Monday, 25 June 2018

Nightmares in Syr Darya

The rulers of the strange city of Syr Darya, in Sughud, in distant Yoon-Suin, are experiencing incursions of the predatory and corruptive para-reality known as 'Nightmare'.

They appeal to the Caliph of the Kingdom of Dreams, a mysterious and inaccessible land to the far west, for aid. The Caliph can't be bothered and dumps the request on a subordinate, who dumps it on someone else. Eventually, a group of freshly-released prisoners, debtors, political radicals and general weirdos are on their way to the Castle of the Sleeping Eye, where they are instructed to take the ancient route under the Mountains of the Moon to Yoon-Suin, and, of they survive that, to go to Syr Darya, report to its rulers and offer any assistance necessary with their nightmare situation.

And also to write down everything they see and send the information home. To which end, they have been gifted magical paper which, when burnt, returns to the brazier of an official functionary in the Caliphs service.

(I bribed my players with XP to make them write session reports.)

These, are those reports.


Zouaf the horrible dwarf is Scrap Princess

Firouz the pornographer bard is Ian Reilly

Ibny the drug addicted surgeon is Zedeck Siew

Golshan the Nightmare cultist is Sam Zeitlin

Banu the wizard is Richie Cyngler

Ashtar the lotus cultist is  FM Geist



FIROUZ

"Your Holiness,

May your reign continue and justice be upheld. May the journey I go upon may quickly resolve the rumors of my guilt.

Our group includes:

Zuaf, short in stature but not lacking in authority. I am not sure of his intentions but sometimes the Law works in mysterious ways. He has bold, and I fear cruel, but has led us ably as someone of his status should.

Ipni, a learned man. He is a pleasant fellow though he seems to love substance much.

Golshan, a strange worshipper. I wish I could say he was the strangest traveller, but alas we walk a curious road and there are others, curiouser, upon it.

Banu, a wizard of sorts. He has a serious air, and does us a service despite his lower status.

(There are others with us, but as you know, the nature of the great Kingdom of Dreams means people may drift in and out of reality without sign or warning and so our number might be quite different next time I write to your Holiness)

Lastly I, Firouz, a humble and much-maligned Artist and servant of the Law.

(I really must protest the accusations of indecency, lawless perversion and keyhole-peeping that are even now being levelled upon my name by anonymous cowards and soulless fools! They know nothing of Art! They misunderstand and misrepresent the holy Law! They are malicious; lunatics and tyrants all! They fear the human form -- the pure Love contained within!  They wish a plague upon my house and a fire to consume my Work!

By the five prophets I swear my return will have me vindicated and those charlatans exposed-

[This continues for another page or so.])

We came at last by caravan to the Castle of the Sleeping Eye. It is a strange place, for it is by strangeness the men there survive their delves into the Vertical World. They grudgingly accepted us, seeing as your sign the Silver Bird and Red Scrolls, upon which even now I am writing, and they took Zuaf to survey the canoes and supplies with which we were to be equipped.

Golshan, Banu and I went to interview our potential guides, but quickly muddled things as Golshan quite offended the logical Sato Nogal with his queries about nightmares. Banu made a deal with the blind salamander Glamoko, and we spoke with a scheming man named Charkniz, but did not take his deal.

Finally, I met a wonderful woman who knew me by name! She spoke of this world of forms and illusions within which we live and called to me as an equal - I knew at once we must follow her into the depths! Jaskina, my friend!

We set out

[The text here is obscured by multiple hand drawn illustrations of a pale, naked and eyeless humanoid in multiple poses, many of a compromising nature. It is later joined by a few different humans - one is recognizable as Marduk, captain of the castle. Everyone appears to be enjoying themselves. A final picture includes an older woman with mismatched eyes]

Continuing on, we came to a difficult place - between a wall of skulls and bones, and one pitted and worn by pale rivulets. Our guide warned us to be quick and quiet as we passed the lair of a horrible beast, but nevertheless our attempts were in vain as there came a seed, milk-white and airy as down, floating toward us across the water. It came close to the other canoe and seemed about to land on our diminutive leader.

Despite none of us seeing such a thing of great device before, Zuaf seemed to intuit something about the skull and attempted to use is as a trap for the floating seed (Indeed, it was almost as if the mind of Zuaf had both seen the thing and its creators and had perhaps even illustrated them extensively). This backfired, as the seed stuck fast to his sour flesh and as it took root we all heard a terrible roaring and gnashing in the outer dark. Acting quickly, he did burn his own hand with the fire within that strange tracery and howled even as did the beast. What artifice did such a thing to my dear friend Jaskina? Such darkness hides in the deep!

Though it continued to follow for some time, after a period Glamoko told us we were beyond its reach and we were approaching his village. Safe for a time, we now relax - though as I entertained our hosts with my Poetry I did see some of my companions speaking with an old man who might be quite mad.

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

ASHTAR

I continue my noble undertaking of abandoning my Earthly vessel in order to contemplate the many perfections of the soul upon my arrival in the land of lotuses, the land without hardship or death to secure you passage; preserving your reign for all eternity.

The companions I am to travel with leave much to be desired in their breeding, demeanor, carriage and religious observance—yet vastly surpass your negligent servants in the Castle of the Sleeping Eye. The Castle is staffed by heretical, coarse, obscene men. Their hostility towards the divine mission you have entrusted us with screams for correction. I humbly suggest that their children be boiled in order to promote greater reflection upon your inspired divinity rather than indulging in the low cunning of rutting rats.

My companions are as so:

Feruz (a scholar, gentleman and appreciator of the arts although his hands are of such appearance to challenge belief in beneficence. He is well learned in song and anatomy).

