Saturday, January 22, 2022

Three Shorts For Dandibuja

Dandibuja has gifted me with some fantastic fanart in the short time I've known him, and when I expressed the desire to return the favor he suggested that I write some pieces based on some original works of his, so here we go.


What Remains of House Leoviridius


The villa ruins had been as empty as the Jackal's stomach. Disappointing, but only mildly surprising: wealth makes an easy target for those in the trade and the summer home had predictably been stripped clean years ago. The windows were gone - some smashed but most carefully removed for the sake of the glass. The roof had collapsed in the east wing - years without maintenance to blame for that. Kitchen was bare - knives and pots too valuable to leave behind. Wood taken for firestarters, clothing taken for bandages and bedlining. No hope of jewelry being overlooked. Even the floor safe in the master bedroom had been torn up and smashed open. Likely nothing of worth in there, unless the lucky thief wanted gold for ballast or deeds for toilet paper.

The well in the central courtyard still had water. No bucket, but water - cold and heavy and barely gritty. Small mercies. The Jackal refilled their canteens (tying each one to a length of string), drank up, refilled again.

All the while, they kept ears open. Nothing but the dull wind. Not even an ambush of curious dune mice. Years in the trade prevented the Jackal from ever relaxing, but they settled into a state that approximated it and let their mind drift to topics unconcerned with survival and safety.

The crumbling west wall of the courtyard, shielded from the worst of the wind, still bore the icon of the Lords of the World. Green lion rampant, bleeding sun. Tongues of fire? The Jackal cast their mind back to what their grandfather had told them about the signs of House Leoviridius and their meaning, but found nothing. Grandfather had plenty to say about the Leoviridians, far more than anyone with real troubles could keep track of. "Officious cousin-fuckers", he was fond of saying that. Ranting about how they didn't know how good they had it, that they'd never seen a real sandstorm season and you can't trust anyone who'll sell you piss and call it water.

He was right about the sandstorms. When things were first falling apart, he spent his days in a constant chorus of "Told you! Told you just how it was!" He kept it up till he died. In retrospect it was a bizarre thing to take pride in, but the Jackal was charitable to the old man's memory. He'd been through enough to earn that.

The Jackal rested there for a few hours before they departed by the leeward road down out of the hills. They died ten days later, stabbed in the throat in a roadside mugging. The IDRS Madrid out of Arcturus, still the closest vessel that could provide aid, was thirty-nine years away. The sands would engulf the villa well before then.

 


The Monstrous Seagulls' Feast


The gulls had no questions at all about the great gelatinous corpse. It wasn't poisonous and something else had done the work of killing it, and that was all that mattered. Smart birds, seagulls.

(The crabs did question it, and came to different conclusions. They have yet to share.)

Speculation on the creature's origins exploded as soon as the news cameras started rolling, but it peaked early. The fervor couldn't be maintained through the next crisis of the week, especially when the answers that were forthcoming were so plain: the creature washed up on the Argentine shore during the night of April 16th, it was almost certainly terrestrial in origin, some kind of mollusk, and it was very dead. Within seventy-two hours it had dissolved into a mound of dirty translucent gelatin, and within two more days it had decayed completely. The final verdict was that it was some kind of long lost cephalopod from the abyssal zones.

The conspiracists remembered it, and the graduate students in biology departments around the world, and the unfunny Facebook memes lasted a couple months beyond that, and for the creature this was the end of it.

But it was never the important part of the incident, only the vehicle by which it arrived on the scene. The abyssotitan's flesh was riddled with parasites - minute corkscrew worms, near-invisible to the eye. Most died with their host, but the eggs survived, and the eggs were eaten by the seagulls, and the eggs hatched within the seagulls, and the seagulls shat them out and then...

Well, that's the end of it.



The Knight


Khuñ Khaphun, last knight of the Order of Unn, posed for only one portrait during his life. He was an intensely private man, and so it was only at the behest of his close friend Pricipio d'Ardevarke that he agreed to see the painter. This was in the spring of the year of the Golden Rabbit, a mere seven months before his death.

Khuñ's life had seen him pulled in opposing directions since his early childhood. As a youth he was enamored with stories of the great mountain-home knights and the adventures of the Sunrise Age, which put him at odds with his family of stonemasons. Dissatisfied with the trades, and likewise distasteful of the formal military, he became obsessed with the idea of reviving the knights of Unn. He was self-taught in combat, as provided by whatever training manuals of the era that he could find. Unfortunately, he was an withdrawn and introverted man, who made connections rarely. While he might have named himself a knight of Unn, he simply didn't have the social adeptness to attract others to his cause - the few volunteers who joined him quickly returned home in all cases, finding him too difficult to work with.

