Friday, 21 September 2018

homunculi pt. 2

you can have your homunculus look like anything you want it to but broadly each type varies between two extremes of form and function, depending on what pieces of your mind you put into it

scraps - hair and skin
excreta - shit and piss
meat - muscle and tendon
blood - vein and scab
bone - cartilage and bone
seed - cum and menses

id (cha) ego (int)superego (wis)
scrapsbroken-backed mice of twisted hair, devolving into redwall-esque, prop-twirling pantomime
wishes to flourish and wither, be the centre of attention
no sense of self, a projection of the group unconscious
performative pretenses of humanity; a potemkin being, the facile skin of humanity
unserious, unfocused, fickle, mercurial
doesn't want to do what you say, wants to do what you do
like huge hung sheets of dusty skin enshrining a muddy heart of phlegm
wants to imitate, conform, tidy, make neat and uniform
self-conscious, terrified of attention, freezes or flees when watched
excretaa sluggish bulk of crusty shit, leaching entropic miasma into the ground
is anal-expulsive; spreading, infecting, engulfing
obsessive-compulsive, counting, touching, pacing
anally fixated; obsessed with their interaction with the world, with boundaries and transgression
hyper-focused, childish, archaean efforts to understand, categorise
bile homunculi are more often still in the oral stage, having a desire to eat their way back into the mouth/womb
three score writhing white worms wheezing urea breath from scrunched baby faces
is anal-retentive; refining, isolating, dividing
obsessive compulsively sorts objects, chemicals extracted from objects
meata squat red ape, its head a twisted tongue furred with probing fibrillae
compelled to act; push boulders up mountains, flail until it tears
spasmic motion, self mutilation, mutual annihilation
uses the world as a means to test themself; a sword that's lodged in them is their sword now
pigheaded, quick to anger, wants to solve every problem directly and with force, but understands leverage better than you expected
can never lower the stakes
a fat wad of gristle, ten tendon arms grasping for a hostage, a bomb
only feels secure in the tensest situations; wants to drive things faster, be the only one that can hold on
hypochondriac panic, hysteria, overreaction
blooda lurching anemone of veins and nerves, of pulsing, tumbling, burrowing gait
obsessive exploration, intermingling, a junkie craving for new sensation
of exploration of the outside world, the ego learning to mediate between id and superego
driven, persistent, slow to learn, with the passive thirst of a paper towel
will happily bleed resources away trying the same thing over and over
flat, territorial scabs on the library wall, with white-celled spurs that melt flesh
compelled to clot, seal, hide, hoard
agoraphobic, xenophobic, fears of the unknown
bloata dozen little hogmen, greedy barbarians wrought from a fistful of tallow and a smear of blood
ever chewing, swallowing, absorbing, compulsively gorging
no impulse control, cannot overcome need to eat
terrified by the sensation of time passing, a first fumbling fear of mortality
passionate, melancholy, melodramatic
desperately wants to maximise its lived experience, inevitably drives itself to either swift chaotic death or interminable monotonous starvation 
a still pool of liquid fat, ready to pull you in and set hard around you, while it tries to work out what to do
hibernates, over-thinks, over-plans, wallows in paranoia
cannot parse rapid change, crippled by decision paralysis
bonea mouth-up manta of cartilage, like an ear, puckering to an agile, intelligent tail
flexible, good at adapting its approach, but not its goal
can improvise but struggles to learn
an awareness of past and future, a need to perform better next time
calculating, focused, narrow-minded
tries to optimise performance, flexible enough to adapt, as solid as it can be without shattering
a puzzlebox of tooth-edged knuckles, mind and body splintering into yet more lethal geometries
precision, efficiency, refinement, competition
can learn but not improvise
seedan oedipus; fixated on killing the father-mother and impregnating their body to fuel a glorious biogenesis
instinct driven to multiply, fuck, breed, become legion
the phallic stage; the cusp of psychosexual development, self-determination
complete but not final, not yet perfect
direct, prideful, predatory
an elektra; fixated on killing the mother-father and using their seed to construct another, more perfect homunculus
obsessed with martyrdom, survival of the fittest, anhedonic sex, lustless procreation

and for your troubles, some Patricia Piccinini

jesus christ fucking freud man
some of those wikipedia pages were pretty hard to get through

penis envy? fuck you man
(u 2 jung)
i'll show u something to be envious of
(the above hog)

Thursday, 20 September 2018

homunculi pt. 1

Homunculi are matter made to think it is human. Without stem cells, this is mostly eerie golemesque simulacra - little balls of hair with looping mouths and eyes that serve no real purpose; bubbling, dribbling people of almost-flesh that dissolve into piss when you cut them through There are four orders of homunculi, as follows:

maybe it'd look less creepy with a perm?

