Monday 31 August 2015

We Won a Thing!

Specifically, we won Indy Supplement of the Year!

Which apparently is for thisThis is a unique and very subjective Sub-Award. It goes to the designer who displayed the best support of their 2014 published game or supplement. This could be through the creation of forums or mailing lists about their game, their response times to questions about their games, the designer's use of marketing to get the word out about their game, the organization of the game's website, and of course support materials like free downloads, rules, starter kits, materials, adventures and supplements.

I'm not sure if we did much of that, but I remember answering some emails, so maybe that counts..

We, of course, means me and Scrap Princess

Who no doubt has her own speech to make..

About a year and a half ago Zzarchov Kowalski contacted me pretty much out of nowhere and asked if I would like to write an adventure for his NGR game. When he asked what artist I would prefer I said 'Scrap Princess' and he said that was handy because that's what he was thinking too.

Despite the fact that it took fucking ages to make and that it was actually statted for LotFP/BX because that's what I was familiar with, Zzarchov not only paid me for the adventure and for all the layout, proof reading and art, but also let Scrap and I keep it for ourselves, sell it and retain all the profits and rights.

If he hadn't done that it probably wouldn't exist and maybe a lot of the stuff that happened afterwards wouldn't have happened either.

So the Patrick Stuart award for Trew Knichthood goes to Zzarchov Kowalski.

The award will be hurled into the sea AFTER I AM DEAD.

DCO came out a little over a year ago. Since then about 595 people have bought it on RPG.NOW and maybe a few more have bought print copies on Lulu. I would be surprised if the total number goes over 1000 people, which is not bad for an ultra-niche product with no marketing budget and no advertising budget.

It's been a good month for DCO. First the Rammy for best writing, then a surprisingly good review from Bryce Lynch (I thought he would find it pretentious and hate it) and now two Indie RPG awards.

I'd like to thank all the small collection of weirdos that liked the book and who gave it so much support in the tiny microculture we all swim around in. We may be bacterium living in a drop hanging from the nose of gaming in general, but big things often have small beginnings...

If you dream it, it CAN be real.

There are three Patrick Stuarts on Wikipedia and, if I am to rule I must voyage to the Halls of Mandos to challenge and defeat them each in turn. Then when I finally stand over their blackened corpses the way will be opened for me to face my greatest nemesis

Ageless One you will taunt me no longer!
There can be only one.

I should take a moment to talk about what I am up to now..

Veins of the Earth - This is in its second proof-read. Jez Gordon is working on the layout. It's about 90,000 words so it will be big and it will take a while. Scrap has created the best art ever seen in an RPG book and if it doesn't win a 'Best Art' Ennie I will join Isis in protest for western culture will have lost any validity.

Maze of the Medusa - This once-cursed Space Hulk of  a project may have drifted into the orbit of  Imperial AgriWorld Baumann-Urbana. Terminators of the Void Dorks chapter have penetrated the initial layers. Remains of previous expeditions have been found. Reports are still coming in.

False Readings - This is an actual 'book' book that is half actual completed sword and sorcery stories and half fragments of weird writing projects from the last decade or so. It will also have to story of how Ghar  Zaghoun got that strand for his bow. As soon as this final tale is done I will hand it over to Paolo Greco who should bring out the whole thing through Lost Pages.

Broken Fire Regime - This 'sequel' or at lest companion to DCO is currently paused. As soon as the final False Readings story is done I will go back to working on it, expect it some time (hopefully) in early 2016. It will be bigger, stranger, more open and with quite a different mood. DCO was heavily influenced by the LotFP aesthetic and adventure style, BFR will probably move even further from that into strange new territory occupied only by itself.

Thinking about BFR makes me a little nervous. I'm not sure if we can pull it off and if we can I'm not sure it will sell, but if we can it will be an entirely unique thing.

Knights Of The Snail - This is a long-term probably-very-large actual book-book featuring twenty interlocking tales of the Knights of the Snail. To be illustrated by Matthew Adams. Whenever I am not working on BFR I will be doing this. Two of the twenty stories are done so far and both will be in the False Readings book.

My apologies for the low level of blogging recently, its going to continue like that, at least for a while. If I want to get anything done at all I need to narrow down projects so I am only working on one thing and just try to do that till its done.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

The Five Factions of WarGamia

In the ancient/future planet/nation/galaxy/dimension of WarGamia, there is only waaaaarrrr.

In and across WarGamia, five mighty forces battle endlessly for dominance.

And of these, the greatest and most powerful is:


The forces of ShoulderPadz are defined by having massive shoulders. In our world both strength and military prowess are usually considered hyper-masculine virtues. Men have better strength overall and significantly better upper body strength. The classic V-shape of a pumped upper body and a proportionately narrow waist is both symbolic of, and carries a direct sense impression of male and military strength.

Therefore, if you want your mini to look and 'feel' tough, strong, ultra male and ultra military, give it massive shoulders. It is the simplest and most primal way to turn something into a war-toy.

Massive Shoulders plays best between the 15mm and 28mm range. Below that scale the ShoulderPadz cannot be easily made out, fading into the general mass of the mini. When we get up to 54mm, large ShoulderPadz begin to look increasingly ridiculous.

(Depending on your tolerance for ‘ridiculous which, considering its war mini’s, should probably be high.)

It’s a curious question as to why this happens.

ShoulderPadz also play well into the physical conceptualising of armour. It’s rare for something to have actual massive shoulders, that is more common with AniMonster forces below. The figures of ShoulderPadz almost always carry an inferred inner self, smaller than the armour or mech suit they are wearing. The message they send is of a more vulnerable or human figure attired for war, hidden and protected by its battle aspect, which has also given it massive shoulders.

It is a strange hidden counterpoint of vulnerability in the ShoulderPadz which possibly adds to their story-potential and the way they intermesh psychologically with the user or player. Like the player they are a 'normal' or at least fleshy and vulnerable individual taking on a warlike role and clothing themselves accordingly.

Though the forces of ShoulderPadz have long ruled Wargamia, they are opposed. Most of their opponents are of roughly equal power but there is one which calls upon a psycho-cultural matrix almost as powerful as that of looking really strong and having massive shoulders:


The forces of SexyTwist are almost entirely female and always entirely sexy.

Unlike the forces of ShoulderPadz, the armies of SexyTwist attempt to delude the eye, not into believing they are really big, heavy and dense, but into thinking they are fast, light and caught in the action of movement.

The forces of SexyTwist and ShoulderPadz occupy fundamentally different temporal signatures. ShoulderPadz forces tend to occupy a perceived moment in time perhaps two or three seconds long. Sometimes even longer. They are almost never modelled with one foot off the ground or with their bodies in a state of torsional twist (core muscle asymmetry is often perceived as un-masculine). They may be shown with a weapon raised to strike or fire, but just as common is a stance with weapons held at arms or at the ready, a pose that, if imagined as part of a real situation, could be several seconds long.

The forces of SexyTwist are much more likely to be frozen mid-movement, like high-speed photography. (And in fact this idea of movement could not really full exist before high speed photography, up until that point no-one had ever seen time ‘frozen’, they had to guess what a moment looked like. )One foot will be off the ground, the torso will be twisted, both arms are likely to be engaged in wide counter-movements. Long hair and chains caught in the moment of whipping back and forth will be included to increase the impression of speed and fluid movement.

The forces of SexyTwist tend to have enhanced female sexual characteristics. Long hair is standard, amazing boobs are common. (Though unlike the hair and chains the boobs never shift in response to movement, the forces of SexyTwist have either amazing sports bras or extensive plastic surgery.) Even when this is not the case, a great deal of attention can sometimes be paid to the area of the hips and lower torso. Strong men turn into V shapes, female strength goes on around the hips, buttocks and core muscles. A strong woman is thick and curved like a vase, not V shaped and angular. Women tend to be lighter in mass and more flexible so possibly when we think of female potency and physical power it transforms into movement and twisting more easily in our minds.

