Tuesday 24 April 2018

Reflection in a Polished Cheese - A Review of Operation Unfathomable

I backed this on Kickstarter and put off reading it until the hardcopy arrived, which it did a few days ago.

tldr; I didn't really like it as much as I was hoping. You might though.

Click to Buy


It's strange and interesting to read this as it covers a similar subject matter as Veins and, if you were to yank out elements of it and abstract the tone, there are lots of parts that wouldn't feel out of place in the Patrickverse. Huge silent segmented giants with glowing eyes wandering the underworld fulfilling the decayed instructions of their ancient creators, intelligent fungal lifeforms performing strange experiments on surface beings and willing to trade fungal hyper-weaponry just to see the effects, an extinct race of beetle-people who created other intelligent species then went mad and genocided everything, leaving only ruins and capering insect ghosts, a cult worshipping nullity itself, a chaos godling sleeping on a beach of gold.

Sounds pretty Patricky, right?


This is nothing like VotE in either structure, tone, feel, expression or any other way.

It's primarily a dungeon, not a toolbox. A while ago Sholtis did an underworld fragment for Knockspell #5, which Iown. This is that, massively expanded with loads of new stuff, background, items and options. But everything is grown from that one root. A simple, not-quite-railroad Con game.

Jason says he based a long running campaign on this and all the potential elements for such a campaign are present in-utero, races, factions, history, lore and lots of references to a wider world. But this is not a toolbox for creating that campaign, except in the way that any reasonably complex or detailed adventure could kick one off.

All that crap I did about light, climbing, 3-D movement and procedural generation, caving and getting food underground is all completely irrelevant here. Light barely matters, there is underworld gloom in most places. Climbing barely matters, everything is on a plane. Food doesn't matter much. You can still get mutated though.

I think I literally used a comparison to serial television in Veins. Yes, "The cave used in most games is the cave from serial television. A flat-floored arch-shaped space with doors." I was thinking about the caves from Star Trek, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants or any of those TV shows from the 60's.

Well these are those caves, and this is those shows. More than anything else this reminds me of 60's television.

None of this is either here nor there when considering quality, different creative aim, different rules must apply.


Its a relatively simply, well-tested, strong Con-Game One-Shot with expansions. If you were to 'speed run' the adventure based on the opening mission then you could get it done in maybe half an hour. The opening setup has some pretty good idiot-locks to basically polearm people into the adventure and get them doing stuff.

Like, if you imagine the kind of person who I always think of as being the person you meet at cons, who sits down to play a one-shot and then wants to be a tool about why they are going on this particular adventure. Well that shit is covered here.

You can kind of tell that OU is a thing that has had a lot of contact with idiots (not the creators, but rando players they probably didn't know) and so it has a reasonable amount of idiot-proofing in the design.

A very strong element of the design is the encounter table. Encounters are meant to be common and highly vivid. There are multiple different kinds; phenomena, other parties & travellers and Wandering Horrors and each of these sub-tables has a die-lock on it that goes up and down depending on what kind of route you are on. So if you are on the main highway then you get the full range and the smaller passages gives you a smaller range of encounters.

In particular, the Underworld Travellers section, and the effects of that section, do a lot to tie the game together. A lot of the traveller encounters have complex relationships with each other and each others political and cultural business and they are all very vivid and interesting.

Vividness is a strong point in OU. Liveliness and human particularity.

All of these encounters have a very haptic, open feel to them. They are all a little arch and present themselves as ripe for role playing on the DM's part.

Because you are probably going to be meeting a lot of people, a lot of the complexity of the game is going to be about playing out these meetings and what you do or don't do about them. Since everyone has business with each other, the moment you make an ally, you are probably going to run into someone who is an enemy now because they hate the dude you are with, that puts the party in the middle of a little drama and there are a lot of these little dramas waiting with a lot of contextual background info locked into them.

The interrelationship of the living elements also makes the rando, somewhat paratactic Phenomena and Horrors less annoying since you will almost never be encountering them 'alone', instead there will be one or more NPC's hanging out with you to go "Oh, its the Sounds Without Cause'.

The very small physical size of the space, the high encounter probability and the close interrelationship of intelligent encounters gives the feel of a Dense Toybox World.

