Monday, 19 November 2018

Get the Stripper Pole Out


We have a cover! (uncoloured).


We are still (please Jesus) on course for a launch on or around the 1st December. And you know what that means. It means me pimping myself out on this blog every goddamn day  of December.

This is the lair of the Prismatic Demon


Because if there is one thing people love - IT'S REGULAR UPDATES.

So, there you have it, I will BLOG EVERY DAY OF THE KICKSTARTER.

And that means you get to request things/harass me/make demands etc.

So if there is something you have always wanted me to blog about and if its possible to write a reasonable post about it in one day, then I will try to cover it during the Kickstarter.




God knows this blog is full of unfinished projects, half ideas, vague notions etc etc. So if there is stuff you want me to go back to, to finish or add more, or stuff you want me to make. Then you can ask, either here in the comments, on Facebook, G+ (may she rest in peace) or the Subreddit


Thursday, 15 November 2018

MAN ATTACKED BY CORRIDOR - a Review of House of Leaves

I'm not doing a 'Blog of Leaves' review where I mirror the structure of the book because that would be a crazy amount of work (1). (If someone hasn't done a Youtube thing where they read House of Leaves chapter by chapter and things Go Horribly Wrong then I'm surprised. Why not? (Internet link structures a modern reality decay are pretty much the House of Leaves anyway.))

..............

Veins of the Earth is a weird parallel to this. We even reference the same event from one of the same books (report of caves getting lost in a huge cavern from 'Underground Worlds'), so that's fun. You could consider VotE and HoL to almost be part of the same 'extended universe.(1b)

..............

I have a distinct memory of going into Liverpool Library some time in the early 2000's, looking for Shakespeare, getting turned around and only being able to find the analysis of Shakespeare. The plays themselves were a hidden shelf, the analysis was a huge tumescent stack, book upon book upon book, heaving, like a cancer on the original. I thought then that there was something foul about a world in which the analysis of a thing could grow to such blathering immensity that it dwarfed the original.

There is something monstrous about writing (2) - and in writing about writing the monstrous nature becomes more clear.

It's like a vampire + you can see it clearly in the mirror of itself.

And a mirror cannot create meaning.

.............

I read this book too late (3) and put too many breaks (4) in between.

I was pretty scared of parts to begin with(4b). I read it at night alone in a small silent room surrounded only by house noises. Something behind my wardrobe moved and I froze. (It was probably cardboard I stashed back there expanding in the heat after the heat was cranked up, (I still haven't looked to check though)). The suggestions were more scary than the events. The textural dicking around I found fun + silly-scary, like ooga-booga scary. (That's more the Man Attacked By Corridor stuff).

.............

I've come to think that some horror stories are Normality Stories. 1 strong + important element of the counterpoint is that creation of normalcy before the scary happens. If you have good normal you feel it when it breaks.

Maybe a lot of stories (5) have these parts at the beginning - before the 'story' starts, so they can make the story story.

............

The Layering;

whooo its a fractal reality

_what is real_ whoooo (6)


--

Ok, that's facetious and unfair. It's a good book + notable achievement, worthy of its praise.

I don't know what you would write after writing this

"Look Dad, I deconstructed a genre!"

"Ok son, but what will you do with it now?"

>AWSHUCKS DUMBFACE<

3-Panel comic found in #postmodernistmistakes twitter feed.

...............

Some cool mysteries - who was Zampado was he the Brother or someone? Did J Truant turn superevil at the end (the real monster was you!) Do the 'good guys' win? (Win in the lovecraftian sense of binding the predatory metareality into a book?) On one hand my airing cupbaord is still a normal size, on the other see aforementioned reality decay. Which is the _true_ ending?

At a certain point in the layering you work out that there is no actual answer. Then its just like 'oh. ok.'

And thats the problem with hinting.

...............

(Traditionally, you need a woman to end the adventure. men can do stuff but they are not allowed to stop until a woman lets them.)

..............

Like the fairness of a horror movie or a post-McDowall D&D trap.

R U gonna scare me of kill me?

+ if you are really here to scare me - why should I be scared?

+ if to kill me, why haven't you done it?

Its uncertain. But if your power comes from uncertainty then it can certainly be banished the moment anything certain is known. The half-life of fear - deadly for a dreams width(9).

I prefer the happy ending (+ the certain one).

(The poetry section in the appendix, the in-character poetry, is really really bad. It's the only part I couldn't get through. I am not sure if it was meant to be like that.)




THERE IS ALSO A GIANT SNAIL.

ODD 

(p_-)






1 - But I didn't edit this before posting it, which has the same effect but is cheaper.

1b - I mean I literally have Scraps drawings of infinite darkness/finality as a monster and Daniels Navarchs of Nox on my wall watching over me. So when this turns up I'm like;

"Oh, you like infinite space son?

You like yourself some literalised metaphor monsters?

You into those themes of madness ey?

Sure son, you done good. Reeeeeeaaal good."

>Chews cigar, rocks back on heels, wipes engine grease from hands w rag.(7)<

2 - About textural analysis, the volume and deadening nature of the lists and quotes. Little invisible scars of thought adding up and adding up - evening out to nothing.

3 - Should have read it in my 20's.

4 - I am poorly minded for this - not willing to give it what it needs to affect me. (Nothing given, nothing gained.)

4b - But then I had a long break, allowing all the micro-relations that power the book to fade, and began reading again, mainly in the morning or in the Library (10) surrounded by people - not a fearful place, usually.

5 - Genre stories.

6 - The inferences in the mothers letter were good. The suggestion of a metatextual reality-monster existing across planes of existence was more scary that it actually turning up. (If it really turned up.) The relentless parental abandonment was painful + effective to read.

7 - I should scrawl some weird shit in my copy and leave it on a train, or in airport seat (8)

8 - Strangely enough, my copy was water damaged while I carried it around in my backpack, searching Liverpool in a downpour for a DVD of the film Labyrinth to do research for a possible job. I could not find the DVD anywhere and the job itself never happened. Mazes within mazes.

9 - + that fear itself must always be in a state of decay and has a half-life, an oddly encouraging thought.

10 - Liverpool Library Reading Room is a living experiment in human self-awareness, stupidity and narcissism. Everything anyone whispers carries fully around the entire room and the extent and volume of someone’s speech on entering gives you a nice neat graph of how aware they are of their environment, themselves and their effect on others. It ranges from the genuinely stupid who never catch on, the blunt tourist who wanders in as part of a pack and says stuff like "ISN'T IT GREAT. ITS REALLY SOMETHING". The no-fucks dumb/nasty combo scally who goes there to make phone calls or creep on people. The should-know better who finds it too loud to make a fucking phone call in the library so ducks inside the FUCKING READING ROOM etc etc. The strange thing is that even though everyone in the reading room can hear everyone in the reading room, and we are all necessarily irritated by the same things, not one of us EVER speaks up. We are like members of a strange temporary cult with powerful self-generated unwritten rules. Once I ate a complex sandwich in there at length and I regret that now.


Saturday, 10 November 2018

A Review of Through Ultans Door

Someone did a proper zine. One actually *worth the money*.

This is by Ben L of Mazarins Garden. You can see the interview I did with him here;

Its based on a real persons actual game with actual real playtesting and everything. In form its an introduction to his Dunsanayan City of Zyan, which floats in Wishery. In true Borgesian literary style it actually has an un-named sub-city which takes the place of the PCs starting culture, this city described only through inference in the description, rumours and reasons.

This first section of the Zine tells you about the door itself; a local printmaker finds a doorway to a mythical kingdom in his cellar and starts charging for entry, gives you background about the base cultures knowledge of Zyan, the city to which the door leads; semi-mythical, magical, dangerous, wealthy, decadent, a handful have gone and returned with riches. Gives you some rumours about what the door and a nice Reasons table, an increasingly common thing in OSR stuff, in which those who don't just want to go git treasure have some fancy contextual reason for rolling about in magical realms.

Monetary values and stats are given for those people who just have to steal from or fight the quest giver and tank the whole fucking adventure before you even get into it. This is a thoughtful touch, but thoughtful in the way that a sympathetic apology sign on a submarines escape hatch is thoughtful. It's nice someone considered it but if you need to make use of it everything is probably boned anyway.

The rest of the Zine is essentially a single dungeon beneath Zyan with 30 keyed areas, two major factions, a variety of ways in and out, individual treasures and monsters, and a whole heap of contextual information about the cultures both above the dungeon, in Zyan, if you leave and go up, and below Zyan, in the white hanging jungle, if you go down.


FORMAT

The format is notable because it takes advantage of the nature of Zine production ins an elegant, efficacious and practical way. (Elegant is going to be an overused word here as the whole thing carries signs of care and careful thought at every level of its creation, largely to the good and in micro ways possibly to the bad).

The card cover comes away without staples, the dungeon map is on the inside. There are two separate 'menu' cards with all the random encounters and pertinent rules on them. All of these are light and slightly narrower than A5. if you imagine running this thing you would have the map open in front of you, the encounter table present and then would simply have the zine itself open to whatever number or room was required. As a whole this is exceedingly well-arranged for use and should absolutely be copied by anyone with the same aesthetic and/or resources/mental model/way of doing things.

There could be some minor, arguable, downsides to this way of making things. More on that later.


THE DUNGEON

Most, many, possibly all of the OSR design fetishes are in place. There are Jayquayan Loops. Traps that make situational sense and which can be detected with careful thought, and disarmed within the theatre of the mind. There are two factions, either of which could be 'bad', but one of which is more badderer. The dungeon has cultural and geographic strata, rooms have former uses and current uses, understanding the culture of the former occupants makes actual sense and can get you things. There are hidden uniforms. One faction can be imitated (poorly) with makeup. There are three ways out, one of which looks like it will involve you further in Zyan above, for a city adventure, another will take you down for a strange jungle adventure and the third is left vague for whatever the DM needs. There are TOILETS and a source of fresh water, as well as a semi-realistic ecology.

The tone of creation is on the darker side of Dunsanay and the lighter side of the Aesthetics of Alienation that features a lot in parts of the Artpunk OSR. The wandering monsters are White Swine with child hands and murderous Shadow Puppets. They are all pretty good, make situational sense in the imagined world and their particulars are well taken advantage of, (the enemies of the White Swine pickle and eat their child-hands, so if you find their larder without seeing the Swine first it will look like they are eating children, an unusually Raggi-esque negamove from Ben).


SPELLS AND TREASURE

All of the treasure is individual, unique, inventive and appropriate to the setting. I've begun to think that treasure of this type is the 'Deep Roast Coffee' of Artpunk D&D, from the Malcolm Gladwell story in which an audience asked about its coffee tastes always says that it favours a Deep Roast over a Mild Smooth Blend, because the words sound better, then if you actually test them, they all want the Mild Smooth Blend because the Deep Roast is fucking strong.

It's really really great to have these lovely individual treasures, especially at a low level, and especially in the first few dungeons. I think as people level up and end up with a plethora of crazy stuff they begin to forget or ignore a lot of it.

But none of this is any real criticism of Bens work here, only a general observation. (He does have a +1 weapon in here though; SHAME - whip yourself five times a say a Hail Gygax. (It also has a specific magical effect though.))

The use of magic is elegant (again). Most magical effects are situational re-skins of common low-level Old School spells, so the DM will likely be familiar with the effects, but they are shaped to context and use and will therefore *feel* different in the game. This is a neatly-executed idea.


ART

The art is waaay above zine-level. There is one Russ Nicholson piece, which should maybe be reproduced smaller than it is, several by Huargo Illustrador which are very good, (the cover is EXCELLENT), and a few by Gus L, of which my favourite is the White Swine. Gus also did the map which is largely very good. I would probably have had more hashing in the negative space but this could be considered a matter of dungeon map aesthetics.



NITPICKING

INTEGRATION

The dense cultural and aesthetic integration of the imagined world (which is probably what most of you are paying for) means that the zine only really mixes neatly with one other thing, and that's issue two of this zine, which probably will not be out for a while.

You can make up your own Zyan above and Zyan below, but when issue two comes out the dense interweaving of detail is going to make it tricky to integrate the developing world with whatever you are playing.

This is only conditionally a flaw.


PROSE

Ben writes like an academic or an uncles letter, in full paragraphs with entirely correct sentences and continually-even grammar. All the information you need is there in the paragraph and all the information is good. I personally would have chopped the shit out of a lot of these paragraphs, hacked the grammar, broken up the text, bolded, headed and bulleted the fuck out of it.

Bear in mind this is a highly personal viewpoint.

I will give you an example;

Bens paragraph;

"a. A four-poster bed stands in this room with a gutted mattress, and a few tatters of shredded bed clothes. Attached to the wall, there is a tall mirror that has been smashed to pieces. Next to it stands a once fine armoire now scratched by claw marks and ruined. It has a hidden compartment in the base, holding a gorgeous carved wooden cask (50gp), within which there is an effigy of a golden web. If thrown it acts as a web spell (one use)."

My version;

"a. Four-poster bed. Gutted mattress. Shredded bed clothes. Tall smashed mirror. Claw-scratched and ruined armoire.

Hidden in the Armoire
Compartment in the base. Gorgeous carved wooden cask (50gp).
Inside - effigy of a golden web. Acts as a web spell if thrown (one use)."

Again, this is a matter of informational taste and preferred cognitive rhythm. I did call this section 'nitpicks'. (Also, note the treasure, the cask, has a coin value while the magical doohicky doesn't, therefore meaning you don't need to have any arguments about throwing away the magic treasure or do any dicking around after the adventure about what exactly counts as XP.)


PRODUCTION

It's De Tocqueville vs Disney. This is almost the platonic ideal of the Artisinal Zine. It could only be the product of an intelligent, well-resourced, careful individual with good taste who took a long time and much research, invention and playtesting to produce it. It's particular right the way from its dungeon treasures all the way to the paper chosen and folded by hand to make it. Even the format and the way the paper is arranged is an elegant (AGAIN) arrangement of information and aesthetics that could be only be made easily by one mind who both comprehended and *physically created* the whole thing as-one.

It is not a work of industrial art. I don't think you could produce this at a large scale and keep all of the good things about it.

Not that you should necessarily want to do that. De Tocqueville has his good points, and Disney certainly has his bad.


CONCLUSION

It’s a small gem. If you like any of the things it’s about then it may be a 5 out of 5. Even if you hate the subject it would have to be a reluctant 4 out of 5 just for the very obvious quality. It has probably sold out by the time I have written this.

Click the image to go to Bens shop;



I will now watch Bens review of this, which I have been putting off, to see what he says.

(He’s right, the room numbers are a bit small.

And he mentioned Matt Hildebrand the layout guy, which I did NOT do. Whoops.

Also he points out that its available in PDF which arguably contradicts my point about Industrial Art.

And yes, there are a handful of spelling errors. I forgot where they were. Sorry Ben.)



Wednesday, 7 November 2018

A Night at the Golden Duck

Scrap came from the other side of the earth. We made a Zine together.



 We hacked this together in between watching squirrels, terrible bus journeys and episodes of the Jeremy Brett Granada Sherlock series.

