At the ends of the understood earth, trapped between contending seas, crazed with fractured realities and bathed in the glow of a mad satellite, itself reflecting light from unreal suns hidden in the shadow of the night, lie the lands of the Gackling Moon.
Guarded from the North by the Plains of Anaesthetic Fire, the fierce Whetstone Ridge and the unnerving para-reality of the Painted Plain, from the West by the Vermillion Sea, the flower-strewn surface of which borders on a murderous otherwold of mad red light, and from the East by the surging seas of the Reach, an ocean whos opposite waves tickle the beaches of the ever-mythical Dark Continent, the Lands of the Moonlands are not an easy place to reach.
Yet some do find their way there, for this realm of cracked realities is the origin of rare resources and secret wisdom. From the strange drugs of the Asbestos Bedouin to the magical apples of the Whetstone Ridge, the fictional weapons of the Picts of the Painted Plain, to the secrets of the Great Goblin Market in the Necropolis of Glass, to Narcissolis, the ever-shifting city at its centre, the Moonlands hold treasures and secrets of such rare and inexpressible strangeness that in any other place, possession of the smallest of them may draw the eye, burnish reputations and summon awe.
For all their deep differences and continual conflicts, those who populate these lands are united by two things. Firstly; absolute terror of the Apocalypse Wasps; nightmarish invaders from the Red World beneath and beyond the Vermillion Sea, who despise all life and wish to lay eggs in everyone. And secondly, their shared experience of the light of the Gackling Moon; for the orb which rolls over these lands in the night is of no ordinary kind, and such is the enchantment in its light that all beneath its grin must keep care of their calendar, for to leave shelter on a cloudless night, without noting the face of the moon, can summon doom.
Doom, or adventure.
The Gackling Moon Itself
A smashed moon for a smashed land, crazed and cratered like a pale cracked mirror in the sky, a blind, moaning moon with a broken face. Such is the shape of the Gackling Moon.
Legends, myths and imagined origins abound, but the most commonly accepted theory of its nature is that each cracked fragment of the face of the Gackling Moon reflects upon the world, the light of a differing sun.
And each mosaick’d slice does glow with a different hue, so that the Full Mad Face of the Gackling Moon is a tatterdemalion chequerboard of gash-bright light from incomprehensible stars.
Each wavelength of eldritch light carries with it a little of the power and strangeness of the reality from which it shines. The moon is mirror to a range of cosmic lamps, and in their light, the physics, logic and reality so illuminated must match and balance that of the emitting sun.
These lights have magical properties, each different, and all comprehensively intermixed and blended in the face of the Gackling Moon.
As the shadow of the real cuts slowly over the smile of the Gackling Moon, day by day and week by week, revealing and disguising more or less each night, the balance and composition of the unreal light shifts and alters, different colours matching, mixing, conflicting and combining as the month drifts by.
Though the moon is crazed, the arrangement of its fragments does not change, and so the people of the Moonlands know at least one clear moon-boon; the cycles of its witch-light are predictable and known, and the effects of each face of the Gackling Moon are understood and accounted for by all who live beneath its glow.
Even in madness, there is law. The following rules always apply to the light of the Gackling Moon unless specifically stated otherwise.
· The magical effects of the moon count only in direct moonlight.
· Moon Effects last only as long as moonlight shines directly upon the effected being.
· Moon Effects only work at night. They end at dawn. The moon is sometimes visible in the sky by day, this moon has no magical properties.
· Depending on the weather, clouds may occlude the moon. This can be decided by the DM but for a random decision try this method;
First hour of moonlight – roll a D6
1-2 Full cloud cover.
3-4 Clouds scud across the face of the moon.
5-6 The moon is fully visible.
Every subsequent hour the cloud cover has a one-third chance of changing.
· The population of the lands of the Gackling Moon are familiar with its many faces and know what it’s various powers can do.
The simplest response to potentially dangerous moonlight is to stay indoors or hide beneath shade. Other, more complex responses will be discussed either in the description for that particular face of the moon or in reference to individual cultures and populations.
