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)


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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



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.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Don't You know The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie?


Cosimo Galluzzi


Saw him drivin' down the 61 in early July

White as a cotton field and sharp as a knife

I heard him howlin' as he passed me by


Exhausted from the river crossing and her battle with the whiskered serpent, Lu climbed up the bank and made camp there at the joining of two game trails. One ran along the embankment, the other westward into the deep summer forest. There were two large and weather-smoothed boulders there, and one of them had been worn so to form an overhang where she might be protected from rain or prying eyes. There Lu dug a fire pit, and set to cooking the fish she had gathered from the river (before being interrupted by the serpent).

As twilight settled on the land, she heard a disturbance in the brush, the movement of a large creature approaching. She rose into a crouch and grabbed her spear, and watched the figure of a man of her own people, emerge into the clear space where the two paths met, right at the edge of the firelight.

His skin was dark like Lu's, and his beard was black and bushy. He wore fine hides, richly dyed and masterfully stitched, that bore no dirt of travel and a wide hat of reeds sat atop his head. His eyes flickered like embers and his left foot appeared burnt, with blood and pus oozing from the cracked and blackened skin.

"Clever Lu of the Forest," he greeted her in a deep and pleasant voice. His teeth were stained black by betel leaves.

"You know my name, but I do not recall having given it to you."

"The spirits are chatty, and your deeds have spread far and wide. May I sit?"

"Upon the other side, stranger. And give me your name, since you have already had the pleasure of discovering mine."

The man laughed, and made a sound akin to a large stone dragged over bones.

"[Untranslatable], that is my name. But you may call me whatever you please." He sat across from Lu and the fire pit separated them.

"I'll see that I do, old man."

"Ah, that will do. It is a fitting name."

"Take what you will of my catch." Lu motioned to the remaining fish. "I have eaten my fill for tonight."

The old man smiled his black smile and took a fish, devouring it swiftly.

"Ah, a fish for an old man and all is well." He tossed the stick on which it was cooked into the flames. "I have heard, Lu of the Forest, that you seek to steal Hō-ō's crown of fire."

This she had not wished to hear, for she had kept secret the purposes of her journey to the west.

"And from whom did you hear this?"

"From a merry band of nymphs, with whom you shared a great deal of palm wine half a moon ago."

Oh. Oh.  

But Lu would not let this shake her, and kept her countenance still.

"They spoke truly - I shall steal into the very center of his court and swipe it from his brow, leaving neither sight nor smell behind."

"I praise your ambition, but are you certain that your cleverness might carry you through to success? If word has reached me, then word will reach Hō-ō's agents in time. Perhaps it will just be one of many such paranoid fancies as grip him these days and he'll pay it no mind, moving on to his next rumor come the morning. Perhaps the messenger will be waylaid and never reach the court. If none of that comes to pass, if he should learn of your little plot and recognizes it as a threat, if that happens..."

The wood of the fire shifted, sending up sparks.

"Then you're just fucked."

Lu said nothing, for she could not refute the old man. While her bull-head pride resisted and roiled within her, she still could not deny that she had been loose with her words among the nymphs, and that once gossip reached their ears it would spread faster than even she could run.

"I wish that it weren't so," the old man said when he saw that Lu would remain silent. "What of Tubalkhan Flint-Knapper? I had heard that he traveled with you.

"He has gone south to meet with the mouldywarps for a time. We plan on reuniting further along."

"Ah, good. Good."

The old man then took a small, smooth stone from the ground, held it up to his lips, and breathed upon it. Then he tossed it into the fire.

"I have given to that stone a hidden word of power. It is a weapon that will destroy Hō-ō utterly and all his court. Not even their bones will remain. It will bind the iron star Chicxulub that rides now above the dome of the sky to your hand and will. He shall have no defense against it, and in a single stroke it shall safeguard your people against his wrath. The crown will be yours.

"When the fire dies away and the last embers cool, what I have spoken to the stone shall be forgotten, and never again be found on or under the earth."

Lu had not expected this, and asked only:

"What then, do I owe you in return for this?"

"Nothing at all, clever Lu. I am a giver of gifts, I ask for nothing in exchange than they be used to their fullest. It brings me joy, to see what people do with what I give them. Take it, and may your people live happy and unafraid of dragons' wrath."

Lu narrowed her eyes.

"Who are you, old man? What manner of spirit are you?"

Again the old man smiled.

"I am [the shadow in the amygdala] just an old, old man."

The old man snapped his fingers, and at once a great plume of smoke billowed from the fire, stinging Lu's eyes and biting her throat. When her vision cleared and coughing ceased, the old man was gone.

The stone remained where it sat in the fire pit.

Lu sat by the fire in contemplation for a time. She was deeply troubled by the old man's words, and shamed by the thought that her own idle actions might endanger her whole quest. She longed for Tubalkhan's presence, but his counsel was many miles away and would bring no comfort to her doubts this night.

And so the night passed, in intervals standing, sitting, and pacing about like a stalking cat. Lu fed the fire as it burned low as her mind turned sleepless gyres. She did not trust the old man, whatever manner of man or spirit he was. But she had found no lies in his words (for Lu was a bullshitter and a tale-teller, and skill recognizes skill). Out of distrust of the old man or her own pride, she would have at any other time let the fire go out and covered the pit with dirt. But with her great error brought to light, and the danger that followed behind, she kept the fire fed in increasing desperation and shame.

Should Hō-ō prepare himself, and her cleverness be not enough, she could not resist him. He might end her in a breath or a lazy snap of the jaws. And in retribution he would likely go out among her people and make greater demands of sacrifice. Should Lu fail, many more than she would die through her failure. Any who survived would curse her name forever.

The night watches passed in agony.

In the grey mist before morning, when only dim coals remained among the ash and charred wood, she plucked up the stone and held it to her ear. In a fading whisper, it spilled its secret and spoke no more forever.

She kept the stone in her pouch for the rest of her journey, secret from even Tubalkhan. She had chosen in the end to learn its hidden word and unuse it - to rely on clever plans and cunning work and nimble hands as she always had, to better master those arts so that she might humble Hō-ō without resorting to the word that might kill him. (For without his crown, the great king of dragons would be no mightier than old Pan-Pongo)

Of course, her cleverness failed her in the end. Discovered and with death inescapable, she drew Chicxulub down from above the sky and smote Hō-ō and all his court, bringing to the world demon-haunted Winter with her great act of violence.

It was this act, and the long years of starvation and cold to follow, and the horror of the Daemonomachy to come, that led to some among the Ancestors to leave the fires of Lu's camp and go out into the world alone, and with them they had fear-gifted whispers of the Red Law.

Lu would never see the old man again, and spoke not of him to anyone, but during the tribulations to come and the peaceful spring to follow she would imagine him in the distance, laughing.