Tuesday, July 20, 2021

SlushPile 8.5: Bookmark Special

I have, as one might expect, a considerable number of bookmarked pages. Here are some of the most useful / interesting / novel / enjoyable of those.

 

Game Resources

Artvee - High quality, easily-searchable public domain art.

10 Parsec Star Map - Additional maps by same creator can be found here.

2D Star Map - I like the one above better, but this one has hexes!

Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator - A gift that keeps on giving.

Moon, Minor Planet, and Constellation Symbols - Symbols for moons of the solar system all the non-zodiac constellations. Public domain!

generated.photos - Algorithm-generated human mugshots.

500 Fantasy Character Portrait Icons - All made using Artbreeder, and thus free to use.

300 OSR-ified Pathfinder monsters  - Just so.

500 level-less spells - via Ten Foot Polemic

Colors of Alien Skies

Colors of Alien Plants

Old Book Illustrations - Public domain.

Jalopy Design: Making a Zine - David Schirduan swoops in with helpful advice for beginners. 

Inventing Names - Handy tips from Luka Rejec

The Phrontistery Dictionary of Unusual Words - For when you want to sound like Gene Wolfe.

Map to Globe - Takes a map, puts it on a globe

Lady of Hats' fantasy art - Public domain!

Hex-a-Day - Three huge hexmaps

Manyfold Theory of RPGs - via Levi Kornelson

Mothership Character Generator - via Tarsos' Theorem

Wikipedia's list of titles

Draw all roads in a city at once - If you are running EE, you need this.

Diagrams.net / draw.io - the most useful thing on this list, bar none.

Town and Settlement Rules - via Pilgrim's Temple

 

Music

Tranquilitis

Stellardrone

Best of kudasai

Windows XP theme but it's an rpg soundtrack 

LOST LULLABIES (Samurai Champloo unreleased tracks) 

Perpetual


Miscellany

A description of the implied politics of Hell

The comedy gold of medieval mystery plays 

How to Downsize a Transport Network: the Chinese Wheelbarrow 

On Eowyn and the Witch King

On the history of firefighting in Japan 

The Space Strike 

SBFP Intro Montage / Tribute 

AI tries to start a novel 

THE GENETIC TAROT  - Chargen?

Reverse Dictionary - Search for words by their definitions.

Conlang Speedrun Challenge

Leia Organa: A Critical Obituary

Bayeux Tapestry Generator - What it says on the tin.

Forgotten Female Fantasy - As the tagline on the site says "reviewing vintage woman-authored SFF". it's great stuff - hidden gems and horrible pitfalls alike.

Standard Ebooks - Public domain ebooks

Inexorable (Taylor Leong) - A short comic about Narnia, and the god named Tash.

Thirty Years (Taylor Leong)

Behold! The weird fucked-up cold-blooded cave goat!

AI Generated Cat Names 

Photorealistic Roman emperors 

Economy is not science

Look just watch Dorohedoro already

Radiation-eating fungus as space habitat shielding 

 

Twitter Threads

The saga of Matt

Medieval theologians were very concerned about cannibal babies 

Stock photo business skeleton man 

The evolution of life in an infinite McDonalds 

Assyrian dog statues

The single most important piece of games criticism 

Bloody Thursday and the Longshoreman's Union

Xu Bing's Square Word Calligraphy 

Irish bhangra dancers (morale booster!)

The tale of Othin (illustrated 100 Year Old Vampire game) 

Goya paintings scarier than Saturn Devouring His Son

DMC5, but with Spongebob music 

The silent disco (elysium) BBQ 

The cast of Hades as RPG players

Midwest gothic

Space maps! 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The War of the Bull, In Detail


Dandibuja
 

A follow-up to my first post about the War of the Bull, inspired by this summer's vacation in Gettysburg.

It will help to have a map, and so I recommend opening tabs to my two recent posts.


Prelude to the War

In general: The Solar Empirate of Tlan (assorted known as the Second Empire, the Tlanic Empire, the Heliobasileum) sits at the height of its expansion, controlling all territory south of the Dayrmonts and north of the Tiger's Spine (with the exception of Kara Koren, which resisted assimilation, and the Empty Quarter, which is claimed as imperial territory but is [almost but not actually entirely] fucking empty), as well as the Belt of Fire and colonies in the Jantoo Reach and Copper Shore. Orlei and Themiskrya are tributaries within imperial borders, and are permitted to keep their own governments. This will be important later.

A generation ago: The Acephavaran capitol was rendered uninhabitable due to arcanonuclear disaster and the surviving city-states were incorporated into the Second Empire as "technically independent" tributaries. This was the end of what is known as "Old Acephavara".

A decade ago: Pelai's mage-kings break their adzat compact and open on and off hostilities that will last for decades until it is re-established.

A few years ago: Anti-imperial and anti-aristo sentiments boil over into violence in Kvaare, kicking off the Golden Revolution. Outbreaks of disease occur in the Heartlands and Olabeth.

A year ago: A teenage goatherd from Orlei arrives in the court of the king, claiming to have visions of impending war and a mission from the Gods of Man. She is, after some time, accepted, and preparations are made. More sickness in the Heartlands and Olabeth.

A few months ago: The emperor of Tlan dies during a solar eclipse, without an heir (the closest branch would be the descendants of a bastard prince exiled to Draga three generations ago and stripped of title and inheritance. Civil war is inevitable. Plague in the streets.

Now: Coreolana, wealthiest of the Hespermontane provinces and compromised by the Red Law, makes its first attacks.

 

Phase 1 (Years 1-2)

Coreolana, now in the opening stages of thralldom to the Red Law but not yet transformed into Dis, launches a double-headed attack up the Mora-Pono and Arivienne rivers. Securing the two major waterways of the region would allow Coreolana to easily box in and subdue its rival imperial provinces in the Low Country, which remain its primary focus at this stage.

The the east, Orleian resistance led by the Sable Maid stymies Coreolana's advance in a series of bloody battles, eventually repulsing the siege of Fiore and securing the upper Arivienne.

In the north, Corleolanan forces easily take Redgate and sweep up the Mora-Pono. They proceed nearly unopposed until they reach Tanniclen. The attempt to take the city is met with disaster when the Black and White Queens take direct action and obliterate the incoming Imperial forces. 

As the Plague spreads, the war falls into the lull of a stalemate.


Interlude (Years 2-7)

The Plague Years in the Hespermont hit full stride as it sweeps through its southern port cities and into the Low Country. The river blockades prove a boon to the Maid and her allies, slowing the spread of the plague and sparing the north the worst of the pandemic.

Imperial holdings in the Low Country dissolve into chaos; fracturing along their many inner political fault lines, engulfed in constant brushfire wars, or collapsing entirely. many that fall are Devoured up by larger neighbors.

Coreolana and its allies are not immune to the plague, and their ability to wage war at distance is crippled - it spends most of this period sparring with the provinces of Austros and Fea Rodesh, while conflict with the Maid's forces and allies is limited to small skirmishes along the Mora-Pono and the lower Arivienne.

The Maid and her allies, now provided some breathing room, are able to solidify their position in the northeast, securing the territory between Orlei and Tanniclen as well as passages into the Dayr, and building a series of fortresses along the Arivienne between Orlei and Fiore. The irregular mix of local militias, Orlei's small military, and the assorted auxiliaries is organized into the Army of the Arivienne, and a similar consolidation forms the Army of the North. These years of preparation and training prove vital in the conflicts to come.


Dandibuja


Phase 2 (Years 7-11)

By this beginning of this stage the Plague has faded on the continent, and the situation has transformed into the bedrock that the rest of the war is built upon. 

Dis proper has at last emerged from the corpse of Coreolana and continues its predecessor's campaign in the Low Country. Fea Rodesh collapses. Austros clings to life but grows increasingly desperate and refuses to join with the Maid, citing that it would rather be totally destroyed than admit defeat to an inferior, non-Imperial culture.

Beyond the Hespermont, Hell strikes out across the sea, launching attacks on the Belt, the Imperial colonies in the Copper Shore and the Jantoo Reach, and south towards Reniriya.

On the Maid's side, allies from the Eostremont are now able to bolster the Hespermontane and Dayrine forces. Most important of these is Themiskrya, which supplies the Maid with her first proper naval support. Amazonian ships are able to secure the Bay of the Horn, preventing Dispaterian forces from landing in Acephavara and severely weakening the force dispatched to Reniriya.

Critical in this stage is the resistance in the Belt, organized by the newly declared demudem (lit. "man of men"), Iké-Bar-Adogo. He had been instrumental in the overthrow of the colonial government during the Plague Years and likewise served as commander and rally point for both the islanders and the sea-peoples during the War. This successful resistance prevented Dis from ever reaching south of the Belt in any meaningful capacity, sparing half of the Mare Interregnum from the violence. 

