Thursday, September 25, 2014

1d20 Ways I'm Killing You

  1. Your Liver, Lungs, Spleen, Heart, and Kidneys are now sentient, motile, and predate upon one another. They are gold.
  2. Heavy metal toxins, slowly, over decades, over centuries, for I have the time.
  3. Mindless force of nature given flesh, because ignorance made physical only ever kills, given enough time.
  4. 40 kilo shoes are welded to you. You're in pain and your body wants to shut down. I am going to open this sluice gate and send the sewer pouring in around you. You have ten minutes to run in a straight line to high ground. If you are caught in the water you will drown. It hurts to run, and you drag your limbs so slowly. Nine minutes.
  5. Genital botflies.
  6. You're tied to a big rock. Line is strung over you. One hundred people are permitted to hang some sharp or stinging or dangerous thing on the line. The crank is turned and the line moves, dragging its contents across your back, for a full sun.
  7. You are built into the stage of a rollicking musical. As more characters are introduced you are slowly crushed, your cries like a chorus. The musical is a rock opera of your life and you are the villain. The big finale mounts and more props and scenery are on stage and you are crushed to death at the climax.
  8. You are charmed, hypnotized, bewitched. Eat your house.
  9. You are sewn into a bear carcass and tossed over the falls. 
  10. The wax of one thousand candles.
  11. An incision is made into you. A pitched sack of termites is put into you, and you are sewn shut except for a little grated tube so the termites can breathe.
  12. Children are offered lots of money to hurt you.
  13. Your arms are submerged into a boiling salt spring until you stop screaming. You are freed to go then, and nature takes its course.
  14. Crammed into a crevice not quite big enough for a body. Abandoned save for a guard of deaf soldiers. Time.
  15.  Bamboo growing at your back, porcupine quills in your chest, morphine so you don't thrash around.
  16. Dragged up a craggy jagged cliff by 30 strong men.
  17. Siphoning your blood while you're strapped to a chair, watching the jug fill, watching yourself end.
  18. Sex contest. Ten gorgeous persons of their choice will be awarded to the person who comes up with the best way of dispatching you.
  19. Rube Goldberg device because meep fuckin meep.
  20. Roll seven times.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Horsemen

There are horsemen who tame the wild stallions (deednladeednladeeerrrrr!) on the open prairies. There are horsemen who ride to war, who compose a cavalry. There are the horsemen who will come on judgment day. None of these are the Horsemen everyone fears.

I have no use for centaurs. They don't really build cities or luxury items. They don't have dungeons. They do horse things or "savage things," and usually end up as barbarian raiders or the Hekawi, or the Joaquin Phoenixes of the forest in Harry Potter. But if I'm going to have a symbol of nature in my game it needs to be more terrifying than bronies, and for everything else I can just put a normal dude on a horse. I don't save money bundling them as a package. I don't get ideas that I can't just do with guys on horses.

I think the much reviled chevalle (Horse) is at least more of an idea. A centaur who can pretend he's a regular horse. There's an 80s action figure quality to this I appreciate. But he has a bigger bucket of game stats and an empty bucket of interesting things to do with him. Chevalles would be like your friend who thought dressing up in a gorilla suit was cool. How long would you let him do this before you took action? That's where you BEGIN with a chevalle in a world where centaurs are a thing.

So here's the move I made:

a) All centaurs are chevalles
b) They go the other way.

When we picture demons we give them the features and "super-powers" of animals and our own insecurities about our bodies, our insecurities, our mortality, our strangeness and grossness. As an afterthought we clothe them in the elemental nature of our world and its fears, in fire and stink and dark, ice, filth, dirt, lightning.

That's what horses do, too, and the worst enemy they have really is us.

Now, we are metaphorically ruled by our demons. Horses are quite literally ruled by theirs.

There is a thing that looks like a horse. It is not like them. We would never know it. Horses don't treat them differently because horses Know, but aren't smart enough to be sure, so they treat every horse as if they are the other things. They live among the horses. They watch them from afar, from outside humanoid society. And within, of course, because they are like horses, and we bring horses everywhere, even dwarf caves. Perhaps it is a literal demon that possesses the body of a horse but I prefer to think of it as something just strange, old, and Else, something we just missed because it's so good at being another thing.

