Monday 13 December 2021

Ends of the World

Edge of the World
  1. The ocean only stands a few meters above the edge of the world. The water turns and falls in a thick band, a unique ecotone home to all manner of specialist marine life. Extremely hydrodynamic fish balance effortlessly atop the waterfall, dipping over the edge if predators threaten, then swimming vertically back to snatch a snack caught in the current.

  2. For the first few miles the waterfall coheres, lensing a view of the world's belly stretching gently away. Diving birds graze across the clear sheet to snatch a startled fish or falling treat. Bolder birds will punch straight through, shake dry and swallow, then dart back across to the sunlit side before their feathers freeze.

  3. A hundred miles below the edge the sun creeps out from the shadow of the world. The warm, wet updraft rising directly below the earth hits the ball of cold air hugging the firmament's umbra. The foggy breeze crosses and breaks the great stream, beginning its transition to a falling wall of foam and mist.

  4. In scattered baubles the water falls, just thicken enough to knock industrious fliers out of the air. It takes a full day of freefalling for water to reach this point. Well evolved eggs, laid by fish at the ocean edge, make take several days to fall this far, but by here they must hatch, while the water is still thicken enough to support their leaping, drop by drop, back to the solid stream.

  5. A thousand miles down the pale disk of the world is lost in cloud. The thread of waterfall above casts spears of sunlight down through the steadily falling haze. This huge stretch of dense, wet, stable atmosphere provides a home for plants and animals that can be very slightly heavier than dry air, yet here remain buoyant.

  6. Impenetrable gray haze above, below and all around. The air grows cold and rain begins to form. The clouds work in on themselves, twisted and tightening. Gentle pressures act slowly on the column of air, until the mile-wide cloud reconverges into a series of parallel, paper-thin waterfalls. Swimming becomes just barely possible once more, elvers and razor fish cut up through the thin water, pinprick shoals leap daringly between the arcs of water.

  7. Surface tension grabs and drags at the descending rivulets. Gradually they intersect, twine together into a single solid sheet. It is less than a foot thick now, most of its bulk having already evaporated and started the brisk rise back up to the world above. 

  8. Ten thousand miles below the sky the sunlight is pale and scarce. In the dim perpetual dawn the airy fish bioluminesce. This long, quiet stretch is a final refuge, where the last grit of life may be filtered from the passing water. Dried fish poo circles uncertainly on the breeze, too tired to fall further.

  9. The waterfall has thinned to a blade of mist. That which drops this far falls only slowly, but with no water and precious little air to climb upon. This is the point of no return.

  10. No more water falls. A little mist spirals disconsolately, withered fish skins whirl weakly on the nullbreeze. Still too far below, bouncing back meek, silver sunlight, a final shore of freeze-dried corpses. People, whales, whole cities that have tumbled off the edge and come to rest below the reach of the sea, floating on the inky unreality of this final edge.

Tip of the World
  1. Horizon-wide desert, soft red sandstone cut to neat, straight ribbons by the steady wind. Something like a sunset tars the far eastern sky. Vultures overhead, overpopulated. Hyenic howls bound between the rocks.
    Encounter: 3d8 harassing vultures, 2d4 marsupial sugarlions, 1d6 wandering mounds

  2. Ranchers make houses by the thin dry riverbeds, or up on the mesa where water springs from the rock. Cattle, sheep and goats live thirsty lives on the range, though well fed by deep rooted bushes that thrive on the frequent floods.
    Encounter: ranch house having a barn raising, merchant souk overrun by caravans, unattended herd hunted by beasts

  3. Sandy hollows between the stone ridges funnel animal migrations. Uncounted eroding hooves cut deeper their path, and so the sand and scouring wind tighten and condense. Fastest travel is along these flat-bottomed canyons, but beware a buffeting in the belligerent breezeway. 
    Encounter: heavily armed merchant caravan, circus troupe, famous mathematician

  4. Sky tightens down above, compressing the wind into a roving, perpetual storm. A floodplain of wind. Sparse, quick-growing bushes race to cast out seeds before the torrent passes back across. Rolling fog banks drive flash floods before them, both choked with coarse sand and stones. The land is returned to mud.
    Weather: thin hailstorm, soaking downpour, flash flood

  5. Another belt of constant wind. It is heavier here, dense and laden. The land takes on bizarre twists and arcs. Arches, towers and tunnels, in smooth topology of shifting curves.
    Encounters: 4d4 wind pirates, 2d4 lost inventors, 1d20 pygmy gliding mammoths

  6. This last predictable longitude houses the three great flying castles of this land.
    - The northernmost, Maignett, bobs above a thrusting ridge rich in iron. Ancient runic arrays and electromagnets are dug into both foundation and floating stones. Improvised galvanic machines trail twisting metal tails behind the city, feeding power to the ununderstood devices keeping the city aloft.
    - Clwerk is a miracle of modern sciences. Cutting edge alloys twirl implausible forces, clockwork fans storing the chaotic beating of the wind to provide a constant buoyance when the uplift dies away. Wings and balloons do the more consistent lifting, excess power from the banks of tilted turbines yoked to the factories and machines that make famous the town.
    - To the south, Laefindi floats organically above a fecund wetland. The city, grown from naturally buoyant plants with wing-shaped leaves, is weighed down as much by birds as people, anchored by ponderous chains of roots. The weather-trap that funnels water here keeps alive the town in every way, feeding its plants and those of the bird- and bug-rich plains below.
  7.  Atmospheric phase change. Air clear, flat, heavy, utterly still. The far horizon is blotchy and blurred, high and low pressure systems rearranging themselves into a new paradigm, well beyond mere weather.
    Encounters: magnetic hermit, sunset drake, lightning-fisher blimp

  8. Hyperstorm. Pockets of wind, post-wind, psuedocloud, transweather and hyperair change position like awkward teens at a dance. Hothead students from the floating cities come here to dare each other deeper into the quantum weather, hoping for inspiration and exhilaration both.
    Encounters: flying aces on training mission, experimental sentient weather machine, semi-stable weatherflux genie