While the weapons of ShoulderPadz are usually enhanced by increases in width, depth and size to create an impression of mass, strength and directly-employed power, the weapons of SexyTwist are generally narrowed, lengthened and curved to increase a sense of speed, sharpness and dexterous employment.

ShoulderPadz weapons smash, SexyTwist weapons cut.

The third faction of Wargamia is:


AniMonster forces have bits of animals and people mixed up and extremified with some made-up stuff added on top.

They usually have their mouths open. Snarling, spitting and wild vocalising are considered animalistic properties and these minis feel 'loud' in a way others do not.

The classic physical base for an AniMonster figure is the build of a gorilla, with something else mixed in. Gorillas are human-like enough to soak up human semiotics, they can be a 'person' more easily than other animals. As well they exemplify the classic swole-torso-indicating-strength

AniMonster figures are often bent or bowed over at the waist. Unlike ShoulderPadz minis which are usually straight backed, and unlike Sexy figures which are twisted in motion but not crouched over forwards as a normal means of positioning.

Animonster figures tend to have open simplistic haptically pleasant facial features with big mouths and teeth.

They also get to have HAIR, lots and lots of HAIR.

Though they are always 'savage' indicating the pleasurable absence of deliberate control, the 'evilness' of an AniMonster figure generally relates to its closeness to humanity on the evolutionary scale. The further away an AniMonster figure is from us evolutionarily, the more closed-off and 'other' it seems.

Apelike - Apelike AniMonsters are fun and wild and might still eat you but do not feel 'evil'. People smile and laugh when they play with these mini's and like the creatures shown, are more likely to be loud, boisterous and ridiculous.

Other Mammals - AniMonsters based on other non-simian mammals are a little less fun, a little more aggressive or potentially violent than the ApeLikes but still somehow often 'on our side'.

Reptiles - Reptile AniMonsters are usually a beautiful Other. Though somewhat alien they are rarely utterly evil and even when gigantic in size are more representative of indifferent charismatic danger rather than a personalised existential threat. More like a storm or tsunami than a punch in the face.

Birds - Birdlike AniMonsters are rare and usually carry a similar feel to Reptiles with the added impression of intelligence, awareness and craft.

Insects - Insectoid AniMonsters are almost always the devouring Other. Opposed to human life and human qualities in almost every sense. Not indifferent like the Reptiles or opposed-but-interested like the birdlikes, they simply do not give a fuck and wouldn’t know how to anyway

GeigerShit - GeigerShit AniMonsters are essentially Insectoid AniMonsters with extra alien crap and porn stuff added into the shape. They are always evil as fuck. By this stage the shift in player personality is complete, GeigerShit AniMonster players do not hoot or holler, they are silent.

The forth faction of Wargamia is directly across from AniMonster on the human-monster axis, this is the army of:


Army-Man forces were the first to discover and colonise WarGamia and for a long time, all the inhabitants of the CosmoBellum were Army-Man, except for a few toys that snuck in when people were very young and maybe their sister would play.

Army-Man exemplifies humanity. Its proportions are classically human with almost no massively extended or enhanced physical characteristics but only some shifting of width around the 28mm scale.

Army-Man is also almost-entirely male, even more so than ShoulderPadz, though in recent years some female Army-Man forces have been seen

The Army-Man wears clothes instead of armour and these clothes often have actual folds in them, not of dramatic movement but of simple wear and gravity.

Army-Man forces are based on real-world military forces. Their guns and weapons are smaller than those of any other faction but look like they are heavier. A ShoulderPadz or SexyTwist figure can hold out a weapon almost as big as they are at an angle of almost 90 degrees from the body with no apparent pressure on the wrist or arm, but an Army-Man figure carrying a rifle or a rack of bazooka rounds seems to bow under the weight.

Army-Man figures tend to be more centred. They do not massively extend their limbs. Someone (I think it was Raphael) said a good sculpture is one that you could roll down hill and nothing would break off. Army-Man figures are most likely to match this description. They are contained and more likely to be single-cast minis rather than assembled ones.

(It's almost like Army-Man figures are *about* weight and gravity somehow.)

Though Army-Man figures often embody a resilient bravery and muted resistant machismo, they seem made to suffer in the heightened atmosphere of WarGamia. They do not 'feel' powerful and are much more likely to have a segment of their set which includes figures sculpted as wounded, dying or being carried off.

 They are an army much more likely to have some medical personnel as part of their set. They are also much more likely to have a complex command structure, not only as part of their background but actually modelled onto the miniatures. They have multi-person command teams, commanding officers and sergeants.

These take place in ShoulderPadz as well but to a lesser extent. An Army-Man figure is much less likely to be a single 'heroic' figure. They come in large groups and look like they need them to survive. They tend to have a strong group identity but without an alienating total uniformity.

Army-Man forces have an inferred social reality that exists between them, they care about each other and have a wider social and emotional range than any other faction, though it is not immediately visible through the strong genre-fied signals of ShoulderPadz, SexyTwist or Animonster

Sometimes they are modelled as if looking at or checking on each other.

They seem a bit sad, like something bad might happen to them.

They are people you might meet.

Although less apparently-charismatic than other factions, the forces of Army-Man are truly vast, it is said that an entire other dimension of WarGamia exists, inaccessible to the other factions, where vast tides of Army-Man clash endlessly re-fighting their ritualistic history-battles.

The last great faction of WarGamia is:


One way to think about Robotish is as if the armour of ShoulderPadz had slowly colonised the imagined human inside, resulting in a creature that was entirely-armour.

Robotish forces are defined by the combination of a humanly-recognisable will, but the absence of a human personality. This produces a strong two-toned emotional signal quite different to GeigerShit. GeigerShit figures say simply 'I am other'. Robotish figures say 'I am a creation of yours, like a thought you had forgotten of a machine you abandoned, but my nature is not yours'.

Human intent, or at least human-derived intent, without human fear.

Robotish figures use the strength and threat-signifying signals from the machinery of the industrial age. Oddly, this makes the sense of them more familiar than even Army-Man figures. Relatively few of us have been in the army or seen one fight up close, or been a vampire combat-stripper or that thing from alien, but most of us are familiar with movements of weight and mass in technological form that would ahve staggered our ancestors to behold (and did for a bit when trains arrived.)

We know machines are dangerous, we ride inside them, we feel their power and mass, we have a strong sense memory of them. Stronger, probably than that we have for animals at this stage.

Robotish figures are often the human body transformed, muscles become cables, the heart becomes a turbine or engine, the face becomes a blank, eyes become sensors.

They also incorporate massive military threat-signals incorporated directly into the human form. A Robotish that shoots missiles from its hands is the modern equivalent of greek armour with cast-in abs. And like armour, they can incorporate symbolised or hugely inflated threat signals.

As with AniMonsters, there is a slight twinge of a good/evil axis when moving from a humanid to non-humanoid form. Human shaped Robotish minis are a little bit more likely to be 'good' I think. Multi-legged Insectoid Robotish's are a little more likely to be 'bad'.

Robotish are war and they are our fear of the technology of war

You can describe any wargame mini using the above five ideas BUT there are sub-species and wild cards that some people think should be included as their own faction:

GeigerShit - maybe this should be a thing on its own.

iPhoneSleek - This is often included under Robotish but perhaps is its own thing.

Pirate - It always seems like this is going to be its own thing but it never quite is.

SpaceTolkien - Rubbish till it evolves a new form.

Kawai - whatever.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Well, they are dead now..

and the fellowship disparbled.

Here are some things.

The first is from Caxtons epilogue to the printing. He is talking about whether Arthur was real and noting various evidence that he was, and he gets to this bit (my italics);

"..and yet of record remain in witness of him in Wales, in the toune of Camelot, the great stones and marvelous works of iron lying under the ground, and royal vaults which diverse now living hath seen."

Marvelous works of iron?


Second, a quote from the "Buke of Knychthede" (Properties of the Noble order and Office of Knychthede.) by Gilbery Hay

"Item, office of knighthood is to maintain and defend widows, maidens, fatherless and motherless bairns, and poor miserable persons and pitiable, and to help the weak against the stark, and the pure against the rich; for oft-times sick folk are, by more stark than they, beaten and robbed, and their goods taken, and put to destruction and poverty, for fault of power and defence.