It's smart. Scary smart. And it's protective of horses in the same way that a farmer is protective of his crop: it is sown and raised to be harvested, when harvested it will be destroyed, and the tender must profit from that destruction and sustain himself.

They are the Horsemen, and they tear their way out from horseflesh. The skin of the horse's face splits and peels off, taking much of the muscle, leaving a gooey skull and sockets that somehow see. Fingertips, humanlike and dextrous, peek from beneath the flesh fissure, grip the hide, and rip the hide, unzipping the horse like a banana. Long, impossibly lanky, muscular arms tear their way out, and a mighty man-like torso is dragged from the stump where the horse's neck once was, clawed and fleshless hands bracing against its own shoulders, pushing itself through the blood and organ fluid like a birth, or like Super Family Double Dare. The "peel" is torn away, leaving ragged strips, and the horrible figure does horrible things.

If you're lucky they'll just kill a horse that Knows and is Sure and threatens them. Or they might partially eat a few, or even lure them away with an intelligence attributed to rustlers, THEN Eat them. Or they may decide that a wrangler or horsemaster has wronged them or their crop. They may decide that an entire city has made their crop into slaves and winnows their meat with slave labor. They may not act directly themselves, but carry the secrets they hear as a 'dumb animal' to the enemies of THEIR enemies, and then sit back and enjoy the destruction and the free reign they are afforded to abscond with some farmer's crop of horses.

Centaurs exist to run and look impressive, the Chevalle was only ever an "Um Actually" centaur and we don't need YouTube comments in the Monster Manual. We need monsters. So I have one monster that is kind of two monsters I can't use, pretty much not, and also if I want to do any "Yes this is cultural appropriation but it's ok because they're ANIMALS!" stuff I'll just use Mongol stand ins or samurai stand ins or Blackfoot stand ins or Bedouin stand ins and skip the part where you can always see their huge genitals.

What I might do, though, as a half measure, on a random encounter table, is just put another animal on the animal end. Crocodile. Giraffe. Polar bear. This, incidentally, is what I usually do with mermaids. (Squid. Jellyfish. Seahorses. Leopard seals. Elasmosaurus.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Your heart beats the blood of my mercy. You crawl about, darting from hole to hole, the sizzle of your fear a call to supper. You are all such pathetic and low things. If you knew me you would fear me. I am above your concerns, a desperate chase from shade to shade. You love me. You love me for my shade. You are pitiful. You are not ignorant of me. You cannot conceive of me. My shade is death, and my spears the censer and chapel of Eater. Even to Eater I leave nothing. Only in his shade am I...but not yet. Not yet.

I am alone. I am removed. The price of strength can be solitude, I believe, but not like this. Not like this.

If I spread my shade and decide you are over, how can you resist? Your company are the scattered soon-dead, the fearful, the still. You cannot touch me if I do not bid it. You cannot see me unless I choose to season you with terror. You are helpless. You are alone. So you are mine. Praise my shade.

The apes think they know me. Let them. Let the apes Become. I am bored.

Your execution is stayed for another day. I can tear you apart so effortlessly. Why should I chatter? Why should I Sing? Let others - lessers - cry war on wing. Let others strike fear. My reach is the thunder. You are all my red garden. There is nothing here for you. There is nothing for any of us. This is where we will die. Not yet. Not like this. Not before you.


You have a scar you did not have. You have two strong arms, though you were born with one limb withered and worthless. You may not have been a man before, or an adult, or of the race you woke up as. These are small matters. This is normal. You can't be expected to keep track of everything.

The problem is the coif of red and silver which covers your recently bald head. You've seen that hair before, that same streak of silver, that same tangle of curls. Somewhere. You know you've seen it on your own head but that can't be right either. This is new. Or it was new. See you remember remembering it shorter and now...Have you a beard coming in?

But somewhere else, too. Another person, someone you saw in the street who gave you the idea of the style? But you've been nowhere for weeks. That seems strange also, come to it.

There's a knife in your hand. It was in your other hand, and now there's a knife in your hand. You did that. It's silver, see? But silver does nothing special. You tarnish the silver just a little. You're about to become frightened at that but this is normal.