  9. Bubble of near-vacuum. Contorted atmosphere bathes the world in psychedelic sunset colours. Snakes, strangely shaped bugs and little mice with huge lungs titter across the silent, grassless plain.
    Encounters: magnetic ascetic, sunset angel, vacuum saint

  10. Everything pinches to a pinhole, howling vortex where the world leaks out.
this, narrowing to a single point

End of the World
  1. The sky turns nasty red
  2. The birds fly up and up and up until they are gone
  3. The animals froth at the mouth and run into the sea
  4. The plants turn bitter and grow brittle thorns
  5. The waters turn to blood
  6. The people lament, their bodies wracked with sores and boils
  7. The insects swarm, seek absolution through ruination
  8. The waters recede and dust takes their place
  9. The earth opens up to receive all sinners
  10. Everything turns out okay

Thursday 9 December 2021

31 Days of Orb

  1. Munition Sphere. When dropped, falls until it hits the ground, without concern for any objects it does not consider to be 'the ground'.
  2. Orb of Ice. Snow globe slash terrarium. Preserves a stable slice of ice age ecology and a small fishing village of political undesirables collected over the last millennium. Little plug in the bottom for putting new things in.
  3. Orb of Children. An attractive red colour, irresistible when bouncing. Anyone remotely childish will be compelled to kick it, everyone else will have a hard time not lovingly beholding the impromptu scrum. 
  4. Orb of Anger. Tiny, squishy. Can be squeezed when angry, in order to store your anger in the ball while in no way diminishing the anger you feel. Thrown in to someone's face it will piss them off more than they were expecting.
  5. Orb of Edges. Bright silvery, feels like fish-scales, beautiful but innocuous. Twisted and pressed just so, it collapses into 36 thin, razor edged short swords. Pressed not so, it explodes into the same. Three consecutive wisdom checks to re-ballify, 1d3! damage on every failure.
  6. Shame Ball. Soft clay shaped like a human in fetal position, shivers gently with sobs. Not good to have in your pocket for long periods.
  7. Orb of Daemon. Contains a guy named Damon, who is now very clear on the spelling difference. Unconvincing when he suggests a mix-up, or that a demon tricked him in here. Enough secondhand knowledge of dark rituals, from wizardly interrogations, that he actually might be able to answer your questions.
  8. Orb of the Present. A crystal ball that shows what's happening here, now. Bad timestream management means the present is actually a few seconds ahead and a little to the left of what most people experience. Much more useful to time travelers. 
  9. Orb of Night. Absorbs light and beam effects, re-emits them softer and more silvery. In darkness it grows spidery legs and crawls around doing trickery.
  10. Skull Ball. Looks like the back of a head, all the way around. The brain inside is long-dead and half-fermented, making it all the more potent as a psychic resonator, alchemical reagent and illithid foodstuff. Definitely not an ostrich egg.
  11. Forest Bole. Immensely heavy. Its many folds and rot holes hold everything you need to grow a forest: squirrel-stashed seeds, leaf litter, termites, worms, mulch, and many hundreds of birds, bugs and mice. Valuable to druids, comforting to dryads, a menace to agriculture.
  12. Orb of Help. Battered and leathery. Desperately wants to be of assistance, will try to do anything you ask, but the lack of appendages, sense organs and brain makes it basically useless.
  13. Orb of Food. Closely resembles a ball of dough. Can be baked to produce a crunchy, edible crust. Organic matter pushed in will be slowly digested. Left unattended, it will katamari around eating the most highly processed foods it can find.
  14. Orb of Ooze. Proximity thickens bodily fluids. Slows poisons, may cure or cause sinus infection. Skin contact for a few minutes will harmlessly plasticize flesh and bones, an hour will smother eyes and ears with slime, providing a new array of tactile and chemical senses.
  15. Orb of Snow. Used to contain a thriving ice age terrarium. Now contains a big crack in the side and ten thousand asphyxiated elk. Quite a lot of snow comes out when shaken.
  16. Unholy Orb. Covered in dense, ever-changing limericks and bawdy pictograms. Always on the edge of whatever the viewer finds offensive. Longer study reveals darker and more salacious designs, which the viewer finds more and more titillating.
  17. Orb of Nap. A soap bubble containing ten minutes wholesome rest. Whoever pops it falls immediately asleep, the orb reemerging as a snot bubble during their final snore.
  18. Orb of Balefire. Swirling ball of straw, neatly woven into itself. Emits a thin, steady stream of smoke, but never ignites. Held to something flammable and blown through, it will start a small, easily controlled fire.
  19. Runic Orb. Said to contain a hidden map to an even more hidden treasure, actually just teaches you dwarvish if you play with it for a month or two.
  20. Orb of Huge. Starts off very very small. Sucks the bigness out of things that are bigger than they should be, or that have a smaller state to revert to. Stored bigness leaches out slowly, or quickly if you suck on it.
  21. Orb of Push. Slide one under something heavy to make it effortless to push around. Roll under someone's foot to make them easy to push over. Visually indistinguishable from a ball bearing.
  22. Orb of Doors. Can be used to roll up an unlocked door, then unrolled on almost any surface. Depth of the new room or hallway is in proportion to the quality of the door.
  23. Orb of Slow. Everything seen through its green glassy surface moves in slow motion. Peripheral vision moves normal speed, the mild paradox incites migraines.
  24. Orb of Tower. Causes dirt beneath it to gently mound, bricks to stack, timbers to lurch upright. Will slowly build dangerously unstable piles almost anything. Most practically useful as a muse for architects.
  25. Orb of Arcane. Absolutely ancient, soaked in magic and impressions of thousands of wizards. Has a polite, detached tone, a broad expertise sabotaged by bitter jealousy of true sentience.
  26. Boss Orb. When given a good smack, gets up and fights you. Starts off popping out a single arm, grows more appendages and weak points every time it's started up. Gives out more and more coins each time it's beaten, replaces the gold by eating those it defeats.
  27. Orb of Gold. Makes the holder more believable, and gradually smellier. After a week, anything they say will be trusted, and no one will want to be anywhere near them
  28. Orb of Toxin. Swirls sinisterly. Beloved by snakes. In no way reacts to poisons of any kind, but makes malicious gossip hit closer to home, narcissists feel more confident, the entitled feel more entitled.
  29. Orb of Ghost. Looks to a ghost like a ghost looks to people. They find this terrifying. Responds bizarrely to holy water, exorcisms, makes a good test of their potency.
  30. Reverse Orb. Circular patch of reality exposing the big orb the universe sits in. Can't really be grabbed or held by the edges, surprisingly easy to drag around with suction pads. Definitionally indestructible, perfectly reflective. Passing through it magically will land in you very strange places.
  31. Orb of the World. Small, accurate map of the whole world, bizarrely deformed to fit on a sphere. Sufficient tools of magnification make it a suburb focus for all kinds of long distance magic, planning aid for long voyages, weather prediction tool.


