Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Letters from Ir - The Beginning

Inspired by Jon Petersons 'Playing at the World' and in particular the stories of Proto-Roleplaying/Wargaming in the U.K. in the 70's, and by reading (listening to really) Churchills 'Marlborough', for the last few months I have been trying to run a kind of letter-writing, RPG/Strategy game.

Basic idea is this - 

Every player gets a chunk of the map, invents a nation and a ruler, generates a power level (which they do not disclose to other players), and assigns points from that power level to armies, individuals etc.

Players write orders to their assigned agents by writing, in character, to me. They can send one envelope per month but include as many orders as they like.

They can also write as many letters to each other as they like (in character, as rulers).

They are not meant to chat online to each other or do political stuff (on the Discord at least, I can't really stop them if they do it secretly.

Each month, towards the end of the month, I work out the results of all the Rulers orders and write back to them, in character, describing what happened - and OH MY GOD ITS DENSE.

And I could do a whole post on the evolution of my questionable rules for this.

So things proceed, month by month, with the history of Ir and the interactions of the various nations.

Ir as of today

To make diagetic sense of the existence of these nations who essentially had little or no contact before October (Month of the Time-God 'Oct') 2019, but who still know enough about each other to write letters, I created a quasi sci-fi origin story which links them in somewhat to the Esh/Uud metaverse.

Here's the original background text;


The planet, or plane you are on used to be part of a trans-dimensional super-empire. This might be where all the different races and peoples of your biome came from.

About a thousand years ago [EDIT - is not 2two thousand an nineteen years], something went wrong and the giant intra-dimensional portal that connected your world, or realm, to this great commonwealth, was closed.

The Optimate, a kind of super-wizard meant to be in-charge of keeping your realm stable, or at least coherent, and safe from creepy interdimensional predatory elements, gave vague or unclear reasons for this. 

The Optimate evolved into a kind of world-ruler. They used their powers to keep all the nations, cultures and races stable, and somewhat separate. Individuals are allowed to move around, but only members of the upper classes. A kind of passport system was used, so the educated rulers have knowledge of each other but there were no mass movements of population. And the Optimate used their powers, and the remains of the Trans-Dimensional Government they headed, as a kind of 'nuclear option' which prevented anyone from amassing armies, invading each other, challenging their rule, or putting together magical or technological forces that might challenge them. The general opinion of thinkers was that, separated from their interdimensional culture and not knowing what else to do, the Optimate essentially tried to set the planetary/realm culture into 'survival mode' and to keep it stable and alive for as long as possible, and that meant tamping down on innovation of most kinds.

Over the millennia the forces of the Optimate have been gradually lessening, generation upon generation, so slowly that really only historians believed it was happening. They haven't been seen, and nothing has been heard of them for fifty years, and the previous messages indicated some kind of sickness. You don't even know if there is only one Optimate, or if its a generational thing or a cult, or what. You just know whenever anyone tries to put together military forces or magical forces above a certain (proportionate and deliberately-unclear) threshold, they get whacked by super-magic, and no-one has done it for 200 years.

Your rulers and cultures may well have very partial and very vague ideas about most of this. Its not like they necessarily know what a ‘dimension’ is, or even that the Optimate was a kind of Magic-User. For most of them its as if the world was ruled by a kind of very bureaucratic, distant, but very material demigod. Its been like this for a millennia and that’s long enough for history to become highly legendary.

The game starts as the radical traveller and poet Uxlorian Vesh has entered the Optimates silent city of Esh, broken into the City of Portal, evaded the decaying guards and discovered and confirmed that the Optimate is definitely either dead or gone. No-one is guarding Esh. No-one is policing the use of force. The only people enforcing the passport system are you, if you want to. 

There is no dominating centre to the geopolitical world, and no-one knows what to do next. A massive power vacuum has opened up, perfect for someone to fill it, or, if they are more morally responsible, to prevent anyone else from filling it, in order to maintain stability.

None of you can be certain how militarily or economically powerful each other are. It has literally never been tested in memory or record.

You know a bit about each others existence, travellers and ambassadors pass back and forth, there is some trade, but compared to, for instance, any point in the civilised history of earth, you really know shit all about your neighbours, or what might lie in the spaces between powers. You do have a general map of your world though."

The Oceans of Ir

The current nations (some are only recently 'awoken' are;

Xingando -mercantile alchemists ruled by Cerberus Or

Ulukaa - mixed nation of lizard people, tattooed humans and masked priests living in a super-jungle, ruled by All-Eyes the Pontiff Queen

Illmora - pretty reasonable growth/nature worshipping nation ruled by The Great Father-Mother

THE GREAT GLORIOUS GRONNATE - an extremely reasonable nation of arts and education ruled by THE GRON MAXIMAL

The Secret Dutchy - as yet unawoken.

Kanibalo - shark-toothed individuals in steel canoes. Ruled by Cefa Kuristo.

Slug Isle - Isle of rain-swept slug farmers, ruled by ysbryda Holyworm.

Highvern - freezing mountainous nation of jewel-mining Goblins, and others, ruled by High Queen Settra.

The Mourgelands - desert nation of pharonis Hobbit necromancers ruled by The Great Zarazant.

Twelve - currently isolationist nation of insect-people ruled by Holy Three Hand.


In addition to their monthly letters I give the players a chronicle of the events of the world as told by the 'Heralds of Ir' - with all the news at least a month old.

