Tuesday, 11 May 2021

My Beastman/Dryad slash fic should be CANON!

I can't get this out of my head..

So;  Games Workshops Age of Sigmar Wargame has its little army men split into four factions.

Order - normies. Humans, elves, dryads, dwarves, magic aztek lizard dudes etc.

Chaos - evil dudes. The four main gods plus the generally-evil Slaves to Darkness and the Skaven. And Beasts of chaos which is "Beast-Men and Friends"

Death - Death. Skellies, super-skellies, Vampires, ghoooooosts etc.

Destruction - Orcs, Giants, Goblins.


Teclis - to burn a giant anti-chaos sigil into it. Sorry, kind of a zoning screwup there.

Nagash - not really destroying it, just killing everone in it, the city should be fine.

Main Chaos Dudes - they might destroy your city a bit but they are largely interested in perverting the souls inside it, and they quite like cities overall, so long as they are full of chaos stuff. They just smash a lot because they are snorting those souls!

Orcs, Goblins, Ogres, Giants - SMASH SMASH SMASH HE HE HEEE

Skaven - no idea. Presumably they will eat or enslave everyone inside and make what use of the ruins they can.

Arielle the Tree Queen - now she isn't really meant to smash your city and replace it with TREEEEEES without at least writing a strongly-worded letter to Sigmar first but she does have, or to be more precise, she has no direct coNfirmed control over, Tree ISIS which is essentially this bitch, 

Drychia Hamadreth, who will absolutely smash your city and replace it with TREEEEEEES.

And the Beastmen, who will now also be destroying your city and will replace it with.. well Chaos but not god-specific chaos , more of a general spiritual thing. 

In Age of Sigmar the Beastmen are something like Chaos-Daoists? They believe in chaos but are generally not into any of the specific gods, (except for a few of them), they are more just.... generally chaosy?

So the burning issue that prompted this post;  even do for the Chaos factions? What is their place? Skaven have numbers plus technology, plus they have an actual God while Beastmen make a point of not having any.

BUT WAIT!!! I hear you cry..

Aren't GW constantly bringing out new boxed games and stuff with special models and don't they give rules for using them in your warhammer armies??

Like how about the 


  - thats like a beast right



HOW ABOUT THE formaroid crusher??


But surely the Ogroid myrmidron?????




no it could not



Its Billy Belkor baybe! The Demon Prince of Chaos Undivided! And guess what, just like AoS Beastmen he ALSO gives no fucks about worshipping the Chaos Gods, in fact they hate each other! A match made in heaven right???


IN fact no.

So walk the lonely beastmen, with an ancient and limited model range and seemingly no interest from GW at all apart from some endless spells. Imagine being cucked by Skaven, could it get worse?

Until, I, in my lonely and ever-vigilant genius, come forth to save thee beastmen, with the following hot and spicy concept!


Based on my reading of the Mahabharata, and vague memories of the other Indo-European core myths, my idea is this;

Drychia Hamadreth and '[NAMED BEASTMAN CHARACTER] (model yet to be designed)... 

Maybe moonclaw??

.....FALL IN LOVE!!!!

Basic concept here is the hierarchal cosmic layering effect which works as a story-enervator for the Indo-Euopean myths; two gods get angry with each other, or some sort of contest breaks out, or they have a relationship drama, and all the forces and groups aligned to each of them fall into different relationships.

This both echoes down the layers of hierarchy from gods to demigods and spirits, to divinely-awesome heroes to normal high status individuals to ordinary people to slaves and helots, and echoes across the power structures as, with this new conflict or relationship in place the balance of power shifts and everyone has to re-adjust with their own relationships, 

So you get to tell a multi-layered story with gods, heroes and normals, where the lower people live inside a context created by a higher power relationship, BUT, actions taken at the lowest level can still echo up the pyramid to affect decisions and perceptions at the highest level, and because the whole thing is about families and relationships tangible to the ordinary listener, it remains entirely comprehensible for the person receiving or hearing the legend or tale

It's also a way of getting interesting and meaningful-feeling drama out of a morally multipolar legendary setting like AoS - which is why I think the hero-tier and above beings in AoS should have more complex relationships and attitudes to each other across all factions, like surprising friendships and dislikes - it creates more structure.

Of course GW can't do that because reflecting it in the actual game would disrupt the careful IP, aesthetic a& marketing protection which the Decision-Squig has decreed.

But I can

GOAT/TREE SLASH FIC - he nibbles her leaves and she's into it, she winds roots about his horns...
its a beautiful thing.


And because these two major characters are now working together their armies do too. Anarchist man-hating tree city destroying tree people and daoist/universalist chaos worshipping city destroying goat people are not necessarily incompatible.

So the Beastmen and Anarchist anti-human tree people are just rolling along wrecking shit, and EVERYONE is interested in stopping them, Sigmar because - Cities, Chaos because having these technically-sort-of chaosy beastmen tear off and almost start a whole new faction is not good at all, and Arielle because they are fucking up her Rep

So now a battle is on but its also a soap-opera in which the forces of the Mortal Realms team up to destroy a "budding" (genius Patrick) romance and also to break up a happy couple.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Swordthrust - a Beautiful Curiosity

 This is about the Mayfair Games 'Role Aids' adventure by Sam Shirley and Daniel Greenberg

Hard to get a good high-re image of this, sorry!

First thing, why on earth is it called 'Swordthrust'?

