Monday, 13 May 2019

rainbow monks

These are not the most famous of the rainbow monasteries. Not the most powerful, wise, or even sinful. They are good temples, for the most part, or at least useful. All of them are corrupt. Their corruptions share a common thread: each vice is a virtue's reflection, the black rainbow shining up from below.


Strike-The-Stone-Producing-A-Spark is a multi-story wooden complex, reconditioned from an old summer manor, surrounded for miles around by fertile countryside. The school is supported by the local lord as it provides a dependable reserve of well-disciplined troops in this time of trouble. It's supported by the local peasants because they like being able to beat up the lord's tax collectors. The price of entry is deliberately simple: bring them a flame from the hearth in your home. It's common for vagrants to claim the road is their home and light a fire then and there. The current grandmaster was especially sly, claiming that as the school was destined to be his home their hearth already held his flame.

The skills taught at Strike-The-Stone are practical; an accessible two-weapon fighting style and the cultivation of inner heat. Most pupils, and thus many people in the surrounding country, can proficiently wield sword, hammer and axe, and light candles with their breath. There is one exceptional talent currently undergoing training, a red-headed peasant girl set to solving increasing opaque riddles by an increasingly nervous grandmaster. Unwilling to have his status usurped, the grandmaster is frozen by indecision. His once vibrant red energy is fading to pyrrous and draining the source of his martial power in a sad, ironic spiral of paralysis that threatens to corrupt him utterly and cause great scandal to the school.

Sun-Heats-The-Stone sits stubbornly on the north face of a squat mountain. Entry for anyone, not just students, requires enduring three nights waiting outside the gate, with the whole order coming out every sundown to beat you with staves. Inside, the beatings are less regular, woven into a draining, demanding, dogmatic training regime that breaks most people's will, though teaching them a lot about suffering and themselves along the way. The school was not always thus. When the grandmaster was more mobile, lessons involved ritual fasting, jogging up and down the mountain, working out in front of big fires, and giving yourself a big pat on the back for a hard day's work. And then the great art of Sun-Heats-The-Stone was perfected, the grandmaster having eaten nothing for a year and a day and achieving self-mummification.

Now the master's star pupil leads a wailing chorus of self-flagellation and refines their tortures upon themselves and the other students, striving for the perfect point of pain in which the grandmaster's voice becomes clear to them once again. This does not happen. The school venerates a false idol, not of the self, but of ideal; their bodies and pain offered to a higher power, instead of used to outline their own true selves. They say the school's kung fu has never been more powerful; their strikes blow memories from the mind and their hated, scarred bodies shimmer into unreality before a blade can land.

Broken-Bough-Falling hunches in the belly of a bustling town. All are welcome to stay the night and share the food, though the bonsai gardens are closed to most that are not monks. The price of training in the art of pruning is variable, though universal. Give away all your worldly possessions, toss all of your riches into the old well in the centre of the house and serve a single night in the kitchens. Most monks stay in the kitchens, serving those on the street where they once lived. Many return to that ascetic life, if they feel called.

The grandmaster is out there now, trying to pass on their great wisdom, never returning to their bed in the temple garden. The grandmaster's greatest technique is very simple; take a loaf of bread, split it evenly, and have both halves hold the same nutrition as the whole. The temple's charity serves a hundred mouths a night, but the grandmaster's hands feed cripples and lepers and lonely souls across the whole city.

Back in the temple's rotted core, in the caverns hidden beneath the old well, the steward squirms on a pile of gold, freely given and yet stolen from the common good. He demands to be called a dragon, guarded by golden axes and hissing cut-throat advice to the merchants, bankers and drug dealers that come for his wisdom, always with a gift. The steward is a shrewd man, and sharp with numbers, though it helps his wisdom along that a petitioner's rivals come just the same as them, spilling everyone's plans and fears on the cold cave's ground.


Leaf-Curled-In-The-Palm rises from the forest on a low hump of earth, its great stones barely peeking above the trees. It is a rock garden and a vegetable patch, roots and vine planted in the long furrows carved by each boulder's painstaking, months-long slide down the slope. The huge, happy, vegetarian monks chortle warmly as they roll the rocks back into more pleasing and productive arrangements. Joining their ranks requires not size, but strength alone. The test is to carry, drag or roll their sacred sow, the size of an ox, from the food troughs to her bath. Quickly though! The act must be done before the grandmaster, the size of two oxen, too fat to even speak, lumbers up behind and hoists the great hog over one shoulder, off for a pampering in petal-strewn water.

The monks are happy and free, blessed by good food and warm rains and growing, always, richer and more content upon their hill. It is the boundlessness of their love that will be their undoing, of course. Their fertile pig, totem of their happiness, has had hundreds of happy hoglets, nurtured by the monks and, with no space to feed them on the hillock, allowed to wander into the forest. Slowly but surely the forest is dying, roots upturned and vines torn and munched. As the forest thins the rains will fade. Crops will fail and the monks, sadly, will wither and move on leaving only a tangle of briar and boar to mark their excess.

Stone-Sitting-On-Water is a fortress jutting sharply from the middle of a raging river. The channels around it have been sculpted over patient years to contain the most treacherous rapids in the known world. The condition of entry is very straight-forward - anyone that can navigate to the great stone library deserves to study there. The monks are a mix of sailors and scholars. Beyond the vast collection of maps, tax records, census scrolls and tide charts, the knowledge is twofold. The first lesson is a mnemonic system based on the movement of water over a stone, which allows one to analyse and memorise the underlying principles of ostensibly any interconnected system, be it the flow of wealth through a kingdom or the course of an entire river delta. The second is a sailing technique known as Two Tortoises Wrestling, which uses the body and sails of a boat as a lens for flowing water, a river stone throwing the oncoming wave at the enemy.