Here's the current chronicle;

The God Oct- Year 2019

 1st of Oct – Rumours begin to reach the Halls of the Rulers that the sot, Uxlorian Vesh, has penetrated the boundaries of the Optimate and found them Void.

7th of Oct – It is said that the Verdant Fleet of Doth-Far the Clever, of Ilmora, is anchored at Metheltossos on the Insect Sea, and there trades valued metals with the peoples of Ulukaa.

9th of Oct – Sailors claim that a great fortress of Wax has been seen crossing the Shadows Reach between Twelve and the unknown lands which lie between the Green Reach and the Sea of Shadows.

11th of Oct – A single fisherman of Xingando tells a wild tale, that he was driven by storms across the Reach Inferior and into the Circle Sea, where he was captured and brought aboard a mighty armada, and there entertained by a most beautiful Admiral, Eralassua, as if he were himself of Noble Birth, before being sent upon his way.

The God Nov – Year 2019

2nd of Nov – Rumour states that war has broken out between Xingando and Illmora! The Illmorans flee in terror as Xingado invades!

3rd of Nov – The Illmorans make ready to resist the Imperious Invaders of Xingando with what force they may.

8th of Nov – A Great Host moves in Highvern. Tales speak of Wolves in the Desert lands.

9th of Nov – Sailors and fishermen claim to have witnessed Ships of the Dead in the Ocean of Alien Dreams to the South of Twelve.

10th Nov DISASTER IN ILLMORA –A Great Massacre! The Illmorans fall back in disarray, is Illmora doomed at the hands of Xingando? Surely Xingando is now the Great Power of the East.

13th Nov – It is said the Dead now rise also in the Circle Sea, ghosts are sighted within its waves.

15th Nov – The Battle of the Desert Wolves! In the far West of the Mourgelands the Wolf-Riders of Settera the Ice Queen have met the Undead Hordes of the High Zarazant. In a conflict which lasted till the stars burned cold the Wolves of Settera were driven back. Their General, the Savage Clasnat, swears revenge against the Zarazant and his general of the East, Kathegras Ekibe.

18th Nov – Disaster at the Pillars of Delusion! A Great Host of Setteras Armies did attempt crossing of the Pillars of Delusion to invade the Realm of the High Zarazant. They faced catastrophe! The skeletons of mighty sea-wyrms, the foul zombified corpses of Whales and the ghosts of sharks did battle with the Navy of Eralassa for a day and a night. Ultimately, so great was the phanstasmorgic terror that the forces of Highvern fell back to port. It is said that Tadaitzol, Hegeomon of Settera, and wielder of the Sword of Destiny, made of Motherfucking Diamonds, does rage against High-Admiral Eralassa for this failure.

20th – The savage army of Xingando, the so-called ‘Rough-Gut Boys’, advances upon the Illmoran capital, so far with neither response or opposition from the Great Father-Mother.

23rd – A Great Host of beings fleeing the Insectoid Nation of Twelve are pursued across the wildlands west of the Shadows Reach by the forces of “Holy Three-Hand” and were sure to be destroyed. Yet as they approached the border of the Great Glorious Gronnate, that border did open! The refugees claim this is a Sign and beg succour from the Great Gron Maximal.

28th – In the Northerly Isle between the Optimate and Xingando, a new power rises. She who names herself the “Optimatrix”, called by some “The Golden Witch” declares rulership of all Optimate lands and demands recognition from all other rulers of Ir, beginning with the impudent and imperialistic Cerberus Or.

The God Dec – Year 2019

6th Dec - The Hot/Cold War drags on!

The conflict between Highvern and the Mourgelands staggers on in its southern theatre.

The Mourgelanders are unable to push Clasnats Goblins out of their land, but it is said they have poisoned the desert and made the area impassible for living beings in large numbers.

All observers believe that neither Setra or the Zarazant are about to back down and many wonder what their plans may be.......

8th Dec – Setra Fails!

Ice Queen Setra leaves the Crystal City and attempts to use her Great magical Power to freeze the gulf between the Pillars of Delusion claiming that her armies will simply walk across.

She leaves only icy bergs and black water which proves a serious impediment to shipping.

The Mourgelanders send up fireworks of ultraviolet mockery in response.

9th - Ghosts in the Crystal City

Wild tales grow of ghouls and spirits in the Crystal City, and of a Strange Gackling Moon. Highverners believe this is the work of the Foul Zarazant.

Dec 10th - Build That Wall!

The Great Glorious Gronnate proudly announces the building of an extremely long and narrow school, in the shape of a wall, which exactly matches the shape of its Eastern border with the wildlands.

General Snavros insists that anyone can apply to study in the Wall-School, the only two rules, The first is that to get in, you have to climb over the school. The other rule is that anyone trespassing on school property will be ejected.

The hordes of Human Chattel fleeing the Wasp-People of Twelve moan in Great Terror as their former owners repossess them by force.

13th Dec - Clasnats Betrayal!

It becomes common knowledge across Ir that the Goblin General Clasnat. Leader of Setras Wolf-Riders and main commander in the Southern Hot/Cold War, is considering betrayal, either for money or because he fears Setra has sent him and his riders there to die, as they may be potential threats to her continued Rule.

It is said that Setra has taken Clasnats family hostage to ensure his loyalty


Crazed and confused stories speak of something Gigantic and Amorphous slithering beneath the waves of the Pass of Indecision between Northern and Southern Illmora.

