Saturday, 7 July 2018

The Black Auction

Dear ______,

It is the Committee's pleasure to inform you that the Hotel Apophis, located on Talaat Harb Street in the very heart of Cairo's scenic French Quarter, has been selected as the venue for the upcoming Black Auction of 1929. The date has been set for June 21nd, and in accordance with best astrological practices the event will commence at precisely the stroke of midnight. Our schedule runs as follows:

9am - 12pm

Arrivals. For your convenience, the third floor of the hotel has been reserved for Auction attendees, but guests are still advised to book well in advance. Due to the idiosyncratic nature of the event, the Hotel's management have kindly agreed to relax their policy regarding unaccompanied women and natives, but for decency's sake it is still recommended that individuals belonging to either of these categories permit themselves to be escorted by a civilised male guardian. If no qualified candidate presents himself before the due date, the Committee may be able to provide one.

12pm - 1pm

Luncheon. The Hotel is attached to a very fine restaurant, the Café de Luxe, which can boast that it offers a bill of fare equal to any you might encounter in London or Paris. The chef, Monsieur Gaspard, spares no expense in reproducing exactly the dining conditions of his native Montmartre, and if not for a tragic fire would likely still be working there today. The Committee is happy to assure you that his disfigurement has in no way affected his culinary skills. All meals are gratis for Auction attendees, and any special dietary requirements can easily be catered to by the Hotel's tireless staff.

1pm - 6pm

Relaxation and sight-seeing. For those wishing to view such tourist attractions as the Museum of Antiquities, the Citadel of Saladin, the Alabaster Mosque, the Hanging Church, the Islamic necropolis, the city's notorious souks and, of course, the pyramid complex at Giza, the Hotel can easily provide a knowledgeable and trustworthy local guide. The Committee kindly asks that attendees refrain from casting the Auction into disrepute by patronising any of Cairo's innumerable opium-dens, drinking-houses and brothels, and can upon request provide a map of these locations so that the discerning traveller knows precisely which areas to avoid. Those visiting the Sphinx are politely requested to bring Her a small gift or offering of some kind, as She has in the past looked unkindly on the Auction and Her influence is not to be underestimated.

6pm - 7pm

Dinner. This will, again, be provided by Monsieur Gaspard. The menu has been determined in advance and cannot at this stage be changed. Alternative arrangements can be made for those with an aversion to tartare. In keeping with the spirit of the event, however, the Committee advises against undue squeamishness and recommends that attendees remain open to unconventional experiences.

7pm - 10pm

Light entertainment. The Bar Apophis is one of Cairo's most exclusive watering-holes, and shisha is available at every table for those of a teetotal or Mohammedan persuasion. The staff's discretion is assured. The popular stage magician Ching Ling Choo, Master of the Mysterious Orient, has been retained to astonish us all with his marvelous feats of misdirection and legerdemain. He is under the impression that he will perform for a troupe of rare-book collectors, and the Committee considers that it is unnecessary for any attendee to inform him of the true nature of the event.

10pm - 11pm

Meditations. After the show, the Committee suggests that attendees devote an hour to communing with any Higher Influence that may be willing to guide, command and protect them. The utmost efforts will be made to provide any tool or facility that may be necessary for such communion, but the Committee regrets that it cannot be expected to cater for every conceivable desire, and asks that attendees make some effort ahead of time to ensure that all their needs will be provided for. The Hotel's basements are spacious enough to accommodate any number of groups or individuals seeking privacy. Those who lack the protection of a Higher Influence are strongly encouraged to burn this invitation and think no more on the matter.

11pm - 12am

Propitiations. Attendees will gather in the second-floor smoking-lounge to make the appropriate placatory offerings. We are sensitive to the impact this may have on those of delicate constitution, especially neophytes and ladies, and our Master of Ceremonies will be on hand to assist anyone whose hand may falter at the critical moment. Participation is, however, mandatory. Attendees are advised not to wear their best clothes, and time has been provided in which to return to one's room and change one's outfit.

