Tuesday, 2 September 2014

FIRE background for SAVAGES


You know fire. Maybe you were born in fire, burnt by fire, maybe it comes to you in dreams, or you just really really like fire. FIRE.

Skills: Investigation, Intimidation

Tools: Anything that makes fire;

Equipment: Six torches,
A big bag of kindling,
3 jars of stolen lamp oil,
Chunk of cauterised Troll Meat.
Either a simple weapon OR 3 flasks of Gunpowder.


1 A Druids grove, they tried to cut down the trees to save the rest. Failed.
2 An Elven tree village, they fell burning and lit the dry grass where they hit.
3 Forced herd of burning swine into a dwarven mine. It collapsed.
4 My own tribe while they slept. (Whoops, haahahaha.)
5 Crammed Halfling family into their own oven. Delicious.
6 A Temple full of Human Knights, barred the doors, baked them in their own armour.
7 Myself by mistake. Kind of messed-up looking now, still you live and learn!
8 The entirety of the plain to the south, got a little out of hand there. Dry season.
9 A wizards tower, piled up wood at the base and lit it like a match. The fireworks!
10 Boiled a pool full or water nymphs. Steam nymphs now!

Feature: You are really good at burning things! You can always add your proficiency bonus when trying to set things on fire. You are also resistant to natural non-magical fire. With the DM's agreement you can also add your proficiency bonus when dealing with things that are *on* fire. You like to set your weapons on fire and it doesn't always go that badly.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I judge people by how easily I think I could set them on fire.
2 If someone is in trouble, I’m always ready to lend help. So long as that help includes fire.
3 When I set my mind to burning something, I follow through no matter what gets in my way.
4 I like to cover myself in patterns made from the ash of things I have burnt.
5 Unusually, I prefer to cook my food, especially when it's still alive.
6 I'm spiritually worried, yet fascinated by, things that don't burn, like ice. Or teeth.
7 I like to wear burning tapers about my person to create an impression.
8 I get bored easily. But there's usually a solution to that nearby..

d6 Ideal
1 Combustion. It's getting as many things as possible *on fire* at the *same time*, gotta hit max burn.
2 Destruction. The maximum amount of material things destroyed, that’s what matters.
3 Ash. To reduce everything to that cold, grey plain. Silence, Peace and fragments of bone.
4 People. You only burn the house to get the people inside to run out. Then burn them. It's people that really matter.
5 Beauty. It's the impression the fire *makes* really, its an art form.
6 Justice. I should never have to face it. The most important thing is that I get away clean.

d6 Bond
1 I remember the burn for every scar I have, and am looking forward to more.
2 I'm really happy to find anyone willing to tolerate me and will try not to burn them alive.
3 I get flashbacks whenever I see fire, they're great.
4 I've always dreamed of seeing the greatest city on earth, and burning it down.
5 I really want to travel to the Plane of Fire.
6 It's change that matters in life. Everything has to change. Preferably into something smaller, and blacker, and deader.

d6 Flaw
1 I treat burning flames as NPC's, will listen to them when they 'speak' and will have relationships with them.
2 I really don't like travelling in the dark without fire, even thought I can see quite well.
3 I believe my soul is a fire inside me and am fucking terrified of water, especially large volumes.
4 If you leave me owning, or wearing, anything that *can* be turned into kindling, it *will* be turned into kindling.
5 I will totally do whatever I'm told by the first fire daemon, or fire elemental I see. I LOVE THEM!
6 I might be resistant to fire but I really believe I'm IMMUNE.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

DUNGEON background for SAVAGES


Skills: Stealth, Intimidation;
Tools: One type of Gaming Set, Locks;

Equipment: A martial weapon, formerly human owned,
Keys to the doors of a certain underground place,
A set of dice made from human bone,
Chainmail with the sign of your Earth Lord,
A lamp with candle that burns slowly with a low, red flame.

d8 Your Former Boss. (You speak their language and they may even remember your name, or at least what you look like, maybe.)

