Monday, 8 March 2021

Velvet Hooks; Zen Beast

 So, this is an omni, and all-destructive monster, like a giant evil cartoon. Only comes at night, kills and destroys randomly, whatever goes into its mouth disappears forever (where?)

But – it’s actually the psychic projection of a Tenebrous Monk inside it, and the creature is trying to provoke the monk to stop it, i.e. to stop meditating, by doing TERRIBLE THINGS.

If the monk stops meditating then the beast evaporates but the monk believes that by facing this temptation and overcoming it, they achieve true enlightenment. So it’s a bit of the buddha underneath the tree plus the ID beast from Forbidden planet plus a bit of Grendel.


This monster has a religious conspiracy backing it up, protecting it and hiding its rampages, or at least hiding the cause of the rampages. 

Which you would think would be quite difficult as who would suspect a group of black-clad fanatics called 'The Tenebrous Monks' of being behind anything shady.

But maybe;
a - they don't call themselves that and
b - they are just *that good* at conspiracy


1. A strange series of seemingly unconnected disasters, killings and disappearances, luckily the local monastery of extremely helpful monks is there to help people recover. EXCEPT, a local malcontent nobody likes has grown suspicious and hired the PCs to find out what is going on..

2. A Knight of the Cognitive Sun dies or gets disappeared on the hunt for ... something. The Order of the Cognitive Sun want to know what happened to him.

3. A PC gets tagged by the Monks as possibly being the next Ascended One. They offer resources, information help and training, but don't say exactly why, only when the PC is in too deep to they start bringing out the really dark stuff

4 The PCs are hired by the Monks to find a sacred text about the 'opposing self' but its guarded by an 'evil cult' - shock twist (eyeroll) the evil cult was actually good and the 'good' monks were actually at least neutral evil.

5. The PCs know about the monks, somehow, but no-one else will believe them. And as they speak about it, the likelihood of them being targeted by the monks, or the Zen Beast itself, grows.

6. The Ascended one becomes friends with, and particularly good allies of the PCs - at the same time that they become targets of the Zen beast. Of course the Ascended one genuinely does like the PCs, its for that reason the Beast attacks, it is the greatest possible provocation. The greatest threat to the PCs is actually the deepening, and genuine, friendship.


A lot of this depends on setting up the monks as 'good guys', or at least hiding their evil in an interesting way. So I should dedicate some time to thinking about that.

> Have the monks help the PCs against the worst evils they encounter.

> Have the monks being attacked by someone or something the PCs already hate.

> Have the monks them be charming and funny in a way unlike most 'good guy' factions (maybe a bit 'absurd' with it - hey it’s always a fun time at the slightly comedic monastery).

> Clearly they don't call themselves the Tenebrous Monks, so what other names and declared theologies might they have?


Great collectors of ideas and news, though staunchly apolitical, they believe reason and learning can uplift mankind, and so do what they can to absorb, replicate and share whatever information possible. Famous for their printing press, their maps and their library as well as their records of explorations and their histories. Exactly the place adventurers would wish to go before an expedition, and they are happy to share any information they have, with the only price being a full report of your own adventure and the chance to copy any (non-magical) books.


Great entertainers, riddlers and playful absurdists, the monks still take time to offer free healing and a bed for the night to those without one. Made up of thinkers and acters who have abandoned ambition, they are a very frugal and simple order who find meaning in absurdity. Though often a little sad, they put on great entertainments and are wonderful jugglers, acrobats etc. Wherever there is sadness and despair, they are present to bring joy and the ridiculous with a sympathetic yet ridiculous performance.


A group known for being very good men, workers in charity and supporters of the poor and the weak, but very dull indeed. Doctrinaire, grey and full of received wisdom and tiresome aphorisms, droning on and on and on. Though they seem to bore everyone they meet, this mild tiresomeness makes them somehow more tolerable and even more liked by the general population. They are such evidently good men, if they were purely good they might be a little hard to take, but as they are so very dull, everyone who experiences them feels more virtuous for putting up with them, then may roll their eyes at each other as if to say "yes I had a monk over droning at me for an hour too".