You know you've seen this mane. Perhaps an animal? This looks nothing like the animals you usually see. Those animals twitch and spring roses, and cover a much larger area than you've heard animals normally do. They're under your knuckles and on your skin. They are in your hair, your red and silver hair.

It comes upon you that perhaps it was some painting, some statue to the glory of Heaven, or some exotic tapestry? Perhaps on one of those foreign jars where everyone's naked with wolves? You've seen it in a dream, you think, but no: you don't sleep these days. You've seen it in the woods, running through the trees, disappearing behind a lick of mist, running from strange screams. Perhaps, perhaps.

It's in your reflection, even when you are not. It's on the tip of your tongue. It's on your mind. It's a burden on your shoulders. It's standing up on the back of your neck.

It's standing in the doorway, silhouetted in the moonlight, and wasn't it just day?

They say your hair keeps growing after you die. That's the idea, anyway, and it means you're surplus. Perhaps you'll die soon. Perhaps that's what happened in the first place. These are details. Small things.

But you're right about the death part.

Friday, September 19, 2014

If I Used Demons

Demon, riding Devil.
If there's An argument (rather than Some) against the Wheel it's Demons. Dividing everybody into their own personal Shelbyville just means you know exactly what you're in for in hell and that is the opposite of how Hell should work.

Demons are the embodiment of everything that makes us fuck each other over. They don't embody things wholly without merit but there is no such thing as a temperate Demon. Some Demons are referred to as Devils, but of course not all Demons are Devils. There is a difference, and it's not where their HOUSE is, it's not in whether they serve Goat Pig Satan or Wizard Satan, it's not in which edition of the Junior Woodchuck Guide Book they use.

Demons embody sensations. There are fire demons, bubbling acid demons, ripping hook demons, demons who fuck you, demons whose foul brimstone stench is palpable and caustic, demons whose speech makes your ears bleed, demons of tenderness who are the worst of all, demons of rotting while alive, demons who eat you, and so on.

Devils embody concepts. Wrath, Lust, Idolatry, Depression, Infanticide, Madness, Persecution, Lies, Profit, Hope Devils who are the worst of all, Hunger, Being Lost, and Power.

In The Hell (for all hells are really one hell, and the mind can make a hell of heaven, and every hell is really a thousand hells, yadda yadda) there is the horrible chaos and there are pyramids of fiendish glory and the twain meet ALL THE TIME, each group fair crawling over the other. The only way you'd know the distinction as a damned soul is that your experiences would change. Otherwise they're all just horrors.

A Demon will possess you and drive you like a car and you will do horrible things and suffer for them for all eternity as those same things are done to you.
With a Devil you'll still do all those things but the Devil will make it seem like your idea. You will be coerced into trapping yourself, walking into said trap, and slamming the lock on your own trap firmly in place.

A Demon can possess anyone at any time, and fuck bargaining.
A Devil can possess anyone at any time but won't. Devils prefer for you to set the terms by which they come to you, then fuck you on your own terms, THEN set the terms by which you try to barter back your life dreams and soul.

Demons come into animals and make them into horrible things and set them loose upon the wood.
Devils would never possess an animal, and typically controls them or enraptures their attention to do its bidding.

Demons always look horrible but are not obviously from Hell at a distance.
Devils may look beautiful but it would be a kind of dark primeval beauty more chilling than gore, whose provenance is never in doubt.

Demons hate everything, but they chiefly fuck with Clerics and divine spellcasters because the rules of their deities limit their sensations. There's always SOMETHING. And if nothing else they rob death of its right due, which is a crime against dying, and therefore sensation.
Devils want to fuck with everyone like Heath Ledger but they particularly like fucking with Wizards and other spellcasters because any knowledge of the unknown or forbidden must be sought and is like you're begging to be fucked with. They ostracize certain concepts as well, such as the concept of divine spellcasting. Really though spellcasters are just EASIER, and any Devil would rather be about its business sooner than later.

Demons are simple.
Devils rest in details.
Demons like the races for supper.
Devils like the races like I like RPGs.
Demons are the Act.
Devils are the Will.

