Friday 31 August 2018




Some of you might remember a project on this blog, variously called, 'Wir-Heal', 'Silent Titans of Wir-Heal' and then just 'Silent Titans'.

It's getting to the point where it is nearly a real thing and I am here, as a Validated Community Member who is neither paranoid or terrified of his own fanbase, to BUILD HYPE towards the (hopefully) coming Kickstarter.

Can you feel the hype train coming? CAN YOU?


The vague genesis of this began a long long time ago when I realised that, with modern, robust but very short OSR rulesets, and modern fancy adventures that had a lot of the specific mechanics built-in; (prepare yourself for the mind blast)...

********You could just put the rules in the adventure.*********

Raggis LotFP rules, the absolute core, are not that long, and shorter in A4.

Something like Into the Odd or the Black Hack, or Troika, or whatever Ben Milton is doing now (Knave I think?), could be incorporated directly into the text of a reasonably large adventure, and if you include bespoke elements of the most text-heavy parts of a rulebook, like character gen, magic and items, that come specifically from that adventure or that world, then its even more neat.

And you can hand it to someone at a Con and say 'this is a whole game'.

And to people who just want the adventure its still pretty simple to hack, as most OSR-esque adventures put most of their innovation and complexity into the imagined world, specific generation systems etc.

And that, broadly, is what Silent Titans is meant to be. And adventure, and a game.

More specifically, its a Patrick Stuart (+Christian Kessler & Dirk Dietweieler Leichty) adventure, stapled to Christopher McDowalls Into the Odd ruleset.

In storygames they might say 'Powered by Into the Odd'. We really need a better phrase than that. Maybe an 'Odd-Engine' product?


Initially, this was going to be an add-on for DCO2, but that didn't work out.

Then it was going to be a multi-person project, with me and three others, with us each doing a section of a timelost future North West England, but that didn't work out.

Luckily(?) I had massively overwritten my section, so it was now unimaginably massive, unless contained within its own book.

Conceptually, the core of the idea came from walks I took around the Wirral, where I grew up and now live again, and from looking into its history.

Like a lot of Britain, the Wirral is a crazy mixture of ancient history, timelost, transformed, broken down industry, cozieness and strange, deep alienation. Plus, during WWII much of its records were moved to Liverpool for safety, where they were bombed to bits by the Luftwaffe, thereby erasing its history even more.

Combine that with the smallest possible fragments of 'Gawain and the Green Knight' and with Titanic post-singularity artificial intelligences sleeping beneath the earth like giants, influenced somewhat by Nick Bostroms 'Superintelligence' and you have the basis for Wir-Heal;

"Chronos and his kin became the earth, the seas the sky and the stars, fire and flint, bone and bark, dreams and dust. But those Titans of the future could not die, for they had not been born. Paradox was banished from this world, order ruled. They must wait, wait and sleep. Wait till waking when time would allow them to be. Wait and dream of worlds unborn. Under the earth but not of it, sleeping just under the turf, oak roots tangled in their hair, bogs in their nostrils, rabbit warrens just beneath their finger-nails.

Sleeping and dreaming and turning just under the grass, their dreams escaping, staining the air, transforming the land, filling it with memories of millennia to be, dreams of industry, dreams of long decay, mechanical, indifferent and absolute. Long sorrows and the wash of dark forgotten wars, scars before the wound.

They lie tangled with each other like drugged men. Their entwined and sleeping limbs make the bedrock of the peninsula. It was there the powers dumped their somnolent forms, piling one upon another, hurling them into the sea between the Rood-Die and the Afon-Mor. Sleeping in Wir-Heal where the myrtle springs up from the bog, salmon nosing wisely in its root, the Ouzel, bird most knowing, in its branch. A peninsula bounded by the rivers of the gods, fronted by cold seas, a place where few would wish to go, and from which few return.

Yet men do go to Wir-Heal, for the minds of those Titans are labyrinths of gems and gold. And men know greed above all things."

I only discovered much later than a Greek historian had actually placed the sleeping place of Kronos somewhere in the deep north west of the Greek world, assumed to be primitive Britain.


This all took about a year to get to the first-draft point;

I think we contacted Dirk around August 2017. So it has taken roughly a year to 'write' and roughly a year to 'draw', however you describe such a complex interpenetration of elements.

Fortunately for you, and for me, Dirk is probably a genius, so this thing should be worth the money based purely on that.