It was meant to be something quick and simple we could do and get out relatively easily. The style is similar to the Fire on the Velvet Horizon aesthetic. Cut ups of courier font text mixed with Scraps drawings.

This is how it works;


 Its meant to be an encounter at an Inn. The party walks in and finds five strange NPCs' each has a unique history and personality, and secret motives. There is also a Legendary Treasure said to be hidden somewhere in the Inn, the Golden Duck itself.

Depending on what the PCs do, the NPCs might try to kill them, try to murder each other, seek or the Golden Duck, try to stop anyone else getting the Golden Duck, or maybe nothing at all will happen. Each NPC has different triggers, fears and aims so it could go a range of ways.

The Zine as you flip through it has the NPCs, the Legend of the Golden Duck and a rough chronology of the night. If you open it to an A2 poster you find a multi-layered map of the Inn, with stats, the secret of the treasure and some adventure information.

This is Miss Tricks, she is one of the NPCs;


To find out what she is about, you will need to buy the thing. it's available only in hardcopy, there will never be a PDF. It's light, we have kept it so that you don't get screwed on the postage.

You can get it at the new False Parcels BigCartel storefront. An experiment I am setting up to possibly sell small, light things that can be produced locally and posted easily.

Here is the Storefront;




Monday, 5 November 2018

Questions you can ask me at Dragonmeet on the 1st December


What happened to that Kickstarter you were doing? Did you have another meltdown?

ITS STILL GOING TO HAPPEN. BY THE TIME DRAGONMEET HAPPENS IT SHOULD BE EITHER UP, OR JUST ABOUT TO GO UP.

LOOK UPON THESE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES! MOST/SOME OF WHICH YOU WILL FIND WITHIN! SEE HOW I STUMBLE ACCIDENTALLY INTO AND THEN MINDLESSLY EXPLOIT THE ARTISTIC GENIUS OF OTHERS?

IN THE WORDS OF DR DUROC HOG; 


"NOTHING CAN STOP THE TITANS’ RISE!”

 “REALITY SHALL DANCE TO MY FUNGAL CLAVICHORD!”




When is Broken Fire Regime coming out?

ITS. IN. DEVELOPMENT.

ACTUALLY, IT WILL BE COMING OUT AFTER DCO2.



So, when is DCO2 coming out?

ITS... IN DEVELOPMENT? JACOB HURST IS WORKING ON IT. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE. AT LEAST TWO SPREADS ARE DONE. ARGUABLY.

LOOK YOU HAVEN'T SEE THE TEXTURES I'VE SEEN. THE TEXTURES.





Didn't your blog used to be good?

AT ONE POINT YES. MAYBE IT WILL BE AGAIN ONE DAY? PLEASE DON'T STOP READING I LITERALLY HAVE NOTHING ELSE.






Haven't you alienated everyone in this community yet?

MAYBE NOT EVERYONE? SOME PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW WHO I AM.






What's this I hear about you being a racist now Patrick? Are you going 'alt-right' did you take one of them red pills lad?

LOOK, EVERYONE KNOWS I LOVE THE WELSH PEOPLE. SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS.. OK, NONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE WELSH. BUT SOME OF MY FAMILY ARE? I HAVEN'T ACTUALLY SPOKEN TO THEM IN YEARS. ARGUABLY MY MUM IS.

I HAVE NOT GONE CULTURE WAR SCHITZO YET. GIVE IT TIME.





Hell of a thing about G+ eh?

YES. HELL OF A THING. I EAGERLY AWAIT THE NEW GO WHO SHALL RISE.





Why are you standing facing the corner?

I HAVE DIFFICULTY PROCESSING LARGE CROWDS. I AM SORRY. I MAY BE 'ON THE SPECTRUM'.





What's up with you dumping all these small projects on us for money? You gouging us son?

I AM RUNNING OUT OF MONEY AND TRYING TO AVOID THE BISCUIT FACTORY AND CALL CENTRE. SURELY THE WORTH OF MY REASONABLY-PRICED PRODUCTS CAN BE SEEN IN THE JOY OF THOSE WHO RECEIVE THEM? MY PROFIT SHARING ARRANGEMENTS ARE HIGHLY EQUITABLE PLEASE FUND MY KICKSTARTER.





I've seen your Instagram, aren't you just spending it all on Warhammer Toys?

I CONSIDER THAT A MENTAL-HEALTH EXPENDITURE.






Do you even play D&D anymore?

I RUN A GAME ONCE A WEEK. 

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A Review of Creatures of Near Kingdoms

Hey, Zedeck (& Sharon) made a book.

(Disclosure - I know this guy.)

Click to buy.


Pick up the book in your hands.

It's light, pages near-translucent. Strong black marks of monochrome pictures show through the text from the un-flipped page beyond.

The cover is luxuriant, a royal purple, it flexes and flops in your hand. The urge to bend it is near-irresistible!

It is written in second-person like cookbooks, choose-your-own adventure texts and a handful of literary experiments. Very fancy and unusual!

Who is the "you" in the book? You seem to change gender (by inference at least) and job and circumstances of life but it seems like almost all of these yous are Malaysian, alone at the moment of encounter, probably not beyond thirty or under twenty, generally educated, and reluctant to talk to others about what you (they) have experienced.

Many yous have a garden. There is always something strange in the garden. It is rarely a good thing.

You begin to realise that writing this review in the style of the book may have been a mistake. There are now too many yous. The protagonists of the book are many shadow you's, the you writing this is another, the you reading (and editing) this a microsecond after your cognitive tide has washed a finished fragment into being is arguably yet another you, and all the you's reading the finished review are yet another shadowy multiplicity of yous.

An even more difficult question is who is the person addressing the 'you' in the book? They are as vague and omniscient as a Gygaxian sage, and as tricky as a riddlemaster. A lot of these fragments involve the narrator slowly revealing something to the second-person protagonist. It is rarely a good thing.

(Run protago-theys! Run from the page before they get to the last paragraph. You have rights!)

This book is by two people.

One is anxious, slightly silly, enmeshed in the minutiae of daily life, except more absorbed in a kind of dream of daily life where things are not quite themselves. They are anxious about their garden (the garden is a major character), and a range of progressive political matters about which they feel largely helpless. They are either familiar with the scientific jargon of biology, or like reading books with those words. This must be Sharon, you think.

The other is completely silent and communicates only through the carving of smooth black lines, like woodcuts, except probably not wood. They are fond of bold and impudent animals, concerned with dream images and complex baroque patterns. You assume this one is Zedeck.

As usual, even though the book is only half text and is also half art, its easy to talk about the text (text always wants to be transformed into more text, like a happy virus) and hard to talk about the art, which gets shunted off to paragraphs like these while the reviewer tries to grapple with it.

The patterns are one thing, and even though the method of creating them is explained at the back of the book you still cant work out exactly how many of them work. Your eyes have looped the lines and been unable to find the repeating cores. Possibly you are visually stupid.

You like the large, charismatic, singular cheeky and mildly threatening animals the most. Though you think that probably the patterns might be 'better art', whatever that is. You are aware that you have pretty basic tastes in art and the patterns are strange and complex and might well have some kind of life beyond the context of this book, you imagine them proliferating over walls and laptop backgrounds, on tiles and the pieces of games.

The artist likes black, which you approve of, and does not fuck about adding the fiddly bits of shit which mediocre (in your opinion) people confuse with 'realism' and 'quality', which you also approve of. There is no digital trash in the backgrounds or layout, praise the gods.

Some of these images are near-heraldic, some could be scenes from storybooks and legend, some could be T-Shirt designs, (there should be a 'Crowned Dugong' T-Shirt on Redbubble by now you think), they are strong, singular, thick with character and identity, requiring no reference to make sense of them.

You could read the book backwards, silently, letting the pages fall open so the rhythm went image-text-image, the eye catching the image first, only then looking to the text. It would be a different book with a different pulse.

The book is full of creatures and plants and most of them (surely) are imaginary. Its actually pretty hard to tell. Some of these could easily be real plants and creatures from Malaysia that you don't know about. Do they really have their own local syrup plant? Is Agarwood a real thing?

It occurs to you (that is the you writing this, and reading it as you are writing it, not the other you who is the main character in the book) that this is probably a very different book if you are Malaysian, or just live in SE Asia, and of you are not.

A lot of these creatures, plants and situations are part of a network of subtle inferences and references which probably make very different sense if you are familiar with the environment and politics of Malaysia. To someone there, this might be like a kind of imaginary map of a real place, with everything tilted a little, but still familiar, a shard or lemon-twist of recognition. You imagine urbane Malaysians raising their eyebrows to each other over cups of rich coffee; "Ah yes, of course, a 'lantern squirrel', an artful re-contextualisation of something something something..."

But you, (the you you, not the other you) have no idea if there actually are lantern squirrels, real ones that is, or things like them. Do they have Dugongs in Malaysia? It seems like something they would have, probably not sentient ones though. You could google it but that seems like cheating somehow.

So for you, the book is twice-reflected. There is an extra hovering layer of interpretation. And also a lot of it is just the impression of someone in a cold grey place reading about a bright warm place (you actually feel a little colder in comparison when you read). In the place of the book, things are always growing, everywhere, and more than here, and there are lots of different animals, again, you think, more than you have around you.

You wonder if that might be orientalism? Does it only seem that way because you are familiar with your ecosystem and this one is cherry-picked and strange (and largely made up)? Only statistics will be able to work that out. You are sure someone on a blog is working on it.

Plus there are definitely no pigs under your house.

The extra layer, or double gleam of unknowing, either doesn't hurt, or helps you feel like you know the place in an intimate way. There are lots of fragments of life that would never show up in any story you would read. You feel like you know what its like to be in a traffic jam because of Buffalo, to worry about parking your car beneath rare and aggressive species, to wake up prickling because of lizards, pigs under the house. Complex meanings in relatives gift-plants, an aggressive bioform on the beach, neighbours with ritual problems.

And of course, finding something complex and penumbral growing in your garden. Then worrying about it. You feel like that might happen every day.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

I Could Not Get This Snail Knight Story Right


And I am currently swamped in other things and will not be able to get back to it for a while. So now its 'content'. It's long so you may want to PDF or copy/paste it.

The Tale of Sir Babbling of Bromborough

We turn now to the tale of Sir Babbling of Broms-Burgh, called by some "The Nonsense Knight", so layering his names by three for he was never dubbed so by the King, nor did his mother call him "Babbling" in the crib (even when he babbled for sure), but named him Silence, for she despised clamour and hated noise above all things. Her heart was tuned too neatly to the world and buzzed like a wire in wind. Elf-Blood bubbled in her veins, she fizzed when spoken to and boiled at every shout. Only in the silence was she free, away from the banging of man. Only in the still calm could she smile and laugh her soundless laugh. Silence was her joy, so hence the name.


Perhaps she should have spoken to him more. Perhaps it was the old elf-blood (from Silences Great Grandfather Raven-Bone Brok, the Elfin Knight). Or perhaps it was neuropathology.

Sir Silence had a flaw upon his tongue. That flaw was like a notch in gold, for in courtesy, in courage and in kindness he bore the bell (meaning he would lead the herd of knights, if knights were goats).

He was also both clever and calm, though neither are really chivalric virtues and are distantly regarded by most knights, like an abandoned spanner, and his calmness breathed only in the presence of just acts. When witnessing injustice he was death.

He was as beautiful as summer and warm as wet wax, though his storm-coloured snail Thorgool claimed plutonic temperament, reserved and dark. Yet when mounted on Thorgool the glistering sharpness of his arms, the butter-bright summer of his looks, the fiery courage of his heart and the glacier-melting kindness in his smile made him seem like a bright sun rising from a storm. He was like an ice-age ending. There was one fine day in the middle of the Knight.


Saturday, 13 October 2018

Physical Initiative and Query Initiative

Thinking about Davids post on Initiative brought up some ideas.

The first part is a silly list, the second part is less immediately useful but more conceptually interesting.

.............

First idea is what if The Initiative is like a literal physical thing that you can find or recover in a game world, or just in one dungeon, city or area, and as long as you have it then you have the initiative. I.e, you fight first.

And everyone in this area knows what the initiative is, so if they see you with it, they will say 'oh shit, they have the initiative' and be afraid to attack, but if they can steal or grab it off you then *they* will have the initiative, and if they can break, kill, destroy or lose it then there is no initiative.

So here are 12? Dumb Physical Initiatives

For probably a cheesy game or the goblin kingdom in a normal game.

All of these must be held openly, visible, or held in one hand.

1. A small fragile bird like a starling, or a bat. Delicate bones, moves fast if it can get away. Very specific diet.

2. A big fat awkward robust bird like a Turkey. You have to cradle it under one arm. It becomes alarmed in violent situations, escapes and runs about. There can be no fighting in its presence till it is caught at which point whoever has it has the initiative. The bird is imperious.

3. A delicate glass flower, or a real one in a pot.

4. The Ark of Initiative. A huge heavy stone box that has to be carried about by at least two people.

5. The Expressive Initiative Snake or Repelling Rope of Initiative. A long thin thing that will not curl up into a neat wrap or spiral but must be carried full length, either be several people or just dragged along the ground behind.

6. A tall sign like a preachers apocalypse sign.

7. An instrument of some kind, like a violin or trumpet, while your side is playing it, you have the initiative. Good because it announces every fight you have. Bizarre because it ensures first strike on an unsuspecting enemy. Like a tuba you play very very quietly as you sneak up to backstab someone.

8. Quicksilver in an open chalice, must be held open in one hand like a saints object and not spilled. (Angels probably have one of these in one of their multiple arms when they appear.)

9. A Princess. Either a small and troublesome one or teenage, dissolute, hot and narcissistic. Someone has to be holding hands with the princess. (Or combing their hair?)

10. A balloon on a string.

11. A tall tiered hat (perhaps the enemy fear it so much that gives you initiative over them).

12. A glass shield, no more robust than normal glass.



.........

Second idea is influenced somewhat by the description of fights in Amber Diceless. What if initiative was related to the number of questions a player or side could ask about the encounter before they lose initiative.

This is probably easier to conceptualise as a per-side thing. Enemy types would have an Initiative Value, with low being good. Something like this;

Ambush: D4 -1
Fast things: D4
People: D6
Bigger things: D8
Slllooow things: 2d6 (like Zombies)

You would begin with the most basic description possible;

"A shape attacks. Initiative begins."

Then the player side can ask precise questions about the specific physical qualities that they can sense. Like;

"What shape is it?"
"How many limbs?"
"Is it dressed?"
"Does it/they have a weapon?"
"How many of them?"

I'm not sure on the exact quality of the questions that can be asked. Yes/No seems a bit too tight but wider questions could get easy too quickly.

Then the Players get to ask questions about what their particular character can see or sense, and if they go over a creatures initiative number, then the monsters/opponents get to attack first.

Its not that well worked out after the first round. Do the 'winners' of the first round keep initiative for the rest of the fight? Do the players get to ask more questions on each subsequent round or is info disclosed as normal? If more questions are needed then do you re-roll the monsters initiative values each round?