Heralds are sent to investigate but their only report is that EVERYTHING IS FINE HERE ABSOLUTELY FINE


Will probably be a year (assuming I even manage to keep this going for a year) before I can post any of the letters back and forth between rulers and their agents, but I might be able to put up some of the 'opening letters' from the start of the game.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Adventures On The Margins

Here are ten very basic adventure seeds for Uud, specifically for the Margins of Blackwater.

1. The Memory Thief

I imagine this as maybe the classic or essential Blackwater adventure. PCs are villagers in some marginal and forgotten place. One day they discover that something from the surrounding swamp has been through the village and stolen many of the important memories of the people they love. (Maybe even the memories of their parents, lovers or children). They work out what happened and then the mission is to go into the swamp and track this thing down, kill it, (or trick it somehow) and get back those memories and be - HEROES OF THE VILLAGE

Stuff - need generator for stolen memory relationships. Clues around village telling what happened but also contextual stuff telling what kind of creature and *how it works*, maybe a mild loremaster character. Then swamp generator. Maybe a goblin PC or "enemy" group after the same thing because the Goblin tribes memories got stolen too  and maybe you could team up? Hmmm.

Creature itself needs highly deductible as in, you can work out what it is, strength which makes it seriously dangerous - probably too dangerous for just the party alone, and a weakness which can be discovered and exploited.

Then the surveillance/fight/trickery at the end.

2. The Waste Wanderer 

Lets see.. This feels like its built around a single, strong central character. Someone like a high powered adventurer. A Wanderer who knows the Waste and who goes out there into danger and comes back alive a lot. But the Waste has fucked them up and the people of civilisation fear and hate them.

Something happens which brings the PCs into contact with the Wanderer, maybe some Orcs or something, the 'main threat' isn't really the main adventure. The real thing is that the PCs have to go off into, or end up in, danger with the Wanderer, and this is someone powerful and dangerous that you really can't work out. And it may be that they are the main monster at the end. Maybe the Wanderer has a thing where they are doing a deal with the Orcs, so it seems like they are a traitor, but it could be for the Right Reasons. Maybe they are a Half-Orc themselves?

This might seem like a doomed mission but could be instead it’s a situation the PCs can peacefully resolve - if they perceive that they should or could.

3. The Monsters Dream 

Another swamp and/or desert situation. There is a super-dangerous Hyperpredator in the wilderness hunting people from the local culture. Seems impossible to beat. Maybe some high-level adventurers try and all they find is their corpses.

One (or more?) of the PCs is swapping dreams with the Monster. Once they work out this is what's happening, they can try to use this knowledge to track the beast, but the monster is smart and since its dreaming of their life it can use the same process to try to find them. Hunter/Hunted.

Possibly the monster isn't the real villain and there's a cackling wizard or something behind things or some other conspiratal stuff about the dream swapping. Maybe it lairs in a fallen voidship or its a transformed human or something.

4. The Bandit Knight 

This is another dominant complex character situation. In this case the antagonist is a bandit threatening the PCs culture or home, but they are a former (or current) knight, and are known to have an iron-shod sense of honour (though also being unforgiving and super ruthless).

The PCs end up captured by this person (maybe there's a captured Princess or high-status vulnerable there as well) and to get out and/or get the Bandit knight away from the village, they need to make a promise or oath to do something either super-dangerous or somewhat immoral.

Will they give their word? And if they do, will they keep it? There's a lawman and his posse about who's job is meant to be protecting the village, but this is one Gaston motherfucker, just a gross, deceptive lying scumbag. Will the PCs sell out the honourable baddy to the dishonourable "good guy"?

5. The Inquisitors Bequest

A PC inherits a super-dangerous thing from a strange relative. Maybe this is an uncle or something they didn't know about or who disappeared. This person apparently joined the Tolerance and became a High Agent and a bit of a scary badass. Now they are dead, and they have left their effects to their closest living relative, which is you.

But, as they were a badass secret agent Inquisitor, these effects include some scary stuff, some Tolerance stuff that young people really shouldn't have, and possibly information about their last investigation.

So now the PCs have to work out what they are going to so with the secret agents cool stuff, while the subjects of their last case are coming at the PCs because there's some evidence or a tool or artefact or something disguised in there, and the Tolerance themselves are doing the same thing. Because Inquisitor X wouldn't just leave that stuff to some rando would they? There would have to be some special reason....

6. The Armour of the Sun - The Stolen Hope

A village on the margins has been slowly and painstakingly assembling a suit of plate armour. This has been patched together from bits and pieces, some found, some bought over years, or even generations. The Suit occupied a central place in the village and just stood there like the shell of an invisible hero, growing slowly over the years.

Like a lottery ticket really, the Armour was probably more important for the possibilities it presented; freedom from corrupt power, from predators and Orcs coming in from the Waste, the idea that one of them might be the hero they were waiting for.

Then someone steals the suit?

It disappears one day, the PCs are asked to do what they can to find it and bring it back. Not much to offer, but the PCs are lvl 1 anyway.

Aaand, it turns out the Suit was taken by someone from the village, to do something really heroic?

Or the fact that it could be divided up makes a fetch-quest relatively simple, with say a den of thieves and monsters who split it up with each taking their part to a different place, and the PCs will have to trick, steal, persuade or just kill a whole range of local baddies in order to get the suit back together.

I am still not sure what this one *means*.. There's more there than the fetch quest itself I think.