For right as the hewing axe is ordained to cut down trees that hinder ploughing of lands, and carts and chariots and merchandises to pass through the forests, so is the sword of knighthood ordained to cut away and destroy the wicked unworthy weeds and vines of thorns of evil men that hinders labourers, merchants, traitors to travel through the world which is as a forest and wilderness when it is not well tended; of the which evil men should be weeded out by knights, keepers of the law, that good men might live in shelter; and he that is a knight, and does not this, but does even the contrary, should be taken by the prince, or by other worthy, faithful, and honourable knights, and put till dead.

For when a knight is a reaver, or a thief, or a traitor or a murderer, or a lollard, schismatic or heretic, or in such crimes openly known and proved, then he is unworthy to live, but to be punished in example of others that defoul that most noble and worthy order and abuse it against the points and the properties of that order.


Third, one of Malory's few direct interjections into the text, from the final book:

"Then came there word unto Sir Mordred that King Arthur had raised the siege from Sir Launcelot and was coming homeward with a great host to be avenged upon Sir Mordred; wherefor Sir Mordred made great writs upon all the barony of this land. And much people drew unto him; for then was the common voice among them that with King Arthur was never other life but war and strife, and with Sir Mordred was great joy and bliss.

Thus was King Arthur depraved and evil said of - and many there were that king Arthur had brought up out of nought, and given them lands, that might not then say him a good word.

Lo, ye, all Englishmen, see not what mischief here was? For he that was the most king and noblest knight of the world, and most loved the fellowship of noble knights - and by him they were all upholden - and yet might not these Englishmen hold them content with him.

Lo, thus was the old custom and usage of this land; and men say that we of this land have not yet lost that custom. Alas, this is a great default of us Englishmen, for there may be no thing us please no term.


And finally, in his largest interjection, the reason, I think that so many people who read Malory are caught up in the mystery of the man, especially for those of you who remember his rap sheet.

This is the criminal and possible rapist in prison five hundred years ago, talking about a time he imagined about a thousand years before he was born:

"And thus it passed on from Candlemas until after Easter, that the month of May was come, when every lusty heart begins to blossom and to burgeon. For, like as trees and herbs burgeon and flourish in May, in like wise every lusty heart that is any manner of lover springs, burgeons, buds and flourishes in lusty deeds.

For it gives unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May, in something to constrain him to some manner of thing more in that month than in any other month, for diverse causes: for then all herbs and trees renew a man and woman, and in like wise lovers call to their mind old gentleness and old service, and many kind deeds that was forgotten by negligence.

For, like as winter raisure does always erase and deface green summer, so fairs it by unstable love in man or woman: for in many persons there is no stability, for we may see all day, for a little blast of winters raisure, anon we shall deface and lay apart true love, for little or naught, that cost much thing.

This is no wisdom nor no stability, but it is feebleness of nature and great dishonour, whomever useth this.

Therefore, like as May month flowers and flourishes in every mans garden, so in like wise let every man of honour flourish his heart in this world, first unto God, and next unto the joy of them that he promised his faith unto. For there was never honourable man nor honourable woman , but that they loved one better than another; and honour in arms may never be foiled. But first reserve the honour to God, and secondly thy quarrel must come of thy lady - and such love I call virtuous love.

But nowadays men can not love seven night but they must have all their desires. That love may not endure by reason; for where lovers be soon accorded and hasty, heat soon cools. And right so fairs the love nowadays, soon hot, soon cold: this is no stability. But the old love was not so: for men and women could love together seven years, and no lecherous lust was between them - and then was love truth and faithfulness.

And so in like wise was used such love in King Arthurs says. Wherefore I liken love nowadays unto summer and winter: for like as the one is cold and the other hot, so fairs love nowadays.

And therefore all you that be lovers, call unto your remembrance the month of May, like as dead Queen Gwenyver, for whom I make a little mention, that while she loved she was a true lover, and therefore she had a good end."

Sunday 16 August 2015

you are - God I take to record - in a false quarrel

In the back of the Norton Critical Edition of Malory are a bunch of direct sources from 15th century England. In particular a sequence of letters between two families about the ownership of a particular property.

(The argument in these letters would eventually lead to the last battle between private armies on English soil.)

I have cleaned up the spelling but tried to keep the rest of the language intact. At the bottom of the letters are a bunch of isolated terms which you should be able to use with any word processor to customise the letters to any D&Dish campaign. This could be an argument between any two noble families in a pseudo-European setting.

The letters could be recovered separately in treasure hoards or on the bodies of murdered curiors, or their delivery could be the object of quests. The context they imply is effectively an adventure on its own, or just rich background for a world. If read out the language is quite a bit more interesting than the customary boxed text.

As events start, Lord T has occupied the manor of Wotton for some time. Lord B claims Wotton and his wife is in the capital trying to press the claim legally.


(To my right honourable and reverend lord and husband be this letter delivered.)

Right honourable and reverend lord and husband, I commend me to you with my whole heart, desiring always to hear of your good welfare, the which God maintain and increase ever to your honour.

And if it please you to hear how I fare: Thomas Roger and Jacket have asked surety of peace from me, for their intent was to bring me into the Tower. But I trust in God tomorrow that I shall go in bail until the next term, and so go home, and then to come again.

And sir, I trust to God, you will not treat with them, but keep your own in the most manliest wise, you shall have the land for once and all.

Be well ware of Venebles of Alderley, of Hugh Mull, and your false council; keep well your place. The Viscount Lisle lies right near you and shapes all the wiles that he can to distress you and yours, for he will not meddle with you openly no manner of wise, but it be with great falsedom that he can bring about to beguile you, or else that he cause that you have so few people about you; then he will set on you, for he says he will never come to the King again till he has done you an ill turn.

Sir your matter speeds and does right well (save my daughter costs right good; at the reverence of God send money, or else I must lay my horse to pledge and come home on my feet).

Keep well about you till I come home and treat not without me. And then all things shall be well, with the grace of almighty God who has you in his keeping. Written at London the Wednesday next after Whitsunday.

Isabel, Lady Berkley


William, called "Lord Berkley," I marvel you come not forth with all your carts of guns, bows, with other ordinance, that you set forward to my manor of Wotton  to beat it down upon my head.

I let you know, you shall not need to come so near for I trust to God to meet you near home with English men of my own nation and neighbours - whereas you by subtle craft have blowing about in diverse places of England that I should intend to bring in Welshmen for to destroy and to hurt my one nation and country; I let you know I was never so disposed, nor never will be.

And to the proof hereof, I require you of knighthood and of manhood to appoint a day to meet me half way, there to trial between God and our two hands all our quarrel and title of right, for to eschew the shedding of Christian mens blood - or else I shall meet you.

An answer of this by writing, as you will abide by, according to the honour and order of knighthood

Thomas Talbot the Viscount Lisle


Thomas Talbot, otherwise called "Viscout Lisle" - not long continued in that name but a new-found thing brought out of strange countries - I marvel greatly of your strange and lewd writing, made I suppose by your false, untrue counsel that you have with you, Hugh Mull and Holt: as for Hugh Mull, it is not unknown to all the honourable men of this Realm, how he is convicted of falseness and the raising of the King's records; and as for the false mischievous Holt, what his rule has been to the destruction of the Kings liege people in my lordship of Berkley, as well as to the hurt of their bodies and the loss of their goods, against Gods law, conscience, and all reason, is openly known - so that every honourable man should refuse to have them in fellowship - and also of his own free will, undesired of me, before honourable and sufficient witness, was sworn on a Mass book, that he never should be against me in no matter that I had ado, and especially in that untrue title that you claim, with which you withhold my livelihood wrongly.