Phases of the Gackling Moon
1. A Fine Gackling Moon
Perhaps not the worst moon, but certainly the most powerful and most feared
The full, mad face of the Fine Gackling Moon is entirely visible, staring down at reality with its wild eyes and crooked smile, its face a mosaic of reflected sunlight from alien realms.
The colour of its light is an indescribable nullfire which veils all beneath it with the texture of a dream
One - Anyone looking directly into the face of the Fine Gackling Moon will go quite mad and not know who they are for as long is its light shines.
Two - Anyone in direct moonlight can change shape with nothing more than a silent thought.
· Women can change into Animals.
· Men into Stones.
· Murderers into weapons.
· Goblins into animals, humans, objects or plants.
· Animals into Humans.
· And Children into Goblins.
If the transformed individual forgets who or what they are, or is not in daylight as the sun rises the transformation can become permanent, at least until the next Fine Gackling Moon.
Three - The Fine Gackling Moon will grant each individual a single wish, once in their life.
· The effects of this wish are limited, usually it involves the moon moving something under its purview around. Often after changing its shape.
· To wish you must look directly at the Fine Gackling Moon, meaning you will lose your identity and go mad.
· These wishes go horribly wrong.
Being a time of madness and transformation, almost all sane cultures, and even Goblins, obsessively avoid the light of this moon, even if the sky is overcast. The danger of being caught in its light and of seeing its face is simply too great.
Three simple rules are beaten into every sane brain in the land;
1. Never go out in a Gackling Moon.
2. Never look at a Gackling Moon.
3. And never, ever, wish on a Gackling Moon.
However, nothing is ever simple, and mistakes, emergencies, desperation or malice can lead to moon-exposure and its results.
If a family or community member goes missing during a Fine Gackling Moon, then any altered, extra or eldritch items are sought out in the day and guarded so they might be restored.
Men and Murderers can be easily located, being stone and weapons, each incapable of individual movement.
Women can be hard to find in animal form, and children extremely hard to find in Goblin form.
And almost anything or anyone new to a community encountered after a Gackling Moon may be a transformed Goblin.
· A family looking for help moving and guarding a strange stone which they say is a relative, they want to place it somewhere where it will see the sun coming up
· A family, village or Kin-group likewise worried about a common animal they think is their wife, mother or grandmother.
· The discovery of a ‘Moon Blade’. These transformed murderers always have magical or remarkable powers and possession and use of them always leads to discord, horror and strife.
· The discovery of a Moon Blade indicating someone in the village is a murderer.
· A culture group taking radical action in forcing someone to transform under a Gackling Moon to prove they are not a murderer.
· Someone falling in love only to discover that the object of their affection is a transformed Goblin or Animal, and perhaps attempting to make sure this is undiscovered and they do not turn back.
· A family having to control and take care of a Goblin who they say (and hope) is their transformed child.
· Moon-Ruin, the results of someone wishing on a Gackling Moon leading to people and places being swept up into the air and re-distributed, people and things being transformed in strange ways, outbreaks of particular madness and delusion and all manner of other strangeness.
· Someone depressed, angry or alienated actually wants to forget themselves and transform into something else, permanently. In the case of a self-assured adult it can be hard to work out if this is something you should try to stop or not.
Everyone sighs in relief when a Gackling Moon finally occludes into the by-comparison, quite safe and sane, Painted Moon.
2. A Painted Moon
The Painted Moon is a mosaic of glimmering colours like the fragments of a gem catching light.
Images seem to dance through the air like a procession of bright people winding their way through the air, or like fireflies travelling up, up, up to the surface of the Painted Moon.
One - For those who sleep directly in the light of this moon, their dreams will either migrate, (5 in 6 chance) or, more rarely, become active and tangible illusions around them. (1 in 6 chance).
Migrated Dreams; those who experience this swap dreams with someone else nearby having roughly the same dream.
Embodied Dreams; those who experience this have their dreams become visible around them, like a projected image.
The only significant physical danger from such Embodied Dreams is if very powerful or very scared people have nightmares, they can effectively act as monsters.