Ipny (a self styled surgeon who seems lax in his bodily glorification for your holiness and is offensive to your sight)

Banu and Golshan distinguish themselves with the meanness of their upbringing and the slackness of their jaws. Under my tutelage they will become worthy of offering their lives for your glory.

I caught up with your dogs in the settlement of (complex to translate to English: the things that grope blindly in the darkness of hunger). In the party’s employ are Glamoko (a mean specimen of the breed) and Hotep (a gentleman and conissiour whose presence has greatly improved our chances of survival far from your benevolent gaze). Resentment between our mongrel servants was resolved and we traveled downriver where we were set upon by the flash of razored fish. Hopelessly surrounded, Golshan and Banu feebly struggled with the creatures—armed with their intellects—as Feruz had the good sense to recite the wisdom of those who came before—we took the advice of Byztbzky, another mongrel in the menagerie of my baggage routine and held out our arms and like the miraculous Lotus Saint who first informed us of the land beyond death and work where none hold dominion: we were whisked away to another place.

The gnom-on have a city of stark and gemstric singularity. Their practices are fascinating especially the becalming of the mind which seemed to benefit Ipny; I will ask him for the secret to effectively performing the surprisingly adroit techniques of these misshapen men in their limbo like existence away from your beautific gaze but equally distant from Arcadia. Making our exit, we resumed traversing the domain of Angra Mainyu and his snares in the darkness.

Banu, having been vastly improved by the becalming practice and came upon a diplomatic and massive creature combining the sacred aspect of Sobek. The creature was, despite its misshapen form; complex, wise, accommodating and aware of you and your power. He mentioned some untouchable creatures formerly of your domain who had fallen out of favor in your sight and sent to linger here in the Stygian darkness as punishment for their transgressions and offered to assist us in bypassing contact with something so singularly unclean. Santonolas art Nogal is a scholarly creature whose appreciation for the fine and luxurious is masked by his hideous form; however, Banu, Ipny, and our porters has too little faith in your benevolence.

They have arrived shaken but still whole enough to serve you diligently.

Your Humble Servant,
Ashtar


ASHTAR (After some cannibalism and moderate insanity.)

"For the Caliph, Whose Power Extends Across the Surface and All Below, THERE ARE POWERS THAT LURK IN THE CORNERS THERE ARE POWERS ARRAYED AGAINST US the disobedient members of our party came rushing past pursued by the meager remains of humans aboard boats. They spoke against you and they died, screaming, our magics rendered us invulnerable. DROWNED MEAT WAS WASTED IT COULD HAVE BEEN MEALS THE REST LOOK FAT AND SUCCULENT LIKE PIGS MY CLUB COULD CRUSH THEIR SKULLS LIKE EGGSHELLS. Baneful magicks afflicted us from the servants of the demiurge in the dark. We harvested bodies and made warmth, we harvested flesh, it was as cold bacon DO I ADMIT I LIKED THE TASTE, I WISH TO PARTAKE AGAIN, I DREAMED OF A LOTUS UNFOLDING AND COPULATING SKELETONS FELL INTO MY MOUTH. I had a conflict over my wish to preserve the skull as evidence of how falling away from your influence causes malformation. THE SKULL WAS MINE I HAD CLAIMED IT IT WAS MINE IT WAS MINE AND HE WAS CHASTISED. We continued, our enemies did not. I WILL EAT EVERYTHING THAT DWELLS IN THE DARK, THE LIVING WORLD SHALL PUPATE IN MY MOUTH. We saw a great gate and abandoned the river, to continue our pursuit of the land without work or death. We encountered an oily and malevolent bird THERE ARE THINGS IN THE DARK AND THEY PUT THINGS INSIDE ME AND I WISH FOR THEM TO STOP we feasted upon it and it did not feast upon us. we came to a small entrance in the rock and i crawled ahead. we had the advantage of a map in flesh. THE ROCKS HUG AS EMBRACE OF DARK. We moved through silence and darkness, hunger, rocks, noises lead by the true map until our guide snapped and rushed up a vertical shaft. EVERYONE WILL SNAP THE DARK IS ABSOLUTE BUT I WILL NOT FORGET THEM THEY WILL DWELL IN MY BELLY FOREVER. He was cornered by some crystaline bleaters. i caved  one in and we were rewarded with another map I AM A KILLER OF ALL DULL EYED SHEEP Hotep I LOVE HIM NONE BUT I SHALL EAT HIM, NOT BUT I SHALL POSSESS HIM accounted well for himself. THE SHEEP ARE MACHINES ARE SHEEP ARE GLASS ARE SERVANTS OF THE MACHINE INSIDE ME.

I remain optimistic that we shall soon pass into the land of fragrant blossoming lotuses where there is no death, no work.

I SHALL DWELL IN DARKNESS ETERNAL

Your Humble Servant,
Ashtar"

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


IBNY

(this was exclaimed to Acolyte Jungne, who was in the middle of cleaning the room where things are sacrificed in the Temple of Chandra Khanevala, Goddess of the Risen Moon in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon in Sughud in Yoon-Suin, when the Iron Portal to Doom opened and the PC's, almost all of them naked, starved, greasy and electrocuted (one mind-wiped, others insane) emerged. Jugne ran away.