Below the fortified waterline is a labyrinthine filing system containing the uncouth secrets kingdoms have scrubbed from their own records: the actual genealogy of every two-bit king claiming to be the 'Son of the Undying Dragon'; the quiet fraud performed by viziers and spiritual advisors. The grandmaster, chief librarian, sits happily at the center of all this, quite content to act as an appendix to the sum of human knowledge. Below them a cabal of bookish monks works tirelessly to corrupt the library, convinced that it is an engine, a pivot point, a strand of dna, that can be altered to control the flow of the whole world.

Flower-Reflected-On-Rippling-Water occupies almost the entire eastern wing of the Four-Times Hidden Palace. Entry requires first finding the palace, through royal blood, sheer volume of money or an insatiable passion for social insects. The monastery's test is a classic riddle; a nameless monk asks for the name of every termite in one of the mounds outside. Inside they do more than study bugs. There are formal lectures on anthropology, history, philosophy and architecture. Quiet tutorials on sleight of hand, disguise and poison. The grandmaster advises kings and spirits in secret, has performed backroom deals with demons that shape the course of nations. With his real work all under the table, he would actually rather like credit for heading this house of subterfuge, but of course all the students believe that it's an elaborate double-blind, and the real grandmaster must surely be the nameless doorman, or perhaps one of the termite keepers.

The grandmaster's actual ploy runs far deeper. None of the students here have true violet energy, not enough humility to recognise that they, too, are just termites, so the school does not teach real lessons in enlightenment. Instead each individual's education is controlled, coded and recorded, preconditioning an order of mandarins and spies to respond in particular ways to particular pressures, tightening the school's grip on the kingdom like a mandible biting soft clay.

Friday, 3 May 2019

rainbow


too many muses. vipassanā, kill 6 billion demons, chinese
alchemy, journey to the west, the guy pictured above

the rainbow path is an ontology. a creation myth and a guide to self-creation. both spiritual and intellectualized, embedded in culture. like the cardinal directions in syr darya, star signs or the heavenly branches, it provides a framework for understanding, interrogating and finding peace in the world

the rainbow path must be walked in order, from blackness through genesis to selfhood. service to others before reproduction of one's own. attaining harmony in the moment, before enshrining one's values for the reapplication of this cycle.

each step on the path can be thought of as a process, and attempting to skip a step in this chain will inevitably lead to a reverse in the flow of energy through these processes. this backsliding from order into the chaotic void is venerated by the lowest order of heretic as the black rainbow, path of the vampire sun

the rainbow path should be walked again and again in life, with no thought as to a destination. it is said, however, that there is a seventh colour, that of enlightenment, which can only be seen by those who have mastered the rainbow. many of the enlightened beings that have spoken of this experience describe UV light as held in the understanding of Ultra-Violence. scholars broadly suggest that these beings have fallen to the vampire sun


red is motion, life. genesis and the emergence of a waveform in the void. its element is fire, its virtue is decisiveness, its organ is the heart, its animal the snake. its scholarly arts conjure fire and grant quickness, can transmit objects across great distances. its martial arts rain a hundred flaming blows with the sword. it grants your warform extra arms and fearsome fangs

orange is consolidation, discretisation. self-conception and a waveform collapsing into a particle. its element is iron, its virtue is courage, its organ is the skin, its animal the goat. its scholarly arts refine and harden, can make a pebble as unmoveable as a mountain. its martial arts can turn aside blades and punch through steel plate. it renders your warform armoured and utterly inviolate

yellow is division, gift-giving. mitosis and a particle spewing energy. its element is gold, its virtue is generosity, its organ is the lung, its animal the bee. its scholarly arts partition and bisect, can loan life essence and healing. its martial arts turn hands and feet to vorpal axes. it arms your warform with blades that can cut truth in two

green is growth, self-sufficiency. crystallisation and the formation of molecules. its element is wood, its virtue is fecundity, its organ is the stomach, its animal the panda. its scholarly arts swell and make fertile, can burst forth a grove from a single seed. its martial arts swing hammers with ponderous, unstoppable strength. it grows your warform as large as a mountain

blue is harmony, equanimity. sustainability and stable orbits. its element is water, its virtue is peacefulness, its organ is the mind, its animal the koi. its scholarly arts calm and conduct, can settle a storm or call one up. its martial arts conserve motion, launch a perfectly timed arrow through the heat of a battle. it lets your warform hold back from war, de-escalate violence

violet is recursion, respect. fractalisation and ancestor worship. its element is air, its virtue is honour, its organ is the reproductive, its animal the dragon. its scholarly arts predict futures and conjure spirits, can slow time to a crawl or stop it outright. its martial arts practise the same blow ten thousand times, until it is the thought itself that strikes the foe. it imbues your warform with spiritual authority and a voice of binding command


many rainbow traditions extend this praxis further. most common is the inclusion of a colour wheel, often called the Wheel of Suffering, or Wheel of Conditional Enlightenment, which holds enlightenment either in the center or on the rim, and often harmoniously opposes colours across its axle. indeed the colours are greatly partitioned. the lower/higher or id/ego divide, r-o-y against b-g-v. positive/negative or outward/inward delineations, r-y-b against o-g-v

in almost all of these traditions, the black rainbow remains a constant mirror of the light. each dark colour is a reflection of the true, but is also wholly defined within the rainbow path. pyrrhous is refracted red, true, but can also be seen as a reaching for orange energy - self-identity and self-preservation - without first mastering red decisiveness and courage. the result is paralysis, fear, impotence; pyrrhic catatonia.