If Magic-Users have spells memorised while they dream beneath a Painted Moon, these will become active as fully-mobile independent beings with forms and intentions shaped by their natures.
In any case, waking the individual, or any absence of moonlight, ends the effect immediately.
Almost all of the dangers of a Painted Moon can be avoided by simply not sleeping under its light, and for those witnessing potentially dangerous embodied dreams, any possible threat can be escaped with nothing more than a moon-shade, or by waiting for day.
The main dangers of a Painted Moon are social and psychological. At times, the inadvertent swapping or sharing of dreams between community members can cause social ructions.
· A pair of young lovers setting out to sleep under a Painted Moon in the hopes that they will swap dreams.
· An argument or fight between people due to information they think they received while experiencing someone else’s dream (i.e. someone does/does not love their spouse, is lying about something, is subconsciously into some freaky stuff etc).
· A monster or dangerous situation which has sprung up around an unaware sleeper, and which may not be immediately obvious as a dreamed illusion.
· An encounter with a ‘living spell’ sprung from the mind of a sleeping Mage, the spell has its own personality and knows it will only ‘live’ for a short time, this can make them quite capricious (though not necessarily evil). They may not reveal what they are.
· A group of edgy young men setting out to sleep under the light of a Painted Moon because it’s very-slightly somewhat dangerous and boundary breaking.
3. A Sorrowing Moon
This sad moon casts all beneath it in a sombre pall. All colours fade, the silver of the moonlight turns to grey.
Black pools of shadow hang from eves and branches like fuliginous cloaks.
This moon presents no physical threats and at least one great advantage. Nevertheless its extremely melancholic glow makes it a significant danger for those suffering loss, or of a naturally gloomy temperament.
One - In the light of a Sorrowing Moon, all become deeply sad. Grief can be dangerously intense
Two - It is impossible to joke or laugh beneath its light.
Three - Once you start crying it can be impossible to stop.
Even Goblins are made sombre by this moon. Unable to have fun they just trudge in endless circles in the night or break into peoples homes to clean them, do their accounts and weed the garden. Goblins hate this moon.
Four - This moon gifts animals in its light intelligence and speech. However, only the nocturnal ones are active and all of the animals are saddened by the cruelty of nature and their own brief awareness of it so they either sit there weeping or just cry in their sleep.
The chief dangers of the Sorrowing Moon are psychological. Anyone suffering grief or depression is strongly urged not to go out in a Sorrowing Moon, as they may be stricken with terminal gloom.
Likewise, sensitive carnivores are advised not to go beneath its light as witnessing the sadness of the animals may turn them into vegans.
Children are kept out of this moon as hearing farm animals cry in the night, and witnessing them form words and make statements in dreams or sad nightmares can be disturbing for them.
This can be a good time to question animals, if they are thought to possess needed information, though talking through their tiredness and sadness can be tiresome.
Conversely, a Sorrowing Moon is a great time to escape, confound, oppose or defy Goblins as any under its light will be stricken with a mental heaviness and lose utterly their maniacal genius and deranged courage.
· Investigators tracing a crime systemically drag every animal in a village into the moonlight and interrogate it, but are gradually worn down by the consuming sorrows of the beasts.
· Dumb kids decide to fuck with some Goblins by hurling school homework at them in the night, adults who realise the Goblins will take revenge under the coming Ruinous moon try to stop them.
· The weeping and wailing of farm animals disturbs as you pass in the night.
· A favourite pet or animal has quite a lot to say, and is extremely depressed.
· Suicide watch by the home of a grieving widower are themselves crying.
· Weeping housewife watched glum Goblins skilfully but gloomily tend to her pumpkins in the night.
4. A Ruinous Moon
A classic silvery-white moonlight with a tinge of sapphire-blue. Slightly brighter and more directional than ‘average’ moonlight
Shadows are depthless pools.
One - Under this moon the ghosts of those slain by mortal hands seek out their killer.
Depending on the strength of the personality behind the Ghost, may simply follow them accusing them of the crime, or may pursue more direct vengance.
Two - Shadows cast by the light of this moon sometimes rebel against their caster if offended.