1 A Wyrm Of The Sky
2 One Of Those Without Breath
3 A Maze-Minded One
4 A Man, burning in the flame of knowledge, driven out.
5 A Thief-King
6 A Soul-Taker
7 One Most Hungry
8 One-Ten-Strong

Feature: a Crew and a Womb. You have done service for an Earth Lord in one of the Wombs of the Earth. A Dungeon. There is a dungeon somewhere you know well. You are familiar with its guards and paths, they know you there. There is a reason you left, work with your DM to decide what it is. You know how far humans can see in the dark, less than you. You know how to stack outside a door before you break it down and that an area is never safe unless its patrolled on a regular basis. You also know to defend in depth, lure superior numbers into choke points and take them from the side.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I always obey the pecking order, and expect it to be obeyed.
2 I actually know what a schedule is, and can keep one.
3 I won't sleep without a sentry watching and get VERY ANGRY when they fuck up.
4 Nothing can bore me, I can wait and wait and wait.
5 I understand doors, locks, bars and chains. I like to be well protected from the outside world.
6 I get hyper-vigilance while resting and keep expecting someone to burst in.
7 I take prisoners, and I don't always eat them.
8 I kill the wizard first. KILL THE WIZARD FIRST!

d6 Ideal
1 Jobs. Do your fucking job and shut the fuck up about it.
2 Earth. Protect the earth from which we are made, stop the others getting into her.
3 Dark. Be the dark between the stars, light comes and goes. Darkness is eternal.
4 Place. Controlling places is good, know a place, make it yours.
5 Deep. Stay low, come from below, sleep in the earth, burn any structure above ground.
6 Master. Find the most powerful Lord, help them kill the rest.

d6 Bond
1 They stole a treasure from a place I protect. I will get it back.
2 They aced my boss, now I have his Phylactery and he won't shut up.
3 They killed my crew, I'm going to hunt them down, one by one.
4 Why should I not be the Earth-Lord, and rule my own maze?
5 Do to them what they did to me, break in, steal and kill. This time where they live.
6 I will eat the sun and make the world dark.

d6 Flaw
1 I can't hear for shit, even a battle taking place in the next room.
2 If something fails, I'll probably just try it again, and again and again and again.
3 I put way to much trust in anybody wearing a robe and a dramatic hat, waaaaay too much.
4 I get really confused if presented with more than one or two possible choices at a time.
5 I have a dangerous amount of confidence in my own plans and traps.
6 I found out about alcohol and I really really really really like it.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Geyser Lord

There are caves where Kings have crawled and Emperors have knelt to hear a fortune that is never wrong. Deep beneath the earth, in spaces choked with heat and fumes, there are said to be oracles. Chancellors of hidden thought who knot or unknot curses dealt by gods, unfold the futures branching paths and open secrets long since lost.

And in the fields of pitted boiling clay, where gouts of water burst in regular time from the grounds gaping wounds, there are said to be Lords, who rise up from the black earth and rule a while, delivering compulsions and revenge to those who come.

And philosophers will say the oracle is just a girl, in a mask, tripped out of her mind on fumes and faith and that the shaman in the boiling lands is just the totem of a savage tribe.

They are wrong.

In the pit in the earth is a fountain of water the colour of night. If you could taste it, it would taste of iron and lead and a thousand bitter poisons. Like the edge of a stained and ruined sword. You never will. This water burns. Hot enough to take your flesh off at a touch.

When they come for the future, or commands, if they come at the right time, the water rises up, it surges and falls back. Trembling and cringing like a frightened dog. Then it fountains in a boiling column.

In the geyser in the sacred ground, the same thing occurs. The water drops, then surges, shifts its colour and smell, then vomits in a torrent like a column of black glass. Poisoned steam curtains it and sinks in wreaths of toxic fog to curl about the feet.

Inside the boiling black water is the Geyser Lord. The Oracle Of the Vent.

