larger structure (some sort of basilica) where 4 others waited.They were evenly spaced and facing the same direction, outwards over the wall towards the lands below. Sky is scabrous and reddish-grey. I think Vaatividya was narrating theories about it, and while I couldn't make out what he was saying, he was definitely wrong.

Notes for a D&D Movie Never to Be Made.

There are four characters, two men and two women. None of them are named - even in the credits they are identified only by their visible traits. The brown-haired soldier. The bearded soldier. The beggar. The scholar.

It is almost a silent movie. Fewer than fifty spoken lines in its two hour run time. There is little music, and what music there is is used to disorient. It is Annihilation's soundtrack. Ordinary noise is amplified by the utter, untouched stillness of the depths: leather, water, metal, flame.

We do not know why they are going into the dungeon, why they are going deeper and deeper into the seemingly-endless layer cake of civilizations so old that the names and the ideas of their names have been forgotten, erased. We do not know why they are so desperate, why they are so obsessed, only that they are driven ever deeper.

They will not return to the surface. The last to die does so propped up against vault doors that could not be forced open even with the entire party. The lamplight sputters out, and as the soft chittering of blind and nameless things ushers in the credits, we find ourselves infected, just as they were, with that terrible curiosity dragging us down - what is behind those impossible doors, what was worth this?

The Stages of a Project in Reverse Order

  • On the table
  • In the oven
  • The good front burner
  • The other front burner
  • The back burner
  • Prepared and on the counter
  • In the pantry
  • On the grocery list
  • "We should make this!"
  • Vague plans for dinner
  • That one nonstandard meal you've talked about for months but never buy the materials for.

Veteran of the Fandom Wars

Elves, being immortal and freed from material want, often devote themselves to the arts. Chief of these is animation, to which they can devote decades to, rendering each frame a masterpiece. They take this all very seriously.

Elves take everything seriously, of course, but elf-animation is most serious of all. Sometimes, as is the case when things are taken very seriously, squabbles break out. But, of course, elves do not squabble. They plot, conniver, plan, outline, direct and scheme.

Direct fighting is the sort of social flub that will irrevocably destroy an elf's standing for eternity. So they pawn off magical trinkets and useless gemstones, whatever is not beautioful enough for them, to humans, to hire armies to fight their squabbles for them.

Squabbles about elf animation. This is your fighter's background.

ADDENDUM: While elf animation is among one of the most beautiful crafts in all of creation, they are absolute garbage piles in terms of plot and character. Straight up burning trashfire garbage pile because they've been recycling tropes from before humans developed agriculture.


Three Unfinished Spell Lists

A very silly post that wasn't made. The three lists in question were spells named after Spongebob quotes, spells named after Homestar Runner quotes, and spells named after episodes of Castle Super Beast.

Hierarchy of Bad Games

Type A: It's just like D&D (or WHFRPG), except with less flavor and somehow clunkier. 
Type B: Incomprehensible simulations of charts and tables 
Type C: Nifty ideas but bad execution that undermines their very existence.
Type D: The very clear artistic vision of an incompetent artist 
Type E: Edgy and/or fart sniffing bullshit that doesn't give you anything to actually do
Type E-II: It's actually quite nice to look at and neat enough but there's still nothing to fucking do
Type F: Have you considered not being a bigot

Bad games can, of course, belong to multiple categories, and there are many categories I have no personal knowledge of and so cannot include. 

Always remember: Bad games are good teaching tools. 

Revised Class: Priest

A reskin of Joseph Manola's Rake with a little expansion of the religious orders I featured in my previous version of the class. Likely belongs in a completely different kind of game, probably one with those Disco Elysium rules.

The Four Fleshcrafting Castes of ATCG

  • Those who deal in meat - Red - Those that work
  • Those who deal in bones - White - Those that stabilize
  • Those who deal in nerves - Yellow - Those who direct
  • Those who deal in organs - Black - Those that change
Together they Form the Great Helix of Being.

Mindscape Wars

Wizarding wars are fought in the mind - they have to be, if you don't want the planet to be swiftly rendered uninhabitable. In daydreams and restful nights the liner up their toy soldiers and send them abroad to invade the cranial castles of other wizards.