He came into the eye of the public after he slew the Giant of Gjanisang, but he found himself unable to follow it up with subsequent feats and spent the years to follow wandering up and down the Hojenvaid River valley. He refused offers of patronage, even from d'Ardevarke, claiming always that it was not knightly to do such a thing, and took payment only in exchange for monster slaying or performances of feats (he was fond of trick jousting, and this was more profitable in the long run than monster hunting).

He died without fanfare in his roadside camp of natural causes. Likely a disease of the heart. The Order of Unn went with him, and he is remembered only now by students of the historically curious and those who walk past his portrait at the museum of art in Harandara.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Slush Pile 10

Old Slushpiles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5, 9


Assorted bits pulled from notebooks, old documents, and my twitter archive.

  1. This is your regular reminder that all tabletop RPGs can, in some form, be improved by the inclusion of Aku, shapeshifting master of darkness.
  2. I had a dream last night, wherein I was explaining to my late father the principles of blaseball, citing specifically that the Commissioner is doing a great job. Also the HU was playing on a nearby rooftop but I couldn't see them.
  3. A further Dune thought: The series is a farce. Six entire books of billions of people dying because a tiny cadre of people can't see past their own noses because they're too busy posting on r/iamverysmart.
  4. Obtuse and Probably Terrible TTRPG Idea of the Night A zine game, but it is written in a conlang. The actual rules and game don't matter, the actual game is the act of translating the zine.
  5. What if you replaced Jupiter with the entire Trappist-1 system.
  6. Renewable / clean energy sources are likely the standard in fantasy settings where magic usage is common but low power cap - easier to make simple solar panels out of roof shingles than it is to drill for oil.
  7. The afterlife exists due to the efforts of necromancers, who have managed to figure out a way to maintain soul cohesion after bodily death, and a means of carving out regions of Hell from demonic control.
  8. Uplifted octopi make everything better. Space truckers, Eid al-Fitr celebrations, grocery shopping, sealed room murder mysteries - all of these and more can be improved by adding uplifted octopi.
  9. Very rough sketch - dungeon delving as religion. Literal journeys to the underworld made by the poor and disenfranchised, both in service of their communities and in seeking some salvific endpoint - found, stolen, built accomplished.
  10. Demons do things to people. Devils get people to do things of their own volition.
  11. Domesticated paraceratherium should probably be in your setting.
  12. I can't get the idea of liches throwing themselves into impossible projects for millennia out of my head because it is some raw heroic-tragedy potential there. "This is the tower of Anaximander the Great. He's been working towards the cure for cancer for the last 6000 years."
  13. troublem [trɒbləm] (n): a troublesome problem, or a problem that causes trouble.
  14. Wizard's towers serve as part of an ancient weather control and terraforming network used to spread greater habitability and stability across the world as part of an early civilization's permaculture efforts.
  15. Last night, I had a dream that I was visiting my elementary school, and was met at the front door by a cone-form yithian made entirely of dark red felt. So as to stop any hostilities from go, I waltzed right up say "Hello my good yithian!" and let myself in. It was confused.
  16. From a dream last night: Immense crow's feet, perhaps as big as a large garbage can lid. Large black feathers in tufts from the stumps, with white bands or chevrons. Hop around as if still attached to a crow. Perched on wooden crates in what I think was the undead burg.
  17. A "warlock's wedding" is a slang term for a marriage between men. Army custom dictates that the best man gathers the funds for a cheap bottle of wine that is poured over the grooms, and a slightly less cheap bottle that is drunk.
