Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Long Ago Ceased To Be Anything But Auld Darrel

The town is quiet and unassuming. It's really a small city, the kind that have been squatting in the cliffs around salt lakes like hungry crabs for centuries, hungry for history, hoping to go unnoticed, unneeded, by the herons of empire. The locals take no notice of you, even if you're one of those newfangled dragon people, which is weird. I mean they respond when directly addressed or confronted, rent you a room, sell you an ale but...maybe if you just...

Yep, you walk right out of that shop with that crossbow. You lift that lady's purse and other than looking concerned for a moment nobody really reacts. You start seeing how much you can get away with. You take a horse. You start a fire. Everyone is lazily putting out the flames and then they go about their normal business. If you cared to notice you'd see that everyone eats but they don't eat well, they have money and finery in their homes but they don't dress well, they don't seem concerned for their minor injuries....you don't notice this, of course, so busy are you in fleecing this city's aforementioned finery. You spiral through the city and end up in the center square...

When a building burns out or rots from within sometimes the walls still hang together, sallow but standing, there but only radiating a sense that there WAS something there. He's sitting near a fountain, or perhaps in the shade in early afternoon. He punched holy men and saved churches and burned fields and fed children and forgot things and remembered too many things and long ago ceased to be anything but Auld Darrel. People walk past him and drop him some coin, and your grouch sack is awfully heavy...do you need ALL those silver candlesticks?

You feel better once you've given Auld Darrel some of your stuff, invigorated, but somehow also drained. Perhaps you'll leave tomorrow.

The keeper shows you the bungalow and takes your deposit. You're not paying attention to him, just going through the motions at this point. You dream of sandwiches. The next day the way out of town seems steep, bright, and it's such a long way to your destination. You persevere, but you seem to have gotten lost. The road slopes down here, perhaps leading out of the mount-

He danced on his wedding and once when he had too much sherry on midsummer. He buried three sisters and two fathers. He fought in the war once, and was in all the other wars anyway. Auld Darrel is thin, and old, and so small...

Speaking of thinness, now that you've given Auld Darrel a few coins you seem to have found where you laid your appetite. You don't order much, and you don't order the best...just a quick bite to keep going. You'll have a big meal later. To get out of town now...

But it's nearly dusk.

Maybe you'll leave tomorrow.

Auld Darrel has lost who he once was, depending upon the kindness of strangers to survive. Who he once was, among many other things, almost not worth mentioning, really, was a Magic-User. He was no wizard or conjurer or summoner or warlock or whatever fancy title you want to use. He was a man in love who learned something he shouldn't have. He could extend his mind. First in mice, then cats, then dogs...he worked up his courage for weeks to ask Emma out, and he knew just how to do so by the time he'd gotten the nerve. He never controlled, never forced, not really, but his mind put up a little room and a home in her mind, and they were as together as anyone has ever been, and he loved her like he never loved anything or believed in anything

                                            and

                                                    he was
                                                                                          inside


                                                                                                            her

when

she

died
.




Auld Darrel is empty now but not. Auld Darrel is wide open. Auld Darrel is turned on. Emma is buried in the village crypt, a part of the stone, a part of the city, and Auld Darrel is a part of Emma. It started with mice. It started with cats. It worked its way up to people.

Auld Darrel does not control this little squat city, which by now I'm just going to name Bunning. Not actively. He goes through his motions, just enough to get by, and influences the people around him subtly but strongly to pity him and help him along. He is not evil. He is not greedy. He is, however, kind, and gentle, and terrified. He sleeps in a barrel and sends everyone home to a warm bed. Everyone. No one can leave Bunning.

The longer he influences them the more he influences them. The thinner their minds become, sallow, rotted. They become a part of Emma. But they are patient and forgiving and kind. Vestiges remain and so they busy themselves with their custom, with walking, with eating when they remember that they probably should have eaten hours ago...

No one especially wants to leave Bunning but no one particularly can, either. They come to stay in a little crablike overlook that has only the fattest, fattest, happiest stray dogs, everywhere, surrounded by people who are slowly collapsing into each other, buildings which are love, in a people and city which long ago ceased to be anything but Auld Darrel.


----

When a city breathes in and out like a city and rises and falls like a city, a great big yeasty loaf that is never baked but just grows, what else grows there? What else lurks about it, within it, beneath it? What kind of thing would choose to nest there, unaffected by the enchantments others suffer? And why?

When a mind is left open like a shack, what takes up residence there? When you are part of the dead what are you part of? When everyone is part of the dead what are they? When everyone is part of the stone, what else did they become, and wait a minute doesn't that sound incredibly familiar and old and Dark Run Screams Dark Run Red Wet Dark Dark Silence?

Exactly how long has this been going on and what the fuck happens with Auld Darrel dies? And what the fuck else was he into that he can't tell us about? How screwed COULD everyone be?

Why did Emma die?



Save vs. Spells.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My New 5e Character: I Like Half Orcs Now?


So after remembering my Muppet Maker earlier and fiddling with it I decided to whole hog make a guy. I decided the Type table (humanoid, animalish, or monstrous) would roughly correspond to Human, Normal DND Race, the Rare Races, according to the 5e handbook. Figured I usually hate half-orcs but divorced from Orcishness they would give the guy I rolled up an appropriate skeleton so I don't have to hack anything. So my guy has the bones of a half orc but he's a Sesame Street monster.

Muppet Maker results:
  • Male
  • Monstrous (with horns, fangs, fur, and an extra body part [extra rams horns I forgot to draw]
  • Strives to do the right thing
  • Could be characterized as Hopeful, Affable, and Oblivious
  • He aspires to Be in Charge (read: to rule), wants to get Rich, but can never really succeed because he's Kind of Dumb.
5e adds:
  • Strength 14 Constitution 18 Dexterity 11 Intelligence 9 Wisdom 6 Charisma 10. Put the 6 in Wisdom instead of Intelligence because he's kind of dumb but absolutely Oblivious so he needs horrible insight perception etc.
  • No Backgrounds really spoke to his lack of mental faculties so I went with Soldier and randomly rolled that he was a Cook. Yes yes yes.
  • I am always polite and respectful. Our lot is to lay down our lives in defense of others. I fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. The monstrous enemy we faced in battle still leaves me quivering in fear. OKAY so: good egg, big on civil service, but based on those last two I think he only ever fought on the battlefield because he can't cook for SHIT, and had to ride out to meet the enemy while the soldiers all had tummyaches from tuna surprise (We're outta tuna! Surprise!)
  • Fighter sounds like the easiest transition for that background. He's too chicken now for military service but he's too protective and worried about people not being safe to stay at home. I'll make him a Protector type.
  • Between the BG and Class he's trained in Athletics, Intimidation, Acrobatics, and History. Halforcs are already trained in Intimidation, my response to that is OH WELL, I consider it fair tradeoff for being a Muppet.
  • Gold rolled randomly and then all spent on chainmail apron w/pot hat, warhammer ladle, roasting pan shield, an explorer kit, some dice, his marble collection (ball bearings), and a pony. His pony's name is Cinnamon and she is Fat Pony from Kate Beaton.
  • Random starting trinket is a deed from another country you've never been to. If he can just get there he can be king! Wherever there is...
  • Going to name him after Chefy V, my Skyrim companion who made me surplus to requirement in my own game from badassness.
  • He talks like Master Billy Quiz Boy.
Anyway if you run an open game any time soon  and I can make it expect to meet Chefy and Cinnamon.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

5e Background: Apostle of the Merciful Golden Sex Horse

So after I wrote this god generator and made my official statement of divine policy in XXR "Come up with your own damn god, make one up using this, or use one someone else made up, I'm not your Bullfinch" we went kind of nuts making gods. But one stood out above the rest and has endured long past the point of reason.

Adherant of Fastoporno:

They say it was all lightnin' and no thunderin'. The sky was clear but her hooves struck the desert like heartbreak and kicked up a sandstorm that destroyed the Eastmen churches. She was hope and tenderness, release and grunting animal instinct, the slip of the grave which the reddening soldiers and old souls beg for. She was the final compassion and the sensation of better times. I never cared much for heaven but they way they tell it the devil himself'd've ridden 'er. She was majestic, radiant, beautiful, and enormous. And so, as we all know, is her penis, and anybody who has a problem with that is an asshole, unworthy in the sight of Fastoporno, scourge of man and scorned of god. We also know Fastoporno forgives them, and loves them, and lusts them, as she lusts us all. Amen.
If you choose this background, tred lightly, for chances are you're not playing D&D through FetLife. Fastoporno is not a spirit of sluttiness or tee-hee gender roles. She is a vision of the transcendental power of carnal joy and should be thought of in terms Lovecraftian beneficence. In other words, determine how Fastoporno touched your life, not where. Fastoporno is the argument against William Blake's polarity, and confers the innocence of experience. Presumably you've pretended to worship big preachy lizards, corpse gathering women, sweaty aggro warriors, and weird kings from other worlds. Don't forget to be a person just because your DM let you incorporate My Little Promethea.

Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Persuasion
Language Proficiencies: Any one.
Equipment: Crop of the Church, fine incense and oils, a book of the scriptures, a medical phrasebook.

Feature: We Are All Riders

Your cloister outfitted you with a trusty horse who comes when you call it. Steady, Robin. It is of greater than average intelligence and will wait up to a mile away, coming when you call or when it senses your death, where it will kneel beside you and wait to die.

Your services are much in demand, mostly from perverts. You pity them and pray for them, saving Her gifts for those who truly believe. That said you are something of a living holy symbol, always brandished toward an enemy as long as you are aware of them.