7. The Small, Strange Hole

This one seems pretty simple. A small strange hole has been found, or has opened up, somewhere nearby, and everyone is quietly terrified about it, though no-one can say why. Every time someone tries to block or obstruct it, by the next day, the blockage has gone, and the hole is a little bigger.

Then some children disappear and everyone thinks they went down the hole.

So the PCs are asked to squeeeze themselves into the hole to bring back those kids, and, if possible, to find a way to make it close up.

Think this one would be a good introduction to Marginalia. Whats inside the hole is not a dungeon but a different realm, like a Labyrinth/Fairyland situation, and what the PCs will have to do in order to get back these kids and shut the whole will be more like Dream Logic, or an Alice in Wonderland thing than a standard D&D challenge.

The place is under the control of a sad goblin King and threatened Cheese-Wyrm - a Cheese-obsessed hyperdimensional Cheshire-cat dragonish thing, but thin and slender. The Wyrm insists on being paid in cheese and since there is none to be had it has become aggressive and unpredictable, boring holes in reality and letting all kinds of random crap drop through.

The Goblin King has these children endlessly stirring milk in a effort to make cheese for the Wyrm, but the milk curdles beneath a green gackling goblin moon which flies about unpredictably. The moon itself has some thing that it wants and something it is scared of, etc etc.

Ok this one got weird. And 'Realm of the Cheese-Wyrm' is a better title but gives away faaar too much of the contents.

Could do this one almost as a series of personal encounters; The Goblin King, the Moon, the Cheese-Wyrm and others, with say two or three strong desires and strong fears/weaknesses and some randomisation to decide how they will relate to the PCs. You can get bits and pieces of info about each NPC from different encounters and the play-area has a range of strange elements which could be re-purposed in order to start solving the web of interlinked problems (i.e. the Goblin town has huge pots of unsellable yellow paint for sale and the PC's could use this to paint a huge sun on the ground to convince the Moon it is trespassing at the wrong time etc etc.

8. The Tax Collectors Crime

This is more of a 'real world' one where the village or small polity is threatened economically by an evil Worghast Tax Collector. This individual is slowly crushing the people out here with unjust taxes (the government would be crushing them anyway the same way, but much slower, this person is really pushing it).

The PCs are hired, or asked, to 'do something about it'.

If they investigate they may discover that the Tax collector has actually done something illegal, like made a deal with Orcs from the Waste, broken the Worghast Laws, or something else. In that case thier challenge might be - do they do things 'right' and try to gather evidence and prove the Tax Collector is guilty and get them removed? Or do they get edgy and decide to be bandits, effectively and take them out? And if they break bad, are they now outside the law?

Problem here is dealing with someone who has a LOT more institutional power than you, and who is seriously corrupt, willing to lie and manipulate, so doing the right thing becomes very difficult and risky indeed.

Elements - the villages the Tax Collector visits, the Collectors personal security, the Collectors connections and a map of the legal stuff that would need to be done to bring them down. Also some kind of external foe, maybe the Orcs they are dealing with or an illegally made Worghast gang.

9. The Shape of Fear 

Here the threat is a very mediocre individual, like a Goblin or a very poor bandit or wastrel, someone who would barely be dangerous on their own and who is very clearly driven by fear, rage and low self-esteem.

So they have this thing, maybe its a magic mind-control ring, a lantern which brings nightmares to life, some demon sword which is clearly piloting them around, a false eye which sees lies and fires lasers or something.

Anyway, its made them super-dangerous, much too much to challenge them directly, so the only way to win is to get close to them and work out the patterns and weaknesses of the Thing, and the psychology of the person in question in order to trick or defeat them.

Or, make this a larger problem - maybe some kind of demon box has been opened or some dark traveller is going around handing these things out to low-level scumbags, and someone wants the PCs to deal with it. Possibly an Agent of the Tolerance, like and Inquisitor, is on the case but can't give away their involvement as the mind behind this whole thing is a Major Power? And you can't (or shouldn't) use the things because they get you mind controlled, or mutate you or are obviously radioactive in some way obvious to anyone not using them. (Though PC's will of course be tempted to take them and use them).

10. The Silence in the Ash 

Another "real life"-ish situation. Out on the Margins, the great Ash dunes blowing in from the Waste have sent fingers deeper into Blackwater, separating two villages where communication used to be relatively stable.

Now the road between them leads over the Ash Dunes, and with the dunes have come bandits. Now anyone travelling between the villages is preyed upon. (Maybe the Bandits have some kind of ‘silence engine’ which stops anyone calling for help so all their attacks take place in a creepy silence). Calls for help have been either ignored, or someone from the polity has gone in with 'big battalions' and the bandits have simply fallen back into the Waste, only to return once the heat dies down.

How will the PCs find the Bandits? Tracing their intel source in the villages? Tracking them in the Waste? Using trickery to get themselves attacked? Pretending to join them?

And how will they fight them? Openly using terrain and cunning tactics? Set them up to be attacked by something even more dangerous? Lead them into a trap? Use scheming to set them against each other? And if they stop the bandits, will the dunes start to recede? Is there something even worse either puppeting the Bandits, using them or simply so dangerous that it drove them to this position?