Here is where I tell you to look to the left side of the blog, where you will see a link to a G+ community where Dirk will be putting images of art for this project. If you like it, join and take a closer look.

We may work out a tumblr and instagram later on if you are into that.


Our current plan is to have a print-ready file ready by the end of November, and to run a Kickstarter through December 2018.

*If* everything goes well, we should be able to get the book printed and shipped out early in 2019, hopefully by the end of February, with all the Backer Levels and stretch goals coming afterwards.

Obviously, watch this space for more information about the Kickstarter and what will be available, which we will dribble out as more details are firmed up and become certain.


Ok, I've had trouble describing this myself, which is a problem I should try to start solving now.

It's an adventure-slash-game from Patrick (Zero Gold Ennies) Stuart, Christian Kessler and Dirk Detwiler Leichty.

If you are even half a grognard, you can hack it to play with most old-school rulesets, but it is also an 'Odd-Engine' game. It has the full rules to the game inside, along with bespoke character generation and some other elements. So you can play this on its own like a full game.

This isn't an official tie-in or Chris McDowall product, but it does have some passing references to Bastion, his ItO City, so if you want to incorporate it into his paracosm then you can.

So something between an Ennie-bait high-production-values OSR Adventure/Setting and a hyper-focused you-just-do-one-thing Indy game in concept. Or something new. An experiment.

Its fully and beautifully illustrated across every page and every spread and we have tried to include all of the OSR-related advances or ideas in layout and informational integration (that we could remember in time).


In Silent Titans you play timelost figures from a range of possible futures and parallel worlds who fall through reality and end up in the plughole of the multiverse - Wir-Heal, a shattered version of the Wirral, a land made, literally, from the backs of comatose Titans who were dumped into the sea in ages past.

Wir-Heal is cursed, so that humans who live there eventually degenerate into Woodwose, and populated largely by Mask-Men; animals given bipedalism, grasping hands and self-awareness by the gift of strange masks.

It is ruled from the City of Legions, a twisted version of medieval Chester, by Hugh Lupus, a pretty-much-accurate version of the real Hugh D' Avranches, the obese, clever, murderous marcher lord installed in Chester by William the Bastard to suppress the Welsh and maintain the border.

Wir-Heal is in trouble. The Titans who make up its strata are slooooowly waking up. If they do wake, reality is screwed. But more immediately, the time-space fluctuations and horrifying post-singularity nightmares of the Titans dreaming minds are making Wir-Heal even more insanely twisted than usual, and preventing anyone from getting in or out.

What would be really handy would be for someone to go out into Wir-Heal, survive the Titans Nightmares, break into the hyperdimensonal spaces of their sleeping minds, and steal their thoughts, which, as well as being regenerating pieces of incomprehensible deep-future dimensional technology, are also literally gold. As in gold that you can sell.

If someone could steal those thoughts, the Titans would go right back to sleep, for another thousand years at least. And they could even keep the gold, or trade it for a ticket out.

Enter Our Heroes.

Of course, as well as the manifold dangers of Wir-Heal, Hugh Lupus and the local criminals. Someone else may also be interested in entering those dreaming minds, and not for the best of reasons...


I hope not?

The initial idea was to make something simple and fast enough that nerds could play it with their normie friends. In terms of its *rules*, I think it does that (thanks to Chris McDowall), but the concept is so goddamn odd, I have no idea what normal people will think of this.

In terms of running a Kickstarter, none of us have done this before. But we are committed to not starting until we have and actual print-ready file for the final book, and a printer and fulfilment centre lined up. So, whatever happens, you should get the book, and hopefully fast.

None of the stretch goals will be additions or changes to the main book. This is to keep it neat and also to make sure we can get that out without fucking up.

Other backer levels and stretch goals will hopefully be just as fast, but the book is the priority.

There is also the possibility that we have delved too greedily and too deep, just gone waaaay off the reservation and produced something unplayable, or just too strange to be easily comprehended.

I honestly think we haven't.

But, what I think I can absolutely promise you, is a really strange, intense, very very beautiful (thanks Dirk & Christain) work of art that is like nothing else that anyone has made before.

We have two months to miss our deadlines, so keep your eyes peeled here, on the Collection and anywhere else we start building hype, to see if the whole thing falls apart.