Tuesday 7 December 2021

Christmas Wizards

From my in-law's house.

Three Wise Men. His crown is 6 candles, one for each day of the year. His list is 30 names, one for each girl and boy. He comes down the chimney with three tests, in three boxes. The children that pass will be taken away on Christmas night to defend the sun during its darkest hour. For the rest of the winter, Three Wise Men guards the sun while it sleeps. His power is surprisingly limited, relying more on wide reading, good planning, and having a lot of friends to call on. Attends all winter births, and some important deaths. Is at most of the politically important feasts, brings own flask of rum and box of sandwiches.

Thadeusk and Theodawn. Halves of a greater wizard, can reform as long as they both remember their name. Their autism is a function of their orbits, and they wax and wane through strange phases of power and focus. Supposed to keep count of the seconds in the year, they generally start adding up around the third last full moon of the year, leaving only two months to recover all the inevitable missing time. Appear then in portents, to prod paradoxes toward resolution. Very busy during the equinox. Often used as a sort of time-capsule by wisemen and soothsayers, who use their unreliable memory to anchor the causality of complex prophecies. Once the business of the year is resolved, they forget themselves and everyone else, making the time ripe for new resolutions.

Santa Clarita, The White Eyed Boy. Kept in original packaging since the dawn of Christmas. Prediluvian morality, boyish charm turned decidedly creepy. Does political work, brokering power with seasonal forces and universal principles, local deisms and demons of greed. In massive debt to the Snow Queen, and a dozen other wintery patrons, conveniently obscuring the saint's personal motivations. Prefers using third-party powers: weather spells, time magic and alchemy. Personal powers less well documented: an icy medusa's gaze, several arch magics involving white roses, ownership of sentient beard. Member of a book club with several other notable beings trapped in prisms, crystals, glass caskets or timecubes.

The Phegnomenon is an occurrence afflicting pointed objects, with several longer-lived manifestations of note. Longoffoot has one leg each for stepping backwards and forwards through time. Silversilence cleans the other side of mirrors. Hatwithapattern writes autobiographies for the bugs that eat clothes. Littleredmittens is a prodigious toucher, stroking the gnomeness into objects. Gnomes are usually only a mild nuisance, attracted to leftover milk and cookies, but passing quickly on unless they find a stash of cones. They can be bribed quite easily, and will attend to a chore for entire minutes before being distracted. Dangerous only if threatened with fire or iron, or if one's hat is particularly pointy. 

Crackerbarrel. They'll jack your snacks, they're jackals with crack knacks, quote carols on the rack, over barrels break backs, rake fake facts with flak, brew flax and relax. Crackerbarrel and his crackerjacks act as secret police for the Nutcracker Kings, torturously interrogating. They use the wicked curse of their bite to trap one another in stiff, aching wooden bodies, and will conscript anyone who stands in their way. Among their number are snowmen, polar bears, cossacks, and many others with nefarious powers. Crackerbarrel himself was once a Christmas tree, as the twinkle in his eye will attest. He is sworn to harm no-one wearing bells, and is only animate when standing on fresh snow or gingerbread, of which his shoes are made.

The Nutcracker Kings. Three brothers born from the same nut. One oversees the future, one the past, one present. Their troops are all stuck in the now, however, which keeps their military maneuvers more mundane. The largest, Pecantor, obsesses over past meals, plans elaborate new ones. Often finds valuable points of comparison, but puts too much stock in genealogy. The middle, Almonde, is paranoid and dyspeptic. Convinced he can't predict or remember things, and most work three times as hard to keep up with his brothers. The smallest, Pistanchion, wearily surveils an endless future of war, prematurely aging and shrinking. His plans begin the most thoughtlessly violent, walked back to nonaction the longer he dwells on them.

Big Chrimpo. Chrampap to all beasts of autumn months. Hoarder of nuts and jam, planter of pine trees, belly of a thousand squirrels. Avowed pacifist, champion of the hungry, lonely and cold, patron of musicians, chefs and matchstick salesmen. Comes at the end of the feast to usher everyone to bed. Always looking for the coziest nook to spend a winter night, leaving unfinished nests in his wake. Easily followed for a back passage into the spirits' seasonal summits. Much, much smarter than he lets on.

Saturday 4 December 2021

Geology Generator

LandscapeRidgesCliffsCanyonsGulliesTowersScree Slopes
Water ColourEggshellBlue-BlackCrystalRuddyBlue-GreenFoamy Brown
FoliageTall TreesBushesGrassSmall TreesScrubCactus
Leaf ColourDeep GreenBlue-GreyYellowTealRed-BrownPale Green

Bonus Galeb Duhr
  1. Granite. Craggy, happy, self-assured. Minimally weathered, sharp edges on the head and hands. Seen it all, knows it will survive, a little sad that you won't.
  2. Rhyolite. Shy, embarrassed, guilty. Octangular column, hands and legs on every face. Tactile learner, gets distracting easily. Hates bullying.
  3. Sandstone. Rough, argumentative, asymmetrical. Ready to start a fight, then start crying when it gets hit. Other sensitive types make it feel bad, which makes it misdirectedly angry.
  4. Mudstone. Soft, slovenly, slurring. Mumbling drunkard, would like to stand behind you and be ignored even though it's talking in your ear. Advice is annoying but only 50% useless.
  5. Limestone. Limpid, languid, spaced out. Poetic, appreciating art and non-lithic nature. With your ear to it you can hear the tiny oceanic voices it hears all the time.
  6. Tuff. Brittle, jolly, stoically optimistic. Reads the room well, takes sides quickly. You can sense a deep trauma/strength in it.