There is another Helldweller not either of these but both, the Asura. Asuras are eternal spirits whose own extremes in both Thought and Deed have turned their eternity dark and horrible. They would die as many of them have died and go on to some reward or cease to exist. These Persist, and in Persisting they have no true place in the waking world or the glories of heavens. These are fallen angels. These are Stalin and Dracula (when everybody calls Dracula a demon this is what they mean). They aren't all bad, and that's what's worse. They are beings who could have become or stayed angels, who might have been saints or gods, who are now something less, something more, something OUTSIDE. They will possess their old forms but usually don't, preferring to be physically manifested as themselves by old acolytes and young believers.

And of course there are the Archdemons, the princes and queens of black ethics and red sin. Pig Goat Satan and Wizard Satan and Spider Lady and Patches and Doublemonkey are all here. They're too big to possess you, spiritually speaking, the same way a river's too big to fit in John Lithgow. Their best bet is to make you near-god already and then take your form, become like a thousand normal mortals, or save up their power enough to physically manifest when the forces that oppose this (gods, nature, PHYSICS) are weakest.

In Hell there is a tower. Within the tower are creatures who have telescope teeth, who constantly stoke penis furnaces. They are watched for fun by grinning letches who promise you the pain is over, maybe you'd like to try THIS door, maybe if you do THIS we'll let you go. Through all this chaos, untouched, genocidal kings and plaintive clicking steel rub shoulders with storied necromancers, drinking from their #1 Rapist mugs and plying their crafts as they did in life, empowered by Hell and free from mortal restraint. On top of the tower Pig Goat screams at a pile of skeletons so hard that some get up to come kill farmers and treasure hunters instead. To the soul in hell it's simply neverending suck. To the learned world it's like the difference between Hulks, in that there are distinctions but none so much that they really matter so it's all academic.

In an adventure nobody should Pokemon an encounter with the dark mirror of creation. They should go "What the fuck just happened?" and only from piecing together their bizarre experiences and narrow escape can they figure out, indeed, what did just happen. Like it's done in movies and stories.

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.

LOTFP MU Variant: Smell Wizards

1. Bookspeak Smell Book. Dust is made of people. Learn one person who has read this book, or learn if one specific person recad this book.
2. Charm Person (With Pheremones). reatures who fail their save can only attempt another save later when not in (Charisma) feet of you.
3. Comprehend Languages Scents. You have the nasal intelligence of a dog, and can CSI the smells in a room. Can be cast backwards to Obscure Scent.
4. Detect Magic (like normal except instead of a bright outline anything magic smells like chocolate chip cookies. Minor enchantments are generic store brand Chips Ahoy, powerful artifacts are specifically the homemade from scratch recipe your own mother made for your birthday party...your LAST birthday party, after which no one could say you weren't an adult, not the priests, not the watchmen, not the coroner)
5. Enlarge (Same, sense of smell improves at larger size, decreases at smaller size)
6. Faerie Fire Frankin-Sense. Target instead fairly reeks of the finest incense and oils from exotic and alien lands. Confers same bonus.
7. Feather Fall (You have yo place your finger aside of your nose, like Santa Claus and Henry Gondorff holy shit i just got that line)
8. Floating Disc (Same I guess? Actually hell let's say the disc follows you by scent, why now?)
9. Hold Portal (Damn it same, give a Smell Wizard an option to reroll if they get this)
10. Identify By Smell
11. Light Smell. Confers the ability to navigate by smell alone with darkvision clarity. Cast in reverse it not only prevents people from smelling you but clouds it with suck an odor that those affected are stuck blind, tears streaming from their eyes.
12. Magic Aura Smelly Cloud. A fake out for Detect Magic using the leather chemical afterglow of ancient grimoire bindings, or the ability to cast backwards and make something magic detect as mundane mung beans.
13. Magic Missile Stench. They take the same damage from Magic Missile but the cause is the paroxysms the target undergoes as they retch from their own stink and from the biting flies which magically appear about the target.
14. Mending (SAME. You can reroll this if you want. I guess you get to decide what mundane [nonmagical] scent the repaired item takes on forever. Like the spray at the car wash.)
15. Chemical Message. You huff and puff and blow a message toward your desired recipient. They smell your magical breath and understand the intent of your message. They may blow you back a message, which you can easily understand.
  • Read Magic. Sure.
16. Shield (Same but you basically look like somewhere between Pigpen and Magneto, a force field of stink lines)
17. Sleep (Chamomile, vanilla, lavender, and magic envelop the target. Powerful smelling salts counteract this.)
18. Spider Climb (You know what? Let's do a gross one. Your nose hairs get all long and drag you up the walls, like Medusa from the Fantastic Four.)
19. Summon (Scented candles, brimstone, charcoal, sweat, Summon is made for Smell Wizards. You have to have something your summoned entity thinks smells good.)
20. Unseen Servant (Presence only detectable due to faint waft of the beach where no beach should be.)