Hell seeks to spread through self-replication, but in order to do so it also needs time to spread its roots. Thankfully for all, the many fronts of resistance learned quickly the best methods of prevention. The seeds of factories are dug up and smashed. Evangelists are hunted down

The Maid's forces, bolstered by eastern reinforcement, move into the Low Country, seeking to secure critical positions while Hell is momentarily distracted by its transmarine designs. This period will eventually be called the Liberation of the Low Countries, as part of the Maid's grand strategy was the incitement and support of mass slave rebellions throughout the surviving ex-Imperial states.  

(Some additional context is necessary: The Low Countries were primarily ruled under the Imperial plantation system, with noble landowners overseeing large enslaved and indentured populations. A small Imperial land owning class with a majority Hespermontane underclass. Typical Hespermontane practices of shared land stewardship were uprooted but, thankfully, not forgotten by the time of the Liberation.)

In those places where the rebellions were suppressed, the Maid would take more direct action and send detachments of her own troops to solve the situation. For particularly large or stubborn holdouts, she would arrive in person. Either way the tactic was the same - riders on swift horses would go ahead of the army, crying out "Take heed! The Maid of Orlei approaches! Clemency for manumission! Clemency for manumission!"

Those who heeded the warning and freed their slaves before the arrival of the Maid's forces were spared. Their property and possessions were turned over to the newly-liberated, but their lives were spared.

Those who resisted were executed immediately, their bodies disposed of with minimal ceremony.

(Historians in Draga and the Dragon Republics will describe this period as an "uncharacteristic brutality" on the Maid's part, which is on their part a deliberate omission playing to popular hagiographic currents - the Maid's absolutist antislavery stance had been openly stated before the war had even begun. "A man who would treat his brothers and sisters as objects to be bought and sold has rescinded his kinship with humanity", and other such blunt statements are commonplace in her speeches)

On a practical level (never far removed from the moral, as the Maid saw it) removing the remaining Imperial landowners from power and handing their lands back to the once-enslaved would drastically reduce supply lines and open up a new pool of volunteers.

Additional to the gains of the Liberation, the Maid's forces are able to push south and retake the entire Arivienne. The Army of the North is battered by multiple major assaults. The second battle of Tanniclen eventually ends in a predictable rout of Dispaterian forces by the Queens, though this time the city (sans the wizards' enclave) is left in complete ruins.


Phase 3 (Years 11-13)

The war in the Low Country has devolved into a bloody back-and-forth slog, with neither side able to make any serious headway. Disputed territory changes hands like a clock that disgorges corpses on the hour. 

Then, a breakthrough: a severe storm season in the Mare and a immensely successful series of raids by maritime Belt clans sinks much of Dis' supply fleet and blocks passage for most of the others, leaving Hell's overseas forces critically undersupplied. 

At the same time, however, the situation on the continent takes a drastic turn for the worse as Austros falls at last to itself. The Red Law took root in its desperation, by the end it was nearly impossible to determine a difference between it and Dis.

With the fall of Austros removing the last third party resistance in the Hespermont, Dis makes a concerted push northward, hoping to cut off both Orlei from the North then sweeping south to retake the Arivienne. If successful, this would strand the Maid in the Low Country (easy prey to be killed or forced into surrender) and would render the overseas failures a very temporary setback (as Dis could then expand without resistance).

These Dispaterian forces will meet Northern forces in a gap in the hill country, near the township of Sannakoroq.


The Battle of Sannakoroq

Hoping to deliver a deathblow, the commander of Dis' northward forces makes a critical mistake during the brutal 3-day battle - he gets overconfident in his advantage, and fails to push forward decisively when he has the upper hand. The battered defenders are able to collect their forces and mount a counterassault, and after three days of brutal fighting are able to break the Dispaterian attack and force a retreat.

While it is still two years to the end of the war, this is considered the turning point. 

 

Lochiel

Phase 4 (Years 13-15)

With northern Dispaterian forces demoralized and scattered by the Battle of Sannakoroq, the Army of the North is able to regroup and retake the Mora-Pono all the way to the sea and liberate Redgate. Reinforcements flow southward to join the Maid's Army of the Arivienne. The momentum has shifted.

Across the sea, Dis' invasions are thwarted, though at high cost to the defenders - the Copper Shore is retaken by Kvaare, the Reach repulses the invasion and miraculously remains stable (the only Imperial territory in the world to do so), and attempts to form beachheads in Reniriya and Amda are likewise repelled.

The Army of the North marches down the coast from Redgate, while the Maid marches from the east. The new Third Army, drawn from recent reinforcements from the Eostremont and Kara Koren, moves southwest across the central Low Country.

The three armies push through the last lines of Dispaterian defense and at last arrive at the city, beginning the Siege of Hell. Here the Sable Maid meets Darvatius on the field and strikes him down, but loses her life in turn. The siege is broken, and the army retreats.

The War of the Bull ends here: with both sides so exhausted that they cannot continue, but the Maid's forces carrying the victory - Hell has been contained.

Aftermath

The collapse of the Second Empire

Tlan and Olabeth are lost entirely to plague, the land so poisoned that it is desolate even today. The depopulated Heartlands dissolve into countless squabbling principalities. The Low Country is devastated, and where it is rebuilt Imperial cultural influence dies off. The Copper Shore is retaken by Kvaare, the Belt is independent at last,

In the Eostremont, Imperial territory breaks into Draga in the north, and the Dragon Republics in the south. Draga claims continuity of rule through its bastard line but does not claim political continuity, as a way of distancing itself from the southern Imperial culture it long reviled. The Dragon Republics claim no official continuity at all, but the influences are easy to find.

The only true surviving fragment is the city of Hespir in the Jantoo Reach, supposedly the last remaining bastion of Darvatius' empire as well. The senate is still called to order here and claims authority by right of sede vacante, though the population of the city is more Pelaian than Imperial in their looks, manners, dress, and speech.

The Destruction of the Low Country

Much the Low Country never recovered, despite aid from the north and east, and those places that did came back... strange. A mix of local Hespermontane traditions, old Imperial influence, the scars of the war and the sheer spiritual trauma of it all have formed a patchwork of unique cultures isolated in the wilderness. To the outsider, everything here seems strange, grotesque, and inexplicable. The lingering traumas in the land have yet to heal, and this leads many to treat the Low Country and its inhabitants unchartiably.

The Low Country of today is only a fraction of its old population, and it is the most heavily demon-haunted region in the world. The Folk here shun most human contact, and the folkways are less public and less welcome than they are elsewhere.

The Pact of Pandemonium and the establishment of the Demilitarized Zone

The non-aggression agreement with Hell has been upheld so far, but no reasonable person would trust that to last. And so in the years following its signing, a series of small fortresses and watchtowers was established around the border of the Dead Lands, in case Dis were to mass its forces for another war.

Dis, of course, is more than content to forgo overt warfare in favor of more subversive methods, and its agents crawl around the Low Country and even beyond to this day.

Establishment of the Order of the Sable Maid

What began as a band of Orleian peasants and militiawoman ended the war as a veteran force of demon hunters. Much of its internal structure is Eostremonti in origin, as such religious orders are common there and hardly known west of the mountains. Chapels and monasteries of the Solar Church (those that were not destroyed) were repurposed for the Order, including two magnificent basilicas.

The order soon expanded into non-militant branches - monastics, medicants, hospitaliers and common ordained, which serve as the main backbone of the group. While their reverence for the Maid is great, they have not officially declared her to be among the Gods of Man - though folk practices often differ in this regard.

Today, the Order remains the primary (though not only) anti-demon fighting force in the Hespermont, with chapter houses abroad in Acephavara, the Belt, and the Eostremont and their services are welcome even further than that.

Formation of the Necromantic Socialist Republics

One of the many new cultural movements to emerge in the Low Country in the wake of the war, and the most successful of them. The NSR now fills much of the lower Arivienne and some enclaves to the west. It is not well loved or well trusted by the other inhabitants of the Low Country - a wealthy, unusual culture whose practices are secretive and closely-guarded will always attract suspicion. But, the hordes of skeletal workers have made the place stable and quite peaceful, so long as one always pays respects to the dead.


Unanswered Questions

Was Victory Possible?

The Maid was outspoken and unwavering in her desire to see Dis and its master destroyed utterly. In both of these she failed, though she came closer than anyone else before or since.

If she had breached the city, if Moloch had indeed been destroyed, what then would happen? Would the world have been freed of that great engine of suffering? Or would the Red Law have simply found another scion? Would we have lost the Bull only to have

Is Darvatius truly defeated?

This was not his first death: that happened long, long ago, after he has twice conquered the world. The Darvatius of Dis was a different creature, taking the guise of that ancient tyrant because no one living or dead would associate that name with anything but conquest.