The core dungeon is the frozen head of a giant ice titan which is in fact a mountain, (called the 'Titans Crown'), populated by the imagined memories of its ancient life, which is also a field of combat between good and bad thoughts given shape, and if you wake up the Titan then the proportion of good to bad thoughts decides its future character. Plus there is a backstabbing Wizard with a decent name; Morlean. The Mountain is guarded by a guy calling himself 'The King of the Mountain' who has a really fucking cool Boris Vallejo picture for the cover... There is also some silver Mithril armour and a crystal throne....

"Titans Crown."  "The Crystal Throne."  "The King of the Mountain."  "Flamehairs Quest.."

Almost every single one of these ideas and referents makes a better title than 'Swordthrust'.

Ok, I'm done with complaining about this strange thing now.


They re-used the image for a pulp sci fi novel
This is the highest res I could find online

This adventure has bizarre pre-echoes of many ideas which I or my contemporaries have considered in our modern age. It strikes me strange. Most strange..

So firstly, its about diving into the mind of a sleeping Titan, which is the dungeon you are in. I did something like that in Silent Titans.

Secondly - the dungeon is semi-transparent - meaning you can sometimes see between rooms. Something we tried to do in the maze of glass rooks in Silent Titans and first conceptualised (by me at least) herehttp://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-glass-dungeon.html

(Link strangely not working though the post is there when you visit it separately? 
http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-glass-dungeon.html )

Thirdly - the Titans mind has a pseudo-cognitive layout, like an idea I talked about here.

(Same problem again http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-ogre-and-golden-bird.html )

"There are two Palaces locked onto the dark rock, mirrors of each other. The sides that face each other are nearly sheer. The sides that face away are crenelated, towered, encrusted with keeps and details, bridges and roof's, multi-levelled, staggering and slipping down to the walls and the glinting hematite on which the palaces reside.

The two sides match each other almost perfectly, the divide observable only from a narrow axis.

Stand here and you can see the gap between the palaces, like the gap between close skyscrapers, and the slender bridge of white that forms their only visible link, hanging high in the air in the near-centre of the buildings shape.

There are no gates to the Palace of the Ogre King, you have to climb in through a window, or sneak in through  hematite caves down below where the Onyx river gushes from the rocks."

And fourthly - this wasn't me but Noisms has a whole series of development posts about a project called 'behind Gently Smiling Jaws'   which is a sandbox of a sort made from the memories of an ancient crocodile  -the empires and peoples it witnessed in its life are the beings you encounter, somewhat altered by their recollection.

What does this similitude mean?

Well most importantly it means I am less special than I like to think I am...

fucking hurts dude

What else - is there some hidden enochian mind script that the fancy boy section of the OSR is destined to follow? NEED TO TRY ANSWERING THAT QUESTION.


Or whatever we are calling Prince/Bryce/Melan axis now, that particular adventure-design paradigm have a high opinion of Swordthrust. Is it justified?

It seems Well Engineered - I am not in 2nd Ed or whatever this is keyed for to speak with an experts tongue but this feels like an adventure well organised and arranged in terms of resources, opportunity and both rewards and punishment for risk taking. 

There is an economy of +1 rings of bracing and "gloves of smell vision (3 charges left)" or whatever that underpins a lot of this 2e-ish extended playstyle - you are meant to be continually getting, losing, trading etc magical stuff which may or may not be useful to you and this is like an 'extra' layer of floating mechanics on top of levelling and xp which adventure designers have to take account of (and which the Artpunkish wing of the OSR has VERY RIGHTLY DITCHED WHOLESALE). I'm not a frognard but so far as I can see all this stuff looks to be in place and whatever.

It is made of classic Fantasy Stuff Presented Well. We got Goblins, ratmen, Dwarves who mine things.

These are not literally the Dwarves from Swordthrust (though they are from mayfair games), 
but aesthetically they are very much the Dwarves from Swordthrust.

A Wizard who, if they don't live in a tower they at least have a nice house. 

There are only two totally new races and they fit neatly within fantasy archetypes of this genre, no fear golems or whatever. Not a bug, just a feature, playability and ease of apprehension versus fancy bullshit, nothing wrong with that. (Though this is also part of the reason I am not as 100% enamoured with it as the Frognards - turns out that when you delve into the mind of an ancient titan it was largely thinking about creatures from the Monster Manual) - So despite having a high concept idea is definitely not 'Artpunk' (not fancy or pretentious enough) and while it has deepish themes it's not an elaborate commentary on anything, simply a very good adventure.

Pre-made PCs are given and they are high-normie; Merrie Flamehair, Yosannah the human thief, Grim Ben the skill 4 fighter, Hogan Iron Shield, Icarus Whitebeard! 

The makeup of this assumed or imagined adventuring party is very 'classical D&D', a bunch of largely good(ish) characters with enough flaws, specialisations and differences in motivation to provide _light_ drama, plus one outright baddy who no doubt proves useful in the end and likely isn't that bad in play anyway.

The town is just really neat. An old mining town, decayed, maybe slightly unnaturally packed with factions considering the low population but that's hardly a hanging offence. 

Yes you will probably end up spending more time in the town than the dungeon and may actually be more likely to die there. Mild complaint - the Town could possibly have done with a little more space and clarity since it is almost certain to become a tactical area in play.

Non-Stupidity of plans - the main wizard quest giver has thought things through at least as well I did reading the adventure, which is all I ask really of something I spend money on. 

That only took a sentence to describe but its actually a vanishingly rare and almost golden quality in any media - that the characters in it have thought through their circumstances and do things that make sense to them.

Does Swordthrust introduce (as a CORE element) that most-loathed of all design tropes, the backstabbing questgiver? And does it somehow GET AWAY WITH THIS????

Yyyyyes. yes it does.

