Friday, 6 September 2019

The Strange Fate of Captain Strathclyde

I'm trying a new thing where I write horror stories and put them on Medium.

The first one is called The Strange Fate of Captain Strathclyde. It's about a guy who takes a job as personal assistant to a reclusive novelist, in a creepy old house in the Appalachians, and finds that extremely creepy things start happening.

One of the strangest things about the 21st-century internet is the complete lack of places to publish good short fiction. I assume they exist - the old sci-fi magazines still all seem to be going on, somewhere or other - but I don't read them and neither do you. They don't have any actual cultural reach. And the existence of blogging platforms has made their publishing model obsolete in a way that nobody at all seems to have reckoned with.

In the old days, if you wanted to get published, you needed to persuade somebody with a printing press to actually, physically put it down on a piece of paper and deliver it to bookstores and newsagents across the nation. Hence Lovecraft having to go through Weird Tales, Steven King publishing in... I think it's all these small magazines with names like Startling Mystery Stories that don't exist any more, because why would they? Now you just whack it online.

Nobody needs to approve of what you write. The only hiccup is that you need to build a social-media following on your own, which can be tricky. The best way to do it is to have an existing community of people who do similar stuff. The OSR blogging sphere has obviously been good, although harder to use since G+ died. But we haven't done a lot of actual storytelling - it has always seemed to me like a weirdly dead art, at this point in history.

We do a lot of incredible fiction but very little of it is narrative. And nobody else is doing it either, at least not a way I'm interested in. I remember when I made my Twine game A Thing Called Dracula I struggled to find a way to popularise it, or people who were interested in talking about it and building on it. There is a gap here that someone needs to fill.

I'm interested in Twilight Zone-style horror stories, detective and crime stories, weird tales with some creepy little ironic twist at the end. It's kind of a deliberately old-fashioned project. I want to do a couple more of these and see where it goes. I also wrote a book last year - a crime novel called Croatoan, about conspiracy theories, the pitch being Elmore Leonard does the X-Files - and if I can't get it published traditionally I'll start trying to sell it online as an e-book. So there's that.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

snakebit swamp

water from the heart of snakebit swamp will grant you immortal life and make you suicidally depressed. the people that live around it are weathered and wizened. they rarely see the sun. the fog hangs heavy; limp and living

there are many huts on the wet banks of the swamp. a respectable living can be made picking through the snake bones that line the shore, searching for ones small enough to drag home. less choose to live where the trees give way, where curving serpent spines lay rickety lanes through the bog. the dangers are not terribly precarious (the water is cold and the eels quite vicious) but the swamp is lachrymose, given to nostalgia and stealing away children

- roll a d4 on the below table, adding 1 for every fresh step along a snake spine
- a decent sized splash will attract (2d4 x depth) eels
- if you roll a branch, one side will go deeper and one shallower. no need to tell pcs which is which
- preroll this shit. it will let you figure out a few small connections across the map. e.g., some mammoth children are on the way to visit a hermit, the skelton has seen the nearby opossum dragging a slain mammoth back to its nest
- when you roll the same thing twice in a row, smoosh it together.  a tangle is now a nest, all ossified eggshell and an unliving foetus. a hermit is now a neolithic shrine of yellow bone, hermit's ghost haunting their carved skeleton at the centre