Only three major elements, the Villages, the Dunes and the Bandits, though each would be pretty complex. The villages would be mainly social and political networks, the Dunes largely a map and generator and the Bandits a complex Tactical/Social matrix with their plans, habits, methods and social and other weaknesses coded in.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Dear Monstrous Effulgence

Clearing out and consolidating stuff on the hard drive and ran into this forgotten piece of Diagetic text. I kinda thought these characters were going to fuck at some point;

A turquoise-robed woman, bald, heavily tattooed, with her moth stitched shut, approaches you, and delivers this message, written on diaphanous silk, before leaving without a word.

"Dear Monstrous Effulgence,

I write to express my deep satisfaction on receiving your recent communication. The brutal and moronic aesthetic of its delivery, contemptible effrontery of its contents and marginal grasp of magical art involved in its creation succeeded in reaching a near-animal level of courtesy, style and beauty. The Yak-minded nature of your missive confirmed on every level my suppositions about the shameful mediocrity, decadence, poverty and gauche materialism of whatever culture squeezed out your form and character, very much as the afterbirth of a pigs womb is squeezed from the corpse of a plague-dead sow who crosses the terminating line of life at the moment of delivery, spewing forth, no doubt, some vile litter of squealing, mutated and bile-slick young with which to harry and torment the wiser cultures of the world.

I was as pleased as I was unsurprised to hear of your near-death at the hands of one of the more minor spirits to torment this unhappy land, deeply amused by your frantic flight and likewise disappointed in the servants of the Mantis God. If only they had known that by simply closing their doors on your shivering and wasted mortal form and leaving you to your one-thousand-times-deserved and absolutely brutal death (may it come soon!), they would have been performing a service to the city and the world equivalent of excising a cancer from the body of an innocent child. (For you are indeed a tumour, both the disease and its symptom.) Perhaps they would have chosen differently.

No doubt though you still cling to life with the thoughtless and ratlike cunning of your tree-dwelling ancestors. Like all true vermin, I do not suppose that your extermination will be easily achieved. In addition to this, the presence of a Baital in Syr Darya, though only a pin-prick in the magisterial reach of my truly global paradigm, is of some small interest to me.

While I am certain that this is one of the few instances in which the predations of these darker spirits are justified, (probably by one of a range of secret and shameful crimes engaged in either by you, or the effluvia of your sewer-like home of mediocre yet-still-utterly-certain basically fucking stupid rationalist filth who accompany you), nevertheless, in this one instance, it would please me greatly to laugh directly into your tiny, sharp-boned, dog-eyed, monkeylike face.

Should you still live, (and I hope you do not!), you may drag your degraded and pustulent flesh to my door where I will not immediately excise you from creation.

Pursuant to this, I Xab Yeng Yaaj, swear by the Chaos Tree, Father of my Race, that I will do you no harm etc etc. Offer ends Midnight, 9th October."

May you burn forever in the deepest pits of whatever your fallen race calls Hell.

Yours sincerely, Xab Yeng Yaaj."

Sunday, 5 January 2020

There Is No Bus - Peter Fehervari's Dark Coil

A long time ago, in school I had a teacher in Russian History and was trying to explain the slavic temperament.

They talked about being in Russia; they went to the bus stop and found an old lady waiting for the same bus.

they wait

they wait more

This teacher turns to the old lady and says;

"Looks like the bus is late."

The lady stares back and says;

"Perhaps there is no bus."

This is likely why Peter Fehervari is big in Russia. Because for him, there is no bus.

Stolen from this reddit thread;
With Apologies


Peter Fehervari's 'Dark Coil' books are a strange little corner of the Warhammer 40k Universe made up of three books, which I have read, and a handful of short stories, which I have not. For some reason (perhaps interdimensional meddling) the first two were given rather odd names.

Fire Caste - still has its primary name, which has little to do with its contents. (Although A Fehervari book having a curiously misleading name become strangely appropriate as the series goes on). Here the Imperial Guard fight the Tau on the planet of Phaedra which is essentially Jeff Vandermeers or JG Ballards 'Apocalypse Now; Fungal jungles, coiling rivers and spiritual decay.

Cult of the Spiral Dawn - used to be called 'Genestealer Cults'? Here the Imperial Guard fight the eponymous cult on the Koronus Ring, a black megastructure on the world of Redemption, which is mainly fire, doom  and spiritual decay.

Requiem Infernal - The Adeptus Sororitas and Imperial Guard fight, well mainly themselves, which is a main theme in every Fehervari book, but also Chaos, on the Koronus Ring, which here is on the world of Vytarn, a planet made of water, religion and spiritual decay.

Is Vytarn Redemption? If so, how? Well read to find out I guess.

All the books are quixotically interconnected, not in a direct sequential way, but through a kind of web-work of timelost wanderers, strange chains of cause and effect, dream-visions etc. They all interrelate but you can read each individually and there is no real beginning, and no end - JUST THE CREEPY SPIRAL.


Reading a Fehervari book is like walking into a cinema in the middle of a horror movie, and then the cast and story of a different horror movie cross over with it, or the events of a whole new horror movie, with a different monster and cause, start up in the second act. And the film just keeps-going, so at some point, you leave.

As if the protagonist of Rosemaries Baby ends up in a lift with someone who is being pursued through dreams by Freddie from Nightmare On Elm Street and they meet Ellen Ripley, either traumatised after the first film or actively living through the second.

This, and the relentless interconnections between stories, create the really strong illusion that there is this warp and weft of just really terrible stuff happening to almost everyone most of the time. occasionally they meet and interconnect and we only view one particular section of these connections. Like looking at a map through a toilet roll.