so it continues. fulvous: self-sacrifice before self-definition, subservient erosion and debasement. xanthic: accumulation before charity, small-minded greed and hunger. feldgrau: gregariousness before self-containment, an infectious overstepping of bounds. glaucous: self-veneration before an understanding of the other, masturbatory idolation. phlox: grasping at enlightment without respect or virtue, the beginning and end of the Wheel of Suffering.


phlox is undoing, sacrilege. unholiness and the cutting of knots. its adherents claim it is antienlightenment; the delicate wingbeat of reality that butterflies down the rainbow into searing entropy. its scholarly arts dissolve and devolve, necrofy spacetime and convoke foul shades. its martial arts seek to unmake utterly, strike the whole timeline of a life. its demons tear holes in space like ripping through wet flesh. its herald is the beholder*

glaucous is turmoil, mutation. incest and catastrophic collapse. a bruised purple narcisism turned to eugenics and arms race. its scholarly arts destabilise and debilitate, provoke tumours and twist the genome to malevolent ends. its martial arts are a barely suppressed suppuration of self that inevitably consumes its practitioners. its demons crawl through marginalia and gut linings, budding up to instigate imbalance and violence. its herald is the troll

feldgrau is overgrowth, pestilence. population collapse and nuclear meltdown. contaminating other systems with the unmastered self. its scholarly arts bloat and overwhelm, exacerbate sin and crush enemies under their own weight. its martial arts overrun with ever-increasing force, suddenly twist and use your own weight to pull you under their bulk. it's demons bud forth new teeth and eyes and arms with every cut. its herald is the hydra

xanthic is theft, greed. addiction and exsanguination. obsession with stockpiling and stealing the last possessions of the poor. its scholarly arts drain and dry, sap strength and suck out the soul. its martial arts wage wars of attrition, demand diets of blood gold and that extend life to unnatural span. its demons curl chittering underneath coins, whisper in the ears of merchants and treasure hunters. its herald is the mummy

fulvous is facelessness, suicide. grovelling subservience and erasure of identity. debasing and subsuming the self to unholy aims. its scholarly arts dominate and demean, scrub memory and scour into utilitarianism. its demons enslave and torture, carve out homes in hollow human shells. its herald is the doppelganger

pyrrhous is paralysis, fear. stillness and gasping, desperate, futile self-preservation. absolute refusal to take action, a slow collapse into entropy. its scholarly arts freeze and entomb, slow the crawl of time and hold implacable inertia. its martial arts are rarely used to fight, but rather to sit in lonely desolation, unmoved by the collapsing of the world, dragging all else down in lament. its demons moan and weep piteously, insist that they were once like you and you will soon be like them. its herald is the basilisk

*beholders are guys with black holes for heads

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Poppyseed Lane

under overpasses, deep in the bowels of the parks, tucked behind every garbage bin big enough to hide it; wracked iron contorted into a gate, the outline of a name: Poppyseed Lane


the jimmies come out say hello to the new neighbours, all earnest smiles and chuckling lessons in numeracy and literacy. just like you and me but full of fingers. they laugh with carefully closed mouths, knuckles pressing against the inside of their cheeks, hoping you've forgotten the letter of the day, are ready to become like them

hellmos flutter fat, fluffy arms, settle into pools of blood and oil to drink. giggle high-pitched and quiet among themselves, call you mr noodle and ask you to do things that are likely to kill you. have an undying, curious craving for repetition. endlessly fascinated by fish. do not tickle them

everyone knows where you should go if you get injured. hurt and burnie live down in the basement, bottle-green light filtered through drawn shutters. burnie's good with bandages, blasé with medication, and addicted to starting fires. hurt doesn't like to touch live patients, hovers over burnie keeping him focused, when you go to bed he anesthetises you and starts cutting

you open the cupboard and BIRD come out. you pry open the manhole and BIRD is there. you look up and BIRD land on your head, a big wet blob of cheeping cawing feathers with not enough eyes and too many beaks. is there a person inside? is there... you?

wet stain on your vision, peripheral pachyderm fever-dream. you can catch snuffle-plague-us from a victim's dripping nose, or the oily feathers of BIRD. it catches you when you sneeze and dissolves you in a phlegmatic cocoon of your own mucus

von count lives alone. a castle of paperwork collected, collated, sometimes forged. his laugh is dry and forced, a poorly timed: 'ah ah'. he will demand an accounting of you, sometimes taking a little tax, rarely more than five fingers or a pound of flesh, to keep you in line with the number of the day

your words replaced with nonsense syllables, barks of pain that cramp your throat as you spit them out. your jaw deforms and unhinges, your eyes bulge to accommodate your new vocal apparatus. the martians have abducted your language and use it to summon your friends

trail of crumbs beckons down the alleyway. obese sweat-sticky flesh shrouded in greasy, chocolate-matted fur, crammed into a corner, hunched jealously over his hoard. when he is full he can almost remember his name but he is never full now. the yawning black orifice splits wide down the whole length of his body, urgent arms flailing and mashing and tearing in their haste to cram everything inside. do you smell sweet

pipecleaner man in cape and clanking knight's helmet. fights crime. can punch through walls and tear your head off with a single clean twist. well-meaning but incompetent. do not resemble crime

sexy pig in a dress, blonde wig and giant boobs, married to a frog. she beats him up. she knows karate. he tries to kermit suicide but he cannot die. he is very depressed. it's not easy being him. if you find a way to kill him he will help you leave, but she loves him and will try to stop you

what is he chopping? is is alive? is it... crying? bork bork bork

it claims to have spawned the whole lane into being, though it claims this of your world too. the grouch is not from out of space, but from under it, sending out little chewing worms and dragging the half-composted waste of the city down down into its endless gut