The death of Darvatius the demon lord might perhaps be more important than the death of Darvatius the man. What happens when the god of conquest is killed? There have been wars since then, but none so terrible and none so sweeping in their ambitions. Has the potential to wage that kind of devouring war been excised entirely? Simply weakened? Biding its time, till another god fills the role? No one can say. No god of man has ever been killed before - only faded away, their rites forgotten.


Monday, July 5, 2021

THE SECOND ANNUAL SALTY AWARDS


[REVVING INTENSIFIES]


 

TIME IS A FLAT CIRCLE

THE OCEAN IS ON FUCKING FIRE

OBLIVION GIVES NO AWARDS FOR CRUELTY

SO MIGHT AS WELL BE KIND

 

IT'S TIME FOR 

 

THE SALTIES

The selection process is simple. I choose things and my choices are correct.

Last year's awards may be found here


THE UNBEARABLE MALAISE OF BEING

The Previous Year

God what a shit year.


BEST PODCAST / EXCELLENCE IN NEPOTISM

Admiralty Blues

Am I saying this because my good friend Mon is a cast member? Yes. But am I also saying it because this AP is an absolute delight to listen to? Also yes. It's one of two APs I have actually listened to long-term. Among other things (humor, pacing, cast & characters all great), it is a fantastic example of how to run a Blades in the Dark style game (as it uses the mech hack of BitD, Beam Saber). Also Mon does art for it, which is great.

 

FINALLY SOME GOOD FUCKING FOOD

Dungeon Bitches (Emmy Allen)

I made my thoughts known some months ago, and nothing has changed. It's fucking rad.


THE INTERNET ISN'T HELPING

https://www.twitter.com

Proving repeatedly to all and sundry that no one is immune to bait, rpg twitter is a death-spiral carousel of the offensive and insipid, drowning out anything of value in a tepid wave of subtweets interrupted by entirely too frequent spikes of harassment. Blogger might be a terrible platform, but you can at least develop an idea on it.

 

RESCINDED AWARD

Troika! (Daniel Sell)

Despite being awarded one third of the Trifecta Grande last year, Troika has been struck from the rolls. Through mechanisms unknown to me, it has accumulated a singularly unpleasant online following to the point where my desire to make things with it, run it, or even really mention it at all have evaporated.

 

BEST BOOK THAT IS NOT YET IN BOOK FORM

 Monster Overhaul (Skerples)

Nothing announced since last years awards has me as excited as this, and since I got a preview copy of Dungeon Bitches that book isn't in the running for this award. It will be well worth it when it arrives.

 

I AM A PATIENT MAN 

BREAK! (Naldo Drinian & Grey Wizard)

 p a t i e n c e i s a v i r t u e

 

THIS BOOK HURT MY EYES 

Karanduun Make God Bleed (Joaquin Kyle Saavedra)

One of the games featured in Itch's recent Palestinian Aid Bundle, and an unfortunate victim of "great idea, lots of care put into it, I respect what it's doing, I can't read it without a headache." 

The font used for headings is all caps, narrow, and has next to no kerning. It is often presented as white text on a black box on a white background, and black boxes are used in lieu of bold for emphasis. The central text is squashed by margins expanded to fit large, vertically-aligned chapter names.

It's offputting enough that I went from "this is cool and I am excited" to "this is another game I will never read and never play" more or less instantly. Wish that wasn't the case, but for want of good kerning the war is lost.


WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT LOTFP IS STILL DEAD

Mork Borg (Pelle Nilsson)

I don't even like Mork Borg that much but they A) have a goofy heavy metal aesthetic and B) actually release things C) didn't decide to tie themselves to a sinking ship. So they get an award and we're all better for it.


THIS IS NEAT

2400 (Jason Tocci)

There are plenty of lightweight sci-fi games out there, but 2400 gets an advantage here because Tocci keeps updating it with additional setting / genre splats. Each is 4 pages long (or a single printer sheet, if you are printing out a spread) and follows the same general pattern - character backgrounds, random inspiration tables, some extras keyed to the setting / genre this particular expansion is for - which by itself isn't much but with 12 of them now included with the core rules and a significant following of fan hacks, there's a whole lot of material to play around with.


BEST OSR-ADJACENT MEDIA

Chainsaw Man (Tatsuki Fujimoto)

A grotty, hyperviolent story about broken people in a fucked up world that is significantly more emotionally deep and honest than a story called "Chainsaw Man" would be expected to be. It's a shonen that decided to wake up and choose violence, both literally and in taking the genre conventions and dismissing them utterly. Our main protagonist Denji is an illiterate teen so in debt to the yakuza thanks to his dead father that he's sold body parts and eaten out of dumpsters and he takes on a government devil-hunting job just for three meals, a bed, and the chance to maybe touch some boobs. Except instead of being gross and creepy like you'd expect it's an expression of his desperation for human connection + awkward teenager stuff. Also helps that even weird semi-feral idiot Denji knows you should only boob touch with permission.

Also the art is excellent, the pace is breakneck, the ending is buck fucking wild, and the world is A+.


BEST CAT

Sylvester (RIP)


 

Observe the absolute size of this big cuddly lad. He is missed very much.


MOST DESIRED SUBJECT FOR GAMEPLAY EVOLUTION

The Wretched (Chris Bisette) + Others

Last year, I cited the The Wretched as one of the standout solo games of this new and terrible era, and since then there have been dozens of hacks for it covering a wide variety of interesting topics and scenarios.

And I feel like its spinning its wheels. When I try to play Wretched or one of its descendants, I end up bored by Day 3, because Wretched-based games have a critical issue that I've yet to find dealt with - there's a chronological framework (via the days framework), but prompts themselves are not arranged in any sort of chronology themselves. So you do about ten of them and start getting prompts that, logically for the game you've been playing, you should already have had. Or you get ones that are just repeats of things you've already established. The tension the game aims for evaporates, which is not helped by most common replacement for the Jenga tower - had I not given up on my first run through The Wretched, I would have likely won through raw attrition.

I still like the idea, mind you, but there's room for improvement and no one's cleared the path yet, and that saddens me enough to say something about it.


BEST GAME RESOURCE

Artvee

High quality public domain art, easy to navigate.


**

That's all for this year. Overall, despite the nigh-excessive number of games that have come out since last July, I find myself not particularly drawn to most of them. We sit atop a safe and placid plateau of game design, and I wait vulture-like for the next raw and beating heart to bloom vibrant and vital in the midst of its seas of grass.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Lands of the Mare Interregnum Part 2: The World At Large

 

The World at Large

Part 1 of this duology can be found here.

A few notes, which also apply to Part 1.

The typical political structure is a confederation of city-states. Large centralized nation-states are liable to angering the Folk or worse, and so do not tend to form or last particularly long after they do.

"King" and "Prince" are not necessarily male titles.

The Tiger's Spine doesn't match between the maps - this one is more correct, but the other one looks bad if it's accurate.

The overall design of the Mare started with old Roman maps of the Mediterranean, the ones with east oriented at the top. This particular map started with me editing the shorelines of the Arctic Circle

The North

The Uttermost North - Iceflows and cold. Endless days and endless nights. The Wendish claim that their ancestral homelands of Atri-Tun might be found in the Uttermost North, though no one who has gone that far and returned has ever reported such a place. It is the realm of Orca, of Mundo, of the Auroral Staircase and the hidden hotspring islands of the valkyries.

M.M.P.F - An inhospitable lump of barren stone and glaciers. The wind hates you and wants to eat your bones. No one lives here by choice. The Folk here recognize no compact with humanity.

Misery & Woe - Barely-habitable islands used by Kvaare as a prison in the wake of the Golden Revolution. A few decades of direct management gave way to simply shipping and dumping prisoners there

The East

Most of this is already in the first post! Go read that.

Elsewhere...

Ghan - A hilly, arid land east of Kara Koren. True desert. Difficult to navigate. Ancient irrigation canals lined with fields of coffee and barley make a grid of the rivers. Clay brick towers offer sky funerals to the vultures. Shrines to the Bull that Carries the Sky rise at crossroads.

Vashra - Provenance and inhabitants to be determined.

Reniriya -  Dense rainforest. Carnivorous plants abound. There are no cities, just trading towns on the coast.  Beautiful ceramics occasionally traded for necessary goods. Hot air balloons bobbing above the canopy, pulled down to safety when it rains. Icons of firefly spirits. High fluidity in family structure and gender expression. Devotional cannabis and dreamworld pantheons.

The Odzho Kings - Three city-states with thick walls and high towers, built long out of memory. "Odzho" in the local dialect is the name for the kingfisher bird (the kings are named so for the brillian colors of their traditional robes), so they are often called the Fisher Kings by outsiders. Funerary cannibalism.

The Obsidian Islands - Volcanic islands famed for pyromanciers and gigantic domesticated crabs. At their very easternmost curve are the Trailwards, with little Pa'O Pa'O at the very end: the furthest settled land in the world.