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.


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.


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.


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.


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, 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.


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.


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 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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Couriers

In a world where even your most meager rivals may be able to cast ESP, where you may be observed remotely at any moment, where someone can come in after you've sewn your mouth shut and burned all your books and magically interrogate your fichus about your secret discoveries or master scheme or defense plans, sometimes - for only the most crucial and desperate of information - a method was employed. This is a spell effect of sorts, a ritual which must be prepared over weeks and executed flawlessly in a single six hour span.

It's a recipe. And they're still out there.

Academics refer to them as engrammites, or engrams, but commonly they are the Couriers. Their flesh is full of secrets.

A message of any length and complexity, even in code, may be baked into the blood of a person. Some Couriers contain spells, or books of spells, and these have some ability to learn and cast magic themselves. The Couriers do not have conscious access to the message within them but are subtly shaped by it. Marching orders and military strategies make good fighters, while biographies are self obsessed, and bestiaries walk unwounded through darkest wood. The spellbooks mentioned above do not know the spells within them but they can learn new spells, powered by the secrets vested in them.

They are not automata. They think, feel, choose, and protect themselves. They have their own hopes and aspirations and ambitions for the most part. They might be like all other women and men in the world if not for three things: first, the overwhelming homing instinct of their recipient, the need and call to find a place or person designated in their construction; second, and most obviously, their complexion, hairless, pink, with slight ridges and impressions along pronounced bone placements; third, the secrets ingrained within their very blood, muscle, skin, guts, and bile.

There is only one way to get those secrets out, now...

The Courier must be slain and it must be at least partially devoured. Simple messages may be understood from blood mixed in wine. Ciphers must be decoded according to a specific keys, counter-recipes which distills their essence back to its most primal form before consumption. Extensive and complex tomes, including all spellbooks, must be consumed whole, by one individual, over a long time. If you took each Courier in the form of a breakfast smoothie you could consume three people a year, assuming an actual adult form is created. Yes some people craft children shapes or infants, to better avoid detection and cut down on...reading time. Some cultures find this distasteful.

Now there were some problems with this method. For starters, the Couriers can be killed like any normal creature, be it your enemy or some brigand. They are of course subject to physical law, and may fall their asses off a cliff or get struck by lightning. They may even be intercepted and devoured by those shrewd enough and powerful enough to anticipate your move. They may also be devoured unaware of their nature, leading to a kingdom of cannibals all casting Fireball and roving packs of wolves who know a lifetime of the thief king's secrets.

The biggest problem is that the Couriers persist. If not slain and devoured by their targets or killed through mundane means and for mundane reasons, Couriers keep on living, aging as slowly as elves, the quality of their message only slightly degrading over time. So if a recipient moves, or dies, or goes into hiding, or God makes her a bird so she can fly far, far away, the Courier is fucked. That instinct, that basic need, a drive as primal as food and fucking, still remains. The Couriers always pursue, always return, long after their recipient would have died. They haunt the tunnels, towers, and towns, living on the periphery where their shocking visage might not incite a superstitious people to burnings.

Again, though, no Courier wants to die. It's a kind of madness which draws them to their fate, or to where their fate missed them. They resist its pulls as best they can in drink, danger, carnality, and coin, but they are the pig who wants to be eaten. By someone specific. They can never have children they don't stew, they can never devote themselves fully to their obsessions like ship building or herpetology, and only the love letters between secretive sweethearts are unfortunate enough to ever settle down together, poor bastards.

The worst part is that they have souls. This is not in the design document and nobody commented this code but souls happen all the same. This was the final straw, because at last the cacophony of the Grimmsome Gourmand's fortress became too much to be ignored. For all these reasons the Couriers fell out of fashion even among the desperate and powerful. They became a riddle to which everyone knew the answer, and like with the sphinx it turned out to be "man."