Scrapthings and Scrapelings
A knot of hair, a drop of spit, a carefully folded fingernail. Any part of you will do, really. Obedient but with little intellect; a microcosm, a parody of the real self. Often pretty cute, like the dust sprites in Ghibli, scurrying around carrying tiny letters or eavesdropping on your enemies. Sometimes massive; a ghostly heap of transparent skin flakes or a clawing tumbleweed of frizzy hair
It's easy to make enormous shitsacks without ever murdering anyone, but they have a stunted, primordial intellect; gut flora trying to replicate human intelligence.
Piss makes things even stupider though - almost no actual human dna in there, just ghost impressions from their time passing through you. Least comprehensible, incapable of performing complex tasks, heaving breaths of burning alkali
A favoured party trick is to grab the saliva from the tip of your tongue and drag up by that thread all the contents of your stomach; a wriggling babyform of acid and bile that screams and wails and tries to crawl back down the nearest throat

okay who put teeth in the shit golem
not funny guys

when bae give you that look like
"i'm gonna burrow veins into you like roots in soft soil"
Bone, Blood and Bloat
The first time you'll be able to craft independently intelligent servants. You probably shouldn't though. Whatever fraction of their form is directly from you is the fraction of your intellect they may develop. The smarter they are the more of a cunt they become, the more likely to stab you in the back
  • Bloodbags are most common, being easiest for a lone practitioner to harvest. They tend to be persistent, but learn slowly
  • Meatwads you can make out of only a few corpses. Maybe a pig if you're desperate. Prone to brutish anger
  • Fatstacks are often found in whaling ports, though adipose tissue is easy to grow if you've got an appetite. They tend to melancholy
  • Skeltal Men, requiring bone marrow, are most rare. They are dense with sense of self, craving cruelty and competition

True Homunculi
Made out of eggs/sperm/uterine lining, they look like a younger, hotter you, and have one of the below traits:
(based on highest stat? i leave it 2 u decide ur destiny)
  1. Magic. Alter self, acid splash, cause mutation, etc, at will (int)
  2. Psychic. Levitating, throwing things around. Maniacal laughter collapses into agonised sobs (wis)
  3. Supernatural beauty and charm. Evident insanity doesn't stop you wanting to do what they say (cha)
  4. Perfect form. +4 to all stats, +4 bonus to everything (dex)
  5. Cancerous. Prone to the whole 'Akira flesh beast' thing, they are only mostly in control (str)
  6. Immortal. Not actually immortal, but they heal all damage they take the next round (con)
If you can mix your own eggs with your own sperm, they get all of the above and probably inspire an inquisition

mother's milk is red today

Whatever you make them out of, at least 1% of a homunculus' volume must be from the caster (often just a drop of blood), or 10% if you want to actually control them. You can mix and match ingredients, with the majority of their form deciding their powers and a small bonus for including more powerful components. Usually you'll use this to, say, build a bone homunculus out of a couple of still-living victims and a pint or two of your own blood, rather than using your own skeleton

You need at least 30kg of matter for a 1HD, medium-sized homunculus, an eighth as much for something small, or eight times as much for something large, etc. Chances are the first True Homunculus you make will be a perfect, post-human brain genius, and also 2 inches tall. For reference, a human body is around 30% meat, 25% fat, 15% bones, 7% blood. Your hair weighs about a quarter kilo, you excrete about a kilo of piss, and one of poop, each day. An ejaculation weighs about 15g so you have to cum like 2000 times to make a 1HD True Homunculus. Seems about right. The average discharge of menstrual fluid is 35g, so you're going to have to fuck with your cycle to make any real progress there either.

For those looking to really play god, there're always teratomas. Constructed from entire ovaries/testicles, these are a mass of cells that, not knowing what to grow into, try to grow into everything. They will expand when fed almost anything biologically adjacent, but blood works best. Preferably your own, to keep things stable. Your baby teratoma will develop fluid-filled cysts as it grows, and if a large cyst occurs there is potential for the production of a fetus. Keeping a teratoma in the sweet spot is difficult. If poorly fed - too varied a diet, too much of someone else's blood, too hot, too cold, etc - its cysts will spawn merely flawed mutants and fleshbeasts, creatures more readily obtained by other means. If overfed, allowed access to a water supply or charnel house perhaps, the teratoma is likely to go full katamari, rolling around squelching up cows and spitting out hiveminded homunculi.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