1the soil is wet, thick, heavy. patches of thin grass struggle to hold the earth together. 2d4 tired-eyed villagers pick along the shore, passing a foul-smelling flask between them. they greatly appreciate attempts at warmth and humour, and anyone taking the effort to make small talk will likely be offered a guide for the swamp
2tiny, bellicose weaver birds have built a shabby nest amongst a stand of copper trees. indignant at your trespass they divebomb, swooping and shitting at you. the bones under your feet are slick with guano. a closer inspection of their nest would reveal the trees upon which it's built to be hollow copper tubes, sluicing warm mist from somewhere below the water
3by dint of some great wisdom or luck, a flea-ridden hermit has erected a meters-long rib bone a few dozen meters from the path. their past decades have been spent carving an intricate history of the world into it. they will call out to you, pressing for esoteric histories and happily nattering about the conspiracy of ice
4two great skeletons lie here entwined. the ribs are rolled and tumbled, vertebra scattered like dice. the path through is perilous, bones worn silk smooth over uncertain centuries. beads of fog reflect the pinprick eyes of eels waiting for you to slip. the path onwards is tripartite: the snake you came in on or either half of the other leading out
5a small herd of micromammoth, shrilly trumpeting. thick wool on their bellies keeps them warm and safe from the eels. their backs are picked clean and combed by their favoured pets; a tribe of children, faces old and wrinkled, adorned with feathers. will brutally murder any non-human primates they see
6the monotonous ossuary ends abruptly in a skull, biting through death into another snake. the lee of its huge jaw offers shelter, currently home to a nest of water rat. water is pooled in the hollows of its fangs. condensed from the fog, this ghostly venom is said to grant lucid visions of past lives. this perhaps could help decide which path to take, left or right along the new serpent
7clinging to a rib bone below is an ancient yellowed skeleton, swallowed before the snakes began to rot. it believes itself still trapped in a reptilian belly, maintaining that it cannot see anything through the snake's thick scales, but will happily natter hazy descriptions of all the curious things it's seen through centuries of silent swamp. its life is harder to recall: problems in the great machine, frost leaking from the ground, the thick jungle blighted by alien climate
8pond scum churns steadily. bubbles form thick and slow, cloaked in cold mist and birthing through the surface of the water like whales in tar. fingernail and fist sized, then all at once a hillfull of chronochloric gas. inside is a whipping white wind, another world. silhouettes blur across the bubble's surface as it rises, tusks and fangs and furry hides. when it pops a mound of snow drops into the water, begins to slowly melt
9hunched and glaring, a bulky growth on the bone, the opposum is bigger than a bear. skittish still though; it is an ambush predator. it hunts in bubbles of time, eye pressed soft against the surface of the water, watching a hundred years of ice to find one weak, flitting pulse of life. diving in and out before the bubble can pop, a blink of bloody battle with the ancient beast
10groaning through the mire on pillars of bronze, its brontosaur bulk too heavy to lift from the water. always working, patching leaks and scavenging parts. slowly, sadly sealing off sections of the machine too far gone. above the water a periscope of features: black glass eyes, delicate brass arms. it can't see you, but for your bones and the metal you carry. brass or bronze or tin it takes straight to the centre of the swamp, heedless of the birds and toads and other lives that sit astride its back
11the swamp deepens, mirror-dark surface sliding up the arc of bones to lap coldly at your boots. you can see the line of vertebrae continue below the water, and a few hundred meters something else rises up. huge copper pipes, some boiling hot, others traced in ice, all fingers stretched from the great machine in the swamp's heart
12+an ancient city, twice rebuilt. first by its scientists, in their efforts to slow the apocalypse they had begun. the second by its somnolent servitors, the great brass golems still at work stemming, bleeding, keeping back the pressure of an invasive past. every street now is paved with copper pipe and ferns, ill-fit rooms jammed with steaming alembic jungle

(drinking snake venom, time bubble popping in your face, falling into the water in the centre of the swamp, etc)
(also a depth mechanic. roll d10, +1 per exposure)

1devolve into apeman
2can commune with beasts of ancient past
3gain wrinkles, liver spots
4hair goes white
5lose concept of 'future'
6can smell back in time
7can only take pleasure in reminiscence
10stop aging
11possessed by ancestor spirits
12time hiccups - groundhog day until you next fail a save vs fear
13haunted by dead past selves
14hunted by the time serpent
15event from your future compressed into your past
16belches rapidly age a small area in front of mouth
17indigestion - exist both now and 65,000 years in past
18youth restored
19become super old

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

encountering the dero

Depth mechanic as sanity system. On each table roll d20+X where X is how crazy you are.