And they're still out there.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ghosts Are Not Monsters

...but I'm getting a head of myself:
Nobody would make The Lord of the Rings into a monster. We have Hobbitses and orcs and elves and dwarves and people and wraiths (here defined as a human becoming a spectral and evil thing, an unnatural part-existence, like sublimation of the soul) and rules for giant armies and we have trolls and dragons and riches and so forth. But nobody would say "Here is the sum total of every idea in this story, all the atmosphere, all the context, all the SPACE with none of the SCALE. Here you go: fight it. It's resistant to spells level 3 and under."

Let's go one further: Gollum is a character in a story but the scene with Gollum in the Hobbit is a story to itself, a complete thing, so excellent you don't need the rest of the book really. We have an entire class based on *one guy* and entire character races extrapolated from the behavior or sometimes as few as two individuals over the four books that make up central Tolkeinism. What we do not have is *A* Gollum, a race of beings prone to subterraneanism, fish eating, riddles, delusion, and hoarding magic items. You can do that if you want but it will just be the Story, a pale imitation of it, because Gollum isn't special on his own. What makes Gollum something people clicked with was the story. The everything else AND Gollum of Gollum. Space, scale, context, atmosphere, everything that builds the world and therefore the story.

Acererak means nothing in a meadow. Useless.

There is a class of creature which is entirely inseprable from its circumstances and geography, of course, by definition, and it is the big thing I do not want to ever see in a monster list or random encounter table again, because ghosts are not monsters.

Sure, maybe in the Direct Object sense of narrative parts of speech, you can identify ghosts as the point of the subject "What is this scary movie about" which you can also do with wolfman or fishman or lotsofmansman or fangman. In that sense, fine. But it's a forest-for-trees thing. Ghosts aren't a thing you fight or negotiate with, they are not something you can predict. They do not belong in the same company with a 3-boglin scout troop, sleeping ogre, or half-crystal computer flying laser horse.

They belong on a list beside lost tunnels, melancholy hills, arid mausoleums, ancient bazaars, mysterious whorehouses, and dense lush jungle. You don't roll to hit the jungle. You roll to see what interesting, unexpected, fun surprises the jungle has in store for you.

Ghosts are the adventure. They are the setting, the story. They can take the form of gauntlets, of mysteries, of romance if you're weird, they can even be simply incidental to the main course of action, in the same way the red light of September Valley is an oppressive and constant expression but never figures directly into the search for Thundertomb.

They are not the fucking Predator. They are not a collection of player punisher abilities set into a book coupled with some resistances but ultimately vulnerable to the game's default provisioned ideas. Ghosts are specific to their use, expressed in whatever manner is most suitable to their environment or to the sense that their environment is out of step, and should be dealt with entirely in the logic of the sub-story you've set yourself in, not in the logic of "I played a different game that gave me a +7 vorpal ham so I got this." That is some Monkey Island shit that I will not permit to fuck up a good ghost.

While we're at it fuck Haunts, Spectres, Poltergeists, all those guys. Poltergeist is basically a trap/spell effect, you want it gone talk to your god or do the actual legwork to appease it, or work around it like you would a locked door or a sheer wall. Wraith can stay, wraith is like a whole other thing, a very specific one that we can work with.

You don't stab fire. You counter fire. You don't cast magic missile on the darkness, actually, you dispel the darkness because that addresses the problem at hand and uses your own intelligence and the tools at your disposal to solve it. You do not save vs. the kingdom being four days away. This is what a ghost is. They aren't potted ferns to festoon an otherwise drab or unchallenging room. They are the reason you ever care about the room. In many very real ways they are the room. You should never roll initiative against a ghost. You should come up with a plan to deal with the ghost or get the fuck away from it, and what each of those means should vary widely depending on the specific situation.

There are good movies out there where you deal with a ghost by just beating the shit out of it but they are far outweighed by movies where you have to employ some, yknow, brain and skill. Which I think is what we're doing here. Last year for Santicore I asked not for 1d12 awesome new ghosts to threaten my players. I asked for a ghost story generator to create a hundred adventures with. If I want to just fight my players with dead things I'll make skeletons tougher.