rooms in dracula's castle

The pitch is - it's 1907. Dracula has been dead for ten years. The powers of Europe anticipate war, and have been scouring the global for occult advantages against their foes. Scavengers of every nation descend on Dracula's decaying castle, intending to sell whatever they find to the highest bidder. Curiously, all the inhabitants seem to think he's still alive.
  1. Bathroom. Big tubs of steaming blood, taps labelled with all the different varieties.
  2. Aviary. Glass dome containing a dark forest and a hundred species of bat.
  3. Apiary. Like the inside of a cathedral, with blood-red honeycombs everywhere.
  4. Library. Grimoires, bestiaries, forbidden histories, homunculi attendants that hate sound.
  5. Kitchens. The world's finest chefs labouring under the instructions of a stupid goblin.
  6. Gallery. Lost paintings by the world's finest artists, all depicting sexy werewolves.
  7. Ballcourt. Teams of Aztec mummies playing the Mesoamerican ballgame.
  8. Conservatory. Slice of the Amazon, with piranhas and lost conquistadors.
  9. Hospital. Jain doctors slavishly tending to the injuries of the castle's rats and mosquitoes.
  10. Wat. Red-robed monks bringing offerings to a giant fanged Buddha statue.
  11. Lake. Pipe organ on island in flooded cave. Dracula is teaching the giant squid to play it.
  12. Opera house. Bloody tragedies and farces being played out for an audience of skeletons.
  13. Seraglio. Fat eunuchs guarding the chambers of rotting, perfumed corpses.
  14. Mirror maze. Midgets in costumes pretending to be your distorted reflection.
  15. Big top. Evil clowns with acid pies playing out a horrible show for skeleton punters.
  16. Distillery. Homunculi brewing up the most delicious blood-based liqueurs.
  17. Saloon. Cowboys drinking shots of snake venom, using the Holy Grail as a spittoon.
  18. Clock tower. Huge grinding gears, flocks of bats, slaves turning wheels to make it all go.
  19. Wax museum. Models of history's greatest villains that come alive when you're not looking.
  20. Forum. Toga-clad philosophers debating the big questions - is God real, is Dracula real, etc.
  21. Lecture hall. A branch of the Scholomance, with the Devil teaching magic to wizards.
  22. Space portal. Guys in brass Victorian diving-suits exploring the toxic surface of Venus.
  23. Vault. Full of talking coins that have complex internal politics, want you to steal their rivals.
  24. Trophy room. Taxidermied animals bragging about how brave the guy who killed them is.
  25. Aquarium. Reef of black coral in a big tank full of blood and happy sharks.
  26. Banquet hall. Ghosts trapped at an endless dinner party, can't leave unless you take their place.
  27. Ballroom. Waltzing jewel-clad skeletons that attack if you disturb their dancing.
  28. Armory. Suits of plate armour endlessly re-enacting the wars fought by their medieval owners.
  29. Blood cellar. Old bottles of priceless vintage blood, guarded by living dust.
  30. Laboratory. Lightning rods and vats of bubbling chemicals, homunculi reanimating corpses.
  31. Archery range. Targets are bleeding naked youths who get off on being penetrated.
  32. Wardrobe. Endless racks of fur coats and ballgowns, infested by swarms of devouring moths.
  33. Stables. Skeleton grooms tending to flesh-eating horses, enslaved heroes cleaning up shit.
  34. Racetrack. Flesh-eating horses chasing terrified jockeys, skeleton bookies taking bets.
  35. Root cellar. Shelves lined with jars of delicious blood pickles, black pudding and clot jam.
  36. Meat locker. Subzero temps. People hanging from hooks, alive but frozen into comas.
  37. Solarium. Glass windows flood the room with sunlight. Only there for ironic purposes.
  38. Kennels. Frightened peasants looking after baying hellhounds and fancy bloodstained poodles.
  39. Torture chamber. Every possible instrument of pain, kept in pristine condition and never used.
  40. Dungeon. Prisoners moaning in oubliettes, some saints and some hideous criminals.
  41. Chapel. Devoted to the Devil, with inverted cross and booths where you confess good deeds.
  42. Games room. Giant chessboard with people as pieces, each square hiding a trapdoor.'
  43. Nursery. Full of creepy cobwebbed dolls and ageless children who want to play forever.
  44. Anatomical theatre. Skeleton doctors eagerly vivisecting somebody you know.
  45. Anechoic chamber. Totally soundless room used to madden prisoners. Holds a vampire hunter.
  46. Cistern. Dark pillared vault full of blood, with hungry eels dwelling below the surface.
  47. Psychomanteum. Chair set up before a dark mirror through which you can speak to the dead.
  48. Arena. Captured slaves of Dracula fighting animals, monsters, skeletons and each other.
  49. Courtroom. Skeleton judge and hulking bailiffs eager to prosecute anyone who walks in.
  50. Feast hall. Vikings who think they're in Valhalla, drinking and roasting meat over fire pits.
  51. Furnace room. Sweating fat guys stoking a fire with the bodies of screaming children.
  52. Observatory. Astronomers with big brass telescopes spying on the secret stars.
  53. Grain silo. Sea of grain crossed by catwalks. Suffocated grain mummies trying to pull you in.
  54. Brain silo. Frozen brains on racks and fresh brains in vats, stirred by homunculi with spoons.
  55. Train station. Crowds of commuters waiting in dead silence for the next locomotive to Hell.
  56. Sauna. Gets hotter every minute you're in there. Labyrinthine. Full of boiled zombies.
  57. Opium den. Crammed with romantic poets. Attendants bring you anything you ask for.
  58. Gentlemen's club. Portly boring men who want you to stay and chat with them forever.
  59. Smoking-room. Kings of Hell in velvet armchairs smoking poisonous cigars.
  60. Monastery. Reverse Trappists, sworn to decadence and never ever shutting the fuck up.
  61. Hotel. Bellboy homunculi sworn to fulfil the guests' every esoteric demand.
  62. Skating rink. A plain of frozen blood. Pale dancers in feathery costumes rehearsing routines.
  63. Laundry. Homunculi using steam and iron to get every spot out of capes and waistcoats.
  64. Bakery. Huge ovens that smell so good you're compelled to try to get inside them.
  65. Mithraeum. Maenads sacrificing a white bull and indulging in cannibal bacchanalia.
  66. Ravine. Rickety rope bridge across a howling bottomless chasm. Bats attack crossers.
  67. Dumbwaiter. Child-sized elevator that offers a cramped shortcut between rooms.
  68. Spiral staircase. Gets hotter and hotter the further down you go. No apparent end.
  69. Sealed bedroom. Imprisons a bride of Dracula, who whispers secrets through the stones.
  70. Rattery. A tiny town built by and for rats, with rat mayor and rat parliament.
  71. Arboretum. A forest of exotic trees, some carnivorous and others home to dryads.
  72. Rappaccinium. Garden of poisonous plants, tended by sexy poisonous people.
  73. Hedge maze. Stalked by topiaries - thorn-toothed wolves and flower-breathing dragons.
  74. Chinese garden. Homunculi with gardening shears that kill you if you damage the feng shui.
  75. Sewers. Sparkling clean, as Dracula does not shit. Full of rats and blind alligators.
  76. Pharaoh's tomb. Hieroglyphs, scarab beetles and a mummy that curses all interlopers.
  77. Menagerie. Decayed iron cages. Monkeys, leopards and peacocks wandering the garden.
  78. Surgery. Tables with straps, needles, scalpels and mad doctors competing for space.
  79. Pigsty. Huge fat black hogs wallowing in scab-coloured mud. Will eat literally anything.
  80. Abattoir. Butchers in leather aprons humanely and painlessly exsanguinating peasants.
  81. Pub. Full of grouchy fat troglodytes who never sleep, leave or sober up. Skeleton barman.
  82. Asylum. Deranged orderlies administering drugs and shock therapy to sane-seeming patients.
  83. Sanatorium. Beds full of consumptives who never get better or die, tended by creepy nurses.
  84. Iron foundry. Badly-burned men with huge hammers getting sloppy with molten metal.
  85. Hangar. Homunculi mechanics working on experimental aircraft, terrified of gremlins.
  86. Barracks. A regiment of skeletons in uniform, lying perfectly still in rows of bunk beds.
  87. Ossuary. Bones made into furniture, mosaics, chandeliers, lovingly cared for by skeletons.
  88. Lighthouse. Torch shining out over a vast black sea, sometimes illuminating monsters.
  89. Submarine dock. Skeleton crew tending to a big brass barnacled Victorian submersible.
  90. Gambling den. Smoky room with skeleton croupiers, punters wagering their souls at dice.
  91. Beach resort. Pebbled beach at edge of underground sea. Pier with carnival games.
  92. Generator room. Steam engines boiling blood to produce evil, sapient electricity.
  93. Tree house. Rickety shack caught in a huge oak's branches. Squirrels and ghost children.
  94. Ice cave. Glacier-walled cavern, home to a family of grumpy yetis and their fleas.
  95. Midden. Cavern full of garbage with ragpickers setting up their own microsociety.
  96. Swimming pool. Hairless guys in rubber caps doing laps in Olympic-sized pool of blood.
  97. Dojo. Guys in black pajamas practicing their ninjutsu against an array of lethal deathtraps.
  98. Portrait hall. Talking portraits of famous people, their spirits eager to possess a human body.
  99. Diamond mine. Slaves hacking valuable jewels out of the walls, driven by skeleton overseers.
  100. Throne room. If you sit in the big black batwinged throne, you become Dracula.