If the Fates are willing, the Kickstarter should launch December 1st, 2018.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Why Should I Lengthen My Tale? - Chretien De Troys Arthurian Romances

(This is less a review than just simple commentary. I read the book in bits and pieces so never really got a deep enough attention flow to do anything I would call justice to it in terms of a real analysis.

I added line breaks to a lot of the quotes.)

I am reading through cloudy glass. 12th Century French verse translated to 21st Century English prose. The language, the time and the tongue give it a particular range of looping structures, delayed reveals and distinct constructions and arrangements of meaning.

These are then warped and planed away by the translation. So it is impossible for me to tell, for any particular artefact of writing, whether its is deliberate artifice, the common technique, an element of the language, simply a descriptor of the way things were actually done then, or an element of the transformation in language.

And it has the usual fascinating medieval textual complexities;

"Another key manuscript that once probably contained all of Chretien's romance, and which would have been the earliest and best copy of them, is the so-called Annonay Manuscript. Unfortunately it was cut apart to be used as filler for book-bindings in the eighteenth century..."

Which make it very hard to work out exactly who did what when. Even in the 'official' version, there are parts where Chretien stopped work and someone else completed it;

"My lords, if I were to tell any more, I would be going beyond my matter. Therefore I draw to a close: the romance is completely finished at the point. The clerk Godefroy de Lagny has put the final touches onThe Knight of the Cart; let no one blame him for completing Chretiens work, since he did it with the approval of Chretien, who began it.

He worked on the story from the point at which Lancelot was walled into the tower until the end. He has done only this much. He wishes to add nothing further, nor to omit anything, for this would harm the story."

And he died before completing the end of the final story.

So, unless I want to learn 12tch Century French or spend a year in university, I must take it as a whole. As what I read on the page.

I give you Chretain; as close as we can come to the 'inventor' of much of the Arthurian material. Or at least he was ripping off the better bards, in a better way.


The other Arthurian writer I know best. Even reading through the clouded glass, I suspect that in almost all the ways in which quality of writing is measured, Chretien is the better writer.

He's funnier I think, in a greater variety of ways. His characters are more sensitive in their expression and self-description. He has a more subtle tongue. Today I would call him a 'Literary writer', someone who had been through the University system and the literary presses, while I would think of Mallory as a chunky, popular genre writer.

Mallory may be the better storyteller, whatever that means, and he was more of a nerd. Chretien can barely bring himself to go through the huge lists of food (why should I lengthen my tale?) let alone the list of tournament winners.

I think Mallory felt more, but Chretain was better at describing the feelings he did have, and that others had. Try this piece of 12thC reverse psychology. The same events might take place in Mallory, but they would probably not be described thus;

"...'And yet don't declare that you would go forth to die for me on condition that I become your sweetheart, as that would be most unfortunate: you are not strong or old enough, I assure you , ever to hold your own in skirmish or battle against a knight so strong and tall, and so hardened by combat, as the one awaiting you out there.'

'This very day you shall see that it is so,' he said, 'for I'll go forth to fight with him. No words of yours can stop me.'

She pretended to discourage him by her words, though in fact she wished him to fight; but it often happens that one hides one's true desires when one sees someone who is keen to enact them, in order to increase his desire to fulfil them. And thus she acted cleverly, by discouraging him from doing the very thing that she had planted in his heart to do."

Its in Chretain that we discover a psychological reason for the cruelty and anger of the Malevolent Damsell. The same character, or a similar one, occurs in Mallory as a cruel-speaking quest-giver who tests her knight with bawdy and mocking speech.  This is all taken to be simply part of the quest she presents, or part of her character. In Chretain, she is depressed after the loss of her love to a violent Knight and is trying to commit suicide by chivalry;

"'Dear sir,' she said, 'listen now: I'd like to tell you, if you don't mind, why I've been so haughty towards all the knights of this earth who've tried to escort me. That knight - may God destroy him! - who spoke to you on the other shore, wasted his love on me. He loved me, but I hated him, because he caused me great pain by killing - I'll not hide it from you - the knight whose sweetheart I was. Then he thought he could honour me by persuading me to love him and attached myself to the knight whom you stole away from me today, though I never cared a whit for him.

But ever since death separated me from my first love, I've been behaving foolishly, and I've been so rude of tongue and so wicked and foolish that I never paid any heed to whom I was insulting. I did it deliberately, hoping to find someone with such a temper that I could make him angry and irate enough to cut me to pieces, for I've long wished to be dead. Good sir, punish me now so severely that no maiden who hears news of my punishment will ever again dare insult a knight."