  18. Dwarves are mole people. This is absolute and retroactive. Gimli is now a mole person. Snow White's crew? Mole persons. Norse myth? Molefolks. Your PC? M O L E P E R S O N.
  19. Sailing long distances is significantly easier in fantasyland, on account that a ship's mage would not only be able to influence winds somewhat, but also desalinate water.
  20. Micromegas dungeon - an environment that feels like a megadungeon, but is in practice compact and lightweight.
  21. In Mass Effect (Throne of Salt Edition), it's impossible to get the "defeat Reapers" ending if Garrus survives ME2, as he will end up killing the batarian party member in ME3 and cut off access to the Khar'shan underground and vital components for completing the Crucible.
  22. An idea (which I am kicking myself for not using as my senior project in college) - an RPG module presented as the recovered notes of a fictional DM, using this meta element to make it both module and character study.
  23. I had a dream last night where an automated spam caller told me my "works are saturated with sin", and that's a nice ego boost for the day.
  24. An rpg idea: Reverse cosmic horror game, where you play as a cult working to prepare for the arrival of an elder god and dodging the cops and investigators out to stop you.
  25. There is no such thing as summoning a demon. The actual ritual constructs a demon from scratch, destroying it when dismissed.
  26. Trolls are large, aggressive, territorial mammals that typically live in and around rivers. Ergo, trolls are hippopotami.
  27. I can't believe the best mechanical contribution I have made to rpgs is the MEAT ECONOMY
  28. What if a lyric game, but its presented as a translation of in-universe epic poetry cunningly designed to provide setting, character options, and rules. Like it opens at a banquet where the hero is playing a drinking game and this explains how dice work.
  29. Lilith, but instead of "hot demon" she's an Iraqi woman with a penchant for owl sweaters and dunking on her ex-husband.
  30. Sapient spaceships are pacifists, or at least not inclined to violence on human terms - to them it's like committing murder over someone's gut biome.
  31. An adventure presented as one of those iceberg memes, and you have to fill in the blanks to these obscure mysteries of a setting that doesn't exist.
  32. A real Dark Souls inspired RPG would be rolling on tables of items / bosses / covenants / areas with evocative names and coming up with flavor text for them.
  33. Respectful euphemisms: Mr Peppercorn, The Thousand-and-One, Little Widemouth, Lady Red-Face, Lonny-Men, Old Dunkirk, Ossiferous Court, Cousin Crown, Wellwishers, Good Friends of Buzz Aldrin.
  34. For MoSH: Gaunt "crypts", floating in hyperspace, where they keep harvested populations.
  35. Lunacy is a heretical stance, of course: believing that a lump of inert stone, no matter how beautiful, might shed light of its own.
  36. Throne crab - docile armored pseudocrustacean with a brilliantly colored and patterned shell. Easily tamed and domesticated without use of a neural=computer link. Used as personal steeds by the upper class, but have been a fad long enough to trickle into the aftermarket.
  37. Xenomorphs are ambush/stalking predators fit for tight spaces - useless in open environments. If Weyland-Yutani had succeeded in using them to their own ends, I would expect to see habitat design shift to favor the presence of xenomorph security forces.
  38. An immortal emperor - decapitated, undying - still slumped on his throne.
  39. Honey staves off rustblight, but there is no cure.
  40. Crematory ash exorcises ghosts.
  41. Fields of blue flowers are signs of spilled godblood.
  42. The angel in the clocktower knew Master Dremon.
  43. Bring the nymph ring to Old Man Alder.
  44. Okay it looks like your cause of death was "Eaten by alkalion" and your horrible afterlife event was "had to shovel soul-coal in a demonic voidship" You now have knowledge of hell-shanties and a resistance to the effect of imp-gin.
  45. Hollow men are those who have had their life-flames drained by the monoliths. The giants, the servants of ever-sleeping Death, rest inside them.
  46. Angels as embodiments of depersonalized violence 
  47. Unloading the tomb of a lich off a plane, as seen on the news.