Though it is physically small there is a lot to do and encounter. It makes a kind of insanity of the imagined space but I don't think that will matter at all for the kind of person who is into this. It seems like the opposite situation than WotC's African thing where there was just a shitload of boring jungle between you and the Main Thing, here we have multiple Chaos Godlings, Giant Clone Wizards, Null Priests and what have you on what would psychically be the same suburban street, or at least one city block.

It's by no means a bad adventure, it should work pretty well. But it depends what your definition of 'fun' is. Because you are definitely going to be having 'fun' and only 'fun'.


The tone is the main thing I dislike about this. It's somewhere between Hydras usual tone and very High Rientsien, though the stuff like Star Trek references and the outright comedy elements push it even higher than High Reintsien.

You can usually run a Hydra module with modernist irony but there is usually enough density of feel that you can push it down into actual-feeling and scrape out many of the ironic elements without having to do a full engineering job on it. Like, a were-bear or Were-Shark Pirate can just about be run as actually-scary if you fiddle with them a bit.

You can't do that with this. It's a comedy really. And it's so densely integrated that if you want to run this in Hipster Mode you would need to literally take it apart, boil it down and reconstruct it from the start.

Again and again and again while reading this I wanted to feel something and that fucking tone came up and smirked in my face. It was a lot like that Thor: Ragnarok movie with the endless Dreamworks-grin Wheadoning skating over the frozen oneric depth of what the story was about. I was bristling somewhat as I came to the end of this adventure, not from any one thing but just the slow accumulation of cheese.

And I really don't give two tenths of a fuck which particular Star Trek: TOS actor, in which role, an NPC sounds like. I don't care about references to anything especially godamnn fucking Nerd Culture references.

Well that's me done shitting on it


The sub-encounter behaviour rolls are good. A lot of the living encounters have various weird things they are up to that don't involve you at all. Many of the animals are potentially dangerous or not, depending on conditions.

Really the whole encounter matrix is good I think.

The vividness, playability, feelyness, liveliness and specificity of the living encounters is very good. Characters and elements pop off the page and want to be played and embodied. They hold a good polarity between being comprehensible and expressive. IF you don't mind the cheese.

The idea of the PC's being given weapons just so they can test them, and the price being a full report, is interesting.

The Dead Failed Colossal Pal made me sad.

There is a full Alternative Adventuring Party/replacement Adventurer Group in the back Appendices. Again, they are vivid, playable, fun and benefit a huge amount from Jasons characterful and almost tactile portraits.

The pistol rules for the Underworld Rangers and Science Fungi are pretty good if you want to introduce some science fantasy into your game.

The Blind Antler Men feel genuinely strange, same with the Segmented Giants.

The Art Generally;


It's monochrome. I really like it. Most is byt Jason I think, other stuff by Chris Brandt, John Larrey and Stefan Poag. I think I could recognise Sholtis and Poag's art the easiest and I like theirs the best from what I could tell.

I think it might be printed at a slightly wrong size or wrong resolution in some cases. It looks likes there are a handful of times where small images are made big and it doesn't quite work.

Jason's NPC's and Monsters are, I've said it before but I'll say it again, specific, lively, interesting, expressive, animated and often humorous.

Some of the big full-page illustrations, especially of the Segmented Giants have the kind of strange oneric feel I wish there was more of in the book. The Blind Antler Men and Psycophage manage to be genuinely creepy.

Many of the other monsters, the Tyrannoclops (we never get to meet one living?) the Glutton Newt with its maniacal grin, and the Worm Sultan, are full of energy and glee.

If there was a part of the book where the creativity matched what I was hoping for and wanted to feel, it's in the art.

The layout is by Jez and is as broadly good as Jez usually is. Monochrome. Informational hierarchy is usually tight though a few minor errors crept in. Informational chunks are usually broken-to-spread with relatively few thought-orphans, though again, some are not. The map is lovely but I think came late in the process as it has some strong potential linking elements that either weren't taken advantage of or weren't part of the creators intent.


- References to monster in encounters don't give exact page, just numbered element in a section, that's a flip I don't need.