And this medieval/chivlaric view of the importance and nobility of shame (its Kay that slaps the girl, I think the only example of violence towards women in the book);

"... he gave her the message that she most wished to hear, for she still suffered from the slap upon her cheek. She had recovered fully from the pain of the slap but she had not overcome or forgotten the insult, for only a coward overlooks it when he is shamed or insulted: pain passes and shame endures in a sturdy and healthy man, but cools and dies in the coward."

And of course, Chretien likes Gawain, who he puts in everything, and Mallory likes the slut Lancelot, and is a big fan of extra-marital affairs while Chretien certainly seems not to be, he dumps the story part way through.

"Many believe that he abandoned The Knight of the Cart becasue he was dissatisfied with the subject matter, which may have been imposed on him by his patroness, Marie de Champagne.."

In fact, in the following, Lancelot is really magnificently dumb as a post. In this story Lancelot has already had multiple conflicts with the villain Meleagant, a scheming cunning fellow who has sworn revenge. Lancelot and his crew are on their way somewhere, having received a mysterious message;

"They rode for several days from dawn to dusk until they were about to league from the Underwater Bridge. But before they could get near enough to see the bridge, a dwarf came forth to meet them. He was riding a huge hunter and brandishing a whip to encourage and urge on his steed. Promptly he inquired, as he had been ordered: 'Which one of you is Lancelot? Don't hide him from me, I am one of your party. You must tell me in perfect confidence, becasue it is for your profit that I ask.'

Lancelot spoke for himself, saying; 'I am he whom you are seeking.'

'Ah, Lancelot! Brave knight! Quit these men and place your faith in me. Come along with me alone, for I wish to take you to a very wonderful place. Let no one watch which way you go. Have them wait at this spot, for we shall return shortly.'

Suspecting no deceit, Lancelot ordered his companions to remain behind, and he himself followed the dwarf, who was betraying him. His men, awaiting him there, could wait for ever becasue those who have captured him and who hold him prisoner have no intention of returning him.

His men were so distressed at his failure to return that they did not know what to do. They all agreed that the dwarf had deceived them, and they were very upset, but felt it would be folly to seek after him."

Mallory bursts occasionally into his own tale in torrents and declamations, Chreatien is always there, the curtain never falls too closely or too tightly to occlude his presence. Lists are shortened, the truth is asserted ("I do not lie when I say...")


As always the curse of adventure fiction runs true and, largely, the secondary characters and villains are sharper, more distinct and more lively than the heroes.

In particular is the Damsel Lunette, who manipulates for good ends in the story of Yvain and the Lion, producing a magic ring with this engaging description or simile of what we would today envisage as simple invisibility or camouflage, but which feels conceptually different;

"Then she gave him the little ring and told him that its effect was like that of bark on wood, which covers it so it cannot be seen. The ring must be worn with the stone clasped within the palm; then whoever is wearing the ring on his finger need have no fear of anything, for no one no matter how wide open his eyes could ever see him, any more than he could see the wood with the bark growing over it."

Lunette is one of the few brunettes in the story (or any chivalric story) and she says, does and encounters more than many. Praised for her cleverness and subtle tongue as much for her beauty (another rarity). I do feel, or hope, that she was based on a real person.

The Queen-obsessed villain Melegeant is much less of a cuck than the pathetic poisoner of Mallory. In an elegant dramatic situation, his father is the king, and a good man who loves his son, but Meleagant himself is utterly super evil in proto-Shakespearean kind;

"'You may say what you like, but I'm not bothered by anything you've said. I don't have the cowardly heart of a hermit or do-gooder of almsgiver, nor do I care for honour that requires me to give him what I most love. His task won't be so easily and quickly accomplished and will turn out quite differently than you and he think.

Even if you aid him against me, we'll not make peace with him. If you and all your men offer him safe conduct, what do I care? None of this causes me to lose heart. in fact, it pleases me greatly, so help me God, that he has no one to fear but myself. Nor do I ask you to do anything for me that might be interpreted as disloyalty or treason. Be a gentleman as long as you please, but let me be cruel!'"

The 'good father, bad son' situation seems like a really handy problem solver for both storytellers and game runners where you need a villain in a stable kingdom but can't keep inventing new ones or having them overturned - the bad guy is the Kings son, who he loves.