Those who surrender their smallness and hate in the face of Fastoporno's blessings may be stabilized, if dying, with but a kiss.

Suggested Characteristics:

Your sexuality is overt but matter-of-fact. You are a person, and more you're ALIVE, and sex is an important part of life. War priests or death priests may temper their devotion with practicality. So should you do. Sex isn't a punchline, it's fucking magic and you should treat it as seriously as you treat your Hobbit game's magic missiles. That said have fun with it because that's the point of sex, too.

d8 Personality Trait:

1. I am quick to forgive but I have a long memory.
2. I am handsy with those who have shown themselves receptive to it.
3. I struggle with my faith where halflings are concerned.
4. Don't get me started about my sister.
5. I vocally dissent with colloquial taboos - loudly - but I adhere to them.
6. I do the gods' work yeah but at the end of the day I really, really like sex.
7. I hoard my gold for a praise room, even though it would benefit me to get some new robes and such.
8. Fine and I know it.

d6 Ideal:

1. Mercy. All war must be tempered with it. All enemies may be made friends.
2. Beauty. It's everywhere if you know, not where to look, but how.
3. Identity. Everyone should be free to be the selves they know.
4. Selflessness. Be good, giving, and game for anything.
5. Relief. From pain, from loneliness, from life if need be.
6. Salvation. You will stand for the oppressed and take their part of pain.

d6 Bond:

1. I will never leave my steed in danger, and will help any horse in pain.
2. All my treasure goes to help one who cannot help himself.
3. I must keep the plains about my cloister free and open.
4. I owe someone a lustbond that can never be repaid.
5. I love someone society keeps me from having, who doesn't understand my holy mission.
6. I owe fealty to a compassionate and impotent queen, whose court I service and whose authority I carry.

d6 Flaw:

1. Unconstrained by societal mores, which gets me in hot water with the law sometimes.
2. I prefer to do rather than talk.
3. Removal of an individual's carnal agency causes me to white out, losing tracts of time and waking to find myself covered in blood in a fire.
4. I will extend my mercy to those my friends wish I wouldn't, if I am but asked in Her name.
5. Unconventionally beautiful, which at times impedes my holy mission.
6. Smell like horseshit and old dusty fuck.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

REVIEW: Nuke Year Holocaust, by Tucker Baine and IVANOV

Judas Priest
IVANOV. Say it loud and there's music playing, say it soft and it's almost like praying.

I met Tucker Baine once and, being polite, did my best to avoid the subject of Nuke Year Holocaust, her only contribution to the Adder Entertainment catalog. There was a world before machines who could mutate and have Tod Browning babies. It was full of ethnic cleansing and Jimmy Carter. That's fine and all but I prefer the world where you begin the game with a plug for a face, interface with computers by smashing your face into them, you have tank feet, chainsaw hands, and then roll for mutations. Get out of here with your lizard people or walking plants or Sean Young PCs. I refuse to choose one of those because we live in a world where I can be all at once. This game took longer to adjudicate than Champions but was a billion times more fun, each session taking place simultaneously on the psychic plane, "compu-space," the flickering and transforming physical world, and Hell, realm of magic space witches.

Her hands were shaking, making fists again and again, and she told me about her post-Æ career. Ghostwriting Rick Veitch. The acid bomb. The Altamont séance. The empty casket and the New York Marathon. Tucker Baine was a Changesone of a woman, reciting her own greatest hits to a snob who knew already. Who's grateful just to stand next to a comet, to hear a unicorn.

I remember my first Nuke Year Holocaust PC the way some people remember the dim orange light filtering through a railroad bridge as she whispered, "Put it in." His name was Cuntastic Fuckosaurus and he was a werewolfman who could turn into a living music video. Into the Cave of Cannibals went we undaunted, in the buff, on fire, eleven though a grown ass man. I never stood a chance. Neither did the ragged peoploids.

"Ivanov," she said...

I'd never ovulated before.

"Do you know what peyote is? Ivanov did. Ivanov had a key to the county library. Ivanov had pictures of museum security's boyfriend. Ivanov showed up when Adder  still printed chess strategy, ready to intern in layouts. Six years later he turned up again and had done everything we saw in Nuke Year Holocaust and the cover for nearly every AT (A Tunnel) for the next three years."

In addition to character creation rules and some dice the honeycomb box came with three prepared adventures. One was simply a conversion of Under the King that was written in the sense that there wasn't a Find/Replace utility at hand, Cave of Cannibals. One was Tucker Baine's environmental horror story of classism as pollution and venereal Zen Buddhism, Pax Throbbinaut. Hemophiliacs appeasing the burning skyscrapers. Cry the ghost daughter. Riddle of a bass guitar.

The third adventure was at least 59 adventures to date.

"He said he had an adventure to add, and he turned in one of Duke (Caine)'s manuscripts. Bloom loved it, said let's get it into production...We ended up releasing The Killing Flowers separately because Ivanov changed the game on us. He didn't print or copy any of his adventures. They were all done by hand, hundreds of copies of the same adventure, but he had at least thirty or so, I think." This was a few years ago. Since then even more 'Nukes' have been discovered. Separately they go for hundreds, and a complete honeycomb box is worth a couple thousand intact, upwards of 40k unopened. It has attained a coolness cache of its own, independent of the hobby. Charles Barkley had one and he doesn't even know there's such a thing as dice you can't lose your savings with.

The Nukes are eight to twelve pages, always hand drawn, always different, and contain little in the way of actual script or game information. Or text. Aficianados call these by names taken from the remarkable and rare scribbled note in the margins. Cow 2000. Qui Bono. YOU GO HERE.

I didn't stand a chance. "He must have broken into the warehouse..." Her hands are still. Tucker Blaine is lying.

Nuke Year Holocaust was a generation. Both the Æ miniature line and Entombed! featured Killboner, patron saint of "Dude have you seen this new bong I am so wasted" everywhere, who would represent the ultimate salvagable product identity from the ashes of Adder Entertainment if Ivanov hadn't signed over copyright to the bees.

Adder Entertainment put out only three official expansions for Nuke Year Holocaust: the aforementioned The Killing Flowers, Young Planet Coming, and the article "Deep Ocean Trench Holocaust" from A Tunnel v.2 #1. There was some commotion last year when, despite the legal problems surrounding Æ's catalog and NYH specifically, a Kickstarter went up for a second edition. The video was just someone's YouTube upload of Shame on a Nigga and the rewards were written in Christopher Walken magnetic poetry. It was removed on a terms of service issue after 31 hours.

But are you okay, I asked.

"I haven't been okay since Bloom died," she laughed, "but then who was. What was. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for a lot of things."

She asked me if they still mentioned her. I said they did, sometimes, and she resigned herself to that.

She asked me if they still knew Bloom. I said they did, and everything exhaled, and she left.

She didn't ask about Ivanov. Who would need to? Ivanov is.

DUNGEON MIX: Septet Upon Contanimus Caldera

Add like some treasure and key NPCS? Maybe some maps.
A strange village named Ecctrix has become something of a black hole for travelers. People check in, they don't check out. Missing people along the road is one thing but nobody from Ecctrix has been seen for weeks, either, missing even the local hog faire and the parade of discount gods in Gelmondo, the closest to a big city in the region. No birds fly out from Ecctrix. The stream that runs from Ecctrix through the forest is drying up, and the wood beasts are crawling from the brambles, thirsting, dying.

or

Ecctrix is the holiest and happiest of all cities. Any who wish to live closer to their gods, who wish harmony with nature, who wish to be great all the time, should come to Ecctrix. The sick and the dying will be whole and pure here. Criminals will be forgiven and find haven. All that you desire is in Ecctrix. So the gossip has spread, and people in dozens are deserting vital chores and key strategic posts to seek their fortune or clemency in Ecctrix. They must be brought back.

or

Ecctrix is filled with witches, heretics, blasphemers. It's said that they profane the normal gods and praise some new, horrible force. Some dark god builds its power in the south, drawing all its tendrils through the people, ready to tense and destroy and feed and move on to the wider world. This cancer must be cut.

or

Weeks ago there was a commotion in the villages of the valley, for it looked as if Contanimus the great horned mountain should erupt, spewing smoke and ash into the air for the first time in recorded history. The good people of Promontory were so certain of the dead peak they build their house upon it, a house now lost. An investigation must be carried out to ascertain what happened, assist any survivors, consecrate any dead, determine the toll of the damage and the cost of rebuilding this crucial vantage point, and (a small thing really) recover the resources and gold housed there, banked against the coming invasion. It's a treacherous climb now that the road is destroyed, and you'll need a guide or you'll never make it. Guides and provisions to undertake this important mission can be found in a village at its feet, named Ecctrix.

This is all a matter of perspective.