  1. Graffiti.
  2. Fortune cookie.
  3. Missing-person posters.
  4. Biro scrawlings on dollar bill.
  5. Crazy call-in to morning radio.
  6. Street preacher's religious rants.
  7. Mutterings of crazy homeless guy.
  8. Overheard public-transport dialogue.
  9. Warning message broadcast over loudspeaker.
  10. Spam that gets through your filter somehow.
  11. FW: FW: FW: email from elderly relative.
  12. Internet ads. Gone when you refresh the page.
  13. Second-hand paperback you don't remember buying.
  14. Forgotten episode of old TV show.
  15. Letters to the editor.
  16. Dating-app messages.
  17. Old science-fiction magazine.
  18. Unwanted Youtube recommendations.
  19. Comments on your blog.
  20. Comments on your favourite Pornhub video.
  21. Shouted argument from next apartment.
  22. Joke from your boss that you feel obliged to laugh at.
  23. Co-worker conversation that stops when you enter the room.
  24. Mom asks for your opinion, changes subject before you answer.
  25. Voice that takes your order at drive-through restaurant.
  26. Inscrutable Facebook message from high-school friend.
  27. Old acquaintance bumped into on street, not looking well.
  28. DMs via obscure forum you forgot you had an account on.
  29. Job offer from dodgy but persistent recruiter.
  30. Threatening letter from nonexistent law firm.
  31. Diary entries you don't remember making.
  32. Words on electronic traffic sign.
  33. Garbled phone call.
  34. Texts from unfamiliar number.
  35. Note slipped under your door.
  36. Note you find in your pocket.
  37. Note attached to the leg of a bird that falls from the sky.
  38. Nondescript man who approaches you in public.
  39. Screams of stranger being dragged into car.
  40. Message left at scene of horrible crime.
  41. Lunatic who attacks you in dark alley.
  42. Cop who claims somebody calls 911.
  43. Black-clad government agent at your door.
  44. President works you into a televised speech.
  45. Sitcom character turns to camera, address you by name.
  46. Talking animal.
  47. Talking object.
  48. Booming voice of God.
  49. Thoughts beamed directly into your brain.
  50. Orderlies who come to take you away to the hospital.
  1. The dero are a symptom of mental illness.
  2. The dero are a metaphor for the pressures of modern society.
  3. The dero are fabricated as a distraction by your political enemies.
  4. The dero are a product of collective mass hysteria and must be fought with reason and logic.
  5. The dero exist, but they're not as big a deal as people think.
  6. The dero exist, but the authorities have them under control.
  7. The dero have a secret civilisation underground.
  8. The dero use rays to project false information into our minds.
  9. The dero abduct people to perform weird medical experiments.
  10. The dero are headquartered under the Pentagon.
  11. The dero are headquartered in the catacombs of Paris, France.
  12. The dero are controlled by a single giant brain.
  13. The dero are all sexy women and they want to have sex with you.
  14. The dero force every world leader to engage in sadistic sexual rituals.
  15. The dero came from the future to save the planet from our evil ways.
  16. The dero consider human flesh a delicacy.
  17. The dero are Communists.
  18. The dero are Jews.
  19. The dero are Nazis.
  20. The dero are biblical demons.
  21. History has been falsified to conceal the existence of the dero.
  22. All existing information about the dero has been fabricated by the dero.
  23. All politicians and media figures are willing puppets of the dero.
  24. All disasters, massacres and genocides are faked by the dero to make people afraid.
  25. Some of the celebrities know about the dero and if you get to them they can help you.
  26. Tinfoil hats repel dero thought rays.
  27. Your friends and family are being replaced by dero imposters.
  28. It's totally fine to masturbate in public.
  29. Your friends and family are being held underground and tortured by dero.
  30. Drinking your own urine is the key to eternal life.
  31. You are an agent of the dero and you must fulfil your mission.
  32. Time is cubic.
  33. You are an agent of the humans and you must fight the influence of the dero.
  34. Dogs can secretly talk.
  35. You have been driven insane by dero thought rays.
  36. Milk makes you gay.
  37. Everyone else has been driven insane by dero thought rays.
  38. Children are trying to save the world but they need your help.
  39. The dero are simulating your reality and you must wake up before you die.
  40. The dero want you to hurt people and do fucked-up sex stuff.
  41. The dero want to help you but you have to trust them absolutely.
  42. The dero are coming for you right now, in the next fifteen minutes.
  43. You can save the world by killing the most important dero.
  44. You're the most important dero and this is just what being a dero is like.
  45. You're on the verge of a great scientific breakthrough and the dero are trying to stop you.
  46. You're an extradimensional super-alien imprisoned by the dero in corporeal form.
  47. You're the Messiah and the dero are your disciples.
  48. You can read minds and it makes you too dangerous to live.
  49. You're a character in a game of fantasy and the player controlling you is a callous monster.
  50. You have been diagnosed with schizophrenia by a doctor and require medication.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

the zone

You are elite Soviet soldiers sent to investigate a bizarre series of accidents at a remote scientific research facility. This is a depth mechanic. Roll d6 on each table for each encounter and add 2 each time you advance a step further into the zone. Be careful of ideological backsliding - one of you is secretly a political commissar with orders to maintain morale by executing anyone who deviates from approved ideology.

The PTSD system - your stats are Physical, Social, Technical. Roll 3d6 for each. To do anything, roll under the appropriate stat. Pick a specialisation, anything from Heavy Weapons to Political Propaganda to Biochemistry - add two to the right stat whenever it becomes relevant. Work out hit points yourself.