- Cave swallows steal rope but you barely need rope down here anyway.

- In the map the Googlepede runs all over the place and if it actually linked with the tunnels it passed under and over it could drag PC's around & dump them in different places in an interesting way, but that doesn't happen, its just one singular area with an effective death state.

- Same with the river.

- Lots of lassitude effects - is Sholtis a sleepy guy?

- Slight bolding flaw page 61, section 14, last element.

- Main Map has encounter areas numbered - but not the page numbers, they managed page numbers on the encounter chart but not the map?

- Appendix of Coplementary Hirelings is small for a book of this size & layout (but alt adventurers are plentiful & good, see above)

- How is the Science Fungus Dirigible not getting more time?

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Fragments of the Great Inflorescence

Evlyn has sent out a bunch of these game-fragment objects

What are we to make of this? There are three elements.

- The Guilds themselves.
- The Hexes.
- The standees.

It seems like some kind of elaborate D&D art challenge, or some popular tween collectable from an alternative hipsterverse.

If other bloggers received these, and if they want to, we could try a "Yes and" improve game/setting development thing.

The guilds themselves are probably the easiest.

We have these guilds with charming arabesque (I think that's the word?) 19 adventurers with these tiny but expressive body-portraits, with room for wee stats and wee notes.

How would these be used? DM pass-outs? Would each player have a guild of their own?

The Hexes. These are strange dual-coloured, sub-divided bio-landscapes.

How would you actually use these? With the standees?

The standees - charming, animated bio-creatures ranging from pseudo-humanoid to fully non-human, bacterial, protozoic, to splotches and piles of strange infection.

These are by Evlyn so they feel non-threatening, not quite whimsical either - calmly Other. You feel you are going to have a weird conversation with them.


So, an imagined world  of these somewhat bande dessinee adventurers going into the Great Inflorescence, meeting these freaky dudes, maybe having a fight, maybe getting/being infected by and strange fungal thing.

As I turn them over in my head and hands the elements almost feel like parts of a strategy game or a short, fast diplomacy/combat game where the guilds are in conflict, or like a kids trading-card game where you both bring 3 hexes and a guild while you eat. And you get to keep the artefacts and maybe even the pop-people dudes.

What do you think? What would you make of this?

Sunday 15 April 2018

The Stolen Skin of Sun - The Goblin Market

An extension of Part One. With apologies to Christina Rossetti because the poetry is hers.

At the Goblin Market it is not dark, it is not light. Night dew beads the grass and the sky is red and violet. The place is packed with Goblins of every sort.

One like a large jackdaw in a Generals uniform. Some like Gentlemen in wigs and frock coats, sneering and spitting tobacco. Some pretending to be puppets with stiff rods as strings. Goblins doing yoga, their joints squishing and cracking. Goblins making a documentary film. Terrorist Goblins being chased by police Goblins with blue-painted heads. A Goblin owned by a huge frog. A Goblin with the head of a frog. A small Goblin in a golden vest riding a goose-sized blue giraffe, it holds a golden lead to a giraffe-sized goose. A Goblin in a space-suit next to a rotating U.F.O, but the U.F.O is wood spray-painted silver and is driven by Goblins giggling inside on stationary bicycles. One with a cats face. One with a tail. One tramps at a rats pace. one crawls like a snail. one like a wombat prowls obtuse and furry. One like a ratel tumbles hurry skurry. Goblins everywhere crawling, capering, sleeping, marching, pulling, carrying, buying, selling, stealing and lying.

You hear a voice like voice of doves, cooing all together;

"All ripe together
In summer weather,-
Fari eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:"

You must remind the players seriously and directly;

"Their offers should not charm you,
Their evil gifts would harm you."


The PC's are looking for the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold.

As part of the magic of that Auction, no one person can remember everything about it. It is definitely here, but any individual can only recall either its smell, its sound, its sight, its guard or the password to get in. No-one can recall more than one of these.

There are five Goblin vendors and each Goblin knows one thing about the Auction, but they will not surrender this information easily. You must buy from them, and all of their objects are cursed. That, or solve their riddle.