The backstabbing wizard situation is set up with enough skill and has enough thought put into the circumstances; the slow reveal of information, the build up of knowledge, the likely result of interactions, and most importantly - the paradoxical no-win situation for the dungeon which will misfire on the wizard if they do actually win, that it carries off this most laborious of concepts with a degree of elegance and grace. Like watching someone dance with a barbell.

(Also it's from the past, presumably from before the trope was actually a trope, so it can't be blamed really.)

An elegant piece of thinking - it avoids the avoided the 'weird dungeon' conceptual brick wall problem by having the wizard give an (fake and/or incorrect) explanation of what's going on before the PCs go in. 

So instead of players meeting inexplicable shit and getting confused and upset, they meet stuff they think they understand, and then slowly (hopefully) work out that the context is not what they thought, and then the inconsistencies build up and slowly the PCs and players work out more and more of what is going on.

They even through in a reasonable little section at the end for what to do if the Titan actually does wake up - well done

Beyond the aesthetic and my indifference to adventure economics, another difference between I and the Frognards, or at least Bryce and Prince, is that I have had to read waaaay less shit D&D adventures that they have, so I am generally less relentlessly traumatised by the horror of it. For them this is an Oasis in the desert, for me, a nice pint at the pub.


I intuit that it would play well.

This could be a beautiful experience. I don't know if I'm ready to call it a masterwork. 
Being made of standard materials is less fun for  me than the Frognards. 

You can't reconstruct (or at least I don't think you can reconstruct) a pseudohistory of prelapsarian reality from the visions in the Titans mind. (Admittedly you have to be operating way above average quality for that level of criticism to even be levelled.)

Also there are some unclear sections and you are still going to need to transpose a lot into your own notes, especially the town stuff, plus there are definitely some description elements that were slightly unclear.

But I will call it a beautiful curiosity. Perhaps more beautiful for being unexpected.

Four stars for the meat of it. Another half star for going above and beyond the call of duty and a final half star for those of you who like the aesthetic.


Ice, glass and the mind.

Is there some kind of homunculus-theory-inevitability thing going on here with people of my neurotype? Some deal where people with a particular quirk of character and who assign themselves the 'god position' in the creation of worlds. Not just worlds but realties. And not just the creation but this uniquely physicalised D&D-ish type of interaction, based around objects and people and tangible systems, do we all, or do many of us end up building an image of the mind inside the world created by it?

(I'm reminded here of the themes of watching eyes in many paintings created by schizophrenics. McGilchrist thinks this is a brain-hemisphere thing with one part of the brain unable to recognise the nature of the other and so interpreting its signals as 'alien' - an unfriendly observer..)

The ice-brain dungeon in swordthrust.

Davids memory sandbox.

My glass dungeons, brain dungeon and Titan minds?

I guess if you are thinking about D&D like this you have the job of thinking about 'everything', to no particular purpose, but just to regard, understand a little and create yourself, and for people in those circumstances - maybe the idea of a crystal dungeon inside the mind of an ancient being, populated by memories, its processes mimicking or simulating the mind itself.

The mind inside the world created by the mind. 

Maybe that idea is just a stone on the road, which many will pass by and a few will pick up. A ripple of creation.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Velvet Hooks: Vore Bull & Vitillary

Previously in this series;

Abhorrer & Aeskithetes
Anemone Men & Ants Of Neutrality
Atrocious Crows & Azul
Bedlam Birds & The Blathering Bird
Boa Boy & Boa Constructor
Brainstormer & Capitualtors
Colour Monster & Corbeau
Crimson Contrarodron & Cryptospider
Zen Beast

and now...

Vore Bull 

- Hecatomb empire - endlessly sacrificed
- kingdom obsessed with justice revenge and sacrifice
- nothing is forgotten
- deep secreted places, passions in stone
-  army of bulls 
- long darkness 
- hints of rebirth
- bull required
- entering the skinned bull
- slight frame
- virtually indestructible
- some lethal violence
- ferocity into the small beast
- spirit, mind and engine

Cow Country - you just need Bulls for the ritual and that means pastureland, specifically, cattle country. Either the pasture of river valleys or the cowboy-inhabited vast plains of waving grass. The Vore Bull will almost always be a monster of the farmlands or the Plains.

1. The Cult of the Long Darkness - a hidden Mithratic semi-faiths is actually what it thinks it is; the last relic of a long-dead empire, holding a few half-remembered scattered secrets of its magic. They will kill to defend their secrets but what strange memories of the dead empire lie hidden in the caves nearby?
2. The Bull Demon - one, or a series of attacks by a nightmare demon of skinless flesh in the outlands. Whole settlements laid waste and nothing seems able to stop it.  Big surprise the destroyed settlements all have a dark secret in that they ignored or took part in the destruction of an isolated minority community, the survivors of that event are now taking terrible revenge.
3. The Fierce Wee Beasts - a plague or eruption of insanely angry small animals, voles mice etc, which seem possessed by some disease of hyper-wrath. 
4. The Peaceful Ones. A group of abused and maltreated people seek peace in a ranch-like cult out in the valleys. They seem to have found it but their secret is that they are actually forcing their rage into small creatures and disposing of them that way. Like a drug which wears off, the rage re-grows each time, more rapidly and more totally and the surges of wrath are starting to become noticeable.
5. The Foolish Academic. A relatively innocent historical researcher is accidentally finding out stuff about the rituals and nearly making them workable but is being manipulated by a Dickensian grotesque who wants revenge on the world
6. Race for the Ritual. Some evil person heading a cult or org full of damaged people has the last part of the ritual - the Bull part, their own ranch and tbh pretty much everything you need to start up your own army of unkillable monsters and wreck the nation, but they don't know the first part, and the answer is... in a dungeon! Which you need to get to before they do and either control or destroy the info.