EAT THE BOTTLE MR NOODLE

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Harry Clark Project - The Sublunar Snitch

The Sublunar Snitch

Watching you from above. An androgynous youth in a colourful parody of military uniform - shako and tasseled boots, flimsy epaulettes, cords that trail upwards until they disappear into the darkness of the night sky. Could almost be a puppet of something unseen, but it moves under its own power - dancing on air as if there were invisible stones wherever it chooses to place its feet. Mockingly graceful. Peers at you through a rolled-up bit of paper that it pretends is a telescope. When it catches you looking back it laughs and pokes its tongue out. It is not afraid of you.

The Snitch targets people who commit unsavory acts under cover of darkness. Thieves, assassins, prostitutes, drunkards, adventurers, revolutionaries - the Snitch doesn't care, as long as it can feel morally superior to you. When it fixates on you it will follow you around, night after night, relentlessly perving on you from a safe distance until it catches you doing something naughty. This could be as big as murder or as small as pissing on a tree. Either way, the Snitch will report your bad behaviour to the Sun, who it considers to be Father. The whole next day the Sun's rays will seek you out. They will burn you and any house you're in and any shelter you're find until you're either dead or very, very sorry for causing trouble. The next night the Snitch will check in again, just to make sure you haven't backslid.

The Snitch is very good at dodging arrows. One way to fight it is lure it close to a window - it's reluctant to enter houses, or any other confined space, but it's an intensely curious creature and you can use this to your advantage. Once it gets its eye on you it's hard to shake off, but if you're a good boy for long enough - six months or more - it will get bored and go away.

I'm not really a stats guy but:

AC: Plate
HD: 1
Move: Triple human, flies
Attack: None
Damage: None
Morale: 6
Treasure: Sheet of blank paper that functions as telescope when rolled up
Alignment: Lawful

submitted under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Details of the project at Cavegirl's blog.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

paladins

arnold did a post on paladins and it got me thinking

if each holy order serves a specific purpose than you could generate new holy orders by thinking about what problems the medieval church had and what kind of guys it might have needed to fix them

so

Order of the Nightingale

Plague is caused by bad air. Bad air is caused by sin and sin is caused by demons. Or it's possible that microscopic demons breed in swamps and are carried into towns by insects and evil breezes. Or maybe the Jews did it. No-one really knows but there are definitely paladins about it. Also known as "empiricals", "grey surgeons" or just "plague knights", their beaked armour is packed with dried flowers and their stainless scalpel-swords are always sharp.

They prefer to fight at a distance, keeping potentially-infected enemies as far away as possible. They drain swamps and burn villages and and stomp on rats and butcher screaming hordes of the diseased and possessed - they don't make any distinction. Total bastards whose only redeeming feature is that killing every single person who even looks like they might have a bit of a cough does, in the long run, preserve more lives than it costs.

When they go heretical they become plague-agents, typhoid maries whose medical knowledge allows them to spread disease as quickly and efficiently as possible.

surprisingly hard to find good plague doctor art
Order of Janus

Whenever there is a schism in the church, the Order of Janus splits in two. Half the order sides with the real, legitimately elected Pope A and declares eternal war upon the foul deceiver Antipope B. The other half sides with Pope B and declares war on Antipope A. Half of the first half are deep-cover agents working for B. Half of the second half are deep-cover agents working for A. Half of the first half of the first half are only pretending to be deep-cover agents working for B in order to root out the vile traitors who'd turn against the holy word of A. And sometimes the church will schism again, and again...

The original idea seems to have been to prevent schisms in the first place by making them too confusing for anyone to bother with. Nowadays, though, people tend to assume that anyone wearing the two-faced helm of the Order of Janus is effectively neutral. Fighting Antipopes isn't like fighting Satan - their arguments tend to be a lot more convincing, for a start. Most people who aren't dickheads basically understand that it's not a good idea to worship Satan, but actual human politics tend to be a lot messier, especially when you're obliged to understand them as well as the people who make a career out of dealing with them. A lot of the two-faced knights are honestly too confused to know who they're supposed to be murdering from day to day, which is probably just as well. Quite a few are genuinely insane and can be found wandering the countryside, challenging people at swordpoint to arcane tests of ideology.

They are experts in spycraft and will sometimes infiltrate other orders of paladins, taking all the appropriate vows and waiting years for their chance to strike and denounce the whole thing as heretical. This is where shit gets really confusing.

When they go heretical they just become themselves, but more so.


Order of the Grasshopper

Even the humblest peasant can join the Order of the Grasshopper, as long as they demonstrate they're willing to put in the work. Grasshoppers wear velvet capes and gilded armour, ride fancy imported horses and eat plump capons sauced with exotic spices - but nobody begrudges their conspicuous display of wealth, because they know how hard the knights have laboured to get it, and in the back of their minds they're all thinking they too might be able to join the Order one day. Actual statistics on how many humble peasants make it to the top are not available at this time. The Order's Grandmaster was born in a pigsty and this fact is widely advertised.