If Ecctrix is scryed the seer will witness their own death, usually in the caldera. They will survive all harm to befall them before then, just barely, but their fate cannot be prevented in any way.
If Ecctrix is viewed from a distance using spyglasses or some manner of optics a pastoral tableau is seen: children run in circles while holding hands, oxen plow fields, a man chops wood, people file into church. If it is viewed again later, describe it exactly the same. Exactly. Even if from a different angle. The children never stop circling, the church never gets full, the same row is furrowed forever...but after a while the woodcutter begins setting human legs and feet upend on the block to split.
If other planes and powers are consulted regarding Ecctrix you will learn two of these: 1-Everything is going to plan, 2- Nothing can be done to save Ecctrix, 3- Ecctrix is a place of pure evil; 1- Ecctrix must be destroyed, 2- Ecctrix means a new age for man and manlike, 3- Ecctrix is no more. The gods or monsters you consult will be hesitant to elaborate, moving in mysterious ways and shit, but if forced be as forthcoming as you feel given the rest of all this.
If you teleport into Ecctrix gain 1d10 mutations and have your Max HP set to 2. You are immune to all damage and magic, meaning you cannot heal or cure yourself. Every round that goes by without you attacking something reduces your HP by 1. You realize this the first time you lose HP. If you are reduced to 0HP or less you turn into a statue of pure pumice. If you are restored to flesh and life you are restored at 2 HP and the clock ticks over anew. You may be reincarnated, breaking the cycle, so long as you are out of Ecctrix.
If Ecctrix is thoroughly researched it will be found to be a peaceful hamlet, prizing faith and austerity. They historically shelter during times of trouble upon Promontory, and the village has been rebuilt many times. Thought now godsfearing, they are rumored to have once worshiped something called the Iron Baron.
If Ecctrix is prophesied of, or if its fortune is cast, give them the parentheticals in this statement only on a superior result: "Death comes (for all beneath the heel of the Lords of Ecctrix).The army (of tiger men) will fall. Only those worthy (of being food) shall achieve salvation. You (cannot) escape."
If you send your Familiar into Ecctrix without you it gains 3d10 mutations, 6HD (35 HP), and is no longer under your control in any way. It wants you to come and let it eat you so it may become you. You share whatever bonds you possessed but you are kind of dragged behind the boat, spiritually speaking.

RANDOM ENCOUNTERS OKAY?

1) Determine how far away Ecctrix is if you drop it into a map, or how many days you want it to take if you're just starting up. Do an encounter per day, plus one during the night before they arrive. 2) You could also do every six hours or so. 3) I'd just describe each day of the trip to Ecctrix in detail, trying to be all evocative and creepy, for a few minutes. Every time someone interrupted me for anything other than a question like "Did you say dire or fire?" we get a random encounter. After that I begin again. After a couple of these "The rest of the trip is uneventful."

On the Road to Ecctrix:

1. Tiger Man Scouts (4, one has 2HD and his nails confer diseases)
2. Feral children (3, 2HP, from farms near Ecctrix, abandoned by their parents)
3. The Needler, a sinister necromancer and jolly traveling salesman. He can put any spell he knows into your skin so you can cast it once a day. You choose the design he tattoos you with, size, location...in your dreams, this tattoo will try to kill you, whatever its form, like Ghozer. Handle like a waking combat. If you survive then upon waking you can cast that spell three times per day. If attacked, the Needler will try to poke you with one of his needles, and if you kill him his own face will appear in the wound. Then treat as above.
4. Bonewhite Priest-Chiefs of Murderchurch, 3d4, looking for a new place to erect a temple after theirs was destroyed.
5. Wolves who stay at bay if you pray. A bunch of 'em.
6. Blood. It's a big pool of it and it follows you. It never attacks, but if you act kindly it comes up around your feet.
7. Bandits on mushrooms. 1d7. One will have declared himself captain and have six light crossbows on him. They will attack and rob and even kill, maybe, because their primary aim is to get enough material to build their pirate ship. They are nowhere near even a large lake.
8. Three stone pillars, one higher than the rest, depicting shepherds. They cast twelve shadows. Out of three of these shadows may (1/d6) emerge carnivorous rams. Normal reaction roll.
9. The Stoat-Talking Woman
10. Traveling prostitutes. They will accompany you if you seem nice, and "accompany" you if you can pay in Tiger Man money. They aren't taking any chances.

In the Wood:
  1. Half-mad dryads, desperate to drink your tears. They appear and whisper horrible things to you.
  2. Woodcutter birds. Fiercely territorial of their nests. The strike of their beaks cuts through old growth like samurai swords through bamboo, raining down treetops.
  3. Forest coral. Everything cuts bare skin on contact. Everything is poisonous. Spiny squirrels nest in the purple ones.
  4. The mad stargazer, who claims intimate knowledge of Ecctrix. He knows that Ecctrix is infested from a force from beyond which threatens to consume them. Every question they ask him, roll 1d20: on a crit, the Concept appears.
  5. A plague of rats, run out of Ecctrix, who will watch but not strike. They can sneak like crazy and will nibble at the sleeping.
  6. The Door and Stairs. Only entering the door can one ascend an otherwise unseen, moss covered ziggurat. Everything here is sevens. Seven faces on columns. Seven feet to their verses.
  7. Bear
  8. The Most Bear
  9. A fog where you see your dead sister, even if you never had a sister. She will chase you if you leave, but you will only catch fleeting glimpses if you chase her. The fog hides ROLL AGAIN.
  10. A great stone, common on one side but forming into a swirling obsidian sheen on the other. It follows you and hums loudly when ignored, potentially giving you away, but it is otherwise benign. It will not follow toward Ecctrix or Contanimus.

Up Contanimus Toward Promontory:

1. Tiger men transcending their corporeal bodies. Their bodies sleep in a nearby tree. Their spirits strike as men. If destroyed, the real tiger men awake and drop down to strike anew.
2. Triceratops whose horns and frill have grown beyond normal reason and skeletal capacity. Seems pretty fine with it except that these are caught in thick vines it cannot free itself from.
3. Conscious landslide. Sent by the angel in the mountain to deliver you safely to Ecctrix.
4. Troat. Troll goat. Regenerates, can charge to send you spinning down the mountain on a hit for double damage.
5. The Needler. If the Needler has already been encountered and destroyed then this is another creature imitating the Needler: a copycat peacock, a bird who likes having sex with human women. Can spread its plumage around itself in the seeming of a human form.
6. Silencer mantis. They krikk krikk krikk nearby, and until they are killed no spell may be cast.
7. Emaciated women in a drunken rage, hungry for flesh.
8. Something the player just said is the activation phrase for the hidden library of the Bookwurm, a paper dragon who is created by reading about it in its library. Easy to hit but buckets of HP, papercut breath 1d4 times daily.
9. Wild dogs. They have begun to change. Thick phlegmy projectile discharge. This is harmless but make players save every time anyway.
10. Promontory survivor overcome with grief, setting themselves on fire.

Within the Caldera:
  1. A handful of small rolling stones. They watch you, follow you, roll away, and then come back with more. They never attack. They are interested in you. If followed they will not go anywhere in particular. They want you to roll with them forever.
  2. Gray dwarves made by the angels. They climb along walls and ceilings. They prefer to smash their enemies with their fists to subdue them, then bite them to death. They build nothing. Tunnels open for them. They take nothing. Mute but always flapping their jaws like speaking, their teeth clacking together. 4d8.
  3. Alterbats. Their sonar can make shapes in the air, near solid in their force, which are as convincing as illusions, if not complete...SOMETHING is there, right? Save to notice the bats, if attacked they will swarm.
  4. Magma fissure and scalding steam. Save or take like twenty? damage. This way is quickly blocked.
  5. Elf cavemen.
  6. The Diggers. Deer, raccoons, bears, robins. They are changed now. Are they even themselves or something new? They are awakened to a curiosity, and a bond, and a drive: more. More dexterously than their limbs and digits should allow they have burrowed through the earth with strange machines. Only in the dark is it obvious their eyes shine magma gold. None must stay them from their quest.
  7. Ashenkind. The citizens of Promontory have been changed, too. They are a weird undead that take the form of Pompeii-like walking corpses, trapped how they died, lumbering along with what little locomotion is available to them. Lovers. Parents and children. Slow but confused and angry. Their skeletons were atomized and their muscles and organs are all changed: within their shells they look like geodes, and the crystals are noon-bright even in the dark. They don't light their surroundings but they can be seen.
  8. Teeth. These are not stalagmites any more. They are thirsty, only able to absorb liquids. They send illusory orgies roaming through the halls, ensnaring people into jumping into the fuckpile---a massive gorge with stony spikes at the bottom. Slurrrp.
  9. The echoes of the Ecctrix expedition. They are here looking for survivors in the wake of the Promontory disaster. They are disheartened and have been searching for days. Some say the Innercrag is sacred and they risk the wrath of gods to tred here. They discover the Angel. It gets screamy from there.
  10. Ancient machine titan. Voice #9 was right, there was something ancient and holy here. You find its vast and nonhumanoid body. Parts are still active.

SO WHAT'S UP NOW?


Terrestrially speaking it would be all the same, give or take, if you were visited by angels, demons, or aliens. The effects on you, your mind or your eternal parts, and the physical effects on the world around, would be similar. Drastic. New. Indiscriminate. Devastating as a new idea. There's a movie about this. Yes, that one. The devil is an angel. The Thing is an angel. They don't understand us and we don't understand them.

Two months ago the kingdom began preparing for an invasion by the tiger men, blood-skinned humans in black paint who like fighting with diseases. Promontory is a key position against the advance and so it was vested with a measure of coin and infantry.

One month ago a meteorite struck the mountain. It burrowed deep into its heart. It boiled the mountain as it changed the world around it, and the peaks and Promontory fell like a soufflé. It is replacing our stone with the stone it makes, which is also itself. It replaces terrestrial gold with new gold. Awake gold. Everything is being changed or replaced, and this work is Good. The rock called the angels. As the rock became the countryside the angels hooked into the nearest village and began changing it, making it, becoming a paradise. We will call the rock Mineral Angel. The angels are not bothered by us and do not want us to be happy. They want us to be or to be them. Some prayed to the angels and that made things worse. The angels gave horrible gifts. Then they changed their gifts as they were asked. Then they took back their gifts. This was usually the last straw and everything has been going to shit in Ecctrix. Bosch-cum-Stepford in there.