Could I go deep on this one? Most of the depth comes not from the circumstances of the origins of the rage - did I write a a .. STORY GAME MOSNTER?? NOOOOO. Yes I probably did. This one is more about people, alienation, societal cruelty victimhood and rage. And access to cows. The bull just makes the rage a physical thing that the culture needs to actually deal with.

The horror of an insect on your flesh which you can't get off. It feeds off tears, mates then injects eggs  which cause a highly specific disease with some odd upsides but which is always lethal. Vitillary Blindness makes you see the world 'as text', but text which is always 'true'. Essentially you are reading the code of the Matrix, or it seems like you are. But then your head bursts open and Glyphapillars climb out.

So I seem to have STACKED this one with possibilities. Insects and Multiple stage life growth patterns seem perfect for D&D somehow, the distinctness and uniqueness of each form, with different dangers, utility and cultural significance and the fact that it transmutes into useful but obscure "lore" as well, ahhh yeahhh baby.

Pretty much in the text:
1. Glyphapillar forest fire! There are known to be Glyphapillars in the woods. A fire has started in the woodlands, which wouldn't be that big of a problem, but its known that burnt Glyphapillars produce Vitillaries and now everyone is too scared to fight the fire. But if the fire goes on, Vitillaries will be everywhere..
2. FUCK THERE ARE VITILLARIES WHAT DO WE DO??? Jump in the fire? Ok does anyone have flour I can roll my kid in and then set them alight? Anyone have acid? How far to the nearest water I can jump in? Can someone hypnotise me or get a dumb monkey to pick them off?
3. Vitiallry suicide armour - you should never have fucked with those swamp drunks because now their shaman or main berserker has gone mental and is rampaging through town covered in fucking vitillaries which means nothing physical can touch them!
4. Bring me the Blindness! A shaman, magic user, maybe someone terminally ill, or a fanatic, wants to be infected with the Vitiallay Blindness so they can see the world "as it truly is". But for that to happen, they will need Vitillaries. Yes its another "find and transport an insanely dangerous animal" mission!
5. Vitillary Detective. Some deadly crimes are going on and the guilty parties have some super-technique or subtle magic to keep the law off their backs. Last resort - *someone* must be infected with the Vitillary Blindness to help them 'read the scene' and catch the baddies. The PCs need to either do this or find and protect someone who can. 
6. Vitillary Conspiracy. Some crime gang or evil conspiracy has a way of inducing and slightly controlling the rate of Vitillary Blindness, they use those infected as guardians and inquisitors to prevent infiltrators. The PCs need to find some way to infiltrate the gang without being discovered....

1. Human Testing!. Someone thinks they have found a way to slow, or even put into stasis the vitillary blindness so its non-lethal across the course of a normal human life and is offering money (or freedom, or forgiveness) to test it (this is illegal). Its getting you out of debt/legal trouble etc at least!
2. Search for a Cure! You get the blindness somehow and need to search for some way to end it before it kills you.
3. Glyphapillar Bombers! - some nutter has managed to somehow grab a bunch of them and plans to lock the doors on the longhouse and throw them into the fire - now EVERYONE will see the world 'as it really is'.
4. Aiding the Detective. Someone hires you or you pledge to help them look for a cure and they follow you about - however, their blindness does turn out to be veeeery useful while they have it, do you *really* want them to be cured?
5. Tombs of the Aurulent Empire. Are they a weapon, a tool that got out of control? It would be strange for the Aurulent Empire to leave a 'pure' weapon hanging around. If they are part of a larger, forgotten process, could there be systematically ways to control their effects? Perhaps incorporating them into a larger process? Maybe tomb raiding the Empires leavings will explain things.
6. The Sketchy Treasure. PCs get frozen of amber-held Vitillaires as treasure and/or payment, or an amberised glyphapillar. Its the ultimate in illegal hard currency! Do you try and trade them or do the honourable thing and search for a way to destroy them safely?

The Vore Bull, a giant meat-suit powered by rage and ancient rituals from a forgotten empire.

Lets see what we have here..

Friday, 30 April 2021

The Knights of Grief

"What's that boy?
ahhhhh, its content yer after is it?
Needs contents for ye blog do ye?"
(Image by Mike Ploog)

"Why just blog ye development notes!
And why nots says I? Why its content pure is it not?
Desire ye a substack boy? Fer the old ship blogger is mighty leaky ye'll find."

Amongst my many other labours, 'Queen Mab' trundles onwards, amongst the many denizens of that Queens strange ever-turning palace are the following (development notes only, not quite ever Draft One);

The Knights of Grief

You Hear: soft steps, the tapping of glass. A toneless humming.

You Smell: Pomade, a subtle musk, or nothing.

You See: A fine gentleman, a prince or Knight. He bears a sword of broken glass and his sighs are aurora borealis. His movements are lazy, drifting, indifferent, like a gentleman in his own parlour.

currently 'Sir Tau Hekaton'

The Seven Knights Of Grief

Seven - Sir Iota

An old bearded fellow, something of a Quixote, ancient, can barely hold his sword. Genial, even kind and helpful. "I have time, time enough for all after all..."

Six - Sir Rho Pente

In his 50's. Like a seneschal or grave warden. Distracted, busy on some important matter, will take a little time off to aid you in some minor way.

Five - Sir Sigma Deka

In his 40's, a slightly stiff, but still strong man, sober, visibly tired of you. May give you vital information or knowledge, largely to get you out of his way. Wants to get it over and done with.