Grasshoppers defend the good, loyal, honest, hardworking folk of the land from bandits, monsters, demons and outside agitators who might fill up the peasants' heads with dangerous ideas about "class consciousness" and "mass popular uprising against the oppressor". They are widely beloved and the subject of many a popular song. A lot of the people at the top are greying accountant types who haven't gotten on a horse in years, if ever, and whose only job is to manage the Grasshoppers' vast investment portfolio - a task which they pursue with all the religious zeal of a younger knight slaying a dragon. They understand perfectly well that their real job is to maintain the feudal-capitalist order, and are absolute fanatical believers in it.

When they go heretical they become Communists, obviously.

artist is kyoung hwan kim
Order of the Lion-And-Lamb

The Church's official position is that all conflict between Christians is caused by demonic sin. The Lion-and-Lambs are militant diplomats, set to mediate between local lords when their disputes threatens to impact spiritual business. They are expert lawyers and judges whose verdicts are broadly pretty fair, and always widely derided as obviously corrupt. Even the people who stand to benefit from them will tend to assume they just got lucky, and the paladin was either bribed by someone else or just stood to benefit from the verdict in some abstract way. Lion-and-Lambs are all seasoned warriors whose lives are guaranteed by the Church, which guarantees the excommunication of anyone who touches them. They have an odd tendency to die by their own hands.

When they go heretical they become Iagos and Machiavellis, bent on using their legal expertise to spark wars and create as much trouble as possible.


Order of the Ox

Intelligence is a fine and sacred thing - as long as it's in the service of the Church. Smart men are no more immune to the temptations of Satan than anyone else, and if left to their own devices they have an unfortunate tendency to start asking the wrong type of question. To be an Ox you have to be a certifiable imbecile. Village idiots, people with actual developmental defects, are ideal, but regular halfwits and simpletons are accepted as long as they're provably incapable of understanding complex ideas.

Their job is to hunt down alchemists, engineers, astrologers, historians, poets and anyone else who thinks being clever lets you get away with upsetting the balance of nature. The Oxes are equipped with heavy clubs and it usually it doesn't take more than a beating to guide their targets back to the righteous path of the Lord. They do, however, have to be given very careful instructions. They wear horned helmets with bells attached and sometimes ride actual oxes. The peasants are generally on their side.

Oxes almost never go heretical - they're simply not able to understand the arguments for it. That's the whole idea. You might, however, see a lost one wandering the wilderness, missing their faith but able to find anything else to replace it with.