Dicember leftovers


AMMO


  • Armor-piercing weapons are treated as doing double damage to armor.
  • Plasma weapons deal double damage to shields. Absorbed plasma damage will permanently degrade armor rating.
  • Needle weapons deal half damage against armor but explode like a grenade on a critical / 3 successful hits on the same target.
  • Spike weapons are useless against shields and ignore armor entirely.


ICE


Cryo isn't actually all that cold.

It used to be, back in the early days. It turned out that a travel method with a 45% chance of permanent brain damage was too much even for the early interplanetary corps in the wake of the Anthropocene Collapse. Even if you were part of the lucky 55, you'd still probably find yourself in therapy or reconstructive surgery to repair the ravages to your body.

So the options were to stick with remote drones, or the slow, costly and inefficient strategy of throwing a few people at a time out into space and hoping that the monkeys in a can don't kill each other before they reached their destination.

The biotech revolution saved the day. Induced metabolic hibernation has become standard practice and has only improved in efficiency since then.



DAEMON

A digital guard dog; an ainima employed as a guardian of a node or cluster and tasked with the removal of unwanted intruders. Trying to get past one will require either the appropriate credentials or some sort of appeasement program.



NAP


"Four Teamsters After A Double Shift" (oil on canvas without AI assistance, al-Safi, 2871) - A realist life painting of four sleeping dockworkers, famous primarily for its brazen theft by a rights-squatting NFT farm and the eight year counter-theft by members of the Epsilon Indi V Longshores Union. The painting depicts in great detail a quartet of union workers (two women, one man, and an androgyne) sleeping on top of a pile of canvas tarps. One of the women is comedically sprawled out flat on her back and drooling. The man and androgyne are sleeping together, and generally interpreted as partners. The second woman has fallen asleep sitting upright against a packing crate. A half-eaten meal-in-a-pouch is splattered on the deck, presumably trampled by passersby. The identity of the four subjects is unknown - The Rooster-Year Rebellion destroyed most company records of The Big Crunch, and al-Safi themself did not survive the violence. The painting is currently on display at the Museum of the People, Union Moot A, Epsilon Indi V.



DOOR

There is something in the airlock. You're still four months out of port and something is rap-tap-tapping on the airlock door. There's grime on the camera lens, you can't make out what's in there. Something wrong with the electronics, too, you can't open it up by computer. You can use the other airlock, but that doesn't stop the tapping and rasping and thudding and scraping. It is becoming impatient.



GOLD

Gold isd cheaper than paper these days, practically worthless outside of manufacturing and art. For the latter, there are very few people who remember when it had any value at all - everyone else thinks it's just tacky. Cheap gold jewelry is omnipresent.



ORB


A pearl-white sphere twenty-some miles across, cracked open like an egg. Wet red ripples of scar tissue, clustered of black eyes, yellowing teeth in long zipper-lines.



SLOW

A persistent issue in colonization is the arrival of automated slower-than-light ships in systems already colonized by hyperspace-capable vessels. The AI on these STL ships are difficult or actually impossible to interface with due to the drift in handshake protocols over time, on top of their limited computational plasticity. These ships will often ignore communication attempts entirely and have been known to establish colonies on already inhabited worlds, treating the current inhabitants as an invasive native biosphere to be eliminated.



A Pair of Poems

There is a house upon the moor

of bloodied stone and shattered glass

where that old lord, his gods undone,

took up precious things in hand

and descended into the blind obscurity

of the lightless, septic bowels

below the wounded earth.

**

Of lies most pernicious, I know of only one

That perfection might exist here beneath the sun

The toll that dread ideal form demands

The weight that crushes human hands

And hearts into rotten pulp

Forever echoing not good enough.

 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

State of Affairs, Jan 2022

Looking forward to the rest of the year, I wanted to work out where I stand with my larger projects - both those I am actively working on and those that are still purely hypothetical. I am a terrible judge of project management, so writing it down and letting other people get their eyes on it is as good a method as any to get my thoughts in order.

Many thanks to Layla for always being down to talk shop.


Unicorn Meat


Barring catastrophe, it'll be out in the next few months. You can hold me to that. 


Lighthouse


Lighthouse has been stuck for a while now, but the plus side of that is looking back at what I've already made and reassessing.

The primary current issue, I feel, is that while anticanon is great and all but it does leave something to be desired if you want focus. The material is pulling in opposite directions - both big and small, both specific and general - and that does me no favors when my design thru-line is "Delta Green, if it was Disco Elysium". Can't have Disco Elysium without Revachol.

So to that end, I think I am going to focus more on the (very loosely sketched at the moment) sandbox setting of [REDACTED], and developing it more. The Field Guide posts are great, but they aren't enough to hang a game on, and I think they're a part of why this has stalled out.

I had originally envisioned the Underworld as a dedicated depthcrawl aspect, but on review that unbalances everything. Instead I will be adapting my card-based expeditions from Unicorn Meat for delves, so that it's not just dumping a megadungeon in a game that's not about that.


Sisters of the Sable Maid


I still have very little for this, but I do at least have the ideas. A hack of Yokai Hunters Society for MSF (as that setting fell away from being a traditional D&D setting years ago) where you play as the Sisters of the Sable Maid and you go fuck up demons. Nice, simple, specific, actionable answers for who you are and what you do.

Two goals I have set for this project

  • A "multiple moving parts" character creation in the spirit if not the mode of 5e - give people a series of simple, flavorful choices to make about their character.
  • A greater focus on combat, but making it fun. The vision in my head looks more like JRPG combat, for whatever that is worth. 


Mothership Compilation


What it says on the tin: a compilation and expansion Mothership material that I have already written, plus additions that will naturally emerge from the editing, plus the posts I have been sitting on for ages, into a toolkit and resource book. Would contain tables, character options, gear, planet / sector generation, a planet gazetteer, and probably a couple shotgun scenarios. Half done already.