The invasion draws close and there is a power that is sensed by opportunists and fools and refugees. The countryside has become like the aftermath of a war before the invasion has even begun.

THE ANGELS

Once per turn an angel can change one thing. This can't be like "I change the PC into a dead PC" but you can change one into a jar. Lots of saves vs. transformation going on here, and remember everything can be undone...you might need only ask. An angel cannot create something unless something nearby ceases to exist. There is an economy to celestials. Very few things in Ecctrix are things untouched. Very few things even predate the angels any more. The same can be said of the people there. Treat everyone like elves capable of casting Light until the angels make more interesting modifications.

Angels may be attacked and slain in a manner consistent with their being. You cannot stab Color Angel. Magic words are particularly effective against Music Angel. So forth. Remember an angel's forms do not limit its abilities, just how it manifests.

Angels have like AC 0 or 20 or whatever you use, good AC, and maybe 6HD? Sure. If an angel is killed then its unique ability are absorbed by all other angels, they all gain 1HD and 5HP, and their AC improves by 1. Also all angels immediately know where you are. Their manifestations begin to blend together.

If all the angels are convinced to come together they will form a discreet god, some beyond monster of amazing power who will play with the world until it breaks it, but at least in this form it can be bargained with. This also happens by attrition, as angels become near-gods, translucent and fleshy, before the final angel becomes its own beyond monster. NOTE: if Mineral Angel is the last angel, the new god takes the form of a flying magic volcano.

Only one angel will be apparent at a time. After 20 minutes (real time) they will disappear if unmolested, content with their changes, and another angel will move mysteriously in another part of the city.

Mineral Angel- This angel comes in the form of a massive castle-sized boulder of strange unworldly metal which pops and sizzles surrounded by a corona of liquid rock. It reaches out with tendrils of magma and touches the earth around it, changing it and giving the new earth the property TO change. Save vs radiation every hour exploring earth beyond Ecctrix or lose 1 from your saving throws permanently. This accumulates. After every 10 hours save vs transformation or gain a mutation. Does not actively engage you specifically. Busy. All treasure touched by Mineral Angel is worthless, dangerous, and aware.

Color Angel- A column of pure light, a cascade of dazzling colors, a rainbow, a glowing mote where none should be. Because of Color Angel night is a stranger to Ecctrix. The people, already pushed to the brink, are even closer to the edge thanks to that. The streets are awash with visions of their heart's desires, their most shameful secrets, their darkest fears. You cannot walk but walk through some strange scene.

Timespace Angel- This is the angel that makes escape impossible, folding everything so that every step away from Ecctrix draws you fairy tale-like deeper into it. It has restored the dead to life and youth and aged those who displease it to dust. Obstinate travelers are sent into the inky reaches of the stars rather than keep rerouting them.

Music Angel- Save vs paralysis to do anything when this angel is about, as its music is a constant cycling, escalating bwammm. People hemorrhage and die in its presence but it doesn't seem particularly concerned about changing much, except that most things in town now whisper, albeit nonsense baby talk.

Conceptual Angel- Thinking about this angel too much summons it. It is a perfect mathematical proof of angels. Comes upon a vessel which speaks only values from every acre part of flesh. It fights by Inceptioning and defends by being noncorporeal. It feeds on those who displease it. First they will forget the angel. Then they will forget themselves. Then you will forget their name. Then you will be unsure of their place in space relative to you, or whether they have object permanence. Then you will forget them staring right at them. Then they stop existing. Then they never existed.

Bio Angel- A big ol' eyeball. Every time you see it it has some weird new thing. A big ol' eyeball covered in cillia. A big ol' eyeball covered in cillia and livers. A big ol' eyeball covered in cillia, slithering around on all livers to attack with its drill-like penis. So on. It is concerned by buildings and the sky, and wants them to be meat. You cannot attract its attention without it trying to change your body. Heals by turning things in its line of sight into nonviable creature hybrids.

Geometric Angel- Massive shapes constantly moving and clipping through one another, made of glowing planes, made of humanoid outlines, powered by perspective. Likes big clean fuckoff polyhedrons and spheroids. Likes buildings constructed fractally. Keeps trying to make two people occupy the same space...they survive but can't get separated, like a video game glitch, which is troublesome.

XP awards and the sale price of angelflesh increase exponentially as the angels become more powerful.

Diseases of the Tiger Men

1- Butcher Blue- Your skin begins to fester and discolor, and you become something of a pussy magnet for botflies, which are the Worst Thing.
2- Spit- You forget what water is. You try to drink everything on the off chance it's water. Your body thinks you are waterlogged, and you will drool and pee yourself to death.
3- Ropeburn- Long, delicate, knotty tumors filllllled with nerve endings start growing quickly from all over your body, wearing any armor hurts you a lot and you take an extra HP of damage per day, cumulative, when you're hurt, because these things are real bleeders.
4- Tunnelvision- You gain darkvision but lose all other vision, and can no longer see well enough to read without drastic assistance and tools.
5- Pearling- Your bones increase to twice their size, many fusing in the process. Your teeth become one calcified plate, a beak. Your skin develops a hard crust, and moving enough to break that crust makes you bleed. Your blood hardens. Within days you are in a tomb of yourself, waiting to die.
6- Alabaster Fever- Magical tourettes, save vs magic or randomly cast one of your spells.

Invasion Timetable

The invasion is not expected for another couple weeks, according to reports from scouts. Well, some of those scouts got lost in Ecctrix. Beginning the night before you enter Ecctrix, you have four days.

DAY ONE: Some tiger men scouts will get into Ecctrix. They will hide as best they can when they see the state of it. The main army approaches the kingdom but a column scales the far face of Contanimus, oblivious to the face of Promontory. At night you will see the lights of their fires adorning the mountain like a bridal veil.

DAY TWO: A volunteer militia seeks to skirt both Ecctrix and Contanimus and meet the tiger men on the open plain. They will be led astray by the angels and scattered. The tiger men will be discovered within Ecctrix, and they will have a merry time killing until they attract the attention of the angels. Strangely their unified, single purpose manages to not exhaust the angels' patience, so they are able to turn the place out if not opposed. On the mountain the fires grow cold as the tiger man column follows its delver scouts into the mountain.

DAY THREE: The tiger men have pledged themselves to Mineral Angel, sacrificing their souls for never-ending gold. They united have one aim: destruction. The mountain begins to rumble. In Ecctrix, some of the mercenary stragglers make it into town and they turn it into a war between they and the tiger men. Angels will pick sides, then switch sides, then become the battle. The main tiger man armada will clear the valley of Ecctrix and make its way towards Gelmondo.

DAY FOUR: The angels have left Ecctrix but nobody trusts this. Any remaining militia and tiger men will fight it out, and will not spare the PCs in their quest to destroy their enemies. The citizens of Ecctrix are considered acceptable losses by both sides by now and at this point they're honestly fine with it? The angels circle the caldera on Contanimus, and the mountain erupts. You have to escape before the city is destroyed by flowing lava. The mountain begins to walk. The mountain begins to soar. Gelmondo is no more. Every pregnant woman looking towards Ecctrix has her baby immediately. In a sonic boom all the missing birds appear, a swarm thicker than storm clouds, flying into each other and killing each other and coincidentally secreting the true coming horror from the kingdom anticipating tiger men trickery.

DAY FIVE: The main tiger men armada is joined by the demon space god and their skyborne brother. They are now the iCloud of divinity. The angels have finally figures us out: we destroy and get destroyed. Book a cruise to another continent with big ass wizard fuckers on it. Cancel all long term plans.

You know, unless the party does something to fuck all this up.

Remember: the tiger men and their invasion are incidental. They're a stick, and the promise of royal appointments, military power, riches, and the favor of your gods are all the carrots. The angels just happen to be a much bigger stick, an adamantine war club that smashed the original stick to slivers, dangling the carrots from a daisy chain of lips.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Children of Moon Slave

Moon Slave came to silver and red and made children upon his enemies. Moon Slave uttered seven prophecies and carried a shovel. Moon Slave smote down a kingdom of climbing rock, of star night hands, of crimson temptation, because they embarrassed themselves as much as they embarrassed Moon Slave. Moon Slave ate the river. Moon Slave struck the continent. Moon Slave raised up ice. Moon Slave blacked out the sky. Moon Slave left.

...for a while...

Kittorek Mountainscare had three brothers, they told her. They were not her brothers. Kittorek crept away under the eye of harvest, ruddy and expectant. She found fears in thorns and collected them. She could not carry them all. Kittorek's dress had no pockets. Kittorek did not need all of her teeth. Her shadow is fat. It bulges and seams, light falling through where her middle is like starscars. She cannot carry these fears any more. She needs others to share her burden.

Bely Thorium wanted to be a hunter. He wanted to hunt the clouds. He didn't want to only kill. He wanted to chase. Bely chased lions, he chased scorpions, he chased seasons, he chased devils. Bely chases the greatest prey of all now: Bely Thorium. All others are secondary to his hunt. The concerns of the innocent are the opinions of grass, of clear sunny days. Blood will come. What's more blood? Bely Thorium is hunting, and he is afraid, for Bely Thorium is coming!

Phanteshaire woke one morning and trembling cut free her surname. She lives untethered to history. Her blood is untempered by dinosaurs, untouched by disease, free from childhood naivete. She recalls the ape but is loosed even from those teeth and urges. Phanteshaire is made of the future and her blessings go on forever. Perhaps she can find in that distance what she is. More likely she will find something older, terribly older, that hasn't happened yet.