" ... so after Ashtar smashed the electric crystal sheep creatures she winked out of existence which beggared belief but by then I'd gotten used to such impossibilities happening the Vertical World is terrible but thankfully we found Zouaf Bey, oh praise be to god, he seemed unhurt, and with our salamander guide we traversed more tunnels, expertly guided, and while there were these clam turtles that knocked their shells like crockery and pursued us we scrambled up the tunnels, and even the paraplegic Golshan made good speed, and with oil and cunning Zouaf foiled those turtle creatures, surely out to eat us as all do within that place, but afterwards Zouaf's wisdom failed him, mayhaps he was possessed by some madness, for when we came upon a cavern filled with mummies and treasures - I believe these mummies were your folk, as their writings are in your alphabets - he went up to a mummy and stabbed, wherefore many things happened, and I put on this girdle to hide my shames, and the mummies exercised foreign sorceries upon us, bewitching Golshan and Zouaf and one of the salamandermen, and I threw my belongings in a panic, and cast a twin of myself, hoping to confuse those malefactors, and praise be to god for Ferouz had the presence of mean to marshal us all away to safety, but here Golshan's leg failed him, as we scaled another tunnel to safety, and his girth made retreat impossible, thankfully Ferouz stood with me, and held the creatures off until I could clamber to safety - by this point Zouaf Bey had gone on ahead, seemingly unfazed by the touch of the undead, praise be to god - and afterwards starving, scarring, half mad, hearing the machines in the walls, in our blood, finally we arrived at this gate here, is it the Eaten Moon, I cannot read your pictograms very well - but regardless we are all thankful, though you are clearly heathens, your guise is familiar nonetheless, and there is sunlight here, oh praise be to god, praise be to god, we are saved, you have saved us."

says Ibni, hugging the monk."


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

ASHTAR

Hotep is gone, I am isolated, desolate. I know not where I was but I vanished and the divine mandate preserving him as my consort wavered. Sacrificing him may have been the cost for me to enter paradise, but what a cost. What is a land without death or work with no one to share it with. This is a lie, but a comforting one. The priestess expounded upon her heresy. Her order holds a vigil watching the vertical world to avoid lunar incursion. Their patron (a corruption of the true lotus form of the godhead) ate a moon ziggurat and spat it below the earth. This is a passable understanding of the exodus to the second kingdom overseen by you, the all powerful caliph; i serve as your instrument.

[AFTER TAKING A BUNCH OF OPIUM]

Everything is perfect, everything is fine, this is paradise! There are no lotus blooms but this opium they give away freely is among the finest things I have ever tasted. The omnipresent vomiting is merely a distraction from my crystalline perfect mind like a steel trap and clearly immortal form. [Hazy scrawls and spatters of vomit]

[IN A SOMEWHAT LUCID OPIUM MANIA]

We are trapped in this monastery fed with the bodies of yaks and the nourishing powder of opium. We are ringed by yakmen and ice demons. I have realized this is not true paradise but an illusion. the way out is BACK into the Vertical World. I will retrieve my consort and should he be dead I will eat him, as we once shared the face of a mongrel posing as a human. I will taste flesh again. I will be in the long cold dark of this world. I will make the ingrates understand the importance. The lady priest with knives and opium is most intrigued by the proposition; I believe the minstrel can be converted to our enterprise. He has the mind of a scholar. His scabrous hands are hidden better in the dark.

[Final scrawl before burning the paper to send to the caliph]

IN HEAVEN EVERYTHING IS FINE

Yours,
Ashtar Illuminated Seeker of Wisdom

P.S. Please, tell my miserable father that I have found the paradise that is promised and someday he will dwell in the dark beneath the earth hunted for sport as a fleshy failure reborn endlessly to experience the cruelty of strength.


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

Also...

All this random maze-related stuff is still for sale. For just under two more days....

My copy of Maze of the Blue Medusa



This fabric map by All Rolled Up

Maze Dice Tray by All Rolled Up



This Zak Smith Artwork 



This, honestly, pretty odd, one of a kind Maze bathroom/wall tile 



Friday, 22 June 2018

Natural Language and Gross Positioning

'Natural Language' is a term I yanked from programmers. Reasonably self-explanatory, it means getting a programme to the point where you can tell it what to do in normal everyday human language.

'Gross Positioning' is something I made up to describe a particular way that we imagine space in D&D.

The situation I'm describing and imagining here is one where you run a game, either via hangout or online, using absolutely minimal notes and no visual representations of anything.

It's actually easier to imagine this happening online as the cognitive and time cost of sharing something like a sketch map is relatively high. But even online its relatively common to intuitively use a range of hand forms that describe relative spaces on the screen.

So this idea of running a game with NO visual representations at all is actually unrealistic and probably hyper-rare, and unreal environment stripped of its common methods and accompaniment in order to highlight some of the ways we construct our unreal environments.



NATURAL LANGUAGE

Some things are hard to describe. Most things probably. Music, complex shapes, complex colours, highly detailed and specific arrangements of things, like the bones in a body, things with a very high volume of highly specific and non-naturalistic data like phone numbers and account numbers.

Reality in our descriptions is not like real reality. So, for instance, almost no-one has brown hair. Not if you look at it directly and try to count the sub-colours and all the patterns of shade and gleam. In the same way, the sea is almost never green, or blue, but a shifting matrix of many related colours and moving light effects, all changing all the time.

And yes maybe an artist or someone trained in colour theory could pick out all, or many of the sub colours or lighting effects in somebodies hair. Just like a Doctor could probably name all the veins and arteries in a pretend surgery or a designer or tailor could name all the specifics of clothes.

And if your DM is one of those things then they can use that knowledge to be a kind of teacher/challenger, introducing terms and educating you about them piecemeal while also challenging you in the game. And possibly the ability of an hierarchical old-school DM to do this is something that separates it from group-effort storygames. It's hard for there to be a position of highly specialised knowledge without hierarchy.

