Sunday 27 October 2019

The Collector

Couple of things here.

New short story called The Collector. I wanted to write about a curiosity shop, mostly because it's very easy to write about curiosity shops - you can fill whole paragraphs very easily just by sitting down and listing things. It took me a while to get beyond the setting and work out what the actual story was I wanted to tell.

I've also been getting some vaguely political thinkpieces published, in the Australian journals Flood and Overland. They are:

Lost Creatures, on the WWI tank in the Queensland Museum. Patrick gets a mention in this.

Monsters of the Unknown, on the weird horny mysticism of Jordan Peterson and D. H. Lawrence.

Marx, Ramsay and the ghosts of the Western canon, on Australian conservatives' obsession with Western Civilisation and Marx' essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

So there those are. The stuff about Marx and vampires I think is probably gameable. Dracula shows up, you can always find something to do with Dracula. Somebody put a game together where you fight Dracula and undead Napoleon in Paris during the 1848 revolution, I'll play it. I've been reading a bit of Victor Hugo as well and it all fits together.

Friday 18 October 2019

a peeper deeper

roll a d4, +0 for summer, +3 for fall, etc, or whatever precision suits your calendar
rolls 13+ wrap back to start of table

spring, summer
birdnests, plucked from the bough just when their chicks are fledged
can be held over the mouth to filter noxious airs
burnt, their smudged smoke is insufferable to any spirit of great age
winter, fall
eyecap mushrooms grow in pairs
eat one to see out the other
eat both to go blind for a day
manyams are plucked before they grow too ripe and boisterous
they can be stored anywhere they are sealed from the light, but are most productive when put to work straight away
do not let them unionise
dug up from between the roots of trees and sucked on
frozen toad confers a rapturous nostalgia, claimed by addicts to give great insight
the venom, extracted, inflicts the same effect
malodorous skunk cabbage draws pollinating beetles and the hungry dead
the peppery leaves announce their deadly poison with swells and burns on contact
careful doses cause numbness, can treat burns or constipation
when held in the mouth, black cockerel eggs corporealise a possession within their victim's flesh
when baked they make devilish good cakes
summer, fall
after slow and careful drying through summer, broomsticks are best trained in fall gusts
it's wisest to spend the first season simply sweeping with a new broom, but they can yet be ridden, given enough skill or determination
winter, spring
holding last grasps of frost, hoary aurgelmir grows in thick lichenous beards on bowed trees
its tea cools fever
its essence, drops wrung from the bale, can douse campfires
salmon eggs can be collected by the bucket, though this is inadvisable as they attract bears
crushed with herbs and birdsnests they're a rejuvenating tonic
left to rot, a dispeptic binding agent for curses and troll cakes
false fir cones crack when burnt or struck, mouselike seeds wiggling backwards from their pod
great impersonations, make adroit messengers, spies
remember everything heard, even when they're trees grown
pumpkin-spice leaves dry out on the vine
by mid fall crumble readily into a powerful desiccant powder
the powder, heated, smells irresistibly delicious
bathwater is most potent if not collected every spring
reliable cleaning agent for most household stains
functionally the same as holy water

animals eat whatever's rolled immediately after them. definitely add branches!
however you roll will change characteristics of the ecosystems you can generate:
 - to make more real ecosystems, decrease your die size after every roll (bunching up the lower orders of life) and add the result of your roll to depth (no bear-eating grasses here!)
 - get a lil more hectic by adding less than the die-size each roll (more role reversals), and using larger dice (blurrier categories for life)

normal underfoot kooky space
1 humanoid gopher bear crab
2 canid rat boa tick
3 felid mole sloth eel
4 bird spider chokeoak bacterium
5 mustelid millipede wolve clam
6 deer ant stag ant
7 spider worm wasp krill
8 bird beetle orchidfungus
9 bug ant toad epiphyte
10 grub worm wurm  coral
11 vine bacterium blackfly  algae
12+ tree fungus humans  bacteria

If you're down here with the blessing of a priest you just go through each room in order. Otherwise, I'd go ahead and roll separate d4s for graves, goods and guardians on each level. Spooky!
Potential plot hook: someone in town wailing that their beloved has been buried alive for political reasons

grave gravegood guardian
1 natural rock, thickly worked in charcoal and ochre. herds of careful-sketched ancient beasts come alive in the torchlight stone arrow heads, lumpy wooden figures, a misshapen pot. all given potency by uncounted aeons sabretoothed spirits prowl through charcoal arcs. touch the walls and face possession by primordial hungers
2 stonemason's shaft, letting air and workers into the lower levels without disturbing the shallow older tombs pickaxes, buckets, chisels and carts. some nice chunks of pyrite holy mason, dustmask insulated with layer of scripture. better handle on architecture than current politics
3 hollow walls and the occasional pit. ingenious traps rotted away to mildew and stone jars of depressurised acid, a basket full of snake bones. meticulous, illegible plans for marvellous, lethal devices angry dust. made up more of dirt than actual body. hates having the air disturbed, would be very happy if you trapped it in a bag
4 descriptions of the underworld in faded paint. a little cartoonish, but still bittersweet beautiful stone-eyed scultpures of leering beastial gods. carefully-wrapped creatures, cats and birds and a few apex predators bone-dry mummies. arms bound in thin bronze torcs, hands clutching thin bronze spears, still sharp after a thousand years 
5 stacked stones and piles of enemy skulls. graven runes render grim prophecy a cache of silver icons and a grinning gilded mask. great stacks of antlers and a mound of mouldy hides forgotten kings, iron armour corroded half to dust, arguing as to who has precedence in cutting off your head.
6 grandiose histories carved into the walls, obsessive, speculative genealogies and misattributed floods a chest of ancient currency; tiny copper tools and weapons. a lacquered library of rotten scrolls a warring emperor, sealed in a silver suit. plots against the spiders and cave crickets that infiltrate their domain
7 stacked headstones, piles of charred skulls. mass graves jumbled full of bones  melted rings and blackened jewels. beds, straw and velvet both, hastily interred while still occupied an apparition of crickets, one true bug for every dozen empty husks, the whole haunted by pestilential spirits
8 elaborate frescoes mural the walls, of themes more recognisable to the modern eye snuff boxes and moth-bitten purses, spectacles and flimsy ceremonial weapons gentrified skeletons bemoan the turpitude of the modern age, call down stone gendarmes to deal with trespassers and teens
9 tasteful stone enclaves hold shy the curious dead. rows of urns carved into the rock on every corpse a purse of two tin coins, some with earrings or other things of sentiment old dried souls shamble in idle confusion. when bumped will turn and press you, hungrily, for news of their lost life
10+ corpses laid out for their year before cremation. nameplates box in the ash of those burnt a tastefully disguised closet, chemicals and tools for cleaning and preserving a lone soul wanders among these newest corpses, little gibbets of flesh in their teeth, insisting that they aren't yet dead