Velcatum Auberice swallows bones. He finds them in the woods, and sometimes in meat and clothes. He is patient and polite, waiting his turn, but he is so insistent. The thought of him curls paint. The sight of him chills breast milk. The look of him remains on the eye, to be seared upon everything after seen. Velcatum cannot count to ten, so everything is nines. Nine hours of night. Nine days of searching. Nine minutes of rapture. Nine steps behind.

Lizard Arrow Juice came from brown claw embrace and viridian chambers. When nobody goes somewhere for long enough it turns dark and like black. It is shades forever. There in scriptures of screaming and schools of crododiles he was born, and there he stayed, untouched by sin and desire, until he grew his own shadow. Nobody went to Lizard Arrow Juice. He came unsure and unbidden from the stench and glow. You can't get rid of him. You will not kill him. He wants company. He is picky. He may be a girl.

And there is Moon Slave.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

REVIEW: Paradise Cleft, by Noel Station

Black Sabbath
In the fields of Kenning Downs the shirtless young men step over busted and rusted sickles to get at the lush September crop, gorging themselves on stalks of wheat down to the roots. They do not stop. Gotta get the harvest in. In the churchyard disheveled, mostly clothed peasants paw and writhe absently against the walls of the chapel, moaning through the gardens, and the language here is fairly circuitous but I'm pretty sure they're dry-humping the tombstones. In the square at Kenning Downs several cats are being hanged.

Fist artist and truckosaurus pioneer Noel Station had the honor of producing the first Ice book, Paradise Cleft, though the manuscript was actually kicking from desk to desk during much of the Rust period. It's no surprise this entry was a hot potato given the Satanic Panic that had taken a country afraid of the vitamin-d deficient's use of graph paper and whipped it into a movement, and movement is definitely the word since I conduct a similar movement a few times a day. This chapbook, originally titled A Witch in the Sheets but named more conservatively (if you can call a pussy joke racked next to Toon conservative) upon release, wasn't exactly a reaction to that madness but its release was received as a kind of line in the sand. Reading it, however, reveals an almost tame adventure by the standards set by other Adder Entertainment releases. If it can be said to have a position on the Satanic Panic at all it is one of clarification: "You know we're pretending to FIGHT demons with the power of PRAYERS, right?"

Corridors of beige space and unfocused fireworks make a man like Noel Station. Astronomer in Cairo, drunk in Barcelona, lounge singer in Georgias, first Soviet then Southern. Noel Station never found an overriding passion of his own. He found other people's and half-bricked them in the head, taking just enough to get by and then running into the night. Interestingly considering how ecclesiastical this book reads in places its composition did seem the impetus for a brief blood cult tourism period for Station before he found his true calling in dying of leprosy.

The adventure follows a fairly basic premise: the Seven Sacred Sins (here Murder, Devil Worship, Lust, Theft, Pride, Waste, and Betrayal) all occur simultaneously in Kenning Downs. Some of this is innocent, some required coercion from a third party named Nicod, but all of it happens, and it opens up a kind of door within the village. No one can stop themselves. There is nothing between thought and action. It is possible to reseal the barbarism within the people and end the shifting shapes of the town and the creatures who claw from the edges, but that requires venturing deep into the crypts of the town in search of The Sword of So Cool It Would Not Be In Such A Shitty Town Buried Under Ground If This Weren't A Module. And some of them have been let in already, where they hide amongst the desecrated dead and flaming shadows.

Paradise Cleft isn't inspired, I don't think, apart from the vague sense of transgression and rebellion many who purchased this book experienced vicariously. It isn't adventurous, part from boldly having more than one idea, which is more than many modules even attempt.

Nicod appeared in the Æ miniature line as some kind of platonic philospher figure whose robe ends and reveals some seemingly-too-small-to-support-him raccoon legs and tail. None of this is spelled out in the text and that is a damn shame. I wonder what else has weird legs? Oh shit new blog tagline...

I can't recommend running this book so much as eating it. Vomit out a nice fuck plague, some equestrian demons, move this whole thing to a dwarf mine, take an Amicus anthology approach with this thing? You could have a real party as your players sift through the acid and blot the ulcer blood from their shirts. If at all possible work in a leprosy orgy, I think Station would've approved.

The book would be so exciting if you could hate it. If it represented squandered idea after half-premise and gave you only stilted Friday Afternoon Art and a map from a file. Those are some of the great treasures of this hobby, the interchangeable melange of the ungood-enough. How riveting a product would this be if it actually moved you, pushed some buttons, made you ill, or turned you on? How frightening if it were actually great? Instead it turns out that all hell on earth amounts to yet again is some Yakov Smirnoff reversals and a lightning round of Who's Got My Come? Even if the banality of evil was its subject that would at least be an argument.

It's interesting, sure, but almost entirely as a historical document at this point. I wish there was a world where this set a new standard in adventure design or at least sucked as bad as FATAL. Instead we get normal old suckworld, which is the ultimate legacy of Station and maybe his big joke on us all.

Friday, September 5, 2014

5e Background: Jason Statham

I'm an individual possessed of certain talents. These talents are not pleasant but they are necessary. I do a bit of this, bit of that. Odd jobs, you might say. I used to do contract work but lately I'm what you might call a freelancer. I still keep me hand in, but it's a young man's game. I want the quiet life, me. Simple needs, simply filled. I don't like complications. You can tell by my cuffs I like to keep things tidy. You can tell by my knuckles you don't want me to get dirty. Take my advice: run along. Mind your own. 'Cause I like you. But I hate repeating myself.
When you choose this background, man or woman, understand that you have to do that accent. If you can't do that accent, or even reasonably fake that accent, you definitely have to do that accent. Your DM will help you shape your role in the campaign. Are you an honest man? Trying to become one? An atoner? A scrupulous criminal? A thug? A professional? A killer? A rescuer? An authority? A soldier? Are you in way, way over your head? Probably. Only one thing is certain: if your D&D game can be imagined as an action-fantasy film, you are absolutely being played by Jason Statham. Especially the ladies.

Skill Proficiencies: Acrobatics, choice of either Perception or Investigation
Tool Proficiencies: Vehicles (all)
Language Proficiencies: Choose any two.
Equipment: A really sharp outfit,a dagger, a ranged weapon of your choice, a hat, a Code. Not Owned: razor, comb.

Man of a Thousand Faces Kicked

Jason Statham has played many kinds of characters, from criminals and soldiers to cyborg criminals and ex soldiers. For the purposes of how other characters treat him consider him to be one of the following Backgrounds:

1. Criminal
2. Hermit
3. Soldier
4. Spy
5. Charlatan
6. Gladiator

Feature: You Underestimate Me

No one would be stupid enough to come here. Nobody can get out of there. He's just some small town guy. He's just some nameless goon. He's just a monkey following orders. He's just. One. Guy. Nobody thinks you understand what's going on, or are paying attention, or can do anything about it. Nobody thinks you have the minerals. They will turn their back on you. They will believe you are dead. They will ignore your advice, just because you gave it.

Some people will fuck with you.

Additionally, you typically know where a safehouse can be found, if not in this town then the next one over. You're good there for exactly one night...until they catch up to you. And they will ALWAYS catch up to you, because if you let your guard down you're underestimating them.

Personality Trait d8:

1. Rule number one: the deal is the deal.
2. I hustle a bit to get by but I'm looking for a bigger score.
3. I've done some bad things. I'm trying to make up for them.
4. If I play your game we play my way.
5. I just want to be left alone to do my thing.
6. You don't want to fight me.
7. Just tell me what I have to do to stay alive.
8. Improvise.

Ideal d6:

1. Order. Everything in its place.
2. Chaos. Take what you need. Burn the rest.
3. Flexibility. Society is really more of a suggestion. Suggest otherwise.
4. Solidarity. Anything you say, mate.
5. Survival. No one gets out alive.
6. Discipline. You broke the rules.

Bond d6:

1. I gave you my word.
2. I've got some business to attend to. Shouldn't take long.
3. She's the only thing that makes it worth it.
4. I'm going to get back what you took and I'm going to make you suffer.
5. I thought we were in this togetha?
6. Respect the man, respect his car(t).

Flaw d6:

1. I fuckin told you! You never listen to me.
2. Maybe I can't change.
3. I'm getting sloppy.
4. I trusted you.
5. Romantic blind spot.
6. Haudee, ahm frum Taxes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

5e Background: Cake

fuck you
Stone grinds the harvest, a year's work reduced to so much sand and waste. The knife slices cleanly through firm flesh, vital juices running everywhere. A strange alchemy takes place to create desire, need...addiction. The unborn are destroyed for love, for fun, for tradition. Flames lick the air and scalding steel forges something new, greater than the sum of its parts. Something whole yet incomplete. You are soft now but soon that will change. Raise yourself higher, make yourself desired by all, it's still not enough. A shroud now. Yes, father. I shall become delicious.
If you choose this background, I don't even know, man. The important thing is to remember that you seem normal flesh and blood. You're just confectionary. You need not interpret this too literally. Perhaps you're a tart. (Steady, Robin.) Perhaps you're trifle. Perhaps this background simply allows you to realize your dream of becoming a gnome stripper. Determine from whence you came, a culinary institution if not some secret master chef.

Tool Proficiencies: Cook's Utensils
Skill Proficiencies: Persuasion, Medicine
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: A case of ingredients, two recipe books (one of recipes you found, one of recipes you invented), neat working clothes and apron, 30gp worth of silverware, a sack containing toxic but gorgeous berries.