The thing I like about it is that it forces both the Players and DM to think hard about the precise physical qualities of the game world and how to express them, and becasue the limiting of information mimics the way adrenaline and high-stress situations, and ambushes, really work; by limiting the information available to the object of the attack, meaning they respond in a sub-optimal way. And because as the fight goes on and the PCs gather more and more context, they can make more complex decisions.

To begin with something is just right in your fucking face and you need to do *something* and you don't really know exactly what you are fighting right away. Then if you can survive the first round or so you begin to work out 'oh right, its goblins' and this can mimic the way in which an ambush or attack that doesn't work or follow-through can lose imeptus and be beaten back.

A big question is whether you can, or should, ever "trick" people into getting into fights they wouldn't want to, either because the enemy is too big or an 'innocent'. The mere question of announcing an initiative situation strongly suggests that violence is already in the offing whether the PCs want it or not.


...........................

Silent Titans - the book I am making with Christian Kessler and Dirk Leichty is written, mainly illustrated, going into final editing and we are getting final quotes from printers.


Expect a Kickstarter in December and expect the book itself in February 2019 (HOPEFULLY).

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

I'm Literally Going Nowhere


This water pipe possible symbolises G+

There were a few years of my life, from around 2001 to about 2007, where I think I didn't actually talk to anyone. I'm sure I must have spoken to people at jobs I was at, and my parents and people serving me at shops, but, essentially, I have no particular memories of those years.

If you imagine the figure of a kind of badly, or awkwardly, dressed and awkwardly proportioned white male of indeterminable age, fat, bad haircut, stamping grimly down a street in an otherwise industrial zone, or a residential area that's falling apart. Someone with heavy shoes, who's clearly walked to get there, (they either can't afford or won't use public transport, and looking at them you know they don't have a car).

This is the kind of person that your eyes quickly turn away from. They are someone who looks into restaurant windows as they pass but who will not be seen looking out. Someone continually moving but you know they have nowhere particular to go. That was me from around 2001 to around 2007. And still pretty much me if you see me on the street about 50% of the time now.

I do not have a clear or distinct memory of those years. They are a painful blur. It's like I wasn't really there.

The recently announced death of Google Plus, and the complex feelings it has evoked in me, as well as Davids post about productivity, have lead me to think of all the things that social media has given me and has taken from me. It's quite a lot on both counts.

All of the books, a lot of the success, all of the friends and 95% of the enemies. Most importantly, a purpose. Something for me to do. I am no longer walking nowhere.

What is has taken has been more subtle and invisible. A great deal of drama and angst, a kind of intangible chipping away of attention and, therefore, selfhood. That man stomping around Liverpool may not have spoken to many people but he read a lot. Much more than me.

I have begun to think in the last few years that the internet in general, and social media in particular, is a kind of Demon Mirror. Over time it has a kind of ethereal ability to shape itself to whatever the darker, more hidden aspects of your personality are. The invisible angers, hatreds, fears and resentments that even you didn't fully process were there and which are made all the more powerful due to their invisibility. Because its not you doing this - its them. It's the internet. And for any individual event that might be the case, but as a whole, over time, it is you.

There's that old Gaiman line about tools being the subtlest of traps.

So interacting with the internet over a long period of time is a kind of strange moral educator, but in the most terrible and destructive of ways. You come face to face with the demon without realising that's what it is. It warps you and twists you. Then you either break away, and to do that you have to realise that its a reflection, that the demon is, to some extent, you.

Or you are trapped forever in glorious and pseudo-meaningful eternal war. Like a warrior inside a magic gem.

Watching the internet, and the development of social media, over the last few years especially, has been like seeing an entire culture get trapped before the mirror.

Any yet, any yet it is truly a cornucopia. Tomorrow I go to the airport to meet someone who's been incredibly important in my life and I would never have encountered them without the internet and without social media.

It has made the impossible possible, brought people together across continents, given lost and lonely people meaningful society, it is largely responsible for giving me someone to be and something to hope for other than death. Many the highest possible dreams of the technophile prophets  of the past have been fulfilled and are enacted before us. They were right.

And is is also a demon in a mirror.

So, as G Plus is dying I am not going to be looking for something to replace it. At least, I will try to resist looking for something. My hope is to try to use the energy released from that site to read more, produce more, blog more and create more. I was always happier making things than doing social media stuff.

Possibly I am G+ in this image, and the donkey is me?

I'm also trying to meet and interact with, actual, real people more. That's what a lot of the 40k stuff in my feed has been about.

As it is, you can find me in the following places;

Facebook is a damned stupid and impossible to organise mess. Putting stuff on there is like throwing a leaf into rapids. Nevertheless, I am on there and will continue to drop the blog posts on there. I will add almost anyone who is clearly not a robot. I do not interact much on there.
I'm on Reddit. I don't know if people are going to start dropping more stuff on the r/OSR subreddit, but that's always a possibility.

I'm still kind of obsessed with minis and sculpture. This tumblr is purely for images of sculpture, miniatures and form,  I will follow you on here if you produce images I like and I do not follow many.

So far my Instagram is purely for pictures of minis I have painted. I'm hoping to try to keep it that way.

I'm on Goodreads. I've been trying to review every book I read on there, to rather mixed results. If I review something I think fits I might put it on the blog a well.

Here is a Tumblr for art based on my stuff  there is precious little up there but much of what is there is good. I don't use it to follow anyone.
And I also have a handful of interviews on Youtube. I may add more as and when the mood or the ideas take me.

As G+ goes away, I'm planning to post a lot of stuff that would have been there, here instead. So get ready for the number of posts to rise and quality to plummet. Since stuff won't be going to G+, I'm hoping to actually engage with commentators more. A strange new world beckons. It's essentially the old world, but with the new knowledge I have from my travels.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Wodlands 10 - More, the Maw.

1. The Plains of Anaesthetic Fire.
2. The Antigoblin Empire.
3. The Whetstone Ridge.
4. The Painted Plain.
5. The Vermilion Sea.
6. The Large Goblin Collidor.
7. The Wodlands.
8. The Necropolis of Glass.
9. The Incoherent Isles.


Cut off, Ruined, Black and Burnt.
The Anaesthetic fire is said to come from here, in ages past.
Hence the burning Goblin Ghosts - pay them no mind.
The City of Visible Grief - strange winds that blow from the Maw turn the visible invisible and the invisible visible.
People go there to turn invisible - stand in the visible wind and be transformed as it blasts away your corporeal self and sends you into another world.

The City of Visible Grief been blasted into almost-total invisibility by the wind rushing through it for eons.
As if it were made of glass.
Hurts the eye to be there.
Dust, leaves and marks, and graffiti made by generations have left their mark.
The city is highlighted like a wireframe model, marked by by textures, covered by tags.
In most cases there is enough to make out general stuff.
The Maw slowly draws the Invisible City into itself - spires like the glass teeth of a circular worm.

The Invisible People living in the ruins, reading invisible books.
Poets go there to hang out. Crime gangs also.
The Invisible Ambassadors - teams of puppeteers manipulate a life-sized puppet for you to address.
They ride in chariots pulled by black rotating pangolins rolling like wheels.
And are guarded by invisible dogs in sheaths of armoured spines which run alongside, spines clattering.

More - circular iron doors like carved dead eyes
A black iron harp the wind keens sharply through.
She was sacred to Evening, and this is why her harp was of iron.
It is very different here during the evening.
A lamp in the distance, passing between columns. Columns of signs.
Time ticking away, their eyes falling inwards falling.
Great emanations of circular death bursting from their empty hearts.
Like a magnetic wave that burns the backs of your teeth with acid reflux.

More - Predatory vantablack Geese - hunting in huge and silent pairs.
Yes, the geese will encircle you in sleep - black wings, waddling ever closer, before they begin their black work.
The Geese guard the grim tarns that lie slackly hereabouts.
The pools live a shift but only at plant-speed. The black water oozed through cracks in the earth and looks for things to strangle and drown, but most escape it.
The Tarns carry any treasure they find around in their transparent guts to lure people in.

Maw - A neon, angular wind, lashing through the invisible streets like geometric lightning.
It makes the dogs glow and the Night-Geese cry out.
Wind sometimes shifts so its coming from a 5th direction, but you can sense it. Feel its pressing fingertips upon you from a place your nerves can't sense.
Rain in streaks of burning gold like a gods tears.

Maw - The Maw itself; A tunnel to the Dark Continent.
Glass towers like radial stalactites.
Pulsing roars of unreality. Swarming, boiling blackness from below, there are grat swarms of them.

Maw - Bat-People with Opal wings which, when folded, protect them from the Invisible Wind.
The Bat-Men can be pretty nice but some do hunt them for their wings.
They come out at night and smoke cigars (which are bad for their coughing lungs) in invisible saloons (you can see the lights of the cigars in the night).
The city is easy for them to navigate in flight - hard for everyone else, that's why they came.
They (the Bat-Men) say the Maw leads to the Dreamlands, at least some of the time, when it's in a good mood, and that the Parliament of Orphan Moons, moons without worlds, orbiting each other only, is where they come from - but Do Not Go.
They hunt the dull droning stag beetles that crawl in the fissures - most invisible by now, moving in big invisible bass-not swarms.
They don't say much about the Dark Continent, only that it has Other stars and no sun, but how would they know?

Maw - Mole-Men have tunnelled up from somewhere - up through the invisible earth, its visibility makes no difference to them.
They make up the Maws labouring classes and read braille tabloids, hot off the Goblin Presses which outrage them every day.

Maw - Treasure there; Scrolls of pearl uncurling like a dryads tongue.
Music composed for keys of bone. Hymns to the wind and the stars and the dark.
Spilling curls of blue-black hair.
And a great green moon like alchemists ash, gabbling and cackling over all.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

My Ignite talk on the Wapentake

Here am I.



This is the five minute talk I did at Ignite about the Wapentake of Wirral, (soon to be featured in Silent Titans pleasefundmykickstarter).

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Watchmaker and his Wife

The cracked face in the mazed obsidian door won't open up.

"Find me the time, the time the time. When _is_ it? WHEN? Find me the time and we'll see. Till then I. AM CLOSED."

Around is piled clock scrap, hourglasses and tilted sundials. And a big clock key.

The scraps decay to rust.

The hourglasses breathe in and out altering the flow of sand. If you ask they will try to purse their glass lips but its like holding their breath and they can't do it for long.

The sun is an orange baloon flown by mad goblins in the sky, and won't stay still. They mock and throw pins.

But nearby you can hear a ticking, the tick-tocking of clocks.

There is the door of the Watchmaker.

Inside is the Watchmaker and his Wife.

The Watchmaker is old and slow and kind and tired. He thinks everything alive has a clock inside it, "Listen, you can hear it...".

He is happy to help you tell the time, but all his clocks are off, and he is so tired and slow, he keeps falling asleep.

He has a hole in his back for a big clock key.

"Don't WIND HIM UP!" Says the Watchmakers Wife. "You won't like it, and I will SCREAM!"

The Watchmakers Wife is vain and dusty, wearing ninety-nine lace dresses, each atop the other. She is surrounded by a thousand mirrors, hanging from silk threads woven by the tiredest spiders imaginable. "Hold them straight, you USELESS BUGS! Not THIS way, THAT way!" The mirrors twist and turn. Her eyes are everywhere, reflected. She sees everything. But she is doing her mascara and refuses to get up.

If you try to wind the Watchmaker, she SCREAMS. It hurts so much you can't do anything.

The Watchmakers Wife is very vain. You could flatter her.

The spiders have low self esteem, "We're useless, the worst spiders imaginable." If you boost their confidence they may revolt and drop the mirrors.

If you wind up the Watchmaker he gets younger and faster, but crueler and cleverer! Now he is fast and nasty.

"I told you you wouldn't like it!" Shouts the wife.

He can fix a clock to tell the time. But you must be tough to hold him to his promise.

As you leave, the Watchmaker and his Wife are arguing about the mess.

"Oh! Why won't you just wind down? I liked you slow!"

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Nightmares in Syr Darya, Sessions 5 to 16

Its been a while since the last update. They have stopped doing session reports so no doubt the Caliph is pissed.

(I am working on another Wodlands post but stuff is relentless here and daddy needs content so here we are.)

SESSION 5

A guy faints.

As the gate opened an acolyte faints. Ipny regales them with the recent past and kisses their feet. Which wakes them up.

They nearly faint again and run away. Rushing up some stairs.

Golshan (naked) and Feruz (clothed) followed them. They find themselves in the temple of the Goddess of the Eaten Moon. Big central statue of a woman with a giant venus flytrap coming out and reaching towards the moon on the ceiling three floors up. Statue is a silvery bronze. Central atrium has canonical colours on each of its four walls

(Note - I actually got the canonical colours wrong becasue I forgot how my consent was oriented, will do a post on this & try to get it right in the future.)

Each level of the building has a moon design, full moon at the bottom, then slightly occluded, then gibbeous then on the ceiling only a slight sliver of moon left.

Feruz and Golshan follow this guy up some stairs, they are interrupted by another acolyte who does not faint and who passes his roll to avoid pissing himself. This guy tries to ward them off as underdark spirits but Feruz can speak a little Trade Tongue and Golshans bird can translate. The Acolyte slowly starts to work out that they are humans from the underworld.

They meet Geeta Bagale - The Reader of Entrails

The only woman in the temple so far. Mid-50's, hair in several Venus flytrap clasps, belt of knives and cleavers.

Geeta pushes past the Acolyte, assesses the situation and immediately takes control. She speaks a little Pseudo-Arabic and decides that Golshan, as naked, must be a slave and Feruz the one in charge.

She talks the pair into getting cleaned up, on the way to do that they pick up the rest of the crew. They are offered baths, which Ashtar and Feruz refuse. Geeta Bagale closely questions Ipny, who has revealed that they met the mummified monks. She discreetly milks him for into then tells him to reveal none of it to others.

They meet Gangra Pryakurel - Interpreter of Dreams and Best Dude Ever.

60 to 70 years old, wearing multiple robes he just piled on and a multi-teared hat, Gangra is the ostensible 2nd in command of the Temple of Chandra Khanevala, the Goddess of the Eaten Moon.

He is tripping out to see them here and happily talks to them about a whole bunch of stuff until Geeta kicks him out and sends him to wait in his meditation chamber.

Feruz and Ashtar both initially refuse to bathe. Ashtar is ultimately persuaded as she doesn't have to do any work. It is revealed that Feruz is a *NEVERNUDE*, perhaps due to his fear of being spied on by someone exactly like him. He eventually finds some way to clean himself privately, over more than half an hour, behind some screens while everyone else makes awkward smalltalk. Geeta becomes aware that Golshan has an ancient death-mask.

Ashtar takes this opportunity to take every fucking drug the temple has. An anally applied opium, a tea made with crushed eyeballs that makes you throw up and some HIGHLY addictive yellow opium. The combination of these gets her fucking wired. And vomiting every 30-45 seconds.