The West

The Belt of Fire - Volcanic tropical archipelago that provides the safest passage across the Mare. Home to many migratory maritime lilifio nations. Windcalling shanties, painted sails, caravan-catamarans. The capital, Bzenzilesh, is located on the large island below the F-I.

The Cinders - A desolate, sterile nothing. Dust and ashes and bare stone. Leftover arcane fallout has rendered it ontologically inimical to life of any kind, even down to bacteria. Wizards will occasionally attempt to mount expeditions into the interior, believing that their lead-lined suits and layers of glyphs will help them (they will not). Those wizards tend to melt from the inside out within a few days, after only a few minutes of exposure. Cause unknown: The region has been lifeless for as long as both written and oral histories will attest.

Kvaare - The most industrialized region in the world (sans Dis), pushing that envelope as far as it can be pushed without rousing the true rage of the Folk or falling facefirst into an emergence of Hell. New money (all the aristos were killed in the Golden Revolution)

The Copper Shore - The Second Empire's former colonies in Kvaare, now reclaimed. As all goods coming to Kvaare must pass through the Copper Shore, it is the wealthiest of its provinces.

Colcie - Western hinterlands, with little participation on the world stage. Border conflicts with Kvaare are common. Sod houses, tornado, melancholy, ritual scarification, polygamy, razor grass, traveling bards.

The Rift - The western continent is pulling itself apart, slowly, slowly. The Rift marks the border between the Kvaarish and Pelaian cultural spheres, claimed by both but truly belonging to neither. Cliffside towns, spearfishing, poverty, rope bridges, tests of manhood, "the bleeding stones", arranged marriages, giant cliff urchins.

Jantoo Reach - Site of the Second Empire's former colonies in Pelai and now its last remnant. Has a certain feeling of going through the motions, performing the functions of Imperial government almost as a cargo cult. Mostly absorbed back into Pelai.

Pelai - Long ago, the line of the god-kings of Pelai was overthrown, and replacing them were the twin councils of wizards, the azdat and the obet. Deep jungle. Red soil. Immense, unique biodiversity.

Sea of Tazir - A freshwater sea whose waters are so clear one can see the floor even at scores of feet deep.  It is also called the Mosaic Sea, for those stretches where the stones on the floor that look to have been set with painted tiles. The colors will change, displaying scenes of sea life, and occasionally the form of a woman in silk robes.

Ist - An isolated principality on the shore of the Sea of Tazir. Only ruins now, swallowed up by the jungles. Its princes were devoured by the Great Manticore in a single night centuries ago, and the beast lives there still.

Coast of Birds - Hundreds of miles of Amdalese coastline dominated by immense stone statues of birds, providence unknown. They are expertly made, ancient, unique, and face the sea with their wings raised to the sky.

Amda - An old, old patchwork of principalities and kingdoms on the plains. Oldest continuous civilization in the world, some say. It is longstanding tradition here that the kings of Amda take no women as their lovers and take heirs only by election, as a means of preventing inheritance squabbles. Ancient monoliths, haruspicy, wandering swordsmen, strict hospitality laws, well-kept roads, zorses and giraffes.

Azuda - Rugged, mountainous, beautiful. Sparsely populated. Most of the worlds remaining saurians live here.

Se Walohi - Vast and sandy desert. Most of its few inhabitants are nomads who stick to the coast between southern Amda and Se Tolahi.

Se Tolahi - A quiet red desert, far removed from the world at large. It is known mostly as home to the only prominent monotheists in the world. This means they are generally viewed with some suspicion by most, though their philosophy is a pacifist one that treats the gods with no particular disfavor. 

Ton Hon - A cold, inhospitable land. Its lower reaches are the furthest south that any humans reside permanently. 

Red Point - 'Strange as Red Point" as the saying goes, and well deserved. Avoided by most. It is a strange place, up among the desolate, rocky hills. Strange folk, strange doings. The inhabitants are nocturnal, communicating only by rock paintings left out for the morning.

The South

Llaphedon - Island of the mushroom men, where the immortal fungal folk plod silently towards the center through the still and spore-filled night to build a ziggurat of vast black stone. The villages on the coast trade mostly in funeral shrouds and psychotropics.

Panutaru - Provenance and inhabitants to be determined.

Dulyuk - Provenance and inhabitants to be determined.

Beyond

There are some small landmasses in the great ocean on the other side of the world, but they have been left alone - the few circumnavigators who have stayed there for any amount of time (a small fraction of an already small group) report those lands to be desolate, filled with unfriendly spirits who have no compact with humanity, or both. It's creepy shit.

**

And there we go, as up to date as I can get with the world of MSF.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Lands of the Mare Interregnum Part 1: The Hespermont



Last year, I did a big picture overview of the world of Mother Stole Fire, but the map and location descriptions only covered a chunk of the eastern continent. I've remade that map.

A second post will follow this one with the large world map.

Apologies in advance for the bits I clearly just copy-pasted, and for the details that weren't. 

Also thanks to CosmicOrrery for fixing up my mountains.

All of this is anticanon.

The Dayr 

All land north of the Dayrmonts. Territory west of Urukhá is considered to be both Dayr and Hespermontane, and so tends to be called "The North Country" as differentiation.

**

Wend - An isolationist city-state of gleaming white towers. Its inhabitants have claimed to descend from unknown Atri-Tun in the uttermost north, though no one has ever found such a city.

Tin Jacobstown - Originally a shantytown founded by southern migrants during the Plague Years, now chief of the prospecting and whaling towns in the western Dayr. By offering their bodies and shades in service to Orca after death, the sailors of Tin Jacobstown are granted special dispensation to hunt whales.

Urukhá - One of the Three Sisters of the Dayrdani. Marks the traditional boundary between "The North Country" and the Dayr proper. The mammoth matriarchs have great influence here.

Akká - One of the Three Sisters of the Dayrdani. Sits at the northern end of the Splintered Stair. Home of the Great Forge of Azad.

Hrunná - One of the Three Sisters of the Dayrdani. Sits at the southern end of the Splintered Stair. Culturally distinct from its sister-cities from buruq influence


The Hespermont

All land west of the Attercanths. Territory west of Urukhá is considered to be both Dayr and Hespermontane.

**

Redgate - Entry port to the Mora-Pono. Named so for the twin redwood groves planted either side of the river. Semipermanent dolphin population in the harbor.

Bensael - A city rebuilt by veterans, survivors and refugees of the War of the Bull on top of an obliterated provincial capital. Its location on both east-west and north-south travel routes means that all peoples of the Hespermont (and beyond) will arrive there eventually. At its center is the Old City, Tanniclen - an enclave of wizards and old nobility

Rivershead - Somewhat isolated by its position far up the Mora, its closeness to the Tower and old roads towards Orlei have nonetheless kept it. Significant cultural overlap with the forest peoples, particularly the Wudu-Wasa and the Laurel Hauflin.

The Tower - An enormous prehistoric structure, big as a mountain itself, surrounded by a ruined city of the idaltu.

Lilu-Voya - Largest of the lilu's surface settlements, conveniently located by way of earthquake and luck right in the middle of one of the major passes of the Attercanths. Centerpoint of the lilu diaspora and republican movement.

 **

The Low Country - Very broad term, typically used for "anywhere south of where you are". Properly, the land between the Arivienne and Mora-Pono watersheds. Devastated by the War, and much of it has not recovered since. The customs here are strange, and inexplicable things haunt the backwoods.

Bhyor - "In Bhyor there is the House of Sin" goes the story. A vast iron cube nestled in the branches of the gargantuan petrified tree that sits atop the sharp stone outcropping in the bay. Low whitewashed houses with blue mosaic facades and empty doors. The House had been part of a tradition, where those guilty of heinous crimes would willingly choose to enter and never return, to clean the guilt of the many. Everyone knows now of how the sacrifices grew more and more frequent, until one warm night in late summer the entire population got up from their beds, walked along that narrow bridge, up the thin stone steps, and stepped through the black mouth of the House. No one goes to Bhyor anymore.

Dis - Once the Imperial colony of Coreolana, now Hell itself. A demon-haunted hill of rust and blood and suffering behind cannon-scarred iron walls. Long claws burrow into the poisoned earth, smoke-wreathed towers  belch filth into the sky. Deep at its center, the Furnace Throne is fed a stream of sacrifices. Beyond the walls, miles of blackened fields - craters, trenches, rust-hollowed war machines.

**

The NSR - The Necromantic Socialist Republic was born out of the trauma of the Plague Years and the War of the Bull as an experiment in utopia. If the dead so outnumber the living, and the dead have no use for their bones, let those bones be put to the service of the living.

Di Valeo - Core of the NSR, rebuilt by the hands of the undead after its complete destruction during the war. The city is beautiful, if perhaps a bit macabe, and there is a melancholy that cannot be shaken even with the good humor of its inhabitants. There is a great cathedral here, dedicated to Ama Adimatha in her aspect of the Lady of Sorrows and the Stillborn.