12am - Dawn

The Auction. It will take place in the Yellow Ballroom. The dress code is formal. All weapons, and all personal grudges, are to be checked at the door. Security will be provided by select members of the Egyptian gendarmerie, as well as private forces in the Committee's employ. Anyone seeking to provoke a repeat performance of the unfortunate events that took place at last year's Auction in Lisbon will be politely but firmly escorted off the premises. The Committee reserves for itself the right to expel any guest, at any time, for any reason. It understands that the Auction can be expected to provoke the full range of human emotion, but it must nonetheless insist that attendees maintain an appropriate level of respect for the proceedings. Its decisions, as always, are final.

We are delighted this year to welcome to the Black Auction a number of distinguished guests, some old hands and some in attendance for the first time. We are especially happy to induct into our number His Majesty Fouad I, by the grace of God King of Egypt and the Sudan, Sovereign of Nubia, Kordofan and Darfur. We consider it a tremendous honour to be graced with His Majesty's presence, and it is our sincere hope that he does not leave the premises unsatisfied. We would also like to bid a cheerful hello to Princess Elizabeth, our youngest ever attendee at a mere three years old, and trust that with the assistance of the Auction and the kind aid of her guardians she will soon be able to recover from the mysterious illness that has been plaguing her. As a final note, we would like to remind attendees that the small, bald, unhappy man whom you might spy loitering around the corners of the Hotel, and who goes by the unfortunate name of Crowley, is not, in fact, an official guest of the Auction. He may protest otherwise, but we can assure you that we have not yet lowered our standards to his degree! If this man bothers you, simply inform a member of the Hotel staff and proceed about your business in the certain knowledge that he shall be rapidly removed.

We trust that you anticipate the Auction with the greatest eagerness, and look forward to welcoming you to the Hotel Apophis. As always, we can guarantee that the whole event will be conducted under a veil of absolute tact and discretion. A partial catalogue is enclosed with this invitation, and we encourage you to peruse it at your leisure.

Yours in Confidence,
The Black Auction Committee,
April 1, 1929

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Parakeet Plains

The plains grow cold at dusk. The sullen black cones of volcanoes slouch against the western horizon, flanks scarred by mineworks, waiting to eat the sun.

The only sheltered places to camp at night are the steel-blue glacial lakes that scar the stony dry earth. The russet-red grass is flecked with guano and the delicate rainbow feathers of parakeets, who gather each evening in the canopies of the prickly araucania pines to feast on nuts and night-insects. Their screeching is unbearable, a constant raucous thunder. It becomes impossible to sleep, speak or think. Only the Piquenche, the funniest people in the world, can tolerate it for the length of a journey without going even madder than they already are. They roam the plains on horseback, in war-troupes and nomadic bands, hunting half-deaf glyptodon and macrauchenia with their ludicrously tiny feathered spears. Their short lives are devoted to comedy and war.

The pox-priests of the Doleful God, who eternally mourns the wickedness of His children, have their missions in the mountains. Slaves from the fertile seaward lands quarry copper for their house-sized Inevitable Bells, hoisted high as possible to broadcast doom-laden peals for miles around. Knights, prospectors, gauchos, bandeirantes and inquisitors gather in shanty-towns at the mountains' edge, hoping to play their part in opening the plains up to cattle-grazing and general exploitation. So far they have had little success.

Friday, 18 May 2018

yoon-suin graveyard generator

For Thousand Thousand Islands, or the actual Yoon-Suin game we actually have


Aesthetic Animals Markers TreasureNotable Ghosts
1 Lantern-lit, swept and tidied
A haze of incense smoke
Butterflies
Finches
PagodasA lavish wardrobeMerchant
Knows a secret trade route, a deep road under the earth
Super condescending
2 Dusty, sun-bleached
Offerings, scattered and half-eaten
Monkeys
Lizards
ShrinesAn idol that makes people hornyMidwife
Knows about allll the secret princesses in hiding as swineherds
Will gossip about you
3 Weather-worn, lichen-blotched
Dunes of leaf litter
Geckos
Tapir
Marble slabsA sword cast from ancient metalSwordsman
Knows the weaknesses of every beast that lives
Scared of passing on their bad luck
4 Forested, a gnarled grove
Trunks burst through graves
Deer
Rabbits
HeadstonesA beautiful poem, carved into a headstonePoet
Knows the words to melt anyone's heart
So fucking melodramatic though
5 Overgrown, thorny
Bright sprays of flowers
Bees
Mice
Earthen moundsSnail shell, home to a friendly spiritBomoh
Knows how to perform exorcisms, but would only teach the holy
Demands offerings before they will talk to you
6 Sunken, swamped
Pools of dark water
Tortoises
Snails
Stone headsSilk-wrapped foetuses, hidden in gravesPawang
Knows how to summon a toyol - a goblin-like spirit made from a foetus
Nosy, can tell when you're lying

i feel like the ghost knowledge translates into plot hooks pretty well??
who doesn't have unfinished business i mean c'mon

bonus smol spirit generator
require a pact to use their power
their influence will be recognised by any half-competent bomoh