couldn't find a real pic so have some dragon ball z

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

d100 encounters in the islands

The setting here is Wind Waker + Miyazaki + Earthsea. Sunny meadows and silent forests, cute villagers and comedy pirates. In my mind this is what's south of Yoon-Suin. Make it into a hexcrawl if you want. Also read this Japanese monster manual from 1776, it's very good.
  1. Giant flying machine frozen in ice. You'll need a giant's stove to melt it and you'll have to clear out all the ice monsters before you can use it.
  2. Forest of looming redwoods, home to serow and giant spiders. Circled by clan of swarthy nomadic loggers, living on massive raft, who want to cut it down but are afraid of spirits.
  3. Inn built into windmill, with famous pumpkin soup. If you can catch all ninety-nine of the yellow butterflies that live in the nearby meadow, the owner will give you a bottle of her Special Soup, which makes you super strong and able to breath underwater for exactly one minute.
  4. Giant mangrove baobab, surrounded by root maze, home to clan of goblin pirates. The tree is carnivorous but slow, and hates the taste of goblins but can't get rid of them.
  5. Smoldering caldera with goblins scraping sulphur from the rim to use in their horrible fireworks. Also home to iguanamen.
  6. Horrible toxic bug forest exuding poisonous wind in all directions. If you can get a single drop of clean water into the spring of venom at the centre, the whole island will be purified.
  7. Big friendly turtle with small village on his back. Scares easily. One villager must be on hand to soothe him at all times, in case he gets spooked by a passing cloud and dives into the sea.
  8. Enormous colony of breeding cormorants that build nest complexes out of their own valuable shit. A hermit who can tell the future lives among the birds.
  9. Clan of hermit crabs who live in skulls and are always looking for bigger ones. At night they scour the bottom of the sea for shipwrecks, and therefore know where a lot of sunken treasure is. Discarded bones everywhere.
  10. Floating casino where you can lose your shirt at snail races, mahjongg or fighting-fish fights. Run by a guy called Lucky Pao who always smiles and is never happy.
  11. Beehive palace of the bug collector, high in the branches of a big dead tree. Will pay you for exotic bugs. Will also hold your family hostage until you get exotic bugs for her. Has a whole root-cellar dungeon full of hostages and bugs.
  12. Big fat dragon who is sad because he can't find a girlfriend. Has landed in the middle of the village and refuses to leave until somebody can satisfactorily explain to him how relationships work. Smells awful.
  13. Atoll of the floating coconut people, who look like hairy little babies and need your help to defend themselves from a tribe of hungry monkeys. Don't have any treasure but will pretend that they do.
  14. Giant shark who lives in a tidepool and is terrified of the open ocean. Very hungry. There's treasure at the bottom of the pool but you need to convince her to leave to get it.
  15. Masked cultists sacrificing people to a volcano. After the ritual they'll take off their masks and invite you to a feast.
  16. Two iguanamen, each surrounded by sacks of trinkets, sitting at opposite ends of a sandbar. One is fat and one is thin. They're both salesmen and will compete with each other to sell you junk at the cheapest possible price.
  17. The tomb of the demon prince who fought the creator goddess at the dawn of time. Surrounded by chanting shrine priestesses whose job is to make sure nothing comes out. They'll let you go in though.
  18. Nest of the golden roc, which is currently away hunting for whales to feed its chicks. The chicks are smarter than you and very curious. They keep a shipwrecked sailor as a pet and defend him from the bugs and goblins who infest the nest.
  19. Wide sandy bay, home to the all-archipelago surfing contest. Winner gets to have tea with the Emperor in his floating palace. Current frontrunner is an ex-pirate named Three-Toe Deng.
  20. Shark farmers. Wooden corrals in the ocean, attached to floating platforms, full of sharks segregated by species and age. Like the setting of the film Deep Blue Sea.
  21. Giant's Causeway hexagonal basalt pillars. Pressing them all in the right order opens a whirlpool in the sea. Jumping into the whirlpool leads you to the secret cave of an ocean giant, who will not be pleased to see you.
  22. Permanent, stationary tornado. Shop on the island in the eye sells luxury goods and powerful potions at very reasonable prices to anyone who can get there.
  23. Ronin marooned on a sandbar, whittling a chunk of driftwood into an exquisite figurine of a courtesan with her katana. Wants revenge on the pirates who left her here.
  24. Crabs whose shells look like the faces of angry samurai. A clan of goblins is smashing and eating them, angering the spirits of the warriors who died in an ancient battle here. Goblins are immune to ghost anger, so they take it out on everyone else.
  25. Fish and chip shop, in boat tethered over coral reef. Owner wants to catch and fry up Goliath, the enormous blue-spotted coral grouper that lurks in the reef's depths.
  26. Village of wrecked ships. Definitely not interested in wrecking more ships so the chief's newlywed daughter can build her own place and finally move out of home.
  27. Dark pool hidden deep in redwood forest. Moth fairy within, big enough to ride, wants a picture of the moon. Remembers it from her youth and misses it dearly. Show her a way to the actual moon and she'd be ecstatic, fly straight there.
  28. Whole island is a mimicking ooze, sending out pseudopod blobs to gather data on you. A nervous pig sits in a rowboat in a sheltered bay, slowly training the island to mimic doubloons.
  29. Treasure hunters in primitive diving gear scouring reef for lost doubloons and overgrown treasure chests. Get very salty if they think you're trespassing on their patch.
  30. Old graveyard overgrown with flowers. Beekeeper tending his hives. Ghosts speak through the bees, helpful if you give them offerings, vicious if you try to take their honey.
  31. Rock arch blesses every third ship that sails through it and curses the other two. Wizard skeleton hanging from it in gibbet. Sailor clinging to nearby shipwreck explains how it works, but isn't sure of exact number of ships that gets blessed, just knows there's a pattern.
  32. Pink salt lake surrounded by rainforest. Super buoyant, enough to float a cannonball. Mud at the bottom of the deepest point is a powerful curative, can regrow lost limbs. Some very relaxed hippies living in lakeside huts.
  33. Blue hole - deep, deep sinkhole surrounded by coral atoll, full of hammerhead sharks, caverns at the bottom that lead to a labyrinth of limestone caves. On moonless nights the kraken emerges, to kidnap attractive people and take them back to its lair.
  34. Bubbling caldera lake. Holes in side of mountain lead to fire-themed minidungeon with goblins, firebats, burning oozes, magma snails and centipedes. Prize is gauntlets that let you pick up fire and carry it around. Taking them reactivates the volcano.
  35. Castaways spit-roasting a dead manatee. The manatee's mate circles the island, singing a song which is so sad that anyone who hears it tries to drown themselves.
  36. Village of giant friendly tortoises that invite you into their homes and slowly entangle you in their passive-aggressive tortoise drama.