They are then lead to the chamber where they are interviewed by Gangra Pryakurel. He is fucking THRILLED  to see them. Thinks Golshan is a great philosopher, Feruz a great storyteller, Ahstar a great sensualist and Ipny a brilliant potential disciple. Also he's really thrilled that someone has turned up from the underdark as now the temple has purpose.

Also they are trapped in the temple because Jetsuma, the leader of the village outside has been slowly going insane over the last few years and has started somehow 'consuming' hot young men and, presumably, transforming them into some kind of ice demons or ice golems or something.

Anyway, long story short, there are only 6 people left in the temple and three of them are acolytes. So now they *might* start starving to death as they only get a yak a week.

Also, the only safe way out of the valley beyond is through a silent snowfield that is seasonally occupied by some kind of blind ice demon that moves through tunnels, has super hot blood or something and hunts by sound. So as long as you don't make any sound crossing the snowpack, or are covered by a larger sound, then that's fine.

Also there are Yak-Men, but those are now a tertiary problem due to everything else.

So now you guys can stay here for six months waiting for the snow to melt and the demon to leave, and then sneak past Jetsuma somehow, get to Syr Darya and tell them that we need help, and also that the temple actually has a purpose now due to the underdark travellers.

So the team decide to think about this, they spend a week preying to Chandra Khanevala. Ipny is the only one who gets anything out of it, having a full-on vision of that time she helped defeat the terrible Ziggurat Moon and spat it down into the earth. Everyone else just gets vaguely spiritual but now they are pure enough to explore level 2, where they find a locked room left by 'The Exiles' (the creepy mummified monks they met previously).

Ashtar wants to evade their problems here by going back into the Veins (and finding Hotat) and tries to persuade Geeta towards this aim, she enters some kind of intrigue with Geeta when G asks which of the PC's the goddess would prefer. Ashtar says Feruz, and something is agreed.

Golshan (and I think Feruz) decide to try to break into the sealed room on the second floor.

And that is where we left the session.


SESSION 6

It's midnight, Feruz, Banu and Golshan are about to break into the secret room on the second floor.

Ibny dreams of the Ziggurat moon, he sees a strange procession made up of brightly coloured figures and undead wanderers. They seem to ignore him and he finds this terrible so intervenes.

One of the bright figures turns to look at him and he suddenly has the idea for the catflap.

The would-be thieves hear Ibny laughing in the night below.

Ibny encounters an undead creature with silver nails for eyes. It grabs him and (I think) talks shit about the goddess Chandra Khanevala. Ibny is outraged by this and summons his bonesaw, he attacks the figure.

Everyone in the temple is woken by an enormous crash of Ibnys bunk bed going over and him screaming "CHANDRA KHANEVALA"

Banu skips downstairs & looks innocent but Feruz and Golshan get tangled up and fall to bottom of stairs.

The neopytes see Ibny fighting his own bedclothes and wake him up he says has seen a goddess-sent vision.

Gangra and Geeta both wake up, see fallen Goshan and Feruz. Golshan or maybe Feruz, says they were coming up for help re-Ibnys vision. Geeta buys this due to an unusually good roll.

Ibny describes his vision, Gangra is impressed, Geeta less so, Tsang Yang is totally pissed

They all go back to sleep, but just before the morning, Golshan and Banu think they hear someone entering the large bunk room. Golshan tries to carefully and secretly turn his head to look but can only see a sillhouette and the figure runs away. Golshan chases after them but bursts into the central temple to see only Geeta Bagale silently praying. They talk warily of Dreams and Nightmares.

The next day, Ibny meditates with Gangra. Ibny asks for access to the 'Sacred Weapons', Gangra asks in return for help defeating Jetsunna in the village outside. They both agree to help each other because they are Super Great Guys.

Below, Feruz, Golshan and Banu talk to Jungne, the smallest acolyte, about his fear of Ghosts. Feruz says he should probably get a new name so the ghosts can't find him.

Banu gets hopped up on some opium that makes him think he is a child

Gangra tries to take Ibny up to the third floor to the 'sacred weapons' but Geeta slams her door open and argues with him. She forces Gangra back down the stairs.

THEN - Ibny sketchily 'Charms' Geeta, which actually works. Gangra doesn't see this but Tsang Yang below does. He asks what is going on and Feruz nearly talks him into accepting it but then Child-Banu starts chanting 'speeeelcraaaft' and Tsang-Yang freaks out. The team downstairs manage to intimidate Tsang Yang into silence.

Geeta now willingly takes Grangra and Ibny to the Yak room on the 3rd level. Inside are various ancient Dao and Halberds, a library of scrolls with black seals and a lot of crow cages, many have crows in them, a desk with writing paper, some crows have message tubes on their legs. A window is open.

Gangra is very confused by the crows, he hasn't been in there for years and these aren't meant to be here. Ibny asks Geeta, under a charm spell, what is going on. She says these are messages to save the Temple. Ibny questions her more intently and her massive internal conflict and a lucky roll let her save against the spell.

Geeta screams and attacks Ibny with a sacrificial knife.

Ibny shoulder barges her.

Down below, everyone hears the screaming  -

Golshan pulls his magic blade and races upstairs, his lame leg making an off-rhythm beat

Tsang-Yang tells the Neophytes Jungne and Gendun they have to fight the PC's together

child-Banu hides

Feruz faces Tsang-Yang, Jungne and Gendun alone, they are nerds, he is a pornographer, who will win?

Ipny pushes Geeta back into the room, to the open window where they struggle. Geeta knocks open one of the crow cages with her knife. The crows escape, they bear no messages but perhaps their simultaneous release will itself be taken as a kind of message?

Golshan is still racing up three floors on his lame leg.

Banu is scared of the room beneath the trapdoor and instead starts to climb the statue of Chandra Khanevala.

Feruz puts on his ritual mask and assumes a 'Dr Strange' position to battle the acolytes. This is scary enough that Gendun and Tsang-yang both freeze in fear.

Only Jungne, the smallest, is brave enough to defend his goddess, he leaps to kung-fu kick Feruz in the face.

Upstairs, Ibny tries to knock the knife out of Geetas hand but she strikes at him and draws blood, Golshan arrives and tries to talk her into surrendering but she isn't listening.

Below, Banu hides in the open mouth of the goddess, he believes he is child-sized  and therefore unseen but in fact his fat little legs stick up out of her mouth. Considering she ate the moon this is maybe not a good omen.

Jungne misses his kick. Feruz casts Sleep on Jungne, Geeta and, by accident, Banu. (Richie had to leave the game).

Ibny and Golshan tie up Geeta. Gendun and Tsang-Yang hide in the bunk room and lock the door.

Gangne finally breaks and, after they make the request, allows Ibny and Golshan to meet the Great Master of the temple Yami Shiwakoti. Surely he will know what to do.

I am not going to write down all the secrets that were revealed to them for everyone to read because his knowledge is TOO POWERFUL. Details will have to wait until they make individual reports to the Caliph, but I will say that he, or possibly she, delivered relics to Ibny and Golshan and a secret message to Feruz.

Yami also allowed them to access the sealed room of the Exiled Monks.

Feruz (I think) takes a Halberd from Gangra and smashes open the super ancient seals. He looks in with a lit torch and sees a human face, upside down

Flayed, preserved ancient human skins. Bones. Flensing knives. Resin-preserved sculpture bodies, sealed scrolls, dust, resin, closed jars.

In the centre, a kind of mediation tent or sub-room made of flayed skin, a dark hole just large enough for one person to climb into.

Feruz enters and gets a bit scared. Golshan enters and is drawn deeply towards the tent, the energy reminds him of what he felt in the crevasse in the Veins where he nearly turned deeper in but was prevented by Glamoko. Ibny enters and freaks the fuck out. Ibny decides this place needs to burn and runs off for oil and fire.

Feruz decides to slow this process down by blocking the door from the inside.

Golshan enters the tent.

He crawls for what seems like a long time, moving towards something cold.

He puts out his hand and feels a mask of ice, like running water frozen in the shape of a face.

He puts on the mask. The mask is frozen tears. The tears melt on his face.

His mind travels deep deep down into the earth, past many places they have visited and past many more.

He sees a terrible city, strange things fly amongst black angles, beautiful people with silver hair and negative-image black skin. One holds a scroll marked with a lotus.

They see him.

Feruz and Ibny hear Golshan screaming inside the tent. Feruz tries to tear it open but the horrid skin flexes under his fingers. Ibny summons the strength of Chandra Khanevala and manages to smash through the door.

Feruz throws himself onto the tent to crush it. Ibny finds Golshan within and wakes him with a touch.

Feruz is only midly traumatised by being wrapped up in the crushed human-skin tent but Golshan has suffered massive mental damage and now has a violent and murderous phobia of whatever he saw in that city. He is visibly a nervous wreck.


SESSION 7

Arguing in the temple

Feruz and Golshan escape the formerly sealed room of the exiles. Ashtar, who has just woken from an Opium slumber, finds them sprawled on the floor. Totally whacked out on drugs, she investigates the room herself but finds nothing odd. Golshan persuades her not to make a cloak from the stitched-together faces.

Golshan and Feruz team up to interrogate Geeta Bagale. Golshan uses reason. Feruz wakes her by waving a crow under her nose and shows her his pornography. She is unimpressed and un-threatened. One crow is harmed.

During this, Ashtar tries to convert the Tsang-Yang and Gendun, who have hidden themselves in the bunk room. Despite the massive unlikelihood of this, she rolls really well and Gendun knocks out Tsang-Yang and becomes Ashtars first convert.

Ashtar then casts her shrink spell as a ritual. She tortures Geeta by shrinking the bones of her left hand inside her flesh. This is so horrible that Geeta breaks instantly and confesses everything to 'Good Cop' Golshan. (Ashtar doesn't give a fuck anyway.)

Geeta works for a group called the Black Lotus. She knows very little about them but thinks they may be Ogre Magi from Syr Darya. They have an interest in making sure that no-one comes from the Kingdom of Dreams. She is meant to notify them by crow of any arrivals and give a full description, as well as their expected route of travel. She thinks that this is so they can be intercepted and killed.

She didn't manage to get off any descriptions of the PC's (she says), but the release of crows without messages will have alerted them. There are two main ways to Syr Darya from the snowfield. They will expect travellers to take the shorter, safer, southern route. But there is a longer, less safe but unexpected northern route as well.

Golshan shows Geeta the room of the exiles to persuade her of the horrors of Nightmare. She seems persuaded but while he pontificates she jumps out of the window, falls to earth and runs for it.

The team watch from the second floor as Geeta runs down the long hairpin path to the valley. Ten Ice golems guard the way. When she encounters them, five seem to grab Geeta and carry her off.

The team decide that its time either attack the village and kill Jetsumna, or at least sneak through.

First the re-seal the room of the Exiles, adding their own seals in their common tongue, unreadable and mysterious to the locals. Ashtar writes Hotep slash fic. Feruz writes Caliph slash fic and Golshan writes 'Property of Golshan'.

They begin by rolling rocks down the hill towards the remaining ice golem. Ashtar bowls perfectly first time and annihilates four. Everyone else misses shamefully. Only one remains.

They decide to attack the remaining golem by sledding at it at high speed on an inverted table. The team gathers together and they toboggan at the creature at high speed.

Feruz sings that part of the Song of the Firebird in which the hero slides down dunes on a magic carpet and safely guides the toboggan to the base of the hill. Ashtar keeps them upright while Gendun holds on a little too tightly. Golshan swings for the golem but misses.

As they hit the bottom, Golshan leaps up and assuages his shame by nailing the Golem in one blow.

The golems themselves are the naked forms a beautiful young Nepalese men, each is a translucent blue-white except for a chunk of bone and flesh in its core.

The team argue about how best to attack or infiltrate the village, Ashtar briefly considers Yak manipulation but lacks persuasive ability with those beasts. Ultimately Ashtar and Feruz simply wander blindly in. Golshan hangs back to see what happens to them.

There are women and children in the village, but no men. No-one will speak to them or look at them. Everyone flees.

The group encounter more golems who herd or pursue Ashter and Feruz towards the centre of the villiage. Golshan tracks them out of sight. Feruz tries to grapple with the golems, seizing on their naked, beautiful, cold blue-white flesh. Instead he is borne down.

Ashtar casts feather fall on herself and dashes over the fabric roofs of the yurts toward the centre.

Feruz is borne upwards by the naked golems and taken the same way.

Golshan breaks into a Yurt to get around the golems and encounters a woman who, due to his rare decent charisma roll, does not freak out but instead asks for help. Golshan says he will and cuts his way through the yurt, circumventing the golem guards.

Ashtar bursts into the central Yurt. She sees burning braziers, a deep luxurious pit filled with Yak furs. The body of Geeta Bagale hanging. A huge (6 or 7 feet) fat, naked, hairy woman lounges in the furs and nibbles on the flensed face of Geeta. She turns to Ashtar and says something, but Ashtar doesn't speak the language.

Ashtar attacks immediately with spellcraft. She tries to shrink the womans throat, but fails. Feruz's hot body helps him melt his way free of the clasping golems and Golshan cuts his way into Jetsumnas Yurt just in time to see her summon a storm elemental which carries Ashtar 100 feet up into the air, bursting open the Yurt.

Feruz dashes in and whacks Jetsumna on the tit with his crowbar. It does but little damage, but the iron in the bar dispels her illusion, or shape change. Her hair grows and grows, her feet become cloven, she grows rows of extra teats. She is a Yak Woman sorceress.

She charges Feruz and though he manages to ride her huge horns without being penetrated, he is borne back through the yurt, into the village. Ashtar struggles with the Storm creature and Golshan attacks Jetsumna from behind with a lit torch, doing little damage but managing to set her hair on fire.

Feruz flails with the crowbar again. Ashtar manages to hurl her Lamenter oil at Jetsumna from above, and hits, intensifying the flames. Golshan tries to strike with his magical sword but missed.

Jetsumna hurls Feruz into a Yurt and commands her Storm Creature to throw Ashtar to the ground with force.

Unfortunately for her, Ashtar is still feather-light. She controls the fall and, with some assistance from Feruz (she bounces off his head) she leaps at Jetsumna at caves her head in with a club.

The Yak Woman collapses burning to the ground. The village is saved. As an expression of contempt, Ashtar refuses to eat any of her.



SESSION 8

The team are shilling in the village of Baraphra, drinking Yak milk, eating these porridge ball things and generally relaxing. They heal up for 2 days, Ibny aids Golshan heal mentally with meditation.

Feruz is beloved by the local maidens but only wants to surveil the Caliph.

Ibny and Ashtar ornament their Yaks with coloured flags. Ibny places the Venus Flytrap symbol of Chandra Khanevala on his chest and on a flag he carries from his purloined halberd. (Everyone grabs a halberd from the Temple).

Ashtar uses her dangerous charisma and persuades the villagers to help the team by bashing ropes on the ice to distract the Andra Danava, the blind ice Demon. She also manages to persuade Ayush, their teenage guide towards her philosophy.

The team ride their Yaks towards the ice sheet. They are beset by hail, wind and thunder, good for avoiding the Ice Demon but bad for navigation.