  1. Barren steppe. Pale winter sun.
  2. Barren steppe. Scudding clouds obscure the sun.
  3. Snow-dusted steppe. Ceiling of grey cloud. Freezing wind.
  4. Snow-dusted steppe. Howling blizzard.
  5. Sparse larch forest. Shadows moving through pale fog.
  6. Sparse larch forest. Rivulets of black snowmelt.
  7. Dense larch forest. Glass-clear creek paved with pebbles.
  8. Dense larch forest. Boot-sucking bogs.
  9. Overgrown marsh. Water crusted with thin ice.
  10. Overgrown marsh. Water crusted with solid ice.
  11. No-man’s land. Slick mud and dead trees.
  12. No-man’s land. Network of flooded trenches.
  13. Town outskirts. Rubbish heaps and burnt-out cars.
  14. Town outskirts. Vacant lots and empty warehouses.
  15. Suburbs. Wide avenues, concrete apartment blocks.
  16. Suburbs. Cottages, shops, playgrounds, empty cars.
  17. Industrial core. Vast empty factories, rusting machinery.
  18. Industrial core. Cooling towers crusted with foliage.
  19. Launch site. Hangars, service trucks, fields of concrete.
  20. Launch site. Concrete pads, umbilical towers, broken rockets.
  1. Spomenik - brutalist concrete monument, haunted by freedom-fighter ghosts.
  2. Perfectly round shaft bored into the ground. Heat rising from it. Hawks and buzzards circling.
  3. Abandoned farmhouse. Barren fields. Something nasty and shapeless chained in the shed.
  4. Concrete watch bunker built into low hill. Terrified, hungry soldier inside will fire on anything that gets close, unless you convince him you’re not a mutant or threat.
  5. Ruined church. Tarnished golden crucifix over altar.
  6. Abandoned fur-trapping village. Squalid huts. Mutant vermin caught in cruel, iron-toothed traps. Crazed hermit watching from afar.
  7. Deep black ice-edged lake. Rotting wooden dinghy tied up by shore. Strange buildings on island.
  8. Untended cherry orchard sprouting strange fruit. Decaying barbed-wire fences.
  9. Series of clear pools separated by waterfalls. Fish that know too much.
  10. Wide fast-rushing river. Must be crossed to advance - or go back and find another way around.
  11. Mass grave. Deformed corpses left to rot in hastily-dug hole. Mutant rats and crows hide until disturbed.
  12. Minefield. Clearly signposted to warn off trespassers. Craters mark detonation sites.
  13. Scrapyard. Buses, cars, trucks and tanks, all tangled together in rusty communion. Mangy stray dog lurks around perimeter.
  14. Crashed military airplane. Bomb bay holds undetonated tactical nuke. Two more have been cracked open and their radioactive contents scooped out.
  15. Army barracks. Held by still-human soldiers, heavily fortified against intruders. Running out of food.
  16. Small amusement park. Merry-go-round, bumper cars, rollercoaster, fun house full of child-sized skeletons.
  17. Automated factory running on its own, assembling munitions from vast stockpile of scrap metal and weird chemicals.
  18. Huge steaming radioactive crater filled with rubble and boiling glass.
  19. Bustling hive of New Soviet Men stockpiling fodder for their Red Queen so she can lay new eggs for the colony.
  20. New Soviet Men preparing atomic super-rocket for launch.
  1. Blasted atomic ghost of gulagged 19th-century revolutionary.
  2. Tatar scavengers in spiked radiation suits, looking for anything they can sell on the black market.
  3. Gangly saiga antelope that blast acidic mucus from their nostrils, pursued by Tatar hunters.
  4. New Soviet Man, pale and hairless, equipped with homemade laser gun, in stand-off with Tatar scavengers.
  5. Tatar mother with pale, hairless children in tow, fleeing hunting party of genetic purists in rad suits and gas masks.
  6. Swarm of irritable thumb-sized mosquitoes that imitate human voices by the collective hum of their wings.
  7. Lumpen bald toothless swamp cyclops that slowly de-evolves anything it looks at. Claims to want a friend but is actually just hungry.
  8. Poisonous redcapped mushroom men who want to be eaten and won’t take no for an answer.
  9. Skoptsy priest in black robes castrating and baptising hunger-maddened soldiers.
  10. Shaggy bear-centaur-men tearing apart huge fallen two-headed reindeer and shovelling its flesh into their maws. Can see into the past and do not believe in the future.
  11. Naked frostbitten soldiers possessed by the spirits of tanks, running around with their arms stuck out to mimic guns. Imaginary shells, real explosions.
  12. Band of New Soviet Men with Geiger counters and laser guns scouring the area for radioactive material to fuel their atomic super-rocket.
  13. Giant house-sized blob of fleshlike fungus. Gill slits part to reveal near-human eyes. Oozes slowly toward any source of heat, warbling and pleading for sustenance through a hundred tiny mouths. Doesn’t stop.
  14. Shambling broken-concrete golem with tiny telekinetic fetus inside, looking for somebody to hug.
  15. Gang of shivering orphans dwelling in empty building, only venturing out to hunt for vodka and lay lethal Home Alone-style traps for New Soviet Men.
  16. New Soviet Men scalpelling apart still-living bear-centaur-man, flaying it alive in effort to extract the secret of its mathematics.
  17. Tatar scavenger with aluminium pouch of stolen uranium, on the run from band of New Soviet Men equipped with Geiger counters and hairless dogs.
  18. Radiation shadow-ghosts, flickering across flat surfaces, that drag anyone they touch into the second dimension.
  19. You from the future, horribly scarred and burnt, bent on killing you now in order to prevent your future suffering.
  20. The Red Queen of the New Soviet Men, overseeing her minions’ efforts to launch her into space via atomic super-rocket. From orbit she can psychically dominate the globe, maybe.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