Feature: Just Desserts

Everyone likes to treat themselves now and again. People from all cultures like having you around. Even evil people don't turn their nose up at Cake. You are never short of people who want to spend time with you. Not all of them are going to be taken in by you but maybe, just maybe, they will.

You are also rarely the first to fall under suspicion in a group. Many won't believe you are capable of trickery, murder...they don't WANT to believe it. Look at you. How could you hurt anybody? What could something so sweet do to hurt anyone? The exception of course is where poison is involved...

You may invest any Spell you know into a slice of cake, or a cupcake, as a ritual. The spell takes effect when the cake is eaten or destroyed and you take one Hit Die of damage. Sympathetic magic. You may wield a frosting bag or serving knife as an Arcane Focus.

Suggested Characteristics:

You can be pretty heavy in the metaphysical sense but you find a light touch works better. You're accustomed to giving of yourself, and to sharing, but you know in your heart you can't help everyone. Sitting around for too long leaves you feeling antsy, and you'd do anything to shake off that feeling. You may prefer to seem affable but mundane or you may prefer to look like Danzig traced a new version of Candyland, depending upon temperament. You believe a little touch of salty language and bitterness makes life all the sweeter.

d8 Personality Trait:
1. I have an energy about me that children love.
2. There are deeper layers only the few I let in can see.
3. I prefer a fresh approach to a staid yet stale strategy.
4. I seem a little nutty on the surface.
5. I'm not hung up on beauty, because it's what's inside that counts.
6. I'm so pretty. Look at me. So. Pretty. Instead of a dark lord you shall have a QUEEEEN!
7. Who doesn't love a good party?
8. I start fires.

d6 Ideal:
1. Good Taste. Decorum and refinement should be celebrated, ugliness in appearance and behavior shunned. (Alignment)
2. Personal Glory. I like to be the center of attention. (Stuff)
3. Richness. I want to leave my crummy childhood behind. (I)
4. Greed. There's so much that's ripe for the taking, and I want more. (Ignore)
5. Acceptance. There is no need to be restricted by binary notions of entrees and desserts. Some Cakes are white, some are pink, some are a mix, or are a color out of space. Each Cake is unique, and that uniqueness is special and should be celebrated. (Bon)
6. Hedonism. It's what I want now. It feels good now. (Appetit)

d6 Bond:
1. I like to enrich the lives of the poor, who don't often get what I have.
2. There is an appointment which I must keep, or everything will be spoiled.
3. The honeymoon is over. Now what do I do?
4. I'm going to spice up local politics and upset all the saccharine glad-handers.
5. I carry a secret with me about the king's baby.
6. There is a recipe for success, and I'm after it.

d6 Flaw:
1. I make a mess of things.
2. I am a bad influence on those around me.
3. I fall for every half-baked scheme.
4. Overly ostentatious, terrified of people seeing the real me.
5. Crumble under pressure.
6. I am so baked right now dude.

REVIEW: The Drugs in the Scarecrow, by Festus Caber

Amorphis

A Tunnel #26 was pulped by Adder Entertainment, with only a few advance copies made available to hobby distributors and close confidants of slot car iconoclast Festus Caber. Caber of course had guest edited that issue while the magazine's EIC (Molly Malloy) was touring the central provinces with her quartet Abortion Wagon. This makes issue 26 something of a gold Zelda cartridge among Tattoonatics and special task forces. Topher Grace has one, lucky fuck.

Caber had begun experimenting with terror therapy and was maybe not in the best place to assume such responsibility. I've never read one of these myself and only partial scans exist which I won't link to, court order, but they're out there. He rearranged dungeons and turned Cullen Chap's opinion piece on Poul Anderson into an erasure poem about thunder. My favorite is the "Seeking Players" page with every game's location changed to THE NIGHT. Malloy returned to oversee the three part Bridge series in A Tunnel #27-29 and nothing was said publicly about issue 26. This is when he started wearing his signature cast. People assumed Caber had been canned, and indeed no letters exist from this period, unusual for such a rigorous documentarian. Everyone was then surprised when, a week after the purge of the unspeakable issue, shelves were suddenly warmed by The Drugs in the Scarecrow.

Romantic horror and old buildings are fine but when I say Caber brought a gothic sensibility to his work I'm talking about the opposite of what is considered right society being introduced to the concept of empire, going "Oh, being the power and structure of this kingdom seems awesome," and trying it on for themselves. I mean the knowledge from ancient smoke that every thing has both a soul and a demon in it and that your traditions, whatever they might be and whyever you might have them, are all that give you the power to kill. There is still a line to be drawn not only to the Universal Monsters we associate with gothic lit but, also, to the modernist tendency to look at the conventions of romanticism in these works' DNA and go "Needs less ennui. Needs more chainsaws." It's a pyramid of hell and yes.

This next shit is me and metaphors. Skip it if you want to get to the part with blood. Demons exist, abstractly. We only ever fight the ones we can perceive as being real. They only become real when we use a ground wire and give them a shape. Alcohol, heroin, fan fiction, all popular scapegoats, but the problem is deeper. The power to act and move towards a goal, good or ill, versus the stillness and permanence of nothing. Potential Demons by the jigowatts, becoming Kinetic Demons given an outlet. We live in a cloud of them. There's a shitty Star Wars movie of them in all our bodies, in all our minds, waiting to betray is and become weakness, need, fear, pride. Step two dimensions to the right, though, and this struggle is as phsycial and bound by the law of real space as someone solving one of those little ball bearing mazes from the grocery store. The metaphor is not literalized in The Drugs in the Scarecrow. The metaphor is something else. Not language or interface....perhaps legend, defining markers and context and orientation and distance and scale.

The Drugs in the Scarecrow is about Crowley's Mongoose, which is absolutely a band even though it isn't yet.

Wolves are underrated in a world where you fight lizard dog babies and taxidermy mistakes. The village of Recrimination is haunted by things that are alive. The more fucked up you get from finding the Hen Witch's caches in the farms around the township, the more of the danger you see. The more you're aware of. The more aware it is of you, and wants to kill you. The problem is that you also become aware of lots of things which aren't real, and may have a lucid moment as you stand over a slaughtered constable with blood on your hands. Who needs werewolves in your game when the regular old wolves can get you to listen to them?

I've considered rewriting a version of this for Fiasco and releasing it free, but honestly my favorite thing about the whole damn book is the drugs table, which won't translate, and which I mostly lifted whole for my fuck druids but which boils down to "between poison and magic there's drugs." It's the best PSA against and for substance abuse I've ever failed to save in. I think Jamie Delano read this.

You don't have to use the Hen Witch, but if you do make her scary. You don't have to make her scary, but if you don't make her Mark McKinney. I prefer more of an Angelica Huston playing a cassowary approach myself.

You are alone in the end and if you did your job then there's nothing such as a town any more. The townspeople are dead, fled, changed, joined, or coming for you because their buildings are burning. The module has a unique ending - a freeze frame. Evade your pursuers through brambled trails and outrun them across an open field as they set torch to tall grass around you. Survive twelve rounds of that and you "win;" the module ends with you still escaping or trying. The conclusion is inevitable but for the moment you live. If you live for that moment you live forever. You are the charcoal of a burned scarecrow. You are three hundred wolves.

Final note: yes, the bread lady is Margaret Thatcher. Don't let it bother you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

DUNGEON MIX: The Many Necks of Vodemarche

Just Add Map and Numbers
So Vodemarche the Living is an odd kind of name. Never mind that. He kept the lands touched by his tower's shadow under thumb. Several small villages ring the keep like Dracula-Towns, all of them still providing fear (the primest worship) to the god who will live again. Inevitably. Only he won't, because something went wrong. That's where you come in.

or

You've heard that deep within the Vodehorne's spires and labyrinths there lies an enormous treasure, a modest treasure and the key to an even greater treasure elsewhere, or phenomenal power.

or

Once Vodemarche's name was associated with mercy and generosity, before the changes got to him. One word from that Vodemarche's lips and a generations-old blight incurred by sinful ancestors will be removed from a neighboring kingdom.

or

Chiroryders wish to resurrect Vodemarche, all of him, as an army of god-kings to rule them and lay waste to the world. You'd probably better stop them.

or

Vodemarche was the only thing keeping the doubling-demon, Nikkeuradedafesas, from breaching the bottomless mirror. If the horror is loosed then no meat will sate, and no man or god shall see another face but the wailing shape of the multidevil.

All of these are of course true.