The pounding from the village seems to pull the demon that way, the group starts to worry that they have sacrificed the Yak Herders to live.

Banu bravely summons a Giant Frog which uses its massive legs to attract the Demon which attacks and, presumably, consumes it beneath the snow. The group escape after an day of travel, zero demon encounters and brutally chilling cold and storm.

They descend into the valley of the Hire Mere Diamond mine. The people seem impoverished and starved, in fact they are slaves. They are astounded to see such pussiant and mysterious foreigners arriving from the empty and impassible East. Some run in fear, others beg for help in protecting them from the 'False Children'.

The head guard of the complex, Mithilesh, comes out and is shocked by the nightmare-inspired tabard or band worn by Golshan, he seems to accept that Ibny is some kind of foreign monk, since he comes from the Temple of the Eaten Moon and wears and wields its symbol.

Golshan and Ibny go to talk to Mithilesh privately, Ashtar, Banu, Feruz and the two followers, Ayush and Gendun stay behind.

Ashtar says the one word in the local language she can pronounce correctly and is approached by a slave who names themselves Vishal and indicates that they have some hard shit. Ashtar and Banu go off to get high, taking Feruz and the girl Ayush. Only Gendun, the hairy Neophyite remains behind to guard the Yaks.

Golshan and Ibny discover that the guards don't give two shits about the slaves in the valley. A few weeks ago two slaves, Vishal (the dealer) and Ravi, broke through into what seemed to be a vein of Amber. This transformed into an amber corridor, like that of a house, and an amber door. From behind the door came children which transformed into monsters.

They children have come every night since. No-one knows what is going on or what to do.

Meanwhile, Ashtar and Banu are getting wasted on the Ansari Child-Dream Opium. Feruz remains wary and sees that Vishal only pretends to take the Opium and act like a child. He casts 'sleep' on Vishal and gives Ashtar and Banu something to draw on. Ashtar searches Vishal and 'gets dirty', she finds a roll of 50sp and a strange black stone with a 'G' or 'Ji' written on it.

Mithilesh asks Golshan and Ibny to help and gives them a free hand with the slaves, provided they don't break any. The two emerge to find all the rest of the party have wandered off and left Hairy Gendun with the Yaks. They take over a crappy warehouse to use as a base and manage to re-unite the team.

The group surrounds Vishal and wakes him. They terrify him and demand 'the whole story'.

He confesses to being a spy for a group of bandits who intend to raid the mine and carry off the diamonds. This is not what the PC's were looking for but they will take it. He was also there when the Amber corridor was discovered, with Ravi, who broke down crying 'for some reason' when the place was found.

The team also know that the camp had some feral children at some time but that they went north to try to find the temple of Chandra Khanevala and have not been seen since.

Vishal tells them that Ravi is working in the mine right now. The PC's decide to investigate.

They travel to the mine and arrive in the workings just as the miners suffer an attack by False Children, this time in daylight. The PCs bravely slaughter the horrible mutated nightmare children, being badly strained, but not permanently hurt, in the fight.

They proceed into the mine, Ashtar forcing Vishal to guide them.

They find the Amber Corridor. The walls are full of frozen insects. Banu thinks he sees one move. Ibny decides that this is probably a relatively minor Nightmare incursion. Relatively straightforward.

They find the Amber Doors and open them. Within is an Amber Room with a giant Amber Cat, curled around a tiny, carved amber toy in the shape of a cat.

Golshan tries to communicate but the Cat is having none of it. Banu turns to find more False Children are blocking their escape.

A fight breaks out. Banu tries dangerous magic but only manages to turn the cat blue. Ashtar shrinks its head but does no damage. Feruz grabs the toy and distracts the cat by stamping on its tail while the rest of the group battle the False Children.

The Amber Walls start to melt and the insects inside come alive and begin to buzz.

Feruz uses the magic of the Mummified Monks to hypnotise the Amber Cat and the rest of the team cut through the False Children. Feruz then sends the cat far away into the outside world.

The team grab Feruz and run for it, as soon as they get the Anchor out of the Nightmare, reality snaps back and the Amber and monsters disappear.


SESSION 9

THE HIRE MERA MINE

The team emerge from the Hira Mera mine, having defeated the Nightmares. Unfortunately, they forgot to un-hobble the spy-slave Vishal and he seems to have been lost in the collapse of the Amber corridor.

Ibny makes an attempt to covert the listening crowd to the worship of Chandra Khanevala but meets limited success. Mithalesh, the head guard, asks him to please not covert to slaves to any religion that might make them less pliable.

The group are hugely tired after their journey and pass out in the Yak shack offered to them by Mithalesh.

Ibny has terrifying nightmares of a city that is four squares within a circle in a square within a square within a square, itself surrounded by a circle, and the final wall itself a square. There are crooked towers and blue-skinned people ask terrible questions.

Golshan tries to have a nightmare, but fails.

They wake on Day 4 of their journey and talk into the mid morning, drinking Yak butter tea served by Ayush, the girl from Baraphra. Ibny no-longer cares much about whatever their mission was. Opinions differ on what to do next. Eventually they decide to continue on towards Syr Darya.



THE VILLAGE OF GOPA HATYARAHARU

After another day of uneventful travel they arrive in the village of Gopa Hatyaraharu and are met by an enthusiastic individual who calls himself Gokul and who seems very impressed by them all. He invites them to stay the night with him. Gokul is the 2nd richest man in the village and Ibny accidentally insults him by asking about the first richest man, but manages to make amends.

The crew go to Gokuls house, meet his wife and five children, and tell tales of their adventures. Everything goes well until Feruz tells a strange tale of Mustapha and the Wolf, in which a boy steals a fruit and is eaten by a wolf. Gokul seems deeply interested in different interpretations of this story and asks Ibny many questions about its meaning.

Golshan becomes suspicious of Gokuls shift in character and demeanour. Ibny asks, directly, about theft and its meaning for Gokul. At this Gokul becomes very withdrawn and goes immediately to bed. Golshan is suspicious enough that he requests that the group keep watch, even though they are sleeping in someones home.

It is well that he does.

Feruz takes first watch, and through he dreams of surveiling the Caliph, he decides to actually do his duty and sits staring blankly at the empty home. He sees a shape behind a curtain. The shape might be a face. The face might be looking at him, staring, still and silent. He hears a sound, whispering. One of Gokuls children crosses the room and leaves the house.

Feruz casts sleep on all the remaining family of Golshan. He moves to the door and cracks it open. The night is clear, the stars like pricks of ice or the tips of blades. He sees the shadow of a child and the shadow of a man, standing against the wall of a hut in the night. The man seems strong, thick but stooped slightly. The shadow turns towards him.

Feruz hides himself back in the sleeping area. The boy returns and goes to his sleeping father, seems to be trying to gently wake him. But the sleep spell holds and the boy eventually goes to his own area.

Feruz quietly wakes the rest of the group. Golshan is unsurprised by the intrigue.

Think I lost exact track of precisely what they did next. I think Ibny creates an illusion of himself and sends it out to pretend to pee. They watch the illusion from the door and hear someone approach the illusion as if it were real, asking a question. Feruz sticks his head round the door and takes a look at the guy speaking to the illusion. Looks like an older Shiva Shankar.

Feruz himself goes out to pretend to take a piss and to interact with this guy. He pretends to stumble into him. This person instantly slides Feruz into a tight armlock based on rotational pressure to the elbow

I don't know exactly how or why this happened, but Banu decides to summon something. He fails his roll. The summoned creature breaks through into our reality. It's a giant spider, almost as big as the house itself. Banu sacrifices some of his Health (permanently) to control this beast.

Banu screams and vomits blood down his front. The boy in the house starts screaming. The man holding Feruz throws him to the ground and runs towards the house. Ibny hides behind the door with a scalpel.

Banu commands the spider to leave through the window, then to travel West and 'do what it likes'. The creature scrabbles at the window until Golshan gets it open.

The strange man bursts into the home just in time to see the giant spider legs slipping through the gap.

Ibny tries to control him with the scalpel but the man easily knocks it away and simultaneously ducks Banus clumsy mace swing. This makes him vulnerable to Golshan who takes him down and pins him.

The groups successfully terrorise this person and interrogate him. (The drifting sound of screams emanates from the west of the village). Feruz GOES DEEP, and successfully finds a black 'G' stone in exactly the same place as Vishals. They show the man both stones and say they know who he works for.

This is Natwar, he says he serves the bandit king Gagan Gnyawali and that his bandit group has infiltrated this village and taken it over in preparation for a raid on the Hire Mera diamond mine. Gagan wants the diamonds because he has fallen in love with Phanindra Gadha, the wife of the owner of the Gadha Opium plantation, so really, this is a noble cause.

The team and Natwar negotiate and discuss various options. For a while it seems like they might join with the bandits in raiding the mine. Eventually, they agree to an exchange, they will give Natwar one of the black stones and they will take the son of Gokul who saw & heard all this shit go down. Natwar will spin the villiagers a fairy story about the boy being turned into a spider and the only witness will be got rid of safely (without having to kill him). They will both keep each others secrets. Natwar won't tell anyone about the magic and they won't speak about the bandits.

(It seems likely that Natwar thinks they are secretly Ogre Magi on some kind of mission.)

The team leave the house, taking Bhaskar, and lead their Yaks through the village at night. People seem freaked out by the giant spider which has disappeared to the west.

They face off with the bandits and exchange the stone, then the group treks West, into the hills.


THE TOWER OF GOURISHANKAR BUDDHACHARYA

After a few hours, in the early hours of the morning, they come upon a strange tower, like a lighthouse, but in the middle of the mountains, that overlooks the trail. They remember something about an Archmage in the hills, someone they should avoid. Bhaskar says his dad told him never to come this way because he would be eaten.

They set down to rest as they didn't really sleep during their night of intrigue. They keep watch in shifts. Golshan hears some crashing from the tower, but the noise fades. Ibny manages to teach Bhaskar some words of his language. Feruz, who has the last shift, decides to surveil the tower.

Feruz checks out the bottom room and finds an entrance hall panelled in lapis lazuli, the front door is open, a women's clothes are strews about the room. He moves a room upwards and finds eight ivory cages carved with lions. The cage doors are swinging open. One still has the key in it.

Ibny, sitting with the Yaks, sees a beautiful and high-status woman wandering on the path. She falls dramatically into his arms.

Feruz sees the hem of a magnificent embroidered robe disappearing upstairs, the robe is so beautiful that he must follow. He gazes upon its beauty and doesn't notice that its owner has actually noticed him, though he is ethereal.

The lady in Ibnys arms declares herself Thalia Buddhacharaya. She says she is escaping a brutal and uncaring husband and begs for his assistance. Ibny decides his fate is to help this woman.

The rest of the group see this and Golshan notices that Feruz is both meditating in his perv-coma and also that ice is frosting on his face.

Feruz is grabbed by the wizard who digs his frosty nails into his skin and questions him in his own language, asking about his wife..

Golshan and Banu hear something to the rear of the Yaks and go to investigate. They find two magical fucking lions made of elemental energy and formed from leaves falling through a tornado. They lions ask about 'the woman'.

Feruz is reluctant to disclose his status. The magician manages to grab his silver ethereal cord and yanks it. Golshan slaps the shit out of Feruz who manages to wake up.

Feruz engages at least one of the magical lions with a story.

Ibny is persuaded to escape to the west with his hot babe. He does not go far before being surrounded by six magical lions. He decides that his fate might be to not help this woman, and lets her go.

End in media res.

Typing these things takes a while.


SESSION 10

wHAT OF THE WIZARD?

Ibny faces a shitload of magical lions (Shishi) and is looking for a way out.

Feruz converses with a remaining lion, one interested in his Literary concepts, this lion is called' Blades Falling' and seems to like hanging out with him.

The sorcerer from the tower seems to be setting off towards them, borne by hundreds of lady frost/storm elementals/ghosts in creepy fashion.

Ibny freaks out and counjours a giant illusion of a Genie to try to scare the Shishi guarding him and Thalia (the wizards wife). This does not go well, the Shishi attack the illusion and Ibny somehow manages to cast protection from elemental magic on himself, which would actually be strangely situationally useful, if he knew he had actually done it, which he doesn't.

The distraction does give him to opportunity to go and hide behind a Yak though. Which he cunningly uses to sneak out of the following conversation.

The Sorcerer of the tower, Gourishankar Buddacharya, arrives, dispels the illusion, sends the lions home and begins arguing with his wife, Thalia Buddacharya.

Feruz and Golshan arrive & introduce themselves. Golshan subtly grasps a sack he seeks to put the wizard in. Ibny still hidden behind Yak.

Gourishanker at first refuses to believe they are Ambassadors of his close personal friend, the Calpih of the Kingdom of Dreams. But the magic bird, the magic paper and Feruzz highly specific hand-drawn Caliph porn convince him. He gives up on his wife and invites to 'Ambassadors' to visit him at his tower.

Thalia Buddhacharya then manages to attach herself to Feruz 'for protection'.

They approach the tower, Thalia asks them not to go in, but since they insist she says she will not speak while inside.

They see the same rooms Feruz previously scried, the Shishi Blades Falling says hi to Feruz, didn't expect to see him again so soon. Thalia does her makeup with Feruz's mirror, everyone waits for this for two minutes,  but they are guys & quickly get bored.

They find Gourishankar in his study/lounge/bro cave, smoking on a hookah, and engage in civil conversion. Ashtar tries to yank as much food & free drugs as possible and hogs the hookah. Feruz keeps things civil. Ibny stutters awkwardly, his subtle shielding of himself from elemental magic suggests a careful intelligence, yet he seems a goon, could this be part of a still-greater game?

No, he accidentally drugs himself with powerful healing tea and falls asleep.

Then the subject turns to magic and Golshan fails one of a long string of CHA rolls. He gets into an argument with Gourishankar over the validity of Nightmare study vs the weird combo of Diabolism/Spiritualism/Elementalism he is into. Thalia interjects to raise the temperature (she does speak) and things get heated.

Gourishankar angrily challenges Golshan to face the manifold universal horrors he has witnessed, Golshan accepts and Feruz very reluctantly goes with him to try to stop the whole situation exploding.

Left alone with a hot girl and a sleeping Ibny, Ashtar, while high as fuck and now an opium addict, still manages to put the moves on Thalia. They exchange stories of love and this ends up with Thalia first crying all over Ashtar, then lying in her lap.

Gourishankar shows Feruz and Golshan his Warp Room. Feruz is too scared to look at the infinite demons outside the window but Golshan easily eyes them and seems deeply unimpressed. He tries to be nice about it but Gourshankar gets even angrier & takes them to his spirit box room.

Ibny is sleeping happily.

In the spirit box room Golshan eyes the terrifying deserts of black sand, inverted pyramids, nightmare boxes and easily communes with the spirit of a Fire Elemental Queen killed in a terrifying interdimensional war. Its easy for him, EASY.

Although Golshan tries to be chill and to calm things down, Gourishankar gets VERY UPSET. Feruz just manages to talk him down from violence but they have to leave right now.