They escape and run away into a great Parliament of Shadows. If you can find this Parliament it can lift curses, deliver knowledge or amend mistakes.
A moon of revenge and the accounting of old wrongs, where many lose their shadows and others are harrowed by ghosts. Still, a Ruinous Moon is not particularly dangerous for most people, providing they treat their shadows kindly, and are not killers.
Criminals, murderers, but also soldiers and executioners, will all try to avoid this moon. As will anyone who has ever killed a Wizard or Magic-User.
The possibility of exposing a murderer or discovering the Parliament of Shadows provokes certain groups and people to undertake unusual actions in the light of this moon.
· A legal trial held out in the open, beneath moonlight. If the accused is guilty, the ghost of their victim will arrive to accuse them.
· Knights or adventurers in combat with their own shadows after offending them.
· A potent warrior trapped beneath shade by fear of the numerous ghosts who will seek them out should they step out under the light of the Ruinous Moon.
· A battle between the ghost of a Wizard and their killers, who foolishly let themselves be caught under moonlight.
· A pilgrim or group of adventurers who seek the Parliament of Shadows, either to regain their own shadows or to solve some irresolvable mystery or danger.
· The Parliament of Shadows itself.
5. A New Moon
Joy to the world the New Moon is here!
Here are the safest and most secure handful of nights in all the lands of the Gackling Moon. With the moons face totally occluded, there are no magical effects or strange lunar dangers at all.
Many settlements have night-festivals to mark this time of the month in which all the citizens, who might otherwise have some reason to avoid the moonlight, walk about beneath the light of the stars without fear or restraint.
Night markets and late openings are common for these few eves.
Yet all make ready and prepare for perhaps the worst moon of all, which comes soon….
6. A Wasp Moon
The light of the Wasp Moon is a virulent, violent red that washes over bodies like crimson ink and stains reality like a charnel house.
The Red Wasp Moon breeds, and feeds on, anger, resentment and wrath. Under its light people become their red, wounded selves, all of the harms of their life visible as vivid flesh hacks and raw damage.
One - Meat rots in the red light and births red flies which swarm in the night.
Two - Hatred breathes out like a caustic gas which cuts like a knife.
Three - Bad thoughts squirm like red eggs under the skin, then burst like buboes, releasing the poisonous red wasps of wrath.
These wasps buzz with a high-pitched keening sound like blades on glass, they are aggressive and their sting is painful to the point of being disabling. The pain only dies with dawn.
Four - Those who swear an oath of vengeance to this moon grow buzzing wasp wings which burst from wounds in their back and carry them towards the object of their hate at incredible speed.
More even than the Gackling Moon, this is an orb to be avoided at all costs. All pray for clouds to cover this most poisonous selene. Since this moon is of aid only by those who wish to do harm, and since it shows all under it in the most terrible light, travel under it is abjured, regardless of circumstance.
Culturally, it’s considered reasonable to miss any appointment or meeting, to avoid any duty or to break any oath or promise, if to meet or fulfil them requires that you walk under a Wasp Moon.
Doors and windows are locked. Children are terrorised by tales to be sure they do not leave the house.
Cursed are those who choose openly to walk under the Wasp Moon. They are villains all.
· A wrath-filled wanderer squats like a rank encrusted hive of hate, spitting out wasps.
· Dark towns and empty villages with every door and window battened tight and all valued animals under shade. Few doors will open, regardless of the circumstance.
· Evil men walking freely beneath the Red Moon like grinning flensed corpses, followed by swarms of their own bad thoughts.
· The terrible buzz of wings in the night air and a hated enemy left behind long ago swoops upon you in a moment.
· The bodies of friends caught in the Wasp Moon by mistake, who’s argument turned to horror, their thoughts bursting from them as flies and their breath slicing each other like knives.
· Bodies in the red light, impossible to tell if corpses or sleeping men.
7. A Goblin Moon
The Goblin Moon is a crazy facepunching GREEEEEEN.
Moving bodies to hop and skip. Faces look like carnival masks. The green of leaves, grasses, and goblin faces, grows pale. Those which match exactly the light of the moon look white.