That isn't their official name but one they somewhat gave themselves. Known for being a kind of retirement house for political operators, kingmakers and powerful uncles and grandfathers who have retired, or been pushed out. Now they hang out in their library/monastery/beer room/apiary etc, basically cosplaying as monks, living the simple life, selling honey and illuminated books, getting mildly sloshed on mead and doing good works every now and again. They are liked the way once-powerful, once-dangerous men are liked when they are no longer powerful and dangerous. Now old and slow, they are genial, and a bit cheeky, a font of sound advice and often sought out for that reason (though they stay out of current politics). They are not really very religious and everyone knows it and winks at it, probably a common joke in the ale houses - after all the whole place is really a kind of retirement home.


A silent order made up entirely of philosophers and intellectuals who have given up on thinking for a living, either alienated from the whole mess or simply grown to indifference. Now they live simple monkish lives, instead of regular prayers they meditate together in groups at regular times. Healing and safety are free to all who may reach their distant monastery. They also maybe operate a free ferry service over a dangerous river and guide people through the sometimes-lethal mountain passes. They have even rescued a few lost people. (They have very competent rescue dogs, and rescue ravens who circle the land and report back. Everyone feels safer when they see a raven overhead. – Probably the Foolish Philosophers out looking for that lost girl.) Everything is cool but they do indicate that they desire you to respect their vow of silence in it spirits as well as in details, so no writing things down or elaborate hand signs please.


A slightly laughable order of those who intended to be, or attempted to be, stylites, but for one reason or another, couldn't hack it. So they became "stylites together" - so basically just monks. They are actually of different faiths - unified by their life stories rather than absolute doctrine - and are known to be very tolerant of all faiths and views, curious and willing to learn and discourse on them. The stylites are known to be peacemakers amongst all men and whenever there is trouble or discord, often they will be sent for, and will always bring calm, of course they are liked because they are holy, but you know, not too holy, not so much they get weird about it.


Another table idea was for a list of possible patsies, as no good conspiracy starts doing crazy shit without one, or more, 'bad guys' prepped to take the fall once the whole thing has shaken out.
But we are out of time so PEACE OUT.


  1. I enjoyed this, particularly the Tired Old Men (I'm always rather sad that 'enforced monastic retirement' has fallen out of use as a means of dealing with disgraced former statesmen. Trump in a Carthusian hermitage would be great), so I followed your suggestion and made a table of patsies who might have a plausible reason to be ransacking things that are dear to the monks.

    1) Monks of the Cognitive Dawn: recently, the monks allowed renowned adventurer and cutthroat Nine-Tailed Moll access to one of their treasure maps. On her return, not only did she break her promise to tell them what she had seen, but also demanded that they destroy the map. They refused, so perhaps she is now resorting to terror tactics in order to intimidate them into covering her tracks.

    2) Monks of Absurdity: a minor local official, a killjoy of Malvolian proportions, was pranked by the monks years ago and has never forgiven them. Now he's always snooping around, spreading vicious rumours, and trying to catch them out for breaking various obscure by-laws. Could he be trying to frame them for something more serious?

    3) Seekers of Enlightenment: a few months ago a missionary from a rival faith moved into the neighbourhood and started preaching holy hedonism and baccanalian rites as an alternative to the dull piety of the monks. The townsfolk publicly condemn him, but he oozes salacious charisma, and they love to gossip about who might be secretly participating in his midnight rampages.

    4) Tired Old Man: one of the monks, an ex-Machiavel of evil repute, has scandalously renounced his vows and relaunched his political career. In fact, he's trying to alert local leaders to the monastery's secret evil, but unfortunately they all regard him as either a liar playing 4D-chess or a delusional has-been.

    5) Foolish Philosphers: some time ago the monks rescued a local bandit chieftain who had fallen into a ravine and broken his leg. This was exceptionally humiliating for someone whose career depends on a reputation for fearsome machismo, so it is suspected that he may be engaging in a spree of extra-brutal violence in order to restore his tough-guy credentials.

    6) Wild Stylites: while most of the region's hermits abandoned the ascetic life and joined the monastery, one remained in the desert. This man - a warlord-turned-pacifist who has been sat unmoving on a pillar for five years, sustained only by the morning dew - is regarded with awe and envy by the monks. Perhaps (they insinuate) he is only able to maintain his adamantine composure through a Jekyll-and-Hyde strategy of periodically giving violent outlet to his barbarian urges.

  2. My favorite Velvet Hook. The Tired Old Men are the best interpretation. Getting rid of people without killing them was a very real role for monasteries and especially nunneries.