Assortment of loosely-sketched Mothership adventures


This is where this exercise starts going down rabbit holes, as I only just have ideas and nothing practical for these. Hopefully I will be able to run some this year and flesh them out. So far they are

  • Introductory "wake from cryosleep on a spooky ship, learn the ropes of the game as you get it back into working condition" scenario.
  • Investigation of a murder, and a datademonic possession, players as exorcist and support crew.
  • O'neill crawl above a rim world crawling with devils. Re-visiting my Road to Pandemonium post for setting material


Mother Stole Fire and Other Stories


A collection of revised / adapted / expanded versions of the fiction pieces on the blog. Simple enough in concept, but if I know my perfectionist streak, and I do, this one is likely to be a long haul.


The Dog Gospel


Another compilation, this time of revised blogposts and fleshed-out slush pile ideas. I specifically want to make this a "binder book" - that is, everything is no more than front and back of a single page, so that the entries can be printed out in whatever combination one wants, then hole punched and put into a 3-ring binder and plugged into a game as one sees fit. Again, this is another half-done idea, I just need to get a proper workflow for actually doing it.

Friday, January 14, 2022

A Planet Called Shithole

For when you need the worst place possible.


Selausaun (Shithole)


An enormous mistake.
  • Parent Star: G5V
  • Population: 7.4 million (ground), ~1000 (orbit)
  • Who's In Charge?: Technically, a CTA governance node allied with House Tauvi. Practically, no one. House Tauvi, having inherited the whole mess through a buyout of the founding company, has tried multiple times to sell the planet and being unable to extricate themselves without falling afoul of their creditors, they have stationed a cursory detachment of their armigers to fulfill their legal requirements and effectively abandoned the entire enterprise.
  • Gravity: 1.31 G
  • Atmosphere: Nitrogen-oxygen mix with high Co2, water vapor and sulfides. Breathable only at extremely high altitudes, limiting open settlements to the Huaguo Plateau. Nitrogen narcosis will swiftly kill anyone at lower elevations without a pressure suit. Even in regions where the pressure is tolerable, the temperature, humidity, and particulate content are hellish.
  • Major Settlements: Paradise Pools, Toadstool Town, Isaac's Altar, Pipe Dream, [FIELD EMPTY], Dudfuck
  • Moons: 2
  • Orbital Infrastructure: Negligible. Shuttle service is available between the primary orbital habitat and Paradise Pools.
  • Biosphere: Partially compatible with terragen biochemistry.

The one benefit to Shithole is that it isn't Hell. Of course, the one benefit to Hell is that it isn't Shithole, so in terms of human misery we have just about broken even. No one should have come here, but we unfortunately did and the inhabitants are now trapped by a series of enormous, easily-avoidable mistakes.

Mistake 1: The initial long-distance observations, while promising in terms of gravity, temperature, atmosphere and biosignatures, were not sufficiently reviewed.


The first big colonization push was fueled in a large part for the search for a new Earth, a do-over after the horrors of the Collapse (This is why there are thirty-odd planets named some variant of New Earth). Shithole was, at first glance, a dead ringer for the coveted "superhabitable planet" slot, and the lucky stake claimers went plummeting into inescapable debt gambling on a single seedship.

Mistake 2: The company that backed the colonization effort was trying to get in on the initial gold rush of interstellar expansion and had no prior experience in field.


Typical of the era. Anyone with enough money wanted in on the rush, regardless of any presence in the Reclamation or the settlement of the solar system. A reliable seedship template, full of exowombs and zygotes and parental AI, was by now easy enough to build (if incredibly expensive) This led to most of the funding companies collapsing well before seeing a return investment, sometimes before the mission ever reached the destination.

Mistake 3: The seedship was operated via dumb AI that prioritized for planetary habitats rather than orbital ones.



A smart AI, or any sensible human overseer, would have passed over Shithole as a scientific study for another day and taken advantage of the convenient, if cold, Mars-sized world orbiting the local ice giant to set up an initial colony. But dumb AI have their parameters set in silicon and this one was locked right on Shithole. Planet-side colonization was what the parent company used to get investors, and so the oversight was justified as a way of keeping them happy.

So the ship arrives and sends all its cargo down through the haze and finds the situation on the ground much, much worse than expected.


The Situation on the Ground


The preliminary studies were correct: Shithole had plenty of water. But nearly all of it was in the form of atmospheric water vapor and all that remained of its ancient shallow seas were stagnant, salty dregs. All the rest was locked up in the biosphere - a near-global macrobiome of fungus-analog forests that thrived in the heat, humidity, and dim light of the lower altitudes of the dry ocean beds. Only a few high plateaus, once the continental shelves, were suitable for humans. At the very least, the ship's AI understood this.

The initial colony on Huaguo Plateau (what would eventually be named Paradise Pools for its hyperchromatic sulfuric hot springs) managed to avoid Oedipal Colony Collapse Syndrome (a single mercy in the rolling clusterfuck), and for a few years looked like it might actually stabilize and survive its early stages.