Friday, 7 September 2018

dracula's castle generator

quick and dirty generator for most of the stuff you'll find in dracula's castle
we'll follow this up with more comprehensive room descriptions, at least. maybe some more npcs?

Room Minion Monster Mark
1 ballroomigs
lil babbie igors
all stitches and squeals
communal ooze
has average personality of all brains it's currently digesting
vampire 101 all drinkin' blood and shit
2gardenbottled steam
wheeze, bump into each other
periodic refills
intelligent fungus
can control bugs
is working on small mammals
can climb walls, sleep comfortably upside down
all sizes
all colours
dump live meat into it and it gets bigger, muskier
flying is more exhausting than you'd care to admit
4 surgerygoblin
more sizes
more colours
failed attempt at curing lycanthropy
yearns for release, afraid to die
staring people down makes them weak willed, suggestible
5 labjunklings
garbage robots that don't make sense
some strong Hal 9000 vibes
oh shit the whole castle is alive
you can hear heartbeats, subtext, secrets, lies, people sneaking up behind you
6 throneroom harpies
barbed tongues
rhyme at you spitefully
maddened clone
naked, bloodied, scared shitless
hang on wait - what if they're... the original??!
a luxurious mane swells about you
step back into it and vanish into the shadows
7 aviaryhomunculi
split apart and recombine like smooshed playdoh
fake angel
don't question their legitimacy
way chiller than real angels, though
turn up in people's dreams, insert your own weird symbology
8 observatoryliving shadows
giggle and chitter
scared of you
chained alien
might just let you handle this one?
shed your form; turn into bats or mist or a sxc jaguar
9 chapelgargoyles
fake sluggishness when you're watching
pure, soulful eyes
listens intently, believes you, trusts you
better range than aretha franklin
animals are inclined to do what you say
10 wine cellarbad golems
always dried out or too soggy to hold together
shrug a lot
quickened stone
speaks through statues
picky eater
taste spilt blood like a shark
5" long prehensile tongue
11 dungeongrubsacks
sack full of grubs
indecision tears them apart
corpse bride
melodramatically melancholy
'my, what lovely eyes you have'
regenerate rapidly, unless afflicted by garlic, fire, sunlight, etc
12 wunderkammerchildren
fucking love this place
exceedingly precocious
pagan god
trapped in its idol
seems pretty likeable, actually
people around you become more passionate, prone to violence and sex
13 dining roomfarm animals
dressed as waiters
humourously bad at their job
haunted liqour
channel its spirit by imbibing its spirits
totally a pirate
gain perfect recall, start dreaming the lives of your ancestors, sire and grandsires
14 opera housewax dummies
imitations of famous people
obsessed with their own histories
skeleton beethoven
wait its napoleon now?
oh right it just depends on the wig
can summon storms, figurative and literal
15 armouryanimated armour
hold racist grudges against the armour they fought against in The War
wizened shifu
wrinkly, know-it-all smile
super old, super good at kung fu
you are always present as a mild psychic throbbing in the subconscious of those around you
16 trophy roomheadless animals
wax seals on the stumps
can still tell when they're looking at you
offers cosmetic surgery, taxedermy
snarky, catty
draws vermin to you
causes rot, rust, ruin when you're in a bad mood
17 vaultancient coins
have the personalities of the faces on them
strict hierarchy based on exchange rate
asthmatic dragon
soft-skinned, albino, pedantic bureaucrat
trying, failing to help
anti-coagulant, paralytic saliva
causes fever, delirium if ingested
18 iceboxcrystallised ghosts
throw snowballs, play pranks
snuggle up to keep you warm. it does not help
writes forlorn poems
incredibly calming influence
you are captivating
anyone thinking about you is caught up in a glamour, cannot perceive evil or their impending doom
19 librarybookbats
flap about smugly, scattering pages like pigeon feathers
book wyrm
like a 30ft earthworm
reads, converses using digestive tract 
carry an air of royalty, have the immediate respect of anyone you meet
20 bedroombatboys
skittish, emaciated
make no effort to hide the hunger in their eyes
"dracula? never heard of him"
actually a dracula impersonator
become undead, completely immoral and a hopeless romantic