whats in draculas sewers

  1. Big fat corpsey men with smiles on their faces slowly jellifying in baths of scummy water. Lilypads and croaking toads. Touch the men - they wake up and tell you their tales of woe. The baths melt sadness out of your body and put it in the toads.
  2. Floating market - covered boats chained together in wide channels of filth. Low brick roofs, guttering candle flames. Tosher merchants in wide hats to protect from ceiling drips selling junk, rotting fish, unrecognisable piles of filth. You may be robbed.
  3. Deep circular brick-walled shafts connected by underwater passages. Rusted suits of armour at the bottom. They grab you and beg you in sepulchral voices to restore their honour so they can be free. search them - get their maybe-magic swords.
  4. Waterwheel in fast-running river of ichor. Igors tinkering with machinery. Connects via leather belt with some vast engine elsewhere in the castle. Igors paranoid about you stopping the water.
  5. Beautiful young cultists in white robes drowning a bull in waist-deep water at the edge of the river of ichor as a sacrifice to cloacina, goddess of the sewers. The bull cries for help in a near-human voice.
  6. Giant albino marabou storks picking through the mud at the bottom of a drained cistern, looking for flopping dying fish. They will eat you. Marble columns rise into the shadowy heights above.
  7. Puppet theatre. Tentacles come up through floorboards, manipulate big finger puppets, stage satirical plays about world events. They will try to draft you into the plays. they use real weapons. unclear how the squid does the voices.
  8. Blind emaciated prisoners shackled in cells, ankle-deep in flowing sewage. new arrival pleading for release. You recognise them. Fat ogre guard with rat best friend, keys jangling at belt, is immune to the horrible stench.
  9. Ratville - like a miniature Bavarian town full of respectable petit bourgeois shopkeepers and insect farmers, all good citizens and devout Christians. Want the big folk to keep them safe, maintain social order.
  10. Smuggler’s den, abandoned, full of tarnished treasure - moldy statues, rotted paintings, mushy books, greening jewelry. Fungus growing everywhere. Patient mushroom men want more treasure to destroy.
  11. Natural crevasse lined with carnivorous plants, gleaming like jewels. sundews and flytraps, fat buzzing flies drawn by sickly-sweet stench. Must be crossed on precarious rope bridge. Skeleton w/ jewelled rings held in belly of one large plant.
  12. Flooded church. Water torrenting in through bell tower, draining through crypts. Hungry monkfish hidden in confession booth. Angry toshers tearing apart Bible, trying to work out why there’s no spells in it.
  13. Fatberg - giant blobby hive of congealed fat and grease, gestating pale little clone fetuses in wall-embedded pustules. Polite. Can see and speak to anything inside. Wants to you go to sleep in it so it can replace you with clones.
  14. Maze of fogged, water-blackened mirrors with mold growing in their cracks. Knee-deep water. Evil giggling midgets in little coracles follow you around pretending to be your reflection. Medusa whose breath tarnishes mirrors, gaze midgetifies you.
  15. Dirty water swirling down giant brick funnel. Wrecked wooden ship caught in net of thick rope stretched over funnel mouth - home to Posh Harry the tosher king, who covets everything you own but is cowardly and always willing to bargain.
  16. Waterfall tumbling off edge of cliff into infinite darkness that leads to earth’s core. Huge white bat-pterodactyls nest in stalactites hanging from roof, barely visible at edge of darkness, swoop in to catch fish and dolphins from falls.
  17. Submarine docks on shore of vast cavern lake. Igor crew fending off toshers who want to scrap the last intact sub - they are trying to get it working so they can escape the castle forever.
  18. Beach of pale sand on shore of vast cavern lake. Fishermen hauling in thrashing, whiskered catch that threatens to escape. they will chop it up, flense it and use its oil in lanterns that animate shadows - you can have one if you help them.
  19. Rickety Blackpool-style pier with carnival games extending into vast cavern lake. all the games are run by ghosts. You can win an evil teddy bear but if you lose the ghost gets your body and your spirit’s stuck here.
  20. Huge pipe organ on rocky island in vast cavern lake, being played by giant albino squid. She is married to Dracula. She loves puppets, music, drama, romance. she hates fake friends. She is lonely. The treasure of Atlantis is at the bottom of the lake, and she can fetch it.

