Saturday, January 30, 2021


Alex Andreev

There's a corpse in a bubble at the bottom of a hole
A hole with a corpse down below
There's a wound in the corpse at the bottom of a hole
A wound in the corpse in the bubble 

There's a man in the bubble at the bottom of the hole
A man come to look at the wound
There's a wound in the corpse at the bottom of a hole
And the man's found the shape of the knife


The history of the human expansion sphere has seen so many conspiracies, secret police forces, surveillance states and military-industrial oedipal complexes that when someone asks "hey, have you heard of the men in black?" the answer can only be "yeah, which one?" 

All good for a scary story and a laugh over drinks. They're a persistent boogeyman for good reason, and have come and gone in a thousand different masks and names, and many of them were even real. 

These ones are very real, and they do not have a name. For convenience's sake here I will be calling them the Office of Anomalous Intelligence, but no one in the expansion sphere would ever call them that - the people who would bother don't know they exist, and the people who know they exist wouldn't bother.

It is a fossil from the last dying breaths of anthropocene Earth. Like dead virii in primate DNA, so here there remain the prehistoric traces of MKULTRA and COINTELPRO. It is the final form of the American experiment.

The following statements are true, or as true as information can be regarding this subject.

  • The OAI is active throughout the expansion sphere, and has influence in most major polities.They tend to favor authoritarian governments, and will encourage the development of such when it suits them.
  • The bulk of the OAI's membership have no idea that they are participating in it, and will do so only temporarily according to directives given from above.
  • BLACKSITE ALPHA is one of their many installations
  • They have neither proper leadership nor headquarters.
  • The true members of the OAI are immortal posthumans, though they do not look it (at least, when they might be seen). They are inculcated with absolute adherence to the Guiding Principles, to an extent that it might be classified as a form of zoanthropy (that is, surgical removal of the volitional will)
  • They seek to create the perfect orderly system out of the cosmos, self-replicating, stable, and unchanging.

(Please see Mon's Modern Instrumentality Bureau for another take on this sort of thing, likely far better than mine)


RK-435 is a black hole of 7 solar masses, with a Schwarzchild Radius of 20.68 km. It possesses no orbiting bodies nor accretion disk, rendering it essentially undetectable to most outside observation.

The three nearest stars are all red dwarves of no particular consequence. The nearest officially plotted hyperspace route is a rarely-used branch some 30 light years away.


A stable bubble of ordinary time-space about 500 km across, existing within the singularity of RK-435 and sustained through means unknown. It is accessible only through a narrow bandwidth hyperspace route accessible from close orbit around black hole.

Making the jump (termed NEEDLE GATE) is impossible without the precise jump calculations (stolen or recovered with great difficulty and luck from agents of the OAI) or the aid of a Navigator (who are almost as difficult to find, unless, perchance you have a FRIEND...)


A dead Celestial; a moon brain cracked open like an egg. A leftover from the war that established the dominance of the High Houses. The smartmatter shell would be about 400 km in diameter when whole; it has lost over 70% of its total mass and the remainder has broken into three large chunks and smaller clouds of assorted rubble. The outer shell is opalescent, almost black, glossy and reflective. The innards are oceans of rippled silver folds, like damascene brain tissue.


A barebones modular station, containing only what is necessary for its function and permitting nothing else. its primary components are as follows.

The Anchor - An elevator that connects the station to the CORPSE. On the corpseside end there is a small automated facility for mining and processing smartmatter, inhabited by a hive of menial crab-bots

SMARTMATTER - Programmable matter is not new to human science, but the corpse-stuff of the dead Celestial is of higher quality than what can be manufactured, and it has already been formatted for an information-processing substrate. An entire android logic core could be stored on a marble of it the size of a fingernail.

Docking Port - There is never more than one ship at a time, and rarely does the same ship visit twice. Many times they do not have any true members of the OAI on board

LIBERTY WORM - Android logic virus used by the Office of Anomalous Intelligence. An android infected with LIBERTY WORM, upon linking itself to the ship's navigation computer, will direct the ship to jump towards RK-435 instead of its intended destination, and from there to BLACKSITE ALPHA. Vectors will be unloaded or onloaded as the Office sees fit, and the ship will depart for its original destination. During this stage, LIBERTY WORM will overwrite the ship's navigation logs, manifests, and the infected android's memory before self-deleting. When the ship arrives months or years late to its destination, those aboard will write it off as just a bad jump.

The Lower Ring - A spoked wheel of cramped habitation modules and the necessary components to keep the inhabitants alive. At the central hub, one may go down to corpseside or up to the containment sphere.

LABOR DESIGNATE CLONE WORKER - A hairless, flash-cloned baboon. Heavily cyborged. Modifications to the brain for tractability and task-implantation are not so extensive to risk development of thalience, which claimed prior android labor pools.

The Upper Ring - A second spoked wheel, with the KNIFE chamber in the central hub. Storage modules for anomalies deemed useful or worthy of study are kept on the ring, along with various laboratories. 

AGAMEMNON HIERARCH - The OAI does not trust in AI, nor in leaving behind hard records. But, records still need to be kept all the same. This secure mainframe contains experiment logs, intake and processing reports for anomalies, and encrypted messages to operatives on the outside. 

The Containment Sphere - Built to house and study ANOMALY PRIME. Now that the KNIFE has been built, the observation decks are rarely used and the equipment is run only for caution's sake.

DENIAL - A shaped antimatter charge is located at the base of the Containment Sphere, which will destroy the rest of BLACKSITE ALPHA should it be infiltrated by another power. The OAI is more than willing to rebuild the station, and even the KNIFE, if need be.


A hyperspatial wound on the universe, the lingering scar of whatever weapon was used to lobotomize this celestial.

Directly looking at the Anomaly is a Sanity Save, naturally. Do not describe it at all - skip ahead to when the character is no longer looking at it - the experience cannot be processed by the hardware and software of the human brain.