Then the local bacteria learned how to eat plastic. Within another five years, the fungi could as well. This is on top of being able to eat human flesh. Metal without special treatment corroded too quickly to be useful as a building material, and there wasn't the industrial base to support the treatment processes. Colony conditions deteriorated swiftly after that. Nearly half the population (by then nearing 40,000) died, and many of the survivors ended up abandoning the settlements entirely for life on the plateau barrens and fungiforests (where, to this day, they are regularly reported as cryptids).

While most sociologists agree that the shift to hunter-gatherer lifestyles was the right idea, hunting and gathering in a mushroom jungle does not a profitable colony make. By this time the original company was long gone (to the point that their records have been erased) and ownership of Shithole passed through a series of successive rights-holders who made attempts at re-colonizing the world through influxes of criminals and the politically unwanted. These attempts stuck, mostly because every time disaster struck a new influx of people and resources would be incoming to help prop things up. House Tauvi would try this as well, and eventually give up on the practice. The plantations here were never able to make a profit for them, and they had better prisons closer to home anyway.


Shithole Today


So the question then becomes "why the fuck would anyone ever go to Shithole?"

Drugs and science, mostly. Often both.

Thanks to the partial compatibility with terragen biochemistry, there are plenty of substances with effects of interest to humans on Shithole. Most of these remain unknown - The soft jungles of Shithole have remained almost completely unexplored and uncataloged, despite being one of the most complex alien biospheres yet discovered. The occasional short-term science station will crop up (under the close watch of the armigers), but no one has been willing to invest in a proper ecological survey (though biotech and pharmaceutical companies will gladly pay for survey data).

It's no secret that the armigers of House Tauvi are exporting drugs from Shithole under the auspices of their absentee landlords. While they live like comparative kings to the average inhabitants of Shithole, they are very small fish when compared to the Great Houses and major syndicates surrounding them on the outside, and so long as they stay that way there won't be any trouble.

This peace isn't bound to last. Eventually the armigers will overstep, either with the locals or with the outside, and someone will get it in their head to put them in their place. If a valuable enough substance is discovered, the planet could flip from worthless to lynchpin overnight. Then everyone is going to be very interested.


NPCs


The Colonel - Leader of the House Tauvi armigers. Babyfaced, orange hair in a thin braid, impeccable white suit, wears medals like a classic junta dictator. Smooth talking and friendly exterior over a core of childlike cruelty and entitlement. Currently lives in orbit directing the operation.

The Commandant - Head of armiger operations on the ground, operating out of Paradise Pools. Marks where scars have been rejuvenated away. A veteran whose hardline policies are tolerated only due to their unnatural impartiality - no favor is given to armigers or groundsiders when order is disrupted. Compromised through a romantic relationship with a groundsider, which is liable to cause scandal (the armigers of House Tauvi practice Theban military endogamy).

The Headman
- Cracked and raw skin from years' labor out in the elements. What hair remains has been shaved away. Bulgy eyes, voice raspy. Unofficial representative of the plantations around Paradise Pools. Respected there, considered a quisling elsewhere.

The Holy Hermit - A religious leader of the indigenous Shitholers that has risen to prominence in the wildnerness. Prophecies of doom for the armigers, the final failure of the colony, and the mass movement to life in the jungles are everywhere.

The Sister
- Short, energetic. Member of an offworld religious order (St. Mab the Mad of Mars). Snooping around and causing trouble, not shy about insinuating ulterior motives. Knows a bit too much about military operations.

The Corpse - The morning started with Jonjen Losarri floating facefirst in a hot spring.

**


Sometimes, on rare days when it is neither raining nor sporing, you can see the sun from Paradise Pools. It will be shrouded in a thick haze of puke-colored clouds, but you'll be able to see it.

If the breeze is favorable, you might even be able to peer through the mist and spore veils at the soft jungle below the plateau: broad yellow shingles; corpse-pale domes and caps; tangled veins of red; brain-broccoli clusters of purple, brown and grey. No matter how favoriable the weather, you will not be able to make out the horizon. The air is thick with life: currents and eddies of spores and aeroplankton, larger creatures filtering the chaff through sails and fins. Herds of floaters, clouds of sprites, pods of balloon animals, the occasional hungry gel-hawk.

At night, it is completely black. You cannot see the stars from Paradise Pools, only the faint phosphorescence of the life down below the death-line.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

30 Regions of the Underworld

 

@urbex_34

There's no true mapping the Underworld. It is a place unstuck in spatial flux, endless in its depths and its variety.