PlacePricePowerPersonalityPhobia
1Snail shellCandy and sweet fruitsCan corporealise, grow huge. Remains soft, marshallowyBaby/toddlerNeedles
2Cicada skinWritten wordsCan offer fantastic legal advice. Knows every rule ever written downMacawDrums
3Spider-curled leafBloodCan make people sick, from the sniffles to a deathly feverPythonScripture
4ChrysalisMoneyCan steal things that could fit in a dog's mouth, will take a cut of the score as paymentDogBells
5Dried geckoAlcohol and bitter fruitsCan spread rumours, sow false beliefsGrandmaVirtue
6OrchidFlatteryCan make love potions which cause all who drink them to fall in love with each otherTigerFire


this picture is maybe a separate post in its own right..

found this picture *after* i wrote the line with sunken stone heads
feelin pretty good about that one 

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

more periods of ancient time

continued from here

11. Gentrozoic Era.


Nouveau-riche aliens from neighbouring solar system drawn to planet by charming bohemian atmosphere and low real-estate prices. Native lifeforms reprocessed by ruthless tourist industry into harmless mockeries of former selves, exhibited to cooing space rubes as representatives of an authentic working-class ecosystem. Anything actually dangerous or interesting is forced by environmental pressure to move out to the poles, the Moon or nearby asteroids.

12. Age of Exchange.

Ants learn to mine diamonds, use them to buy delicious grubs from treasure-hungry magpies. Pretty soon everything has evolved the ability to use money. Monkeys pay trees to grow extra fruit, trees pay bees to pollinate their flowers, bees hoard gold in hives to carefully invest in other species’ business schemes. Camels sell their hump water to thirsty birds, beavers make spawning pools for salmon, crocodiles charge wildebeest river-crossing tolls. This period’s only surviving species is the dragon, which even today retains its capitalist instincts.

13. Commucene Epoch.

Almost all species abandon conflict and learn to work together for the collective good of the entire ecosystem. The only holdouts are the dragons, who pay a huge meteor to wipe out 99% of life on the planet in order to teach everyone the value of a little hard work.

14. The Age When Plants Were Quick And Animals Were Slow.

Also self-explanatory.

15. Olympian Bombardment.

Celestial city of the gods is sacked by demons, reduced to rubble and cast down into the mortal realm. Planet’s surface pulverised by thousand-year rain of comet-sized chunks of marble, pieces of pillar and fragments of colossal bearded statue, as well as vast entrails and shredded bits of flesh from the gods themselves. Dust from the craters formed by this event still contains sparks of divine puissance.

16. The Great Cancellation.

After several hundred million years of diminishing viewership figures, planetary history is finally brought to an end by mid-level marketing executives who argue that it’s no longer in tune with current trends. Evolution is placed on hiatus and its slot filled by an unremarkable sitcom about a suburban single dad with too many kids. Time travellers to this period complain about the hackneyed storylines and the omnipresence of canned laughter.

17. EVLTN 2000: DARK GENESIS.

“It’s life, kids, but not as you know it!”. This reboot of the beloved natural phenomenon, painstakingly retooled by an executive cabal for maximum appeal to an audience of hip young trillenials, failed to connect with anyone at all and was taken off the air after only a couple of epochs. Fossils from this period tend to be anatomically implausible, covered by spikes and with exaggerated sexual characteristics. The return of classical evolution, with most of the original cast and crew, was greeted with relief by almost everyone.

18. Hour of the Watchmaker.

God intervenes to intelligently design exactly one small species of trilobite, then goes back to watching and muttering.

19. Heroic Age.

A time of radioactive spider bites, murdered parents and orphans from beyond the stars who conveniently happen to look like members of whatever species first discovers them. The interests of each species are defended by its own league of superpowered guardians whose clashes somehow never cause any permanent environmental damage, no matter how many verdant woodlands their eye lasers blast apart. Punctuated by moments of ultimate crisis when every extant hero must band together to save the planet from existential threats.