Some things which maybe aren't: Rumors of the Vodehorne

1. Ghostly servants are only visible in the lightless new moon. They still keep the place spotless.
2. The Arrow of Erasure lies within. Getting shot with it erases all memory of a lost or forbidden love.
3. No one can enter the larder, stocked with dragon fats, oils, blood, tears, meats, eggs, etc....they never spoil or age, but the door has vanished.
4. The answer to all riddles within is "autumn."
5. The shadow of the Vodehorne sweeps like a clock across the face of the land, scouring it of the unconsecrated dead.
6. Vodehorne was bestowed as a wedding present by a king with no right claim. The bride and groom still journey here, and their taking possession will have horrible wonderful consequences.
7. The Vocehorne crypt contains the Five Sacred Wives, who rise and come to town with prophecies midsummer and midwinter.
8. There is a torture chamber which stalks the halls of Vodehorne, moving from room to room, as if it were located there all along. It follows music.
9. Children who enter Vodehorne become summonable.
10. Secret signs and spells within the turquoise tower contain the mystery of the world milk.
11. Vodehorne is the crown of the one true Vodemarche, star giant and catastrophe.
12. Nets never need mending when trawling through the runoff from Vodehorne.
13. Each stone was stolen from another castle. A different one for each stone. They correspond with their sisters.
14. The number of gargoyles changes from viewer to viewer. No one knows how many are really there.
15. It's never fully dark around Vodehorne, always bright, like a bonfire reflecting off night clouds. (New adventure title: Bonfire of the Night Clouds.) Some think the lord secreted a private sun to power his tower's shadow.
16. The archtower rotates, facing this town or that, as if searching.
17. You never thirst or hunger or tire or sleep within Vodehorne, now Vodemarche is not there to decree that you do. You simply drop where you stand and die for want of well most things.
18. Only the inebriated man may tred the iron jawbridge and not be burned.
19. Another you has lived your life, followed your path, and come to Vodehorne. You will meet her and one of you must die.
20. Dogs roam the grounds, from all kingdoms and worlds. They are only ever glimpsed eating something still alive, dragging it away.
________________________________________
Getting to Vodehorne...
...by foot takes a full day out of any village, geographical oddity or sorcery? Leave any time but before breakfast and arrive in the middle of the night.
...by horse requires a check to make sure you and your ride can keep your balance on the steep and crumbling trails. Otherwise you arrive in three hours.
...by stranger mounts will be a gamble. If the animal you are riding is typically thought of as fierce it will become feral and escape if it fails a save. If it can be described as cute or mundane it will refuse to trudge up the mountain, warned off by aeons of genetic survival math. If the animal you ride can be described first and foremost as exotic then you will arrive safely within 2 hours. This is a spell effect, and a trap. Your mount will be inexorably drawn as if through gravity toward the garden, and touching the grasses will render it a topiary. Slowly. Easy check to escape the same fate.
...by coach will require a lot of gold and some serious negotiation. Your coachman will be driving like a thing possessed. You must make 6 checks using YOUR saves (not the coachman's), Dexterity/Death Ray/Luck whatever you have, to make sure he doesn't flip the damn thing careening around everywhere. If it flips then in addition to whatever damage everyone takes the coachman will disappear and you will arrive in the middle of the night. If all goes well then you'll arrive in an hour. You will never see the coachman again.
...by air shows that the buildings are laid out like the surrounding countryside. The archtower is where Vodehorne is, the inner keep is the mountain, and the surrounding buildings correspond out of scale to the neighboring villages. This also inevitably alerts the gargoyles, who are only an alarm. They raise and lock the jawbridge with their cry, save to avoid deafening, save to maintain dead reckoning as you go full vertigo, save to remain aloft.
...by boat and sewer requires a lot of rope, a day's climb straight up in addition to your normal travel time, and bolting on a subdungeon. This is an open concept dungeon with cavernous openings, occupied by a 9 autoghuls. Seeing you wakes them from a torpor state and sends them into a feeding frenzy, whereupon they begin trying to eat their own hands. They still try to kill and eat you, running into you like footballers, but pose the greatest danger in their potential to knock you back out of the subdungeon and send you plummeting to death.
...by teleportation, wishing, or other magic is really difficult. If you accomplish it then you will find yourself horribly changed and your company scattered.
...by invitation following a successful Raise Dead spell or its ilk will result in an uneventful arrival, usually in less than half a day.

If you're some high level badass, by the by, Vodehorne makes dragons explode. Additionally, if your game has it, Stone to Flesh will not work within Vodehorne because the masonry of the structure is already a kind of patient hissing flesh.

Viewed from a distance when placed in a hexcrawl the shadow of the archtower reaches to nearly the edge of the hex but never quiiiite to or beyond that edge, no matter how far away Vodehorne actually is from the viewer, and if you face the bottomless mirror then you see (distant and wee yet somehow so clear) an eye not unlike your own staring out from that shadow's genesis.
 ----------------

The Ancient Skull of Vodemarche is the Football.
You Want the Football.

a.) You begin with the skull in your possession. Maybe you get the skull before you even hear of Vodemarche or his castle or the craziness. Maybe you can pry it away from its custodians if you explain the situation.
b.) Chiroryders begin with the skull, and you must race them to the castle, intercept the skull if possible, and prevent their awakening of the Vodemarches.
c.) Neither party has the skull, and it must be recovered from a ten-times-consecrated chapel, ever wracking and darkening from the power it seeks to contain, in Blankanova, two days' ride from Vodehorne in a valley that never sees stars. The blessings fade because the temple at the burial site receives no worshipers. The citizens are all monstrous "walking eels," capable of casting Disguise Self at will. They have a church of their own in the waterfall, and worship the monster within, but they aren't up to anything sinister.
d.) The skull is buried in a mound of treasure within Vodehorne. Once uncovered every trap will reset and door relock. Otherwise it is not conspicuous, and the party may well leave it alone and be off with their treasure, never paying it any mind. It doesn't get up and come at you or anything.

What Manner of Being Lies Within Vodehorne?

  • Chiroryders are a company of faerie demon vampires sealed in walking crypts of cold iron armor. They can move in daylight but can never feed or transform and so are weaker than normal creatures of their ilk. Damaging their armor in the daylight kills them outright. Damaging them at night summons a vampire with the same number of HP and Charm Person x2. They have hemokinesis, and can make your blood gush like a firehose from any scratch. This means you take twice normal damage from them once unsheathed, and they heal equal half of any damage they deal each round. They do not have other abilities associated with vampires. They can be turned sure but also avoid the sign of St. Vestalk the Chaste, the Eye of the River Empress (which you'll only have if you slay the god in the waterfall above), and the Book of Torch. They are considered always capable of a Detect Magic-like radar for thirst, ash, and fucking.
  • Empty suits of armor, in styles reaching back centuries, some missing arms legs or heads, some just torsos, patrol and crawl along the corridors of the ancestral keep. Animate stuffed animals also prowl but freed from hunger, urge, or instinct, they keep to themselves unless threatened. This is Vodemarche trying to come back, proving unable, and the magic of his resurrection grounding itself in empty bodies like lightning rods.
  • There are indeed spirits of favorite servants still haunting the halls, but they manifest them only as a benign phenomenon: leaving a room and then re-entering it sees the room completely put back together, absent whatever being you destroyed in it. This can make keeping track of which way you just went tricky.
  • Mummy butlers inhabit the crypts. They attend the remains of the Vodemarches and will only attack if you approach Vodemarche. They attack by covering those they touch with their own wrappings, which then constrict while also conferring normal mummy vulnerability to fire to their target. The butlers then fight as a normal Skeleton until they are destroyed or until all PCs in the fight are killed, at which point they turn to ash anyway.
  • There is a demon spider here. It is as large as a fat garden spider but has dragon AC and 100HP. Its bite wounds, heals the spider, temporarily paralyzes, and has a side effect of directed paranoia. You will come to distrust someone specific around you. If you don't Perceive the spider, you may even blame them for your maladies. The spider has an ability like Shadow Step, only between cobwebs throughout the castle.
  • There are three children here, toddler age, favored progeny of Vodemarche once. They make no menace and know nothing of value apart from the location of one (1) of the secret passages. They cannot leave Vodehorne, and will tell you that. Attempting to take them turns the good Samaritan into a toddler themselves and transports the child back to the inner courtyard.
  • There is a red thing.
  • A prisoner has been here since before the Vodehorne was raised. The other cells were built around hers. She is from a time before titans, a woman who never knew magic, god, or hell. She is tall and fit. She is gray, with long brown hair, otherwise unremarkable. What's the biggest giant in your game? Use those stats. She is mute and once freed will wreck her way straight through the castle. Even if you survive her wrath the castle may not. Some structures will collapse. Have fun with that.
  • Storybook illustrations will crawl out if their book is opened. They are pleasant but patient. They will try to burn and eat you in the night.
  • Vodemarche's thirteen headless skeletons.

What is Vodemarche's Deal?

Vodemarche achieved a kind of serial immortality by transplanting his head to new bodies as the old one (already extended far beyond a normal life span) gave out, preparing his new bodies from birth. Yeah like that character you're thinking of. And like that one issue, yes. And that character, right. Moving on. These transformations had a profound effect on Vodemarche as time went on, and his personality fluctuated wildly, sometimes a savior sometimes a destroyer. To the people in the Dracula-Towns, Vodemarche is like Godzilla. Sometimes he would revisit old bodies. Sometimes conquerors or assassins would slay him, but he would always return, the spells he prepared at birth drawing a youth to the Vodehorne and forcing them to remove their own head and sew on Vodemarche's. Sixty two years ago this went awry. Vodemarche's new "project" was turned vampire and Vodemarche passed before he learned this. The girl walked toward Vodehorne and burned in the daylight. The undeath of undeath fell to those who had wronged Vodemarche. His skull was taken by a local parson to a holy place and kept safe. Until now.

The lower you go into the spiraling crypts, the older a Vodemarche you find. Distant relations, daughters, husbands, and favorite pets may also be found properly entombed here. Vodemarche himself sits on his many thrones. Vodemarche was fond of redecorating. Any Vodemarche may be awoken by affixing the head to the spine, where the two will join together like magnetism and reknit.

For convenience's sake, use ascending dragon stats for the Vodemarches, including spell lists, apart from Vodemarche XIII. A brief description of each is provided.