Getting Around

It is so strange and busy in the Goblin Market that is is impossible to find your way. Trying to get anywhere leads you somewhere random instead;

1. The stall of Mark Me Unreasonable.
2. The small black house.
3. The stall of Doctor Distinguished Green.
4. The Tower of Tomes.
5. The stall of Magnus Intractable.
6. The Black Tortoiseshell House.
7. The stall of Noted Groan.
8. The Palace of the Caterpillar King. 
9. The stall of Lord Captain Pilots Voice-Recording.
10. The stump of the Storm-Toppled Tree.


But, if they listen (or a Goblin may inform them) the PC's can hear the Goblin vendors singing. If they close their eyes and listen for a song, they can hear different tunes wafting through the crowd and can find their way to a particular stall. 

There are five songs and five stalls.


"Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I"

"An Emerald holds green like a leaf"

"I run but have no feet"

"Brown and furry
In a hurry"

"What are heavy? Sea sand and sorrow:"


The Five Goblin Vendors

1. "Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I
I know the trees have seen it pass
Why? Why? Why?"

This leads you to a Goblin with a gigantic orange eye bulging from his face. A small Goblin with a head like a full moon sits in the shadow of his shoulder and drips solution onto it with a long glass pipette.

They are called Mark Me Unreasonable.

He wishes to sell you a tiny tiger in a glass jar "fit to befoul any foe!"

If you buy the Tiger he will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "If you listen to it very carefully, you may hear a chewing sound."

Anyone who holds the Tiger in the jar finds themselves getting gradually angrier and angrier until they cannot restrain themselves and smash the jar on the floor. The Tiger escapes and attacks everyone. It will not leave the owner alone.

If you can answer his song he will owe you a secret. The answer is that the trees bow and wave when they see the wind.

2. "An Emerald holds green like a leaf,
A Ruby holds red blood,
A sapphire holds the sky's blue grief.
A Flint lies in the mud.
A Diamond holds white from a star,
To catch the world's desire,
An Opal holds a firey spark
But flint holds..
What does a flint hold?"

This leads you to four Goblins carrying a sedan chair and sniggering. inside is the shadow of an enormous cat who pokes a pistol barrel out of the curtains.

The cat calls themselves Doctor Distinguished Green.

He wishes to sell you a beautiful Green Pearl which he says will make you "desired above all".

If you buy the pearl he will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "It is held somewhere low and somewhat black."

Anyone who wears the pearl will be desired more each time they are seen with it and for as long as they wear it, but only that long. If they ever do not wear it, they will be despised now as much as they were desired before.

If you can answer his song he will owe you a secret. The answer is that the flint holds fire.

If you do either the Goblins break into laughter and run away. The sedan chair falls apart and a huge, black, but quite normal cat leaps out.

3. "I run but have no feet,
I will not sleep and cannot eat,
I can lose but never win,
I have a face without a chin."

This leads you to a Goblin who is a reflection in a mirror held up by a very grey and ancient man.

They name themselves 'Magnus Intractable'

They wish to sell you a Magic Mirror "a glass oracle to lend you wisdom!"

If you buy the Mirror he will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "It is guarded by a Hedge-Hog."

The Mirror will answer three questions in terse but truthful fashion. On the third the figure will run out of the mirror and caper about saying "free free free!" and whoever asked the last question will be trapped in the mirror.

If you can answer his song he will owe you a secret. The answer is 'a clock'.

4. "Brown and furry,
In a Hurry,
Take your walk,
To the stalk,
Toad not spy you,
Bird pass by you,
Spin and die,
To live again..."

This leads you to a Goblin in a fine red jacket with brass buttons who has eyes like a fox.

They name themselves 'Noted Groan'.

They wish to sell you a pair of Fox-Gloves "to lend you craft and cunning!"

If you buy the gloves Groan will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "It smells of dry parchment."

The Fox Gloves fill the wearer with lies. Their lies are likely to be believed but they cannot stop lying. Only someone who has never lied can remove them from the wearers hands.

If you can answer his song Groan will owe you a secret. The answer is 'a butterfly'.

5. "What are heavy? Sea sand and sorrow:
"What are brief? Today and tomorrow:
What are frail? Spring blossoms and youth:
But what are deep?"