So what I'm talking about with 'Natural Language' is conversational language. The kind you could use with a wide range of people from different social circumstances and with differing cognitive styles where you could reasonably expect them all to understand you.

This language massively limits and strongly highlights very particular kids of things. Its pattern is more like oral poetry, ballads and hero stories than it is like anything else.

If you go out and look at nature you see a whole shitload of colours all blended together and mixed up pretty much all of the time

In natural language, using description only, its much simpler if things are either one of the basic describable colours, blue, green, red, purple etc, or, and this is better, as it is in poetry, if they are coloured like a known natural object or process;

"The Queen has eyes the colour of the sea."

There are certain numbers that work well in natural language, just as they do in ballads and just as they do in fairytales. The linking factor is orality. Idea and concept clusters developed for an oral culture are, in a way, conservative. They are 'evolved' or developed over many iterations to be very strong memory signatures. Stuff that sticks in the memory usually makes the strongest possible use of the minds natural heuristics for working things out and then develops complexity by combining a re-combining these simple elements.

That's very different to the way a computer, a business report or a spectrograph show you detail and complexity.

So for numbers, three, five, seven and pair are good numbers. Ten and Twelve aren't bad, but once you get above those the progression gets patchy.

So the queen with the sea coloured eyes and the red dress wearing three green gems is very different from the queen with amber eyes and the flame coloured dress wearing seven leaf green gems.

But what's the difference between wearing 42 gems and 52 gems? Or between 121 gems and 1692 gems? Or 12,398 tiny gems?

One army has a thousand men. What if it has 997 men? The opposing force has 1,991 Orcs. What if it just has 'twice as many'?

A table in D&D will only have a certain number of things on it, that is, a certain number of specific things you can interact with. The rest will simply be abstract elements you search through to find the named, specific things.

And of course NPC's in D&D will almost never have long, specific, highly detailed conversations with each other without them finding a way to involve the PC's in that conversation. Though I think that is not to do with natural language as much as it is to do with the nature of the simulator (the DM being a human).

There are a limited number of spaces and shapes as well, especially and particularly shapes you can put characters and people inside of. As with the numbers, a shape can have certain canonical platonic forms and a certain number of edges and corners, but highly irregular multi-edged or organic shapes simply 'fade out' to similes or non-specific generalisations.

Its with shapes, and especially movement through shapes that we get to what I call 'Gross Positioning'.



GROSS POSITIONING

So you are describing a room or a cave or a tower or somewhere else as an adventure site, and you are doing it only with words. No images no maps no sketching, nothing.

What usually happens (to me) is that the space gets blurry and fudgy. After a few rounds of combat or other actions its not quite clear exactly where people are in relation to each other.

The question is not simply one of describing a space as if to one other person over however much time you need, but of describing it into the minds of multiple other people, who are all interpreting it differently and all trying to manipulate and re-interpret it within the context of the game.

A few elements seem to work to stick positioning in peoples minds. Going through these might be helpful both in running imaginary spaces in and in constructing them in your game.



Inside/Outside

People know if they have gone in the room yet, and who has gone in the room. If there is a sub-room, like a box or wardrobe or the curtains of a four-poster bed, or something then they know who is and is not in that. Specifically, its easy for that player to remember and they will remind others, and you, in play, and so form part of the construction of the spatial order.


Closer to the Danger Thing/Treasure

People know if they are closer to fire or a monster or a big scary drop than someone else. That is the thing they don't want. They also know if they are closer to the Treasure or the Way Out than someone else. In a way the 'Closer Than' element is a kind of situational 'micro line' - see 'in a line' below.



Up the Tree/On the Ceiling

People know if they are up the tree, especially if they are hidden in its branches, and they know if they are climbing on the ceiling. They know if they are "strongly above" the standard assumed plane of action for that space.



Climbing Up

"There are only three positions in climing up to somewhere;

- Still in reach of someone/something below.
- Fall and will live.
- Fall and will be hurt.
- There (this is 'Up the Tree', so it's still only three positions)
- (Ok there's also 'fall and die', so its four. But that changes relative to circumstances like player level and magic access.)



Hanging from the Thing

It's usually a chandelier. It's possible this is just a sub-category of 'Up the Tree' but a major difference is the PC's ability to swing and place themselves in a variety of places within the space. We could also classify this as "Access to the Flyn Machine", I did that post about held kinetic energy in old-school battle spaces, which was about how stuff you would see in old swashbuckling movies was very useful in Old School play. So any scenario where there is a rope with a weight, a tippable object or something that can fall or rise, players will known and strongly recall whether they have access to manipulate that.



Down the Pit.

People know if they have fallen down the ten foot hole. Once down the hole there are two main distances;

- Can be reached. This is the best position for a game and probably the reason most holes are 10 feet deep. At this depth you can maybe climb out by yourself, but its slow, but if someone reaches down for you you can almost certainly be pulled out very quickly. The 10 foot hole is a team-building machine

The person in the hole is both seperate from and part of what is going on in the room in a very specific and directly intuitive way. They are vulnerable to some things, saved from other things (like arrow fire and breath weapons) and can be brought back into full play with a simple non-specific action with an easily-comprehensible action cost. They can also be spoken to and communicated with easily.

- Cannot be reached/needs something special. This is sometimes bad design. It takes a PC out of the game space but doesn't put them into their own new game space. All they can do is sit there, watch, listen and think of ways for someone to get the special thing that will get them out. But, like all 'hard', 'bad' or 'boring' things in D&D, it can be very good because it forces the players to really genuinely thing hard and if they can think of something then they get a huge boost of self actualisation and mutual solidarity.




Hidden Behind/Hidden Below.