Elemental ghost spirits dump them back out of the tower. But not before Gourishankar extracts a promise/agreement/vague handshake/possible headnod about the idea of Feruz persuading Thalia to return to him in return for cash/favours/magic.

................................

TRAVEL TIME OCCLUDED AS IBNY WAS SLEEPIN'

................................

NEXT VALLEY OVER

The team is pretty tired so enters the next valley towards the end of the day and doesn't notice that it is a mercenary encampment until its waaaay too late. They are surrounded by Beetle Riders and 5 Giant Crayfish, the armourd vehicle of Yoon-Suin.

They are cornered, questioned and searched. Their weapons are taken from them. They keep things vague and Feruz cleverly and bravely manages to hide the black stone of Gagan Gnywali in a small boys crotch.

The leader of this group is Ayush Karki, wearer of a glorious gilded helm of crustacean control. he invites (orders) them to speak in his tent.

Ashtar stays outside and charms the young cavalrymen by appreciated their toughness, competence and masculinity, which they enjoy. They tell her about the temple of Tato Sampa in the middle of Syr Darya - the temple of the old goddess of the Rajas, a goddess of pure pleasure.

Inside, Golshan, Ibny and Feruz fail to make a great impression. They tell Ayush Karki some stuff but keep a lot back, they don't really explain much about where they are from they do talk about the bandits infesting the village of Gopya that they encountered & say they are pilgrims from Chandra Khanevala.

Ayush is deeply interested in this. He has been sent by the Ogre Magi to take down the bandit Gagan Gnywali as he is a threat to the Oliarchies. Outside the beetle riders tell a slightly different story, the Magi want Gnyawali gone as his abducting and seducing or the wives of plantation owners and his many dramas are causing havoc in the agricultural hinterland of Syr Darya.

The guys notice, slowly, that a man working for Ayush is called Mithalesh, the same name as a guard they met at the Hire Mira diamond mine, and has the same face, a younger face. This freaks them out. They try telling Ayush that they have seen a man with the same face but he seems indifferent to this knowledge. Maybe just because he thinks they are dumb and/or suspicious foreigners.

During the meeting, Mithaliesh seems to be dicking them around generally but they can't pin anything on them.

Ayush insists that they accompany him back east to check on the bandits & identify them. Since he has 30 armed men, they can't find a way to get out of it. Mithalesh suggests that Lady Thalia be allowed to continue east with her servants.

They are taken to sleeping areas where they are watched over by five bored, armed, men.

Ashtar is allowed to go with Thalia to the commanders tent (he is leaving it to them). Mithalesh will guard them.

The boys hatch a plot to escape, get back their weapons & yaks & get outta there. Feruz casts sleep, one guard remains awake so Feruz creeps on the dude & tries to Solid Snake the guy. This half works & they go down.

Meanwhile, Ashtar is comforting Thalia, when someone quietly calls her to the rear of the tent. Its Feruz, he cuts through the tent and tells them he has a plan to escape. Ashtar is waaay not into this but Thalia is, so they sneak out. Ashtar slapsticks her way into making a shitload of noise, but like the business with Solid Snake Feruz the guards just roll really really badly and all of this shit passes off without notice.

Golshan, Ibny and Feruz pile on this poor guy & manage to extract the location of their weapons from him then they beat him senseless, then Ibny robs everyone's pockets (only XP of the session). Then Ibny and Golshan (Feruz still a nevernude) change into Guards uniforms.

The other Feruz tries to persuade Ashtar and Thalia to a plan of seducing Ayush Karki, stealing his helm of crustacean control and causing chaos. Ahstar has begun to seriously suspect this un-Feruz-like Feruz and demands to see his pornography. He vacillates and she punches him in the throat.

exeunt media res.



SESSION 11

PART ONE - CHAOS IN THE CAMP

The valley is lit only by the campfires of the sleeping beetle riders. As we open, Feruz, Ibny and Golshan have overpowered their immediate guards and Golshan and Ibny have changed into their clothes, Banu materialises from the dreamlike/shadow/parallel world and slips back into this one, in the night, he witnesses a beautiful riding beetle tied up in a stockade and wishes to bond with it and Ashtar and Thalia have become suspicious of what they now think is an illusory Feruz who claims he is rescuing them.

Golshan summons a blessing and fucks it up, banishing any curses on the nearby guards. Feruz wanders towards the centre of the camp while Golshan and Ibny sneak around to the south in their guards uniforms, looking for their stuff.

Banu calls down a blessing upon the wonderful beetle before him, this gives him a mild magical embolism but otherwise works well. It does alarm the beetle riders to the north of him.

Ashtar punches 'Feruz' right in the throat.

The illusion is revealed! Before her stands a three headed, black skinned, red-eyed apelike creature with outward-facing palms, a Greater Rakhosh!

While Banu messes with his beetle and Ibny and Golshan sneak around, a battle breaks out between Ashtar and the Rakohsh which alarms the whole camp.

Ashtar successfully shrinks its ribcage and the creatures lungs and viscera leak from its throat. The Rakhosh counters by poly-morphing itself down to a scale to fit its new bones. However, this uses up the last of its shapechanging ability and it is now trapped at a dwarflike size.

Thalia screams "A Rakhosh!", the creature slices open Ahstars arm with a razor sharp claw, causing inexorable bloodloss.

Ashtar swings wildly for the creature but Feruz, following the commotion, blunders into the blow. He clumsily tackles the Rakhosh but falls.

Meanwhile, Ibny and Golshan have their escape plan complicated by the supernatural battle they can hear, but not see, in the centre of the camp. Golshan wants his stuff back, Ibny is indecisive. He would really like to mess with those giant riding crayfish. The commotion masks their movements for now but could endanger them long-term.

Banu mounts his beautiful beetle. Confused men try to pull him down but, exercising brilliant instinctual beetle-management, he leaps into the air, in a completely random direction.

Men close in on the now-revealed Rakhosh from every side. It evades Ashtar and Feruz's clumsy attacks and flies cackling into the night sky.

Only to collide with Banu and his beetle. All of them crash into the approaching beetle riders. The beetles legs are broken and Banu is utterly disconsolate, the Rakhosh is somewhat perturbed and dazed. It hesitates just long enough for Ayush Karki, the Mercinary leader to arrive and see it directly.

It swears vengeance on Banu and Ashtar and escapes in flight.

It would seem that confusion has reached maximum levels but Ibny now executes his 'plan' and terrifies the Crayfish with an illusion. The difficulty of maintaining psychic control via his magic helmet of crustacean control, drives Ayush Karki to his kees.

Golshan and Ibny use the chaos to slip back to Ashtars side. Despite questionable magical healing attempts, she is bleeding heavily and arguing with Karki while Thalia tries to bind her wound. Golshan and Ibny try to act as guards but Karki sees through their deception and draws his sword.

Ashtar aces another CHA roll and Thalia backs up her explanation. Karki is mentally broken by the revelation that his long term friend Mithalesh was a horrible shapechanging vampire chaos monster.

Ibny and Banu work through the night and, as an intermittently genius-level surgeon, Ibny manages to use radical surgery to save the life of the innocent beetle, earning the deep admiration and respect of the young beetle-rider Anup.

Without clear leadership, the mercenaries sink into purposeless and fractions lethargy. Not helped by Ahstar and Golshan filling Karkis head with Opium and questionable philosophy. Ibny also helps degrade the morale of the group by playing on their fears and identity issues.

The team rest happily, knowing the mercs have too much Rakhosh-induced PTSD to command them to do anything. Karki seems persuaded by Ashtars cult of pleasure and easy access to drugs.

After a day of rest, the team try to talk several Mercs into giving up their beetles, but even without a clear leader they still find themselves trapped in an oppressive social system and unforgiving environment, plus they can't afford the bribes.

Feruz does make a deal with a reasonable seeming fellow, he hands over 30 silver and the man promises him a Beetle which he will find 5 miles west, by a huge grey rock shaped like an eagle. Feruz is pleased to have disposed of his ass roll.



PART TWO - THE MYSTERY OF NEELAMBAR

The group set off on the morning of the 8th day of their travel from the Temple. So, roughly a week and two days since they emerged from the Veins, itself a journey of uncertain length.

They pass through the Ansari opium plantation, (the same Opium that Ashtar is currently addicted to), and find, for the first time, a real road, a crossroads, and a Yak-Exchange station.

(They are approaching the Yak-line, the altitude beneath which Yaks, which cannot sweat, will find it difficult to live. Syr Darya is built just below this line, presumably to protect it from the Yak-Man rampages of former ages.)

They encounter Rishbah, a Yak-Exchange merchant, and begin careful and lucid negotiations.

Ashtar uses the power of neolibral economic philosophy and does a straight exchange of Yak for Camel (Bactrian).

Golshan just takes the money and gets 75 silver for his Yak.

Ibny pays extra to buy a riding-beetle.

Banu can only afford a small beetle.

Feruz keeps his Yak (for now).

Ashtar really needs opium and this is the place where her brand is grown. After hearing from Rishabh that his friend, the plantation foreman, has dissappeard, probably gone to Syr Darya to try to make money from a new preparation method he created, they decide to go speak to the plantation owner.

They go to the house and Thalia Buddacharyas high status, and familiarity with the family, gets them easy access.

They are taken to a classical boring room, where guests are taken to be ritually bored to confirm their identity. (Ogre Magi can shapechange and hate to be bored.) After several hours Ibny and Banu consider stealing one of the exceptionally boring paintings, but are found in the act by the Butler Baldeen.

They are taken to meet with Rishav Ansari - a fucking deluded idiot in a ver short robe, with rather muscular thighs.

He rambles in a deranged manner for a while about the missing Neelambar. The group manage to persuade him to accept their help as detectives.

Ashtar and Ibny examine 'the numbers' and despite having little experience with either the language or buisness they notice some minor embezzlement and a deep history of growing slow resentment.

They illustrate this to Rishav with a CSI-style series of red threads and wall charts. Then they ask to interrogate the butler Baldeen.

Baldeen immediately tells them that Neelambar probably went to Syr Darya to make money off his new opium preparation methods. The team seem unwilling to accept this as an answer and push for a deeper conspiracy.




SESSION 12

PART ONE - ITS COARSE AND ROUGH AND IRRITATING AND IT GETS EVERYWHERE

Evening Day 8


The group finishes up interrogating Baldeen the butler and finally lets him go. At a loss for any meaningful action, they wander around. Golsha and Feruz go to check on Shisav Ansari and Ibny looks for something to steal.

Feruz finds a young maid, Buphendra, standing listening at the door to Ansaris room. He joins her in listening to the amorous sounds from within and takes a peek through the keyhole. Golshan is unmoved.

Ibny finds a glorious sand mandala laid out on a huge copper plate. Unfortunately, the fates are against him and he tips it right the fuck over, spilling the sand and sending a gong sound through the house.

The door swings open and Feruz is presented with a robed, but engorged Rishav, who asks some dificult questions. Golshan tries to persuade him that the house is being attacked, a lie aided by the laughter of a Rakhosh coming from down the corridor. All set off to face and confront the beast.

Ibny has in fact summoned the illusion of a Rakhos to disguise his crime. Golshan is unaware of this when he kicks down the door and attacks it with his sword. The illusion disappears before anyone else arrives, but despite the total absence of meaningful evidence, Rishav is convinced that there is indeed a Rakhosh somewhere about, either shapechanged or, more likely, invisible.

He immediately surrounds himself with guards, calls for his Theramin player and starts hitting the meth.

The situation deteriorates from there. Despite their best efforts to calm him down, Rishave will not let his guard or staff rest until the invisible demon is found. They stagger about searching constantly and jabbing holes in the walls, ceiling and furniture while Rishav gets more and more high and paranoid. Golshan & Ibny briefly consider finding the body of a Tiger and sewing on its paws the other way round but alas they are unable to locate the resources required.

Ibny tries to perform a ritual to sooth Rishav, Golshan assists with nightmare psychotherapy, the do manage to get him to swithc from the meth to his families opium, which he grinds the fuck into his bleeding eyes to reduce his Rakoshaphobia.

The group stumble to sleep in the wrecked home. Golshan strikes up a conversation with the maid about Nightmares. She takes his cultic enquiry for therapeutic aid, his sinister skull shape for nobility and his strange silences for depth and seems like she is into him. Then he fucks a roll up and she leaves, he will never know why.

Day 9

The group wakes up early, Golshan is VERY keen to get back on-mission and they effectively flee the house. The cries of Rishav Ansari and his wife follow them "The Rakhosh has Taken my Eyes!"

They return at speed to the Yak exchange. Feruz briefly considers theft but thinks better of it. The group exchange their remaining Yak for two beetles, aided by Ibnys surprisingly effective offer of an anti-Rakhosh charm, which must have pressed a button with Buphedra the Yak Merchant as he is very eager to aquire it and utterly indifferent to any proof of efficacy.


PART TWO - BLIGHT AND A FREE BEE AT THE HYOJU VALLEY

The group has an unaventful days travel moving ever westward, down into the valleys of Sughud. Around mid afternoon they come into the valley of the Hyoju Plantation.

The great North Road leading right to Syr Darya is within sight only a few miles away!

However - a few things attract the groups notice first;

- The people here seem unusually not-horribly-abused (they wear clothes and actually wave hello).

- It seems this is because they are not actually slaves, they are paid workers.

- There is some kind of blight destroying the crops.

- This opium (while still addictive) has actual healing properties, making one of the few actually good things they have found so far in Yoon-Suin.

SO; purely because they are SUPER GOOD GUYS, and even though they are nearly in sight of their goal, our heroes decide to get involved and try to solve this mystery - with REASON.

From speaking to Shrinder Terring, the chief tester, they discover the history of the Hyoju plantation; the Hyoju were a noble family outside Syr Darya when the Shikk did its terrible deed. Since they were left whole, but largely dispossessed, they retreated here, a few days away and planted their special opium. The workers here are the descendants of the house Staff and family servants, and for this reason, they have always been treated as employees, rather than slaves. The massive value of the Hyoju opium also helps with that. The family has remained relatively poor and low status compared to others, largely because of the expense and suspicious nature of treating their workers like humans.

The team investigate by testing the various samples of blighted crop and asking questions about its reoccurance and pattern of transmission. Ibny thinks the problem may be a natural one.

They travel out to the centre of the blight. Digging into the earth and testing in various places reminds them of various kinds of Alkalai alchemical runoff from strange experiments and proto-industry in the Kingdom of Dreams, but there is no industry here.

Observation leads them to the suspected centre of the blight. They think an underground stream at this location may be poisoned and questioning Terring leads them to the glacier above them in the northern mountains.

They ride to the glacier and find the path of its summer meltwater. The path dissapears into the earth in a hip-high passage.

This of course, presents no fear to our utterly insane PCs and they pop right in, using Zoafs fire lantern (which then now/still/again have).

Feruz takes the lead as they crawl for hours beneath the earth (mere hours to our heroes presenting no particular challenge).