"i not know dis dracula. he sound like pretty crazy guy"

Wednesday, 5 September 2018


The year is 2018. The future predicted by 80s action films has come to pass. Murder rates have gone up every year since '81 and the East Coast megatropolis that stretches from Portland, Maine to Norfolk, Virginia is a nation unto itself - Murder City, a brutal concrete jungle where nothing is sacred but violence and the only authority is the gun. Even the capital has fallen. The White House is now a crack house, the Washington Monument is covered with graffiti and the legendary ganglord Profezr Skul N Bonez has declared himself the leader of his New United States of Crime.

The current President, real-estate magnate Donald Trump, lives in a fortified penthouse in Vegas and leaves most of the actual decisions up to his vice-president, the military supercomputer MAX. He's supposed to be just a figurehead... but he's the only man who knows MAX's override codes. When his plane goes down over the former District of Columbia, on its way to a peace summit with the Soviets, MAX goes haywire and begins to threaten global war. It has direct access to America's entire nuclear arsenal and in just seventy-two hours it intends to wipe Moscow and Red Peking off the map. The Communists will have no choice but to respond with force.

Rescuing Donald Trump will not be easy. Skul N Bonez is convening his first Criminal Congress, and every gang in Murder City has sent their elected squadron of heavily-armed delegates. The streets are already battlefields and the President could be anywhere. The military is helpless. Only a small, covert squad of loveable rogues and elite tier-one operators stands any chance of getting him out alive and saving the world.

Can you do it?

Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President?