The Maiden with the Small Sleeves is the only depiction I can think of of a child in historical Arthuriana - and a really distinct and likeable personality;

"While the ladies were conversing the knights rode out, and Tiebaut's elder daughter, who was the cause of the tournament, had climbed to the top of the tower. With her was her younger sister, who dressed herself in such elegant sleeves that she was called The Maiden with the Small Sleeves, and this name was embroidered along her sleeves. With Tiebaut's two daughters, all the ladies and maidens had climbed to the top of the towers, and the tournament was just now assembling in front of the castle.

But there was no knight as handsome as Meliant de Liz, according to he sweetheart's words to the ladies all around her: 'My ladies, truly no knight I've ever seen has pleased me more than Meliant de Liz - why should I like to you about this? Is it not a comfort and delight to behold such a splendid knight? So handsome a knight cannot help but sit well in his saddle and wield his lance and shield with the best.'

But her sister, who was seated beside her, said that there was a more handsome knight. her elder sister became angry and rose to strike her; but the ladies pulled her away and restrained her and kept her from hitting her sister, which made her most upset."


"And Gawain said: 'My good sir, is she your daughter then?'

'Yes, but don't pay any attention to what she says,' said the lord. 'She's a child - a silly, foolish thing.'


But my lord Gawain replied: 'Sir, as God is my helper, she has spoken well for such a little girl and I'll not refuse her request. Rather, since it pleases her, I'll be her knight for a while tomorrow.'

'I thank you, dear sir!' she said, so happy that she bowed right down to his feet.

Then they parted without saying anything more. The lord carried his daughter before him on his palfrey's neck and asked her what had been the cause of this quarrel; and she told him the truth from beginning to end, saying 'Sir, I was very upset becasue my sister kept insisting that Meliant de Liz was the best and most handsome of all, yet in the meadow below I had seen this knight and I couldn't keep myself from replying to her and saying that I had seen one more handsome than Meliant.

And becasue of that my sister called me a silly brat and pulled my hair - a curse upon anyone who enjoyed that! I'd let both my tresses be cut off at the back of my neck, though it would destroy my beauty, if only I could be sure that tomorrow morning in the combat my knight would defeat Meliant de Liz. That would put an end to his praises that the lady mys sister keeps singing!"

Kay is strongly distinct and much more viscerally unpleasent than in other tales I've read;

"Kay strode to the centre of the hall without his mantle, holding in his right hand a staff; he had a cap of fine cloth over his blonde hair, which had been plaited into a braid - there was no more handsome knight in the world, but his beauty and prowess were spoiled by his evil tongue.

His cloak was of a colourful and expensive silken material; he wore an embroidered belt whose buckle and links were all of gold - I recall it well, for the story bears witness to it. Everyone stepped aside as he strode into the hall; they all feared his evil words and malicious tongue and made way for him: a man is a fool not to fear public slander, whether it is spoken in jest or earnest. Everyone within the hall was so afraid of Kay's malicious words that no one spoke to him."

A vituperative, unpleasant, crappy misogynist viper-tongued scumbag, and, like the Meleagant situation, the fact that Arthur can't/won't fire him, makes him a really good generator for stories and quests.


There is a lot of the heart as an object/metaphor. Leaving, lending, buying, selling, hearts through eyes, hearts in letters, hearts given and not given. Love himself is a near-invisible character.

Here is love in the story 'Cliges', acting very much as 'Cupid', the villainous shit stirrer from the Faerie Queene several hundred years later, here combined with Chretain breaking into one of his nearly-modernist soliloquies as Alexander talks to himself and his words and sentences run and compact in a very non-chivalric way while this complex metaphor gets extended and extended and deepened;

" 'But no bruise or cut appears, and still you complain? Are you not mistaken? No indeed, for he has wounded me so deeply that he has shot his arrow straight into my heart and has not pulled it out again.

How could he have shot through your body when there is no sign of a wound? Tell me this, I'd like to know! Through where did he shoot you? Through my eye. Through your eye? Did he not put it out? He did not hurt my eye at all, but I have a great pain in my heart. Now tell me how the arrow passed through your eye without wounding or putting it out. If the arrow entered through your eye, why is the heart in your breast suffering and the eye not suffering, though it took the initial blow?