Using the specialized observation equipment in BLACKSITE ALPHA, one can see a faint, constantly-shifting distortion that marks the edges of the anomaly - it is almost, but not entirely, unlike the space where a distended prickly shape writhes and foams.

(Should intrepid players somehow, after blood, sweat, tears and fallen comrades, reach BLACKSITE ALPHA and then go on to directly interact with ANOMALY PRIME, describe a flash to nothing, like a TV turning off. Pack away your materials, and end the session early.)

(The next week, pull out premade character sheets of those same characters for a completely different game.)


A device reverse-engineered from observations of ANOMALY PRIME and built using smartmatter components of THE CORPSE applied to a hyperspace interface. Its inner workings are predictably well beyond human understanding, but despite this complexity it is not particularly large: it could easily be carried in a standard shipping container

The KNIFE is able to cut and reshape reality, though the hand wielding it remains unsteady. The results are only partially consistent with what the OAI desires. Useful anomalies will be shipped out to their other operations in the expansion sphere. Interesting ones will be studied here. The rest are launched into RK-435 for disposal.

Usage of the KNIFE is having cascading effects elsewhere in the universe, generating new and unintended anomalies. The OAI is of course very interested in these, and has both established additional hidden stations devoted to their study (large corporations are a convenient front) and taken advantage of the vast and desperate ecosystem of gig workers to collect them on their behalf. LIBERTY WORM is not required for these jobs.

Were the KNIFE to be detected outside the BUBBLE, the High Houses would spare no time nor effort in destroying it. This would stop most individuals from ever considering it, but it will not stop some fucking moron assured in their belief that this time they in particular, will get away with it.


This post is mostly an excuse for why there is inexplicable weird shit in your setting, not a means of dictating what that weird shit is (especially because everyone's Mothership home games have varying levels of weird shit)

I would recommend, in addition to whatever horrors you are already using.

  • Your favorite SCP articles
  • My Lighthouse Field Guide series 
  • Delta Green shotgun scenarios
  • The Magnus Archives 
  • Material pulled from other games and modules entirely
    • A gateway to the Gardens of Ynn or the Stygian Library
    • Artifacts from the Ultraviolet Grasslands 
    • Basilisk hacks etc. from Eclipse Phase
    • The Lamb from Lair of the Lamb
    • Obscure monsters from your favorite bestiaries
    • Even more horrific forms of the Gaunt

Avoid things your players will recognize, of course, unless you are aiming for an "oh shit! moment of realization. Use descriptions, not proper names.

It's immensely unlikely that players will reach BLACKSITE ALPHA...unless, of course, LIBERTY WORM is involved. Otherwise, they'll be interacting with the OAI from the other side - caught in the middle of an event, unknowingly pressed into service, or simply stumbling across something before the OAI finds it.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Miniposts: Commedia del Donjoniers, More Lost Media, GLOGtober and more

Another minipost collection.

Commedia del Arte del Donjoniers

The stock characters of traveling commedia plays. (CosmicOrrery told me to do this.)

  • The Fighter - The typical lead. Oblivious-to-danger and overly showy do-gooder.
  • The Thief - Best friend and confidant of the Fighter. Greedy, lustful, and eternally in debt.
  • The Cleric - A wandering preacher. Holier-than-thou attitude undercut by constant gluttony and lust played for laughs (They never catch the irony).
  • The Wizard - Pompous, inept, egomaniacal, always tries to solve the problem first (but makes it worse)
  • The Barbarian - The foreigner, constantly misunderstanding words and customs; framed as comedy relief, is actually the level-headed one (that no one listens to until the end.)
  • The Elf - The preening noble who only gets involved because they are cast out from their family. Lightens up considerably when drunk,
  • The Dwarf - A habitual drunk, stubborn and garrulous. Hopelessly in love with the Elf, hates this state of affairs.
  • The Halfling - The country bumpkin who gets dragged along in the plot and is always trying and failing to escape.

More Lost Media

It's a dusty VHS tape. No label. Generic box. Someone wrote on it in permanent marker but the handwriting is indiscernible. 

Put it in the VCR, watch the static band cascade down a black screen before an image appears.

There is a car traveling down an empty stretch of desert highway. The sun has set, but the light has not yet left the sky - a faint wash of pink-orange against sinks into the background, silhouetting wind turbines and wind-sculpted bluffs. The edges are deepening blue. Muted music, piano with a back-beat, pours out of the speakers. The dim green glow of dashboard lights light up the lines of the driver's face. The four other women are all asleep, crowded together among fast food bags, the scattered remnants of a first aid kit and duffels with guns poking out from the zippers. Ammo cartridges are stuffed into cupholders.

Driver's Seat: Black. Deep blue eyes. Red hair, shorn down to fuzz. Arms are sleeved with tattoos of sigil circles.

Passenger's Seat: Enormous. Thick black dreadlocks. Shirtless: chest is covered in bandages, medical tape, gauze pads, smears of antiseptic ointment. Tattoo of a snarling demon face on her stomach.

Rear Driver:  Poofy brown hair. Thin rectangular glasses with bottom-half frames. Chainmail; white tabard with a vertical red stripe. A circular seal written in theban on the left. Mace sits upright in the crook of her arm.

Rear Passenger: Lanky. Long, tangled, dirty blonde hair. Torn jeans. Black t-shirt with circular red symbol (Save point from Silent Hill 3 - ed.) Rubber rottweiler mask in her lap.

Rear Middle: Short. Glasses. Red hijab. Sweatshirt with out of context hentai panels printed on it.

"Hey," the driver says. She's keeping her eyes on the road, but you know she's talking to you. "Little bird told me you needed some help. Glad you reached out. You're not alone out there. I know it doesn't feel like it, and it's hard to believe, but it's true. Just hang in there."

She pauses, and there is only the music and the engine for a moment.

