Sunday 20 November 2016

d10 Masks

1. Stinkle. Crotchety and imperious. Can sniff out buried treasure and smell where disease is located in a patient's body, but will refuse to do so except for money. Stalwart against fire, but fears water and sharp objects.

2. Bode. Can speak with the freshly dead, and sees no important distinction between them and the living. Borderline autistic. Clammy to the touch. Attracts amphibians, who seem to hold it in some kind of reverence.

3. Gosper. A rabble-rouser and demagogue. Voice can be heard by anyone who sees it, even over the rumble of a crowd. Convinces people to smash their idols for the fun of it and burn their own cities as a joke, then skips away merrily in the ensuing confusion.

4. Jiro. Infuriatingly calm in dangerous situations. Always knows a way out, but won't reveal it until the last minute. Knows the most carefully-guarded secrets of everyone it meets and refers to them in casual conversation. Seeds sprout at its touch.

5. Egwu. A loveable idiot. Everyone's best friend. Can move unconcealed through any social environment on account of being obviously too stupid to be dangerous. Clumsy but lucky, always blundering headlong into fortune. Hated by dogs.

6. Shrieg. Always hungry, but too embarrassed to eat in the presence of other people. Stomach rumbles audibly in the presence of food. Can sustain life on any kind of organic matter, the more rotten and indigestible the better, and will fall on garbage with gusto as soon as it's left alone.

7. Balank. A connoisseur. Takes an amazingly long time to make up its mind about anything, but makes the right decision ninety-nine times out of a hundred. Has an annoying habit of clicking its tongue.

8. Rocus. Walks with the shuffling gait of a very fat man. Insists on getting a laugh from everyone it meets, progressing from jokes through slapstick to unpredictable and nauseating violence. Strong enough to lift a cow over its head.

9. Pippi. A crack shot with any kind of ranged weapon. Terrified of a golden panther that may or may not be hunting it down to take vengeance for some unspecified sin. Looks under all beds and unseals all closed containers to check if the panther is hiding there.

10. Hampus. No special powers. Just a really cool, laid-back sort of a dude.

Sunday 13 November 2016


Hedgehag Spells

Those in the hedgehog community that can use magic are referred to, rather self-awarely, as hedgehags. A hedgehag is likely to know some of the below spells, in addition to minor charms for encouraging the growth of moss/fungus/roots, attracting delicious bugs, keeping water sources clean.
  1. Curl
    A space of up to X by X feet folds into itself, unfolded at will, with no damage to enclosed objects/people. Light and air enter the space via a one dimensional slit, but it is otherwise intangible. Perception check to notice the slit, a thin shaft of sun/moon/torchlight
  2. Bristle
    Causes spines to grow from the target object or surface. Metal or stone spines deal 1d6 damage on contact, all other spines deal 1d4 damage. Pattern, size of spines can be controlled to, e.g, form a ladder, spell out a message
  3. Mulch
    Forepaws and teeth emanate an aura that decomposes dead organic matter, rots wood, erodes stone. This spell can also be used to burrow at half movement speed
  4. Sniff
    Grants caster ability to follow a scent, given a sample of the smell. Allows for tracking people/animals, finding water/food, locating gold/good fortune. Can also be used to anoint with a scent, forming a froth that can pass on the target scent to anything that's rubbed with it
  5. Dream
    Draws the caster partway into the spirit realm. Allows for vision quests, astral projection and communion with both ghosts and nature spirits
  6. Shuck
    Pulls snails from shells, ants from nests, water from wells, gold from chests. Will pull pretty much anything from anything, with strength X.
  7. Shed
    Causes X hundred pounds of autumn leaves to blow through the space between caster's fingers/claws. Can be used to obscure vision, smother flames, hide treacherous ground, celebrate birthdays, or just produce a delicious snack for worms
  8. Worms
    Draws forth X pounds of worms from the earth or, in dire straits, from the stomach. Worms can be of any size, even just one really big one. Simple worm brains can be controlled explicitly by caster while within X feet but can only remember one syllable commands when out of range. Everything felt by the worms can be felt by the caster, albeit hazily
    Any spell cast can be conducted through summoned worms, with some alterations:
    1. Curl allows objects swallowed by one worm to be regurgitated by any other
    2. Bristle grants worms an actual attack, dealing damage based on their size
    3. Mulch works much the same, but worms burrow at twice movespeed
    4. Sniff causes them to smell and taste like the target of the spell
    5. Dream turns them into an effective peyote substitute
    6. Shuck knots worms up, gathering tension to fire through their own coils like meaty darts
    7. Shed makes worms peel apart into a burst of leaves. Please don't do this

I mean this wasn't quite the tone I was going for but fuck me Ryuutama here I come

Hedghags in a World that isn't Redwall

If you think the spell list is cute but for some reason everyone you know isn't running games in which it's valid to be a tiny hedgehog, I'd suggest you stat up a druid that has accidentally swapped bodies with one such mammal during a vision quest. This also gives you the opportunity to RP as a hedgehog coming to grips with a taste for meat, year-round sexual drive, and the fact that curling into a ball solves very few of its problems.