A Player Asked About Dragons

Steve the Hippy Druid asked of the blue dragon at Encounters last week, "Are dragons natural? Like would I consider a dragon a natural thing?" What I understood him to be asking, in in and drugged state and knowing this player like I do, was, "If I am a hippy and love all creatures would I be willing to hurt a dragon?"

This is the answer I gave then, approximated:

"It could be said, perhaps, that dragons are the most natural thing, older than most creatures you know, father of both fauna and fiend, mother to miracles and calamities. You've even heard rumors among the stone prisons they make for their tiny scared gods that dragons smoked the world into being. Yet is nature itself often the enemy of nature. With flood and famine, there is balance, and destruction brings life. This is not always so. A plant out of its home, wreaking destruction on the plants and animals around it, may be called a weed, and chokes the forest, flower and garden. A creature out of space consuming, reproducing, driving others to extinction, may be called a pest.  These things have no malice to them, no forethought: they act according to their kind, and so may nature become an enemy of nature. An element from the earth may poison the stream which flows over it and all downhill beyond.

"A dragon, though, has forethought, and all you know of the world around you speaks to its malice. This rancor is directed at the whole of creation, at everything which is not dragon, and specifically not self. What's your Wisdom? See then the laze and caprice with which it destroys. And remember that this is the beast's nature."

As an aside I find the official rigor and restriction associated with the panoply of D&D dragons, or for that matter the plethora of D&D dragons, tiring and boring. But then I wasn't at liberty to embellish.

Friday, September 5, 2014


So to take a flying leap out of my area of expertise which is X-Men comics I hate and killing Claude's characters +Jeff Rients (After him in all things) mentioned a student who described Grendel as a werewolf without the wolf and that is such a Yogi Berra thing to say and ohhhh students and exfuckinACTly. It crystalized all of this basically fully formed, I just needed a second to get it to pad.

The wolf is powerful and he is Night and Death and Them and Coming and Many and Hunger and Will. The wolf is also Geography, Distance and Obstruction, and doesn't get enough credit for that. Nobody avoids the moors because of traffic. They don't avoid the natural forest trails or the weak little man roads within at night because it's gauche. It's because the forest is Wolfhaus.

Werewolves, too, have other things associated with them. Curse. Tragedy. Pain. Transformation. Grendel doesn't have any of this, really. He's older and worse, and he has what Enkidu and John the Baptist and all the other great wild men lacked. He has Rage, and all apologies to White Wolf werewolves don't have much claim to that. Righteous indignation, betrayal, blasphemy, ferocity, ANGER certainly, but not so much Rage.

Nature had always been brutal and vicious and sticky but until a creature was sapient enough to experience Rage is was not dangerous, it was not aware, it was not the threat. This was the first rung up the ladder to monsters existing as opposed to just funky critters. Grendel has rage and yes hate and maybe a little loneliness, too, but Grendel is the step out of the Wolfhaus and the stream and rock thought tamed by foolish or overly optimistic men to remind them that the land is older than them. That the world is not theirs. That there is a prior claim. Because of this he is expressed in strength and rage because that's what you bet between animal and civilization. Remember now that Lovecraft's favorite word wasn't tentacle, it was Atavism. Grendel can always return. Grendel can always find us. Grendel can always GET IN, even to a boarded up mead hall. We are all of us Grendel Ikea.

Hyde is Grendel. Jason is Grendel. Hulk is Grendel whenever he's not being Baby Huey. The cyclops from 7th Voyage of Sinbad is Grendel.

Lon Chaney Jr. is not Grendel. Lon Chaney Jr. is Hamlet. Grendel is the prototypical monster of the western world, which means he's looking back at the trail of broken and scorched things we left behind us. He's both that and he's what did that. And he's Grendel because he doesn't even care. Ivan Drago is Grendel.

Gnolls is weird.

If you're a Challenge Rating person I'm sorry but in those terms the gnoll occupies a space between the orc and the bugbear on a particular ladder which is thought traditional, but the only reason I think it's traditional is that they're a bunch of monsters about whom the most interesting thing to be said is that they work for bad guys in structured groups. They're ascending armies. You could have one stat block that said "Army Guy" and a chart for Army Guy advancement. I know that this magazine article or that novel or this setting or that edition had some gnoll you love and I don't care any more than I care about the novelization of ET when watching ET. The film is my primary text and the virtues and lack thereof within the text are not mitigated or turned around because Spielberg also produced Gremlins.