And when you require me of knighthood that I should appoint a day and meet you in the mid way between my manor of Wotton and my castle of Berkley, there to try between God and our two hands all our quarrel and title of right, for to eschew the shedding of Christian mens blood, or else the same day to bring the uttermost of my power, and you would meet me: as for the determining of between our two hands of your untrue claim, and my title and right of my land and inheritance, you know right well there is no such determination of land in this realm used. And I ascertain you that my livelihood, as well as my manor of Wotton and my castle of Berkley, be entailed to me by final record in the Kings court by the advice of all the judges of this land in these days being.

And if it were so that this matter might be determined by your hands and mine, the King our sovereign lord and his laws not offended, you should not long desire but I would as soon answer you in every point that belongs to a knight: for you are - God I take to record - in a false quarrel, and I in a true defence and title.

And where you desire and require me of knighthood and of manhood to appoint a day, and that I should be there with all the power that I could make, and that you will meet me half way, I will you understand I will not bring the tenth part that I can make - and I will appoint a short day to ease your malicious heart and your false counsel that is with you: fail not tomorrow to be at Niblyes Green at eight or nine of the clock, and I will not fail, with Gods might and grace, to meet you at the same place, you who stand in the borders of the livelihood that you keep untruly from me, ready to answer you in all things, that I trust to God it shall be showed on you and yours to your great shame and dishonour.

And remember yourself and your false counsel have refused to abide the rule of the great lords of this land, which by my will should have determined this matter by your evidence and mine: and therefore I vouch God to record, and all the company of heaven, that this fact and the shedding of Christian mens blood which shall be between us two and our fellowships, if any happen to be, does grow of your quarrel and not of me (but in my defence and in eschewing of reproach), and only through your malicious and mischievous purpose, and of your false counsel and of your own feeble discretion.

And keep your day; and the truth shall be shown by the mercy of God.

William, Lord of Berkley


Lord B's first name - William
Lord B's surname - Berkley
The first name of the wife of Lord B - Isabel

Lord T - Thomas Talbot
Title of Lord T - Viscount Lisle
A lawyer of Lord T - Hugh Mull
A second lawyer of Lord T, Surname - Holt
An agent working for Lord T - Thomas Roger
A second agent working for Lord T - Jacket
A secret ally of Lord T - Venebles of Alderley

Title of a (presumed male) Ruler - King
Name of a God - God
Name of a famous prison - the Tower
Name of a Capital City - London
A holy book or object  - Mass book
A day of the week - Wednesday
A religious festival - Whitsunday

Name of the disputed property - Wotton
The place appointed for a duel or battle - Niblyes Green
Name of a 'good' home nationality - English
Name of the same good home nation - England
Name of a 'bad' neighbouring nationality - Welsh
Name of a religious or ethnic group - Christian

You may wish to replace in a medieval setting - guns

Thursday 13 August 2015


An interview with Scrap and I by a Frog in which I claim to have eaten Micheal Fassbender's kidney.

I have not watched it because I do not like looking at myself.

An interview with my by Courtney Campbell from the blog 'Hack and Slash'.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

The Sword You Never Heard Of

Names matter. Lets take a lesson on this from Sir Thomas Malory.

We enter towards the end of the Grail Quest. Sirs Galahad, Percival and Bors have come upon a strange ship..


And mmyddis the shippe was a fayre bedde; and anone Sir Galahad wente thereto and founde thereon a crowne os sylke. And at the feet was a swerde, rych and fayre, and hit was drawn out of the sheeth halft a foote and more.

And the swerde was of dyverse fassions: and the pomell was of stoone, and there was in hym all manner of coloures that ony man might fynde, and every of the colours had diverse vertues; and teh scalis of the hauffte were of two rybbis of two dyverse bestis: that one was a serpente whych ys coversaunte in Calydone and ys called there the serpent of the fynde - and the boone of hym ys of such vertu that there no hand that handelith hym shall never be werey nother hurte; and the other boone ys of a fyssh whych ys nat ryght grete, and hauntith the floode of Eufrate, and that fyssh ys called Eternax - and the bonys be of such maner of kynde that who that handelyth hym shall have so much wyll that he shall ever be werey, and he shall nat thynke on joy nother sorow that he hath had, but only on the thing that he beholdith before hym. (And as for thys swerde, there whall never be man begrype hym - that ys to sey, the handils - but one; and he shall pass all othir.)


Than Sir Galahad behylde the swerde, and saw lettirs lyke bloode that seyde:



And than they behylde they the scawberte: hit besemyd to be of a serpentis skynne, and thereon were lettire of golde and sylver (and the gurdyll was but porely to com to, and nat able to susteyne such a ryche swerde) and the lettirs seyde:



"Sir, seyde Sir Percivale, "turne thys swerde that we may se what ys on the other syde." And hit was rede os bloode, with blacke lettirs as ony cole that seyde:



Later, we learn where the sword came from, it was made by King Solomon, at the urging of his wife, in response to divine prophecy.

'.... the lady said to Salamon, 'Sir, syn hit ys so that thys knyght oughte to passe all knyghtes of chevalry whych hath bene tofore hym and shall com afftir hym, moreover I shall lerne you' sede she: 'ye shall go into Oure Lordis temple, where ys Kyng Davith his swerde, youre fadire, whych ys the mervayloustre and the sherpyste that ever was takyn in ony knyghtes hondys. Therefore take ye that, and take off the pomellle, and thereto make ye a pomell of precious stonys; late hit be so suttelly made that no manperceyve hit but that they beth all one.'

And aftir make there a hylte so mervaylously that no mand may know hit; and aftir that make a mervaylous sheethe. And whan ye have made all thys, I shall lette make a gurdyll thereto, such one as shall please me.'


"Now," seyde Sir galahad. "where shall we fynde the jantillwoman that shall make new gurdyls to the swerde?"

"Fayre sirres," seyde Percivals syster, "dismay you nat, for by the leve of God I shall lette make a gurdyll to the swerde, such one as sholde longethereto."

And than opynde she a boxe and toke oute gurdils which were semely wrought with goldyn threadys, and uppon that weresette full precius stonys, and a ryche buckyll of golde.

"Lo, lordys," she seyde, "here ys a gurdill that ought to be sette aboute the swerde - and wete you well, the grettist parte of thys gurdyll was made of my hayre, whychy somme tyme I loved well, whyle that I was woman of the worlde:

"But as soon as I syste that thys adventure was ordayned me, I clipped off my heyre and made thys gurdyll."

"In the name of God, ye be well-i-founde!" seyde Sir Bors, "for sereyse ye have put us oute off grete payne wherin we sholde have entirde, ne had your tydyngs ben."

Than went the jantillwoman and sette hit on the gurdyll of the swerde.

"Now," seyde the felyship, "what ys the name of the swerde and what shall we call hit?"


Ok, now this (depending on how you feel about it, is when it gets interesting. Lets count back elements about this sword shall we?

- Girdle made of gold thread and hair cut from a pure maid who is also the daughter of a king.

- Pommel and hilt made of precious stones by King Solomon himself.

- Each colour of each individual stone of the pommel has its own virtue.

- Blade is that of biblical King David, the most marvelous and sharp ever taken from any knights hands.

- THREE separate commands and prophecies on the blade and scabbard regarding usage and repair of the sword and its accoutrements. Some in letters like blood, others in letters like coal.

- Scabbard of a serpents skin.

- 'teh scalis of the hauffte', I am not sure what that means but I think its the handle. Ok, the handle made from the bones of TWO magical beasts

- One, bone of the fish Eternax who 'haunteth the flood of Euphrate' means no weariness and no thinking of joy, or sorrow, but only of the thing  before you. In D&D terms, immune to tiredness, charm, fear, etc. And lets not forget that in a book where only the names of nobles are bolded (except when a tired scribe makes a mistake), the name of the goddamm _fish_ is bolded like that of a king.

- Two, bone of the Serpent of Calydone, also called the Serpent of the Fiend. Whoever holds it is never weary or hurt.

- Oh I forgot to mention it comes on a fucking magic ship sent by god with its own set of warnings and is shown next to some spindles made from the wood of the apple tree that damned mankind, but that's extraneous.