Other Hedgehog Facts from Wikipedia

  • can hibernate, maintaining a body temp of ~2°C. Dope synergy with Curl
  • have some immunity to snake venom. Fuck wait really? Holy shit
  • are prone to cancer. Hedgehag turned evil by brain cancer sounds like a viable villain to me
  • deliberately trap their heads in cardboard tubes for fun. This should not be in your game probably
  • are collectively referred to as an array. Other names for hedgehogs include heyghoge, urchin, furze-pig

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Islands of the Captured Sea

The Islands of the Belly - or Il-Gżejjer ta 'l-Żaqq, as they are known in the local language - are the Captured Sea's only pendocracy. Twice a year, on the day of the equinox, all who choose to contest are taken to Ġagantija Temple (said to have been constructed by a giantess who ate nothing but beans and honey) and ceremonially weighed on enormous golden scales by emaciated slave-priests wreathed in flowers. The heaviest person becomes Adiparch, and for the next six months wields absolute power over life and death. In a measure to discourage frivolous entries, the lightest person gets roasted alive over the Excellent Flame of Ġagantija. The crackling made from their fat is traditionally the centrepiece of the new Adiparch's victory feast.

The islands are all but waterless, a desert of crumbling limestone dotted with ancient fortifications and populated mostly by caterpillars and prickly pears. The local peasants, notorious for their stinginess, jealously guard every inch of their land with drystone walls intricate as jigsaw puzzles, prone to collapsing in any of the hundred and one Named Breezes that plague the coasts during the stormy season. Painted jackals stalk the hinterlands, and swashbuckling Porcupine Men are said to have established smuggler's camps along the outer beaches. The largest landholder is the House of Thumb and Kidney. Its slaves - fed exclusively on cactus juice, which tastes like a mixture of bitter orange and cigarette butts - toil in the blazing sun under the salt-coated lashes of obese overseers, when they're not pulling oars in the fetid depths of the triremes. The islands are located in almost the exact geographical centre of the Captured Sea, a natural crossroads for trade. The grand harbour of Għadam Tax-Xedaq (the only city worth mentioning) is home to merchants of a thousand nations, from eastern Snailcatchers selling dye, alphabets and cedarwood to western Tarshishans selling apples and raw orichalcum. This trade is a vital source of both income and nutrition. Żaqqi banquets are legendary, and the houses compete greedily with each other for delicacies from every corner of the globe. One is advised, however, to keep an eye out for poisons, which are designed to induce vomiting and rapid weight-loss as much as death.

The other great Żaqqi pastime is fortune-telling. Any aristocrat worth their fat keeps on hand a haruspex, whose job is to interpret the entrails of any living creature they can get their hands on. Obesity is again considered valuable here, and the great saltwater hippos which wallow among the island's shallow reefs are renowned for the accuracy of the omens hidden in their guts. Human beings can also be used, of course, if they're fat enough. There are very few whales in the Captured Sea, and only once in history have a crew ventured into the waters beyond the Titan's Pillar to harpoon a leviathan from the River that Girdles the Earth and drag it back, still living, for the soothsayers to get at before it started to rot. Nobody knows what they found, however, as it was considered too shocking to make public and imprisoned for good in the library of the House of Palm and Sinus.

Other methods of prognostication include studying the patterns of holes in leaves eaten by caterpillars, listening to stomach gurgles (which are believed to be the voices of the dead), casting sparrow-bones, scattering grain before sacred roosters and looking at the movement of the planets. The so-called "wretched oracles" of the northern isles are children who've had maggots introduced into small holes cut in their skulls, murmuring increasingly-incoherent auguries over the six months or so it takes for the insects to devour their brains. This practice is disdained in the more civilised south.

A list of island delicacies, by no means comprehensive:
  • Songbirds drowned in cactus liqueur
  • Caterpillars fattened on nettles, the aim being to see how fat you can get it before it metamorphoses
  • Boiled ostrich embryo, still in the shell
  • Dormice fed exclusively on pomegranate seeds, frightened to death, roasted and glazed with honey
  • Baked starfish
  • Flamingo tongues fried in butter
  • Sea anemone soup, a clear glutinous broth flavoured ever so slightly with ginger
  • Goat uterus packed with live starlings
  • The livers of thirteen different animals, mashed into a thick paste and spread on figs
  • Tortoises dropped by specially-trained falcons into vats of boiling brine
  • Elephant ears, said to lose their flavour if the elephant they're taken from dies
  • Scorpions dusted with paprika
  • Ape cheese
  • Giant oysters, the size of two fists together yet disturbingly easy to swallow whole
  • Pitcher plants served raw with their prey half-digested inside them
All of it is served with garum, a fermented fishgut sauce that the islanders claim goes with everything.