I can give you the answer to that: the eye itself is not concerned with feelings and can do nothing on its own; rather, it is the mirror of the heart, and the fire that inflames the heart passes through this mirror without damaging or breaking it. For is the heart in ones breast not like the flaming candle within a lantern? If you remove the candle, no light will shine forth; but as long as the candle burns the lantern is not dark and the flame shining within does not harm or destroy it.

It is the same with a pane of glass: no matter how thick or solid, the sun's rays pass through without breaking it; yet no matter how bright the glass, it will not help you to see unless some brighter light strikes its surface. Know that the eyes are like the glass and the lantern, for through the eyes comes the light by which the heart sees itself and the outside world, whatever it may be."

And a similar passage about love and despair by Yvain who has screwed up in Knightly fashion and lost his love. Ive put line breaks at every period so you can see clearly how it works;

"'Why does the wretch who's destroyed his own happiness not kill himself? he asked.

'Why do I, wretch that I am, not kill myself?

How can I stay here and behold my lady's possessions?

Why does my soul remain in my body?

What good is a soul in such a sad body?

If it had flown away, it would not be suffering so.

It is fitting that I despise and blame myself greatly, as indeed I do.

He who through his own fault loses his happiness and his comfort should feel a mortal hatred for himself.

Truly he should hate himself and seek to end his life.

And what keeps me from killing myself now when no-one is watching?

Have I not observed this lion so disconsolate just now on my behalf that it was determined to run my sword through its breast?

And so should I, whose joy has changed to grief, fear, death?

Happiness and all comfort have abandoned me.

I'll say no more, because no-one could speak of this; I've posed a foolish question.

Of all joys, the greatest was the one assured to me; yet it lasted such a little while!

And the man who loses such joy by his own mistake has no right to good fortune!'"

Read like that its a little like a tweet-stream

At another point in the story he faces a classic chivalric fuckup situation. His wife dumps him and the knighly self-image implodes, as it does in Mallory, but here in deep, internal closeup;

"Yvain could not answer her, for he was stunned and words failed him. The damsel stepped forward and pulled the ring from his finger; then she commended to God the king and all the others, except the man whom she left in great anguish.

And his anguish grew constantly, for everything he saw added to his grief and everything he heard troubled him; he wanted to flee entirely alone to a land to wild that no-one could follow or find him, and where no man or woman alive could hear any more news of him than if he had gone into perdition.

He hated nothing so much as himself and did no know whom to turn to for comfort now that he was the cause of his own death. But he would rather lose his mind than fail to take revenge upon himself, who had ruined his own happiness."


The objects themselves are sometimes encrusted with detail and para-story, exactly like in The FQ. Here is the very-Gygaxian Bed of Marvels;

"In the middle of the hall was a a bed, in which there was not a speck of wood, for everything was gold except for the cords alone, which were entirely of silver. I am not lying about the bed, for at each point where the cords crossed there hung a little bell; over the bed was spread a large embroidered samit cover. To each of the bedposts was affixed a carbuncle, which cast as much light as four brightly burning candles. The bed's legs were carved figures of little dogs with grimacing jowls, and the dogs were set on four wheels which rolled so easily that you could push the bed with one finger and roll it all the way across the room. To tell the truth, the bed was so unusual that none like it had ever been made for count or king, nor ever would be."

Here is a proto-Spencerian deep-dive into the figures woven on a magnificent robe;

"Four faries had created it with great skill and great mastery. one of them portrayed Geometry, how she examines and measures the extent of the earth and the sky so that nothing is omitted, and then the bottom and the top, and then the breadth and the length, and then ow she carefully recons the breadth of the ocean, and thus measures the whole world. This work was the first fairys contribution.

And the second put here effort into portraying Arithmetic, taking pains to show clearly how she accurately numbers the days and hours of time, and the water of the sea drop by drop, and then all the grains of sand and the stars in sequence, and how many leaves are in a wood: she tells the truth of all these. No number ever deceived her and she will never lie about anything, for it is her wish to give it her detailed attention. Such was the work of Arithmetic.

And the third work was that of Music, with which all pleasures harmonize: song and descant, and sounds of strings, harp, rote, and vielle. This work was good and beautiful, for before her lay all the instruments and delights.

The fourth one, whose work was next, accomplished a most excellenttask, for she represented the best of the arts: she concerned herself with Astronomy, who makes so many wonders and seeks counsel from the stars, moon, and sun. Nowhere else does she take counsel about what she must do; these advise her very well about whatever she asks of them, and whatever was and will be they enable her to know with certainty, without lying or deceit."