Four - Sir Tau Hekaton

Early 30's, a warrior in his prime, a busy man with no time for you. Indifferent, focused on his duty. Says and does the minimum to get you from his path. Mildly contemptuous. [I IMAGINE THIS IS THE KNIGHT YOU ILLUSTRATED]

Three - Sir Phi Chiloili

In his mid 20s, a supercilious and fey noble whose automatic surface civility slides past like oil on glass, barely concealing the churning monster of his frustration and rage.

Two - Sir Psi Myrioi

A boy in his early teens, cruel and mad. Stay away. A strangely knowing, even despairing figure. Nihilistic and hysterical manner. "Begone filth..."

One - Sir Omicron Aperion

Perhaps twelve years old, can barely hold his sword. An extremely evil and bitter manner, terrifying levels of knowledge, total indifference to human life and all existence, an eternity of emptiness behind his eyes. Will actively make your life immeasurably worse on the smallest interaction.

What Would People In This Reality Know About The Knights Of Grief?

- They serve Mabs desires.

- (in more depth) they serve her lethal desires.

- They cannot be, and have never been, defeated.

- If a Knight is coming to kill you, then you will die and that’s it.

- If you are in a Knights path you will either be killed or removed some other way, and that's it.

- They are all fine gentlemen.

- They are all ineffably sad.

- The youngest are the saddest, but also the cruellest.

- They carry blades of broken glass and breathe aurora borealis when exerting themselves.

- They seem to know everything, or almost everything, about you. One never really knows what they do or do not know, but it feels as if they know everything.

- One Knight can reduce a realm to chaos.

- They seem tired, almost worn to nothing, as if 'going through the motions'.

- There have possibly been other knights of grief, and new knights recruited, though it has never been known for a Knight to die, for instance, in combat or from disease.

- Even the High ladies SHIT THEMSELVES when a Knight of Grief arrives. (Palace Royalty know about the Time Loops and know that the Knight may have experienced this encounter perhaps thousands of times,. If the knight is here to kill them then they are going to die, so all they can do is hope that's not the reason they are there.)

Visible/Tangible Effects Of Encountering Them

- They know your name (obviously).

- they may know a lot about you and will often deliver some information that directly effects you.

- 'Impossible' catches and reactions.

- Will place themselves exactly to deal with impossible-to predict future events, like explosions etc.

- They will comment on things before they take place, i.e. "Speak to the grey haired beast" - then such a beast enters.

- Chekov’s gun all the time - if they have some random object with them, its going to be useful to them pretty soon


- They seem to fight in a tired, almost somnambulant way.

- Should they kill someone, they are already moving on, blade swinging idly from one hand - they are moving through  dance they know well.

- They specialise in rebounding their enemies attacks upon them in unexpected ways.

- They can deflect bullets.

- They can deflect lasers & things moving at the speed of light.

- If they seem to lose it only puts their enemy in a position which will destroy them.

- They rarely have to fight as everyone in the Palace knows about them and will often just run for it if they think the Knight is coming for them. But they also know that "running for it" means that whatever they do will end up killing them, as like running into a spike, falling down a hole, having a heart attack etc. There is nothing you can do..

Vulnerabilities - Is There Any Way To Escape Them?

Technically, no. If they are coming to kill the PCs then the PCs are going to die.


First, they will never be coming for the PCs (or at least almost never) in the context of the adventure.

Second, there may be ways....

The exact wording on the original text: "They must repeat time till they have correctly fulfilled her desire." then  "and must repeat their action again and again and again, being reborn each time without aging either forwards or back, until the Queens order is fulfilled. This might be something as simple as bringing a cup of tea, or reducing a world to chaos before her Wyrms darken its sky."

So, what happens when desires conflict, if two knights come into conflict with each other? This would be a major problem for them - two loops colliding means what? If they end up in a direct conflict then they will just both end up looping forever, so they will be very careful to avoid conflict with other Knights of Grief. Even a tangential interaction might create a knot of time. 

So one solution to being mixed up with a Knight in a negative way might be to quickly involve another Knight, they will be anxious to avoid any entanglements.

What is the exact wording of Queen Mabs desire? Can they fulfil it in a technical way, or fulfil it in a substantial way but miss some technicality and still displease her. 

If you know for certain the desire the Knight is trying to fulfil, then that gives you a lot of contextual knowledge to avoid their attentions or manipulate your interaction with them.

Also, what about Knights who are not currently fulfilling a desire of Queen Mab? Are they just hanging around? What happens if you encounter a Knight who is not fulfilling the Queens desire? They are presumably not time-looping at that point and so are just an immensely deadly close-combat opponent with thousands of years of experience. So still dangerous but not impossible.

So Knights will be very careful about disguising when they are or are not about Mabs business and extremely secretive about what orders they do have from her, they also will avoid each other a great deal.

Plus Mab can change her mind.

Plus what happens if you freeze one in ice without killing Him? Presumably he lives until unfrozen, dies at some point and repeats, but that’s a very long alter-loop. Are they just impossible to imprison?

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Twenty Trade Towns

1. Tortopolis

Last of the Tortoise Towns. A pretty simple trading centre, has ancient cannon and those giant crossbow things to defend itself, tortoise is super ancient and pretty much does what it wants. On the shell a pretty standard market town where you can buy and dispose of most of the low-fantasy material you need, alchemists shop, wizards, a blacksmith etc. Look, it does what it says on the tin.

