Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Wodlands 9 - The incoherent Isles

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 Collider.
7. The Wodlands.
8. The Necropolis of Glass.


One legend says the first Incoherent Isle was driven in from the Reach in the worlds greatest storm, lodged upriver of the Imaginary City (then just an illusory town) and grew, multiplying like a cell.

If this is true, whatever made the Isles may still be burrowing deep into the skin of reality at their centre.

The Reach itself is lilac, changing to deep purple out where the high waves endlessly turn. Such is it's nature that no organised polity, no civilisation, may successfully cross. Or if they do, they do not come back. Only savages in oceanic canoes can reach the mythical Dark Continent on the other side, and even that may be a lie.


The Isles are know for several things; they are blurred, and will not resolve their form, as are all things that spring from them, they merge and change, splitting into multiples and combining several into one, from them spring the terrible Singing Raiders in their bearskin cloaks and sealskin shoes, wielding their terrible tines, and they are cold, much colder than the surrounding lands.

They are cold because they are of infinite number. In a manner much like the City of Infinite Ruin, the space inside the Incoherent Isles grows larger the deeper one goes within. They can be circled in a day and a half, to cross them along an axis dividing their centre would take infinite time.

The outer isles are cold, covered with forests, home to bears, beavers, wolves and the Singing Tribes. The seas within are ripe with nutrients, supporting pods of Orca and, though this is mythic, huge semi-aquatic wolves.

Those few who have penetrated deep into the isles and returned say eventually the water becomes utterly flat and still, refusing to accept even a ripple, and that its temperature sinks below freezing, though it remains liquid. Mists cover all, except at night when the surface like sheer glass reflects the cloudless night sky. The stars are not blurred.


The people of the Imaginary City, and others on the coast of the Wodlands, and beyond, have long feared and hated the Singing Tribes. Though direct attacks have been rare, those few that have taken place left deep scars.

The terror of the Blurred Raiders, arriving at will in morning or gloom, evading every defence, merging and emerging from shadows, walls, trees or gusts of leaves, their faces and bodies blurred as if out of focus so their identity can never be known, and singing, singing and chanting all the while, is great.

Despite this, the Imaginary city maintains reasonable relations with many of the outer tribes, as much as is possible before they merge or separate into something new. The majority of the Tribes are not excessively violent, such groups are in the minority and usually come from deeper within the Isles. And those that are violent almost always aim for the Dark Continent beyond the reach, to steal and worship its idols. Only when this fails or circumstance thwarts them do they haunt the coast of the Wodlands.

So the Imaginary City tolerates the blurred oceanic canoes slipping past it in the night, out into the reach, and the fleets of pods of blurred Orca that make navigation of that span almost impossible. Because the alternative is worse. And because they probably couldn't stop it anyway as the tribes would blur through any fortification. (The huge paired cracked lenses on opposite sides of the river illustrate the last, failed, attempt to shut down the strait.)

That said, they do license Lens Hunters to chase down offending tribes. These focusing witchunter types carry huge lenses of rock crystal glass or gemstone on the front of their boats. They go into the Incoherent Isles and peer at people, bringing them into focus and, in the eyes of the natives at least, robbing them of their un-identity. Specifying them.

The Lens Hunters have as dark a reputation inside the Isles as the Singing Raiders do out of it. And so the two peoples are locked together in passive and intermittent cultural conflict.

As well as that, the City, and others, will license, aid or allow mercenaries 'Adventurers', 'explores' and just straight up thieves to go into the Isles, sometimes as punitive expeditions against specific Orca pods that have blurred into the cities cheaper districts and eaten people (the Orca are intelligent and politicised enough that they can reasonably be threatened as a political entity and often the species will give up criminal individuals or groups to avoid an armed response), or simply to get into the Singing Tribes and gain their treasures honey or amber, to steal an Idol from the Dark Continent (a feat never before achieved) or to speak to the wise animals in the isles and gain access to the three worlds, but more of those later.


As we have said. The isles are cold, mountainous and thick with forests. Wolves swim between them (if they can avoid the Orca), salmon fill the streams, black bears are common, hawks of many kinds mount the air above.