20. Mendacious Period.

Rocks learn how to imitate fossils, and stage an elaborate practical joke on future paleontologists by competing to see who can come up with the most implausible morphology. Some scholars suspect this period lasted much longer than anyone realises, and that the entire fossil record is actually a single huge geological prank.

Monday, 16 April 2018

periods of ancient time

Arnold wrote a G+ post about fantastic prehistories and Throne of Salt replied to it here with a list of forgotten epochs to be dug up by your deep-time spelunkers and wizard paleontologists. There's some of this in Deep Carbon Observatory as well. Most fantasy worlds don't concern themselves with stuff like evolution and geology - either they have some Tolkienesque divine creation myth or it just never comes up. The idea that your setting could have a semi-plausible prehistory is, as far as I can tell, an OSR innovation.

Anyway here's some more periods of ancient time.

1. Kleptocene Epoch. 

Also known as the Ten Million Years of Crime. Began when a previously harmless species of cyanobacteria figured out how to run a protection racket, demanding a greater slice of the ecosystem in exchange for not evolving to massively overproduce oxygen and devastate the global climate. Competition swiftly lead to the domination of the biosphere by brutal interspecies cartels that survived by shaking each other down - like, nice reproductive strategy you got there. Be a shame if some more efficient species started competing with you for nesting sites. Hey, are you using this migration route, because my wife has one just like it at home. The execution of a prominent genus of arboreal herbivore by a species of flowering plant that spent four hundred thousand years insinuating itself into an enemy cartel before suddenly and deliberately losing all its nutritional value sparked a gang war that wiped out 90% of all species on the globe, leaving behind only a few random strands of criminal DNA.

2. Carnocene Epoch.

Triggered by a sudden, unexplained mass extinction among the bacteria responsible for decomposition. Unrotting corpses piled up in mountains, fresh as the day they were killed except for a few bite marks. Scavengers and obligate carnivores grew fat and gigantic on the endless, risk-free food supply, wading knee-high through fields of jagged bone and clotted blood. Jungles became sunless fortresses of fallen trees, wastelands where nothing could reach the soil or the sky. Sea levels  rose as leviathan corpses piled up on the ocean floor, home to civilizations of crawling pale crabs. Theologians argue that God brought this age about as punishment for the first murder, so that the body of the first victim could never be hidden. It's not clear if humans had evolved yet but that doesn't stop them.

3. Turbozoic Era.

Characterised by a massive acceleration in tectonic activity, with mountain ranges throwing themselves up overnight and continents chasing each other around the equator like Benny Hill. Ease of intercontinental contact led to the development of a thriving heterogeneous global economy among the insect people of the time, though the difficulty of stable farming kept technology primitive and populations low. First sapient volcanoes.

4. The Age When Bacteria Were Big And Animals Were Small.

Self-explanatory.

5. Svabhavan Glaciation.

Continents seeded with organic superconductors, rearranged into a single vast circuit and cooled to near-absolute zero by a hyperevolved race of yeti seeking to transform the planet into a huge computer and use its superior brain power to achieve absolute enlightenment. The computer either sublimated them into a higher dimension or killed them all and committed suicide, depending on who you ask. The planet was left to warm back up over a period of hundreds of millions of years. Multicellular life basically had to start from scratch, and the oldest sapient volcanoes are said to still be angry about it. Samples of life from before that time are preserved in hidden yeti cryovaults, guarded by terrible electronic sentinels, possibly.

6. Groovy Age.

Dominated by a phylum of fungi that released psychoactive chemicals into the atmosphere as part of their respiratory cycle, making everything very chill and relaxed. The pressure of evolutionary competition weakened as major species of carnivore began to wonder why everyone needed to be so aggressive all the time, leading to the development of herbivores goofy enough to fall backward into their open mouths. A mass extinction event was averted by the advent of fungus-eating "cop beetles", which is still gleefully cited as an example by conservatives everywhere.

7. Bird Age.

Everything was birds. Trees? Tall birds. Viruses? Small birds. Rocks? Heavy birds. People were pretty happy to see the end of this one.