Friday 3 December 2021

Death Stuff

Death GodsFunerary RitesAfterlives
The Big Dad. Didn't build heaven large enough, asks newcomers to help put together their own accommodations.Body cremated, ashes baked into bread and/or smoked with hashish, reoccurrences of kuru having led to the decline of traditional cannibalism.One hundred years hard labour in the heavenly workcamps, keeping the world alive for your progeny.
2Ghost Wolf. Scares the soul out of your body when you die, then chases it around trying to eat it. Stops for flattery, back scratches, howling contests.Classic stories about the deceased told again and again through the night, exaggerated until they become a mythic figure fit to join the gods.Become the quarry of the wild hunt. If you escape, you can become a hunter. If caught, reincarnation.
3Sheep Herd. Not really supposed to be looking after people, forgets they're sentient. Keeps ushering souls out of the right afterlives, onto 'greener pastures'.A night of bacchanal followed by a day of terrible hangovers, everyone encouraged to start fights, call names and otherwise purge.Sent back in time to haunt your own life and cause your own misfortunes. Very fun.
4Counter of Beans. Makes you account for every action in life. Happy to hear arguments. Line of souls runs out the door and 3000 years down the hall. Casting bones, measuring stars, ritual conversations. Careful reorchestration of planting calendars, holiday plans, personal cosmologies and horoscopes.Reincarnation as a new island. Take care of your ecology! Human life was a practice run, this is the one that counts.
5Remother. Warm, red cheeks, swollen belly full of crying, babyfaced souls. Sucks you up her vagina and turns you into ectoplasm (in a good way).Body nestled into a midden, covered in layers of the local grain and scraps from a feast in their honour. Dug up in a year to check if they made it to heaven Wander the earth  pondering the 700 heavenly riddles. If you solve three or four they'll let you be a deva.
6The Boneyman. Looks just like someone you know with a skull painted badly on their face. If you laugh at their antics they will take you to hell.After cursory mummification, the body is placed in an out of the way corner and ignored until everyone has genuinely forgotten its there. Buried properly once rediscovered.Come straight back to the time and place of your death, at one thousandth the size.

Thursday 2 December 2021

Cowpoke Canyon

  1. The Star Pit. Old, old silver mine. Short shaft down to a little stringball of tunnels. Carvings on the walls from the dawn of time, frayed ghosts mutter in long dead languages. Pitch black for the first week, til you start to pick out the little stars glowing in the walls. Rumour is, one inmate is here on purpose.
  2. Rock Tub. Stone huts in the palm of a caldera. Unfenced, but the walls are steep and there's a feller with a bow chain-smoking on the rim. Everyone would freeze in winter but for the hot pools. Minerals in the water grow strange crops and turn the inmates odd colours. Rumour is, one good whack and the whole place will blow.
  3. Shady Canyon. Miserable geology only lets in half an hour of direct sunlight a day. Everyone inside swears it'd be better to have no sun at all, but would kill to preserve their thirty minutes of rapture. Rumour is, the warden runs experiments of a similar vein, addicting prisoners to various miniscule pleasures.
  4. Dead Horse Lake. Humourous misnomer. There's no lake, and horses would die a day's ride from here. Only access is by a very inbred team of camels. Prisoners are set to digging, seeking a second to the miraculous, miniscule spring that keeps them all alive. Rumour is, once they find water, they'll all be killed to make way for whatever this place was supposed to be.
  5. The Bawdy House. Right in the middle of town, with two sets of bars on every window. Convicts with all sorts of incredible talents labour diligently, or else. Clothes colour-coordinated according to caste. Artists, forgers in blue. Chefs, moonshiners in yellow. Entertainers wear green, the guards wear black. Rumour is, the people in pink aren't here for their conversational skills, but for possessing forbidden knowledge.
  6. Broken Oak. Once a hanging tree, so well used all the lower limbs are snapped off. The prison around it is a dead man's row. Lifers with commuted sentences fish trout from a lazy river. The unjustly accused share laments, cigarettes with criminals of passion. Rumour is, their sentences are only stretched out so they can provide inspiration for up and coming country musicians.

  1. Glass bottle o' Djinn Djuice. Scull it and burp out a wish. Prob'ly won't come true but it's better to let the djinni out the easy way. These commercial distilled spirits ain't so mightily magical as a wild desert sirocco, but djinn and gin goes down a real treat in any case.
  2. Pole of Power. This 'uns only 6 inch high. On the prairie they come 18 feet, spaced out regular along the ley lines, all carved up like ancestors and animals. Used for prayer, channeling various forces, sending whatever a 'telegram' is.
  3. Stopped Watch. Hands don't move, but it still ticks. Anyone as can hear it ticking can't tell time's passing. They'll work happily at most any drudgery, chat in circles for hours, watch their train arrive, wait, and depart, and only then stand up and say "Damn!... I've missed my train."
  4. Railway Bug. Not clockwork, so don't try twisting its wings. Clatters unerring along the flattest path to the strongest scent of gold. Sadly, almost certain to be a local bank, not a fresh vein. Still a fine way to find your way home, along a meandering geodesic of no more than 6% grade.
  5. Weird Module. Looks like a metal dreamcatcher, hums like an idle stablehand. Sing to it at the wrong pitch and it'll shake and scream and blister your ears. The right pitch will echo forward like a fist, a tight ball of noise fit to knock the horns off a buffalo.
  6. Paper Money. Just little pieces of paper with '$10' written on, but the inks are very fine, the handwritting cursive, the watermark ethereally beautiful.... maybe they really are worth money?