Everything is blurred, as if it were far away or seen through a poorly adjusted lens or an old mans eyes. Nothing ever comes entirely into focus at any time.

The Isles are known to shift, blurring together or blurring apart. When two Isles merge their identity, geography, population and, to some extent, history, merge and become one. A new whole carrying traces of both but with an new entire identity.

Likewise they break apart, separating into two new islands, each being a more pure or refined expression of some element of the first.

They break and join like bacteria in a dish, though over years, sometimes invisibly, sometimes very rapidly.

There are roughly a hundred small isles around the outer circumference. Though this does shift over time. About half are permanently populated. The Isles are said to become larger deeper into the area, as more space becomes available, eventually becoming uninhabitable due to the permanent cold.


They learn their song from birth as, since everyone is blurred, it is useful in creating, sustaining and expressing their identity.

In the Isles identity is a matter up for question. No-one has a defined face, just a voice, general features and a bearing. The borders between things are indistinct.

Adults are often not singing but this simply means they have learnt to sing the song inside their heads, without their actual voice, freeing it for more direct speech. Almost all the tribespeople are continually singing their own identity within their own minds.

The tribes tend to be highly individualist and dedicate much of their time to performing notable actions and developing a complex voice/behaviour matrix (though they differ even in this). In the Isles, indistinct people can fade away, literally. Status is accorded to those with most 'identity' as perceived through their voice, bearing, behaviours and actions.

(Though, even this may merely be 'status' as seen by outsiders. Those accorded 'chiefs' may in fact be 'ambassadors', those most fit to communicate with the unblurred. Real power may lie elsewhere, or nowhere.


Effectively, any resident of the Isles can 'blur' themselves into their immediate environment, merging with it, replicating and becoming one, all at the same time. Swapping and sharing identity with local objects and phenomena. Not all master this but many do.

This can be used for travel, blurring into one point at blurring out at another, disguise, religious or personally desired transformation, and most often for hunting.

Since its very hard to do detailed visual work in the Isles, as nothing will cohere. Most tools and crafts are done by touch with the eyes closed. 'Blind' thinking is considered detailed thinking in the Isle and they do not use visual metaphors to describe detailed thought or action.

They hunt by smell and scheme, touch and blur. The tines of their hunting tridents or spears are set at specific distances to match the probability wavelengths of their expected prey.

Of course a hunter must learn to sing within themselves first.

Wars make no use of ranged weapons. Large hardwood polearms, spears, whaletooth knives and weighted nets are employed. Though, for the most part, the Isles are a peaceful land, relatively speaking. Many who find themselves visually disadvantaged or simply disliking their identity, have run away to the Isles over the years.

In many tribes individuals share their identity matrix with their immediate or most commonly inhabited environment. You are not assumed to be an entirely separate identity or object. You can be held responsible for the actions of someone who shares your voice, or for the actions or inactions of objects or processes that have become part of your identity though interaction and common knowledge.

So you could be rewarded or punished, in a deodand-like fashion, for the fall of a tree, a tide, a canoe sinking or doing well or other like events. So people try hard to avoid 'guilty' objects, places or phenomena so they are not associated with them.

When Isles merge or sperate, their populations merge and separate too, producing new identities, individuals and cultures. This means leaving your home isle can be dangerous since you may return to find it separated into extreme versions of its former qualities, or merged with another isle into a gestalt entity.

There are special words in the isles for the grief of having been merged, now being only a part of a new whole, the grief of being separated and finding yourself now only part of what you once were, of returning to find your former culture, family and friends merged or unmerged an  for the pain of identity dysphoria, merged into a new thing but in an uncomfortable way.

Strange merging can produce very 'bright' isles with positive heroic imperialistic domineering cultures and 'dark' isles with introverted gloomy, creepy abducty fey cultures.

Dominant personalities, mission-givers and mission targets can shift back and forth.

The tribes are skilled with rope work and grass and branch weaving. Some weave villages all summer, live in them through winter and burn them in the spring. Some have huge tents from giant wolfskins the size of houses, log palaces, treehouses or homes in root caves, sea caves or pine riddles.

The natures of tribes can flux depending on merges or more prosaic cultural shifts.