Monday 12 September 2016


BEST OF FIGHTERS: ELITE, the expansion and semi-sequel to Japanese combat simulator BEST OF FIGHTERS, was a source of much controversy among the game's small but devoted fanbase. Almost everyone appreciated its massive expansion of the roster, but its rebalancing of several key characters drove a rift through the community, with a small but vocal minority demanding that Finnegan the leprechaun (broadly considered too powerful, and popularly nicknamed "Win-again") be restored to his former glory. The merits of the story mode, with its bewildering array of subplots and mandatory dating-sim sections, were hotly debated. Accusations of racial insensitivity abounded and the removal of certain elements from the American edition - two costumes, three stages, one piece of background music and one entire character - occasioned howls of derision from all the usual suspects. It remains to be seen if the holdouts will be won over and ELITE will gain as much respect as its beloved predecessor.
  1. VIVI. Classmate of Haruto's. Punk rocker. Fights with spiked chains wrapped around her fists. Secretly from a wealthy family and terrified people will find out. In love with Mako.
  2. ICHIRO. Classmate of Haruto's. Baseball player who fights with bat in hand. Ultimate move involves pitching a fastball that breaks the sound barrier. In love with Vivi.
  3. SAGA. Classmate of Haruto's. Master of calligraphy. Fights with a paintbrush as long as an oar. Can paint temporary walls in the air. Likes to draw moustaches on defeated foes. In love with Ichiro.
  4. KONCHU. Classmate of Haruto's. President of the science club. Accidentally fused with a praying mantis in an experiment gone wrong. Left arm replaced by lethal claw. In love with Saga.
  5. SHAOSHI. Master of Shaolin who is masquerading as an English teacher in order to keep an eye on the previous four characters. Does not speak English.
  6. YIJIN. Former disciple of Shaoshi's, expelled from the monastery for studying the Eleven Forbidden Techniques that if practiced wrongly could unhinge nature itself. Posing as the school janitor for reasons yet unknown.
  7. ARRIBA. A matador who plants bright-coloured barbs in the flesh of her opponents, dancing out of the way as they slowly bleed out before stepping in for the killing blow. Got bored of bulls and decided to graduate to a more dangerous prey.
  8. YASHVI. A wealthy Indian princess who wields a pair of antique punch daggers once used by her great-grandfather to disembowel a British general. Hunts tigers with them on her private game reserve, accompanied only by her faithful butler.
  9. MARCEL. An international assassin with a day job as a Parisian street mime. A master of savate, he dispenses his lethal flying kicks in total silence. Can compel people to accept his performance as reality, bouncing off his invisible walls and becoming entangled in his invisible ropes.
  10. FALSETTO. Holographic idol singer who is programmed to know every kind of martial art. Beloved by millions. Unclear how she actually hits people.
  11. BLANC. Cartoon rabbit who escaped from the world of animation into our reality. Can turn into a spring, pull enormous hammers from nowhere, etc. In love with Falsetto.
  12. HOTEI. A sumo wrestler in a Santa hat and red loincloth. Hits people with an enormous sack of toys. Big booming belly laugh. Loved by children everywhere.
  13. GUAN. A stork carrying a human baby. The baby seems happy and comfortable, even when it is being used as a blunt weapon. Nobody knows who taught the stork kung fu.
  14. CAPET. A clockwork automaton built for Louis XVI by an anonymous Oriental craftsman, who secretly imbued it with lost Shaolin knowledge. Lost during the revolution, it was abandoned in a warehouse for two hundred years before a curious peasant girl discovered it and thought to turn the huge key protruding from its back. Now on the run from both the British Museum, who want to collect it, and the Shaolin Elders, who view its existence as an abomination, it seeks refuge in the world's most elite martial arts tournament. Incredibly fast but has to stop every so often to wind itself up.
  15. POD. A carnivorous plant. Can't move around the battlefield, as it must stay rooted in its pot, though it can belch acid and lash out with thorn-tipped vines. A difficult character to learn, but rewarding for those who have mastered it.
  16. PICANTE. A South American dictator. Unsatisfied with his status as Supreme Ruler and Generalissimo over the tiny landlocked country of El Caliente, he sees no reason why he should not also triumph in the world's most elite martial arts tournament. Can control fire, for some inadequately explained reason.
  17. SARMOTI. A white tiger. Trained by the Las Vegas showmen Sven and Ricardo, it savagely turned on them halfway through a performance, ripping out Sven's throat before carving a bloody trail across the Sunset Strip. How it got invited to participate in the world's most elite martial arts tournament is unknown.
  18. MEKONG. Abandoned as a child in the swamps of Southeast Asia, this Muay Thai fighter was raised until the age of thirteen by Siamese fighting fish, and still retains many of their lethal instincts. She also dresses like one.
  19. TRUTH MAN. A patriotic American newspaper mogul who dons a striped mask and blue three-piece suit to become an anonymous crimefighter and defender of the innocent. Solves mysteries with the help of his faithful valet. Currently solving the mystery of who is the world's greatest martial artist.
  20. SCIPIO. Truth Man's faithful valet. Dresses all in black, with a chauffeur's cap. An expert in something that looks suspiciously like Wing Chun.
  21. BEDLAM. A madman confined to a straightjacket. Fights using only his legs and teeth.
  22. HACHI. A swarm of bees. Can shape itself into axes, whips, revolvers, etc. Ultimate attack involves taking the form of a nuclear bomb. Initially planned to be the character who copies other fighters, but the animation proved too difficult for the budget.
  23. MOLA. A princess from the lost city of Atlantis. Wants to return the seven Tide Jewels to their rightful place at the bottom of the sea, where no man can access their power. Wields a shark as a club.
  24. ZWAX. African-American rap legend who faked his own death in order to assume his rightful place as leader of the Illuminati. Wears gilded brass knuckles and a huge golden necklace shaped like the Eye of Providence. Wants the seven Tide Jewels for himself, to cement his place as secret ruler of the globe.
  25. BRUTUS. Legbreaker for the Italian Mafia, sent to collect the seven Tide Jewels before the Illuminati can get their hands on them. Dresses as a gladiator. Fights with a trident and a weighted net.
  26. IGNATZ. Jesuit monster hunter, dispatched by the Catholic Church to gain control of the seven Tide Jewels. Fights with a huge spiked silver thurible he swings like a mace.
  27. O-53. British superspy, impeccably dressed in bespoke suit and laser wristwatch. Real name unknown. Supplements kung fu with range of interesting gadgets developed for him by MI6 boffins. Wants the Tide Jewels in order to restore Britannia's mastery of the waves.
  28. SHALOM. Kung-fu rabbi and Mossad agent. Also after the Tide Jewels. Possesses a black belt in Krav Maga and a seemingly infinite supply of six-pointed throwing stars. Constantly chasing after Fatima.
  29. FATIMA. This character's absence from the American edition elicited complaints of censorship from thousands of aggrieved fans. A so-called "sexy suicide bomber", she sashays onto the battlefield in a full-body burqa, which is torn off at half health to reveal an explosive-belt bikini. She seeks the Tide Jewels for Al-Quaeda, and is in possession of a surprisingly complex and tragic backstory.