  37. Hot springs with prankish monkeys that wait for you to take a bath then steal your stuff, throw rocks at you, etc. Hollow tree somewhere full of stolen loot.
  38. Prison carved out of huge barren rock, home to the archipelago's most dangerous pirates and criminals. Only entrance is big hole in top of rock. Only food source is fish caught from barred windows overlooking sea. No guards. No exit.
  39. Mad scientist and bumbling assistant trying to build a space rocket out of gunpowder and baobab trees. On their seventeenth attempt. Keep a strange glowing anemone thing in a jar and claim it fell from the moon one day.
  40. Scarecrow standing in a wheat field. The family in the nearby cottage is dead. The scarecrow can talk and will tell you to get revenge on some nearby monster - but it's vague on the details of what actually happened. Actually it killed the family itself, out of jealousy and loneliness, and is now in denial.
  41. Floating carnival village where everyone is clowns, firebreathers, jugglers, etc. Mayor is the ringmaster. Crave audiences, since the village is poor and they're much better entertainers than fishermen.
  42. Skeletons playing music - one with a fiddle, one with a flute, one with a drum. They're rehearsing their act, hoping to get good enough that the Emperor will invite them to play at her floating palace. They could use new music and new talented skeletons.
  43. Network of limestone seacaves, flooded at high tide, home to giant sea slug that squeezes through small spaces and secretes corrosive slime. Its flesh is a delicacy to the right consumer.
  44. School of intelligent, friendly, doglike jellyfish that crowd around your boat, demanding that you play with them in piping, childlike voices. Cause agonising pain if touched.
  45. Used-boat salesman, travelling around in big makeshift raft of nine or ten boats tied together. Will buy your boat for a pittance and sell you a slightly better one. Terrified of, and extremely attractive to, pirates.
  46. Elaborate hedge maze, guarded by stomping one-eyed ogres with halberds that follow predictable paths and only attack anything in their direct line of sight. Fairy fountain in centre will permanently increase your health by one point, once.
  47. Ramshackle hotel run by grumpy old tyrant who's bossed around by his shrewish wife, with incompetent foreign waiter who's always getting into scrapes. Variety of colourful customers. Haunted by ghost of maid, murdered by wife out of jealousy.
  48. Village built around sleeping giant. Signs all around telling you not to wake her. Villages move very quietly, hate loud noises. Giant cannot actually be woken by any means.
  49. Village run by children, with all adults permanently asleep in their beds. Children do a pretty good job of administering everything themselves, have stupid theories about why adults won't wake up.
  50. Merchant ship w/cowardly crew hiding in isolated cove from pirates that may or may not actually exist. Merchant who owns the ship wants to move on, since she's losing money every day, but has been overruled by the captain she hired.
  51. Nobles in silk robes fighting a distance duel with hwacha, launching rocket arrows across the narrow channels that separate their islands. The noise is terrifying the native population of talking moles.'
  52. Abandoned castle, falling apart, wooden walls penetrated by cherry-blossom trees. Used as a base by goblin pirates who are constantly on the verge of burning it down, barely kept in check by their captain's authority. Haunted by samurai ghosts. Sea vultures perched on rooftops, flooded basement dungeons infested by crabs.
  53. Huge moai head, blocking the entrance to ground hole that leads to fungus-filled minidungeon. Surrounded by other, smaller moai heads, all looking away from it.
  54. Fleet of fishing canoes. Fishermen eating whitebait alive, competing to see who can swallow the largest squid whole. Sea vultures following in their wake.
  55. Floating noodle shop w/ tame pigs swimming around it. One of the pigs has swum away to take shelter among the palms of a nearby atoll. Must be caught and brought back so it can be made into soup.
  56. Giant oyster with head-sized black pearl in its mouth. Pearl sucks anyone that touches it into a shadowy dungeon zone where they wander through the blackness at the bottom of the sea, fighting formless luminous predators that represent their own doubts. Famous samurai has been trapped within for the last five hundred years.
  57. White-robed noro priestess alone on tiny rock, tending sacred fire that must never be allowed to go out. Has lost her sacred umbrella and is nervous about coming rain.
  58. Ancient formal garden with eroded stone lion statues that come alive if anyone disturbs the vine-shrouded mausoleum they're set to guard. Headstrong yuta shamaness trying to raise the spirit of a buried queen.
  59. Village with communal outhouse mounted over fish pond, haunted by vengeful toilet kami that takes the form of a blind women with a spear and long poisonous hair. Villagers have not been able to take a peaceful shit in days and will give you everything they have if you can make her go away.
  60. Giant paintbrush of the creator goddess, slowly decaying, bristles home to monsters that form from rotting, congealed paint. The few remaining droplets of untainted paint are a valuable reagent that can be used to create new life.
  61. Giant sitting on ocean, submerged up to his shoulders, meditating. Kung-fu monastery on top of his bald head. The monks grow pears in his ears and distill them into potent wine, which they use to practice the drunken-master style.
  62. Whalers herding panicked herd of pilot whales into bay and slaughtering them on beach until the waters run red with blood. Not one whale can be allowed to escape, or it will carry word of the whalers' disrespect back to the ocean goddess and the whole sea will turn against them.
  63. Village of pearl divers locked in mortal feud with village of seaweed gatherers. A travelling merchant has been deliberately stoking drama in order to sell weapons to both sides, and also for fun.
  64. Sugarcane plantation. Fields are infested with goblins. Owner wants to drive them out but is worried that if she pisses the goblins off too much, they'll started a fire.
  65. Elephant-seal colony. Band of ragged sealers camping in the hills. They came here to club and skin the huge white bull that rules the beach, but he's already sunk their boat and killed half their number.
  66. Massive spiky skull-festooned fortress of the goblin pirate queen, built into the side of an extinct volcano, over an elaborate network of magma pits and lava tubes. Any ship coming within a mile gets bombarded by rockets until it sinks or sails away.
  67. Hunters with aconite-poisoned arrows stalking carnivorous cranes through a reedy salt marsh. They need the crane's feathers to become full members of their tribe.
  68. Monstrous bear, injured by a spear, too ill to move and mourning the loss of her cub, which was taken as a present for the Emperor and is currently being held offshore in the trophy-filled boat of the world's best huntress. You get the bear's blessing if you bring the cub back.
  69. Noro priestesses holding an extravagant funeral for a beached whale, with drinking and dancing and feasting and eulogies praising the whale's many virtues. A spy from a rival temple is plotting to sabotage the ceremony.