Thursday, 13 June 2019


Just got back from Aotearoa! Nice place. Here are some of the fairies we met and some we didn't

Tīwakawaka is very small, about the size of your thumb. Her mask is white and black and a blush of gold. Her arms are tiny, little sticks waving pinprick weapons. She shouts and dances and makes much fuss but loves to laugh as well. She will follow you far, bothering and distracting, hungry for interference but darting away from your attention

Kiwi is barely larger, as tall as your hand, or perhaps your father's long fingers. Her mask is white and she has no arms, just thick soft fur and clawed feet much stronger than you thought. She roams the forest tending quietly to streams and lichens, keeping a meticulous messy sort of order. She is curious, but cannot comprehend you. Watches you like a soap opera in another language, incomprehensible

Koukou is bigger, the size of a large dog or half a head shorter than you. Her mask is black, with limpid living eyes holding hard your gaze. She can open wide her eyes and swallow the light, torches and candles and stars and moon vanishing down to cold pinpricks in the centre of her pupil. Her arms are a writhing mass of short thick feathers, squirming over the ground hunting bugs, wafting past her mouth to deliver food. She does not want to eat you, unless you are truly weak and pitiful, but will leap on to you to pick lice from your hair and leeches from your skin

Kahu is as tall as a man or twice that. Her mask is golden, severe. She sways and hops in great bounds, razor talons stretching from long strong legs. She will eat carrion or live prey, it's all the same. To her you are already dead. Her arms are delicate feathers, coming out only to dance, a slow sombre falling, performed to and with her lover. If you are a truly gifted dancer you could pause her hunt, raise your arms and circle with her. Otherwise you should run, and hide, and pray

Horowhenua is out of breath. He stares up at the sky, his great grandfather, with a squinting, screwed-up frown that promises a tantrum. When rain torrents or snow falls in fat flakes he will kick his mighty grey legs, squirming about on his back, and cause all manner of avalanches and landslides. For now he sucks his thumb. He is sad and grumpy. He misses his father. He's hungry too. Give him food, or shelter, or a cloud to cuddle and he might offer reluctant aid. Best though to avoid him, and if you hear his rumbling cries, take cover!

Puia is sleeping. His cheeks flush with warm magma and his chest rises and falls peacefully. Even when not underground he clings tight to the earth, his great grandmother, tranquil when he can hear her breathe, feel her heartbeat, and share her dreams. The earth's dreams are too big for most people, who are trapped and swallowed in the darkest like the world is begun anew. Her grandchild's dreams are smaller. Games with his brothers, the dances of the birds, all the old stories of creation carved with a child's chisel. Poke your head in to his ear and you can watch and listen. Climb into his mouth and perhaps you could steal something, ancient dreamstuff or the more mundane fire from his heart. Do not wake him up.

Wairere laughs and giggles, in six or thirty-six piping voices. His little bodies gather at the top of the cliff and jump. Flipping, diving, bombing, splashing wet on the ground and rising, still laughing with glee, burst into mist by his game. He loves meeting new people, teasing and cajoling, and adores being asked questions, though he never agrees with himselves. Most of all he loves watching people realise things they should have known already, and also slapstick. If you're funny or intriguing enough he may even pause his game, the waterfall drying up while a gaggle of jiggly wet bodies stare enraptured and argue with themself. Many lost treasures are said to be hidden in waterfall cloaked caves. But don't let him catch you striking gold! He'll want a look too and you're sure to get soaked.

Pounamu is the youngest of his brothers, though of course he has been around the longest. His eyes bulge from his swollen head, his body a squatting foetus of more-than-human shape. When he moves his joints don't deign to flex, but instead the world bends around his mana. He is harder than any other stone, but light and clear, his green flecked with white and black, yellow and cream and sometimes red. He is a great lover of destiny, and if you see him he has likely bought a gift. Whatever it is; a tool, a weapon, an idol, a name, it has a story to unfurl fishhook-like into the world. It is likely to some day save your life, and just as likely to threaten it.

Tawhai stands tall, her back bent and shoulders slumped, head angled to gaze serene at the forest floor. Or perhaps she is lying down, eyes half closed and smile not quite fading, with a dozen daughters budding from her long body and reaching fingers to the sun. Around her bustle a swarm of retainers. Pudgy mushroom bodies bump busily into each other, delivering parcels and bundled messages to root and hollow throughout the forest. You will need to be accounted for as well, once they bump into you. A perfunctory meeting with Tawhai herself, then a small coterie of servitors, to follow you about and ensure you don't start trouble

Te Harore might escape your notice at first. Their tiny homes dot the sides of trees, vertical fields of green tended by wizened, lichen-haired farmers. Moss-draped warriors stand ready to be smooshed in defence of their homes. Elders dangle their feet from shelves of fungus and natter about the state of the world - the battles with birds and recalcitrant trees, the ongoing stalemate in the war between forests and ocean. Human problems aren't really their concern, being too fast and too big to get involved with, but human gossip they adore. Everyone who passes through the forest has been discussed, dissected and and dismissed, with great self-satisfaction. If you want to find out more about someone, you'll have to offer something new first, else it's back to the old wars, this year's harvest, and the size of cousin's sons (she must be so proud!)