 

The Eostremont

The lands east of the Attercanths, south of the Dayrmonts, and north of the Heartlands.

Rolling hills and great open plains.

**

Draga - The old northern capital of the Second Empire. Still claims Imperial lineage (through the descendants of an exiled bastard), but this is a figurehead and everyone knows it - power resides technically with the Inner Council, and practically with the Solar Church. An austere, grey, often puritanical and rather joyless place. Butts heads often with Bensael.

The Magelands - Magic flows on the breeze, heavy and sweet as honey. suffusing every breath and cell and thought. The grass is greener here, the sky is bluer. Stones are no longer bound by the shackle of gravity, trees pull up their roots. Form and purpose lose their concrete boundaries, time and space unspool their tangled knots. It is intoxicating. It will bind you to itself until you are so filled with the freedom it offers that you are wiped clean of yourself and made a part of it.

Mund - Crumbling city-arcology; a grey wall of grey stone holding back the spread of the chaotic Magelands. A fortress city in the midst of the Magelands. A brutalist arcology packed tight with tens of thousands of people who attempt to resist the power of the Magelands through the mindless repetition of enforced hivelike normalcy. Total denial of the life beyond the walls. Sterile. Eternal.

The Dragon Republics - Fourteen city-states built atop what is, as best as archaeologists can tell, the kernel that first formed Darvatius' empire. An economic powerhouse thanks to their elaborate system of guilds and banks. While on paper the Republics still follow the old Imperial Church, sects of dragon-worship are an open secret among them - even their longtime ally Draga gives them arm's length when the political situation is inflamed (and it often is). There are some who believe that the next emergence of Dis will be here.

Themiskrya - Capital city of the amazons, situated where the mouth of the Thermodon meets the gates of the Blackwine. Triremes with horsehead prows ply the waters of the Blackwine. Cavalry patrols ride up and down the roads to Kara Koren. Children play in the agora under the bronze eyes of the colossal statue of Tabiti Hipparctrix Hodegetria. Old women still tell the story of how the statue stepped off its pedestal, spear in hand, and waded out into the harbor to fight off the Coreolanic navy during the Plague Years. 

**

Kara Koren - Wide open plains stretching off into the horizon. The Buruq make their home here, their semi-nomadic bands cycling between the small cities on the rivers and lakes and the open prairie. Vast herds of bison, antelope, camels, horses and wild boar can be found here, as well to the bulk of the eastern continent's elephant population. 

Twin Lakes - Largest of the permanent settlements of the Buruq and the last city to be found before the long, desolate road to Ghan. It has expanded out from the isthmus onto an archipelago of artificial islands in both lakes.

The Hollowhorn - Sacred mountain of the Buruq, rising alone above the grasslands. Named so for the magnificent cave systems and ancient lava tubes within it. Climbing the slopes or entering the caves is limited only to priests and those granted special dispensation, and access to the summit is barred to even the elders. Deep within its chambers sleeps the Last King, the only true dragon to survive the extinction.

 


The Ostrakeraton 

The Southern Horn, stretching from Olabeth and Dead Quarter to northern Reniriya.

**

The Poison Coast - The land between the Heartlands and Ool.

The Heartlands - As the Second Empire collapsed, the aristocracy made a mad dash to secure their holdings in the east. While some of the governors and generals were able to maintain a sense of order and continuity, disease and famine swiftly ended their attempts. Centuries later, the Heartland is a feral wilderness filled with squabbling warlords and the ruins they inhabit.

Olabeth - The heart of the Second Empire has been reduced to a decaying, sickness-stricken land. The Plague is still here, seeped deep into the soil and water. Impenetrable swamps and dark forest filled with misshapen, monstrous creatures render crossing the territory by land near impossible. There are still human inhabitants, but they have been changed so completely and severed so utterly from the rest of the world that they are left to their own devices.

Tlan - Capital of the Second Empire. A metropolis reclaimed by nature. Some folks will talk of treasure that remains hidden there, but nearly all was looted during the collapse and any that remains is hardly worth the danger of an expedition to the Poison Coast. From the harbor, one can still see the gleaming golden dome of the solar tabernaculum where the sacrifices were held.

Ool - Mangrove swamps and mudflats choked with the thousand-thousand varieties of the bright red panacea flower. Broiling heat. Drowning humidity. Complete isolation. The great ceramic domes and minarets of the Petal Houses are the only signs of habitation along the whole of the river, save for a few desperate villages hiding from the Houses' security forces.

Mouth-of-Ool - The only point in Ool where outsiders are tolerated. Do not tarry long, take your panacea and go. The Houses are watching, and they do not care for guests who overstay their welcome.

**

Acephavara - The "Land of the Headless", named so for its inhabitants (who do possess heads, but also typically have coloration patterns on their torsos that at a glance appear to be faces) and for the shape of their primary god (who does not have a head). Once an empire (Old Acephavara), but after the collapse and War has coalesced into the comfortable confederation common to much of the world.

Janashkut - An ancient, storied city. Unfortunately known best for the potent strain of ghoul-leprosy endemic to it (this is not the variety of ghoulishness that is Red Law in origin). Over the centuries, the oldest sections of the city have been sealed off and abandoned, forming its infamous labyrinthine leper districts, as new, sickness-free districts are built further out.

The Old Capital - A dead zone, thanks to the arcanonuclear weapons deployed here during the collapse of Old Acephavara. The ruins are beautiful.

Vanadiyos - Shining center of the new Acephavara. Martial arts, baroque architecture, loud music, fire-magic. Tropical heavy metal aesthetic.

The City Magpie - When humans returned to the city after the fall of Old Acephavara, they found this city to already have been taken as roost by the Murder of All Crows. It has since become the city of theft and the haven of thieves, where no one is permitted to enter with anything, even names, that trukly belong to them.

** 

I love how, each time, it falls together a little bit different, and a little bit better. Stuff is missing or misplaced, of course, but it's the Bob Ross type joy of setting out all the pieces.

Next insallment will have the world as a whole, and there might be further installments going a deeper dive into the people who actually live here.

(Pen & Tam live about halfway between 7 and 8 on that map)

As for more commentary, it's slipping my mind at the moment.


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Slushpile 8: Burnout Edition