Usually curtains, wall hangings, treasure, screens, a suit of armour. It's a quality of 'hidden behind' that there is something that could become aware of the PC if they were not hidden, that the hiddeness cannot extend through the whole space but 'locks' them in a small range of positions, that it places restrictions on their behaviour so they don't end the hidden effect.

It doesn't have to be visual. You could be hidden from the Predator vision by ArnoldMud, hidden from the Echolocation by spiky things, hidden from the magic by other specific magical elements.




Tied to the Thing.

People know if they are attached to a thing, or if it is attached to them. If it lets them more or act and how far. They are immediately very invested in finding ways to not be Tied. In that way its a lot like 'Down the Pit'. Tied to the thing is different to Grabbed as its just an object. You can't negotiate with a lock or rope and its usually not going to do new stuff with you.



Grabbed.

The Monster has got you. Tentacles, hands, a rope with a loop. This is often only para-spatial as it only locks people in position relative to the monster. Much has been written on grabby monsters so I will leave that.



In a Line

If there is any situation where PC's have to line up to fit somewhere or do something then they will usually remember where they are in this sequence. The way people do this is interesting. No player needs to remember the whole sequence, all they need to know is who is in front of them and who is behind them.

It's actually a really elegant piece of emergence watching a bunch of people who have forgotten where everyone's imaginary character is, remind each other of where they are in the order of march and essentially re-construct that order even though no particular person had the whole thing in their head.



Swept Away

Someone has fallen in the river and while everyone else fights the Dragon you run a simultaneous scene where they meet Gollum. This is only tangentially related to Gross Positioning since its now a different area. There is a distinct pleasure though in uniting the two areas through some active or living element (an Orc gets knocked out and washed downstream to the cave, the Dragon punches through the wall between the places, Gollum shows you a secret route to the lair where the fight is happening).



So those are some basic elements of Gross Positioning. No doubt more could be said. You can probably work out from that and from natural language something about the kinds of spaces you want your game to peak and arrive in, and especially, if you are running a high-agency, high-improv game, the kinds of spaces and situations you can easily pull out of your ass and which should hopefully work well anyway.


  • Rooms within rooms - curtains, panels.
  • A main plane of action - if there are levels, keep them to maybe three.
  • Downward Verticality - pits, dips, traps, stairs. You are below the main plane.
  • Upward verticallity - ceiling beams, roof tiles, tree branches, balconies.
  • Swingy things.
  • Held Kinetic Energy - have gone over this, the Errol Flyn shit.
  • Hidy Places - piles, pillars, inner walls, things to be under or behind.
  • Grabby Objects - traps but also anything to be tangled in or trapped by.
  • SweepAway Elements - Things that can move you unexpectedly out of the area, and into another, linked or thematic area. You fall through the floor into the Duchesses room, a portal to a nearby hidden room, thrown into a boat, knocked into the Seraligo of blind eunachs etc.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Stuff for Sale

You can grab my copy. I'll put a message in if you like. I'm also selling a bunch of random Maze merch and some original Zak artwork.

My copy of Maze of the Blue Medusa



This fabric map by All Rolled Up

Maze Dice Tray by All Rolled Up



This Zak Smith Artwork 



This, honestly, pretty odd, one of a kind Maze bathroom/wall tile 



Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Wodlands 7 - The Actual Wodlands

1. The Plain of Anaesthetic Fire.
2. The Antigoblin Empire.
3. The Whetstone Ridge.
4. The Painted Plane.
5. The Vermilion Sea.
6. The Large Goblin Collider. 





The Wodlands


A city like a turned-over log where the people scatter like pigeons and the pigeons stalk like wolves, the Wodlands are the tumorous heart of a maddened land. Originally, the nobility built castles and mansions ranged around the Old Throne at the Wodlands Heart, then after the Revolution the Masons raised vast monuments to civil law and reasonable thought. Clear sweeps of pale stone washed around windows of glorious glass and hand-carved columns. Statues to Eternal Reason dotted gardens of imported trees.

With the fall of the Master Mason, and the loss of its hinterland to total reality breakdown, Goblins and invading Chaos Wasps, the Capital has collapsed into absolute economic, cultural, spiritual and psychological ruin. Its concentric highways have become a spiralling maze leading to an empty core, the Old Throne has disappeared, some say ruined or stolen or sunk into the grass like a wrecked ship sinking into liquid earth, but still whole somewhere, passed beyond time, never to return.

Proud buildings covered with faded pentangle and hexagrams, with gilded stairways, lists of revolutionary heroes and idealised figures of justice and reason, have been broken down into warrens of tiny flats. The demi-castles of the old nobility, still spattered with musket and cannon scars, were ruined twice.

The Mansions are full of ruined descendants living in penury, cooking magpies, setting squirrel traps, sometimes eating small Goblins or trying to boil a Meta-Fox. A few still keep one of the old hereditary MegaBadgers as guards, but they have been pulled into underground Badger Brawls.

There are things on fire in the night and shadows move against the flames. There are Goblin ghosts in bottles and bins. Everyone is an addict.

These streets are serious. There is movement behind black windows stacked with rotting paperback books. Overgrown ornamental trees, full of angry birds, loom on the lanes and lean over into the street.

All the birds are angry here. And criminal. Crow Zones are inaccessible hells, Gull Gangs harass those too long in the open. All the pigeons are informers and they are everywhere.

The centre has become the margin and the margins have become the core. The city is accessed via hidden paths, routes through fences and walls. Some doors to ordinary houses are left part-open and those who know can walk in, move thought and climb a chair to a kitchen window. Trash alleys are guarded toll-roads. Hidden trails sneak through sculpture dumping grounds from various ages of monumental pride and censorship. Paint splattered ladders leaning against crumbling brick walls could be part of the thoroughfare.