This leads you to a blind and crippled goblin walking with two bone canes. He has a huge peacocks tail and the eyes in the tail stare and blink at you.

They call themselves 'Lord Captain Pilots Voice-Recording'.

They wish to sell you a silver Cod-Skin Cloak "to make you as swift and silent as a fish in the sea!". 

If you buy the cloak he will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "The password is - nuts are falling."

The wearer is completely silent and can swin through the air as if it were water. If they ever remove the cloak they suffocate.

If you can answer his song the Lord Captain will owe you a secret. The answer is 'the ocean and truth'.

The Five Possible Places

There are five places in the Goblin Market which might be the Auction of Places That Cannot Be Sold.

1. A Small Black House. This house smells of liquorice (in fact it is made of it). It is guarded by a an extremely tuff hedgehog that will knock you about in a terrible way.

2. The Tower of Tomes. This tower is tall and pale, it smells of parchment and is guarded by an animated topiary Hog. Inside it is full of boring scholars.

3. The Black Tortoiseshell House. This smells of parchment and you can hear chewing coming from inside. In fact this is a sleeping Black Tortoise Sorcerer and not a building. They are not pleased to be disturbed and will cast Slow Magics.

4. The Palace of the Caterpillar King. This mansion is small and green in colour. You can hear chewing from inside. It is guarded by a wooden cat carved into a log. The password to pass the cat is 'Nuts are falling' but inside is only the sleepy, hungry and opium-addicted Caterpillar King who will ban intruders from all trees forever.

5. The stump of the Storm-Toppled Tree. This is low and black, it smells of parchment and you can hear chewing coming from inside. It is guarded by an Angry Hedgehog and if you give the password 'Nuts are falling' he will give you an acorn-cup with the size-altering drink to get you in.

This is the Auction of Impossible Things.

Friday 6 April 2018

The Wodlands 2 - The Antigoblin Empire

Big fat red Ogre-Babies walking slowly on fat legs. Shrivelled old small-featured faces. Fat stubby little fingers and plump warm palms with beads of sweat.

All carry Long-Tongs, primary culture-tool of the AntiGoblins. Strong iron tongs the length of a man which they use to grab and snatch things. partly becasue their fat hands are so poor at grasping, and partly to safely control a Goblin, should they see one.

If Goblin and AntiGoblin physically meet they instantly annihilate each other in a blue-tinged spherical compression wave that destroys everything in a five-metre radius and irradiates high-velocity heavy fey particles up to a 50 metre radius.

They are hideously strong creatures and their tongs can crush a skull or snatch a grown man right off the ground at full extension and carry them around like that at arms length indefinitely. They can squeeze right through a human.

AntiGoblins wear cloaks and big cylindrical hats with hat size showing their relative logic-dominance and progression towards ego-death. Their only other clothes are big nappies and thick yellow wellingtons. They are EXTREMELY SERIOUS beings, with low, fluid but monotone voices and anguished expressions. They hate to be made fun of.

Pedantic, intelligent, unimaginative materialistic reductionists, they believe that the 'self' does not exist.

Common methods of address are;

"The epiphenemon labelled as.. greets you" and

"The gestalt collected under the function of ... acknowledges awareness of the other."

Some likely names (epihenemon labels) are;

1. Gradations Of-Blue
2. Subtle-thought Fabrication
3. Piston Bo-Reason
4. Observable Acts
5. Known-to-be-seen Seen-to-be-known
6. Calculable Contraption
7. Identity Concept
8. Imaginary Concept
9. No-Joke Concept
10. Concept Grasper
11. Preserve-Truth No-Goblins
12. Definitely Notagoblin
13. Objectively Notagoblin
14. Burnagoblin Truth-Irreducable
15. Oneplusone Isto
16. Zero Goblins
17. Intense Calm
18. Mind Zoomfaster
19. Thinkbee Notagoblin
20. Zero Incoherence

Obviously, the Anti-Goblins are at permanent and absolute war with the Goblins. They are desperately afraid of actually coming into direct contact with a Goblin and continually paranoid about the existence or possibility of Goblin infiltration by any means. Goblins are their greatest hate and greatest fear. They will do anything to strike at them and anything to avoid them. They are also low-key obsessed with seeing them, though this is an illegal and loathed fetish.