Every night, roll on the 6-dimensional warfare grid to determine the state of your spells in the morning.

  • Minor victories grant 1.5x PC lvl spells for the next day OR learn 1 new spell from opponent.
  • Major victories grant 2x PC lvl spells for the next day OR learn 2 new spells from opponent
  • Stalemates grant 1x PC lvl spells for the next day
  • Minor defeats grant 1/2 PC lvl spells for the next day OR lose 1d4 HP / lvl
  • Major defeats grant no spells for the next day OR lose 1d6 HP / lvl
Other events on the table provide boons / banes that I have not written down.

A Solar System

  • The Warden - Hot neptunian in very close orbit to the sun. Mythologically characterized as the prison-keeper of the ill-tempered sun god
    • The Warden's Aide - Largest moon. Molten and oblong from extreme tidal stress.
  • The World of Four Faces - Dry, tidally locked world. The four faces are Noon, Dawn, Dusk, and Night.
  • The Twins - Dual rocky worlds orbiting each other.
    • The Jeweled Flock - Small moons of the Twins, vibrant colors.
  • The Dreaming Giant - A hydrogen gas giant known for vibrant coloration.
    • The Harem - Minor moons of the Giant.
    • The Lookout - Largest moon of the Giant, likely a small rocky world captured in its orbit. Characterized as either the Giant's eunuch or one of his wives, who stands guard to prevent anyone from killing him in his sleep.
  • The Motherworld - A cold, but vertile life-bearing world.
  • The Stepstones - Asteroid belt
  • The Bitter God - Frozen titanian world with a dense methane atmosphere.
  • The Great Emptiness - A worldless gap between the middle and outer systems.
  • Gate of the Edge  - An icy dwarf
  • The Night Watchman - Largest of the distant ice-rock bodies

Framework for a Wretched and Alone Hack

You are the last surviving original disciple of a certain Teacher of ethics and religion, nearing the end of your life. You have seen their teachings blossom into a religion, but at cost. It has gotten away from you.
  • Who are you? How did you come to meet the Teacher?
  • What was your Teacher like? What did they do and teach?
  • Who else was in your group? What happened to them?
  • How has it changed? How has it become unrecognizable?
The order of play is similar to other Wretched and Alone hacks. It's split into rounds (here representing the letters you are writing to various faith communities), and for each round you roll 1d6. This indicates how many topics you will cover in your letter, and thus how many cards to draw from the deck.

As your failing eyesight and shaking hand may attest, you are dying. You will draw one block from the tower for every topic. Drawing four kings is still a loss.

  • Hearts deal with the teachings themselves, clarifying questioning followers according to how you were taught.
  • Diamonds deal with your memories of the Teacher and the early days, those that don't have to do with faith or dogma. The events as your remember them (for no one else still living can)
  • Clubs deal with power and persecutions. The political status quo shifts between apathetic and malicious. The followers in your communities are scared, and in need of guidance and comfort.
  • Spades deal with heresies and change. The teachings are slipping away into others' hands, and these new teachers have confused and misled communities. Here things must be set straight.

Demon Liquor 

  • 1 unit (1 slot) Restores 1d8 HP and / or 1d4 spells. HP can be raised above normal max.
  • Provides charges for magical items.
  • Powers engines (1 unit = 6 hours of operation)
  • Corruption mechanic: gain Toxicity = to points regained. Decrease Toxicity 1 pt / day. If TOX = CON, gain mutation. If TOX = CON x2, gain second mutation, roll WIS to resist addiction. If TOX = CON x3, the character is lost.
  • Creates poisonous, greasy, burning smoke when burnt.
  • Mental & physical side effects of inhaling smoke - frenzy and / or fear.