Imagine you are in a meeting and tasked with deciding the name of this sword. Its the third really big sword to show up in the Arthur story. The first one was the Sword in the Stone, but maybe you forgot to name that one.

The second was Excalibur, that one is widely regarded as a classic. Great name, vaguely suggestive, bit of latin in there, suggests cutting and hardness, but also great powers, the blade cuts anything andthe scabbard means you can't die of bloodloss. So its a nice counterpoint.

So what do you call this third sword, the one recovered by Galahad. The R&D team came up with a load of great stuff for the background. Now you just need a name....


"Truly," seyde she, "the name of the swerde ys the 'Swerde with the Straunge Gurdyls:'


And that is why you have never heard of this fucking sword.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Marvel Pitches I Will Never Pitch

Scrap burns her old ideas, I just blog mine. RECYCLING.


(This is the N'th or something outing for this title and probably won't be the last.)

The Marvel Heroes with Superman-Equivalent powers meet in a fortress made from a fluxion of magnetic force and nuclear fire on the surface of the sun. From there, they battle impossible things.

They guard an eternal Dawn from the surface of the Sun, making sure night never falls.

Could also be 'Light Knights' which sounds twee. But then they are superman characters and therefore ultra-simple ultra direct. They are all quasi apollonian types.

First Issue - 

Jackson Pollocks paintings are direct transmissions of gigantic alien trans-dimensional gigastructures filled with light from a reality where they made up the cosmos, but his attempts at communicating them were flawed, in time the aliens grew angry and left him.

A time fragment eclipsed them but now it has passed and the paintings have once again become active maps to that now-dying cosmos.

Dark-carbon nazgul world eaters now predate there, along with kabuki-mask droid gods and the trans-organic ghost forms of doomed intelligent worlds. Intelligently aware noospehereic songforms may still be active as a form of transient dirge.

Even the simplest and smallest of these entities could pose a titanic threat to our more-mundane reality. This tragic alien cosmos must be sealed off, from the other side.

(In human terms, someone has to go inside a haunted house to lock the doors from the inside, except this house is an entire supra-natural cosmos immeasurably greater and more strange than our own.)

The power of entropy there is so great that only beings who were themselves virtual living generators of incomprehensible energies could even hope to survive.

That means Supermen. Luckily the Marvel Universe has a few and people don't tend to do much with them.

Team - 

Blue Marvel - forgotten Black Superman of the 20th century.
The Sentry - reluctant schizophrenic Superman.
Miss America - female latina superman, escapee from Utopia.
Gilgamesh - ancient Superman, creator of civilisation.
Hyperion - possibly amoral, ruthlessly materialist Superman.

Series Enemies - 

The Witch of Endor
The Mayan God Tll
The Lords Errant
The Future All-Female Dawn Guard
The Avengers of the World of Rice and Salt
The Goddess Night
The Underverse
The Artist of Entropy

The series would be about a team of demigod-level beings operating almost at the borders of reality against threats so huge and impossible that more terrestrial-level heroes might not even recognise them. And it would be a marvel series about a team of people with mixed backgrounds and attitudes rubbing up against each other in unexpected and interesting ways, except this happens in a palace of nuclear fire that most beings couldn’t even reach.


Luke Cage is lost in time. While he tries to survive and find meaning in a post-apocalyptic Britain somewhere between the fall of Rome and the Battle of Hastings, meanwhile Jessica Jones and his Kid search for him.

Present-earth battles a standard-issue megathreat so the customary cast of characters is oddly unhelpful. Especially a very terse Thor who refuses to discuss the issue in any way.

Jessica is assisted and dogged by a drunken and ridiculous Hercules who attaches himself to her quest out of a need for something to do (he too is ignored as a minor character by those involved in the much-more-important world-spanning events currently taking place). Hercules is both pathetic and insensitive and deeply tries the patience of Jessica with his rambling old guy bullshit. As her despair at her failure to find her husband grows, his bluff heartiness grates ever more.

In Anglo-Saxon England Luke basically becomes Black Beowulf, best friend to an aging yet honourable king, he battles ancient horrors to preserve the dregs of a culture that he knows full well will one day grow into a world power that both abuses, yet shapes, the cultural and racial matrix from which he springs. Throughout all his adventures his faith that his wife is looking for him, and will eventually find him, never dims. He tells everyone that his wife is looking for him from beyond time and, though people think its kind of ridiculous that a guy would need to be rescued by his _wife_, slowly the legend of the man hunted through the years by his lost love, spreads.

The monsters he fights are, in Marvel style, based on medieval and dark age myth but re-interpreted as mutants, alien technology fallen to earth, marvel magic and sometimes just weird shit. In this era, when Christianity is just slowly moving across the land and but the power of the central church is weak, there is no particular prejudice against mutants. The gifts of man are varied say the Priests and god puts where what he chooses, so if you can shoot fire from your eyes then it must be because that’s what god intends. Luke finds that the Devil himself wanders the land in person at this time trying to dick people out of their souls.

After (perhaps years?) of adventuring, a new and more terrible threat appears. Vikings, said to be lead by a living god. A force no mortal man can defeat.

In the present, Jessica’s relentless and creative detective work finally results in a lead, she finds evidence of Lukes existence at some point in the ancient British past, but she needs help to reach him.

Eventually Jessica yanks some time tech from *somewhere* and sets about trying to retrieve her husband. But the gates of time are barred, a gigantic electrical storm rages somewhere between this point and that and not even earths greatest technology can break a path through.

In the past, Luke goes forth to battle the rampaging Vikings. After initial success he comes upon the forefront of the horde and encounters.. Thor! But a early-teenage awkward dickhead Thor (bear stubble, no Mjolnir) who suffers under the tutelage of a cold father and expresses the ruthlessness and violence of a dark time.

Luke encounters a very-young Loki and trades his iPhone (30 minutes battery left) for some useful information.

Though he knows he can't win, he challenges the God of Thunder to a one-on-one wrestling match. If Luke wins the Thunder god will no-more assault the people of Britain.

In the present, Jessica breaks down. Having burnt all her energies, been rebuffed  by every powerful friend (except Danny rand), stolen a time machine and having seriously endangered her relationship with her daughter due to her obsessive and relentless questing, she collapses on the roof of a New York brownstone during a major storm in a deep lament for the love she has lost and a husband she fears she will never see again.

Hearing this, Hercules is consumed by shame for his thoughtless and boorish behaviour, powered by a godlike sorrow as in times of old, he flies into a Demiurgic Rage. Swearing to set things right, he plunges into the time vortex to wrest the bolts of lightning with his bare hands, calling upon his father, the power of Zeus himself to break the doors of time.

In the ruins of ancient London Luke Cage calls upon all of his craft and skill in his battle with young douchebag Thor. Though nowhere near strong enough to take him head on he is wise and sneaky and manages to dodge and confound the Thunder God.

But Luke knows he is running out of time. Thor has never been beaten in combat before, he has never lost anything to anyone before and grows gradually more frantic and incredulous that this could be happening to him, and at the hands of a mortal man. Appealing to his father for aid, odin does nothing but look silently on. Though Luke tires, Thor has the power of a god, and does not and Lukes time is running out.

The two grapple, smashing through ancient roman buildings, at one point Thor slips and Luke holds above him the gigantic marble head of the Emperor Claudius. Though he has the god cold and could perhaps crush his skull, Luck can't bring himself to do it and hurls it away into the Thames (later to be found by river dredgers in the 20th century, so that’s how *that* got there.)

In the present Hercules, his body boiling with light, showing for perhaps the last time his ancient semi-divine power, hoists aside the lighting bolts of cosmic force, Jessica plunges through the portal and  slams into the ground in the middle of Ancient Britain, seeing her husband about to be killed by Thor, God of Thunder.

In a desperate attempt to protect her husband, she throws herself in front of his battered body, preparing to take the killing blow herself.

But Thor refuses to strike. Truly tested for the first time in his life, he has too much respect for the man who opposed him, he declares the battle over and storms (literally) off, cursing his still-silent father.