The nation is not large and, at least compared to mane other areas of the Wodlands, quite calm. The AntiGoblins are careful and lawful rulers and obvious adventure scenarios are (relatively) rare, while travel is (technically) much easier than in other places. Well paved roads and secure Inns are common.

There are three main areas of interest, the Inverse Forest to the north, source of the Empires wealth, the Lolipop Hills to the south, and Place-Prime, heart of the Empire.


The trees of the inverse forest are all upside down. Their tops merely graze the earth and their roots tangle in interlocked escher-patterns deep into the sky, far beyond easy sight.

In the heights (depths) of the tree roots, a parasitic vine grows a mistletoe-white antigravity pear which, if eaten or processed into cider, gives the power of floating, for a time. The pear also dries and keeps reasonably well, making it an excellent trade good.

The AntiGoblins are too big and horrid to climb into the escher-maze of the trees roots so they employ, or in some cases enslave, depending on their reasoning about such matters, huge numbers of workers to do so for them.

The AntiGoblin plantation owners patrol the ground level with 'tame' Giant Shoebills, the only animals the AntiGoblins seem to like.

There is always work in the sky plantations for extra planters, slaves, slave-catchers, security staff, Shoebill minders and all manner of other thing.

The AntiGoblins fear creatures they call the 'Anti-Gravity Invaders, translucent sky-dwelling balloon people who wrap themselves in chains and 'sink' down to the plantations to abduct staff, steal pears, kill Shoebills and foil AntiGoblin plans.

It is highly likely that the Invaders are not real in any way, no-one AntiGoblin has ever seen them, and if they were real, its no clear how they would be any kind of tactical threat, being made of translucent balloons. Nevertheless, they are spoken of often by sky-planters and their complete absence from measurable reality casts a strange pall in the midst of the AntiGoblins, causing them to be feared in a mysterious way, as if the very concept of them were disturbing.


Other than their tongs, their blue city of Place-Prime and their continual 3rd-hand war with all Goblins everywhere, the only major expenditure of the AntiGoblins is their continual urge and desire to plant and prune an entire section of their nation so that every plant forms a perfect sphere.

This is AntiGoblin leisure time. They often come here with huge long clippers riding enslaved Procoptodon to prune the trees, plants, and anything else. The area is large and the AntiGoblins few, they will not allow anyone else to prune the trees so the work never ends. When a plant is pruned into a perfect sphere the AntiGoblins will clap their hands, say "Oh. Wonderful." and almost smile. No sooner is one part 'perfect' that another has fallen into disarray.

Because of its size and unpopulated condition, the area of the Lolipop hills is the primary hiding place of any radical or illegal element in the Empire, though they must all continually move to stay ahead of the pruning AntiGoblins.

Escaped slaves will hide here. Since much of the trade that moves through the Empire is based, ultimately, on contact with Goblins on either end, almost every merchant is also technically a drug dealer and smuggler. This results in massive taxation, paranoia and culture war regarding the trade amongst the AntiGoblins

The place is also full of Bandits and robbers. Their acknowledged 'leader', or at least the guy that nobody fucks with, is 'Bobbin Ten-Goblins', a huge man who continually wears armour consisting of ten live goblins trapped all over his body, tied to him even while he sleeps.

And of course there are actual Goblin Infiltrators. They have squeezed a juice that can turn anyone, physically, into an AntiGoblin. They wage a continual and covert terroristic war to destroy the AntiGoblin Empire and the Grand Catalyst, using themselves as bombs.

Obviously, the AntiGoblins loathe this disorder, but they will not spoil their hills with fortifications or settlements. Anti-Bandit patrols of mercenaries and hirelings are common.


The beating heart of AntiGoblin life and culture. Place Prime is actually the name of the central cubic fortress where the Grand Catalyst dwells.

In Place Prime everything that can be square, doors, rooms, tiles, paving slabs, glasses, meals, plates, is square, and everything that can be a shade of blue, is a shade of blue.