Thursday 8 September 2016


This is the cast of the fighting game that we would be making if we were Japanese and a video game company. It is called BEST OF FIGHTERS. The rest should be obvious.
  1. HARUTO. Ordinary high schooler who has accidentally entered the world's most elite martial arts tournament.
  2. YUI. Haruto's best friend. Entered the tournament to support him, against his protestations. Clumsy and extremely kawaii. Fights by falling over and hitting things with her schoolbag. Runs on stage with toast in her mouth.
  3. TAKUMI. Big fat neckbeard otaku who learnt martial arts from watching too much anime.
  4. MAKO. Gender ambiguous. Super cool, wears sunglasses. School captain and secret heir to ninja clan.
  5. KOGA-SENPAI. Math teacher of previous four characters. Secret ninja assassin from rival clan to Mako.
  6. MONJU. A Buddhist deity who was cast down from Heaven for reasons unknown and now wanders the Earth. Sits in lotus position atop a blue lion, wielding a lotus flower and a sword that can cut ignorance.
  7. LI'L TUT. An American featherweight boxer who dresses as an Egyptian mummy and wears a golden death mask. Real identity unknown.
  8. FRANK. The result of a secret American military experiment. Body parts from deceased members of every Special Forces branch, Frankensteined together into a hideous undead supersoldier. Left arm of a Green Beret, right leg of a Navy Seal, head of a Delta Force guy.
  9. MONTY. British archaeologist. Pith helmet and safari suit. Fights with artefacts looted from various pre-industrial cultures - boomerang, blowgun, tomahawk, etc. Ultimate move involves marble statues falling from the sky, is called Fall Of Rome.
  10. OTTO. Circus strongman with striped leotard and handlebar moustache. Has a projectile move where he throws dwarves at people.
  11. PONGO. Orangutan with boxing gloves. Otto's nemesis.
  12. WAYANG. Evil animated Javanese puppet. It stands downstage, attacking with its shadow, which is projected onto the main plane of combat.
  13. KING KAMA. Hawai'ian surfer in board shorts and lei. Board is possessed by the spirit of an ancient Hawai'ian king and moves on its own, acting as weapon, shield and vehicle. Ultimate move involves riding a summoned tsunami.
  14. WU XING. Shanghai alchemist. Can adopt five different elemental forms - fire, water, wood, metal, earth.
  15. ITAMAE. Master sushi chef. Fights with the kitchen knives of her ancestors.
  16. TAKO. An octopus with its head in a fishbowl. Constantly on the run from Itamae.
  17. HARRY FAN. Film noir detective from 1930s Hong Kong, brought forward in time by the machinations of an evil sorcerer. Backs up his kung fu with a snubnose revolver.
  18. SHINOBU. Tattooed yakuza guy who has replaced his severed pinky with a tiny gun.
  19. FINNEGAN. A leprechaun. Always dancing a jig. Half the size of the other characters. Rides rainbows across the stage and bleeds gold coins when hit.
  20. TENGU. A master thief that wears a tengu mask and balances on one-toothed wooden sandals. Flamboyant and roguish. Famous for committing impossible heists.
  21. EMET. A golem molded from malleable clay that can take the form of any other fighter.
  22. MAGOG. A caveman preserved in a Siberian glacier for a hundred thousand years. Literally the first thing he did on being unfrozen was to seek out the world's most elite martial arts tournament.
  23. YAGA. A tiny Russian witch whose legs are chicken legs. Jumps super high. Disembowels foes with razor-sharp talons.
  24. WELLS. A scientist who was accidentally turned invisible in an experiment gone wrong. Can throw off her hat and trenchcoat to become just a white-painted face and a pair of hands floating in mid-air, making her moves hard to read.
  25. BEM. A thrill-seeking space alien who has come to Earth in order to compete in the world's most elite martial arts tournament, which is unmatched anywhere in the galaxy. Has no understanding of this Earth concept called "fairness" and will gleefully attempt to disintegrate foes with its laser rifle.
  26. PHUONG. A street urchin who has trained her monkey to distract people while she picks their pockets. Got into the tournament by pretending to be the daughter of a legendary kung fu master.
  27. QUAN. A very old woman who is always drunk. Master of drunken-style kung fu, poetry and the baking of excellent moon cakes.
  28. KADRU. CEO of N.A.G.A., the megacorporation that sponsors the world's most elite martial arts tournament. Actually an immortal dragon that lost a bet with her sister, Vinata, and as a result was confined to human form. Plans to use the tournament to obtain the seven Tide Jewels and become a dragon again, drowning the world in the process.
  29. TAI. Kadru's daughter and henchperson. Pan's identical twin. Snake tattoo on her left arm. Poisons people with punches.
  30. PAN. Kadru's daughter and henchperson. Tai's identical twin. Snake tattoo on her right leg. Poisons people with kicks.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