The actually-scary (or at least, perturbing) elements of a Fehervari book are rarely at the end, when the actual monsters show up, the horror-movie 'scenes', stuff pulled from cinema (there are actual 'jump scares' in Reqiuiem infernal, which is, its wierd seeing people in a textual medium describe things as they would be seen in a film on the screen, with all the assumed camera movements and furniture but I suppose its as valid as any other aesthetic choice from other generations), and usually by the time of the big fights at the end, the full war-scenes.

When things become explicit in his books, and the horror is actually manifest, that a relief, even if people are dying, because there it is, you can see it

The actually-worrying things;

- Dark Imperial Culture, just pushed a little further into horror than it already was. The Imperiums already fucking dark, but now its a little worse. Like the fanatical teen commissars wearing barbed wire on their hats, with rotten teeth, reading intel from a stained page, the dirty and self-blinded monks with lips sewn shut, the Inquisitors who will literally watch a world die to measure exactly how it happens.

To some extent this is the stuff that would be happening in the Imperium anyway, but we don't see it through the eyes of other writers, but its also just Fehervari.

- The Interpersonal Perturbation - the not knowing.

The small personal resentments echoing through peoples webs of relationship, the micro power structures of small units, the desire for recognition, justification, power, submission, escape, violence.

Because Feheravis stuff is so morally multipolar, and because the cast changes each time, (there are no long-running, marketable 'soap opera' characters who's death is a 'big moment'), it means everyone can die - which matters less for itself than for what it signifies. Everyone can be wrong, and everyone IS wrong, probably, or deluded in some way.

The complexity, disposability and variety of the cast allows him to create situations which are a hair more like real life, in which many people are operating on subtly different perceptions and different assumptions and in which no-one is absolutely wrong in a highly dramatic way.

In a shorter more intense story, people will by necessity operate across a simpler moral axis, it'll be based around a single decision.

"Do we kill fluffy in the plane crash?"

And the argument, whether its verbal or physical, will play out more like a debate than an actual real life disagreement. Its either good or bad to kill fluffy, or  its necessary, but then at the end you say "yes we killed fluffy, but *at what cost*. So the axis is mainly good, but a bit bad

Or "yes we were terrible in killing fluffy, but wasn't it in a way understandable?", so mainly bad but a bit good.

But the same axis. And this is really largely a necessity in many kinds of story

Here you have something more like a weird soap opera where everyone is slightly mental because of slightly different things, and where everyone is super intense, but about different stuff, and deluded or mistaken, often for quite reasonable reasons, but about different things.

Everything is a lie in the Dark Coil, but its not one large central lie, like a schizo fantasy where you pull back the curtain and behind the lie is a TERRIBLE TRUTH. Its ALL a lie. Even the demons, when they turn up, are deluded, and even they don't really know how things are going to go, even though they live outside time.

But to bring it back to my main point, the complex texture of slightly dark and partially deluded interpersonal relationships, and Fehervari hopping around from head to head, means its like being at a party where you know half the people and it feels like they are talking about you behind your back. Not just for the characters, but for the reader as well. Uncertainly. Fear.

- The Time Loops

God fucking damn it did I become the demonic monster which I was chasing- AGAIN??

Like the baddy I met at the beginning of the book was actually me at the end of of the book, just really fucked up from all the shit I did during the book, which was all motivated by my encounter with the main baddy at the beginning? who was actually me? aaahh fuckin' chaos! >shakes fist at sky<

If you are in a Feheravi book and you have what feels like an 'inciting incident' with something alien, demonic, dreamlike or strange, very quickly ask them to take off the mask, or have a walk around or good look at them because there's a 1 in 4 chance its you from the future, shadow-you, you from a forgotten past or some other version of you.

time loooooops!!

- the Reality Shifts/Memory Shifts

This is some Descartes nightmare fuel.

Did your memory just change, like when you remember your mother was that really your mother? Do you feel like something shifted inside your head but can't recall what it was, and now even the recollection of the change itself is fading, leaving only a sense of wrongness like a bruise you got while blacked out drunk?

Did you just change your mind about an important topic? Like maybe you like ketchup now when you didn't before? Was it you - OR DID YOU GET ABSORBED BY AN ALIEN HIVE MIND?

hey if Weird Forces can just change reality like that why don't they just change it so they already won?

> powers strong but not infinite?
> feeding off the moral decay better than winning?
> not really interested in you specifically
> just kinda dinguses
> they already did and this is that reality you are living through
> complex time reasons
> they themselves are deluded and wrong, even though they have terrifying power over *you* <<<<<<<[its this one]

The horror of the reality shifts reminds me a lot of waking up hungover after being really drunk and/or really high. this feeling of formless shame, as if I did something terrible, or failed morally in some way but can't remember it, that there is something terribly wrong somewhere, and I don't want to think about it and my thoughts shrink from it as if from a blow, but even if I do think about it - only darkness responds.

Memory! Its just clay really isn't it?

- The *relatively* subtle psychology of chaos corruption

Its not always this basic but a pretty common bit in a warhammer book is someone either going TOO FAR

as in;

Do we need to explode that planet of puppies?

YES because CHAOS!

You fought CHAOS but in doing so you went TOO FAR, which means you get corrupted by CHAOS

Or them just being a flake who probably would have bought weed from the guys in the bike sheds at school anyway.