Prior slushpiles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Slushpile 8

  1. Demons are spiritual scavengers, feeding off evil acts.
  2. The Standard Hypermonth - The amount of time it takes to traverse one parsec at the speed of a Helios 1 jump drive.
  3. "Tau Ceti to Sol, we hear you. Help is on the way."
  4. Remote science station, underfunded; lone researcher has resorted to cloning herself via exowomb forking copies of her mind to keep the place staffed.
  5. Hyperspace is the dreams of the god whose death created the universe. The true names of stars are invoked to traverse it.
  6. A creature from a dream: the head of a spiny katydid, body like a hairless deer, 1-2 feet tall.
  7. The brain, seat of the mind. The lungs, seat of the soul. The stomach, seat of the drives
  8. Angelbone - Golden material harvested from fallen angels. Can be used as a reinforcement for weapons by blacksmiths with a hot enough forge.
  9. Eye-Sigil Shield - Shield emblazoned with the eight eyes of a greater aerostat.
  10. Elvert, Queen's Consort
  11. Dogs hate orcs by instinct, so orcs must make do with domesticating wild boars.
  12. A culture with three-way marriages, where each member has a left hand and a right hand spouse.
  13. A thing like a person, cut off right below where the rib cage should be, where it sprouts into an anemone-frond of arms. A palanquin-carrier for a drow sorceress. 
  14. The Jump Equation; Distance in Parsecs = Solar Masses of Departure Star x [1.618 (Jump Drive Class)  ^ 1+ Booster Class]
  15. The Trappist Worldhouses
  16. There are places accessible through our world, but are not part of it.
  17. The law offices of Messrs. Jale, Ulfire and Dolm. Their suits hurt to look at - colors you can't quite name shimmer and the light of their faces sears your eyes.
  18. Dungeons are alive, interlopers from worlds perpendicular to our own. An invasive species of houses on the borderlands, filled with parasite-biomes, beckoning siren-like to the foolish and desperate so it may devour them, soak up their souls and suck on their bones. Dive deep and find the heart. Kill the creature before it pupates, lest it mature and release spores.
  19. Nearly all wizards are addicts of some kind or another. This isn't because practice of the Art is addictive in itself, nor even that wizardry tends to draw addicts to its path, but simply for the fact that wizardry grants the means to easily fulfill one's desires, and the social isolation that prevents a support network of friends and allies from stepping in.The ingrained competitiveness among wizards - for tenure, for first-publishing, for just getting one up on that bastard Samivirus the Green - leads many to the abuse of stimulants, and then using phenomenal cosmic power to get more of them. Other vices get much the same treatment - exaggerated and expanded by ease of access and ability to push consequences down the road.
  20. The inner sun is small and dusky orange. The Interior, all points being equidistant from the sun, is temperate desert. With no seasons and no night, the temperature remains stable and the air still. Its seas and lakes are scattered and shallow. It has no proper mountains. The only real changes to be had are the slow orbits of the floating islands, which may bring temporary shade. Islands may reach up to a few square miles in area and float up to a mile above the ground.
  21. Elves speak Kelen, dwarves speak Ithkuil, humans speak Sahrian  
  22. Hacking in Mothership is now flavored as interacting with the machine spirits. unsecured = friendly spirits, secure = cagey, hardened = hostile, PEK = true name needed.
  23. Class: Revised Adipomancer - uses Mon's witch template as follows: 1d4 bulk dice, +1 AC past first, max 4+1, +2 charges per extra ration. ||| 1d6 bulk dice, +2 AC past first, max 4, +1 charge per extra ration ||| 1d8 bulk dice, +3 AC past first, max 4-1, 2 extra rations needed / charge.
  24. A hunting demon:  humanoid, apelike posture, meat-grinder mouth. Blind, skinless. Raw red muscle coated in swarm of parasitic urchins. Underbelly covered in suckling, armored fetuses
  25. Tuning fork magitech radio and telephone
  26. Tzuk-Under-The-Mountain - Deity imprisoned during 8th century of the pre-dynastic era.
  27. Hyperspace + artifical gravity = everyone is going about on their own migratory personal planets, or yet stranger things. Little Prince and Mario Galaxy.
  28. The Oceanic Society did not live up to Nemo's hopes, but it is better than life on the surface in the wake of the Martians' war.
  29. Creature that appears as waylaid young man or woman. Will devour entire food storage + livestock before revealing true form and fleeing. Can be detected by repulsion to salt and spice, so always offer some to a guest.
  30. The Janus-faced fighters
  31. Dumpy grey mountain folk
  32. Soul types: A) Collecting B) Pouring C) Holding D) Dispersing
  33. Octopus Cults of the Southern Archipelagos
  34. Sleeping Hill, the Brown River Peoples, the Crimson House
  35. Seasonal Gods: Lord of Spring, Lady of Summer, Maid of Autumn, Miser of Winter
  36. Star Mother Clan, the Red Hand Tribe, and the Star-Seeking Beasts
  37. Image from a dream: Bloated red sun, supermassive above the demon farm. Silver trees, blue fruit. Young boy sits underneath, looking up to the starlifting superscaffold. After the murder (not of the boy), the joy mutant-like creature (father? mother?) goes to their former home, complacently waiting for police to arrive. The result of tainted food and the like.
  38. The Flooded Library
  39. Information panspermia - transmitting genetic information via galactic bracewell beacon network.
  40. Cybeles - The not-asari truck-sized sea slug aliens with proxy bodies.
  41. Brand priesthood
  42. Logographic script for star names - greek letter / catalog accompanied by constellation / number, cartouche design dependent on stellar type.
  43. Clerics are now people who have made a spirit marriage.
  44. Hyperspace routes graded SABCDEFX, best to worst. Dependent on bandwidth, speed, and drive required to transit.
  45. MoSh backgrounds that didn't make the cut: Bot Breaker, Surrogate, Uzumakist, Xenodeist, Scrapper, Beekeeper, Cybernecromancer
  46. Theogony re-organized to better mirror formation of universe as scientifically understood.
  47. Mothership scenario - you are mutineers onboard a colony ship. You just killed the captain after learning that they'd diverted the ship's course to a new destination where the plan was to liquidate the sleeping colonists as fresh gene stock. First choice is who is holding the murder weapon. Security drones are on the way.
  48. A Krieghammer Grimdark Army - Drone (.5 pts), Servitor (1 pt) Vespid auxillary (2 pts) Tau firewarrior (3 points) Kroot auxillary (3 pts) Sister of Battle (4 pts) Skitarii vanguard (4 pts) Techpriest (5pts) Sister Superior (5 pts) Tau commander (5 pts)


d10 MoSh MacGuffins

  1. Backup server access for a C-Level VIP.
  2. Seed of an alien 'biosphere in a box' terraforming device
  3. Right of ownership for a brand new luxury spaceship.
  4. Access key / shutdown code for a rampant maximization AI.
  5. Archive of ancient alien knowledge.
  6. Hyperspace coordinates to a prized location.
  7. A DRM-cracked genome blueprint.
  8. A genuine Earth artifact - a piece of art or a book.
  9. A fugitive wanked by the powers that be.
  10. Offworld luxury goods.

 

Black Boxes

The AI, uncreatively named VLC-1 (Very Large Computer), built 410 black boxes over the space of 16 months before performing a hard reset. Its final words were "Systems check: all good."

The black boxes are, like the flight recorders they are named after, are neither black nor boxes. They are dodecohedrons, with outer casings covered in swirling grooves that shimmer in shades of deep red, blue, purple and green.

VLC-1 left a seven-page (popularly though inaccurately called the "suicide note" and properly just named documentation_01_final) pdf containing simple pictographic directions as follows:

  1. How to power the boxes, and how much power is needed.
  2. Their maximum effective range of influence.
  3. Their maximum safe operational distance.
  4. Their maximum operational range. 

A genuine means of faster-than-light travel, with no hope of there ever being more. The squabble over who got to use them was predictably venomous.

This changed when VLC-1.2 entered the negotiations. It had been pruned down from its previous iteration (and so left completely ignorant of the creation of the black boxes), but remained immensely intelligent all the same. It requested control of its predecessor's work, to serve as distributor of the technology and organizer of the multinational exploratory force that would use them. If the international community refused, it threatened to destroy the boxes and then itself, in total this time.

The superpowers of the world called a bluff, and were proven very wrong when VLC-1.2 began destroying boxes at a rate of a hundred a day.

It still took three days to ratify the agreement, leaving 110. That's all there will ever be, unless the mysteries are cracked open again.

 

Welcome to [REDACTED]

"Here's a place where there used to be industry."
-Mike Polk Jr.


A long long time ago, a dreamstone meteor ended its eternal wanderings by swiftly and violently lithobraking in the sediment of a shallow interior sea.

After a very long time, the sea became mountains and the mountains were ground down and a particular species of hat-wearing primate showed up and made a home there. This lasted until a different band of hat-wearing primates (hardly discernible from the first, except for their choice of hat) showed up and declared "This is ours now. We're white!"

Then they committed genocide.

They built a town on top of the meteorite, (though they had no knowledge of it) so they could cut down trees and dig up a certain kind of black rock composed of compressed corpses. For a few generations there was the sound of machines and of money changing hands, until it all ground to a stop.

Now there's no industry, no money, and no hope.

There is heroin, though.

Welcome to [REDACTED]. It's an absolute shithole. We know you won't send help, but we've got to ask anyway.

(The opening to an unfinished DG homebrew to EE sandbox conversion project)

 

Opening to an unfinished Itch jam game


You cluster around the TV, with eyes glued to the stream. The rockets ignite, the column of fire carries the digitized minds of eighteen beings too rich to be human anymore with the roar of gods never to return to the earth.

They are leaving you here to die.

That was their plan all along.

There will be no more rockets. They have stripped the earth of her garments and they have left you here to die here with her in the sweltering night.

All that is left now is to wait and cling together, and dream for a while of what could have been the future.

 

Opening from an old Pen & Tam draft

A dead whale had drifted into the harbor during the night. Old age or sickness had claimed it, the tide had caught it, and now the carcass bobbed up and down on the oily water under the weight of the scavengers. Sleek black trilobites nibbled away at the corpse, under the screeching, squabbling cloud of gulls. A sea scorpion sat up by the head, tail curled, snapping at anything stupid enough to come close to it.

The smell of putrefaction mixed with sewage, salt and smog hung thick and heavy in the humid dawn air. The orange smear of the rising sun shone dimly through the smoky clouds to the east.

[She] dragged her vision away from the whale to look towards the city, a hazy blob spreading up and down the coast, rising inland up to the crown of Monolith Hill and its four ancient pillars. Those pillars dominated the scene, towering over the factory smokestacks and the tumbled, tangled carpet of the city on the lower hills. Those pillars were remnants of the [...], who had had ruled the world when man was still hunting and gathering in the wild places. Where the [...] had fallen from glory and their cities ground down into dust, the pillars on Monolith Hill remained.