CROW ZONES

Crows are active in the Crow Zones. They sometimes erect cunning signs stating 'No-Crow Zone', but this is a lie. They are murderous, intelligent and theiveing creatures whose nests are full of golden teeth and forgotten I.O.U's.

A Wodlands crow is an intelligent as a Tax Inspector and can change size at will to be as big as a man or as small as a mouse. They have no sense of right or wrong.


GULL GANGS

The Gulls are, thankfully, really fucking stupid, and cannot change size. They will compulsively harass and attack anyone and anything they like, following them until they escape or are pecked to death.


CRACK SHOPS

Sweatshop powered by cracked-up Goblins and anyone else they can squeeze in. The Wodlands is full of these and they churn endlessly, spewing out high volumes of terrible goods.

The Crack shops are the chief, and only really, remaining economic engine of the Wodlands. They make good things badly and at high volumes. So useful tools, cakes, books, handy items like glasses, everyday household objects, all are made at incredible speed, sold cheap and break within d4 months or hours.

Crack pipes, lockpicks, shanking daggers, voodoo dolls, lava lamps, face masks, gloves, syringes, cheese graters, strappy sandals, fedora hats, granny glasses, graphic Tees, acid, slime, certain cheeses, poisons, political pamphlets, commemorative coins, novelty aprons, pointed shoes, cravats and pleather trousers are all made surprisingly well by specific drugged-out artisans.

Any bad object can be found in the Wodlands markets for a reasonable price. It is the only main reason for coming here.


SHOUTING MATCHES

A street that isn't empty or patrolled by birds or unseen gangs or cleared for a Penny Farthing race will have a shouting match on it. These are either Window to Street arguments or Intra-Street arguments. Window to Street arguments are less likely to break into violence but will go on much longer.

They can also be Window to Window. Beyond that arguments can be either Group on Individual, in which case the Individual will probably end up running for it. Group on Group, in which case a gang fight may be about to break out. Or Individual to Individual, which has a wide range of possible results.

Most arguments are about drugs, money or varied opinions and dissenting views on a complex network of interpersonal relationships and deep emotional connections.

It has been said that if you cannot hear an argument in the next street then you are not in the Wodlands.


GOBLIN PENNY FARTHING GANGS

Goblins have learnt to attach very basic petrol engines to penny-farthing bicycles. The engines don't actually do anything other than produce noise and smoke, Goblin technology is not that good. The weight of them probably slows down the bikes. The bikes do not have breaks.

Goblins to 'supercharge' their penny-farthings with rare chemicals and have extensive competitions and arguments about the best engine and the best adaptations. Although all the supercharging does is to change the noise and the smoke and sometimes explode the engines.

The Bikers lounge around with their sleeves rolled up and are extremely macho about their biking culture. It's not clear if they know or care that the engines don't work, or even if the engines are meant to be working to power the bike.

The interpretation that the engine should be powering the bike may be a purely human construct. It may simply be enough for the Goblins that the Engine be Engine.

The Goblin Bikers make a living dealing and delivering drugs and through various other crimes. The feud for street control and run regular midnight races in which Penny Farthings dash down narrow roads a quarter mile at a time. They are commonly killed through being hit in the face by an Great Horned Owl at high speed in the dark.


GOBLIN GARDENERS

The High Status Gardening Gangs of the Wodlands began as aggressive guilds during the rule of the Theigns, who loved to splash cash on pointless bushes and display-lawns. As the Theigns became more crazed and other aspects of the economy tanked, highly aggressive gardening was one of the few routes to wealth for the working classes and the Guilds became more violent and controlling, launching raids on each others Gardens and sometimes even Composting each other.

After the Revolution the Masons tried to force the culture of Gardening competitiveness into matters of pure display, though they were never entirely successful; the association of Gardening with crime and secret violence had already been made and the Guilds were hard to break.

After the Masons fall, Goblns slowly infiltrated and replaced many of the Guilds, and the few that remained had to match them in violence, cruelty and tricksyness in order to survive.

Sculpted Topiary is a danger sign. A clean garden means you have crossed a line Any area of carefully maintained greenery is the territory of a violent herbaceous gang. The plants and their maintenance of them are a status display. Even entering the area may be considered an offence, especially if you are already associated with another gang. Damaging greenery will be considered an attack.

To not step on the grass.

GOBLIN DOGS

Also, do not go in the grass.

Goblin Dogs are green, long-jawed snaggley-toothed creatures that could easily be deformed hairy Goblins going on all fours. They may be the final evolution of the Goblin form, a strange mutation or a freaky experiment from the Goblin Cube.

The dogs are sneaky carnivores. Though they cannot speak or use tools, their intelligence is roughly double that of a Goblin.


GOBLIN BUBONKONERS

Falcony with Owls.

Most birds of prey will not tolerate a Goblin. Only the Great Horned Owl will stand their presence, it is because they share an unreasonable attitude to life and both have very long claws whose points are so sharp they cannot be easily seen, being mere blurs against the air.

Nevertheless most Goblin Bubonkoners are very badly scarred around the face and brain, even by Goblin standard, and will have fingers missing.

The Bubonkoners come forth in the evening and compete for space with the Drug Dealers, Bikers and Badger Addicts. The noise of these activities always bothers the Owls so the Bubonkoners are obsessive about stopping excess noise. unlike most Goblins they go quietly on rag-padded feet and slide slim knives invisibly into lungs to let out the sounds before they form.

The Bubonkoners are tolerated because the Owls kill Crows, Gulls and Pigeons and so reduce the numbers of Terrible and Harrassing Birds in the Wodlands, something desired by all.