One or both of those is true and then at some point a demon literally physically turns up and just pulls a straight up Faust;

"hey hey hey mortal, you seem pretty corrupt, how do you feel about Hentai/ RAAAAGE/ Antidepressants/ NoClipMode?"

Then the mortal is either "no" - in which the demon goes "ha ha ha, we'll getcha next time!!"

or "yea", in which case here are your spikes and gothic tailoring

Corruption in Fehvari is not totally different, but much better done. Its really impossible to seperate actual Kaos from just the slow mental collapse that everyone is already dealing with. Everyone is just quietly falling apart, deluded, and deluding, facing impossible pressures and dark choices.

In large or small, minor or major ways, their enemy is themselves and the texture of reality. It is chaos not like a lure, except at the end but like a kind of gravity, as if reality is on a moral tilt and all any of it can do, human, transhuman, alien or even demon, is just sloooowly tumble.

In Requiem Infernal one character defies the shit out of Nurgle even to the point of death (though the Chaos gods themselves are never named), and they do die, still defying chaos, and then dead, chaos still has their soul, and still tortures and torments them because even death was not an escape, the suffering truly was infinite. And then they break.

There really is no bus is what I'm saying.


Toyetic is the wrong word, because it already has a precise meaning, but also the RIGHT word, because....

Main thing here is the really strange contrast between;

- scenes from sci fi/horror/war movies
- exacting descriptions of toy lines

This stuff isn't *bad* but its an interesting dissonance.

So there's a bunch of different warhammer books; Listening to Guy Haley Pharos right now on audible. this is a relatively 'light' fun read with some strong and lively character work good situation building and where the somewhat gauche elements are balanced by the good parts, and here (which also has a standard 40k 'faust' scene) the bits that are a bit like movies or which have detailed descriptions of the toy line or 'references' to pop culture (actually I always think the references are bad in any 40k book Graham mcNeill I'm looking at you), but these things don't really stand out as different or odd as they match the tone of the story being told

And there's your 'gourmet burger' 40k authors, where, yes we are doing proper drama now *actually,* where if there are references in a Dan Abnett book they are probably to specific sit rep reports he read about a battle, and with Aron Demski Bowden its probably to some social justice thing. But if you asked ADB to put in a reference to, say, a marvel movie, in his books, all you would see was the whoosh of his cape as he exited the audience room in High Disdain. (the correct response).

But in Feheravris work, well, 'Fire Caste' is a LOT like Apocalypse Now, and also a lot like Aguirre-wrath of god by Herzog, and I think has references to both of those

Spiral Dawn is a LOT like Aliens.

And in all of his books, the toy line, which in this imagined world is actually the military equipment and uniforms etc, is exquisitely detailed, often down to the exact model he's picking out. So the Genestealer Cult General in Spiral Dawn is armed exactly as the model is, and the cult wear exactly the same clothes as the models do.

Its not bad, its just very strange, because in the main thing he's interested in, and the thing he's really good at; the spiritual, entropic and nightmarish structure of reality itself, Ferhravi is top-tier, really unique and really expressive in how that comes together. And then here's your exact toy line. So its a bit like watching a Herzog film in which the characters are replaced by the Cartoons from Masters of the Universe but they are still doing all the same Herzogian stuff.


I guess the only correct way to end a review of a Fehervai book is with a link to a continuation, which is also a review of this review, which is itself different, yet somehow the same, and which links you to another review of that review, which links you back here, so there is NO ESCAPE FROM THE DARK REVIEW COIL

So if anyone actually want to do that, let me know and I will link it in.

Stuff I didn't cover is the visceral, grimy upsettingness of the world-texture, BIG SCENES at the end with SUPER BATTLES, and who knows what else?

Friday, 3 January 2020

I Am The Lore

Good news; of the 200 or so people who both backed the Gawain Kickstarter and filled in the Backer survey, my records say only 22 have yet to order their copy of the book.

If you are one of those 22 people - CHECK YOUR EMAIL.

Bad News - Christmas kicked the shit out of me and has apparently completely destroyed my ability to write coherently, form an argument, or even really form a question.

This is a conversation I had with Scrap some time around Christmas and which she was too cool to make a blog post about, even though most of the cogent points are hers;


"SP - Did you watch adventure time to the end?

PS - no I think I gave up a few years out, maybe when Ward left? Not sure. Felt like quality was dropping and also pirating became more difficult
SP - i down loaded the last 2 seasons to try and finish it and just..couldn't care

SP - not sure what it was

PS - yyyep
SP - like..the random wackiness and escalating world building felt off

they kept building on what I didn't care about

PS - it was Ward leaving, like when that one guy left the Simpsons who didn't seem to do much but after he was gone it slowly, then quickly started to spiral
SP - and adding wacky poor designed characters at the wrong times

PS - Ithink it was James L Brooks who insisted the simpsons be related to as human and all the edgy clever men in their 20s and 30s gave hims shit because he got in the way of their invention and galaxy brains

then he left and all you had was clever men

and so the spiral begins

ideas that impress rooms of clever men
SP - fucks me up seeing the simpsons using smart phones

PS - you need at least one Full Human in the room
SP - maybe it was less Ward being there than having one person being the direction everyone had to work around

like a lodestone

you don't have to always go that direction but it's good to know where it is

PS - magic
SP - without him maybe it just would dive too deeply into extended plots or building on boring characters
like Magic Man and Simon aka Ice King

they were good as wacky dudes

and then a little depth to them

but 10+ episodes building on them and connecting them to the fundamentals of the world