Unused Discape Spell List

  • Moon's Insight
  • Tentacular Spectacular
  • Mutagenic Panacea
  • Honeyed Words
  • Sugar Spike
  • Form-of-Yak
  • Sign of the Eye
  • Human Resources
  • Under the Grindstone
  • Burning Finger
  • Hide Your Power Level
  • Deformation
  • Sakuga Strike
  • Awaken My Skeleton
  • Drinking with the Dead
  • Gritty Reboot
  • Sacrifice Background Character
  • Detect Hidden Fascist
  • BEHOLD! A Goat
  •  Holy Hand Grenade
  • Filibuster Fisticuffs
  • Invoke the Old Sin
  • Mammoth Smash
  • Cave Story
  • Deflective Ignorance
  • Ping the Server
  • Command Line
  • Overclock
  • Exploit Glitch
  • Gravy Train

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Along the River Petrichor: A F-122 Challenge Setting

My response to my own challenge.

The river Petrichor winds sluggishly southeast across the grasslands. Past those seas of green, there are the hills, and beyond the hills there are the mountains, and then the Great Dust beyond them.

The city states here were built in the shadow of the Old Ones, by their crumbled ruins and long dead war machines. The people here tread lightly on that legacy, for though they are ignorant of that secret history, it is clear that the Old Ones died, either by hubris or their own hand.


  1. Swordwife - Women who have forgone land or marriage for mastery of the blade.
  2. Earthsea Mage - Those who know and keep the secret names of all creation.
  3. Adipomancer - If magic stored in the body, a vast body means vast magic.
  4. Mech Pilot - War machines of the Old Ones still wander the world. Enlist and fight them.
  5. Bell Exorcist - Those sworn to quieting the restless dead.
  6. Mouse - Quick-pawed, honorable folk from the grasslands.
  7. Zouave - Not all is peaceful along the river, nor in the grasslands nor the hills nor beyond.

(This was to keep it all in the GLOG and each one from a different source. Lucky runners up were the Cryptozoologist, the Elephant, the Goblin , the Adept the Canonneer, Sanctioned Cambion, and the Inventor Necromancer.)

The Questions

1.What wizard is anathema?
Dominators, those who use true names to control the actions of other people, are reviled across cultures. They are hunted down without hesitation when they emerge.

2. What existential threat exists that locals don’t understand?
The environment is holding on by a thread thanks to the careless malice of the Old Ones, and is still subject to the poisons and depletion of the Old Ones. Worse, the Old Ones are still alive out among the stars, and in hindsight they consider the billions dead in their wake "acceptable losses".

3. How are membership societies structured for initiates?
Entry into one of the Lodges requires the sponsorship of a member, though ancient compact dictates that all Lodges must grant an audience to all applicants. This is often abused, and there is constant struggle between conservative and new-blood factions. One can always tell there is drama afoot when new Lodges sprout up like mushrooms.

4. What is the highest complexity of metallurgy attained? 
The metals the Old Ones used their machines can be smelted and recast, but not replicated. The most common of these, orichalcum, is lightweight, easily shaped, and resistant to corrosion and damage. Its primary use is in the construction of war machines for the Mech Lodges.

5. What crafts are constrained by resources?
Artistic use of Old One metals can produce some of the most beautiful metalwork crafts in the world, but as nearly all of it goes to weapon making and industrial uses (mechs do not build themselves), it is terrible difficult to acquire more than a few ounces of it at a time.  

6. How do you know someone is a magic user?
Lodge exorcists are easily identified by their regalia, and adipomancers are just huge and terribly hard to miss. True-name wizards are more difficult to identify, but their slow, careful, and respectful manner is easy enough to pick out when one is familiar with the signs.

7. Are ancestors spirits ransomed from the church?
Soul-ransom is the domain of the Ancient Church and has been since only a few centuries after the departure of the Old Ones. What began as a means of placating lost and tormented spirits of that terrible, death-filled era, swiftly became the primary money-maker for the Ancient Church. It was their attitude towards actually leading the dead to rest, and their exploitative stance towards the public, that led to the formation of the Exorcists' Lodge.

8. What cults venerate pleasure?
The venerable House of Red Silk has long been the proprietor of all manner of nightly delights, but in recent years it has been challenged by the bacchanal practices of the Carniphile Carnival

9. Are wizards registered?
The Lodges keep extensive ledgers of their members, but secular authorities go through certain channels to gain access to those records.