d20 Traps

  1. A crown floating on a jet of water. Taking the crown allows the jet of water to hit the ceiling, where it brings to life a dehydrated and carnivorous fungus.
  2. A bar of silver held between the mouths of two copper dragons. A powerful electric current flows through the silver. Taking it will force the current to instead flow through the copper chains that hang like a curtain over the room's door.
  3. A room with a ruby on a pedestal in the centre. Every second wall is mirrored. The ruby acts as a lens for a blinding white light emitted by a fleck of rare metal in the pedestal, making it redder and darker. Removing the ruby will blind everyone. Replacing the ruby with an emerald will reveal secret messages written on the walls.
  4. An urn in a stone alcove. The top of the alcove is flush with the top of the urn, acting as a stopper and sealing inside a powerful djinn. The djinn is the bored djinn from this story, and has decided just to kill you.
  5. An ankle-deep pool of clear water. From one side, you can see the floor through it. From the other side, it reflects the sky from the window above the opposite door, which is too bright to see through. Once you've crossed from the first side, the floor slides away and the water becomes ten feet deep with piranhas in it.
  6. An ogre chained to the wall. A sword stuck in a plinth, out of reach of the ogre. The blade of the sword passes through the links of the chains, holding them in place. If it's removed the ogre will be freed.
  7. A wall-sized painting depicting an impressionistic parlour scene of a distraught, howling figure. The painting is actually a framed sheet of glass that makes anything behind it look like a painting. Behind it is a drawing-room and a ghoul standing very still with its mouth open.
  8. A pleasant grassy clearing with small trees, blackberry bushes and a couple of birds. Actually a pool of cow shit abandoned by a negligent farmer. Anything heavier than a child walking across it will break the crust and drown. There's no air within a foot of the pool's surface, as cow shit swallows oxygen.
  9. A river of quicksilver with a thin layer of flammable oil floating on top. Lighting the braziers in the walls also lights a fuse that conducts flame to the oil, which burns away and allows lethal quicksilver fumes to flood the room.
  10. Razortoothed rats in the walls that emerge in their thousands if even a drop of blood is spilt. A very fat woman sitting on a treasure chest who demands an extravagant sum before she'll move and let you open it. She will make sure you know about the rats. She has a crossbow. Its bolts are blunted, stunning but not wounding.
  11. A vampire nailed to the wall with ruby-tipped silver spikes. Its palms continually bleed. It pretends to be a normal person who has only been there a few hours, but its clothes are dusty and it won't let you see its teeth.
  12. A bone whistle on a glass pedestal. The walls of the room are strangely curved, echoing and amplifying any sound made within. The resonant frequency of the pedestal is such that, if anyone blows the whistle in the room, it will shatter and explode into a thousand flying shards of glass.
  13. An old dusty book, expensively bound and illuminated with gold leaf. Contains several hundred years of parish records. Infested with tiny black worms that are experts at mimicking letters and live to sow strife and discord. If undetected they will crawl into the wizard's spellbook and riddle it with tiny punctuation errors, meaning the next spell she memorises will go horribly wrong when she tries to cast it.
  14. A rack of venison roasting on a metal spit. A big carving knife with a metal handle standing in a block of wood. An electric current runs through the spit, which bulges inside the meat so that if you try to carve it you will probably make contact with the metal and be electrocuted.
  15. On the floor, a trompe-l'oeil painting of a spiked pit. Perception save to realise it's only a painting. It is made of canvas, which will tear if you walk over it and drop you into a spiked pit.
  16. Spring of fresh water with a faint reddish tinge and metallic tang. Testing for poison reveals a high but harmless concentration of iron. In the next room there is a giant magnet that will pin anyone who drank it to the wall by their stomach.
  17. Spiral staircase that is actually a spring. When you turn the doorhandle at the top it releases a latch at the bottom and the staircase collapses upward, crushing you between its coils.
  18. Mushrooms emit a curious light that makes it impossible to distinguish between humans and statues. The room they illuminate contains ninety-nine statues and one blind assassin.
  19. Swarm of mummified macaques. Big flaming torch on the wall beside you. If you set them on fire you'll swiftly discover they're stuffed with gunpowder and shrapnel.
  20. Floor is covered with pyramids, from the base of the door you walk in through to the far wall. On top of each pyramid is balanced a small green egg. Ten thousand starlings stare at you politely from the walls. If you manage to get to the other side without disturbing any eggs you'll find out that the door to the next room opens inwards.
BONUS: An abandoned drawing-room with rats scurrying across the floor and a spiral staircase in the centre. The stairs get bigger as you go down, as do the tapestries and torches. At the bottom is an exact duplicate of the first drawing-room only much larger and with giant rats in it. We wanted to put this in the list but it turns out it's just funny, not a trap.

BONUS TWO: Worm in a bottle of alcohol. If the worm is ever not submerged in alcohol it will rapidly grow to problematic size. Nico insists that this is an item and not a trap.

surely you know what oglaf is
(it has naked pictures! beware!!)

Thursday 18 August 2016

Plague Generator

Have been using the Last Gasp generator generator for ages, obviously, because it's invaluable. So invaluable, in fact, that I reverse engineered it a Python script that builds a javascript generator based on lists you give it, and is way easier (for a little python nerd like me) to edit and test with!

The code is over here on Pastebin, and the first thing I did with it is down below!