A long torso, coiling like a flanged worm, white as melting snow or sugar in a drink. Slim black tentacle hands press against the surface of the flow. Its head, no face, no eyes, no mouth, a spray of tongues. Flat red extended ribbons coloured like the sides of bleeding meat. They wave gently in the boiling water, tasting the toxins that flow past. Listening to the vibrations of speech.

The deep-dwelling sorcerer worms live darkly at the oceans deepest points. Moving amongst the vents of fierce water, black smoke and crushed steam that come up from the planets core. They drift amongst dense forests of white worms, white crabs and strange bacterial growths, listening to the earth, thinking on its words, working their strange magic’s, in an place where few could ever go or would even think to look. Each rules one vent and there they usually remain, gazing down into the pit of poison and black fire that gave them life, musing on the strange deep politics of that even-deeper realm, and considering also, sometimes, the great cold desert of the outer word and the spare and starry reaches of the surface above the seas.

And sometimes, rarely, the reasons turn inside their minds, the taste of some unsuspected future meets their tongue, their attention shifts, and for reasons of their own, they seek to influence the outside world. Our world.
They can only survive for long inside the torrents of poisoned smoke that make up their homes, so they look for the rare veins and scabs of stone where the blood and breath of the deep comes forth. They cause the earth to flex and ride the hissing torrents till they stand suspended in boiling crepuscular thrones, and can speak, directly, with those here.

Dark and poisoned words torrent from them like the fumes of the earth. They speak the verse of magma flows and deep magnetic shifts prophecies of fire and stone. They bring wisdom from the dark, but sorrow too for they care little for the lives of men, or peace, or love, or gods, or life.

Their schemes are deep and long, directed at the eternal or those deep in time. There are vendettas from the beginning of the world, and from its end. The lives of human kingdoms, or cultures, can be little more than the turn of a card in one of these great games.

The futures of the Geyser Lords are always right, black, violent, seductive and harsh. They speak of war, of empire and of heroes deeds. Of horror also. Those who listen well will know glory and death, those who listen not, and seek to break the geysers word will know death only, at the hands of those who do.

Only the destruction of the Geyser Lord itself can stop its prophecy coming true.

They must be paid. Sometimes in sulphur and gold, cast into the water when they rise, but any payment can be demanded.

Some Geyser Lords bend your fate to escape their own. They seek to become the Fumarole Lich, and fearless of the cold, move directly from their world into our own. Out of the fountain, into the light. It would be incredibly dangerous if any were to achieve this.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Non Magical 5e Characters

5th Edition Magical Rehab

Like a coke dealer sneaking into a Bat Mitzvah, 5e thinks everyone deserves a little magic in their lives.


So if you are an old school weirdo who wants to keep a clear divide between magic using and normal classes, or if you just never want to look up a spell, ever, or think about ‘expending a slot’, then it actually becomes a little difficult to avoid picking up some magical special sauce from your class.

So here are all the ways to avoid being magic.



Dwarf (Hill or Mountain)
Halfling (Stout or Light)
Rock Gnome


Wood Elf (Stealth powers not really magic but…)
Dragonborn (Breath weapon is semi-naturalistic but….)


High Elf (One cantrip is one too many)
Wood Gnome



Barbarian – Berserker
Fighter – Old School Improv Fighter
Fighter – 4thy Asperger’s fighter
Rogue –Thief
Rogue – Assassin


Monk – Way of the Open Hand nnnn so close, you do get ‘Tranquility at 11th level, which is a spell effect but maybe not a spell. This one nearly got promoted to 'Ok', but if we are not letting in 'totem warriors' then I don't think we can allow meditating monks.
Barbarian – Totem Warrior. Communing with Nature, whatever.
Ranger – Any. Almost. You get spells but in theory you could just use them to power your ‘Primal Awareness’ thing which is like a sonar ping for weird. But you would have to keep not using spells.