  1. Delvers' - The last homely house, the last call before hell.
  2. Access Tunnels - Bare concrete, dim flickering lights, exit signs in the distance, stairs leading down. The creak of old pipes, the scurrying of rats, a dark shape turning a corner in the distance.
  3. Sightless Passage - A steep, blind meander. Stones engraved with thousands of eyes that cannot see. Tokens left in piles in crooks in the walls; offerings. You must find the path with your fingers alone.
  4. Filth Nest - Pools of refuse, corroding pipes, streams of shit trickling down and down. Mold, mushrooms, hot air. Beware open flames. The stink lingers on your clothes.
  5. Devil's Knot - The stone is dark red, veined with oilsmear-black. Coiling passages loop back on themselves like fractal intestines. Something is down here, watching in the darkness over your shoulder.
  6. The Gates - The first barrier. Great doors of celestial bronze, egraved with the names and deeds of angels.
  7. Forest of Flowers - Pale blue-white blossoms glow in the ghostlight. Olms long as your arm sit placidly in their pools. Off in the distance you can hear birds like tinny woodwinds.
  8. Boneway - Skeletons crushed down to yellowing grit beneath long kiloyears of travellers. A shallow descent, easy on the knees. Cracks in the walls lead out, elsewhere.
  9. Eel Hollow - Narrow, slippery ledges curl around the rims of deep blue pools, filled with the pale writhing swarms of blind lampreys.
  10. Scab-downs - Slopes and scree of gravel and cracked stone, rough and jagged, skin-tearing. Bottomless blue pools, perfectly circular and ice cold at the nadirs between these hills.
  11. God-King's Road - Red stone, vast paving blocks, toppled statues. Knotted vines and white flowers push up through cracks in the work, slowly reclaiming it for the underworld.
  12. Dreaming City - A cthonic leviathan rests here and a city was built in its dreams. It will wake eventually, but not for an age or two.
  13. Lower Passage - Slower, but safer.
  14. Goblin Market - There are no goblins here, not of the kind you'd imagine. But anyone can be a goblin if they're off just enough, and plenty folk are more than a little off down here. They meet at the market, wherever the market may meet,
  15. Inverted Garden - High above, you can see the carefully tended groves and ponds at the feet of the ziggurats. Creatures you can't make out swing through the branches in reverse, brachiating over the abyss that eventually leads to you.
  16. Narrow Gap - There is no room to breathe.
  17. Empty Throne - Names carved in its base in unrecognized letters. Great galleries caked in dust, cracked and faded murals of bulls and serpents.
  18. Cinder Path - Dry heat, like a blast furnace. Charcoal and ash fill the air with each plodding step.
  19. City of Devils - You look to be struggling down here. Care to sign a contract?
  20. The Pit - A smooth-sided borehole, wide enough that you can barely make out the other side and deep enough that you swear there's no bottom at all.
  21. Sea of Towers - Stone-blue waves crash against the stone. Pillars lean under the blows of ages, many have collapsed into rubble.
  22. Queen's Descent - Broad, flat steps, fit for a sedan chair
  23. Deep Cathedral - Best not stay long here. Who knows what gods were praised in this church of the living stone.
  24. The Slough - Stagnant black water up to your knees, crippled trees stretching for the light of false suns. The runoff of some distant hell you've yet to breach.
  25. House of Hungry Doors - "In my father's house there are many doors, leading ever inward."
  26. The Spiral - You already know how this goes.
  27. The Black Needle - The metal obstruction must be miles long, and its torn through the caverns like a bullet. Perhaps it is. And if it is, what brought it all the way down here?
  28. The Great Machine - clic tic tic clic tic tic clic tic tic clic tic tic
  29. The Throat - Nearly there. One more pass.
  30. The Shore of the Abyss - Black sand, black water, grey mist, off into forever.
  31. The Heart in the Dark - I hear it beating, beating, just out of sight.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

100 Things to Do At The Spaceport

So the rules preview for Mothership 1e is out to backers now, and being one of that lucky number I have given it my perusal. Among noteworthy changes is the fact that downtime in port can convert stress into better saves, as determined by the port's classification.