PS - oh no, did they do a deep lore dive?

because that's what stories need
SP - oh yeah so much so

PS - more lore

oh fuck

dum fucking nerd men
SP - i feel like there's lore and there's world building

world building means you have a text that one can get into at any part of it

PS - yes
SP - while lore means you need to be following a time line or narrative to make sense of it

obvious fuzzy borders

because so world building :

" what is that thing , oh it's a wuzzy tree. Munky squirrels eat their screaming nuts. What's a Munky Squirrel? Oh it's .."

while lore:

"why are they fighting? Oh because he turned his sister into a fountain . Why did he do that? Because their dad  gave the ebon throne to him instead of him. What's that ..etc"

Like .. world building invites further questions but more or less can have the questions wait

While lore has its parts feel hollow without further context which requires further context

But also that depends on how its presented

like the first star wars has stuff that became lore but at the time it honestly didn't explaining

sorry didn't need explaining

because it was framed so you had all the essential bits right there

while the prequel star wars often have scenes that require outside context to give a shit about it"



A key thing here seems to be the difference between linear justification or fulfilment and a more global or networked thing where each individual fragment can in a sense stand alone, either in relation to each other or as a seed for an entirely new imagined reality.

I'm imagining the difference here between adventure paths and Josph Manolas exploded pathfinder adventures where the sequence of events has been transformed into geography.

Perhaps that’s a poor analogy.

Maybe more like the difference between learning maths and learning History. As with History, and all of the Humanities to some extent, even if you miss a lesson you can always find a way into a subject, because everything relates to the Human Lifeworld, but with maths, if you miss a lesson, or don't really understand a concept then you are fffffucked, because you will absolutely need a precise and accurate understanding of exactly that concept to progress, so if you were fudging it, or not really getting it, then way down the line you are screwed.



For a man with multiple pseudohistories about imaginary places and events on his shelves, and who's entire career and leisure time in some way revolves around the creation of imaginary worlds, I am surprisingly ambivalent about Lore.

The Word is Death, in many cases.

This causes me to investigate myself; am I the Horseman of my own apocalypse? Not in like a cool edgy way but just in a crap grey way? 

A thing that's come up in Discord conversations is how something that’s a crutch at one point can become fulfilling at another point. Sometimes an obsessional interest is something you need to get you through a bad and lonely time, sometimes the same interest can be like a lead weight, not protecting you but dragging you down and preventing you from interacting with others in a fulfilling way.

That same interest can be a form of connection which helps you reach out to and interact with others.

But it’s the same thing, the same obsession, just cast differently in different roles.

People want depth and they feel like they want answers, but what they end up getting, when they demand these things, is information. And often its dead information.

I'm looking for a world of the imagination where the images or fragment burn like they do in dreams and where it feels like there is a world of possibility. And I do find fragments of it, but not in the overculture, which seems to me like a graveyard of images.

Is this an experience that other people have?

As usual when I pretend to myself that I'm doing analysis, in reality I'm just listing things I don't like, then hopefully trying to understand the difference between what I do like and what I don't.

A few things that stick about Lore

- splatbooks
- 'filling in'
- arguments over uninteresting ephemera
- psuedo-clever conspiratal bad takes
- the tendency of nerd-culture imagined paracosms to annihilate themselves through detail
- the willingness of the market to buy stuff because it has *details*
- "we killed a character"
- "everything will change" (nothing will change)
- "writers room" writing, like when in Battlestar Galactica, characters started referring to the missing Cylons as "the final five" which, as well as being average mystery box stuff extended waay too far seemed also to me like an artefact from the writers room which characters in the drama suddenly started speaking.

But even so;

- The Star Wars expanded universe had a whole book called 'Tales from Jabbas Palace' in which a bunch of comedy and fantasy writers wrote the backstories to each individual alien wierdo in those scenes. And I liked it.
- Even with conspiratal lore bad-takes, I'm often half-interested.
- I'm only half a shade outside that culture, which of course, means I react even more strongly against it.
- Wilrow Hood.

An idea that I had when I was creating the Eldritch Foundry stuff (I know no-one is interested in this = shut up), was to make Lore like islands, a little like Scrap describes above.

The idea was to give people 'intellectual Lego', concepts and tools they could, in fact that they would *have to* put together themselves, and that every world they created would be built from the same original pieces but that each one would be unique and valid within itself.

A kind of multiverse.

And that there would be little absolute history or imperishable central text to which people could appeal to make the products of their imagination valid.

This is a tendency in people of which I despair. The idea that something outside your own experience, that some agency or structure or guru or system can give your imagination validity, to make it 'canon' or 'real'.

I'm exactly as vulnerable to this thinking as everyone else. Which, typically for me, has not restricted me in judging others for it.

We want to be recognised, more than anything. And I think that’s what people are really selling on Kickstarter or Patron or through Parasocial Youtube relationships, more than any particular product and more than any particular ideology, its recognition. The sense that you have been seen. That you are valid.

My idea was that if you created a system that encouraged people to play games with each other, rather than to collect Lore, that was both a strong prompt *to* play, and also was almost incomplete without the action of play. A system where you complete it yourself by playing with others.

I'm pretty sure I haven't actually done that. It would be an intellectual and creative challenge too great for me. Instead I simply went about things in my usual way. But that was the idea at least.

Here endeth the post.