"There's a foreclosed house right next to the lot where the Perkins used to be. The storm cellar is locked but your key will fit. Hang tight in there until someone comes to get you. Help yourself to whatever is in the pantry. Don't open up for anyone unless they call you by your middle name, especially if they say that they know us. We'll try to meet up with you soon as we can."

The camera shifts back to outside the car, stationary this time, and its tail-lights and song fade off into the distance as the screen dissolves into static.


Sumerian narrative following the plot beats of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, now featuring the copper merchant Ea-Nasir who is visited by the mušḫuššu, the lamassu, and finally the demon Asag, who attempt to encourage the merchant to give up his wicked and avaricious ways, and so avoid terrible punishment by the gods both in life and in the underworld. In noted divergence from the source text, Ea-Nasir learns absolutely nothing about the meaning of Christmas, kicks the spirits out of his house, and ends the narrative by revealing his collected hoard of complaint tablets from dissatisfied customers.


US War Crime Trials Tapes 134-146 - 12 corroded VHS tapes containing footage of war crimes trails held against members of the George H.W. Bush and Obama administrations at The Hague, as well as multiple members of United States congress in office between 2002-2011. Tape 146 cuts off just as former vice president Dick Cheney is taking the stand, which likely explains why the tape was labeled as "fucking blueballs".


GLOGtober Prompts

Later than they were before because I accidentally deleted the draft.

Hell + Artifact

Hell is a state of being trapped inside one's head. The senses cannot extend past the skull, and the imprisoned is beset by constant fears and phantasms drawn up from the subconscious. Hell-bound are considered a variety of zoanthrope - the body acts according to its animal instincts, severed from the rational mind.

Spirits bound in hellstates can be A) freed, providing (horrifically traumatized) ghosts B) interrogated C) used to focus magic or D) used to run simulations. Three of these four are absolutely monstrous.

Swirling Rainbow Vortice + Quirky Magic Item

A washing machine whose depthless drum is a resplendent maelstrom of color. Clothing placed within will by dyed and granted a magical effect (ordinary clothing only, one piece per user)

  • Red - Observers believe you to be covered in blood.
  • Orange  - You smell very, very strongly of citrus.
  • Yellow - You give off a very soft light.
  • Green - You track dirt everywhere, moss grows on you, you can speak with plants.
  • Blue - You can breathe in water, but lose all ability to swim or float.
  • Indigo  - You gain nightvision, but also "horrible-ghost-vision".
  • Violet - Observers believe you are royalty, for good and for ill.

Goblins + Table

Primary Goblotype

  1. Raccoon
  2. Possum
  3. Sphinx cat
  4. Weird bat
  5. Felt puppet
  6. Lemur

Detail A

  1. Gangly
  2. Portly
  3. Pimply
  4. Bitey
  5. Spiky
  6. Filthy

Detail B

  1. Striped
  2. Furred
  3. Spotted
  4. Scaled
  5. Scabbed
  6. Knobbled


  1. Bog Tribe
  2. Crypt Tribe
  3. Victorian Urchin Tribe
  4. Market Tribe
  5. Volcano Tribe
  6. Food Truck Tribe

Regarding Dwarves

(I wrote this for a friend some years ago, found it in my drafts)

Dwarves are born of the earth, of the Molten Womb deep below the mountains. Their bones are of stone, their hearts of magma. They are older than gods, older than beasts, older than the first proteins to emerge from the acidic muck, as old as the cooling crust of the world itself.

The typical dwarf operates on geological time-scales. The simple act of greeting one another might take millennia. This makes it exceptionally difficult for a dwarf and anyone of any other species to have any sort of meaningful contact, barring magical interference. Those dwarfs that do interact with other races on a regular basis are, by necessity, “sped up” - at lower temperatures, their silicon-crystal nervous systems conduct electricity more efficiently. At magical temperatures approaching absolute zero, they can live at speeds roughly equivalent to human beings.

The source of these enchantments is fuzzy. Some blame gods, some blame wizards with nothing better to do, some say it is an offshoot of the dwarves themselves.

Dwarves do not die. They erode. Wind and water and time do their toil, but the stuff of their bodies remains and might be reshaped. The dwarvish sense of self reflects this – what it is now is their what it was before, or what it will be.

A Note on Appearance

Dwarves as they are generally known are stocky humanoids between 3 and 5 feet tall, on average. They are neither male nor female, and appear to be roughly carved from their parent rock. Their featureless heads are wreathed in halos of frozen crystal – mostly water, but close to the surface it is a latticed film of metalicized oxygen and nitrogen.

But this is only a minority population of dwarves – the majority are often quite larger, are rarely humanoid, and are often confused for nearby buttes.

A Note on Etymology

“Dwarf” is a clumsy and ill fitting term for these beings, being a Westron misconstruction of the Ghaztlani “Dorof” (“one who lives inside a mountain”), but as they have no name for themselves, it shall be used.

Three Varieties of Dwarves

Igneous dwarves are young and still cooling. Their insides are a molten mass, their shells are rough and ragged. By dwarf standards, they are quick and volatile. Eventually, their hearts will cool, and after a few more millennia they will fall asleep.

Sedimentary dwarves are formed at incredible pressures under the ocean, from the ground-down bodies of igneous dwarves. These are the common mountain dwarves (as they have emerged from the mountains that used to be sea floors). Sedimentary dwarves are ancient and fastidious, and set dwarf standards.

Metamorphic dwarves were once dwarves of other varieties, but changed under immense heat and pressure. They are the rarest of dwarves, and each is unique, often forged for a specific purpose. In time they might be ground down to sedimentary form again, when their glory has passed.