Odin smiles secretly, his son has taken the first small step towards becoming the hero he will one day be.

Jessica yanks her husband back to the present in order to save his life, he never gets a chance to say good bye to all the people he has known in the ancient world and leaves only a strange legend.

On meeting Thor in the present it turns out he knew all-along (for the past 30 years) what was going to happen as he remembered it happening to him, he just couldn't mention it as if he allowed even one thing to alter it could change his entire timeline and therefore possibly change the whole world. Luke is prepared to let it go, Jessica remains unimpressed.

Last page smash reveal, Loki still has Luke Cages iPhone, and in the present day he can charge it too! Now he's tweeting as Luke! ULTIMATE MISCHIEF SCHEME.


First Issue -

The Shocker (Herman Shultz) is wandering aimlessly when he comes upon a bunch of dangerous thugs bullying and threatening a pair of Hobos. A plump asian guy (Li) and a sketchy stringy indian guy (Han). Herman decides to get involved and a brawl breaks out. Together they beat the thugs and, in celebration they start upon an incredibly cheap drunken binge across alleyways city-wide.

Herman bonds with his new friends, they are all older, slightly ragged men who have had difficult lives, and when Han checks the date on a thrown away newspaper, he reminds Li that he is due to meet his family. They insist Herman come along as they are convinced he is a 'good guy'. Eventually he submits and they take him along.

Li opens a doorway in an alleyway and together they enter the pearl-and-jade palace of taoist heaven. As they enter, their earthly guise falls away and it becomes clear that these are Li Bao, ancient chinese poet known as one of the 'Drunken Immortals', he has been banned from Heaven for 1000 years due to drunkenness and causing trouble, turns out that was on this day in 1015!

His friend is, of course, Hanuman, the monkey-god from hindu myth. None of the occupants of heaven are happy about this as they are from entirely different pantheons and really shouldn't be hanging out but Li points out that there is no law against it.

Too shocked and staggered to resist, Herman is lead deeper into the palaces of heaven until he comes face to face with the August Personage in Jade, who is less than pleased to see him. he also sees a fountain of heroic souls, a streaming pillar of white pearls, with every pearl representing a heroic soul. All the big marvel names are there, along with a bunch of asian people Herman has never heard of.

Below the sweeping arcs of the white pearls are the low tumbling grey pearls, the souls of slightly rubbish, broken or just very strange heroes.

The August Personage in Jade has called a conclave of heavenly badasses to discuss forming a team for an upcoming mission. A terror from another reality is threatening heaven and a team of heroes must be formed. The souls to be employed must be chosen and an immortal must take the pearls and bring the heroes together.


At that moment some terrible fucking thing bursts through the dome of heaven and, in Joesky terms, a brawl is on! All of the taoist immortals break into insane angelic kung-fu action, Li Bao lends a hand, even Hanuman chips in because hey, why not?

But they are clearly no match for what they are facing and heaven is getting pretty fucked up, Li Bao grabs Herman and drags him to a doorway. In his last moment he hands herman his jain sword and shoves something into his pockets.

"You'll know what to do."

Li Bao kicks Herman out of heaven and the last thing he sees before he falls is the form of the destroyer writhing blackly in the broken colonnades of pearl and jade and his new friends almost certainly about to die.

Then he finds himself lying in a alley in new jersey. He just saw the fall of an unearthly realm and no-one but him knows and no-one cares. In one hand he holds the sword, he reaches the other into his pocket and finds a handful of grey pearls, snatched at the last minute from the fountain of heroic souls.

End issue.

Can the Shocker, a low level hood, put together a team of broken heroes to storm heaven and save the only people who were genuinely nice to him in thirty years? Can Herman save Heaven?

There is more but I tire from my mighty labour of dumping on you.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Ah got post-partum depression ah reckon.

Gave birth unexpectedly an hour or so ago, they's already givin' me trouble.

Eldest is Malicia-Jo, I'm not entirely sure what that girl looks like since, soon as she popped outta the egg she wrapped herself up in a bedsheet and climbed into the rafters, girl is twice as stealthy as her daddy was at that age, plus I'm pretty sire she's wearin' a disguise made from macrame. Even I can't find her half the time. Hafta wait for the girl to jump at me from offa curtain pole holdin' a breadstick like a dagger. She ain't steal nothin yet but she sure does like gettin up behind a fellah. Ah tell her, don't you backstab Daddy Malicia, it ain't familial. That girl is one for arguin' back I tell you! Even I can't get a word in edgeways! Ah don't know where she gets those details from. Seems like ain't somethin' go again' her and shes up there arguin the case like a dammned lawyer! That ain't how the world words girl!

Next comes Izildra-Jo. She is the most like her mother for sure, pretty as the night is long. Her shell is pure white. It ain't finely applicable to stealth I'm afraid but she is smart enough. Girl can put her mind to just about anything. Izildra-Jo likes wanderin' in the night, climbin' up the minarets and starin and the stars. I gotta bunch of pictures she made and they's all of different stars. Girl never stops wonderin' about whats gonna happen and why. 'Why did that happen daddy?' and 'When will this happen?' and 'What next?' and 'Why?'. Vorn-dammn it girl will you live in the present for a second or two!

Then came Petey-Joe who is almost pure-black and looks kinda messed up a little. He don't let it slow him down none though. Boy loves stealin' books! Takes right after his old dad in that respect. Cause' he also like fire to quite a degree. 'Son those enthusiasms do not mix I say, but he don't listen to a thing I tell him. Boy carries around and old sock fulla lead balls, says its his 'Deamon' and he summoned it. Drew eyes on it too.  Caught him trynna draw some magic signs in vindaloo sauce onna bottom of a table once. You better not be gatin' anything in here son! You stick to burnin' things and stealin', thats safe.

Praise-Be-To-Vorn-Joe is a silent fellow. The other kids have taken to callin him 'Eyeball-Joe' on account of how he just kinda looks at em for the longest time. Kinda freaks em out to tell the truth. I think I ain't never seen him even move. He must do it when I'm outta sight for he does get from place to place somehow. Kid is convinced he can make forks rust just by lookin' at em. Ah never saw it work myself but he was certain I tell you. 'Look Daddy, it decays!' Well sure it does son, that's why they also call you 'Rusty' Joe, on account of you has bestrewn yourself with rusty leavings. I don't know where you found them in this desert. Eyeball don't get on to well with his own twin, though they came from the same egg.

Praise-En-Gorath-Joe, now this boy simply _will not_ speak the common tongue, or even the language they got here. Ah'm pretty sure he can but he won't do it. All he does is talk in the sacred tongue of En Gorath, known to all insects. This boy won't wear clothes and its hell to get him to hold a knife even! He just runs all over the walls and ceiling, buries himself in the sand, says he's talkin' to the ants. Well sure son you can but they ain't got much to say to anything. Ants is dull as a general rule. Keeps referrin' to my personal colleagues and friends as 'Meatsacks'. Well that is cruel and proscriptive Joe and I don't know where you got that kind of language from at all. The family has taken to callin' him 'Linguisitcal' Joe on account of his talent with the Sacred Tongue but that is a pleasant alternative to what they might call him I tell you!

Tizania-Jo is next and she is near as pretty as her Momma as well, though somewhat extreme of aspect. I'm not sure where those horns came from, though I do recall an uncle with them so maybe thats it. Tizania-Jo is one for thinkin' things through before she acts, that girl does not like to get sucked into things too quick. If she ain't arguin' with Malicia-Jo over some interminable chunk o' detail she's usually hangin' out with Slow-Joe. They both of them have kinda a too-great respect for caution if you ask me! Last time I saw Tizania-Jo she was off with Izildra-Jo, I thought they were settin' up some sweet fortune-telling scam to dupe the local rubes. Ah could not have been more shocked when I pulled back that starry curtain and found them up to that stuff for real! What the hell girls? The Tarot is for rollin' marks not actual prognosticatin!