Feruz hears a strange moaning coming from ahead. Since he can actually understand the language of Earth Elementals (see sessions 1-5) he understands the depressive incel-like laments of the unearthly, lonely, self-loathing creature ahead.

The team makes a noise of some kind and the voice dies away.

They arrive at a deep pool, which must fill over summer and remain liquid in winter, feeding into the aquifer beneath the fields. The place smells like poison and baking soda.

Feruz calls out in the language of Earth Elementals.

A creature turns beneath the water, looks at him and rises up. A sickening collection of coagulated toxins, heavy metals and dissolving alkalai salts, it lives but only hates itself, and others. Feruz tries to be nice and offer it the Amber Cat they found in a Nightmare. This does not work.

The creature attacks!

Feruz, ever-crafty, had already prepared one of his two remaining vials of acid and manages to hurl it right into the creatures mouth.

A natural 20, perfect weapon choice and abnormally low hp roll for the monster make for an arguably-anticlimactic combat. It dies and the team tears up its valuable mineral corpse.

On their return they are, for once, acclaimed at heroes. Treated to an endles variety of Yak products and feited by all. The plantation owner Rakhesh Hyoju places himself at their service and promises to write their names into the family history.

DAY 10


The next day, they are waved on their journey by grateful workers and, perhaps more usefully, gifted a small bale of the expensive Hyoju opium and a FREE GIANT BEE. A dangerous, beautiful, expensive creature with no human sympathy and a poisoned sting. Ibny takes charge of the Bee and they finally go south on the Great Northern Road, Syr Darya only a days hard travel away!



PART THREE - THE ROAD TO SYR DARYA.

Our strange group are by no means the strangest on the Great North Road. They encounter huge long ass trains carrying silk and tea, Sybarites on gasping yaks, a pilgrim idol seller riding an ancient, huge and wingless bee (who condemned them as elitists), yak-produce merchants selling yak milk, yak cheese, yak meat, yak wool and yak-bone charms (proof against yak-energy), 77 soldiers, 8 mantis-riders, 3 vulture masked priests, 4 crabmen cracked and padded for the cold guarding an iron cage pulled by six camels and pushed on iron wheels by twelve slaves containing a yak man bound in chains and trapped in a silver mandala in the cage, and six sets of paris of nasna mercenaries looking for work.

The only extended contacts were with Mukti Rimal, a trader in Velvet Worms heading to Syr Darya, who took a liking to Ibny and who said he would look them up, Syam of Lao-Phun, the southern river-tribe itinerant tattooist who charmed Ibny with the thought of a Chandra Chanevala Tattoo, and who also said he would look for them in the city, and a crazed fortune teller with one eye taped shut, riding a Bactrian Camel lead by a madman.

The fortune teller initially failed to impress, but after his augeries persuaded Golshan of his accuracy, he predicted that Ibny would encounter great evil, at the sign of the mountain, behind the veil.

Eventually, as the sun set behind the mountains of the moon, they finally came in sight of the city itself and looked down on Syr Darya. Four squares within a circle in a square within a square within a square, itself surrounded by a circle and the final wall itself a square.

Right in the centre of the city, a huge, pink, temple caught the last light of the dying sun and blazed vermilion against the blue-on-blue stone.

Before them, between them and the city, was the dark pavilion of an Ogre Magi. A huge, blue, tusked woman with black-indigo hair, reclined on a velvet couch in the centre of a blue-black pavilion, idly pulling surgeon from a teak barrel and eating them.



SESSION 13

PART ONE - INTERVIEW WITH AN OGRE

Ashtar breaks the ice and goes to introduce herself to the Ogre Lady lounging by the road.

Her name is Suko Ogai. They open with some minor deceptions, Ashtar pretends to be someone else. Banu, Feruz and Golshan turn up. Ashtar lights a cigar from the fire.

Ogai serves them mild opium and Sturgeon from her teak cask of live fish. She offers them tea served with purple sand. The sand is spat out and lies leave with it, meaning the drinker cannot speak a deliberate lie.

They exchange tales. Ogai tells them her story, she has been wandering Yoon-Suin for 50 years and now must return to the city for at least 100 years before she can leave again. So she pauses here on the borders of the city, waiting for the last star to emerge before she goes home.

Feruz flirts with her and this goes down very well. He ends up sitting on or near her lap.

The team tell a variety af incomplete truths and crazy details, easier on Banus part as he has massive memory gaps and often doesn't really remember what is going on. Ashtar lights a cigar and Banu licks her eyeball to get some Opium dregs, and apparently familiar relationship between them.

Ogai brings out her dwarf and monkeys to dance and be admired. They negotiate, largely exchanging treasures for cash.

The Stormsheep body is brought out (not sure if this was exchanged?).

The Death Mask Golshan took from the Veins of the Earth is displayed. Ogai negotiates strongly but ultimatley defeated by her own tea, exchanged a substantial amount of gems and several magic items for the mask.

To seal the deal she low-key requests a night with Feruz. The team confir and decide to pimp him out.

Ogai takes Feruz to her tent to read him poetry. Outside the team chat to her dwarf, who tells them about his life and travels and tries to show the the Ogre Magi's Armadillo, but it will not uncurl.

Inside, a complex seduction takes place. Ogai comes on heavily and says she needs a massage. Feruz distracts with poetry. She reads him her poetry, it's not bad. Feruz deflects again with art and wants to draw her. This lasts a while. They talk about their difficult upbringings. Feruz's father never really understood his art and he had a hard time in school. Ogai was born of the Apocalypse tree that links this reality to infinite time, her mother was the multi-headed dragon beyond the skin of the word - possibly Tiamat. Dad never understood her either. He did give her a mysterious white fruit that gave her a vision of a future apocalypse but whatever

Feruz confesses to his fear of voyeurs, and to being a nevernude. She turns out the lights and they successfully bone.

Cut to outside, Ogai happily makes the exchange and advises them on some Syr Darya stuff. If they are looking to make a contact, speak to Youdon at the Old Geographical Society, he might be able to help them find an armourer. She tells Feruz to look her up, sends her cargo to the city and flies up into the night air.

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PART TWO - THE WALLS OF SYR DARYA

The team travel down into the valley of Syr Darya. They first go to the Northern Gate, the one closest them. The vast moon-bronze doors are open only a crack. People are going in and out

Going to the city - the team go to the northern gate, the crab gate, but only women, children animals etc allowed in that way. They walk all the way around the city to the Eastern Gate, the Yak gate and enter Syr Darya.

Looming buildings, blue stone, near-empty streets, narrow alleyways. They go through gate of the Rajas on the Eastern side, above the gate is the statue of a Raja nailing a Yak man with a spear from horseback.

They find the Blue Snail! An old palace with a frize or front that has loads of snails in amorous conjunction. The door is open. It's about 10pm. All they need to do is go in, book some rooms and sleep.

-----------------------

AT THE BLUE SNAIL

At the bar a gentleman of Jukai is arguing with a Generican Wizard about the possibility of circumnavigating the world in 100 days 'by mortal means'. A Hyena-Man and Flamenco Prince are drinking in booth. A Slug-Man dimensional Sorcerer going on about "the angles". A ruined Ghost Hunter from the forest of Lahag is drinking his life away. A cracked female adventurer from the Land of Lamentations watches the room in a paranoid manner. An argument between courtesans about to be settled with a shoe-fight. A startlingly beautiful Nasna courtesan. A creep in the lobby trying to sell Sipopa. Man with magnificent moustache and long European Sword hanging around in the Lobby. Tourists wandering around pointing and sketching things. Old man playing Go against Nasna. At the desk an old, robust man with remarkable beard, white hair and strong peasant hands is arguing with the concierge, he wants a new room.

While Golshan goes to book in, a fellow called Chopec tries to sell the group something called 'Sipopa' but is chased off by the bouncers for dealing drugs in the hotel.

The night-concierge is Kochai Sadozai.

The man in front of Golshan is arguing with Sadozai about his room. He is tired of stalkers and fans, he wants a new room with a secret number and he wants it now. Sandozai seems unable or unwilling to help. Golshan sees an opportunity and offers to swap rooms with this individual.

The guy turns round and Feruz instantly recognises this as Master Dawa Yonten, the reclusive artist who radically changed the history of art in Yoon-Suin and beyond in his youth, 30 years ago, the legend of the art world! Feruz makes a little nod and Yonten storms off in a huff ranting about 'fans'

Golshan follows & tries to get his room number, but then offers him some potion for a service.

Golshan deals with rooms - they hire a pair with a connecting door. Golshan pays in a single shard of Jet, which impresses Sadozai. They have two decent rooms for a week. Golshan sees the lugguage upstairs and sets about bribing maids and Yonten to construct a creepy meditation tent in the middle of his room. One exactly like that in the room of the exiles in the temple of Chandra Chanevala.

While all this is going on Banu wanders off to the bar and encounters strange mercinaries, one a Hyena Man called Biter and the other a Flamenco Prince called Cylodon Kempi, he offers to buy them a drink, which they accept, and on realising he has no spare cash, uses their money instead. At the bar a man pokes him in the back to see if he is real and he turns round to see Konchi Himenko, a Ghost Hunte from Lahag with massive paranoia and ghost fear.

Banu invites Himenko back to the booth where things become extremely awkward until Himenko lets slip that he escaped Lahag after the total annihilation of his group, with only Haunted Diamonds to show for it. Biter and Prince Kempi keep Banu around to aid them in pressing Himenko for more information about the stones. Banu seems utterly unaware if what is going on.

Ashtar bribes the resteraunt into staying open this late and takes Thalia to a huge meal where she successfully persuades her to attempt to rob her magician husband through some kind of legal fraud. They are pretty loud about this but luckily the resteraunt is open.

Feruz encounters a younbg man called Bajwa, who worships Master Yonten and is effectively stalking him. He has an elaborate plan to locate Yonten by pretending to be a young lady pregnant with his child. Feruz is a big supporter of this idea but they are interrupted by Chopec, who has snuck back into the Hotel, who wants to involve him in a Sipopa deal.

Feruz lets him sit down and seems happily engaged with both the Sipopa deal and complex cross-dressing scheme.



SESSION 14

Our team wakes up after a HARD FRAME the previous night and find Golshan has gone off somewhere. They try to remember what they did.

Banu remembers deliberately screwing over Prince Cylodon Kempi and Biter by playing the fool and tipping their scheme to the Ghost Hunter Konchi Himenko. Himenko gifted him with a Diamond from the forests of Lahag, with a warning that it was haunted. Banus still has this, though he doesn't reveal it to the team.

Ashtar remembers completely screwing up her fraud scheme with Thalia by confessing that should doesn't really understand numbers, finances or paperwork.

Feruz recalls getting rip of the Sipopa Dealer Chopec and arranging with the obsessive fan Bajwa to bring a fine maternity dress in his size to the Blue Snail by mid-day.

Ibny can't remember how they even got to the city.

They decide to head for a market to get that damn dress and head out.

In the lobby they meet Esen Marri - the day shit concierge at the Blue Snail and Ibny is told the story of how the hotel came to exist.



GELEK AND THE FUNERAL

Out in Syr Darya they are on their way to the Crab, or 'Pura' Market when they encounter an ageing Pura opium addict, Gelek, beset by figments. Gelek turns a strange golden coin in his fingers which seem to be stained orange.  At the same time they see something remarkable, what looks like a Nasna Funeral.

Purple-robed Nasna walk in pairs. Guards with ebony spears and silver tips, censer bearers casting water about, gongs being banged, rows of paintings, some recent, some terrifying, some truly ancient. A beautiful half-widow. Purple-painted Crab-Men pulling a black cart with silver and bronze set coffin. This is the funeral of Youdron Drakthonpa - a high status individual, 5th in line to the family of the Raja.

Gelek says the Nasna are not meant to die and that there will be trouble amongst them now.

This procession pushes the group to the side of the street where they press against a wall with the addict Gelek, who begs money from them and promises much. Ashtar bribes him with opium and the promise of cash and he says he will guide them to the Crab market.

They make it there and Ashtar used Locate Object to find the dress they need, its in a wardrobe in a crappy wardrobe store and the old lady that runs it won't sell it wihout selling the wardrobe too. Eventually they just buy the whole thing.

Banu goes looking for a jewlery merchant and finds Seidons Bejewlerry - run by an idiot who Banu tricks into giving up info on how to find a better jeweler. Seldon says they need an introduction to a better market, they can appeal to the Yellow City Embassy, serve the temple of Tato Sampa or try the tea shop of Waheed Qsmari.

Once Ashtar learns how the temple of Tato Sampa works, she wants to do nothing else, she Banu and Ibny make their way there while Feruz takes the whole wardrobe (carried by Gelek and Gendun) back to the Blue Snail.

At the temple of Tato Sampa the team enjoy the huge two-headed vulture statue and martial atmosphere. The Vulture-masked priests have little interest in Ashtar but are really fascinated by Ibny and Banu.

Those on trial who appeal as worshipers of Lobi Pas can always ask for trial by combat, so long as the fight is as exactly even as possible. The priests have had a pair of alleged child abusers in custody for a year, waiting for their trial. They used to be larger men but a year in the dungeon has reduced them to something like the weakness of Banu and Ibny.

Banu and Ibny agree to the trial, hoping to get better access to the city if they survive.

On the way back to the Blue Snail, Feruz & Co encounter a strange figure who seems to be made of rags and dripping gold coins. Feruz is pretty sure this is something to do with Nightmare. He manages to trap it in the wardrobe and tips it over, running off with the dress. He tells Gendun and Gelek to pick up the coins and follow him.

At the Blue Snail Feruz meets Bajwa the stalking fan who is thrilled to see him and immediately runs upstairs to try on the dress. Feruz follows to their room where Gendun and Gelek both lie down, seemingly deeply tired. Feruz averts his eyes while Bajwa changes and is surprised to find that he passes really really well as a young pregnant woman.

Thalia emerges in the middle of this and announces that she is teaching the children poetry.

Ibny and Banu try to find a way to gain some special advantage but are unable to pull off any tricks, though Ibny attempts a distraction with a sermon to Chandra Khanevala.

In the audience, Ashtar places bets with a mercenary captain, her black opium against his silver.

Gendun and Gelek seems ill. Gelek especially, Feruz asks Gendun to give Gelek all the gold coins. Then drags Gelek downstairs though he seems deeply ill. They await the 'scene' that Bajwa intends to cause.

Banu and Ibny are chained together and given an iron bar each. Two Generican foreigners, 'Fil-Ip and Os-kar', emerge in a similar state, big men but badly decayed from captivity.

The fight begins - Banu and Ibny attempt a failed clothesline which leaves everyone in the dirt. Ibny is quickly wounded in the face. Banu avoided most damage. Eventually Ibny manages to land a blow that shatters Os-Kars kneecap.

With each round of the fight, Ashtar raises her bet with the mercenary captain.

Ibny takes another brutal blow, now to the throat, but is still going. Banu manages to take Os-kars other kneecap out, leaving him crawling. The team use their opponents immobility to set up another clothesline attempt, which goes disastrously wrong.