Shadows are a dusky, dusty red.
One - Lies are always believed.
Two - Locks don't work.
Three - The strong cannot restrain those weaker than themselves with bonds or chains.
Four - It’s easy to hide in the shadows cast from this moon if you are hiding from someone specifically looking for you.
Five - One anyone laughs, it takes serious effort for them to stop. Weak or distracted people can die laughing, so can Goblins.
While the Goblin Moon is a troublesome one, people usually view it with a degree of resignation. As bad as Goblins are, they are mainly into theft, chaos and mischief, rather than murder and death. At least it’s not the Wasp Moon.
This Moon massively encourages thieves and most settlements have curfews, nearly as serious as those for the Wasp Moon, to prevent anyone from walking abroad under it.
Unlike the Wasp Moon, this curfew is actually policed by MoonCops, out looking for Goblins and other nere-do-wells. (and usually not finding them, but at least it’s something.)
Wealthy homeowners often have secondary doors on their houses, built inside, beneath the eaves, out of the light of the Moon, so they can actually be locked. Poorer families often team up and sleep in each others houses to keep watch.
Particularly useful for this are children as, being weaker than a Goblin, and most thieves, they cannot be restrained and can therefore warn their family if they sense anything awry.
Many children are bribed to stay up all night over a Goblin Moon, and many of the caffeine addicts of this land can date their preferences to heady, adventuresome nights beneath the Goblin Moon.
· Goblins creeping in the shadows.
· MoonCops stalking, poking shadows with poking sticks, running after Goblins both real and unreal.
· Goblins stealing trash to build a giant ladder in a crazed desire to reach the Goblin Moon.
· Caffeinated children running about screaming dirty jokes at empty corners. Goblins have a terrible sense of humour so making them laugh, and keep laughing is a key way to force them to expose themselves.
· Goblins flying about on the back of huge owls, causing trouble.
· Goblins poking people with sticks for fun.
· Goblins paired up on each others shoulders, wearing long coats, pretending to be MoonCops as part of some insane scam.
· Goblins building giant lunar capacitors to store the energy of the Goblin Moon in special glass vials.
8. A Forgotten Moon
A glistering crystalline gleam highlights every edge. The air hums with a kind of static energy. Jewels and the edges of blades sparkle.
Shadows are a lambent blue, like lantern-lit velvet.
Moths fill the air like stars and land like snowfields in its light. Huge moths seems to orbit around the moon itself. Storms and high winds blow them away like hurricanes of tumbling leaves but they always return.
One - Any secret whispered under the light of a Forgotten Moon will be overheard by a moth. The moth will then carry this secret to another and whisper it into their ear.
Two - Those who sacrifice an Owl to the Forgotten moon may summon one of the huge, Moon-Circling Moths from the upper air. This Moth will carry them to any place beneath the moons light where they have already been
Three - Rumours say that, very occasionally, a large moth will arrive from the deep past and whisper into an ear, requesting a single drop of blood. If this is given, they will relate a secret from ancient history.
Obviously, a Forgotten Moon is a bad time to conspire, as any secret could easily escape. Because of this, in many cultures, some rituals, contracts and agreements can only take place under a Forgotten Moon.
The ease of transport via giant moth means people are accustomed to both receiving visitors from their past, and to visiting old places known to them, during these nights.
But sometimes dark things live in the past as well and the Moths of the Forgotten Moon can both deliver, and bring people to, black forgotten fates.
Most actual conspirators are careful not to speak secrets under the Forgotten Moon and the majority of secrets lost and found are those of children. But, people being what they are, you never know…
· A Moon Marriage taking place beneath the Forgotten Moon.
· A village full of people; distant family members are visiting each other.
· An empty village where almost everyone has gone of to visit somewhere else.
· The return of a long-thought-lost son or daughter has erupted into social drama.
· Someone claims to have received a secret from the ancient past and is looking for help in exploiting it.
· A dark secret heard by a child leaves a village in uproar as everyone tries to work out who’s it is.
With the end of the Forgotten Moon, we return again to the Fine Gackling Moon as the cycle of the month repeats.