A Plague Of:

1 Horses Trampling Crops
2 Dogs Tainting Water
3 Rats Devouring Food
4 Bats Attacking Livestock
5 Sparrows Stealing Restful Sleep
6 Children Destroying Children
7 Tiny Green Beetles Eroding Vows
8 Tiny Green Children Poisoning Friendship
9 WormsInfecting Husbands
10 Mushrooms Bewitching Townsfolk
11 Ooze Absorbing Houses
12 Wind Carrying Off Everything

Go find Moonrats in the 3.5 Monster Manual II and reskin them harddd
(click pic 4 plague)

Monday 15 August 2016

Lovecraft Villains

Why would anyone even bother to worship Cthulhu, though? This has never made sense to me. Isn't the whole thing that he's so utterly horrible all human minds instinctively recoil from his presence? I guess it's basically the same thing as selling your soul to the Devil and people are constantly doing that. It presents a challenge, though. A Lovecraft-type story needs a human villain for anything to actually happen, otherwise the only sensible thing for a protagonist to do is get as far away from the action as possible and stay there. So you need to find a guy that has more coherent motivations for teaming up with the literal Worst Thing then "just a fuckwit, I guess". Here are some.

1. Algernon Blackthorne, master magician. Implicit villain of that generator I made earlier. An Aleister Crowley type, leader of an occult society, pretentious and profoundly insecure. Really wants you to think that he knows a lot of ancient secrets and is constantly having interesting sex. Knows some ancient secrets and has some interesting sex, but is rapidly running out of money and unable to find a publisher for his book about how misunderstood he is. Dark moustache, eyes that could plausibly be described as "burning". Whole aesthetic almost works but not quite. Worships the Elder Gods almost solely because he wants to be perceived as the kind of person who would worship an Elder God. Would happily destroy the world for pretty much the same reason. Real name Fred Stuggs.

2. Lena Sitspur, star of the silver screen. Notorious for femme fatale roles, risque costumes and constant flouting of the Hays code. The studio has made a huge deal out of her purportedly exotic origins, spreading rumours that she's the daughter of an Arab sheik and an exiled Chinese princess. They have also spread rumours that the first set of rumours were a hoax and actually she's just a farmgirl from Des Moines. This will prove, upon further research, to also be false. Lena is surrounded at all times by a bevy of lovers, ex-lovers, suitors, sycophants, studio people, screenwriters, stuntmen, starlets, fans and mere hangers-on, all of whom are obsessed with her to a degree that is unusual even for Hollywood and will, if pushed, happily die for her. She suffers from crippling depression, having found that no amount of sex or cocaine will fill the gaping void that has haunted her soul for as long as she can remember. None of the three fetuses she has aborted have been quite human. She has recently begun to wonder what would happen if she carried a child to term.

3. Sir Thomas Dinsdale, armchair anthropologist. Has never been quite the same since his wife died. Recently returned to fieldwork after a decade spent expounding his increasingly bizarre theories to a series of perplexed undergraduates, from who he has acquired a small handful of committed followers. Currently excavating an untouched Neolithic tomb in Orkney (or anywhere else you want to set an adventure). Intends to prove that all great revolutions in history, from the agricultural to the industrial, are a result of contact with Outside Forces, and that the next step up the ladder of civilisation will allow us to conquer Death Itself and make contact with those who have been taken beyond the veil. Absent-minded and lazy, leaving most of the actual digging to his students on the basis that they're better at it than he is. Stubborn. Dangerously optimistic. Hard to legally stop, no matter how many villagers go missing.

4. Dr. Quan Haodeng, the Yellow Terror of California. A name that the press persist in applying to him, despite all his attempts to shake it off. Yes, he runs the finest opium dens in San Francisco, but if the peddling of delightful dreams is to be a crime it can only be a victimless one, and he has nothing against Westerners. Happens to be married to one, and she gets on perfectly well with the rest of his wives. Dr. Quan is beloved in the Chinese community and has several close friends in the city's government. The chief of police would love to see him brought down. The newspapers dwell with barely-concealed glee on stories of young white women brought low by Oriental decadence, very few of which are true. They are silent on the source of Quan's product, the fields of black poppies that grow, tended by blind monks, on what rumour describes as a Himalayan plateau called Long or Lung.  And only the most elite dream-connoisseurs have felt themselves transported to a spectrum of possible worlds, worlds where the Germans won the Great War or the Qing dynasty never fell. Worlds where America is ruled by a race of serpents, or the continents are deserts and the oceans stir with foul bacterial life.

Of course, these are but dreams. There can be no truth at all to the story that one of Quan's sons has brought something back.

5. Inspector Strathclyde of the Yard. Ruthlessly rational. Always gets his man, usually sees him hanged. Absolute faith in the logical purity of his convictions. Flatly refused to believe in the existence of sorcery until presented with irrefutable evidence of it, then re-evaluated his entire life appropriately. Determined that, since all available sources suggest that the world is doomed to be consumed by the Elder Gods within his lifetime, and since the only way to minimise one's suffering during this unfortunate event is to win the Elder Gods' favour through pagan ritual and sacrifice, he is necessarily compelled to join a cult. Promptly made contact with the nearest appropriate organisation and, within six months, rose to the top of it. Responsible for the disappearance of several dozen vagabonds, whose mutilation and murder he handles with cold efficiency, as well as the quashing of all investigation into same. Beginning to branch out into more esoteric crimes, such as a series of simultaneous bookshop burnings whose map locations form a seven-pointed star. Some of the police force is with him, but by no means all.

6. Mildred Strook, daredevil. Will do anything for a laugh. Flew across the Pacific in under three days, an impossible time. Won't tell anybody how she did it or what happened to her co-pilot. Wears a shark-tooth talisman around her neck and speaks, nonsensically, of taking "short-cuts". Constantly attempting to break height records, pushing her plane beyond its limits, openly fantasising about breaking free from the atmosphere and travelling the void between worlds. Her husband, who is also her publicist, is deeply worried about her. He would like some way to ground her before she hurts herself, but he can't convince her not to fly and he knows it would cripple her career. Neither of them will talk about the wind that comes howling round their windows in the night, the one that nobody but her seems to hear.

