Saturday, 12 January 2013

Lamenters

Man-big birds with sanity-baffling screams, full of useful muck.

 

The Lamenter, or Oilbird is Trogloxene. It nests and raises young in caves but usually hunts outside. They access through volcano cracks and dried-out lava tubes. They are usually no more than twenty minutes, (by wing) from the surface. Locals have named them Lamenters as they think the souls of the dead take residence in the caves and that the birds are singing to them. They are and they do. These are no good dead.

The guano piles have Smaug-like depth and richness. If dragons cared about agriculture they would all be occupied. Soil-fixed nitrogen is a as rare underground as everything else. Hip-high forests of pale pigmentless plants die even as they grow in the rich but sunless soil. A big Lamanter nest hangs above a dangerous oasis of organic life. Throngs of insects, big and small, and all the things that feed on them. Kept safe from organised intelligence by the Lamenters terrible cry. And the dead.

There are deep dwelling albino Oilbirds, these are thinner,more ragged, and often blind. They are descended from captured young, raised by underground civilisations in attempts to farm the useful oils they hold.

Every so often a city dwelling race gets the idea of farming Lamanters. The chicks are so full of oil, you can kill one, squeeze it out, and use the unrefined bloody mess to fuel a lamp for days. Light is a fine currency for some.

This never works. Factors preventing the useful farming of Lamenter's are:-

1 They can fly and will leave.
2 They are man-sized and will peck your face off.
3 They will defend their young with their life.
4 They can navigate underground when they want to, using a stream of extremely high pitched tongue clicks five octaves above middle-C.
5 The cacophonous screaming of Oilbirds en-mass will drive any intelligent being insane.
6 They are surrounded by the invisible souls of the dead at all times.

(Drow agricultural rumours* tell of Aboleth treaty’s and farms of mad, skinless men covered with peck-marks, tending baffled white birds in dark Cyclopean dovecotes. The resulting clamour keeps sane things away from the area, which can be handy for those on whom sanity has no hold. Deafened pack-apes toil in epic oil-caravans to the sighted realms)

Insanity is their chief defence. A flock of howling Oilbirds weave a nexus of high-frequency ultrasound that deafens, frightens, invades the mind and ultimately drives you mad.

But this is not its purpose. No sage has ever known knows what the birds sing to the dead. But I will tell you now. It is a love song. They are crying to their lost children and lost loves. And they are heard

When you die in the presence of Lamenters the hideous music shifts. Its shaped like that to echo in the baffles outside life. When you cross over, from the other side, it is beautiful. Like dawn-song held in autumn air. You will probably want to stay there too, if you have no-where else to go.

Survivors of the Oil-Birds Song often become silent fungal shaman.

Characters who go to Zero HP while under the Lamenters song and then survive, no-longer suffer insanity as a result, and feel a little bit better about life in general. Not everything is awful all the time.

*Drow farming rumours are some of the darkest rumours you can get anywhere. Like a pro-slavery version of Roots directed by David Lynch.

5 comments:

  1. There is a dark brilliance here , I like them .

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  2. "Drow farming rumours are some of the darkest rumours you can get anywhere. Like a pro-slavery version of Roots directed by David Lynch."

    These are the kinds of things I want to see in my gamebooks. I really really really want to see what you are going to do with the drow, too. If Veins of the Earth consisted only of the things you have put up on your blog so far, it would probably be my favorite rpg book.

    Have you heard of the emerald cockroach wasp? I don't believe it is cave-dwelling, but I thought of your project when I was reading about it. Does the insect version of a lobotomy to a cockroach, leads it around by its antennae like it is using a leash, then pumps it full of wasp babies in its lair. Which naturally chew their way out on a later date.

    I have been wanting to ask you about how your preparation squares with your playing. I notice a lot of dissonance between the way people write about games and the way their games go. Like, you write these elegant, thoughtful pieces on Lamenters or the Hours of Balach, but when you talk about your sessions, they are gritty and have a lot of conflict between players. Or how Zak S. seems to have this meticulously detailed fantasy world but his games (on I Hit It With My Axe, at least) are pretty free-wheeling. Or how I had a session today that I barely prepared for, and part way through, my players quite seriously started speculating about the political situation of a demi-hell I had invented 15 minutes previously based on notes I had forgotten at home. Do you think how a game goes just comes down to the players?

    Also, I realize I have developed a habit of leaving lengthy, discursive comments and questions on your blog, so if this is a bad venue or I am just being inane, please let me know.

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    1. Hey Matt, Ill answer in reverse order

      Don't be ridiculous, I always look forward to your comments. Its always a pleasure to see that someone gave enough of a shit about my stuff to say something. You are my favourite commenter by far.

      Basically yes. Some games can prep depth to some extent. Level of preparation and mood can play a part. But the 'realest', the most aesthetically and emotionally and creatively interesting parts are to a large extent in the lap of the gods. I find you can prepare the way but, in personal experience, you can't force or plan a particular response or mood at the table. You have infuence but not control.

      Also, the person you get on the internet can be quite different to the person you get in real life. The Patrick on this blog is usually a product of slow and layered attention, the one in real life is less articulate, more staccato and improvisational. So you don't know how peoples blogging and their lived experience matches up, I think they can be very different.


      I did not know about the emerald cockroach wasp, but it does not surprise me. Wasps are basically flying hyper predatory ants and ants are terrifying on their own. We are so lucky they are small. I did consider finding out stuff about insects, but there are sooooooo many insects, it would never end, so I decided to concentrate on caves and cave life to limit my searches.

      I am probably not going to do much, or anything with the Drow, or the Duregar or whatever I'm afraid. For four reasons.
      1- They are copyright I think and I don't want to get sued.
      2- There is a whole culture there, it would take a book of their own just to do them justice.
      3- If I start thinking about underground cities then I won't be able to stop and there is too much information. I think it will be an underground 'wilderness' book and I'll do the cities later on if I have A- Infinite time and B- infinite money.
      4- I have briefly fantasised about doing a City of The Spider Queen book. It would be designed as a kind of caustic moral bath for the characters, to slowly and irrevocably erode their sense of self. I would combine the worst aspects of the British Empire, The pre civil war Deep South, the Byzantine Empire, stuff about spiders and the most disturbing things I could come up with about theoretical nightmare feminism. It would be designed like a giant web, players would start in the edge and be inevitably drawn in both physically and morally. Female PC's would be invisibly corrupted by being assigned an automatic higher caste level than male PCs and they would slowly go crazy because it would be written invisibly into every interaction. But I kind of don't want to do it because it might be genuinely upsetting, and because trying to think about the worst ways feminism could possibly go evil is intellectually interesting but also a giant fucking red rag to the internet and I have no interest in having those kind of arguments.

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  3. trying to think of something more intelligent than "fuck yeah" but no, fuck yeah!

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    1. Thank you Scraps, yours is one of the few blogs I read automatically so it means a lot to me if you like something.

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