  1. Jessie Custard. Cross-dressing daughter of a witch and a priest. Carves little pentangles on her bullets and bathes her gun in 'holy' oil, but don't know nothin real about magic.
  2. Ol' Gnome Chomsky. Hairy little fellow, walks around salt pans with a sieve, assaying the quality of the rocksalt. Suspected about once a week of having found gold. He's a mite forlorn about all the poor, greedy souls he's had to put a bullet through.
  3. Lori 'Lightfoot' Chicago. Buffalo hunter. Has never found one but she'll let you know if she does. Quasi-famous for she don't rustle cattle though they do seem to love her, will sniff her out and would follow her down to Dixie if she let 'em.
  4. Marcia 'Black Lung' Hernandez. 11th generation coal miner. Can prove well enough her family mine has been operational for near 800 years. It still is, though she herself is holidaying, and happy to pay good money for anything that gets her blood moving.
  5. "Biting" Joe Biden. Septuagenarian cattle baron, got lost riding the edge of his range. Can't remember the names of the towns he once owned, or the sons that carved them up when he went missing.
  6. Darvood 'Angel' Sarvari. Blue eyed, dirty haired, catsup stain stigmata. Drags around a child's coffin, packed with a sticky, powdered blend of cocaine, quinine, laudanum, caffeine, digitalis, datura, crystalized snake powder and sugar. Refers to it as 'quite a spicy mélange', but insists any astral travelling is 'all in your head, man'.

  1. My cows'v been stolen! It's that dang gang up'n the canyons again. Won't you gettem back?
  2. My cows'v been stolen! You oughta find 'em 'fore the feller *I* stole them off hears about it.
  3. My cows'v been stolen! Well, I think so... Else there's something else chasing them over the range
  4. My cows'v been stolen! The gang as gottem is too tough to fight, though I've a chubby neighbour with chubby herds that wouldn't miss a few head...
  5. My cows'v been stolen! Though they were getting a little inbred anywho... Care to come help lasso a few new, wild, angry bulls?
  6. My cows'v been stolen! We caught this shifty, scraggly lookin' feller. Help us lynch him 'fore the sheriff starts asking for evidence.

Saturday 11 September 2021

encounters in the blue desert


Footprints of glass. Glows from within. Luminous sunspots piercing dusty black hide. Smells like dried flowers. Speaks all languages. 

Won't kill anything before offering a fair fight. Wrestling match against the strongest of the party, footrace against the fastest, contest of riddles against the wisest, etc. Will leave the completely worthless alone.

Always looking for new challenges. Will get very excited if you tell it about the Hero of Heroes.


Sad bald woman. Dents in head where the snakes burrow into her skull. You can see them peering out her eyes and mouth.

Any graven image that sees her comes to life. Only extremely well made works of art are happy about this. Posse of misshapen modernist flesh creatures hunting her down to kill her so they can revert to stone. Classical Adonis with one arm shorn cleanly off, trying to protect her.

Seeking a culture where images are religiously prohibited to settle down and lead a happy life.


Eats the flesh of the virtuous dead after their spirits ascend to Jannah. Takes the form of its most recent meal. Slowly becomes pallid, stringy-haired and emaciated as it starves.

Covertly guides people into leading virtuous lives, waits for their souls to achieve maximum purity, then waits under the bed or ambushes them in dark alleys. Considers this a good deed, since they're guaranteed to go to heaven. Impersonates them and repeats the cycle.

If encountered starving in the desert, will only attack the best person in the party.


Puffy white caricature of a person wrapped in fine silks. Like a styrofoam snowman. Orbited by dozens of floating hands. You buy you buy you buy!

Put an object into one hand. It will vanish into the floating silks. Another hand will spin back around and provide you with a random object that's worth marginally less, plus or minus 1d6 copper pieces. If you don't like it, try again!

Slaps you silly if attacked. Explodes into huge pile of trinkets if somehow killed.


Tusked purple giant. Covered in black bristles. Loves ugliness and the scent of rotting flesh. Claps its hands over its ears and howls at the sound of poetry.

Keeps its soul in a bottle hanging from a leather thong around its neck. Can't be killed in combat unless the bottle is broken. Severed limbs move autonomously. Likes to pluck off its own still-living head and juggle it.

Can grant the ability to talk to animals, on condition that you die if any human hears you doing it. Will use this to bargain for its bottle back.


Anything she pierces with her iron needles becomes her slave. Current slaves include a lion, a philosopher and several irrelevant peasants.

Vain. Wears eyeshadow and very tall hats. Loves gambling. Happy to wager the freedom of her slaves at dice. Definitely flirting with you. Friendly and useful to have around. Will try to stab you with a needle at the first opportunity.

You can free her slaves by simply pulling out the needles. They're under orders to not let you do that.


Bedouins with vulture heads. Hooked beaks jut from the shadows of their hoods. Flanks of their camels scarred by talons.

Harsh nomads who survive by raiding caravans. Attack with blood-curdling screeches, armed with primitive rifles. Crack open travellers' bones and share out the marrow within. Keep themselves scrupulously clean.

Famously hospitable. Won't turn away anyone who comes to them asking for shelter.


Jolly old man with long silvery beard. Purple felt hat. Pointy slippers. Accompanied by cavorting hunchbacks in red silk, their faces painted black with soot.

Hands out presents to each member of the party. "Because you're such good boys!" A few hours later, you will walk into an elaborate ambush laid by the hunchbacks, who want to kidnap you and put you into sacks. The presents turn out to be exactly what you need to fight them off.

Only allowed to see his wife once a year, but she stays up late and always falls asleep before he gets there.


Premature flame baby in floating glass womb. Scowling old man face. Paws at the glass with tiny burning hands, crying to be born.