(TheLawfulNeutral was behind this one)

Metastatic Scions of the Red Law

  • Pointed, sharklike head
  • Large, drooping ears
  • Teeth are jagged, uneven, and ill-fitting.
  • Leprous skin - boils, legions, warts, teratomas. Burt to crispy leather by the sun.
  • Hair black and stringy, patches and clumps
  • Cartilaginous skeleton, can squeeze through anything bigger than their eyeballs if given time.
  • Can regenerate basically any damage. Old ones will have odd sets of limbs and sense organs
  • Incredibly dense
  • Infected individuals will develop troll-cancer.
    • Lucky ones can catch it early through treatment and kill it
    • Somewhat lucky ones can have it removed
    • The rest are consumed by it. The cancer will kill them long before the troll's "gestation" is complete - incineration is recommended. 
    • Do not let it spread.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Slushpile 7: Archive Dredging Edition

Slushpiles Past: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

I have on my computer a folder containing writings that span from 2009-2017. Nearly all of it is terrible, and seeing as how I'm certainly not going to return to it, I shall do what I do best, and carve up the good parts for a slush pile post. 

There's still more lying around, but it is better fit for other posts.

(It is, however, quite fun seeing how ideas are carried forward out of the past - the original form of Lighthouse, some dim precursors that would eventually get merged into Mother Stole Fire, a whole lot of space opera material (highest salvagability of the lot, I think, much of that will get its own post), entirely too many different early versions of Unicorn Meat. Quite fascinating. more on that later.)

These aren't in any particular order, nor are they a particularly complete look into the hidden datavault - so much just was no good at all, and I will spare you Homestuck fanfiction.

Slushpile # 7

1) "None of my maps survived out of my childhood, as is typical."

2) The Happy Grognard - a tavern, popular with a certain band of expatriate veterans long-ago abandoned by their government.

3) A document titled "Virus.docx", last saved on 10/11/11 and containing nothing beyond "There was a raised platform in the center of the room. The walls shifted". [Ed. I have exactly 0 idea as to what this was supposed to be]

4) The Great Digitals - An alternative term for Celestials.

5) Long Horizon Colonial Security - A now-defunct Earth-based private military contractor. The war crimes committed did not, in the end, have an influence on the circumstances of its collapse.

6) Bliss Swing Sensorata - An interactive-experiential musical group.

7) Turning Toward Summer - An AI overseer of the primary Gliese 667 colony. 

8) Anaspaxi - A neogenic lifeform. Quadrupedal. Large bodies, small, narrow heads, shovel-shaped tongues, mostly hairless, dark grey splotted with black. Wallow in mud.

9) Lord Krelling's Moon - “There are sixteen thousand Krellings on LKM, and not a single one of them is legitimate.”

10) MOTEN - A major government of Solsys, concerned primarily with acting as a colonizing force.

11) "Half-plus" - term for someone who has a non-standard suite of enhancements beyond normal in-utero and infancy treatments

12) "The Server Farm" - Insider name for an AI development lab

13) Kakarodon – A god; The Father of Sharks. His bowls are Hell, his shit perfection, and no man escapes his maw. He judges not, and cares not for guilt, seeking only to satisfy his own hunger. He is the one to consume the world at its end.

14) Knight Doctorate - Militant order drawn from ranks of landowning nobles during plague years. Led by the Lords Doctorate, who hold their own seats in the Upper House as well as those of their families, giving the order significant (undue, really) political power.

15) "Nearly two centuries ago, a drifting alien superstructure was caught by the sun’s gravity and pulled into orbit. The Puzzle Box, as the artificial planet came to be known, is now the home of thousands of explorers, scientists, and entrepreneurs, all trying to pull secrets from the labyrinthine insides."

16) Inter-Polity Cooperative Space Agency

17) Szci-Hadolaüng Mutual Interest Group - operates directly on forty-one worlds in eight systems, with over one hundred and fifty affiliated moons and habitats

18) Mzchuriz, the Witch Queen

19) The House of None - Vast paradox unspoken / hidden name unknown

20) "Here and there a grove of smaller trees or another massive baobab broke the savannah, or a slender black interdiction pole with a blue markerlight on top. The tiny spire of the Szci-Hadolaüng resort tower, up on the tallest of the mountains, reflected the last rays of the sun."

21) Gristlepig - Small, round, rather dumb creature. Not particularly tasty, but plentiful and edible.

22) The cursed River Attathakit - Water induces cannibalistic urges


“There, on the horizon”

An Zan squinted, following Liu’s finger. Just as she had said, there were the greyish-blue blobs in the distance. He could make out three of them, maybe four, but those would be the adults. The juveniles would be too small to be seen from this distance.

“They're coming towards us."

24) A little creature bobs by her shoulder: a bleached white skull missing a jaw, diminutive red-black body hanging limply from it, blue-white pinpricks of light in the sockets.

25) Three figures stand above a bloody, mutilated cow. Their skin is blackened, leprous, with wisps of pale hair and thin fleshy quills. They are wearing capes of flayed skin around their shoulders and goat skulls on their heads, the horns festooned with talismans of bone and gristle. The cow is opened up, its organs removed, cleaned, and placed around the eviscerated body.

The desert wind carries their moaning, droning chant, as a group of three humans and six house cats crest a nearby ridge. The humans are armed. The cats are not.

26) Chinese symbols in red neon glow in the pouring black rain. Fat droplets splatter on the sidewalk.

27) Time passed much like a kidney stone.

28) "Since its original publishing in 1939, the Lighthouse Field Manual has been considered one of the best resources in the field of the paranormal to the general public. Over the course of its eight editions, the The Manual’s success is in part due to its convenient size, and its simple, down-to-earth language."


  • Arichon-Rho, the White Sun
  • Hadzi-Hadzi, the Blue Sun
  • Derremona, the Yellow Sun
  • Llannozon, the Red Sun
  • Hahn-Ren, the Exiled Sun

30) A description of a Szci-Hadolaüng representative: "A slim silvery torso supported on three legs.  A sphere honeycombed with empty pockets floats above smooth shoulders. Feathery fractal branches linked in a constantly shifting lace weave fan out behind the torso. Occasionally, a patch of the thing’s surface would flush a fleeting shade of blue or green or purple."