The Triplets of Leng. They come to all the other six. Sometimes in dreams, sometimes not in dreams. If you kill any of the other six, they will begin to come to you.

(You could put all these people together in Britain or California if you wanted to run some sort of Lovecraft sandbox. Algernon would fit neatly into LA. Lena could plausibly be on holiday, or have recently married an Englishman. Dinsdale could be digging in Arizona or northern Mexico. Strathclyde probably loses something if he's not British, but the San Francisco police do play a role in Quan's story. Mildred can live anywhere, she owns a plane.)

Sunday 14 August 2016

Cult Generator

This is a Lovecraft cult generator I made in Twine. Here are my thoughts on it, and on random generation more generally.
  1. Twine is okay for doing mockups of stuff if you don't have any other skills but, at least on my computer, it begins to massively slow down once you have a whole bunch of code on a single page. Which is not a good attribute for something that you're ostensibly supposed to make games in!
  2. The part of this that generates names works super well. The part that generates adventures works pretty well but not necessarily better than the other way of generating adventures, which is to pick a location, go to Wikipedia and find some piece of local history that could concievably involve a spookens ghost. Name generators are good because names are basically randmo anywhere. Adventure generators are harder because adventures need to be governed by coherent internal logic . Like, you need to establish what the overall narrative conceit is, then use that as a framework to decide on individual story components. Generators pick from a list of individual story components and ask you to reverse-engineer a narrative conceit from them. Not every set of components works as well as every other set, so it's often not totally fluid.
  3. This took me a few days. I probably could have written a single proper story in that time. One of the big limitations on generation is that you have to come up with a hundred different good ideas instead of just one. Though this can be appealing if, like me, you're better at having ideas at fleshing them out.

Saturday 13 August 2016

Enemies in Amalgam

Take a bunch of little monsters. Put them in a pile. Add a drop or two of mercury. Squeeze. Congratulations! You just manufactured an Amalgam.

Mechanically, Amalgams are a ruling for any kind of modular enemy. Take twelve HD¼
critters and fuse them into a HD 3 creature with extra powers. Every time the big creature takes damage equal to (or greater than) half the health of a little one, said little one blows off the big critter.

Amalgam Examples

Poes - HD¼
Can phase through walls. Attack with spectral claws and cold fires. Can't amalgamate in the presence of torchlight. Killed by sunlight.
HD ≤ 1: Can only be hit by magic and magic weapons. Afraid of fire.
HD ≥ 2: Gains coldfire blast attack.
HD ≥ 4: Sheathes self in ancient silks and armour.
HD ≥ 6: Wears bronze crown. Can spew forth 3d4 little poes 1/week.

Slimes - HD½
C'mon you know this one.
HD ≤ 1: Thin enough to melt through your skin into your blood. Attracted to, and killed by, fire and salt.
HD ≥ 2: Can melt skin.
HD ≥ 3: Psuedopod attack. Can melt wood.
HD ≥ 4: Swallow attack. Can melt steel. ¼

Cronenbergs - HD1
Each has a weaponisable mutation. The horrible result of their fusion will carry all their best traits. This one has a:
  1. Heaving brainsack. Its veins throb in magnetic rhythms, grant mild telekinesis
  2. Suckered mouth tentacle. Can latch onto almost any surface. Strength check and a knife to get it off your neck
  3. Feather-tipped biowhip. Hurls sharp quills in 3d4 damage burst, each d4 to a chosen target. 
  4. Reverberation chamber. Can spend the round hooting to deal 1d6 damage to everything within 50 feet
  5. Birthing sack. Thrown a short distance it bursts to reveal another Cronenburg with only 1hp
  6. Chitin and fat crumple zones. Double health for individual Cronenburg.
  7. Fibrous asbestos mane. Resists fire, releases toxic clouds when damaged. Save vs coughing fit
  8. Abdominal maw. Womb holds surprising amount, mutates contents
  9. Antenna array. Communicates with the hindbrain using odd gesticulations
  10. External nervous system. Continuous contact will shut down muscles, bare nerve endings eventually assuming control
  11. Biolumenscent blood. Eyes glow like torches. Can flash to blind all those looking 1/day
  12. Spinal whips. Two extra spinal columns sprout from back like cobras. Each attacks independently, lashing for 1d4
  13. Impact claw. Shockwave from claw snap blows away all in front of it. Takes a turn to rearm
  14. Caustic sinuses. Exposed orifices puke sticky, rancid mucus. Burns for 1d4/round until scraped off

Friday 29 July 2016

Insects of Hyperborea

If you go far enough north, you come to Hyperborea. This is true everywhere. Travel past the kingdom of fake Vikings and the mountains of the white elves and the ice-ridden shores of the polar seas and the place where sky and sea and land all blur into each other and all you see is white. Keep going north and you will find it.

There is life even in Hyperborea. Silent birdmasked whale hunters. Kite cities floating on katabatic winds. Empires of sapient bacteria, subglacial magma-heated saline bubbles the only universe they know. Reefs of white coral that filter food particles from the eternally howling wind. Fake Vikings who've gone a little weird. Self-perpetuating magnetic fields that want to liberate your soul from your body so it can dance with them in the aurora. Goblins. Mammoths. Mammoth seals, like elephant seals but bigger and stupider. Tusked apes. Pockets of rainforest that unfreeze for a week in the heart of summer to briefly mimic the tropics. Piranha penguins. Crimson oozes that leave their pigment in caves when it's time to hunt. Tomb vultures that eat only the flesh of dead empresses. Stunted scavenger bears. Skeleton jellies. More goblins.