As I mentioned with kobolds I use Moldvay Basic as my primary text for old school dnd monsters. There are arguments against this but I reiterate, and this cannot be stressed enough, I think, given the sociological implications: go away.

So then, "Gnolls are beings of low intelligence that appear to be human-like hyenas." That's a pretty specific point of reference to start off with, isn't it? I mean I like it a lot because of that but just as a Dire Kangaroo might be hard to transpose to another environment the hyena-man is, too. Why not just call them hyena-men? Probably because they had a specific game logic for dealing with lycanthropy and its relatives and they didn't want to mess around too much in similar headspace. (They eventually would do a ton of this but not yet.)

That's fine and all but three sentences later: "Gnolls are rumored to be the result of a magical combination of a gnome and a troll by an evil magic-user." What? Fucking what?

This word for gnoll had been around in the game for a bit by Basic and Advanced's giggling murderer and it baffles me. Gnomes are small, clever, and generally nice. Trolls are big, dumb, and usually nasty. Averaging those two things out gives you a kind of guy not a hyena, normal enough if unremarkable. Maybe a bit odd lookin'.

What is the provenance of gnolls as a name and idea? According to the Internet's Friend One Town Over it's these two stories which say fuck and all about gnomes, trolls, hyenas, or anything, but holy shit DO NOT MAKE HOUSE CALLS ON THESE GUYS.

So I think there are four monsters here sharing space.

There is the hybrid, the troll gnome, who is sharp and hideous, and in lieu of magic or troll regeneration has the ability to swap between 6" and 9' and all levels in between. They get an AC bonus smaller than 3', a damage bonus and speed penalty larger than 6', and smaller than 1' means they do no damage on a hit but can still grab you or inject you with a poison needle or something. They are generally nasty. Let's call these tromes.

There is the gnole who dwells in creepy shelters and cottages in the deep and creepy woods, who watch the world from behind and within trees, who look like some tuber dipped in ink. They have a language of vibration and movement but nothing else, deaf and dumb. They are never surprised, because they watch. They keep a network of tentacles wrapped around themselves at all times, have short legs, toothy maws, snake tongues, and they have eyes like precious stones which they can grow more than one pair of, swapping out as their eyes get tired. They live and behave in approximations of the lives, they guess, of the people they trap and kill, and festoon their world with their ornaments and fashions. Basically these little fuckers are awesome and are showing up in a game as soon as I can get them to a table.

There is the idea of the dumb, savage, cruel, hyena-like bruiser monster from the Army Man ranks, and to me the real meat of is it in the idea of them being created. There is a patient zero for us having gnolls. I think the word we use then is knoll, and instead of created we say grown. You seed the land with tall grasses (like the Serengeti!), orange and brown spots, amber waves of pain. You water them with cursed blood and the water from heated bones. The creature who rises has the earth for its blood, stone for its skull and teeth, and yes looks very like a bipedal hyena with the way the wet and earthy grasses lay. You raise your knolls and send them off to kill for you. They are great at hiding and sneaking up on someone, a field of grasses surrounding your kingdom in the night, some knolls stalking from within others. They communicate chemically, by scent and touch, by mixing with one another...most knolls are also other knolls. They do not reproduce, this is spell technology. You've taught soil and weeds to love the taste of the living. Something like this gets around.

There's hyena-mans, the most boring I think, unless you want to play around with the idea of a creature race impossible to sex at a distance, which you should. Hyena-mans shouldn't speak like Scooby Doo. Their mouths should always be open, biting or snarling or opening impossible wide as a low growl escapes, speaking independent of what the rest of them is doing, and the yipping sound of laughter should be constant, following them around like a cloud of fear sound like Pigpen of fucking you up.

Looking at this list someone could make a pretty fun adventure, if a bit Abbott and Costello, just from a "War of the Gnolls". Maybe they're fighting for a role in a great prophecy? Maybe all four types only EXIST because of transcription errors by careless monks through the centuries, and those scriptures are prescriptive, and they illuminated them into being, meaning that getting your hands on them and adding your own commandments would be the real prize?