Nacky-Joe, this boy takes after his daddy for sure! He ain't afraid of nothin' no-how no-way. Aint no hombre to big for this guy, why he's squirlin' fer a brawlin' pretty much twenty-four seven. I say he's brave as hell! Only trouble is he keeps wantin to punch em in the front instead of stabbin em in the back. 'I like your enthusiasm son but, learn where ribs are you know what I mean? The spleen is a thing you know. Organs. listen to your big sister, if you can find her. You can't go facin of with someon tryna do you kung foo son, you is only about a foot and a half high so far, you just aint got the reach. Sure fights is good but fightin aint everythin there is you know, there is also theft, plus more complex frauds. Ah, now I sound like an old man for sure.

Jo-Elsjin well she is a sweet girl and she sure as hell ain't no coward but Jo-Elsjin is a problem child for certain. I can't tell if this girl is retarded or just strange. It seems like she either don't know who she is or don't know who everyone else is. Or whats goin on, or where, or why. Girl maybe has some kinda narcolepsy, she is just about fallin asleep all most-of the time. I'm more likely to find her passed out over a mud pie than actually doin' somethin'. Jo-Elsjin does like to make friends, she is friendly enough, but she is shamefully easily-lead and if someone tells her to she will just set upon a body like a dang savage. Well she damn near broke mah kneecap with a claw hammer till I reminded her who I was! I'm just glad Nacky-Joe is around to look after her and reminder who the hell she is. Vorn alone knows what would happen to her if her weren't there.

Ward-Josiah. Dammint, my own son a Vorn-Dammned Narc! Where the hell you get thatfrom boy cause it sure as hell wasn't from me! I don't know what the hell you think you're doin' remindin everyone exactly what laws they happen to be breaking at any particular time but I will tell you now, crime got this family where it is today! And that ain't no-where. Now it is true that just a few days ago I was robbed of my gigantic fortune by a couple of thieves, leaving us almost entirely destitute, and no doubt you Ward-Josiah Cooper would call that 'just desserts'. But, what happened then? Well your daddy only got mugged by a bunch of goblins, and then by some jacklemen, and then by a dang wizard, and then by Jubilex. And he only killed those fools and took every dang thing they had. (Except for Jubilex, who does not carry cash apparently.) So you see Son, Crime is a great big wonderful wheel and if you get robbed, well hell you just go and rob someone else! There ain't nothin fairer than that, it is a true meritocracy. (And I don't wanna see you wavin that landern around and tryna banish your brothers sock you hear? You leave Petey-Joe alone.)


Joe-Joe come on boy! Keep up! Ah know things are dangerous, well thats why you take risks in the first place! You gotta develop opportunities to deal with the trouble you already caused, and to do that you gotta cause more trouble. Why it works fine as long as you just keep causin more and more trouble and moving faster and faster to stay away from the consequences. Its stayin on one place that will get you killed! No you cannot stay with the horses. Look at you boy you is barely a foot high! Those things will step on you! Dang it son what are you don' cleanin up in here when we came to rob the place! Put that mop away boy and grab you some gems! Well it ain't my fault the others call you 'Slow Joe', slow you is and slow you are! (Least you ain't a damn recreat coward like that Joe-Maningo.)

Monday 3 August 2015

The Refinery

(In lieu of a proper post, here is a fragment of Broken Fire Regime. The 'sequel' to DCO.)

The refinery is like a crooked snake. Five long halls linked together at their ends bending back and forth in an angular way.

From each long hall flues sprout, gouting smoke and steam all day and night, they never stop or slow but run continually in shifts, day upon night upon day upon night.

This the Zones only legal smoke and anyone in the crater can see the direction of the company core by watching the tangling emission skeins crawling in the sky .

The Blue Blood begins to turn twelve hours after it is taken from the tree. In fifteen it's worthless. This time factor decides the operations of the Zone. The 'half a day' rule keeps workers running and the Zone working.

There are five great halls. Access between them is heavily controlled. As the product advances from halls one to five the processes become more precise, the result gains in value and the dangers of its production change.

Refinery workers occupy a unique space in the cultures of the company. The process is dangerous and people die. On average one a day. As a worker is promoted and becomes more expert they gradually move from hall to hall. Often they are scarred and changed by accidents or time. As they change they become more and more obsessed and focused on the process and the sap until eventually they are like stained sap-armoured machines themselves, moving silently and endlessly between the glass retorts and cauldrons of brass, testing and observing.


Before the opening to Hall One are the testing tables where new sap is received and paid for. Here harvesting teams wait in snakelike queues' overseen by roving Safety teams. Sometimes the queues can get so long that the time taken waiting can cause part, or all of a harvest to go off and become worthless.

Arguments, scuffles, politicking, bribery and begging for a better position are all common in the queues. Queue politics are their own micro culture and resentments born here can carry over into the rest the Zone, or the rest of life.

‘Queue Gangs’ are secret unions of Workers who organise to restrict or control access to and progress through the queues. They are utterly illegal and must communicate via invisible signals and tacit movements.

On the edge of a queue workers can be easily observed and the mutual danger from Safety teams creates a degree of solidarity, but on the inside the power of the Queue Gangs grows. Stabbings and garrotting’s often take place near the centre of the queues, but, no matter how fierce the queue wars grow, everyone involved is careful not to draw the attention of the authorities or to lose their place in the queue.

It’s rare for anyone to get through a queue without *something* happening.

1. Someone begs to exchange places with you, offers future favours, makes guarded threats.
2. Someone claims you queue jumped.
3. A fight breaks out.
4. Someone offers you a better place but expects favours, plus you just pissed everyone off.
5. Roving safety team singles you out for bad practice.
6. Safety team singles out nearby group for bad practice, they appeal to you for aid.
7. Caught between two queue gangs.
8. Told to ‘look the other way’ during queue shanking.

VALUE – When you get to the tables, one Litre of good Sap is worth roughly 1gp.


HALL ONE - Processing

Huge cauldrons boiling, the only light is from the crackling blue tree-frond fires beneath them, caustic hallucinogenic steam and almost-naked workers dripping with sweat, their mouths covered with piss-soaked bandanna.

The Sap is decanted and boiled. The rich skim of the sap is eased off with long brass tools and moved to the next huge cauldron, then boiled, then moved again.


The Sap is adhesive and boiling. If a boil is uneven, thick glops spit out and small children are sent to scrape it off the floor, dashing between the legs of the hurrying workers. The fallen Cloudblood fronds that make up the fuel can pop, flare and burn unevenly. A fire can get out of control.

Tree Dreams are common from the combination of burning fronds and boiling sap, but reduced somewhat by the huge open doors at the front of the hall.

A cauldron can tip, spilling boiling adhesive sap all over the floor. The process cannot be delayed or stopped so clean-up operations must begin right away. No-one is allowed to leave their post.

The worst fate known is falling in a cauldron as it boils. Death is relatively slow but it’s impossible to get somebody out before the sap cools. Rumours claim the resin’d bodies of accident victims are sold or used as special products, but no proof of this has ever been found.


When a cauldron 'gives out' and becomes too caked with purple resin to be of any use then it is moved to a cleaning station and the resin carved off in chunks. Dangerous, since patches of the resin can remain hot and unstable.

The bruise-like dark purple resin is collected and sold to 'waste disposal' gentlemen. Independent men not directly employed by the company. These men are drug dealers. The resin goes back into the Zone as a drug, some is exported to other places

VALUE : In the Zone the drug is about the same value, weight for weight, as the tree sap at the point of sale. Roughly 1gp per kilo. Elsewhere it can be much more valuable. This waste product alone puts the refinery in the black. If it produced nothing else it would still be a near-profitable business.


HALL TWO - Distilling

This room is divided into two, full of strange lights, silence and murmuring sound. The roof is full of spiralling glass pipes and caged children lit by wandering fireflies.

One side busy with women and children, the other  dark with silent men who carefully patrol. Down the centre run the tall brass and glass towers of the distilling columns. The sap from room one is brought through and added very carefully by tubes.

On one side workers draw off the glutinous near-paste from the bottom of the column.