The Gates - These are guarded by the Malakaj Kudroj -the Joke Police. These employed and expert human absurdists perform ridiculous antics and strange performance art with deep intensity before everyone trying to get in. They seek to provoke a reaction in hidden Goblins, or part-goblins, to reveal their true form.

Within the blue city, at its square central square, is the Fortress of the Grand Catalyst.

Level 1 - The Halls of the Absurd. A maze of rooms patrolled by the elite performance artists Malakaj Kudroj and filled with surreal and absurdist art of the most remarkable kinds. AntiGoblins looking to make a deal will often come here to display their own lack of Goblinness and to check for any Goblin elements in their potential partners.

Level 2 - The Beastly Disquisition. To progress further everyone must enter one of a series of rooms, totally alone. Within is an angry monkey. They must calm the monkey using only Pure Reason. If the monkey dies, another will be added. Only once the monkey has reached a reasonable level of calm will it cough up the ceramic key needed to pass on to the next level.

Level 3 - The Scythes of Illusion. Both the name for this level and of the  military faction of the Esploradoj - the AntiGoblin Inquisition who control it. Supplicants must meditate while the Esploradoj patrol around them and shout random rationalist questions and swing their scythes. Fear, flinching or an incorrect response means instant decapitation. Those who answer wisely may pass to Level Four.

Level 4 - The Conclave of Equations. This is the AntiGoblin Parliament, where the laws are created. Anyone capable of passing the challenged may attend, but the job of the Conclave is only to interpret the law in the words passed down from the Thrones of Ego Death in the higher levels. The walls of the Conclave are all chalkboards for only laws that can be proven to be logical are allowed to be enacted.

To leave the Conclave and move upwards, take the Stairs of Ascention which, allegedly, the truly wise will be able to levitate up while meditating.

Level 5 - The Inquisition of Penitants. This is the lair and headquarters of the Esploradoj, the most fanatically AntiGoblin AntiGoblins in the AntiGoblin Empire. The Inquisitors keep actual Goblins imprisoned floating in superthick test tubes and glass tesseracts, questioning them to learn more of their nature, though the Goblins tend to be bored to death rather than anything else. None of them are actually penitant.

Level 6 - The Thrones of Ego Death. Here are the endlessly-meditating Ascended Minds of the Empire. They do indeed float while chilling in a Lotus position. They listen carefully to the occasional gnomic statements of the Grand Catalyst and translate his words in turn. Their statements are recorded by the Esploradoj and taken down to the Conclave of Equations, presumably unaltered.

Level 7 - THE ARK OF THE GRAND CATALYST. Locked in eternal meditation, the first AntiGoblin to free themselves from Goblinhood though PURE THOUGHT. They sit veiled within their Ark. They may seem unaware of what happens  but, being purely and perfectly logical, it is assumed they are capable of predicting any element of the material world and will simply speak when it is necessary they do so.

The Grand Catalyst still has the Goblin they once were growing out of them, essentially their leg is part of his huge arm and they look like an insane glovepuppet. The Goblin is insane and claims that the Grand Catalyst is just a huge animate radiation tumour that grew out of them and took over. The Catalysts hat is really big.

Sunday 1 April 2018

What counts as a conspiracy to you?

(This is just a thought experiment, until the internet notices it and it goes completely out of control and I shut it down.

It's also not inspired by any particular internet argument, but it is inspired by the whole tenor and action of the various culture wars.)

Imagine there's a group of people in a room or a private digital space and that these people come to a decision about you and that decision affects you in what you would consider a negative way. So you don't get a particular opportunity or your options are restricted in some way.

In one version of this reality you regard the moral nature of this decision as reasonable, non-creepy, an unpleasant but acceptable aspect of the worlds operations. You might be upset about the decision but you don't regard the mechanism of taking it with any sense of deep threat.

In the other version, you regard this as a conspiracy. Not just private, but secret in an illegitimate or immoral way. Not neutral but part of a specific threatening structure aimed specifically at you or at a group that includes you.You are afraid and angry.

What, for you, is the dividing line between a decision you don't like, and a conspiracy?

If you imagine different kinds of decision-maker, different kinds of decision, different circumstances, and you think of one situation which doesn't feel threatening or conspiratorial and of another which does, what elements form the border between the two situations?