X-Class

  1. Pornographic slickspace with a jailbroken scenario generator
  2. Blood sports arena (flash cloned c-levels and celebrities)
  3. Blood sports arena (self-service)
  4. Blood sports arena (tricked out robots)
  5. Religious service (Orgiastic Dionysian rites)
  6. Religious service (Radical splinter faction)
  7. Public execution (traitors to the syndicate)
  8. The Hungry Bug (good dumplings and cheap beer)
  9. Dealer: Angeldown
  10. Dealer: Hypermeth
  11. Dealer: Quantum Devil Engine
  12. Dealer: Turingfuck.exe
  13. Public appearance by local crime lord
  14. Delvers' (dive bar for all the weirdos)
  15. Goblin Market (pirated and handmade goods; sometimes both)
  16. Xenofungus-infected shaman performing spore rituals
  17. Specialty brothel ("The Kink Buffet")
  18. Passion play (Tragedy of the Lady of Fangs)
  19. Illegal bodymod surgery hall (observers welcome, color commentary provided)
  20. Place that was at some point a Burgar Konig franchise. Definitely not cursed.

C-Class

  1. Cafeteria (automated food dispensary)
  2. Religious service (Nocinax Pilgrimage revival preacher)
  3. Multi-denominational chapel space & fellowship hall
  4. Talent show (open signups)
  5. Gaming lounge (inadvertently retro due to age of equipment)
  6. Universe's saddest marijuana dispensary
  7. Standardized corporate auto-brothel (capsule)
  8. Little Spacers' Library
  9. Volunteer chore roster
  10. Sit on a bench and watch the maintenance drones
  11. Union hall (charity spaghetti dinner)
  12. Hang out at the commissary store
  13. Community herb garden
  14. Mama Fiorini's Pizza Place
  15. Theater (Fuck the King of Space)
  16. Community college evening classes (audit)
  17. Dealer: Space Heroin
  18. Low-rent occult paraphernalia store (Neo-Wicca, New Age 3.0, Folk Capitalism)
  19. Swap meet + flea market and scrap sale
  20. Chain restaurant (Great Googly Moogly's)

B-Class

  1. Cafeteria (Chain fast food)
  2. Hookah bar
  3. ISWU brothel (willing to moonlight as bruisers if the gig is right)
  4. Blues lounge (Real folk blues)
  5. Tea shop (private rooms available)
  6. Codepriest offering tech support and exorcisms
  7. Religious Service (Principles of Prosperity and Profit)
  8. Religious Service (Small Gods)
  9. Religious Service (Church of the High Houses)
  10. Mahjong parlor (obvious front for the mob)
  11. Devil Hunters' Lodge (public demonstrations)
  12. Neo-neanderthal drum circle
  13. Vat-meat BBQ joint
  14. Union hall (members only)
  15. Designated injection site
  16. Dealer: Blue Sand
  17. Spacers' memorial
  18. Theater (Admiralty Blues: The Movie)
  19. Cat lounge
  20. Happy Devil Noodle Company

A-Class

  1. 0-G laser tag courts
  2. Boutique craft fair
  3. Axe-throwing pop up
  4. Full tactile immersion slickworld pods
  5. Codepriest cluster-monastery
  6. Mindfulness observatory
  7. Craft distillery (in the neoliberal hell future they have somehow made IPAs worse)
  8. Religious service (Ancient alien xenotheism with barely-whitewashed racism)
  9. Religious service (Principles of Prosperity and Profit, subscribed members-only circle)
  10. Singleship races
  11. Immersive AR LARP
  12. Escape room (Abducted by the Zetians)
  13. Anime convention
  14. Wandering preachers (International Society for MANA-YOOD SUSHAI Consciousness)
  15. Dealer: Space Mead
  16. Circus (0-G acrobatics and stage magic)
  17. Corporate tech exhibition
  18. Union recruitment drive
  19. Guided station tours + historical reenactment (Recombination era)
  20. AI generated live concert with android idol troupe

S-Class

  1. Pornographic slickspace with a no-restraints scenario generator
  2. Blood sports arena (debtors)
  3. Religious services (Orgiastic Dionysian rites, except with yuppies and performative wealth)
  4. Religious services (Human sacrifice to appease the Market)
  5. Public execution (class traitors)
  6. Botanical garden (special exhibit of imported Earth flowers)
  7. "Communing with the aetheric intelligences" (the fuck does this even mean)
  8. A lovely night at the opera (pack your go-bag)
  9. Living art installation (The Esoteric Ecstasies of St. Balai-an of Garamond d)
  10. High-society gala (Designer infectious diseases)
  11. Dealer: Ulfire Lotus
  12. Dealer: Ultima Amanitia
  13. Dealer: ExtraSensoryOverload.exe
  14. Full-body cosmetic treatment
  15. Public dueling garden (walk-ins welcome)
  16. Cybernecromantic seance
  17. DIY chimera lab
  18. Fine dining experience (multiple courses of artificially-scarce foods)
  19. Human zoo (current exhibit "Exotic Cultures of the Rim")
  20. [REDACTED] Have fun figuring out where your missing time went.