10. What foods are associated with major festivals?
Yearlong Eels are caught in the river en masse during the New Year celebrations, to be cleaned and pickled and stowed away so that their fine fermented odor might grace the palate next year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

CK3 Religion Generation Tables + Church Schism Simulator

All right folks, new Crusader Kings game, that means its time for the greatest of internet pastimes, laughing at goofy shit people manage to do from the sidelines.

Also random tables, swiped directly from the wiki.

Tenets (d50, reroll 46-50)

The core of the faith's beliefs. Roll three times, rerolling any doubles. Some of these options will automatically populate Virtues and Sins - you can ignore those as you like, as a paradoxical beliefs are where the fun is at.
  1. Adaptive - The faith has proven well-suited to many different cultures, nations, times and places. (Pluralist doctrine)
  2. Adorcism - Possession of clerics by spirits is a common part of religious observance.
  3. Ancestor Worship - It's good to know where you come from.
  4. Aniconism - Your faith does not approve of material representations of the divine.
  5. Armed Pilgrimages - Like normal pilgrimages, except with swords.
  6. Asceticism - Giving up worldly pleasures and goods for solitude and reflection. (Temperate is Virtue, Gluttonous and Greedy are Sins)
  7. Astrology - Study of the heavens and their movements, and their effects upon the world.
  8. Carnal Exaltation - Sex is pretty great. (Lustful is Virtue, Chaste is Sin)
  9. Catechism  - There's a book analyzing and cataloging the precise dogmas of the faith, and their reasoning. (Cannot be Fundamentalist)
  10. Communal Identity - The faith is integral to the identity of the population.
  11. Communion -Ritual oneness with the divine / the state of unity with the faith and its members as a whole.
  12. Consolamentum - Ritual consolation and shedding of regrets before death.
  13. Divine Marriage - Option A: Individuals can be ritually wed to their deity. Option B is the Hapsburg one.
  14. Ecclesiarchy - The secular authority rules in conjunction with religious authorities. (Cannot be Pluralist)
  15. Esotericism - Focus on the symbolic, obtuse, and spiritual.
  16. Gnosticism - The physical world is corrupt, sinful, and fleeting, the spiritual world is good and eternal. (Temperate is Virtue, Gluttony is Sin)
  17. Hedonism - Party party party, I wanna have a party, I need to have a party, you better have a party. (Gluttonous a Virtue, Temperate a Sin)
  18. Human Sacrifice - The gods want blood - are you gonna fucking argue with them?
  19. Inner Journey - The faith puts great emphasis on solitary meditation. (Patient is Virtue, Impatient is Sin)
  20. Literalism - 'Round these parts, we do it by the book.
  21. Legalism - It's moral because it's the law.
  22. Mendicant Preachers - Begging for your bread.
  23. Monasticism - Cloistered faith communities are common.
  24. Natural Primitivism - Clothes, laws, social structure, who needs it? (No doctrines can be Criminal).
  25. Pacifism - Violence in shunned, to various levels. (Calm a Virtue, Wrathful a Sin)
  26. Pastoral Isolation - Out here in the fields... (Cannot have a Head of Faith)
  27. Polyamory - Multiple partners are A-OK. (Male and female adultery are Accepted)
  28. Pursuit of Power - Fuck everyone, get yours. (Ambition is virtue, Content is Sin)
  29. Reincarnation - The soul is reborn after one dies.
  30. Religious Law - A special code of behavior that is in play even if secular law changes.
  31. Ritual Cannibalism - If you're going to eat someone, do it proper-like.
  32. Ritual Celebrations - Really big, but relatively contained, parties.
  33. Ritual Hospitality - Offered to friends, strangers, and enemies alike. (Generous is Virtue, Callous is Sin)
  34. Sacred Childbirth - The act is of religious significance itself, and well-cared for.
  35. Sacred Lies - Keeping intentions secret from those outside the faith is A+. (Deceitful is Virtue, Honest is Sin)
  36. Sanctioned False Conversions - If you are forced to convert to a different religion, you have express encouragement to keep practicing this one in secret.
  37. Sanctity of Nature - Take care of it, it takes care of you.
  38. Sky Burials - The dead are offered up to carrion birds.
  39. Struggle and Submission - Expansion of the faith via military means is encouraged.
  41. Syncretism - Faith contains many traits picked up from other religions.
  42. Tax on Nonbelievers - What it says on tin. Indicates a significant minority group.
  43. Unrelenting Faith - The faith prides itself on stamping out all doubt and questioning with surety. Tends to be a bit (a lot) militant.
  44. Vows of Poverty - It's common for clerics to forgo property and physical possessions.
  45. Warmonger - LET ME SEE YOUR WAR FACE