Unwanted child of a djinn, destined to grow into a city-destroying inferno. Grants one minor wish to anyone who helps deliver it, then disappears. Next time the PCs visit their favourite town, they find it burned to the ground.

Pursued by elemental abortionist with hooks of ice.


Brave and noble prince. Looking for something that can finally kill him. Wants to know if you can be that thing.

Horse the colour of rose petals. Suit of white tiger skin that makes him invulnerable to fire, water and weapons. Sword named Thirty Swords that is the embodiment of all swords everywhere, so sharp its cuts inflict no pain.

Can only be killed by his own son. Does not know he has a son. One of the PCs is secretly his son.

Saturday 13 February 2021

13 Items

A world in 13 items. A very soothing exercise by way of Archon Smarchon, who further gestures to its origins.
  1. Tartan patch. Too small for a toga, but a bath towel, rucksack, picnic blanket, shawl or very fetching kilt
  2. Reel of tape. It's sticky, it's strong, it has a thousand and one uses.
  3. Flashbulb helmet. Works great on rats and roaches.
  4. Spring boots. Five minutes winding for one extremely unpredictable bound.
  5. Harpoon and winch. Clockwork gearings and polymer line ideal for climbing, hauling, whaling, skyfighting and more.
  6. Snail harness. Lots of nasty little barbs to stop it withdrawing.
  7. Pin rapier. Could be used for sewing, as well as swordfighting.
  8. Bug-in-a-box. A terrifying fire giant painted on the front, but the bug appears to be sleeping.
  9. Baked bean(s). The old beans used to take two hands to lift, but these new canned ones look like... small beans.
  10. Thimbleful of milk. It's as rich, creamy, heavy, heady, soporific as all the stories
  11. A brick of snuff, and a tiny, beautiful tin knife with which to cut and crush it.
  12. Elegant brushes of human hair, and stolen paints.
  13. Ampoule of perfume. Barely larger than you are, blessedly easy to carry but enough for a town.

Thursday 11 February 2021

the manteion

 For Patrick's dungeon poem challenge.

1. MASK ROOM. Hundreds of different masks hanging on the walls. You hear muttering if you press your ear to the door, but it goes away once you open it. Putting on a mask slowly drains your personality and leaves you open to outside influence.

2. CHANGING ROOM. Benches and towels. Rows of wooden shelves containing moldy clothes, rusty weapons, purses with a few coins in them. A few dark smears across the polished floor. A naked corpse, missing its legs, collapsed in the corner.

3. THE GRACES. From left to right, a featureless pillar; a blocky, abstract humanoid; a naked woman; a skinless woman; a skeleton; an empty plinth. Each carved from stone. An altar in the centre, darkly smeared. Ritual oils and short knives.

4. MIRROR. Shadows lurk in the depths of a bronze mirror, taking up the whole eastern wall. They whisper riddles, telling you only the blind and faceless can pass onto the bridge. The weaker the light, the easier it is to hear them. While it's dark, the door is open.

5. BEACH. Bones scattered over the river's stony banks. A pale, wrinkled figure squats on the shore, trying to pry the smiling mask off his face. Skinless pink things like cave salamanders stir in the oily water. They attack if you try to help him.

6. ANOINTING HALL. Stepwell leads down to bubbling black water, edges worn away from years of pilgrims descending. Lengths of thick rope with a noose at one end, a heavy stone tied to the other, piled against the wall. Smells like gas.

7. LIBRARY. Papyrus scrolls piled in scroll-racks, holding thousands of cryptic prophecies. Not ordered or catalogued in any way. Skinless pink things slither among the racks, their masks the only indication of where their faces should be.

8. HALL OF PROPHECY. Naked corpses everywhere, slowly decaying. Water drips onto their upturned faces. Beetles scuttle in the dark. A pregnant woman in red rags wanders among them, holding a torch, singing to herself. She flees if she sees you.

9. SIBYL'S CHAMBER. Intensely hot. Volcanic gas bleeds from a crack in the floor, inducing nihilistic delirium and visions of the future that replace your memories. Hidden door leads to a stage. Finger-scrawls on the walls seem imbued with terrible meaning.

0. SANCTUARY. A cot with sweat-damp sheets. A few dried fish, a chamberpot and a bowl of water. A hidden window that looks out into the hall. A baby-sized golden mask under the cot, its cheeks fat and its eyes closed. The pink things won't let you leave with it.

Tuesday 2 February 2021


 HADEAN EON (4.5 bya)

  • Solar system forms from cosmic dust.
  • Intelligent life develops on the lost planet Nibiru, beyond Neptune.
  • Annunaki civilisation flourishes, begins to colonise gas giants.
  • Presence of life attracts extrasolar predator Tiamat.
  • Oort cloud infested by Tiamat. Hadean War begins.
  • Annunaki scientists relocate Nibiru to inner ring of solar system.
  • Nibiru collides with Earth. Moon formed. Collapse of Annunaki civilisation.
  • Tiamat slain by Marduk, last king of the Annunaki. End of Hadean War.
  • Late Heavy Bombardment caused by distintegration of Tiamat's corpse.
  • Most surviving Annunaki retreat to lunar tomb-cities, enter cultural stasis.
  • Tiamatic material, seeded by meteors across inner system, evolves into first prokaryotes.