31) A long black car, one of those vintages that’s sleek and dark and looks a bit like a hearse, cut through the mist on a lonely grey-gravel road. 

32) Fermented milk / In black porcelain cups / With rims of lapis lazuli

33) Furthermore, in the ancient traditions of the Ashkedash sky-squid, certain unicorn-bone totems were regarded as sacred, and were used in their magical rites.

34) Dr. Lodd’s Miracle Medicinal Whiskey

35) "Depravity of that scope necessitates vision."

36) Htan-Htin, the Protector of All Ships - A spacer's god.

37) "Welcome to NPR’s “Fresh Air”, I’m Terry Gross. This hour we’re taking a look at traditional unicorn farms with journalist Jessica Sande. She recently finished a tour of some of the most prominent family-owned unicorn farms in the country. Her experiences can be found in her new book, “Virgins Only, Bed and Meals Provided”, which comes out in September. Jessica, welcome."

38) The Conclave in Blue - A distant power flexing its influence in these mercantile hubs across the Boiling Sea. Agents are skilled in the arcanosomatic combat arts and are easily discerned by their deep blue clothing. One is sitting up on top of the statue in the center of the market under an umbrella, I wonder what she wants?

39) After the fall of the God-Kings, it became common for city-states in the Old Domain to mint their own coins. Some currencies will spread among several cities, some will only fill part of a city, but the following are accepted more or less anywhere in the Old Domain, and oftentimes elsewhere.

  • Old Domain Crowns - Genuine coins from before the collapse.
  • White Obsidian - Value of a shard determined by weight.
  • Red Oil - Seals from the Oildrinker’s Guild, being backed by red oil, are equivalent.
  • Labyrinthines - Forged from the metal of the inner labyrinth.
  • Folly - Nearly but not entirely worthless paper money.
  • Soulpearls - Form inside the stomach when the soul irritates the body.

40) Patio done in stone tiles, a swirling mosaic of pale yellow and sky blue and pinks and oranges, swirling like clouds. Wicker chairs.

41) Brabbery, the City of Towers, Mars - Principle city of the lower canal country.

42) The Knights Confessor were blind, each and all. Initiation into the order required the removal of their eyes, so that they might not judge any sinner who came to them. All words spoken within their chambers were bound to secrecy, and no magic or mortal persuasion could wrench them out.

43) Iced-over hot springs under a dim and greying sky. Trees of coral and pearl sucked of their color. Dead, brown gardens.

44) "The horn of the unicorn has many uses. When ground up, it can render fluids completely undrinkable by forming a solution that will solidify into something much like very brittle concrete halfway down the esophagus. When used as a channel for magical energy, it has a great tendency to violently explode. When held by itself, it is very good at stabbing things, but will dull after a few uses. When used in art, it tends to degrade far faster than the bones of other animals."


A sign had been posted on the door, which read:

“Please ring! We’ll meet you out there!”

Underneath, in smaller print:

“There is a seven-in-eight chance of instantaneous death if you open this door, so please, let us get it for you.”

An on a sheet of laminated paper taped over the doorbell:

“Doorbell broken: Please knock. Warning still applies. We apologize for inconvenient wait times.”

46) Achios’ Unorthodox Foodstuffs! Introducing Pred: the Meal That Fights Back!

47) Erotech Pleasure Simulants: Reliable, Safe, Adapted to Your Needs.

48) Glorified - State of transhuman ascension provided by the Gift

49) The King of Turning Wheels

50) Thirteen had ridden out with her, and thirteen had died upon the blood-red road. Five in glory, two by cold, four by sickness, one by the perils of the night, and one by her own hands – a bloodless, shaming death, fit only to fatten the crows. 

51) A dream – a version of XCOM EU, with the EW expansion, more detailed than the typical art style.. Fought a couple of exalts who called in some posthuman help. Column of red-goo. Rusty armor guy, fast.

52) "I will speak now of the time when the upstart sun was consumed. Aye, consumed! The upstart sun consumed, and all its planets and planetoids!"


In the tropical kingdoms of Ist, the tigers grow old and clever and cruel. They do not fear the hunter, nor fall to the poacher as their cousins do in Vashra and Tele. In the deep jungles of Ist, among the crumbling, vine-choked ruins of ancient god-kings, the tigers eat men and the essences of men.

It is the soul that the tigers of Ist seek - meat merely sates the body, and while the tigers of Ist take pleasure in every kill, the women and children of the villages along the jungle’s border do not satisfy the gnawing in their hearts.

When a tiger of Ist has killed one hundred men and devoured their souls, it transforms into a manticore.

A man who devours one hundred tigers in turn becomes man-tiger.
A man who eats a manticore, well, that is a Xastrachata.

54) Elves as weird primordial cambrian fetus-creatures

55) Magical bird-pterosaurs are also elves, from an older age

56) Vampire dinosaurs – like horrible mosquitos

57) Cats that sound like babies to lure people into traps

58) "The man holding the bat is wearing a sweat-stained wifebeater, frayed jeans, and steel-toed boots. His arms and chest are layered with tattoos, some faded, some sharp. Coils of barbed wire, skulls on fire, naked women, jagged letters and occult symbos. An anarchy A with an Eye of Providence on his forehead, between two subdermal implants at his temples to give him blunted horns."

59) A description of the un-man: "Soft, pale skin. A narrow, horselike face with jutting, sculpted teeth. Wide ears with lobes stretched out by silver gauges and dangling strings of little diamonds. Lapis lazuli implants poking out from the skin along the forehead, the nose, the cheeks. Thin arms connected to the trunk of the body at too broad of an angle. Slender fingers, each a joint too long, banded with gemstone rings. Knifelike fingernails, engraved and painted. Voluminous layers of folded silks, scarlet and gold, hiding whatever shapes sat underneath. A fat purple tongue snaked out from between its lips, licked at an eyeball, probed a nostril, and returned."