Fighter – Eldritch Knight, (let’s be kind and call this Weird Arthurian Knight)
Bard – Any
Cleric – Any
Druid – Any
Monk – Ninja monk
Monk – Anime Elemental Monk
Paladin – Any
Rogue – Arcane Trickster
Sorcerer –Any
Wizard – Any
Warlock - Any

I also made this generator for a world in which there are no magical classes. Instead of having Human as one choice equal with the rest I decided to include a range of human races, that's unlike D&D races, which are actually species...

Anyway. Instead of using made-up D&D Human races I gave human races the very rough equivalent of the human racial distribution of Earth. Which was a can of worms I can tell you, since no-one agrees with anyone about anything and once you get past the vaguest kinds of ethnic distinction people differ a lot. So, surprise news for me, most people on earth are vaguely asian, there's roughly equal numbers of black and white people and no-one can agree what 'South American' means. Who knew dividing people by race could get so complicated so fast?

Anyway, here you go, click this Hellblazer page to generate your entirely non-magical character.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

huge and mighty forms that do not live Like living men

Turns out Wordsworth was kind of a raw dude.

            "In thought and wish
That time, my shoulder all with springes hung,
I was a fell destroyer. On the heights
Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied
My anxious visitation, hurrying on,
Still hurrying, hurrying onward; moon and stars
Were shining o’er my head; I was alone,
And seem’d to be a trouble to the peace
That was among them. Sometimes it befell
In these night-wanderings, that a strong desire
O’erpower’d my better reason, and the bird
Which was the captive of another’s toils
Became my prey; and when the deed was done
I heard among the solitary hills
Low breathing coming after me, and sounds
O undistinguishable motion, steps
Almost as silent as the turf they trod.
Nor less in springtime when on southern banks
The shining sun had from his knot of leaves
Decoy’d the primrose flower, and when the Vales
And woods were warm, was I a plunderer then
In the high places, on the lonesome peaks
Where’er, among the mountains and the winds,
The Mother Bird had built her lodge. Though mean
My object , and inglorious, yet the end
Was not ignoble. Oh! when I have hung
Above the raven’s nest, by knots of grass
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
But ill sustain’d, and almost, as it seem’d,
Suspended by the blast which blew amain,
Shouldering the naked crag; Oh! at that time,
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
Blow through my ears! the sky seem’d not a sky
Of earth, and with what motion moved the clouds!


A rocky Steep uprose
Above the Cavern of the Willow tree
And now, as suited one who proudly row’d
With his best skill, I fix’d a steady view
Upon the top of that same craggy ridge,
The bound of the horizon, for behind
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin Pinnace; lustily
I dipp’d my oars into the silent Lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my Boat
Went heaving through the water like a Swan;
When from behind that craggy Steep, till then
The bound of the horizon, a huge Cliff,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Uprear’d its head. I struck and struck again,
And, growing still in stature the huge Cliff,
Rose up between me and the stars and still,
With measur’d motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling hands I turn’d,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the cavern of the Willow tree.
There, in the morning-place, I left my Bark,
And, through the meadows homeward went with grave
And serious thoughts; and after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Work’d with a dim and undetermin’d sense
Of unknown modes of being; in my thoughts
There was a darkness, call it solitude,
Or blank desertion, no familiar shapes
Of hourly objects, images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms that do not live
Like living men mov’d slowly through my mind
By day and were the trouble of my dreams."

Thursday, 21 August 2014

DREAMS background for SAVAGES


You know dreams are another world where many things can be seen and known. You pay attention 
to your dreams and remember what you do there. The knowledge will guide you in this world.

Skills: Insight, Arcana;

You have scratched on your skin a map of a place you saw in dreams. It is somewhere you will 

A set of bones, which you believe will answer questions when thrown (counts as arcane focus)
OR a dream catcher made from human bone and hair (this prevents the Nightmare result).

A handful of poppy seeds. Enough to knock someone out if eaten or drunk.

d8 What kind of dreams do you have (You may roll each night if you wish.)