There are also giant insects. Hyperborea is not subject to the same natural laws as your world and insects can be as big as they like. Here are some.
  1. Myrmeleon. The larvae dig funnel-shaped traps in the snow and lie in wait with their jaws open at the bottom. The adults are called 'lacewings' and are rarely seen. They're rumoured to grant wishes, but this is probably bullshit that someone invented as a cruel prank.
  2. Dripping mantis. Translucent chitin. Hangs in contorted postures from rocky overhangs and the eaves of houses, perfectly disguised as a cluster of icicles. On warmer days, moistens self with tear-like substance secreted from special glands to give the appearance of melting.
  3. Snow strider. Skates across plains and hummocks of metre-thick powdered snow as if it were hard earth. Carries 1d6 bubbles of liquid nitrogen affixed to the hair on its legs, to be flung at enemies.
  4. Ice lice. The size of small dogs. Mostly live on mammoths and other huge mammals. Will drain a human dry in under a minute, then crowd around the corpse trying to figure out why it doesn't have any more blood in it.
  5. Boilfly. Abdomen glows with a chemical reaction warm enough to melt snow and bright enough to act in lieu of a torch. Explodes if startled or ungently prodded, spraying sticky, boiling liquid over everything in radius of its light.
  6. Hogbody caterpillar. Giant fuzzy caterpillar lumbering its way though waist-high drifts, consuming every scrap of organic material it can get its mandibles on. Takes seven summers to accumulate enough energy for metamorphosis.
  7. Hogbody moth. Wings like sheets of ice glint and refract the summer sunlight. Fat fuzzy body. Horrible gargoyle face. Antenna that can detect the radiation of your thoughts from half a mile away. Feeds exclusively on the aurora, but wants your flesh for its babies.
  8. Avalanche beetle. Rolls compacted snow and dung up into perfectly spherical boulders, sends them tumbling down cliffs at you. Makes snowmen in its spare time. No one knows where it gets the carrots for the noses.
  9. Fisherman centipede. Scuttles along the underside of ice shelves, feeling the vibrations of footsteps through its legs. Attacks through concealed breathing holes, bursting from snow dunes in a torrent of spins and legs. Venom is a potent antifreeze and anticoagulant that confers haemophilia on victims.
  10. Plowhorn beetle. Shovels snow out of the way with a huge chitinous horn, leaving highways in its wake. Hard to domesticate, but kept track of by seasoned travellers and sometimes steered with presents of nectar.

Monday 18 July 2016

Random Encounters of the Dzungarian Gate

Played a game of Ryuutama with Nico and Richie Cyngler. Improvised a setting based on the steppes of Central Asia using a bunch of stuff I already had in my head. The PCs are humble farmers and artisans from the Heavenly Kingdom, a quiet and pastoral realm where nothing has changed in a thousand years, who venture north and west across the Altai Mountains to the endless barbarian steppe and the mysteries that lie beyond it.

Ryuutama is mostly about travel. There's a whole system of survival and navigation rolls that takes up most of the game. I need to hack it to take more advantage of random encounters, and there's a thing where the DM is technically an omnipotent dragon that never came up, but otherwise it's pretty good. It's kind of cute and anime, which is not a thing I realised I want in my games until I had it. The PCs were trying to get from the mountain town of Alashankou in the pass known as the Dzungarian Gate to a gathering of nomads on the shores of Lake Balkash, which harbours a city of frog women in its depths. One of them had a dream that she would find her one true love somewhere to the west, another wanted to kill interesting new monsters and make the best possible hats out of them. I put together an encounter table and we spent most of the session stumbling across stuff and having to deal with it.

Here's a version of the table. This isn't exactly what I used but it's close enough.
  1. A sapient quadrupedal iceberg, relic of an ancient glacier, ambling across the plains.
  2. A wind wizard in a sail-propelled cart, gathering the feathers of exotic birds.
  3. A herd of sheep-sized, frill-necked dinosaurs grazing by a river.
  4. Nomads hunting a golden-antlered hind to make a headdress for their shaman.
  5. A woman in tortoiseshell armour who wants to trick you into a griffin-guarded cave.
  6. An egg with legs, arms and a moustache that runs faster than you and steals stuff.
  7. A tree whose leaves make whistles that conjure storms.
  8. The wedding of a frog woman to a rusalka, interrupted by a former lover.
  9. Nomads escorting the portable tomb of their khan, whose body must never rest.
  10. The north wind, BURAN, in the form of a shaggy old man with snakes for legs.
I thought the wedding would be cute but it turned out horrifying. I blamed it on cursed fermented mare's milk from a carnivorous horse. That should probably be on the table.

Thursday 14 July 2016

The Pole of the Pole

This is a short story I wrote.

It's called The Pole of the Pole. It's about six thousand words long. The idea is to deliver a meaty chunk of setting in a narrative format instead of the normal encyclopedic blog-entry format we usually write our settings in.

I feel like it worked pretty well. It's inspired by a period of history that I almost never see represented in anything. I don't want to tell you too much about it because I want to see how clear a picture you get of the setting from the story alone, but there is some art here so you have something to visualise in your head box.

Anyway that's enough talking. Go and read it.