Friday, January 15, 2021

Let's Look At: Dungeon Bitches

Emmy Allen (Esoteric Enterprises, Gardens of Ynn, Stygian Library) asked me if I'd like to do a preview-review of her upcoming game Dungeon Bitches. I said "yes" very swiftly, she sent me the pdf, and so with such disclosures out of the way, here we are. You've seen my love for her other books, presume blinding positive bias.

A General Forewarning 

Dungeon Bitches is full of sex, violence, body horror, abuse and trauma. Graphically so.This leads directly into my second and perhaps primary point -

Knowing Exactly What the Fuck You're In For

The title page of the book features the following sentence:

"A game in which disaster lesbians get fucked up in dungeons."

A few pages later we get:

"This much is taken as assumed. Your PC is:

  • Female
  • Not straight
  • With no place in polite society"

This does not leave much quibble room as to what the game is about, and that is very welcome indeed. Give me an honest game and you'll find me an engaged reader, and an honest game this is.

Mechanical Summary

It's a PbtA hack, and a lightweight one at that. Full disclosure, I have no experience playing or running a PbtA game of any stripe, so I'm judging this aspect from the outside.

The moves are straightforward and there's very little to keep track of (Your Bonds with other characters and your own character's Hurt, and that's basically it.) Everything is named sensibly and straightforwardly. The means and methods of play are presented in easy, low-jargon language. I find it significantly easier to grok than other PbtA games I have read, so ironically it gets some bonus points for being approachable in that regard.

The Bitches

There are ten character templates in Dungeon Bitches (referred to in the book as "deals") - Wounded Daughter, Lantern Girl, Amazon, Beast, Corpse Doll, Firebrand, Banshee, Runaway Nun, Witch, and Disgraced Princess. Each one is framed around how the world has fucked them over, and how they then process that. The Amazon does violence, the Firebrand sacrifices herself for others, the Lantern Girl is confused, the Corpse Doll remakes herself in the un-life, and so on. Mechanical components of the deals are secondary; everyone's got some leading questions to shape a background, relationships with other PCs, their unique moves, etc. The meat of the deal is in the concept itself, which is going to be the make-or-break part of roleplaying in this game. More on that a bit later.

The Safety Section

It's quite extensive, covering setting expectations beforehand, maintaining  a sense of safety and player-control during the game, halting trouble before it gets out of hand, and then settling down afterwards. There's a full 12 pages devoted to this in the book, and that's an appropriate level of thoroughness for something like this. Subjects like trauma and sex have their own sections and their own guidelines, and all combined it's not only good advice for keeping things enjoyable for players at the table, but a good way of guiding referees towards what they should be doing - here are the safety tools, you should be running a game where they are used because if you're not, you're either going to make players miserable or bored.

Building the World

If you've played Esoteric Enterprises, this will be familiar: toss a bunch of dice on paper and check them against the provided tables. It is much more concerned with the microscale, practical parts of building - here's the dungeon, here's the town, here are the important things and potential threats.

Important note here is that, in violation of normal dungeon-crawling conventions, the town is dangerous. A different kind of danger than the dungeon (and the book will explore this difference), but still very dangerous. The world is not built for Bitches, and it tolerates them only inasmuch as one tolerates something that they hate. It will not take your side when trouble brews, and trouble will brew. In many ways, you are safer in the dungeon. A giant spider is just hungry and territorial. Someone in town hates you in particular.

Other Assorted Bullet Points

  • The art by Sarah Carapace is excellent. It's grotty and gory and a couple pieces (Wounded Daughter in particular) made me actively recoil, which is high marks in a game meant to be uncomfortable - and then there's the one piece in the downtime section that bucks the trend, thereby driving home the importance of those rare quiet moments. A+.
  • There's a sidebar for alchemical reagents used for characters undergoing transition. This is honestly worth swiping for any other fantasy game. You should do that.
  • The general attitude of the townsfolk towards the Bitches is pretty appropriate for other grotty fantasy games too.
  • "How a character reacts after violence is committed is generally more interesting than the act itself" is some fantastic advice.
  • I am very fond of how the encumbrance system is "there isn't one, use your head". This extends to other resource management aspects as well.
  • Setting-building aspects take up the smallest part of the book, which is a smart move - they would have unbalanced the entire thing if they took up any more space. Much more weight is carried by the deals and figuring out how the world has shaped and harmed the PCs.
  • The dichotomy between the Wounded Mother / Hollow Men is a brutal and bleak bit of cosmology worth more in four pages than multiple entire setting books. 
  • The referee advice encourages brutality when the situation calls for it...and it's tempered by the conventions of PbtA's more player-centric mindset. An interesting combination there.
  • For a short list of monsters with only a few brief words each, the bestiary has some great material. Hyena-sphinx, for example.
  • There are multiple NPCs that are giant predatory spiders in disguise. Lot of spiders in general, honestly. It fits.

Would I Play This Game?

For a while I was uncertain if I would, for a variety of reasons- that I'm not a queer woman being the primary one, and right on its heels the assorted worries of not being able to (or being afraid of) making the emotional connections that the game asks -  but as time passed during the reading of the book and the writing of this review, I felt that trepidation breaking down somewhat.

I found myself drawn to the templates for Runaway Nun and Lantern Girl because they were familiar to my own experience. I lack the experience of a queer woman, but I do have the experience of someone who has had to wrestle with religious repression of self (external and internal) and being entirely in over the head wrt self and sexuality. If I'm going to play a game about queer women and emotional vulnerability, I ought to take the approach that I do have experience with, so as to engage with the game in as good a faith as I can.

This is probably the strongest part of Dungeon Bitches - my choice of template was not rooted in mechanics or aesthetics, but specifically which ones I felt an emotional connection with, to the exclusion of the other options. This has never happened before for me in an RPG. This is good, I like this.