Vodemarche I: Tamer of the mountain and builder of roads. He knows every secret of Vodehorne and how to transfer your head safely. He knows nothing of the other Vodemarches. His skeleton is too old and ruined to come together properly, but he can answer twelve questions before collapsing again with finality.
Vodemarche II: Madman. Giggles a lot. Sits regarding a boot on a raised, velveted pedestal. Wants nothing to do with Chiroryders or the party or clemency for past grievances, any of that. Advises you to be like the boot. Will ask for the party's footwear, or offer to buy it. If refused he can animate boots, forcing you to dance or run up stairs and off a parapet. Otherwise will only attack if you try to take his head or approach the boot. II is himself wearing Sparkshoes, iron-soled boots which emit a small spark when stamped on stone and which cause one item he can see to catch fire.
Vodemarche III: The eater of wombs and killer of saints. His skeleton actually stands, sort of, supported by old armor, his bony fingers wrapped around the throat of a great hound's skeleton, still trying to throttle it to death. He will kill you unless you pledge yourself to him and give up 2 levels to give him power enough to become whole again.
Vodemarche IV: Penitent man and Vodepope. Gives up his life willingly but otherwise will not aid PCs unless they convert on the spot.
Vodemarche V: Weeper and gnasher. Lies slumped upon his seat, almost slid out. If you wake him he will scream, ringing through every hall in Vodehorne (3 wandering enemy rolls), rip his own head off again, and throw it into the darkness.
Vodemarche VI: Takes on the guise of a gorgeous human lady who then bequeathes Vodehorne to the PCs and leaves. If the PCs stop her or ask her any questions or detain her in any way she vanishes. PCs left holding the skull, and the body that was there is not there now. PCs no longer have a claim to Vodehorne and everything in the castle will try to kill them, even normally benign inhabitants.
Vodemarche VII: Speaks and reads every language. Only speaks the secrets of Nikkeuradedafesas and the bottomless mirror. Sharp PCs will note that this is how they seek to resurrect all Vodemarches at once while also using their combined power to seal the multidevil away forever (or drawing it out under their united dark control?). He then falls silent and life leaves him. Adorned in a gown of silver and rubies. Each ruby's reflection shows something you did that made you feel super awkward and uncomfortable.
Vodemarche VIII: The animal. Gorilla skeleton. Will cast spells and attack relentlessly.
Vodemarche IX: The Curse. Reassembled skeleton vomits dark smoke which envelops everything. When the smoke clears each PC has some horrible curse and must save vs Fear or flee the castle. The dark cloud will follow any PC who flees, even into town, where it changes everyone there, and so forth.
Vodemarche X: The James Bond villain. He will lead you quietly to a study which is impossible to detect when not in his presence. He will cat-and-mouse the PCs into revealing everything they came here for, and any other important information about other active quests. Everything in this room is poisoned. Everything hides some kind of weapon. Only killing him again unlocks the door. Exiting the study exits the castle. Reentering causes painful boils to appear all over your skin. Pressing forwards causes them to burst, likely fatally.
Vodemarche XI: The child. Waking it casts a Raise Dead on the whole castle. This kills Chiroryders and leaves them as just other animated suits of armor, fighting the other suits, for eternity. Once this begins neither side of this fracas will be picky about who they attack. Any other dead people, for example PCs who expired, will be raised with Young Vodemarche's mind. All of them. Vodemarche just wants to play as a child, and he will insist on this. He will bring his other new bodies down to encourage you to play.
Vodemarche XII: The freak. Great bony growths everywhere. How many spells can XII cast? That's how many arms it has, and all spells are administered by touch. This is the mutant protector who the villages respect as well as fear. If you caused some trouble in town before coming here, he will only slaughter you. If he finds out the villages actively opposed his resurrection he will silently weep then promptly release the prisoner.
Vodemarche XIII: This body still sits in the throne room high in the archtower above the central keep. The throne is a massive thing with spikes and spires like Sauron's head. It is nude, intersexed, and its neck stump still bleeds. Attaching the skull will not stop this bleeding nor will it regrow his face flesh. XIII will thank you for your service and send you on your way with 1 level's worth of gold and 1 fulfilled Limited Wish unless you have taken anything else while you were in Vodehorne. Then you are forbidden to ever leave, and magically cannot until XIII is dead again. It will dress itself in Prince John clothes but should always be treated as having stone golem skin. Approaching the corpse without the skull causes the throne to come alive, dump its occupant, and climb up on its spires like spider legs and try to kill you. He cares little for other affairs and must be negotiated with carefully. If left to his own devices, after the PCs depart, he will declare war on a neighboring kingdom within 3 days. He may offer to hire the PCs as lieutenants if they return. Raising XIII lights a fire in the great hall, out of which crawls a serpentine, 8-legged cougar, XIII's familiar, who always has at least as much HP as XIII has...it can only be damaged down to whatever XIII's hit points are. The blood which flows from XIII's stump can unconsecrate holy ground and disenchant magic items. It also renders poisons inert. Otherwise harmless. XIII knows any spell contained in his library downstairs.

There is a red thing?

You can only see it if you know about it. Seeing it means it can kill you.

Now Multidevil.

The beast whose capture so warped XII. Every round he creates another you. Each you knows the other(s) must die. Some may suspect you are the multidevil. He will hide amongst you in your forms once the madness begins. When the original you dies, all the other yous turn into Nikkeuradedafesas, and the legions of the multidevil fly away to plunder other places. They will always target the church first. Smashing the mirror summons it. Looking into the bottomless mirror has a reduced effect: you see another you who gets sneak attack damage, who sees another you who gets sneak attack damage on him, etc. These yous are different levels (never higher) and different classes. Whichever you survives this circle of madness (d20 yous) with the most HP is the new you, and always has been the real you, the only you. You may be further back than you started in the death conga, though. If you were HOLDING the mirror, better catch it before it breaks. But do it with your eyes closed, or else all this happens again. Nikkeuradedafesas can be temporarily distracted and appeased with ripe melons and whiskey.

TRAPS IN VODEHORNE

Other than the usual spikes, darts, poisons, spell-sealed doors, and mutation triggers, the most conspicuous traps are either the wandering torture chamber (A shadow passes over the hall, and safe and mundane things are revealed to be deadly instruments of pain administration, your armor and arms are revealed to be rags and twigs, a force tries to grab you, you are bound to rack or wheel, there are walls where there were no walls...), jellyfish chandeliers (touching the thin strands of wax paralyzes you, draws you in deeper, and smothers you with scalding wax), and of course the webs of the demon spider, which can summon him from across the castle.

LOOT UP IN DIS PLACE

The library contains 100 spells and histories, poems, and legends found nowhere else. That would be a mighty prize. You may each read one book before the library crumbles to dust. Only XIII's revival can restore it, but he will only allow you further access in his company, and with conditions. There is a mighty looking book locked and chained and held under a glass jar. It appears a mighty grimoire. It is actually a Basilisk Book, and reading it turns you to stone. Illiterate characters are immune to its powers unless they flip to the watercolor illustrations.

If the dragon larder exists it would outweigh the value of anything else by far.

All of the art and furnishings are antique and weird like from another world. All would fetch fair trade prices.

There is an armory containing lots of master crafter arms and armor. These are mundane but worth something to an esoterica collector. XIII's chambers contain his personal armor, thick furs which give you giant strength, and his spear, which blinds anyone who sees the sun glint from its spearhead, save or you're blinded forever or until Cured.

A clockwork cock roams the grounds, crowing and flying clumsily. It'd be worth a lot. It has no special properties and is tacky. It was a gift.

There is an H-style hoard in a vault whose passage is known only to Vodemarche. Within are three treasure maps. The first treasure was long ago cleared out. The second is a map to the fortress of the main asshole in your campaign. The third is a cave where dwells a powerful fortune elemental from the Plane of Treasure. Its body is worth 20,000gp for every HD it has. This is a greed punisher. Ask your players to estimate how powerful the elemental "who guards the treasure" must be , or show them the pile of loot before it "wakes up" and ask them how much of it they want and estimate is in there. It has a gaze attack which turns you to gold, which it can then absorb, healing it your HP at the time of becoming gold.

One of the riddles within can be weaponized, decapitating all who attempt to answer it and fail.

Riddles?

There are thirteen, sealed into the door of XIII's chamber. XII knows the answer to all but two, XIII does not know the answer to the final riddle. These are repeated throughout the castle, on doors or chests or traps. Don't be dicks with these. If they get close or come up with an acceptable answer you like or a better answer then that's the answer. Sprinkle them in places where there would be contextual clues, e.g. the atrium in the unkempt gardens for the autumn riddle.

  1. She couldn't face winter. She fell and died. (Autumn)
  2. Sunlight sparkling on sapphires brings only envy. (Green)
  3. Sword of the ancient tiger. (Saber)
  4. Speaks twice, rattling brave men as he lies. (Snake)
  5. Hiding place of love, hate, and hope. (Chest)
  6. The balm which destroys. The trap that gives life. The untakable. (Love)
  7. The watcher above, who only blinks, and sees what you fear. (Moon)
  8. The part of you only silver shows, which only the vain seek. (Eye)
  9. You never see it but it knows your name. (Tombstone)
  10. They delight you but always look down at you. (Birds)
  11. What's always around to play with? (Ball)
  12. This thing is also a symbol of itself and also a symbol of the lack of it. (Skull)
  13. How many Vodemarches are there? (None, at the time you open the throne room door)
Are there a bunch of encounters of d6 this presenting treasure type that to be found in the many rooms of the castle?

Probably. You can't need me to lay that out for you though.

You mentioned secret passageways?

YES. GOD. And trap doors. Want two things to be connected? They are. Maybe trap half of them. God.