Nearby, cages of fireflies are brought through and small children given the job of snatching individual flies from the cage and plucking off their glowing tails. Small fireflies are always escaping so the roof is full of small groups of the circling insects. Allowing a firefly to escape means a single whip from a supervisors stick.

The firefly tails are cracked and sieved. The fluid is mixed straight away with the near-paste from the bottom of the stills and carefully ground in with pestle and mortar.

This product is then set to cool in ceramic trays where it forms long tubes. Workers with ceramic knives sliver it carefully into single even discs. As the cutters slice into the cooling tubes, they light up very slightly at the point of the slice so each movement is accompanied by spots of light.


On the dark side workers, almost exclusively men, walk silently up and down, examining the fractionating columns and the distilled result of the sap as it drips very slowly into its receiving jars. They carry safety lanterns full of fireflies and the pools of light move continually from point to point.

They rarely speak. When a jar nears its fill point a signal is made, it is quickly replaced and the full jar carried through to Hall Three


Each distilling tower has a tiny and well secured furnace at its base to provide the necessary heat. The danger of the process is so great (it’s more true to say that the cost of replacing the distilling machinery is so great) that Cloudblood fronds are not burnt here. Only checked wood of other trees, usually from outside the Zone, is allowed, to ensure a clean, even drug-free burn.

The cooling tubes for the stills spiral into the roof of the hall. To check for leaks, very small children are hoisted up into the roof in brass cages held in place by chains. Old men and old women hang onto the chains and stare at the children from below. If gas escapes, the children nearby will suffer Tree Dreams and the location of the leak will be found.


Escaped Gas. A full explosion in the distillery could effectively take out the hall and possibly even part of the company core.

Falling Children.

Cracked Towers. Hot high grade sap could spill and spread.


Once cooled, spaced and sliced, each disc of sap is a coin of violet glass-like resin with the texture of amber. If snapped in two, each half of the disc will produce a beautiful golden lantern-strength light for roughly 1 hour.

These discs are never sold in the Zone but only exported.


Each disc costs 1gp at its point of sale.


HALL THREE - Alcohol Crystallisation

This room is full of steam and the screaming sound of tortured valves.

The jars of distilled and purified Sap from Hall Two are mixed with pure alcohol in small bound valved brass spheres over a small and tightly-controlled fire. The valves allow the steam of the reaction to escape but allow in no oxygen (or 'bare air' in the language of the refinery) to enter.

The valves whistle continually. Workers move up and down the lines of small cauldrons listening carefully to the endless high-pitched monotone droning of the valves. If the sound of a valve shifts in its nature, even to a small degree it must be rapidly adjusted.

Too high a sound means steam is escaping too quickly, meaning the heat could be unevenly distributed within a sphere.

Too low means that air may be seeping into the sphere, if too much 'bare air' is allowed in then it may mix with the alcohol and sap and ignite causing the sphere to weep blue fire and spin madly like a gyroscope.

Even without these difficulties, the steam gouting from the brass spheres is extremely hot and highly hallucinogenic

At this purity and temperature, the Tree Dreams produced by escaping gas, affect everyone relentlessly, yet with a curious uniformity. Instead of the phanstasmorgal visions usually bestowed, the visions are always of fire.

These visions hang around the outlet valves of the screaming spheres, making it very difficult to tell whether an accident is actually taking place.

The workers in this section are mainly very old Zone-Marked types who do not fear the visions, blind people, or those with Slumber-Monkey narcolepsy. (The narcolepsy does introduce an element of danger, but also makes the sufferer mainly immune to tree dreams.) They walk up and down between the screaming burning spheres, usually with their eyes closed, tapping back and forth with long canes, blowing on specially made silver whistles. The whistles are tuned to produce exactly that tone that matches the correct noise of a sphere-valve. The sound of the whistle should blend into the ambient sound without any clear distinction. Workers know that if they can hear the distinct sound of their own whistle then something is wrong.

When a burn is complete, a sphere is picked up with iron rods put through the loops to either side, two sets of two workers form a cross around it. They carry it over to the decanting trays where the sphere is unbound and the crystal inside scraped out.

Half is ground down in huge pestles as Product Two. The other half goes to Hall Four.


Escaped and rapidly spinning boiling-hot brass sphere gouting hallucinogenic steam.

Tree-dreams combined with hot equipment.

Steam build-up can cause heat-stroke and collapses.

Pressure build-up and ‘bare-air’ can result in sphere-explosion.


The ground crystal is a sky-blue powder. When mixed with water it becomes a painless and rapid antiseptic wound closer. It applied directly to a wound it gives all the benefits of rapid cauterisation with no risk of infection and tissue damage and no pain.
If accidentally breathed in it can scar the lungs permanently and kill.


Each 'use' of Product Two is valued at 20 gold pieces.


HALL FOUR - Ultra-slow melting

This room is calm and quiet and relatively safe. The main danger is from security checks and searches, which are random and continual. It is full of glass towers and sorting tables where workers with eye lenses carefully tweezer out the rare clear crystals from Cloudblood fronds.

There is no fire in this room, instead, worker-cranked belt-driven fans are kept turning continually and the temperature constantly checked to maintain it at a mild chill.

The crystal from Hall Three is placed in tall glass tubes full of distilled water and mixed with trace amounts of *only* the *clear* crystals from cloudgrave fronds. In this solution it slowly melts, separating into bands of blue, with the bottom being a very dark blue-black and the top being almost-white azure.

Beside each tube is a fresh trefoil orchid held in a pot. The Orchid is held against the tube until the exact colour blue is matched by one of the bands in the centre of the tube. This flower both lives and dies quite quickly and a continual supply is requested from the zone.

Despite every attempt to make the process more efficient, no other method of contrast-comparison can highlight a layer of the correct colour. All attempts with paint strips or pigments have resulted in degraded product.

Workers with huge syringes carefully extract this band of fluid.


There is some danger of Tree Dreams from the front picking process but this hall is generally relatively safe.


Cast on ultra-clean ceramic moulds, it darkens, producing  a midnight-blue-black pane of half-inch thick semi flexible material.

This material is almost frictionless and is in use in complex processes in cities all over the world. It is said a Pirate Queen of the Southern Seas has the hull of her vessel plated with it. Its use as currency and jewellery is almost more common than its material use. It is a very hard trading currency and most banks and trading houses carry part of their liquidity in it.

VALUE - One pane is worth 300 gp.


HALL FIVE - Acid Crystallisation

This room is well lit by glass panes in the roof, at night Product One is used in small amounts to provide a clear sight of the process. There are glass girls are kept in cushioned corrals. Gantries over the roof hold a team of Security Contractors who continually overlook the process. It is never not guarded. Most workers here are missing limbs, fingers or have suffered sever resin-ation. They rarely speak and are focused entirely on their work.

Here the Glass Girls are decapitated with ceramic hammers. A dangerous process.

They are lead to cauldrons and leant over them, their heads smashed off and the acid allowed to gout into the bubbling broil.

The fluid from Hall Four is brought in and carefully poached in the boiling acid. This is a highly skilled and incredibly dangerous job. Workers with glass staves swirl the boiling acid into a vortex. Secondary workers gently ladle the product from Hall Four into the centre of the swirl.

If the swirler is skilled and if the vortex is continuous and even, the product will form a cloudlike mass in the centre of the swirl. The acid will be allowed to cool and the sap will crystallise, slowly falling to the bottom.


Being dissolved by boiling acid or covered with the altered resin.

Glass Girls going missing or acting oddly. They are too dangerous to be violent with and too expensive to waste.


Small fingertip sized gems like three-dimensional snowflakes that collect light and seem to shine and glimmer like blue stars under any natural illumination, each one different. Each vortex results in only one 'gem'. They are delicate and as soon as they dry they are encased in glass settings which are rapidly frosted by ice, they are extremely endothermic.

Depending on the number of its points or angles, each gem will absorb and nullify a certain number of levels of magical effect. The average is around twenty, but they can be higher or lower depending on the purity of the process.

VALUE - 1000 gp per point or angle.