I still don't know if it would actually work for me in practice, mind - I haven't played the game, it might still get too real for me at the table even among friends. But it got me to buy in to the idea, and many, many, many games fail at accomplishing that.

Final Thought

There are games and settings out there that are pizza cutters - all edge with no point. (Hey there Degenesis how're you doing?)

Dungeon Bitches is a hypodermic needle. It's all point, it hurts, but it's probably got something good for you in it. Or hard drugs. One or the other. It is a very personal, idiosyncratic game. It is difficult to wrangle on purpose. It's messy. It has thorns. It uses the bones of mechanical and thematic convention but eschews the easy imitation of its forebears.

Hell yeah.

Addendum A

My girlfriend asked me what I was working on while writing this, and after telling her about the game her response was "I'm intrigued", followed by "I'm even more intrigued" when showing her the art, and for a complete cold open that's a good sign, I think.

Addendum B

If this whole shebang interests you, the Kickstarter may be found here.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Orion's Arm Wormhole Map


This is, I suppose, a sequel to the similar post I did for Eclipse Phase.

Orion's Arm is a long-running collaborative writing site about the gonzo space opera future ten thousand years hence. It is immensely inspiring (when it is not incomprehensibly steeped in jargon) and features a full two decades of material to sift through (of mixed quality, in that charming Web 2.0 way)

I binge it often, but the last week has been particularly extreme. Extreme enough that I pulled the trigger and did...this.

Space Map Fugue is real, and I have it. It is only a matter of time before it happens again, and space god help us all if I decide to do original work for it.

Given the blog that this is, there's an unstated intent to use it with something like Mothership, which is tonally the exact opposite of Orion's Arm. I was going to make a list of the fifty or so major factions of the setting (summarized so briefly that they could be ported over to MoSh), but I very swiftly realized that I literally could not summarize about half of them succinctly and the other I literally did not understand what they were. So instead I just provided the names of the relevant ones and color-coded the map - you can look up those articles for additional inspiration / context as you wish, but they are too dense by far for tabletop usage

(As an aside - the typical map quality on OA is decidedly...not. That is probably why I did this. For as much as I do love that site the map situation is absolutely untenable, unreadable, incomprehensible. There was a whole cluster of wormholes that I had to cut from this project because the two maps of the region provided absolutely no crossover with the planets supposedly in that sector and...I get it 3D maps are super difficult to show on a 2D plane but that's why we have abstraction.)

(Also: binging several hundred articles in the space of 3 days has made me enormously thankful for the SCP Foundation's standardized template and reference guides. That's some good QOL right there. And for more strict deletion and editing criteria on articles; there are a few OA ones that are literally just "An important Metasoft system" and have been sitting like that since December 2001.)

Why do I do this? Why is it this particular topic, out of all things, that will always trigger actual productive focus?

Maybe there's something to that. Hmmmm...

Saturday, January 2, 2021

100 Mothership Trinkets

 To go with your 100 patches, of course.

100 Patches, 100 Trinkets , 100 More Patches, 100 More Trinkets

 100 Trinkets

  1. Pamphlet: Being a Good Ally to the Uplift Rights Movement
  2. Half-empty hot sauce bottle (mild)
  3. Waterdamaged English-Hindi phrasebook.
  4. Defused landmine converted into lunchbox
  5. Packet of dried mealworms, peanut flavor
  6. Bottle of melatonin gummies
  7. T-shirt: Gourmet Street Summer Pub Crawl
  8. Dented metal water bottle
  9. Blood sugar monitor
  10. Pet rock (actual silicon-based xenofauna)
  11. Vibrant blue turban
  12. Box of mushroom wine
  13. Collection of messages from colonial pen-pal
  14. Noise-cancelling headphones
  15. Incense sticks
  16. Human femur, scrimshawed
  17. Can of spraypaint (fuligin)
  18. Protractor, compass, slide rule
  19. Glass bead bracelet (14 prime colonies)
  20. Pamphlet: Zug Facts
  21. Mummified monkey paw, two fingers curled
  22. Encrypted hard drive (personal)
  23. Bag of plant-protein jerky 
  24. Book: Plainspeak Programming Language For Beginners
  25. Uninstalled cyber-eye (functional)
  26. Solid diamond chess piece (rook)
  27. Prayer rug
  28. Ship model (Recombination Era Ship-of-the-Line)
  29. Logic core with partially-written AI
  30. Alien insect preserved in amber
  31. Shard of the Great Garbage Reef
  32. Collectable holocards (Extinct animals)
  33. Shaky handheld video of a live thylacine
  34. Book: The Carvers: Memories of Sunny Smiles Unicorn Farm
  35. Bag of plastic dinosaurs 
  36. Miniature crab drone
  37. Ticket Stub: King In Yellow (Aldrin Station Community Theater)
  38. Potted tomato plant
  39. T-shirt: I Had a Blast At the ISS memorial Museum!
  40. One-time encrypted pad
  41. Dollop if inert grey goo in vial necklace
  42. Baseball cap (Ganymede Hammerheads)
  43. BOGO coupon (The Chop Shop)
  44. Prop chainsword
  45. Nova Tierra Environment Reclamation Volunteer Crew jacket
  46. Dog tags (not yours)
  47. HRT supplies
  48. Necklace of inhuman teeth
  49. Pamphlet: Do What You Need, Not What You're Told
  50. Emergency flare
  51. Bootleg pocket AI
  52. Catnip toy
  53. Silk handkerchief (stolen)
  54. Sketchbook with amateur pornography
  55. Hand-drawn map of the Core Worlds
  56. Blanket, very warm (cartoon monster)
  57. Action figure (space marine)
  58. High-glare sunglasses
  59. Snack bag (heirloom carrots)
  60. Book: Yokai of the High Frontier
  61. Book: Fungi of the Far Realms
  62. Pamphlet: Common Occult Vectors and Dangers
  63. Playing cards (classic ships)
  64. Wikipedia Lifetime Service Award
  65. Smart-lemur companion
  66. Squishy kaiju stress toy
  67. Admiralty Blues gunpla model kit (Hardboiled Amazon)
  68. Young child's art project
  69. USPS mail bag
  71. Solarian church comic tracts (bundle)
  72. Nudibranch plushie
  73. Alpha Gaunt action figure (recalled)
  74. Pamphlet: The Truth About Terraforming - A Long and Dangerous Scam
  75. Banjo
  76. Camo poncho (forest)
  77. Pendant ocarina
  78. Unlabeled VHS tape, contents unknown
  79. Spaceport diner rewards punchcard, 6/10
  80. Book: The Illustrated Upanishads
  81. Hilt of broken sword
  82. Jagged chunk of red rock
  83. Japamala
  84. Photograph of polycule
  85. Once-fashionable shoulder cape
  86. Wooden box of loose-leaf tea
  87. Handheld game console
  88. Elephant figurine (wood)
  89. Comfy knit scarf
  90. Hymn-book (Reformed Trappist Catholic Church)
  91. Baphomet bobblehead
  92. Antique pocketwatch
  93. Funeral mask of unidentified woman
  94. Journal full of RPG notes
  95. Marijuana cigarettes 
  96. Pocket of weathered coins (assorted make, all worthless)
  98. Octopus signet ring 
  99. Book: Encounters with the Zetians
  100. Gold lootbox, unopened