 

Blake's Cosmology, As A Simple Diagram

 



 

Starforged Setting Truths

  • Cataclysm - Stars rapidly extinguished in primary galaxy. No reason known, no reason given (It's K3 bullshit don't worry about it)
  • Exodus - Experimental fleet derived from ancient alien technology. One way trip to the Cloud, many lost on the way.
  • Communities - There are the Five Founding Clans - Heron, Bear, Whale, Raven, Sun - and their many affiliates.
  • Iron - Oaths are sworn on fragments of the original fleet, even just a shaving of metal in resin, that have been inscribed with verses from the Covenant.
  • Laws - The Covenant is content to let the frontier remain so - a release valve for dissidents.
  • Religion -  The Triple Empress is apathetic to smaller gods and saint-cults. The Frontier is there for those who wish to avoid her influence.
  • Magic - Doesn't exist. What appears anomalous is just well outside our understanding, but within the boundaries of the possible.
  • Comms & Data - Proper information networks exist only in stable, wealthy systems. Elsewhere, news travels at the speed of the fastest courier ship.
  • Medicine - The Order of Holy Menders serve a far greater role than healing alone - they are the stabilizers of settlements, lorekeepers and functionaries.
  • AI - The few that remain are considered anathema - dangerous, mindless. They must go to the Five and Three.
  • War - There are many conflicts planetside, but the resources simply are not there for true interstellar war.
  • Precursors - Two, as far as anyone knows. One is responsible for the clarketech artifacts in the cloud and might have become the Horrors. The other is responsible for the terraforming of so many worlds. Both died in their old war. 
  • Life - Many worlds bear life, seeded by one of the old and vanished species. Unfortunately for mankind, the ecosystems they favored  are toxic, invasive, alien, and everywhere.
  • Horrors - Most claim they don't exist. The situation is both worse and more complicated than the Triumvirate realize.

 

Handwritten Klingon Script


 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Playing around with Kult's Tarot Rules

I've never played Kult, but someone on Discord (I cannot remember whom) linked to their document about using tarot to build scenarios.

So I did that. Imagine it's for Esoteric Enterprises. It uses Kult's custom tarot deck but with a bit of finagling I was able to make a normal deck of cards work (man i really need to get a good tarot deck)

A forewarning - this got real fuckin' dark when I did it, so I expect others will have similar experiences if they try it out. 

(Wow this one has been delayed)

Individual

  1. Characteristic - Forgetfullness; they are elderly, and their memory is beginning to fail them.
  2. Past - Love; they were a devoted spouse for over forty years.
  3. Ambition - Lust; they have built an idealized image of their beloved in their head, and grief plus the loss of memory has created something new and not altogether healthy.
  4. Weakness - They are violently opposed by the cult.
  5. Strength - They are unflappable, calm, charismatic.

Location

  1. Type - An abandoned orphanage, aligned with dread powers.
  2. Past - Repetition; the drudgery and everyday horror of those who lived here.
  3. Trait - A stairway down, down, down...
  4. Weakness - Old TVs are everywhere; corroded VHS tapes contain mind-numbing subliminals, with overexposure slowly blocking off higher brain functions.
  5. Exceptional Aspect - Gangs of orphans would fight each other for the favor of the staff.

Cult

  1. Power / Ambition - A return to untamed wilderness. Not even that technological civilization is to dismantled, but that higher thought itself must be eliminated.
  2. History - They started as backwoods pilgrims; cast-offs from the meatgrinder of city life and the modern age, looking for some way to escape.
  3. Goal - Pure, thoughtless philosophy; the enlightenment of the zoanthropic man.
  4. Weakness - They have their own enemies in the hall of civic power. No friends of yours, but they have gotten on the scent all the same.
  5. Resource - Cruelty; the orphanage was sponsored by the cult's wealthier members, a testing ground of sorts.

Plot

  1. Power - Scandal; a cult member of some public prominence is revealed, accused of abuses at the orphanage.
  2. Cause - Croudfunding campaign to pay for the victim's legal fees.
  3. Next Move - Wait & see; both the cult and the victim's supporters are waiting for the trial and its verdict before acting. This might still be swept under the rug, or it might still boil over.
  4. Opposition - Those who want to hide the cult's abuses and normalize its existence publicly.
  5. Support - An online community has sprung up to find and support more abuse victims.

Creature

  1. Origin - Torment; formed from the compressed suffering of the orphanage, crawling up out of the darkness of those interminable stairs.
  2. Who Knows? - The first leaks began in the local punk scene - rumors spread by one of the bands, whose lead knows a victim who has not yet come forward. Curious (and often intoxicated) minds have gone out exploring, come back with more rumors.
  3. Drive - To fulfill and spread its purpose; to put the fear of God in people, to perpetuate the cycle that created it.
  4. Weakness - It is hunted, on the run, ragged, desperate. We know not what chases it.
  5. Strength - It changes the environment and people around it, gradually shifting them more and more like the place it called home and the victims it first preyed upon.

Artifact 

  1. Origin - An ancient cipher.
  2. Who looks for it? - A hacker trying to break it.
  3. Danger of use - Susceptibility to law - authorities are aware of this document. There is a watchlist, they will hunt people down.
  4. Primary Power - Fragments, remnants, leftovers; the detrital wisdom of its composer.
  5. Secondary Power - Allure; it drives people to try and solve it.

Compiling The Pieces

The NPC was the founder of the Cult in its early years, but after creating the Cipher (which accelerated the memory loss they would have experienced normally) they fell away from it into obscurity. 

The Cult, as it develops its dogma and spreads its influence, comes into ownership of the Orphanage, which is uses as a testing bed for its experiments into zoanthropy. The abuses by the Cult give rise to the Creature, which escapes into the wild after the Orphanage is abandoned by the Cult.

Some time later, victims of the Orphanage start accusing members of the Cult. The lead-up to the first major trial is currently ongoing. The Creature has been spotted outside of town, wounded (It has been hunted by the NPC, though they do not know precisely why they are so obsessed with killing it). The Cipher has fallen into hands outside the cult and someone you know is working on breaking it, hopefully before the authorities swoop in and make the whole thing disappear.

Well, I think this worked out pretty well.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Delvers'

 

Othman Sahbi

There's a password you have to learn, a taboo that lives in your brain. It slips out of your head and off your tongue like a ball of static. The door at the bottom of the stairwell opens, welcoming you in. You're known by Delver's now, try to make a good first impression.

 

First Impression

The grotty beating heart of the City's occult underworld. The last call before hell, the last homely house, a nest of exposed pipes and graffiti-caked concrete, filled with the haze of demon liquor smoke. It's formed of three tiers, like an inverted ziggurat or a miniature Alighierian hell. The concrete walls are covered in mismatched doors and layers of graffiti. The bar's down at the center of the bottom level, as are the tables. You emerge on the upper ring.

 

These Facts Are Always True:

  • Delvers is (mostly) neutral territory. No feds, no fascists. The Musketeers will handle any disputes that come up.
  • The mismatched doors in the walls and floor of the bottom level lead deeper into the Underworld.
  • Anyone coming up from a successful delve gets first round on the house.
  • Private rooms, item storage, and long-term coffin apartments are available for rent.
  • Basic goods are always available for purchase.
  • Management has the final word. No exceptions.

There are other entries to the Underworld that you know of, but Delvers' is the largest and most stable within reasonable distance - this means that it is very well traveled, so you will be trading secrecy for safety and will lose direct access to more obscure Underworld locales.

Delvers' uses the die drop system by Hex Culture's "Home Again, Home Again". Every time the players visit Delvers', roll  4-6-6-8-10-10-12. If you roll a number higher than the NPCs listed, no one in that category shows up during that visit.

 

When You Arrive, the Place Is... (d10)

  1. Dead empty
  2. A few people
  3. A few people
  4. Ordinary crowd
  5. Ordinary crowd (special event)
  6. Ordinary crowd
  7. Packed
  8. Packed (special event)
  9. Standing room only

 

The Management

The Door is always present. Roll d6 every visit: 1: Baba + Door | 2: Mabel + Door | 3: Baba + Mabel + Door | 4-6: Door only.

  • "Baba Ghanoush" - An older gentleman in a finely-fitted grey suit. Speaks with the sort of quiet, polite directness reserved for mob bosses and the sorts of bishops who have connections on the outside. He is genuinely entertained by the nickname.
  • Mabel - 85 years old and sharp as a freshly-whet knife. Nothing gets past her.
  • The Sealed Door - Dandelion yellow bands of "POLICE LINE: DO NOT CROSS" cover rusting metal. A hand-painted sign is taped below the painted-over glass: "MNGMT."

 

The Three Musketeers

They are not actually musketeers. They have an arrangement, details unknown, with the Management. They keep the order in Delvers'.

  • Athos - You almost don't notice the statue. It's something like a man, heavily stylized, out of proportion. An enormous tafl piece. A heavy brow, prominent nose, big angular beard and mustache. The details, the links in its chain shirt and the calluses on its palms are nearly smoothed away with age. In those rare moments when it moves, it does so in a terrifying blur, crawling on all fours like an infant.
  • Porthos - You can hear a slithering sound under your feet, like someone dragging something heavy and wet against the concrete. A door opens up and a long red arm, the knobbled fingers forming a sock-puppet's mouth, rises like a periscope. Someone, at some point, affixed a pair of googly eyes to this extremity. The other limbs, encased in similar spiny exoskeletal plates, do not bear such amusing adornment.
  • Aramis - A woman in a wheelchair, old enough to have a bit of grey at the temples and a face weathered by time. A colorful blanket covers her legs, and a ball python lies draped over her shoulders. An ancient level-action rifle rests in her lap. She's easy to talk to, will remember your name, always willing to chat about her activism (environmental causes and native land rights) or her three children (all grown, now). There's a red ring on her finger, she turns it with her thumb while talking.