Strange intense religion/Materialistic
Division of Labour w Specialist/Generalists
Cultural Chauvinists/ Early culture adopters
Dark Aesthetic/Joyful Open Aesthetic
Wierd Shaman or Priest Class/Folk Rituals
Tabu-obsessed/Almost Thoughtless
high testosterone hunting of charismatic megabeasts/low risk-reward practical farming and gathering

Most tribal leaders (or 'ambassadors'? or low-status 'outer-speakers'?) have highly specific speech/behaviour matrixes;

Highly-Specific Stutter
Uncomfortably Close
Looping Tones
Weaves back and forth
Primal Lisp
Strikes Self
Grinding Teeth
Strange Breath Sounds
Everything a question?
Fey stance
Asthmatic Wheeze
Domineering Presence
Nasal Accusations
Whirls arms
Gurgling Chuckles
Sits like an egg
Nervous Titter
Overtalks all replies
Guttural 'k's
Jabs the Air
Oblique replies
Gestures with chin
Chattering teeth
Falls Over
Hoots their O's
Unnaturally Still
Affectless Voice
Stokes Everything Twice
Smacks Tongue
Hands like Birds
Indraws though closed teeth
Barges and Slumps
Deep Sighs
Strident Blare
Pours like Liquid
Keeps Mouth Closed
Seems Dead

Many tribes will 'keep' a good chief or leader around after their death or disappearance by having a suitable individual adopt their behaviours if possible. If you freakishly have those behaviours they may try to get you to stay (or abduct you).


In the forests are Pine Riddles - half real mazes of pine trees with houses in the centre made of amber. There can be found amberised golden bugs and ancient insect saints which can be used as powerful magical re-agents and holy cures, reality-amending 1-use grails. Some come to quest for these.

The Isles have some 'natural' treasures, blurred bearskins, whale teeth, furs, honey, hardwoods etc. Though the Singing Tribes rarely concentrate wealth.

The Idols of the Dark Continent are kept by many tribes in black guarded sacred tents or caves, and worshipped, sometimes absorbing the numinous powers with which they are declaimed, or perhaps already possessing them.

No-one from outside the isles has ever even seen one of the Idols and one has never been retrieved for study. Since they are the only evidence known for certain to come from that place which can be examined, many desire them.

Otherwise, wisdom can be sought in the Isles. Many of the animals are intelligent and capable of speech. The oldest and wisest of those may offer answers and advice if trapped, or if some boon is done for them.

Most specifically, certain animals can give access to the Three Worlds. Alter-realities that express some aspect of our own in purified form and in which strange treasures can be found.

THE SKY can be found across a Gulls Wing. It is a world of endless white bridges, leading into further bridges upon bridges. Cold and windy, bridges lacing through cumulo nimbus.

The birds rule there as Nomad Kings and the longest-flying, the Terns and Geese, are the most powerful, though all fear the shining Falcon.

The treasures of the sky are lightning bars, coins like snowflakes and necklaces like storms.

THE EARTH can be found by curling up as small as a bug and falling into a maze of roots. It is the belfries and arches of a wood-dark cathedral whose nave and floor you cannot see - but you can feel somewhere down there in the dark. It is very warm and cozy, there is constant movement. There is no 'outside' the cathedral.

There live Worm Priests, armoured Pill Bugs and the Terrible Centipede. It's treasures are blades like leaves of stone, gem animals that give sovereignty over different species and THE SILVER ROOT.

THE RIVER is a stairway of stairways - sometimes steep and narrow, and bright white, sometimes large, brown, wide and shallow. There is nothing beyond the stair, simply nothing. It's easy to go down, hard to go back up and slippery - if you fall you will slide down. But its easier to see up than down what is above you is known, what is about you is uncertain.

There are many creatures on the stairs, friendly leeches, caddis flies and the enormous dragon-pike. It's treasures are silver scales, coins of bone and white horses.


  1. This is wondrous! Thank you very much!

  2. I love this stuff so much! I think I will try to put bits and pieces of it into my home campaign. The Wodlands taken as a whole seems like it would be challenging to run because everything is so weird all the time, there is no point of normality from which the PCs can begin.