  1. Zombi Disciples. Militant voodoo practitioners who go into battle possessed by loa. Skul N Bonez is their leader and they believe him to be possessed by Papa Ghede.
  2. SKUM - the Society for Killing Ugly Men. Radical feminists on rollerblades, wielding tomahawks and machetes, on the hunt for male scalps.
  3. Da Muscle Machine. Six or seven greasers crammed into a muscle car, blasting rockabilly music, brandishing monkey wrenches and baseball bats.
  4. Red Faktion. Cryptic student Leninists who communicate only through explosions and  performance art. Use a lot of face paint.
  5. Hari Shiva. A procession of orange-robed chanters dragging a huge iron chariot festooned with the skulls of people they've sacrificed to the god of death.
  6. Pinball Wizards. LARPers and arcade fanatics in Renfaire costumes, with real axes and swords. Their leaders shoot lightning from Tesla-coil wizard staffs.
  7. The NYPD. Armed with tear gas and shotguns. Following the broken-windows theory, they're determined to crack down on low-level crimes like walking, talking and breathing.
  8. Morlocks. Deformed cannibal hoboes, clad in rags and filth, who lurk in the sewers and fear light. They attack from below, coming up through manholes and rotten floors.
  9. Skin Ratz. Obsessed with body modification - pierced, tattooed and scarred until they no longer look human. Armed with flechette guns and barbed-wire whips.
  10. Trashers. A secret fraternity of garbagemen in hazmat suits who command rats with special pipes and make their enemies vanish into the backs of their trucks.
  11. OrthodoXXX. Hasidic Jews with razorblades in the brims of their black hats. They lobotomise their strongest enemies, shoot them up with growth hormone and make them into slave-golems.
  12. Ghost Dragon Tong. Spiky-haired kung fu kids in bomber jackets with dragons stitched on the back, carrying handguns and nunchuks, escorting a Fu Manchu type.
  13. Black Emperors. A clan of bosozoku bikers with Rising Sun headbands and authentic Nipponese katanas. Can cut your head off without slowing down.
  14. Sumiyoshi-Kai. Tattooed yakuza with missing fingers, honour-bound to kill anyone who insults them. Famous for their love of American baseball.
  15. The Bratva. Enormous Slavic guys festooned with gold chains, equipped with surplus Red Army experimental weaponry they get from contacts in the USSR.
  16. Los Caballeros. A Mexican biker gang whose members wear scrap-metal plate armour and see themselves as noble Christian defenders of the innocent.
  17. Mosque of Moorish Science. Unorthodox Muslims who believe the white race was created by evil scientists in a lab. Ride horses and dress like Tuaregs, with scimitars and AK47s.
  18. Sanguinem Filiorum. Black-clad, death-pale Goths with daggers and makeshift crossbows who drink the blood of their victims in the belief it will make them into vampires.
  19. Dixie Kings. White supremacists who brew meth in the back of their flag-festooned pickup trucks and are constantly blowing themselves up.
  20. Meatsters. Hairy-chested union boys who tote sledgehammers and drive around in armoured steamrollers, leaving a snail trail of blood. Also bulldozers.
  21. Samoan Brotherhood. Burly Islander guys, big on tattooes and weightlifting, who like to challenge anyone they meet to a bare-knuckle fight.
  22. Cosa Nostra. A phalanx of button men in clean suits and fedoras, equipped with old-fashioned tommy guns, escorting a very fat man who's being carried in a sedan chair.
  23. Patriots. A football team turned guerrilla squad, armoured with shoulder pads and helmets, throwing ball-shaped grenades.
  24. Urchins. Cannibal children who get eaten by their younger comrades on their thirteenth birthdays. Carry knives and lay deadly traps for adults.
  25. Sharkies. A crew of fishmongers in heavy leather aprons smeared with guts, equipped with cleavers and big iron hooks. You smell them before you see them.
  26. Kingdom 69. Fur-coated pimps in Cadillacs who'll kill you for your clothes, with sword-canes and gold-plated guns. Probably not actual pimps.
  27. Spartans. Dressed as gladiators, with spears, shields, nets, loincloths, full-face helmets and trained lions freed from zoos. Do not understand the different between Sparta and Rome.
  28. Rovers. Extremely proud of their Irish heritage. Wear green. Falsely believe they are naturally lucky and take stupid risks because of it.
  29. Pinheads. Punks with mohawks, metal teeth, safety pins stuck through their ears and baseball bats with nails in. Have no chiefs, worship anarchy, impale politicians on spikes.
  30. Disco Lizards. Psychotics in blood-stained jumpsuits with knives in their afros and exploding hand-held mirror balls that spray shards of broken glass everywhere.
  31. Big Nut Posse. Rastafarian outlaws who cruise around in monster trucks, blasting reggae, and go from chilled-out to rabid lunacy at the drop of a hat.
  32. Jaguars. Feather-clad warriors with razor-studded clubs who want to capture you alive so they can carve out your heart and offer it up to their god. They also like basketball.
  33. Black Illuminati. Creeps in golden robes who claim to secretly control the entire universe. Their leaders wear pyramids on their heads.
  34. Sentinels. Guys in camo and war paint who model themselves after what they think the Green Berets are supposed to be like. Use garbled military language and talk about freedom a lot.
  35. Los Muertos. Believe they're already dead and trapped in Hell. Faces are permanently tattooed to look like calaveras.
  36. Kobra Krew. Pentecostals who prove their loyalty to the gang and the faith in the Holy Ghost by handling live snakes. Often missing fingers.
  37. People's Army. Essentially the Viet Cong. Masters of trap and ambush, with punji sticks, explosive booby traps and labyrinthine tunnel complexes.
  38. Outlaws. Wild West cowboys with hats and six-shooters. Massively overconfident, sure they're the heroes of every situation. Ride around on horseback.
  39. Teutonic Order. Leather-clad SS cosplayers, tattooed all over with mystic pagan runes. Refuse to use anything but authenticated Nazi weaponry, which is always too old to work.
  40. BLVDKVLT. Flamboyant Satanists in full-face makeup who bite the heads off bats and compete to see who can be the most performatively shocking.
  41. Babushkas. Hardbitten Russian grandmothers in headscarves whose legions of loyal daughters will tear you limb from limb with iron fingernails.
  42. Elves. Eco-anarchists with stone tools who plant seeds everywhere they go. Accompanied by half-tame predators liberated from zoos. Cut their ears into points.
  43. Stokers. Former firefighters who've become pyromaniacs, spraying flame from the hoses of converted firetrucks and plotting to burn all of Murder City to the ground.
  44. Grin and Tonic. A violent improv troupe who subject you to a fate worse than death by kidnapping you and making you watch their idiot sketches.
  45. Lanyards. Enlightened centrists in white shirts who have a plan to fix all of Murder City's problems with logic and reason, after they've killed all the radicals.
  46. Elohim. Alien sex cultists in tinfoil hats who claim to be abducted by UFOs on a regular basis. No-one knows where they get their weird energy guns.
  47. Squeakies. Drugged-out hippies who follow the teachings of Charles Manson, listening to the Beatles and trying to bring about race war through acts of ritual sacrifice.
  48. North Bay Wolves. Bateman-style Wall St. maniacs with blood between their teeth, hopped up on cocaine and designer steroids. Often confused with the South Bay Wolves, to their chagrin.
  49. South Bay Wolves. Furries who hunt in packs and never take off their full-body animal suits, no matter how sticky they get. Have an ongoing rivalry with the North Bay Wolves.
  50. Captains of Industry. Steampunk gang with blunderbusses and gears glued to their top hats. Every other gang hates them and kills them on sight.
  1. Pith-helmeted aristocrat here to hunt the most dangerous game.
  2. Armoured superjudge who kills criminal-seeming types on sight.
  3. Senile old lady who can't remember the way home and thinks it's still 1979.
  4. Blind homeless ranter who shouts terrible cryptic prophecies at you.
  5. Streetwise taxi driver who'll take you anywhere... for a price.
  6. Pigeon keeper, surrounded and defended by their birds.
  7. Elite computer hacker, almost helpless in the physical world.
  8. Hulking masked slasher who just wants to chop up horny teens.
  9. Muscular idiot ridden around by sly, intelligent dwarf.
  10. Outlaw street ronin with epic katana, here to defend the weak.
  11. Family of terrified urban peasants just trying to get by, hoping you'll leave them alone.
  12. Street market with vendors selling rags, junk, fried rats, broken guns.
  13. Street carnival with fire-eaters, sword-swallowers, orgies of self-mutilation.
  14. Site of recent mass suicide, one or two poisoned survivors having second thoughts.
  15. Sinkhole in street, concealed beneath tarpaulin, full of sewer alligators.
  16. Collapsed skyscraper with scavengers picking through the rubble.
  17. Crashed stealth bomber with atomic warhead leaking radiation into the street.
  18. Pack of ferocious wild dogs, their leader mutated to near-human intelligence.
  19. White tentacles of sewer octopus poking up through manholes, feeling for prey.
  20. Floating psychic brain escaped from government lab, on quest for world domination.