WHO RULES AND HOW


The true lords of the Wodlands can only be communicated by whisper, never out loud. They are the Rumour Rulers and Rumour is their law. Whatever rumour they spread will be believed and come true.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Wodlands 6 - The Large Goblin Collider

1. The Plains of Anaesthetic Fire.
2. The Antigoblin Empire
3. The Whetstone Ridge
4. The Painted Plane
5. The Vermillion Sea



In the yellow plain between the Umber Woods and the Plain of Anaesthetic Fire, and on the path that links the Wodlands to the Vermillion Sea, within sight of palette-coloured banks the Pigment River, is the Cube of the Large Goblin Collider.

The Collider itself is a huge subterranean loop, buried beneath the waving yellow grass. At intermittent periods, the distant vibrations of the supersonic rail, the screams of the rocket pods, the cackling laughter of the High Velocity Goblins and the tuning-fork-bomb-blast air-buzzing implosion of Goblins colliding at high speed directly beneath the Cube, which then incandesces with bright white Pure Goblin Energy, can be heard and felt thrumming through the earth.

All Goblins possess Goblin Genius and to investigate, and exploit the nature of this genius, they built the Collider and the Cube where they smash up Goblins at supersonic speed.
  
The Cube itself is a library, a laboratory, a dada-ist religious site and a nerve centre for the League of United Goblins, the para-reality Goblin Government and overall organising force.

The answer to any Goblin Problem can be found within.

Anyone wishing to effect or alter the Grand Goblin Strategy across All Worlds, must come here, anyone wishing to attack, exploit, evade or corrupt goblins must also come here. All Goblins everywhere are expected to make a pilgrimage to the Cube at least once in their lives, to experiment, or be experimented upon.


THE YELLOW PLAIN


Encounters on the plain involve wandering Goblin Philosophers on their way to the Cube, Goblin subjects, hoping to be experimented on and Goblins with strange mutations and weird powers who have been crapped out by the Cube, which acts like a fucked-up factory for ridiculously random X-Men.

"Roving Dimensional Holes At All Times" warn the faded falling signs. These holes, perhaps created by the Large Goblin Collider, by experiments inside the Cube or just by extra-dimensional Goblins trying to bend space to get here, are a continual threat. They roll or skate wildly across the plain being chased by Goblin scientists with Hole Hooks who bring them back to experiment on, either by shoving Goblins inside them, or by shoving them inside Goblins.



APPROACHING THE CUBE


The Cube is a vast building, poised on its corner. It is white, tiled in cracked glass and ceramic with an off-kilter modernist style. It is lit from within by bright flashes of Goblin Energy.

The area around the Cube is patrolled byGoblin Guards, (new versions and types are spewed out by the Cube every day), and huge near-feral watchtower golems. Surrounding this is the security fence and beyond that are lines to enter and the huge crowd of Goblin pilgrims.

The only legal way for any non-Goblin to enter the Large Goblin Collider is to sneak in, goblin-style. However, if you do succeed in sneaking inside then it will be assumed  that you are meant to be there.

The crowd breaks into two lines, one for Goblin Philosophers, the other for Experimental Goblins. Goblin Philosophers must be able to present a work of  goblin science or advanced goblin thinking that proves their right to enter. Experimental Goblins need only sign a waiver. As soon as Goblins pass the main gate, the two lines merge and mix as if they forgot that they were different.



THE FENCE


The fence is always a random height and made from random materials in each section. It is also an irregular shape if seen from above.

Some parts are like long slender fingers sticking up as if there were huge gracile goblin hands just beneath the ground. Some are made of crumbling concrete sprayed with Goblin graffiti, some parts are collapsing chain link, others are fine green-hued Victorian fretwork with fine cast iron Goblin faces, some thick deadly Goblin hedge, some electrical wire. Some parts are marked with flayed Goblin faces that wink, some are hung with bells or tied up Autistic Goblins that go REEEEEEE if disturbed.

Between the fence and the cube are the huge predatory watchtowers and the varied guards.

The Watchtowers are constructions of black splintery wood. They lumber about on wooden spider legs. At their tops are Goblin lookouts and spotlights whose bulbs are incandescent Goblins fully charged with P.I.G.G.Y - PURE INCANDESCENT GOBLIN GALVANISING YIELD.

The Watchtowers sometimes get confused and attack each other like big animals in the night. The winner will cannibalise parts and get taller. Too tall - eventually the tallest falls over and shatters into smaller watchtowers, or is consumed by the herd.

The guards are varied but may consist of;

- Goblins riding baskets using lighter-than-air hydrocephalic goblins as huge balloons, their bulging eyes turn.
- Goblin Mecha, large copper steam-bots that go AWOOGA and often explode.
- Necro-goblins meditating on huge floating skulls and firing death-energy from their occipital lobes.
- Thieving counter insurgency stealth goblins like Aye-Ayes with long fingers and large eyes.
- Goblins driving a bound Antigoblin as a suicide bomb.
- Goblins hang-gliding on big crows and dropping from above.
- Goblins in spitting biplanes powered by refined P.I.G.G.Y.
- Attack-Goblin cavalry on Penny Farthings with scythes on the wheel hubs - big hussar hats, fur capes and swinging sabres


  

INSIDE THE CUBE


Inside there is a maze of linked and jury-rigged monorails ridden by Goblins in primary colour jumpsuits (crashes are common), and a network of glass tubes. There are Goblins moving in the goblin tubing, the scurrying never stops.

There are paper maps pinned to various places. All are inaccurate, have been moved, are in faded crayon or are not actually of the Goblin Cube. There are also timetables, signposts, directional floor-lines and information desks for which the same is true.