  • Earth cools below the boiling point of water, allowing oceans to form.
  • Microbial mats populate the slimy shores of Vaalbara, the first continent, and begin to develop rudimentary self-awareness.
  • Great age of stromatolithic architecture. Psychic reefs and dreaming mountains play host to anaerobic shoggoth ecosystem.
  • Vaalbara fuses into one vast prokaryotic brain.
  • Quasi-human time refugees from the Anthropocene terraform and colonise Noachian Mars.
  • Martian seas run dry. 
  • Attempts to steal Earth's water lead to catastrophic war with Vaalbara.
  • Empire of Hungry Stone conquers inner system. 
  • Shoggoth legions begin the process of converting all matter into cognition slime.
  • Last of the Q-men infect Earth with blue-green bacteria bred in Tharsis plague pools. 
  • Vaalbara destroyed by Oxygen Holocaust.
  • First eukaryotes appear.
  • Chthonians evolve from subterranean protozoa.
  • Q-men descendants colonise newly-oxygenated Earth.
  • Surviving shoggoths retreat to bottom of sea, which remains anoxic.
  • Q-men cope with Huronian glaciation by evolving into photosynthetic yetis.
  • Frozen earth converted into temple. Ice mandalas etched on moons of Saturn.
  • Yetis pass a billion years in silent meditation upon the beauty of barren continents, then peacefully go extinct, except for handful of sorcerors who mummify themselves to await the dawn of a new eon.
  • Emergence of complex multicellular life.
  • Elder blastoids populate Gondwana's warm, shallow seas.
  • Arrival of the Great Race, emigrants from a hostile future who project their consciousness into the bodies of hallucigenian worms.
  • Blastoid explorers make contact with the last shoggoths, lurking in sulphuric vents.
  • Foundation of Pnakotus, the basalt library-city, where worm-scholars write the history of the universe by kidnapping witnesses from across time.
  • Mi-go arrive from the Oort cloud, having evolved from cosmic parasites attracted to Tiamat's corpse. They colonise mountaintops and begin to experiment on fish.
  • Shoggoth army conquers Pnakotus, unleashing the contents of its time dungeons.
  • Early amphibians haunt the clubmoss forests, worshipping the god Pan in the form of a horned centipede.
  • P-T extinction event caused by blastoid-mi-go war.
MESOZOIC ERA (252 mya)
  • Amphibians evolve into serpent men.
  • Serpent men tame dinosaurs, build solar-powered cities in the desert.
  • Kardashev Type I civilisation developed.
  • Slave race of Q-men cloned from yeti gene banks.
  • Dyson swarm constructed around sun.
  • Kardashev Type II civilisation developed.
  • First contact made with Nordics and Zeta Reticulans.
  • Serpent men explore the galactic core and discover the singularity Azathoth.
  • Earth abandoned to breed new intelligent species for Azathoth's consumption.
  • Kardashev Type III civilisation developed.
  • Emancipated Q-men establish dinosaur kingdoms, start work on spaceflight.
  • Improperly maintained Dyson swarm component falls into erratic orbit and causes Chicxulub impact.
  • Last dinosaurs preserved by chthonians in Hollow Earth.
  • Reanimated yeti sorceror founds Hyperborean empire.
  • Maps of past and future discovered in Pnakotic ruins, providing hard evidence of causal determinism.
  • Hyperborea declines into nihilism and sexual decadence.
  • Puritan cult of Tsathoggua sparks civil war.
  • Surviving Hyperboreans enter Hollow Earth, adapting to subterranean life.
  • Early whales develop collective dreaming capacity, begin to sculpt oneiric dimensions once occupied by Vaalbaran consciousness.
  • Continents settle into their current positions.
  • Atlantis and Lemuria grown from crystal seeds, colonised by primitive Q-men.
  • Zeta Reticulans make contact with Atlanteans, trading technology for a promise to guard their cetacean ancestors.
  • Earliest hominids evolve in Africa.
  • Multiple intelligent species attempt to guide human evolution, leading to the Ape Wars.
  • Atlantis and Lemuria destroyed. Survivors flee to the Americas.
  • Human civilisation develops in fertile river valleys, subtly guided by serpent men.
  • Rings of Saturn constructed as means of social control.
  • The present day.