2. Gaggletown 

A Witch-Village! A big stalking Baba-Yaga hut has laid eggs and a bunch of smaller single-person huts with down for thatch  waggle after it on giant duck feet, a child-witch in each one. The little witches are all different and are kids so will sometimes trade things for geegaws and nonsense, but they are also witches so be careful. better do your deal before the flock wakes up and goes on the move again.

3. Snailopolis

Thinks itself superior to Tortopolis despite leaving a sticky trail everywhere. The slightly pretentious though still-beautiful Montreal to Tortopilis Toronto, or Paris to its London. More high end goods, a sharper aesthetic, they don’t talk about trade outright. You have to know someone to get in (or on).

4. Dawn, the fading city. 

Assembled from flowing beams of light - moves across the earth at the speed of the sun. Inside everything feels like glowing glass, streets and buildings assembled from smoked crystal with the sight of the world outside flowing like a river of blurred images, the rising sun is always in one direction and a world of eternal shadow always being revealed in the other. To get on you have to jump from specific mountaintops, precipices and waterfalls at exactly the right moment. To get off you need to leave at the precisely the right time in precisely the right place. If you miss your time you may end up on the wrong side of the world, or smeared across a mile of countryside. 

5. The Crawling Mountain

Full of savage shaman who keep the mountain rolling for whatever reason. Truthfully it’s more of a hill, though it does look very dramatic, a bit like Arthurs Mount in Edinburgh. The shaman sell all kinds of animals and strange animal products from the wilds and the north, furs, amber, honey, bones, bears narwhal tusks etc. Has a Kung Fu dojo on the top with white bearded masters who give you a lot of shit. Underneath the primitivist pretentions the whole thing is a bit nakedly capitalist.

6. The Spider Library

Not quite like this but honestly I'm impressed that someone even got close.

A huge semi-ruined Ornthanc deal walking around on obsidian legs. A classic mages market, inside the tower is a diagon alley/name of the rose/tumbledown maze/alchemists warren-type situation with lots of strange boutique places full of cackling old men who look at you with a gleaming eye.

7. The lichCrawler

At least one of the proto LichJammer captains was more into capitalism on this planet than eternal exploration beyond it. Now has a big tumbling bone city (more of a small town) thing made up of a gazillion skeletons that crawls across the earth on a thousand skeleton limbs. Always needs bones, has bone buildings, big skeleton trading house with gargantuan omni-abacuses endlessly clacking back and forth, plus skeleton coffee houses where they meet to discuss futures, (they get wired by inhaling the fumes through their skeleton heads).

8. Pleasure-barge of the Painted River 

A huge gaudy wheeled-steamboat-type deal, (actually the wheels are turned by debtors and golems). Music and merriment drifts from it like fat gas. Floats upon a lambent river painted endlessly into existence by artists at the prow and fading into imagination at the back. A creation of Narcissolis, full of gamblers and partiers, persists largely due its own inflated reputation. Hungers for talent and drama, needs to attract artists or it dies. The Great Gatsby on crack.

9. The Thermo-Hydraulic Chilopod of the Philosopher King. 

Giant steam-powered centipede and/or millipede depending on how you count it. Always needs coal and carbon, shits clinker, pollutes everywhere but is quickly gone. Full of dwarves, gnomes and stem graduates ready to trade contrivances for knowledge or raw materials. Philosopher King died ages ago but they continue in his name and in his on-the-spectrum manner.

10. The Blue Souk. 

Not sure of original

A classic floating island with iron hooks and chains hanging down grazing the earth in furrows as it drifts past. Atop is a magnificent pleasure-palace/mausoleum now somewhat decayed and re-purposed as a Bazaar. The result of a Wish from a long-dead trafficker with spirits.

11. The Scarab Travellers

Giant scarab beetle caravan crossed with 19thC-Novel style Gypsies. - I know its basic but its a weird fantasy classic come on. Fortune telling for ye master?

12. The Perpetual Gyre

A huge wheel, as if from a divine chariot of cyclopean cart, rolling endlessly, but very slowly, across the land in looping ellipses the size of continents. The huts and homes hang from its spokes on swings so they are always the right way up. Prices depend on where things are in the wheel at the time. Shops that are easier to access at the bottom have high prices. If you want to try the difficulty of climbing to the top you might get a better deal.

13. The Nowhere Bridge. 

A suspension bridge or half of one. One end disappears into a nebulous unseeable vagueness while the other end has iron hawk claws which pin it to the earth as it stalks forwards. Traders live in the bridge or in its girders for a while before dropping off - no-one knows where the bridge leads to but its rumoured some of the older traders know something and can trade you services and items from there.

14. The Caravan of Dreams. 

Howdahs on top of huge soft-blue stem-limbed cloudstepping dromedaries. Goods are lowered up and down in baskets and messages transmitted by softly droning bees. The howdahs are built with springs and bounce-suspension on their bottoms. The beasts are dreamed into being by the Mage who's caravan this is, they only exist while she is in REM sleep. She does not react well to being unexpectedly woken up.

15. The Wild Exchange. 

A flying caravan of deranged anarchocapitalist magic-users. Each caravan different and all pulled through the air by a bedlam of crazed carnivorous and dangerous flying creatures. Swoops through the air cackling and lands for a few hours to trade in anything, yes ANYTHING!!!! - Free trade for all!

16. The Somnulent Docks. 

Encountered only when lost in mountainous or broken terrain and only by those half waking from nightmare on the borders of sleep. A narrow path leads to a deep fjord on a black sea. There many silent ships are docked and the soft-robed and bemasked traders silently make sign to trade in pearls and promises. 