In the Blue Snail, Feruz manfully plays his ridiculous part in the arranged drama. The cross-dressed Bajwa eventually breaks down laughing, then keeps laughing, and grows, and changes and grows shark teeth, until they become an avuncular, pot-bellied, shark-toothed, sky-blue, white haired Ogre Magi in a yak-wool ‘suit’, big jewelled cravat, pepper-red jacket, mustard trousers and green silk slippers. - This is Waheed Qsmari.

Ibny is blinded by his own blood. Os-Kar tries climbing Banu, who flails at him and Fil-Ip. On one hit point Ibny goes beseark and smashed Os-Kar in the skull, putting him down. Both then team up on Fil-Ip, smashing him to the ground.

Ibny ends up with massive sustained facial wounds, Banu hurt somewhat. Ashtar calls in her succesful bet with very bad grace.

Qsmari finds Gelek dead. He and Feruz team up to investigate with Qsmari acting as Feruz's 'watson'. They control the scene and go in search of the Wardrobe. They find it untouched and Qsmari discovers an alternate dimension inside it. They take it black to the Blue Snail where they find Gendun nearly dead of the poisoned coins from Nightmare. Feruz recalls the healing opium they posses and asks Qsmari to get Yak blood.

Qsmari flies off, leaving Feruz alone with a sick Gendun and the wardrobe to Nightmare, which now starts to open.

He tips it over and sits on it till Qsmari gets back

At the Temple of Tato Sampa, Ibny and Banu have served justice and won the respect of the priests and the crowd. The priest Tsela promises them free healing at the temple of Sanco Hunhos and gives them a basket of Frogs to that effect. She also promises to introduce them and sponsor them for access to the Dragon Market. They will bring the required details to them at the Blue Snail.



SESSION 15

The team re-unites back in their Hotel room in the Blue Snail. Present are Firouz (with a small Waheed Qsmari observing on the shoulder), Ibny (with a somewhat mashed face), Banu (apparently fine), Ashtar (nearly out of Opium), Golshan and his recently acquired Crab Man slave Buni (some guy in the street was trying to get rid of the crab and forced the contract into Golshans hands before he could react).

The team takes some time to catch up and discuss each others adventures. Ashtar and Abny complain about the low standard of literature (Court poets paid by the word).

Eventually, Buni pulls open the wardrobe door to reveal the alter-dimension within.

The group enter. Ashtar examines the puce flowers growing between the paving stones and tries to haul one up to throw through a window. She suffers some kind of entropic effect and her clothes decay into even more rag-like rags. Ibny takes the opportunity to sample some of the strange flowers and take some of their juices. Banu tastes them and starts hearing the sound of locusts.

A thudding sound announces the arrival of wanderers whose feet are swollen with Elephantisis, they slowly charge towards the team. The PC's have already broken into a building to their left. Ibny and Firouz hold the door while Golshan and Ashtar explore deeper. Buni jams the doorway in with another door while Banu quickly takes a hit of 'Unceasing Yellow Eye' opium to banish his delusions and summons a stone golem and orders it to smash its way through the building.

The team move north and arrive via different entries into another large square.

They hear the booming sound of giant feet, the fabric sky of this realm is lifted up by the head of an enormous approaching giant. A huge, fat, pale, weeping woman, her black hair and white clothes sealed to her obese flesh by the river of tears that runs continually from her eyes.

The team immediately attacks with magic. Ashtar shrinks the giant. Banu accidentally casts 'Truth Telling' on everyone. Golshan blesses everyone. Buni leaps to the attack.

The giant slips on its own tears and falls into the square. Buni slices into it and tries to climb its giatn face to get at its eyes, but falls.

Ibny (I think) accidentally casts 'sleep' on the entire group. Only Golshan, Buni and Ibny remain awake but they are enough to drive off the creature, who escapes by clambering over the roofs.

Buni pokes the rest of the group awake and Ashtar manages to control 'locate object' enough to get a general fix on the location of the nightmares crown. The team moves off in that direction.

They come upon a square full of seemingly inanimate piles of rag. Ibny investigates one, the rags come alive. Most of the PC's form and fan at the doorway and battle the horde of rag people, who are neither strong nor brave fighters. Firouz runs through the square to the other side and tries to lever open a door.

The PC's slowly hack their way through the monsters, suffering only occasionally due to their ability to burst into clouds of hallucinogenic opium when hit. Firouz manages to get the door open just in time to escape most of the attention of the group surrounding him.

The rag-people facing the main group break and flee, dropping golden coins. The team sees Firouz has escaped and chase after the rag people chasing after him.

Firouz finds another doorway and opens it to discover the Cathedral of the Pipe. The rag-people chasing him catch up but are so cowardly and afraid that they throw themselves at his feet to beg for somethingorother. The approach of Buni frightens them off.

The team enter the cathedral and find the Saint of the Pipe, a preserved corpse in the centre, clutching a silver opium pipe. Buni immediately approaches and grabs it. The Saint animates, screams and tears at Bunis eyes, doing serious damage and blinding the Crab.

Buni strikes back, doing some damage to the Saint, but snapping the pipe in two. The saint tears the crab apart as the team mob it, ultimately Buni is killed and the Saint destroyed. Golshan says not to worry as this is TNU and raise dead is cheap and easy as fuck.

Firouz had already grabbed on half of the pipe and run for it. Outside he encountered the second giant, a huge Father figure who knocked him literally out of the street. Luckily this is nightmare so gravity doesn't work as normal.

Ashtar leaves the temple and successfully shrinks the giants kneecap, crippling it, though biofeedback does damage to her own knee. It strikes at her but misses. Golshan grabs the other pipe half and Ibny grabs Buni's body, they and Banu run like fuck.

The giant tries to climb after them but its ruined leg forces it to crawl over the buildings, meaning the team all escape with the divided crown, thereby closing the gate.


SYR DARYA SESSION 16 - THE DRAGON MARKET

Everyone gets dressed up

Ashtar - Tourbillon dress with bolero, using materials like that of Issey Miyake, with a cape and lady pauldrons. Makeup and hair a bit like that girl who became a robot in Metropolis. Gvenchy 2015 style facial jewlery. And some Marianna Harutunian collection accessories.

Golshan - 2015 Issey Miyake menswear cult robe. Facepaint, not sure if they do black eye contacts in Yoon-Suin, but doubt Golshan needs them. Ceremonial sash dyed in a gradient from bright Yellow to Dark Purple. Faintly bioluminescent if possible. Depicting a selection of nightmare creatures and imagery including the false children, the pale giants, the drow from Golshan's vision, the amber cat, and at least one nightmare of the artist Golshan eventually selects

Feruz - A woven wicker beetle shell, painted to iridesce. An apple-green robe with drooping winglike sleeves and Monal and violet-tailed sylph feathers interwoven like an elegant but ugly bird. 100 small beetle pendants set in resin to glitter and gleam, hanging from a shirt of blue silk, paisley with bird shapes, and beneath it he chest hair shaved into a beetle-ish symbol.

Thalia in Vivienne Westwood 2013.

Children and Gendun attired as pictured above.

.....................

Feruz, Ibny and Buni have a non-canon adventure somewhere else for this session.

......................

It's roughly 7 days since the last adventure.

Tsala the Priest of Lobi Pas turns up at the Blue-Snail apartment and informs the team that tonight there will be a reception at the old Octopi Breeding Pits and they are expected to attend to be allowed entry to the Dragon Market.

The group vacillate for a moment before clambering into the Carriage and racing off through the dark streets of Syr Darya. They encounter something of a carriage-jam but Banu finds a way around it while also casting a ritual to summon a monster to announce them.

The crew arrive at the old Octopi Breeding pits. The scent of spices and opium wafts from within. Black beetle carriages are ranked up along the road. Guards are visible at the doors and on the roof, some carrying dragon-headed gunpowder weapons.

Banu casts his spell and summons a Gorgimera, a creature with the hindquaters of a gorgon, forequaters of a lion, and body and wings of a red dragon. This creature enters ahead of the group and announces them, then disappears, to a smattering of applause.

The group enters and see the tiled breeding pools have been drained and are now filled with guests and patrons. There are a large number of Magi here. Including Sugo Ogai, Feruz's squeeze, who no-one has the time to talk to as Feruz is having a non-canon adventure.

Tsala arrives next and quickly reminds the group that at the end of the night they will have to exhibit or declare some skill or quality to illustrate their 'Crystal Dragon' nature. The group splits up, each member attempting to penetrate the social circle around a particular dominant Magi.

Ashtar advances directly on Magi Ung Roth, a buffoonish but charismatic figure in an Ulfire Nerhu jacket wearing topaz jewels, surrounded by admirers and talking about markets and trade. A low level beta orbiter attempts to deflect Ashtar but her magnificent fashion easily resists his attack and she immediately crushes him into extinction. She enters into conversation with Ung Roth, who is immediately charmed by her.

Banu approaches Magi Droona Sherzai, an exceptionally boring Magi connected to the Lotus faction, a centrist conservative circle whos main interest is in making sure that tomorrow is as much like today as possible. Banu impresses Droona with his ability to blather asnine bureaucratic claptrap at-infinitum.

Golshan attempts to connect with Magi Xab Yeng Yaaj, bearer of the chaos tree and snake-wearing traditionalist hyper-conservative, but fails to really make a strong impression.

As the gong rings to summon guests to dinner, Ashtar is still charming the shit out of Magi Ung Roth with talk of free markets and ignores the overtures of the somewhat more attractive Gonpo, representative of the decaying temple of Tato Sampa. She ends up sitting between Roth and The Most Reasonable, Most Profitable Ayoy Yithalia, Slug-Man representative of Eke Ulale, Ambassador of the Yellow City (not present).

Golshan forms an unlikely connection with Lady Yuro of the Chrysanthenum Court, a beautiful Nasna woman. He sits between her and Magi Miyazaki Sae, the bug-eyed, distracted and monotone individual who keeps changing size.

Banu is drawn aside by a beautiful woman in a pale dress who seems enraptured with him. He sits between her and the Magi Miyazaki.

First course is served. Ashtar brilliantly snaps open and consumes the burning sea urchins. She continues to charm Roth, who becomes more intimate. She also impresses Yithalia. Golshan settles for the Sturgeon. and focuses most of his attention on the Lady Yuro.

The team face attack from Prince Cylodon Kempi who mocks their pretensions, but their incredible fashion choices easily deflect from this. The Prince is also Magnificently attired so their return shots do little damage. Banu converses with Magi Miyazaki and they agree to exchange spell knowledge, Miyazaki takes a burning urchin spike and begins writing an equation on the table. Banu flirts with his pale lady.

The second course arrives, consisting mainly of birds of various kinds. Ahstar rips the shit out of Cylodon Kempi for this but fails to penetrate his fashion.

Kempi returns fire by bringing up the blinding of the master of the Ansari plantation. A full argument breaks out at the table but together Ashtar and Golshan fight back against Kempi's insinuations, resisting any damage, through failing to penetrate his guard.

Conversation turns to the groups exact affiliations and as Golshan confirms that he is a representative of the Caliph, Xab Yeng Yaaj, the traditionalist, goes on the attack, joined by Kempi, they insinuate that the group are effectively spies and that they may in fact be bringing the Nightmare infestation to Syr Darya.

At the same time the party must attempt feasting on the whole ortolan, drowned in white wine, placed before them, but for those who have traversed the Veins of the Earth (available now), this presents little challenge and they easily gulp them down.

Again Ashtar and Golshan fight back, Golshan deflecting with facts, assisted by Waheed Qsmari, Ashtar launching a high-risk brutal broadside of extended contempt at Yaaj which manages to penetrate his limited Fashion and seriously reduce his reputation.

As the third course is served, the table breaks down in laughter at Yaaj's hidebound ways. But he and Kempi have a secret weapon, the late arrival of Gourishankar Buddacharya, Thalias estranged husband and super-wizard.

Before Gourishankar can even sit, Thalia blasts him with a brutal series of insults that strip his reputation down. Nevertheless, he persists and drops a Truth Bomb on the party, the temple of Chandra Chanevala has been burnt to the ground and the nearby village (home of the girl Ayush) has been destroyed and the Yak Herders killed. He strongly insinuates that the party is behind this as their arrival and path closely follow a trail of destruction through the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon.

The group takes some damage but Golshan and Ashtar fight back, arguing that they only tried to resolve negative situations, Ashtar launches another brutal verbal assault on Gourishankar, cutting his reputation down to nothing, but he refuses to budge. Thalia backs up the team, along with Waheed Qsmari. Banu focuses on memorising the plane shift spell and flirting with his new Bae.

Just before dessert and dancing are announced, Ashtar absolutely crushes the wizard Buddacharyia, he pales, stands up shaking and speechless, and tries to leave but on the way out Ashtars caustic insults reduce him to a minus value of Charisma. He is now socially dead in Syr Darya and may not return.

Banu goes to dance with his pale Bae but is confused when Miyazaki asks him who he has been speaking to. He ignores this nonsense when he sees his lady gesturing from the dance floor, beckoning him.

Ashtar gets into a groove thing with Magi Ung Roth and Secretary Ayoy Yithalia. Golshan goes to comfort Ayush and tells her the Wizard Gourishankar was almost certainly lying, he persuades her to dance with the child-Nasna Tagadhari Bourgar Drakthonpa, his attentiveness is noted by an approving Lady Youdon.

Banu dances with his new friend and feels utterly carried away. Golshan, concerned for him seeks him out and finds Banu silently facing the wall in a corner of the room.

Golshan grabs Banu and as he does the Bhoot from the Cursed Diamond he foolishly accepted grabs at him. The three struggle in terror and the Bhoot reaches for Banu, grasping his soul and ageing him 20 years, to an age of roughly 53, in a few seconds.

Just as others notice that a fucking Bhoot is present at the party, Banu manages to cast Protection from Evil on himself, forcing the spirit back. Golshan grabs Banus ceremonial sword and manages to damage the creature a little.

Recognised and surrounded, the Bhoot flees, leaving Banu traumatised.

Xab Yeng Yaaj and Cylodon Kempi allege that this is clear proof of the parties corruption, how else would a Bhoot have entered such august company, but more of Ashtars coruscating insults drive Kempi back, finally damaging his reputation. She, and Golshan, allege that the Bhoot must be a tool of the humiliated Gourishankar, after all, he was obsessed with spirits and the undead.... This seems to make sense to everyone.

The party have impressed enough of the high status individuals that when Ung Roth (trying to sleep with Ashtar) suggests that defeating a Bhoot before the entire group shows 'True Crystal Dragon Nature', most agree and Golshan and Banu are applauded.

Ashtar illustrates her amazing shrinking powers and all three are made members of the Dragon Market. Another glorious victory for the group.

Ashtar ends the night by hooking up Banu with Secretary Ayoy Yithalia so smoke dope and mourn his stolen years, before flying off in the night to fuck Magi Ung Roth in his tower (Banu already has an invite  Golshan takes care of the children and Lady Yuro indicates that she would not be displeased if he called on her to play Go or Mahjong at some point...