Kūmara hides in the dirt, leaving only his long hair trailing along the ground. His body is portly and powerful, so it will take much tugging to yank him up. And when you do, how the wailing begins. He is a coward, and knows he is delicious, so will say and do most of anything to keep your belly full of anything but him. He knows where all the best shelter is, where to find the driest firewood, and the paths of all the nastier spirits, which he avoids at all costs. Never convinced that he's safe from your plate, he makes a most attentive valet; wining, dining and tucking you into a safe warm bed, and then off he runs. The next morning you're back to hunting for his long hair, tangled in the weeds

Patupaiarehe look almost like men. Taller, paler, with red hair and thin mocking voices. The fronds of their clothes, the wood of their homes, the barbs of their spears are all of the silver fern. During the night their skin catches the moon and it too turns silver. Never sure you've quite caught sight of them, you could follow their gleam safely to the edge of the forest. During the day they play flutes of human bone, haunting tunes that float on the edge of recognition, luring men to their death and children into the cookpots

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

marcher lord pcs

making tables in blogger sucks. but. here is a table of generating pcs for my marcher lords setting. i am trying to turn it into a small book that you will be able to buy for a cute amount of money


Raised by wolves. Speak their language, badly. Eat raw meat and bite your foes.
Raised by elves. Laugh at odd times.
Know a few faerie sleights-of-hand.
Raised by birds. Insecure. Certain you could fly if you weren’t lazy.
Raised by hermit. Thought you were the only two people in the world until you were ten.
Street urchin. Hoard food. Bully the weak. Don’t let the big kids intimidate you.
Child beggar. So pathetic they look away. Pick every pocket you see.
Half-elf. Mother seduced, abandoned, passed it off as virgin birth. Weird eyes.
Abandoned on monastery steps. Raised by silent monks who punished you for noise.
Raised by poor farmers. Good with herd animals. Scared of reading.
Raised by tinkers. Good with tools. Get in trouble, move on to next town.
Raised by gypsies. Told the future until they made you stop for being too accurate.
Raised by secret pagans. As a youth, inducted into their vile worship. Saved by Christ, grateful.
Raised by blacksmiths. Patient. Burnt. Good eye for weakness in metal.
Raised by sailors. Good with knots. Hate the sea that’s in your blood.
Raised by woodsmen. Clumsy. Missing a finger where an axe turned in your grip.
Raised by shepherds. Compassionate. Think people can be herded. Play the pipes.
Raised by butchers. Good with cleaver, anatomy. Smell of blood is home.
Raised by weavers. Bad eyes, fine hands.
Loathe detail and drudgery.
Raised by cobblers. Superstitious. Always set out milk for the elves.
Raised by millers. Hate corruption, more so when it robs people of food.
Raised in a pub. Alcoholic since childhood. Carry it well though.
Raised by tanners. Twitchy. No longer stink of piss but behave as if you do.
Raised by gong farmers. Fastidiously clean. Sure of noble destiny.
Raised by fishermen. Devise ways to trap converts with nets of argument.
Raised by soldiers. Scornful of feudal system but fanatically loyal to local lord.
Raised by castle servants. Sweet tooth, sticky fingers. Practice being friendly.
Raised by castle falconer. Sharp eyes. Look for omens in the clouds.
Raised by castle gardeners. Better with plants than people. Inconspicuous.
Raised by a knight. Never admit to the secret hatred of chivalry you nurture.
Heir to penniless baron. Jealous of other lords, disgusted by peasants.
Child of wealthy merchant. No interest in money. Greedy for knowledge.
Raised by a bard. Utterly humorless. Despise music. Think jokes are Satanic.
Lord’s youngest kid. Will inherit nothing. They tried to make you join the church.
Lord’s bastard. Defensive. Assumed to be evil by wife and true-born heirs.
Lord’s niece or nephew. Comfortably outside line of succession. Well liked.
Lord’s heir. Joined the church instead of inheriting, to your dad’s despair. Humble.
Taken by lord as ward to guarantee your family’s loyalty. Always homesick.
Prisoner’s child. Grew up in castle dungeons. Born in darkness, molded by it.
Kidnapped by witch as baby. Every night she said she’d eat you tomorrow.
Archbishop’s bastard. Bent on forcing the old prick to acknowledge you.