Friday 22 January 2021

people you'll meet in cairo

  1. Dr. Emily Quibbell. Egyptologist. Easily flustered. Constantly misplacing her glasses. Possibly autistic. Too busy thinking about the Old Kingdom to listen to whatever you're trying to say. Bad habit of accidentally summoning ancient gods.
  2. Colonel Horatio Bump. Retired British Army officer. Walrus moustaches. Thick neck. Hangs out in gentleman's clubs all day complaining about the natives. Full of colonial stories. Weakness for gin and Arab boys in eyeliner.
  3. Milton Prescott. Rich American tourist. Owns a soap factory in Milwaukee. Says "Gosh!" and "Gee willikers!" to everything. Wears a checked suit. Hangdog expression. Not sure why penniless young women keep trying to seduce him.
  4. Lady Cynthia Traverse. Horrible old dowager. Reduces hotel staff to tears over a forgotten icecube or a stained napkin. Dangerously clever and vindictive. Widely rumoured to have murdered her husband. Secretly pursuing his real killer.
  5. J. J. Leavitt. Journalist for a top American newspaper. Pushy. Loud. Boastful. Offers everyone cigars. Tries to bribe people you can't actually bribe. Can't get in to see the tomb opening he's here to cover, and deeply pissed off about it.
  6. Countess Nina Belenova. White Russian émigré. Escaped Odessa with her grandmother's diamond necklace in a box, one step ahead of the revolutionaries. Translates for a living. Bleak sense of humour. Interested in Hyperborea. Occult friends.
  7. Bruno Colombo. Wealthy Italian playboy and daredevil. Pencil moustache. Flies biplanes. Gambles recklessly. Secretly a dangerous anarchist, responsible for the bombing of a Roman bank and the death of three policemen.
  8. Dr. Ruben Ghazarian. Self-proclaimed spiritual teacher who claims to have learned tantric secrets from the White Masters of Tibet. Followed by excitable young students who hang on his every word. On the run from the tax office.
  9. Jules Pichon. Private detective. Silly little Frenchman with a head shaped like an egg. Master of criminology and psychology. Pretending to be on holiday. Secretly on the trail of the international jewel thief known as the Sparrow.
  10. Constance Fairweather. Frivolous flapper in cloche hat. Listens to jazz and dances till dawn. Claims to have inherited a fortune from dear old Uncle Charlie. Secretly the international jewel thief known as the Sparrow.
  11. Jim Hyde. Failson from a good family. Opium addict and low-grade conman. Hangs round hotels cadging drinks off tourists, trading off his education and good breeding to sell fake artifacts at bargain prices. Lives in a filthy apartment near the souk.
  12. Lenny Logan. Aussie digger left over from the Great War. Still has the bullet wounds from Gallipoli. Flies a small plane full of smuggled cigarettes, booze and the occasional mummy. Friends among the Bedouin. Cheerful and ruthless.
  13. Musa Mwembe. Enormously fat Ugandan man who runs a crime ring from a Turkish bath. Floats in perfumed steam, up to his nipples in warm water, eating figs from a golden platter. Loads his friends with gold, drowns his enemies.
  14. Omar Hegazi. Crooked local politician. Fat. Wears a fez. Always smiling. Three wives and at least a dozen children running round his feet. Knows everyone and gets a cut of everything. Throws lavish parties at which people sometimes disappear.
  15. Captain Fareed Zulficar. Officer of the Cairo police. Completely humorless. Unbribeable. Brilliant detective. Despises Westerners and will take any opportunity to punish one, as long as it's entirely within the bounds of the law.
  16. Ismail Gamal. Idealistic young lawyer. Dreams of overthrowing the British empire and replacing it with a pan-Arabic socialist state. Defends rioters in court. Writes for small, angry journals. Secret love affair with wife of British official.
  17. Selim Shafei. Hotel concierge. Enormously dignified. Polite but not obsequious. Loves his hotel and will defend its reputation to the death. Will go to any lengths for the comfort of a guest. Proud of his very fine suits. Underpaid.
  18. Zainab Ammar. Nightclub owner. Gold rings. Heavy eyeshadow. Aging as gracefully as she can manage. Stages the most risqué shows in town. Runs back rooms where highly specific tastes are catered to. Possessive of the girls and boys in her employ.
  19. Leila Kanaan. Cabaret singer. Sultry and mysterious. Likes to hint at tragic past and romantic liaisons with European royalty. Rumoured to have sold her soul to a djinn of the deep desert in exchange for wealth and fortune. Lies a lot.
  20. Cyrus Mohebbi. Stage magician. Claims to perform Zoroastrian fire sorcery, conjuring doves out of flames. Sweaty. Balding. Won't admit he's losing his touch, no matter how badly he burns his assistants. Would like to cast one real spell before he quits.
  21. Aam Salama. Oriental dancer. Does a nightclub act with a three-metre-long African rock python named Boris, painted gold and wearing a Cleopatra headdress, acting out the battle between the sun god Ra and the serpent Apophis. Sarcastic. Smokes.
  22. Abdu Ali Hassan. Small stout merchant operating from a carpet stall in the souk. Oleaginous. Wants you to invest in his new guaranteed get-rich-quick scheme. Always in debt. Can get you anything, but will probably blackmail you about it.
  23. Reem el-Sherbini. Fortune teller and spirit medium. Patronised by rich Westerners who believe in Oriental magic. Floaty scarves. Incense. Crystal ball. Terrified that actual ghosts will find out about her fake seances and punish her.
  24. Nour Anwar. Folk healer and apothecary. Little shop in the souk full of herbs, amulets, bones, mummy powder and reptiles floating in jars. Gossipy. Earns most of her income from covertly selling rhino-horn erection pills to British officers.
  25. Thomas Abdallah Aziz. Bookseller. Absent-minded. Shop in the old city cluttered with everything from detective paperbacks to medieval manuscripts. Knows all of history but forgets the names of his grandkids.
  26. Waleed Mostafa. Pushy tour guide. Won't take no for an answer. Tells you the whole story of wherever you're standing, then asks you to pay for it. Insists he's always right, even when contradicted by history books.
  27. Yasmin Ezz. Expert forger. Sensitive eyes. Hates bright light. Works mostly by touch. Long nimble fingers. Used to be a seamstress. Rarely leaves the cramped apartment above her son's grocery store, full of cats and half-completed relics from fictional tombs.
  28. Ibrahim el-Din. Half-blind old cleric with a long white beard who wanders the streets barefooted. Beloved by the city's poor, who won't let him come to any harm. Expert in Sufi mysticism and Islamic law, which he uses to judge beggars' disputes.
  29. Malak. Cheeky little street urchin of indetermine gender. Picks your pocket and runs into dark alleyway where the rest of the gang awaits. Bare feet covered in weeping sores. Has a knife. Expects to be ruthlessly beaten if caught. Genuinely dangerous.
  30. Dawada. Queen of the beggars. No legs. Skin diseases. Goes around on little trolley, pushing herself with strong arms, asking for alms. Nobody refuses her twice. Hides a fortune in gold at her stronghold in the Cairo Necropolis.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

the catch + real live dinosaur

Written a couple of short horror stories recently. Putting them in one place for your convenience.

The Catch is about creepy things happening in a small English coastal village, which in my view is one of the best things a story can be about. Reused some Marcher Lords content for this. I'm still fixated on weird Celtic mythology and want to do more with it. Also Brexit is involved so it's topical.

Real Live Dinosaur is a creepypasta I posted to r/nosleep. Collective online horror fiction interests me, and was a big inspiration for the Black Auction post I just did. I know even the best creepypastas tend to be slightly shit, but that's part of the charm. Want to do a few more of these in the future.

And here is a podcast episode I did with my friend Jo on why the novel sucks so much these days and what can be done about it. I have a whole socialist podcast I do if you're interested in that kind of thing.

The common thread here is the interplay between the "official" system for publishing fiction, which controls what books you read and what movies you watch, and which has become stultifyingly conservative over recent years, and the weird online stuff that blossoms in the cracks and that nobody has yet figured out how to capture in boring solid prose. How come there's writers out there who did six blog posts and disappeared, who have been read by perhaps a thousand people ever, who are obviously more talented than anyone who's published a novel in the last decade? Increasingly creeped out by this question.

Edit: Youtuber Uncle Koko did a reading of Real Live Dinosaur on his channel, check it out.