1 Violence
2 Journeys
3 Meetings with the dead
4 Another life as an animal or man
5 Flight
6 Nightmare
7 Other worlds
8 Magic

Feature: Sometimes you can learn real things in dreams. Once a game, if it makes sense with 
type of dream you had that night, you can sense a simple piece of nearby hidden information. 
A hidden motive, hidden door, the location of a object or some other simple thing. Major 
world-changing information will probably not be revealed.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I touch people when I wake up to make sure that they are real.
2 I always look for patterns in apparently random things.
3 I’m always afraid of ghosts and spirits, except while I'm actually looking at one.
4 I will ask you about your dreams, and talk about my own, at length
5 I’m always looking for a new stimulant or opiate.
6 I seem unfocused around important things and intense about minor matters.
7 I am followed by voices in wind, the rush of water or the buzzing of flies.
8 I’m convinced that people are always trying to steal my secrets.

d6 Ideal
1 Understanding. I would know why things are as they are.
2 Revenge. I see the faces of my dead people in the night, they call for blood. 
3 Oblivion. I want to lose myself.
4 Transcendence. I would step into full into the world of dreams in full.
5 Power. I have been shown a future where I rule, I will fulfil it.
6 Secrets. I will ferret out them all.

d6 Bond
1 If I dream a place, I must go there.
2 I have an ancestor calling me to find their bones.
3 I work to appease the spirit of a particular natural place or feature.
4 My life is dedicated to preserving the deep places, where dreams come from. (Dungeons.)
5 I’ve been shown my people’s survival depends upon a people not my own.
6 I dream of a particular face, when I see it, one of us will die. Then a new face will come.

d6 Flaw
1 I am extremely credulous when it comes to other people intuition.
2 I blame people I know for what they did in dreams I had.
3 I know this world is not the real one and does not truly matter.
4 I treat coincidence like magic and magic like mere trickery.
5 I talk in my sleep and spill both secrets and hidden opinions.
6 I won't turn left, I have to turn 270 degrees right to go 90 degrees left.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Deep Carbon Observatory Print Copy Available

So, my proof print copy of DCO just turned up and it looks ok so I will go and make it available online now. (The picture link on the right saying 'Deep' should take you there.) This is the first time I have ever had a copy of a book I made in my hands. It is a strange experience.

"Oh, who is this by?"


So I should say a few things about the things that have been said.


Probably the biggest issue people have had is with the maps, fairly enough in most cases. A big chunk of the module involves resource allocation and the measurement of time and distance. The module does not tell you how to do this and the maps don't help much with it. Which is slightly unfair. My reasoning for not telling people exactly how to count time and distance was partly because I know everyone would be playing with a slightly different ruleset, but also partly because I was getting tired and hacked off with it and wanted it out the door without inflating page count. But really the maps could be sharper, they could at least have a scale or something.

So it is a slightly dishonest module in that way.

The reasoning for the weird 'side-on' maps is because I knew we would be mainly working in a vertical direction and wanted it to be clear on one page. The logic of the interior spaces was created with that in mind. Gus has done 'proper' top down maps for the Observatory, I have linked to them on the page. I haven't made his maps into a free downloadable product on the same page because I felt weird ranking it along other stuff , the main way I have of turning something into a PDF is still OpenOffice and I can just link to his site so he can get hits for the work that he did.

If we do another one like this we will take better care with the maps.


The opening is a bit of a downer hey?

I almost never write with a clearly stated moral in mind. But you can look at what I made and see what kind of world it signifies. A big thing seems to be the necessity of making hard choices if you want the world to be anything other than it is. If you do nothing the world gets worse. If you try to save everyone in the town you will probably fail. If you focus and decide which problems you can fix and address them one after another, then you can save some  people. That is pretty shit in comparison to most D&D modules where you can generally save everyone. It’s a pretty fair look inside my head anyway. It isn't that you shouldn’t care, or that it’s pointless to care, you should both care and be ruthlessly focused on what you can achieve. Even then you can't save the world, you aren't god, just a person, but you can maybe save this small part of the world. (Of course in this module I am actually god.)