17. The Tinker-Ouroboros.

Seems to be a hunched figure stooped under a heavy pack hung with jangling doodads. When their hood and cloak is pulled back, it reveals that no person lies beneath. An automata, golem or spirit made up of animated junk and geegaws, walking in the shape of a man. The Tinker will trade pieces of themself for other parts that take its fancy. Then the creature moves on in a state of permanent exchange.

18. The Slow, Stumbling man. 

A truly ancient, wizened and thin stooped man who shuffles forwards - he wears a hat and the brim of the hat is the width of a village and there is a village market on it. Actually if you saw it from a distance it would be hard to tell the man is there at all, the village is just four or five feet off the ground and the radius of the brim is a 1/4 mile - magic means he never sinks into the ground but it’s hard for him to manage an incline so the hat-town is mainly encountered on the plains. In the village everyone wears silks and furs and makes deals lying on couches while smoking hookahs, if asked how this came about the townspeople will only say that the man is "suffering for his sins". They complain constantly if the man stumbles or judders. One set of naked footprints in the earth is all that is left behind.

19. Mammoth-Town. 

A large wheeled bog-oak contrivance pulled forwards slowly by hairy mammoths. Encountered largely in northern latitudes, ruled by expatriate bog elves who, on the election of a long-distant king publicly announced "if XX becomes King I am moving to the far north!" and then actually fulfilled that promise. They do not want to hear about the successes of the Bog Elves left behind.

20. The town of Hidden Giants. 

Is actually a whole bunch of giants crammed into hollow houses pretending to be a village - blindingly obvious to everyone as you can't actually enter any of the houses and the giants put on giant booming voices pretending to be the baker, Mrs ... door, "I CAN'T COME TO THE DOOR RIGHT NOW DEARY!". But you can sometimes trade for things they have in their pockets, if you are willing to shout through the doors or windows, they push small items out through cracks or pop them out of the chimney.

(Idea based on that Warhammer kitbash guy - SORRY)

Monday, 19 April 2021

The Tube That Kills!

 Yes its another 'Velvet Hooks' post. Here are the others;

Today, another sad and lonely mistake of creation...

The Whirlwind Würm!

Why can't you love meeeeeeee?

"What mystery lies beyond the würm,
many seek it out, yet few return."

As true now as it was then. 

But what of the Würm? Pitiful, desperate for friends, sore mouth, infinite teeth, a weightless balloon. Within the würm; a limbo land. It is the avatar of a hungry grey plain questing listlessly for matter and meaning. The pencil sketch world, a sky of teeth and the sound of ceramic knives. 

If it lets go of the earth it just floats away sadly!!! Clearly the Würm is the victim here. It has a lair of sorts, and can speak, in a way. Lonely, all they can do is consume things utterly. They want to sleep but are awoken by their own teeth. When they die, the teeth eject like a bomb, and are scattered around knee-deep.

The Würm is "probably" about five miles deep, (though how can we know?).

Unusually clear and straightforward for one of my monsters.

Missions for Pay


Don't you want to know what lies within? Well someone with too much money does, and they have a bunch of suits of armour, some super long chain and a captive würm. What could go wrong?? THE PAY IS GREAT. Side-missions include this being cover to free someone very good or very bad from within the Würm.


Some radical has got hold of a bunch of Würms and found a way to explode them on command. Insane and impractical? Yes. But DEADLY. Now you must hunt down the Würm-Bomb Bomber and apprehend them, without being either dumped down a Würm or exploded by teeth.


A high bounty on the manifold teeth of a Whirlwind Würm, but how do you even kill one without being caught in the tooth-blast? And isn't this murder?


A Würm wanders into a village or town looking for friendship, (they must do this a lot), and everyone just fucking runs for it. How to get rid of the poor thing?


After a terrible disaster an isolated settlement finds itself rich in Würm teeth, but is besieged by gold-rush bandits who want those teeth to make knives, dentures and various other speciality products. They need someone to defend them while they harvest the sharp teeth and set up their sale. Tooth bandits might bribe you to turn on the villagers, and did something unspeakable also come forth from the exploding Würm????


A dangerous group are waxing the wheels of the underworld, offering foolproof body (and anything else) disposal services for a price. People disappear without trace or evidence! Not even a ghost! Someone needs to track the gang and shut this conspiracy down!

Worm Paperbacks Found Abandoned


Conspiratal text arguing that the Würms are in effect a 'slow apocalypse'. They seem sad, slow, listless and ridiculous as a defensive tactic, in reality they are portals to a reality which wishes to consume ours. If the danger of the Würms is ignored then eventually they will hit a tipping point and will be impossible to stop. WE MUST ACT NOW!!!


Cutting edge reportage analysing the 'hidden trade' in Whirlwing Würms. Though they are illegal in all polities, the utility of the Würms for permanent disposal of undesired "things" makes them so useful that a shadow trade exists which links hidden crime syndicates and governmental figures. Careful analysis of text can form some strong inferences about who the author is talking about. A proscribed text!


By Vetch-Net Ashkott. Pretty much what it says on the tin. Study shows how to understand and converse with the creatures. A dry text.


Portside trash bought by those waiting for the tide to turn. Claims to be  'based on real events'. About a murder witnessed only by a würm but it floated away, can it be found and placed on the stand before the trail ends????? (may contain vestigial details of a real crime and real worm).


Jane Goodall type wildlife/psychological analysis of the sad isolation of the Würms, "the most alone of all sentient species", writer disappeared mysteriously not long after publication. Can tell you a lot about Würm behaviour though it might be wise to use more precautions than the author thought necessary.