The rooms and layout of the Cube are Borgesian but retarded. Rooms of random size, shape and contents, with random entries and exits. Here Goblins are experimenting and experimented upon. This might include;

- Glass-walled Hannibal Lecter cells full of normal reasonable rational goblins undergoing Psychotherapy.
- Captain America-style transformational radiation machines.
- Goblins putting on a Harold Pinter play but they have disintegration rays and disintegrate each other at random before freezing into an expressionist tableaux.
- Goblins wearing human papier-mache heads in an otherwise normal laboratory.
- Goblins miniaturised and injected into things, then further miniaturised and set to ride beams of green light.
- Goblins with jet stream test area strapping goblins in and testing goblin dynamics.
- Dangerous Goblin surgery taking place. Drugged ocelots being implanted into grateful patient, thumbs up at the end
- Dogs playing an octopus at cards, one Goblin furiously paints the scene, others measure the artists brainwave output with torrents of paper, but the tongues of paper infiltrate the scene, causing the artist to paint them and setting off a cascade response.
- Goblins gathered round a barely controlled pocket universe which rolls around like a big lead ball sucking goblins into it. They push it with carbon rods like curlers.
- Goblin Cybernetic Snail jousts
- Goblins fed into consuming extradimensional spiral like charity coins.


HIGH SECURITY AREAS


THE WAR ROOM

It is here that the meta-strategy for all Goblin Conflicts across all realities is decided. Anyone who can infiltrate this room could conceivably acquire information invaluable to anyone engaged in warfare against Goblins anywhere. They could also possibly alter Goblin strategy, though the effects of this are unpredictable.

A full Ham Scan is required before entry. Visitors must place their buttocks against a glass plate and a green scanning line will check their hams. If their hams are not cleared for entry then special forces Awooga Goblins will emerge in small cars.

There is always fighting in the War Room. The place is divided into different factions based on preferred meta-strategy, tie colour and food sauce preference. Goblins in suits and bejazzled military uniforms battle and besiege each other with sporks, hot coffee and office furniture. The Big Green Screen shows the Universal Goblin disposition and current danger level (at the moment, set to Gob Con Four, the worst being Gob Con One).

 THE TRICK MINT

The primary Goblin currency, the Trick, is minted in the Cube in greenish gold. Not only do they mint the coins, they also set the value of the Trick and decide large scale Goblin economics.

1 Jab = 1 Poke (the currencies are pegged to each other).
88 Jabs = 1 Trick.
97 Tricks = 1 Crime.
56 Crimes = 1 Jab.

The mint is often the target of robbery or financial manipulation, but is defended by a giant invisible hand which sometimes just smashes stuff randomly and by bewigged Goblin Financial Philosophers who gargle coffee and argue constantly about the value of the Trick.

The value itself is set by a pig attached to a complex series of levers, its wanderings have  huge effects on the Goblin Economy across the multiverse. If the value of the Trick should fall then Goblins will have to perform many more Tricks to avoid falling into the legal classes. Should the value of the Trick rise, then a Trick Bubble may take place, with Goblins massively over-investing in highly complex and unstable tricks that never pay off.


MEGAWEAPON DEVELOPMENT

Here, deadly arms are created to use against the next Apocalypse Peach if/when it comes, and also just for fun. These include;

- Bionic Wasps; These go horribly wrong always.
- The Supermurder Cannon; Deadly, but too large to move, also now sentient and paranoid.
- Postmodernism Bomb; Too terrible for even Goblins to contemplate.
- Autism Ray; May have no effect on chaos wasps.
- Mega-Monkey Super-Cyber-Suit; Impossible to control any Goblin that puts it on as they instantly go Mad With Power.
- Engine of Infinite Blades; Theorised to simply be an un-closable portal to the plane of Edge. Now used for dicing by cooking goblins. Blade elementals sometimes escape.
- Ultra-Maggot Cannon; Distressing to use. Should the Ultra-Maggott survive it can hatch into a Mega-Fly.
- Ultra Maggot-Cannon; Similar problem to above but smaller, and on a much wider scale.
- Self-Replicating Peachivorous High Speed Bioweapon; The Goblins have simply reverse-engineered rabbits. They seem unaware that Rabbit already exist and keep these ones under exacting control.
- Fungal Destructor; Has also attained sentience, possibly also possessed, currently barely confined. Is also party leader of Goblin Minority Cordyceps Faction.
- Primordial Annihilator Device; Will definitely destroy the next Apocalypse Peach, will also release Chaos Gods upon unwitting cosmos.


POGRAP

Near the centre is the office of the President of Goblins Representing All Parallels or P.O.G.R.A.P, a Goblin with a head so huge it needs a moving stand to get it around. Few have spoken directly with the POGRAP and their powers and authority are unknown outside the Cube.

THE PIGGY

Finally, at the centre, or bottom, or somewhere hard to reach, is the Large Goblin Collider itself, where PURE INCANSECENT GOBLIN GALVINISING YEILD - or P.I.G.G.Y is studied and released. Or perhaps the PIGGY itself is studying the Goblins.

The PIGGY forms balls of Gremlinish electro-stuff that arcs across the cosmos. Wherever it grounds itself Goblin anima is released and integrated into the environment creating cascades of Active Mischiefons and Cackle Waves.


Inanimate objects can be imbued with Goblinish sentience, if it arcs into a living thing (like the PC's) it can auto-generate goblinism up inside them, allowing them to ignore the rules of the game if they do bad things. Of course they must then perform more Goblinsh actions or the effects will swing back upon them, producing a spiral of Goblin chaos.