Village watchman who slept through massacre. Insomniac. Hear clank of swords in every shadow.
Castle steward fired for embezzlement. Resentful. It was unfair of them to catch you.
Astrologer. See dreadful futures in the stars and feel obliged to prevent them, by destroying the sky.
Cheerful missionary. Everywhere you go you spread the love of Christ. Never let your optimism flag.
Former knight who broke a vow. Cynical by day, mourn lost life at night.
Romantic minstrel. Serenaded the wrong person, on the run from their spouse.
Pyromaniac. Set fires and leaves town. Only a matter of time before someone dies.
Kicked out of your monastery for doing weird sex stuff. Nobody can know.
Former squire who got their knight killed through ineptitude. Pretend to be upset.
Court jester who got sick of pies and dropping their pants. Can fart tunes. Won’t.
Fanatical atheist. Flatly refuse to acknowledge the reality of own magic.
Inquisitor. Empowered by the local lord to root out heretics. Sees elvish influence everywhere.
Sheriff who got chased out of town for finally catching populist bandit.
Populist bandit. Recruiting new men after the sheriff killed all the old ones.
Former apprentice. Mis-drew summoning circle, master eaten alive by demons.
Runaway novice. Believe in God but not the system. Die before going back.
Given a magic sword by a nymph who promised you’d be king one day.
Itinerant surgeon. Pull teeth, cut hair, set bones, apply leeches. Always in demand.
Hedge wizard. Just want to help. Hugely unlucky. Leaves in hair and beard.
Invented your own non-canonical saint. Other priests not happy about it.
Lord’s true-born heir, swapped at birth, gathering men to reclaim your title.
Itinerant torturer and executioner. No moral qualms at all - pain’s the essence of justice.
Owe a debt to an elf. Must do random tasks to pay them off. It’s probably harmless.
Former advisor to lord. Banished for telling them everything they didn’t want to hear.
Killed a dragon by accident, now feted as dragon-slayer everywhere. Expected to do it again.
Itinerant puppeteer. Can never resist the impulse to cruelly caricature local dignitaries.
Mind displaced in time. Refer to things that happen a hundred years ago or tomorrow.
Secretly worship the Devil. Sacrifice innocents at midnight black masses. Insist that it’s good, actually.
Bailiff. Tasked to hunt down debtors and bring them before the court, unless they pay you not to find them.
Happily married until elves stole your spouse. Take iron, find them. No-one believes they existed.
Fixate on the science of the nameless race. Dig in burial mounds, illegally uncovering their history.
Leper. Slowly rotting. Want to do one more good deed before you die. They don’t believe you’re not contagious.
Famous wrestler, much in demand at county fairs. Can’t turn down a dare or challenge.
Monk impersonator. Brown robe and smattering of Latin disguises you as a holy man, gets you alms.
Hunt your own reflection, animated by an evil mirror. It insists it’s real and you’re the fake.
Mendicant friar. Talk to animals. Give away money and property. Disliked by wealthy establishment.
Veteran of lord’s army. Brutally scarred. Got old, discharged without pension.
Elves drove you mad. Peasants assume your rantings are prophetic, feed and clothe you.
You’re a king of the goblins and they keep showing up in your life, asking for orders.
Hear God’s voice in your head. Try to ignore it. Fail. Fuck up your life by following his orders.

Very stupid horse.
Very smart mule.
Talking pig.
Well-trained raven.
Very good dog.
Very evil cat.
Wise pet snail.
Caged, angry imp.
Implausibly heavy claymore of historical significance.
Needle-like misericorde, easily concealed.
Lightning wand with a 50% chance to explode in your hand.
Steel aspergillum, used to sprinkle holy water and crack heads.
Full suit of plate armour, rusted to shit, unwearable.
Chainmail shirt hidden beneath your normal clothes.
Book of ancient riddles and fables, suitable for children.
Statue of the Madonna that weeps milk in the presence of children.
Shield bearing a long-lost knight’s heraldic device.
Vial of clear, deadly, distinctive-smelling poison.
Lump of clay that moves and talks if shaped into a face.
Collection of dried and pressed herbs, suitable for cooking and medicine.
Enormous wheel of cheese, no more than a single bite out of it.
Forged deeds to a tavern in a town you’ve never visited.
Acorn that grows into an oak tree overnight if planted in holy soil.
Leatherbound Bible heavy enough to bludgeon a man to death.
Wide weatherproof cloak that doubles as a warm blanket.
Enchanted penny that always returns to you at daybreak.
Bottled cloud that anticipates the weather. Friendly.
Reliquary containing fragments of a saint’s skull. Deters plague.
Black oak walking stick, iron-banded, carved with spirals.
Dice made from ogre’s teeth. Always unlucky for the thrower.
Sheepskin belt. Turns you into a sheep. Only removed by shearing.
Long-lasting bannock bread and delicious sacramental wine.
Utterly comfortable elf-made boots that never wear out.
Grappling hook and 50’ of compressible spidersilk rope.
Dragonbone pipe carved into the shape of a goblin’s head.
Book of cryptic prophecies that only make sense in hindsight.
Hefty hand-cranked arbalest that takes thirty seconds to wind.
Map to the treasure hoard of a famous bandit, currently endungeoned.
Very tall floppy hat that other wizards envy. Embroidered with stars.
Golden, jewel-studded crucifix that no-one, surely, would dare to steal or sell.