Purports to be the story of a (partly) successful expedition into a Würm and the disaster that took place within. May be fictional and/or embroidered but the story of a grey world where reality can be reshaped by the strong of will and where the flotsam of a thousand years lies scattered in the murk, and its strange ghostly yet lissom inhabitants, has inflamed the minds of conspirital teenagers for a generation.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Sunlands

 How long has it been since I just straight-up invented something purely for the blog? A long time.


The Sunlands would be ever-haunted by the ghosts of its raptorial otherlife, were it not for the cold winds that scour it.

Bright and cold, rolling beneath an eternally clear sky. No rain, but hail that thunders for a minute and quickly melts. Cold in the shadows and the wind, but warm where walls still the fast air yet still allow the sun.

Home to a peaceful and optimistic people; "The chances for adventure here are slim!”, they say. The cold winds blow away ghosts and spirits - no-one is haunted, the nights are clear, stars cut like full stops. No ghosts, no spiders, no stillness, no gloom. Bury the dead quickly and turn over the earth - they will be soil within a month, bones left clear and pale in the rich loam. 

Of course you can *see* ghosts in the wind; blasted past in flocks and scurries, grasping at the earth before being whirled away. What sort of ghosts they are is hard to say. Some are human, many toothed and scaled, feathered, barbed and of enormous size. They are only pale rags of things though, fleeting past like plastic bags. Nothing to fear in the unending gales.


the wind-cities of the Sunland’s migrate -  drifting on the wind before hurling down anchors when they notice a good spot. 

Their towered pylons are built from impossible wood recovered from the petrifying bogs. How long it has lain there, losing its weight and mass? Who knows? But now it weighs nothing, or less than nothing; chains and anchors are used to mine it up from the swamps and batten it down for crafting.

Each tower has a heavy anchor which it drives into the earth when it lands in an auspicious spot. Weights at the bottom keep it vertical. The homes and dwellings are carved into the vast trunk and hung around it like spiralling baubles. 

The cities creak and shift in the wind like ships. They fly in formation, chained together and held separate by huge bows of ash which flex under pressure.

A town or city might 'cut loose' in an emergency, avoiding raids or danger by unhitching and letting the wind take it away. More usually they try to guide their flight, often using kites, but, when powered or guided flight is needed, they summon the Raptorial Goose-Ghosts of the plain.

To summon the spirit they must construct a giant model, or automata of a terror-goose of the ancient world. To make it pleasing h for a goose-ghost to inhabit they must embroider it with flowers fed on dreams. So it is that in the wind-cities, sleep is a kind of currency and all dream with flowering vines planted above their heads.

If this summoning goes well the city can harness one, or more, of the old spirits and fly against the wind to a new resting place, puled through they air by the gigantic image of a floriate goose, petals drifting in its path. A valuable capacity in the strange aeotic economics of the sunlands.

Once, they say, there was one great Wind-City which ruled the Sunlands, and kept the winds themselves as slaves. But it splintered into chaos in some forgotten time, casting pirate states in every direction and bringing anarchy to the atmosphere. Now the winds contend for dominance, bribed at times by the cities, though what resource would a wind desire? 

The feudal/anarchic polity of the winds is perhaps the true geography of the Sunlands.


The fastest horses are raised on the sunlands plains, life is hard, but there are no ghosts and no geese and no taxes. Cities fly past in the air and cannot stay long enough to take toll. The moveable nature of towns means that standing armies are near useless. Raiding is the way to go.

There are many raiders, and many dangers; buffalo, ostrich and emu herds and terror-bird flocks.

From the air come the Hogmasters, cloud-riding hedgehog men, windriding pirates in their bright patched-together airships, crewed by all the flotsam of the World Uncertain.


In the valleys, the wind is lessened, the sun keeps things warm. down between the trunks it can be summery. In the deep, narrow valleys there are rivers full of trout and salmon, underground rivers where pale squid and fat eels throng. 

But ghosts and geese  can hide in that still gloom, there are cassowaries in the trees and goose-men in the crystal caves; underground palaces, mirrored labyrinths, ghost traps, they say, home now to the shining people. Dungeons brighter within than the land without. The colonnades of crystal trees, forests beneath the earth, buried and swept clean then filled again with the detritus that came with the shattering of sun city and its collapse into pirate kingdoms.

Home of the goose-headed men! Like men, all like old pot-bellied men. Ex-workmen who are still strong from their grafting days, bowed backs as if from lugging heavy loads, spines that curve like bows, with big flippered feet, and wide spatula hands and long goose necks! with huge goose heads! honkers!

The goose-headed men come from the labyrinths of their forgotten time, their shining otherworld where goose-men rule and seek to supplant humanity. Though this is nothing but a mad dream - for their power is long broken. In the warrens of the Sunlands they hide, leaguing with carnivorous hedgehog men, the Hogmasters! and ghosts who hide from the wind and sun, lurking in the silence down there.

The Sunlands were once a crystal land, in another iteration of the world, a forgotten construction of the divine mind which dreams all things. But they were overlaid, forgotten, re-written, remade into what stands today. 

Yet it seems that here, the divine thought only drifted across the surface of the world. In cracks and dimensional oddities, down hidden paths, the crystal caves unfold, forgotten glitch dimensions - beautiful in their way, but broken - flawed fragments of a fractured whole.

This the goose-men claim as their true and meaningful kingdom. Though whether it was always theirs, or if they wormed in somehow, taking its grandeur as their natural right, (for the goose-men are grand indeed - craving chains, crowns, robes, sceptres, rods of rule, great seals, swords, legends, stories, heralds, trumpeters, flags and purple robes, though they can afford little to none of these), none know.