The faith's stance on matters. Roll for all of these.

View on Gender (And Inheritance)
  • 1-2: Male Dominated
  • 3-4: Equal
  • 5-6: Female Dominated
Religious Attitude
  • 1-2 Fundamentalist - You hate basically everyone who isn't you.
  • 3-4 Righteous - Willing to be tolerant of other religions, if they stay over there.
  • 5-6 Pluralist - Encourage acceptance and co-existance.
Clerical Tradition
  • 1-3 Theocratic - There is a formalized, organized hierarchy of clerics.
  • 4-6 Lay clergy - Anyone can become a cleric, no or low barriers to entry.
Head of Faith
  • 1-2 None - There's no central leader.
  • 3-4 Spiritual - A leader in religious matters only; temporal ones are left to temporal authorites.
  • 5-6 Temporal - Has proper political power: lands, levies, vassals, all of it.
Marriage Type
  • 1-2 Monogamous - Marriage with a single spouse.
  • 3-4 Polygamous - Marriage with multiple spouses.
  • 5-6 Consorts and Concubines - Marriage with a single spouse, with additional partners permitted.
Views on Divorce
  • 1-2 Disallowed - Can't back out once you put a ring on it.
  • 3-4 Must Be Approved - Have to make your case, and you might get rejected.
  • 5-6 Always Approved - Just need someone to sign the paperwork.
  • 1-2 No Bastards - Any provable parentage is legitimate.
  • 3-4 Legitimization - There is a process to make bastards legitimate heirs.
  • 5-6 No Legitimization - A bastard is always a bastard.
  • 1-3 Close Kin Taboo - Don't fuck people you're related to.
  • 4-5 Cousin Marriage - Cousins, preferably distant ones, are okay to fuck
  • 6-9 Avunculate Marriage - Different branches of the same broad family group are okay.
  • 10 The Hapsburg Option - I wonder if the gene pool has a dead end?
Clerical Function
  • 1-2 Control - Keeping society ticking along to the desired status quo.
  • 3-4 Alms and Charity - Caring for the poor and in need.
  • 5-6 Recruitment - Gotta bring people into the fold.
Clerical Gender
  • 1-2 Men Only
  • 3-4 Either
  • 5-6 Only Women
Clerical Marriage
  • 1-3 Yes
  • 4-6 No
Clerical Appointment
  • 1-3 Temporal, revocable - Appointed and removed by the secular state.
  • 4-6 Spiritual, revocable - Appointed by faith authorities, removed by the state.
  • 7-9 Temporal, for life - Appointed by the secular state, here to stay
  • 10-12 Spiritual, for life - Appointed by the faith authorities,here to stay.
These last few all have the same options: 1-2 Criminalized (Specific punishment), 3-4 Shunned (Folks don't like it but no special criminal punishment), 5-6 Accepted (It's cool)
  • Same Sex Relations - Honestly this can be expanded to other gender stuff as well.
  • Male Adultery - Dudes sleeping around.
  • Female Adultery - Ladies sleeping around.
  • Deviancy - We'll leave this open to interpretation.
  • Witchcraft -"Magic type stuff that isn't ours."
  • Kinslaying -Is murdering family normal murder, or extra murder?