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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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.


“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.


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.

Monday, 5 March 2018

dinosaur thoughts

We rewatched all the Jurassic Park movies in the last couple of days and I have a lot of half-formed thoughts about dinosaurs and monster design that need to go somewhere.

The basic unit of Jurassic Park is the theropod. From smallest to largest we have:

Compsognathus. Cute little piranha boys. You only see one at first - it looks innocent until you spot the next one, and the next one. Once there's a critical mass they jump all over you biting, then back away and wait for you to tire out from loss of blood. They stay just out of your reach like a hungry seagull will. Any "swarm" monster lets you escalate tension by slowly increasing the number of component bodies - compies are good because they combine that with the intelligent birdlike playfulness of theropods. Only in the second movie.

Dilophosaurus. Kills the fat guy in the first one. Again we see the movement from "this thing seems cute and harmless" to "wait, could it actually hurt me?" to "oh shit, I didn't know it could do that" to "I am dead". Has the frill and the poison to distinguish it from raptors - a little overdesigned, and therefore less versatile, which is probably why they never brought it back. Only so many scenes you can do with this guy.

Velociraptor. Actually a utahraptor, as we know. Smart, playful, always faintly smiling - basically a dolphin that can kill you. These films deserve immense credit for inventing a genuinely new horror monster - that's hard as hell to do. The core dynamic is "clever girl" - they can actually out-think you, which is always surprising in an animal. Immensely versatile but the writer has to work a bit harder - they should be more than wolves but it's easy to make them too human.

Tyrannosaurus rex. So big you can escape its notice - you're too small to be its natural prey. Scenes with this guy don't have as much moving around as raptor scenes. Either you're lying still and hoping it doesn't notice you or you're running away from it in a straight line. Can only see quick things - forces you to move slowly, which builds tension. The puppet they use for its head is great. The distant stomping that makes water ripple doesn't make sense - is it only taking one step every five seconds? - but still works wonders, obviously. An omen of the monster's approach, like seeing only one compsognathus. Not as sadistic as the other theropods - doesn't play with its food like the rest do. Would rather be eating a stegosaur really. A doting parent, feeds people to its babies but can you really begrudge it? The friendliest of the theropods.

Spinosaurus. The T-rex replacement in the third one. Long crocodile snout that it uses to probe into narrow spaces where people are hiding - seems designed to eat smaller prey than the T-rex mouth. Gives the sense that it actively hates you. You could make these amphibious - it could lurk like a crocodile with its sail jutting from the water like a shark fin.

Indominus rex. The genetically-engineered dinosaur from the fourth movie. This thing sucks and I hate it. It's supposed to be like a smarter crueller T-rex and also a metaphor for consumerism, but the design sucks and allegory by itself is always boring. They just glued a bunch of spikes onto a T-rex and gave it a random assortment of superpowers. It's lazy and you can't give dinosaurs superpowers, the basic idea is already complex enough that you can't overload it like that. Fuck this whole movie honestly. The name is okay though.

The movies only use a couple of other carnivores:

Pteranodon. Pointy-headed beaky boy. Clumsy and ungainly. Always on the verge of falling out of the sky. Picks people up and carries them off. When it’s on the ground it kind of hops toward you in this awkward way, stabbing at you with its beak. Interesting combination of heavy and fragile - you could break its wings with something heavy if you were lucky. Can probe into small spaces with its beak the way the spinosaur can. Wants to be fought in a three-dimensional space - there’s a good scene in the third one in a ruined aviary with ravines and catwalks and the great dome overheard. Doesn’t have the faint theropod smile and therefore does not code as playful or intelligent - it’s a mindless shrieking death monster that kills automatically. In the fourth one they dive like cormorants, which is good.