8. Tartarocene Epoch.

Herd animals began to evolve hells as punishment for antisocial behaviour, leading to a population boom as they became increasingly co-operative and disinclined to masturbate. Pack hunters copied the practice, piggy-backing on equine and bovine hells instead of developing their own. A couple of species flirted with heavens but found them ineffective as a motivator. Over time the hells became more painful and horrible as species sought to outdo each other, and whole ecosystems sprung up around it - parasites without afterlives who could physically drain the sin from your body, inquisitor alphas who exiled sinners from the flock before they could corrupt the youth, temptresses who guided rival species into depravity in exchange for a kickback from the demons. Fossils from this epoch have a tendency to look very frightened.

9. Second Bird Age.

God damn it.

10. Oneirocene Epoch.

The "dreamtime period" when animals took on, and retroactively had always possessed, human form, and went around doing fairytale stuff like stealing each other's tails and accidentally creating the world from a grain of sand. Setting of all mythological origin stories. Brought all other epochs into existence and also was brought into existence by them. A fringe group of researchers argue that this epoch never happened, and was invented by fuzzy-minded fabulists as a way to reconcile the gulf between hard science and the foolish obsolete superstitions of a less rational age, but those guys are wrong.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

dinosaur mountain

Gonna need to reiterate that I can do these fucking things until time runs backwards and a scaled tyrant crawls from the stone to tear me to pieces


People Paths Cities Quests Encounters
1 Llama-herd. Trades gossip, meat, cold-weather clothes Foot-wide arch over hundred meter drop, far too fragile for anything heavier than a llama and two saddlebagsTemples, markets and farms all seem to float serenely on the surface of a mountain lakeSacrifice these fifty llamas to the storm god (a mosasaur) by throwing them off that far-away cliffSwarm of tiny vampire bats. Anaesthetic saliva means you might not notice them until the weight bears you down
2 Raptor-catcher. Trained hoatzin assists in catching colourful raptors for the sale of their feathers Ancient rope bridge, knowledge of its construction lost, now maintained by weaver pterosaursSuspended in centre of ravine by living web of vines. Population accordingly obsessed with horticultureKidnap a willing husband from the swamp people. Comprehensive demands for new husband's manly attributesVenomous pterosaurs. Their bite inflicts tremors; they'll eat you once you shake yourself off a cliff
3 Soldiers. 'border patrol' a transparent excuse to raid the neighbours Ridiculously difficult free climb, last ten meters carried out inverted. Someone at the top could just throw down a rope thoughClinging to the side of a cliff, nestled beneath an overhang. Compete for space with a gigantic colony of burrowing pterasaursSteal egg from sufficiently large dinosaur, replace with this gold egg. It's a status thingPachycephalosaurs grazing grumpily, one eye on the skies
4 Stone mason. Pragmatic and full of good, if condescending, adviceDaring leap into a cenote, said to carry the faithful to safety and dash the wicked to piecesFills underground cavern. Huge, gold sun allegory on ceiling pours a stream of flaming oil, provides somewhat underwhelming amount of lightSlay epoch beast (quetzalcoatlus) to bring about new millenniumChupacabra, clambering about on backwards monkey paws, stealing llamas and children in the night
5 Astronomer desperately trying to keep up with the ever-changing minor heavensZig-zag path up the face of a cliff. Takes hours and hours to ascend, about 10 minutes to get down on shitty wooden bikeBuilt on the second-highest peak in the range. Streets and buildings form a map of the major heavens; the position of your house affects your destinyUndo recent prophecy to spite rival. You're going to have to figure out how to fake a rainstormGiant cricket, bounding about with flailing insect idiocy. Will try to eat you, may just bear you off a cliff by mistake
6 Silversmith, always looking for new designs, inspirations and muses. Very competitiveTrudge up scree slope. Canyon walls amplify and distort all sound - speech makes the rocks quiver, shouting would bring down the whole slopeSharp tip of mountain carved into a gargantuan ziggurat, stepped farms on the slopes belowRescue noble's eldest from an ill-advised hunting trip, long since overdue to returnQuetzalcoatlus. It is thought to be the god of this cycle. Its death is considered the apocalypse, ushering in a new world

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Outlaw Generator

Generates Wild West outlaws. I will probably use this in the SUBLIGHT hexcrawl I'm now running. Pairs well with this or this or maybe even this. The gang member list also has a lot of possible uses.