Virtues and Sins (d30)

The faith's favored and disfavored attitudes. Roll 3 times for virtues and 3 for sins, rerolling doubles.
  1. Brave
  2. Craven
  3. Calm
  4. Wrathful
  5. Chaste
  6. Lustful
  7. Content
  8. Ambitious
  9. Diligent
  10. Lazy
  11. Fickle
  12. Stubborn
  13. Forgiving
  14. Vengeful
  15. Gregarious
  16. Shy
  17. Honest
  18. Deceitful
  19. Humble
  20. Arrogant
  21. Just
  22. Arbitrary
  23. Temperate
  24. Gluttonous
  25. Trusting
  26. Paranoid
  27. Zealous
  28. Cynical
  29. Compassionate
  30. Callous

Putting it in Practice.

Let's see what we've got.

Tenets: Unrelenting Faith, Adorcism, Ritual Celebrations

So we've got a very zealous faith that focuses around huge celebrations where clerics are possessed by spirits - likely the spirits whose honor the celebrations are being held in.

View on Gender: Equal
Religious Attitude: Fundamentalist
Clerical Tradition: Lay
Head of Faith: Spiritual
Marriage: Monogamous, divorce by approval.
Bastardry: No bastards
Consanguinity: Avuncular Marriage
Clerical Function: Recruitment
Clerical Gender: Either, marriage is approved
Clerical Appointment: Spiritual, revocable

Same Sex Relations: Accepted
Male Adultery: Shunned
Female Adultery: Shunned
Deviancy: Criminalized
Witchcraft: Accepted
Kinslaying: Shunned

Virtues: Content, Compassionate, Lustful
Vices: Fickle, Lazy, Craven

Church Schism Simulator

All right then so you've got yourself a religion. You know how to make that sucker interesting?

Heresies and schisms, motherfuckers.

Everything that you generated is a point of contention for someone.

Pick one of the things you consider the most important about your religion. Or more, more is good. Then replace it with something else. Roll, choose, doesn't matter. By default, I imagine that the religion you generated is well established and has a history. This means you can heresy-fy both forwards and backwards in time - what did you branch off of, and who is branching off of you.

Whatever that change is, it is going to have a cause - political, social, cultural, even technological. Use that to inform the rest of the world.

For this example, let's keep it simple.
  • Schism: Unrelenting Faith replaced with Catechism, Ritual Celebration replaced with Inner Journey. A branch originating in the literati (and thus, those more influenced by foreign philosophy) that says that the channeling of spirits is primarily a personal practice of self-discovery and self-definition, rather than a communal one. To this end much of the priesthood has been replaced with a series of manuals and enchiridions detailing the types of spirits, their natures and behaviors, and the ways to best use them as guides during meditation.
  • Heresy: Fundamentalist replaced with Pluralist - A swiftly-growing movement that believes that the spirits of other peoples and nations are equally legitimate, and so can and should be channeled by clerics. This attitude is not popular in the homeland, but has grown up in the diaspora community, as since they are very far away, the spirits cannot possess as strongly as their do back home. They are similar in practices and dogma with their parent faith in all other ways.
If you want to start with the very beginning and work forward, use the (very definitely stolen from Early Christianity) model presented below.
  1. Original Teachings - No matter how revolutionary, these will be some variant of an existing faith.
  2. First Generation - The religion is spread and taught by those who were among the original disciples and have first-hand experience of its origination.
  3. Second Generation - The religion is spread and taught by people who have no direct connection to its originator. It has likely spread far enough to exist in multiple cultural contexts.
The first schisms and heresies will emerge between the first and second generations. You can make a good handful of them at this point on the big friction points.

At this stage, it's a good idea to look and see where the political power is. It's probably going to be with the parent faith, but time and distance has a way of corroding that influence. Things get fuzzy on the borders.

Eventually, one of these branches will catch the eye of political power, and from then it's off to the races. The other branches will either die out or transform to survive their obscurity, while the new politically-advantageous branch will in time have its own fragmentation over dogma. There aren't any strict stages at this point, but it's a good idea to make a timeline of major political events and see what changes will be wrought.

Always remember: the dumber the reason is for the schism, the more realistic it is. Like people died over the difference between homoousious and homoiousious and eagle-eyed readers might take note that that particular debate has very little to do with the practical ethics and business of living in the world.

This has gone on long enough for certain.