Dimorphodon. Smaller pterosaur with T-rex-esque head. Pins people down and snaps at them. A pteranodon couldn’t do this - its beak is designed for eating things smaller than itself, so they have to be bigger to be scary. Only in the fourth one, which is allergic to doing anything clever with its monsters. Have potential though. Basically another swarm monster like the compies. Could accompany a larger monster as groomers, picking parasites off its scales.

Mosasaur. Has only one move, which is to jump out of the water and grab something. Impressive by virtue of size but hard to see how you would use it. Effectively bigger-fishes the Indominus. Could maybe sink a ship - I could see one coming up through the floor of a glass-bottomed boat. They needed to let this thing get out into the ocean where it can actually move around.

The herbivores don’t really do anything and I’m not going to go through them one by one. Most of them are used as just big dumb herd animals that get captured and eaten. Julianne Moore almost gets spiked by a stegosaurus and there’s a good bit in the second one with a pachycephalosaurus attacking a jeep - its head moves almost mechanically, like a piston. Sauropods and hadrosaurs are mostly set dressing. You could do something with a triceratops - maybe it goes into musth like a male elephant, goes insane with rage and starts weeping ichor from its neck glands. Works with an ankylosaur as well.

Here are some dinosaurs they could use but don’t:

Allosaurus. Occupies the size category between the raptor and the T-rex, which is probably why they don’t use it. Could fit into human-sized spaces - I imagine this following you through caves and tunnels, cramped, its head scraping against the roof. It actively wants to kill you, specifically, but it’s not playful about it like the raptors - it just comes for you until you’re dead. Maybe an endurance hunter - could pursue you across miles of jungle terrain, scenting and tracking you. Packs of two or three. There’s a similar dinosaur called the carnotaurus, which has two immense advantages - it has horns, making it visibly distinct, and it is called “the carnotaurus”.

Elasmosaur. Would be at home in a mangrove swamp, grabbing people from beneath the water, or picking off the passengers on a sinking ship. The long serpentine neck was not actually that flexible - it wouldn’t bend like a swan or strike like a cobra, but you could make it work. Can climb out of the water, although it’s hard to imagine them going very fast. There’s one called a styxosaurus, which is good.

Ichthyosaur. The huge eyes make these guys. They’re mostly just sharks but they do look super creepy. Since they look like dolphins, and raptors are dolphins, they could be the raptors of the sea - smart, playful pack hunters. They don’t smile though. There’s something very goblinlike about them - they always look frightened and appalled. Maybe an escaped pack that strikes fishing boats on moonless nights, giving rise to ghost stories.

Quetzalcoatlus. King of the skies bb. Bigger than the T-rex - the pteranodons they use are pretty big but this would dwarf them. Same basic body structure as a giraffe. Could fill the T-rex role as an ultimate boss monster, though not as friendly or loveable. Would attack you like a heron attacks a frog, striking downward with its toothless beak. Demands some kind of megastructure - an aviary, a skyscraper like the Burj Khalifa.

Titanosaur. Largest genus of land animals ever to live. Big enough to be terrain in its own right - you could put a howdah on its backs and rappel off its sides. Have an entire fight scene that takes place physically on the dinosaur while it rampages through the park, stomping through rollercoasters, before stumbling into the mosasaur tank. Give it its own ecosystem - moss grows on its sides, crab-sized parasites live in folds in its skin, pterosaurs eat the parasites. Best names are aegyptosaurus and patagotitan.

Conclusions we can draw from all this:

Dinosaurs work because they’re animals with clearly-defined physical characteristics. It’s not a Lovecraft thing like Alien where the more you find out about the monster, the less scary it is. They’re not metaphors for anything - they have their own existence independent of yours, and are native to an environment that you are trespassing in. The Indominus sucks because it breaks these rules.

Theropods have a very simple basic design that can be used for a huge range of different things. What compares to this? You can only do about two or three things with cats and dogs. The only comparison I can think of is primates - you get monkeys, apes, humans, neanderthals, goblins, etc. But we are primates so that’s not really fair. Maybe some morphologies lend themselves better to size variation than others - you can’t imagine a house-sized cat but you can imagine a house-sized gorilla.

Horror franchises don’t lend themselves to plot variation. Every Jurassic Park film is about humans trying to get off an island that’s overrun by dinosaurs, and always will be - it’s hard to imagine what else you could even do. The filmmakers think in scenes - this is the pterodactyl scene, this is the scene with the T-rex in suburbia and a bunch of classic sight gags. Since each film has the same premise, you could move any scene from one film to another without losing much. As long as you can come up with more scenes - which involves either finding new dinosaurs or coming up with new things to do with existing dinosaurs - you could keep reusing the same plot basically forever.

It doesn’t have to be Isla Nublar every time though. Jurassic World was a great opportunity to move the park to, like, Patagonia. Or it’s somewhere in Mexico and there’s actual Mayan ruins on site. Or it’s an artificial island in the Persian Gulf, funded by a Saudi billionaire. The environment controls the kind of scenes you can do - raptors can’t hide in the jungle if there is no jungle. I can kind of see what they were going for with the fourth one but they dropped the ball in about a million different ways.

The only thing I'm not talking about here is the different types of character in the films - the capitalist, the mercenary, the scientist whose warnings get ignored. That's kind of its own post though.

Okay it’s Logan Lucky but with the Jurassic Park payroll office and the name of the film is Jurassic Heist.