  70. Old woman living in tower above seacave that's home to a vast colony of bats, which swarm out every evening to feed on nightfish. She's trained the bats to deliver messages and can send a small object anywhere in the islands, for a price. Goblins keep trying to steal her bats and tie bombs to them.
  71. Huge hollow banyan tree inhabited by shy kodamas and a potion-brewing witch, who throws bottle bombs down on you if she thinks you're likely to disturb the kodamas' peace. Can only be climbed from the inside. The witch needs children's teeth and rare fishscales for her potions. She is terrified of octopi.
  72. Scared old man in hillside shack festooned with clamshell amulets. The east-facing wall of the shack is fortified with dozens of runes and seals. The old man has offended the spirit of the east wind, by stealing her magic boots, and is terrified of revenge. The boots are buried below the shack's floorboards.
  73. Shadow puppeteers on the beach, putting on a show for an audience of no-one. One of the shadows has come alive and is commanding the puppeteers to make it dance, fuck, perform heroic deeds, etc. If they stop playing it will suck out their souls and leave them frozen corpses.
  74. Village with a canal running through it, from one side of the island to the other, where dragon boat races are being staged. One of the boats is a clear favourite, but its drummer has been poisoned and is too sick to beat time for the oars.
  75. Village celebrating the Hungry Ghost Festival. The lion dancer going from door to door is actually a ghost and if you don't give it food it will eat you. All the other festival shit is on the level though.
  76. Vents of white smoke that age anyone exposed to them. Wrecked boat. Old man running away from angry naked teenager with the morality of a toddler.
  77. Stand of bamboo. Rock-throwing war between two rival tribes of tanuki over who has the biggest, bounciest testicles. If you show them your tiny testicles they'll be united in laughter and forget their differences.
  78. Fox caught in a trap, pretending to be a priest that was turned into a fox by an ogre's curse. If you let it go it'll ask you to help it lift the curse, lead you somewhere dangerous, wait for you to die and eat you.
  79. Tiny samurai - needle for a sword, straw for a scabbard, bowl and chopstick for boat and paddle. Floating around in a pond looking for a giant to kill.
  80. Cheerful tanuki running an inn, secretly chopping up guests and making them into delicious noodle soup. Owns a magical hammer that grants one wish to anything you hit really hard with it.
  81. Cave of the fetus-eating witch and her baby, who is huge and red and hairy and strong and cries all the time. The witch only eats fetuses because she's been made cranky by the crying - it's like chocolate to her.
  82. Maze of wrecked ships shrouded in permanent fog, in which the webs of the spiders that live inside the ships are almost impossible to see. Only the screech of a goblin trapped up in the rigging alerts you to the danger.
  83. Village where it constantly rains, cursed by an umbrella salesman and the one-eyed hopping demon umbrella that controls him. The crops are rotting and everyone is miserable.
  84. Fleet of fishing boats plagued by an ingenious sea scorpion that destroys their nets and creeps aboard at night to snip the heads off sailors with its claws. Don't want to return to a hungry village empty-handed.
  85. Stone temple, ruined and worn away down to the foundations. Cats everywhere. One of the cats has nine tails and is the key to the big stone door, if you can catch it.
  86. Figure in a broad hat and cloak of dirty straw whose enormously long arms are covered in eyes. Offers you secrets to lure you closer, then plucks away your valuables and bounds off through the trees. If you don't have anything valuable it will steal your bones.
  87. Mysterious flames that resolve into a ghost ship when you get closer. Ship seems abandoned but that's only to lure you aboard so the ghosts can get on your ship and sail off with it.
  88. Horrible gelatinous serpents that crawl all over your ship for hours, bleeding heavy oil that will sink you unless it's constantly bailed out. Almost impossible to hurt. Don't like salt though.
  89. Giant headless skeleton wading through the sea, looking for its lost skull. You will hear its cry - "HAVE YOU FOUND MY SKULL?" - before you see it.
  90. Tree with cyclops heads for fruit. You can suck out the eyes of the heads like they were raw oysters and they will give you confusing visions of the future, if you can keep them down. Cooking them makes them delicious but destroys their powers.
  91. Giant floating peach, hollowed out and made into a pirate ship by children. The children are deadly serious about being pirates and will absolutely try to kill you, though they're not very competent.
  92. Luxury bathhouse built into side of mountain, over system of hot springs. Has been taken over by a huge hairy stinking ogre who lolls in the biggest pool, demanding more sake from the terrified staff. She wants to get clean enough to marry the Emperor
  93. Dog buried up to its neck in the earth, surrounded by filthy people behaving like dogs. Anyone it bites becomes possessed by a dog spirit and is forced to join its pack. At night it comes off and flies around with burning eyes, biting people.
  94. Creepy bald man with a cane that approaches you across calm seas, walking on top of the water. Asks for a bucket, then uses the bucket to throw water in the boat until it sinks. The only way to escape without incurring his wrath is to give it a bucket with a hole in it and sail off while he's confused.
  95. Abandoned trading town that's overrun by hungry rats. The biggest mansion in town is now home to an iron-toothed ghoul, the spirit of a beggar woman who starved to death in the main square while rich merchants passed by and laughed. Put her to rest and the rats go away.
  96. Lumbering blob of flabby, faceless flesh with stumpy arms and legs, cast away on a raft by traders who discovered it stowed away in the hold. Stinks like death. Harmless, just wants a friend.
  97. Tired-looking woman who asks you to hold her baby so she can get some rest. If you take it, the baby becomes incredibly heavy and impossible to let go of. Then a sea monster with the head of a bull, the teeth of a shark and the body of a spider crab comes out of the water and eats you. Also the woman has a snake's lower body and is hiding it beneath her robes.
  98. A swarm of floating lanterns that eat bugs and imitate human voices. Hang just out of reach, making fun of you and refusing to let you sleep until you get them some delicious bugs.
  99. The red-coral palace of a sea dragon. He's served by jellyfish, he owns jewels that control the tides, he's a gracious host who can take human form at will and in each wing of his palace it's a different season. It's rumoured among his guests that the secret fifth season, Gosper, is being kept prisoner in his basement.
  100. The floating palace of Emperor Jingu, surrounded by the boats of petitioners. Some of them have waiting years to get through all the formalities necessary for an imperial visit, and a whole urban economy has sprung up around them. The Emperor is of course just a puppet controlled by the shogun, who no-one ever sees, and who is rumoured to be a hundred-year-old goldfish that lives in a small glass jar.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

alternate universe spidermans

while this list could technically be used with any superhero the authors strongly urge you to only do spidermans

art by james stokoe