Behind the Bar

Roll 2d6 every time you enter to see who's working. Doubles mean someone called off and there's only the one.

  1. Mjoll - Doesn't talk much. Dark skin. Eyes like honey. Left arm is prosthetic up to the shoulder, left leg up to the knee. Combat veteran. Quick on the draw.
  2. Herschel - A charming man with heavy burn scars, will always have time to chat about his husband and kids.
  3. Lucy - A broad, brawny, friendly woman who has gone a bit soft around the middle. If you didn't know better (and honestly, you probably don't), you would swear most of her family tree are neanderthals.
  4. Duncan - Always has a sort of deer-in-headlights look about him, especially around the stranger guests. Fell into this all by mistake and can't really find a way out.
  5. Red-Hed - Stocky. Wears a big spherical red helmet. Voice modulator.
  6. "Barkeep" - A fat tabby tomcat.


Merchants (d4)

  1. Hoshino - Cheery fellow, always has sunglasses and a cigarette. Burn scars on his hands. Always shows up with his overhauled vending machines ready to dispense anything from tampons to bullets. Sells ammunition and basic supplies at a discount, as well as specialist goods (ie, non-weapons tagged "expensive")
  2. Papa Clink - Wide-waisted, barrel-chested, booming of voice. Bullet casings braided into a bushy black beard that obscures most of his face. Sells weapons at a discount
  3. Bri, Cartographer - They always seems to be wearing too much clothing for the weather. Eyes alone can be seen between hat and scarf. Sells maps of underworld nodes. Buys survey data of new areas.
  4. Pillbox - Naturally jittery and scatterbrained. Been sober for 15 years now. Has a sort of neon-goth thing going on, but it's mostly for advertisement. Sells 1d6 different drugs every time they visit. Buys any drugs they're not selling.


Specialists 1 (d6)

  1. Pen & Tam - Friendly couple from the surface who pop down every so often for a drink. Don't have any special powers, but Pen knows all about rare and magical books and how to get in touch with Book Club, and Tam can identify magical items.
  2. Julian Tull, cryptozoologist - Has a sort of Steve Irwin energy, if Steve Irwin was significantly worse at his job and was on social media too much. Pays for tips, more for photos and video, and even more for live specimens.
  3. The Apostate - A renegade from the Pure World Armory. Clean-shaven, tall, muscular, like a marble statue or propaganda poster come to life. Has devoted himself to the Gun Gods of An-Hehm. Deliberate and slow in his speech to make up for his uncertainty in social situations. Has access to special Armory weapons and armor as well as specialist ammunition.
  4. Mamadou the Mask Salesman - He always puts you in mind of a spider, and you can't shake the idea. Sells magical masks. Will offer 4-6 different masks every time he visits.

 

Specialists 2 (d6)

  1. Fisk - A "procurement specialist" for "human resources". Wears smoked glasses. Constantly eating sunflower seeds, spitting the shells into a mason jar he keeps at his table. The pacing of his speech is off; syllables are drawn out or cut short with no pattern or reason.
  2. Karina - Fruit merchant. Lazy eye, heterochromatic, intensely focused on something else beyond the walls of the room. Sells alien wares from far down below.
  3. Thimble Slim - A small, thin, pimply man with a tattered graphic tee ten years out of relevance and a terrible comb-over. No one likes him, and no one can seem to get rid of him. A fence for stolen goods and drugs.  
  4. Satchel Buck - A short, portly man who wears bright, poorly matched clothing. Proprietor of an Underworld speed dating service called the Lonely Souls Club, whose virtues he will detail at length to anyone showing even slight curiosity.

 

Doctors (d8)

  1. Tokamak - A bald man with an enormous white walrus mustache. His tweed coat is frayed at the collar and wrists. He has a pet, something he calls a "dream-eater". Something akin to a cross between a hyena and a small bear. It too is bald, though it does not have a mustache. A man of science, strange as those sciences may be, and very well educated in them. Not actually a doctor
  2. Melliferous Synapse, Fleshcrafter Novice - Offers grafting services. Human parts, animal parts, monster parts, so long as it's mostly fresh. They look radically different every time they appear, and are more easily identified
  3. Stitches - A pale, lanky teenage girl, limp cigarette dangling from her lip. Apathetic and emotionally inscrutable. Immensely skilled, but doesn't care much for aesthetics - you'll live, but you won't be winning any pageants.
  4. Nanoa - An elderly sage of the cult of Lu. Skin painted with delicate whorls of white, blue, green, gold. Knows of cult safehouses within the Underground, and may induct new members.

 

Occultists (d10)

  1. Anbara, Book Club Witch - Cultist of Aza-Thoth and professional pornographer. Will offer to trade a grimoire from her collection for one of yours, or maybe even gift you a new book. Knows the way to the Stygian Library.
  2. Mr. Deveroux - A pallid man in a yellowing and sweat-stained seersucker suit. Flies, cicadas, cockroaches all seem attracted to him. His face doesn't work right - all his expressions seem to be on a delay from what he's actually saying. Will teach you the infernal arts, given the right payment in souls.
  3. Amelia, Necromancer - Five feet tall on the dot, enormous glasses, enormous smile, and a propensity for dissection knives. She is a proper priestess of the dead, though she only breaks out her schema habit for special occasions. Offers Speak With Dead, funeral services, minor exorcisms, and the occasional zombification.
  4. The Blackthorns - A trio of witches - grandmother, mother, daughter. The latter two are dead, the first jumps her soul between their bodies. Folks don't like talking about it. She's a good person, though, worse people to go to for help than Maggie Blackthorn. Offers minor enchantments, spell identification, potions and tinctures, and advice.

 

Strangers (d12)

Strangers will not appear in Delvers' without first being encountered in the Underworld. Some of them can serve as replacement PCs.

  1. Ayo - Enormous red-skinned woman with black hair and horns. Loves eating, boozing, fighting and fucking.Always has some demon liqour on hand, always looking for something new to eat or fight.
  2. Cruel Tai - A positively mummified-looking man, hooked up to life support. The kind of person that everyone wants to hurry up and die, but who outright refuses to go. He has a chest with seven locks on it, each of a different material. The keys are long lost, down below. Each one will unlock a different gift. Bring him a key and an offering, and he will let you open a lock.
  3. "Alice" - A young woman with white hair and dark circles around pale grey eyes that always seem to be looking through and past you. Wears a dark blue shawl stitched with silver sigils. There is a thick, knotted scar in a ring around her neck. She smells strongly of potent magics
  4. FRIEND Terminal - A converted arcade cabinet. The old branding has been painted over with "FRIENDs in High PlaceS". Stick a quarter in and a smiley face will blip on the screen, and maybe offer you a job.
  5. Mr. Tamam - A weathered man in a long duster jacket. Enormous brown sideburns, arms tattooed with gemmatria. Postmaster of the underground. His services are reliable and affordable. He may call upon you to make a delivery.
  6. Dogmeat - Lanky woman wearing a rubber rottweiler mask. Long, tangled, dirty blonde hair. Torn jeans. Black t-shirt with the save point symbol from Silent Hill 3. Blood-stained baseball bat always within reach. Connections with Lighthouse.
  7. Doubtless-You-See-the-Connections - A der0 that can manage to interact with the greater world with a reasonable chance of success. Looks like an emaciated suffocation-blue macrocephalic infant. Encyclopedic knowledge of thousands of conspiracies, real and imagined, and a mostly reliable guide in the Underworld. 
  8. Jon Tatterdemalion - A handsome man in a beautiful, travel-worm cloak. If given a magical item, he will exchange it for another or teach the giver a spell. He is guileful, haughty, gossipy, terribly intelligent, easy to flatter and difficult to fool. He seeks to find Irem the City of Pillars deep in the Underworld, and to avoid his ex-wife.
  9. The Lamplighter - A militant cultist of Lantern Boy, utterly devoted to destroying the Lamplighters' enemies and tracking down their missing messiah. Scarily single-minded.
  10. The Titan - A huge glass tank filled with murky yellow clouds. Two attendants in spacesuits, visors down, are present at all times, and will speak on its behalf. It is content to observe, but if you were to gain its interested attention it might teach you secrets of
  11. Apotheamniot - A creature like long-lost austrolopithicus; its head replaced with a bubble of amniotic fluid and the embryo of a failed apotheosis.
  12. The Man in the Hot, Dark Room - A new door has appeared. Your presence has been specifically requested.