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy 12021! Here's 100 Mothership Patches

 (If you find yourself wondering where those extra 10,000 years came from, here's Kurzgesagt with a handy explanation of the Holocene Calendar)

100 Patches, 100 Trinkets , 100 More Patches, 100 More Trinkets

100 Patches

  1. Pinup (Venus of Willendorf)
  2. Double cheeseburger
  3. "Demon Days"
  4. "I'm on Top" (Screech owl)
  5. Cartoon anomolocaris
  6. "Krampusnacht '71"
  8. "All You Zombies..."
  9. Coiled bobbit worm
  10. Row of main sequence stars
  11. "Incandescent Rage" (Lightbulb with angry face)
  12. "Easy Breezy"
  13. Matrioshka doll w/ brain inside
  14. Cat w/ cone on head
  15. "UNCLEAN" (Biohazard Symbol)
  16. "Drop Bear Response Team"
  17. Phallus in samurai armor
  18. "This Is Not A Place of Honor"
  19. Skull w/ 3 Eye Sockets
  20. "Viva Revolucion" (Flag of Haiti)
  21. "Certified Inflammable"
  22. Jousting snail knight
  23. "Die, Kaiser!"
  24. "Garbage Person"
  25. Dunkleosteus skull (profile)
  26. "Happy Devil Noodle Co." (Bowl of noodles + cute demon)
  27. "lawa pona ale pona" ("Good thought good life, in sitelen sitelen)
  28. "Chalkbones Pride" (Luna)
  29. Mandelbrot pattern
  30. Hamsa of RHEA
  31. "Never Look Back" (Growling tiger)
  32. Trans symbol wielding assault rifle
  33. Info age save file icon
  34. Health bar
  35. Pinup (Priapus)
  36. "JoveCon 3032"
  37. "BORB" (Fat, cockeyed bird)
  38. Surah 29.69, spiral calligraphy (Arabic)
  39. Single bloodshot eye
  40. Ouroborous, feathered
  41. "Strike the Earth"
  42. "Light / Heat / Food / Fuck" (Simplified Chinese, 2 x 2 grid)
  43. Flag of Unified Ireland
  44. Virgin Mary punching Satan
  45. Bathysphere
  46. Squid wielding revolvers
  47. Icon of dog-headed saint
  48. "Great Sage Equal of Heaven"
  49. "Dead men tell great tales"
  51. "Pluto ♥ You" (Pluto with cute face)
  52. Bigfoot Dating Society logo
  53. Back patch (Three nuns with guns)
  54. "Watch out!" (Antique gas mask, damaged)
  55. "Blood Type B+ Organ Donor ✓"
  56. 'New Themiscyra Pankration League" (Topless woman, smiling & flexing)
  57. Rooster & Cat
  58. Fly agaric mushroom
  59. "Cape Fear Long Pig BBQ Company" (Meat Cleaver)
  60. "Fuck Around and Find Out"
  61. Mari Lwyd in spacesuit
  62. "UVG" 
  63. "Big Empty"
  64. "KT Extinction Outer Planets Tour"
  65. "Rescind the Flesh"
  66. "honk" (Goose)
  67. 6 E Q U J 5 (wow! signal)
  68. "Gremlin-Stomper"  
  69. Mechasexual pride flag
  71. "Atmo Conversion Workers Local 368"   
  72. "Attack and Devour God" 
  73. Anglerfish 
  74. Iron Dragon Tea Company logo
  75. Boot | Leg | Human (emoji)
  76. "Ancient of Days"
  77. Grinning black rabbit holding a mallet
  78. Triskelion
  79. Upside-down American flag, 54 stars
  80. Pomegranate cross section   
  81. "Off With Her Head" (Decapitated queen of hearts card)
  82. Sad alien clown
  83. "Lucky Bastard" (Sperm cell) 
  84. Lighthouse silhouette  
  85. Tau Ceti Whalesingers Lodge logo
  86. "A pox on your house"
  87. "Xeno on Board"  
  88. Eridani Independence War deployment patches
  89. S.O.L 3000
  90. "El Corazon" (Anatomically correct heart)
  91. "The Catood"
  92. "Pounded in the Butt by a Random Table of Jacket Patches"
  93. "Last Great Dangerous Vision"
  94. Anime eye of providence
  95. "Always keep your smile" (Smiley face with black eye, broken teeth)
  96. "No1"
  97. A field gules party per bend sinister or, xeno rampant
  98. "GLOG"
  99. "Starlight Brigade"
  100. "Anti-Skub"