I remember reading about a US army guy who had done numerous disaster relief missions who said that the weak links on those missions were often his best people.  They were good, upstanding, heroic and self-motivated and in a disaster they tried to help everyone to the maximum extent. And this meant they dispersed their efforts and the big machine of the military that did most of the work became less efficient and their primary goal got harder, so less people got helped overall.

Kind of a different view to my last post.


Alex bore with me a lot while we were doing this, all of the flaws in layout should be laid at my door. I believe it is functional. None of the tables go over two pages. Some of the lists do. Nothing you are supposed to consult quickly in one go requires flipping between things. But it is not perfect. It's no Vornheim. I will have to learn Scribus for the next one and set the format first. If I do a second module (It might be 'A Fire Calling’) and if I get ok at design, I may go back and redo DCO. But it won't be for a while.


Is it worth ten dollars? Vornheim is better and costs less. But other things are certainly worse and cost more. I made the choice mainly so it was a round figure for Americans and so both I and Scrap could get a decent chunk out of each sale. We both get  $3.50 out of each sale, take of a bit for the cost of transfers and currency conversion, in human (British) terms this amounts to about £2.00 each time for me. It seems fair. I have set the margin for the printed copy at exactly the same as the virtual copy. So far as I am concerned you are paying for content not format. If it was a posh print copy with a lot of clever shit in it I would charge more, but it’s just Lightning Scource printing, which is just a blurring of software and hardcopy anyway. There is also no extra for buying both at once. I am very sorry for anyone who bought the PDF and now realises they could have waited and got print at the same time for not much more. It wasn't a marketing scheme, it was just me never having done this before and having trouble with the print process. Sorry.


It's interesting that my life has been defined by a great aloneness and that I am a big proponent of 'doing it for yourself'. I do believe that the only meaningful control you have over the world is your body and the area around it. And not much even then. But the things I have actually made tell a different story.

Everything I have ever completed that was any good has always involved another person. Even though I did a lot of the work myself (using those individual qualities I talked about above) the thing as a whole is not 'mine' and if I had been making it alone I probably wouldn't have finished it. In me both life and death are equally balanced and the result is not easy to predict. This makes for some interesting writing but it also means things I generate and pursue only on my own, with no-one else involved, tend not to get finished.

In this case respect should be showed to Zzarchov Kowalski, if he hadn’t got me and Scrap to do it, it wouldn’t exist. All he wanted was a freaky adventure to play in his NGR system and he didn't even get that really. He had to convert the whole thing himself.

And there is Scrap. I wrote the whole thing for, or at least 'towards' her. If she hadn't been there it still might not exist. If it did it would be in a very different form. (Less animals, no Crows, lots of other things.)

Scrap is essentially my Paul McCartney, she cares about actual living things and people, embodied living expressions of the world, I care about sadness and death.

If you think that’s an insult, go and read this.

“Lennon, perhaps because his music relied on a more typical blues structure, used more negative emotion in his lyrics and the data reveal that he was more focused on his own personal distress. Lennon songs are indicative of someone trying to reflect or understand his own negative experiences or situations


On the other hand, the data shows McCartney lyrics to be more intellectually and lyrically complex than Lennon’s. McCartney songs also cover a broader range of themes.

McCartney’s songs are more intellectually complex and cover a far wider range of perspectives
and themes. Lennon’s songs tend to more self-focused and higher in levels of negative emotion.”


Almost exactly 15 years ago I got a tattoo. People thought it turned out well. Everyone asked me if I would ever get another one. I would always say “If I ever get something published.”

Well, self-publishing isn’t real publishing, but its close enough and I didn’t know what to get for my birthday anyway. So if anyone has any ideas about what tattoo I should get you can let me know. Probably something Observatory-related, but you know, inverse.

Also, if anyone has any questions about DCO, feel free to ask.