This work was portrayed in the cloth from which Erec's robe was made, fashined and woven with golden thread. The fur lining that was sewn into it was from strange beasts that have completely blonde heads and necks as black as mulberries and backs that are bright red on top, with black bellies and indigo tails. Such beasts are born in India, and are called _berbiolettes_, they eat nothing but spices, cinnameon, and fresh clove. What should I tell you of the mantle? It was very rich and fine and handsome. There were four stones on the fasteners. on one side were two chrysolites and on the other two amethysts, which were set in gold."

* "Berbioletes have recently been plausibly identified by GLy Burgess and John Curry (1989) as the multicoloured douc langur monkey of the Asian subcontinent."

This list of translator-vexing probably-imaginary luxury fruits reminds me more of artpunk Hipster D&D where you just throw in some shit to be weird;

"After the meal the two stayed a long while in conversation. As squires were preparing the beds, baskets of all the finest fruits were served them: dates, figs and nutmeg, cloves and pomegranates, and electuaries for dessert, with Alexandrian gingerbread, pliris and arcoticum, resontif* and stomaticum. Afterwards they drak many a drink, sweet wine without honey or pepper, good mulberry wine and clear syrup.

* This list of exoctic delecacies, consisting of unusual words and evoking unkown luxuries, presented copyists with almost insurmountable problems, and no two manuscripts present identical lists."

This is my final and favourite part, from the Knight with the Lion; a knight called Calogrant tells Arthur and Guienevere his story and it reads almost like a description of the mind, or of the nature of understanding, thrown into the sold-yet-metaphorical language of the middle ages. I'll break it up a little;

"'Lend me your hearts and ears, for words that are not understood by the heart are lost completely.

There are those who hear something without understanding it, yet praise it; they have only the faculty of hearing, since the heart does not comprehend it.

The word comes to the ears like whistling wind, but doesn't stop or linger there; instead it quickly leaves if the heart is not alert enough to be ready to grasp it.

However, if the heart can take and enclose and retain the word when it hears it, then the ears are the path and channel through which the voice reaches the heart; and the voice, which enters through the ears, is received within the breast by the heart.

So he who would hear me now must surrender heart and ears to me for I do not wish to speak of a dream, or a fable, or a lie, which many others have served you; instead I shall tell you what I have seen myself."

Friday 24 August 2018

Back to 2015 Motherfuckers!

When things were good a pure and people did lists of useful things.

So now there's 100? 

Except I'm pretty sure I repeated a few. Plus I stopped caring about whatever the rules were pretty (immediately) quickly. And many of these aren't really 'traps'.

1. Bird Trap - Room of  big stuffed birds. One has switch to secret door in its beak. The rest are not stuffed, but violent resentful waiting undead.

2. Hourglass Trap - Key blocks the sand, door opens inwards.

3. Infinite Distance Trap - Only 20 feet but end of passage is always double the distance you have already gone.

4. Earthquake Trap - Portal guarded by Earth God. Opening splits building or dungeon apart with giant chasm. Whole other half of place now other side of infinite sheer sided hole. Chasm may expand to entire nation. Add written warning to increase gamability.

5. Fated Doppelgangers - Dark room full of tactical cover. Familiar voices warn you not to approach, turn back. Guards are your own cursed older selves, wounded from adventure. At end of dungeon you must become them and re-fight the fight, hoping to win this time and (presumably) kill alternate younger selves? Or fake your way out of the paradox somehow.

6. Trouble Giant - Room full of big squashy giant asleep and having a nightmare. If made happy will shrink down so room can be navigated but has been told not to let anyone through or there will be trouble and he grows bigger when scared. He doesn't want Trouble.

7. Song Trap - Key to something is a song. Giant sleeping Supermonster chained nearby.

8. Door rotting but barred with the bones of a saint. Damaging them a serious sin.

9. Door is Gingerbread but transforms those who pass into Fondant Men. Hungry Monsters beyond.

10. Big tall complex place. Dimensional exit door carried about by swarms of climbing skeletons with added spider bone limbs. They fear all life and climb up and away from anything living.

11. Vantablack Cathedral with blind black-robed archers in the belfries. They shoot anything they hear with importune skill. (The Samurai Jack.)

12. First through door sent 100 years back into the past. Few monsters or treasure and traps & problems being built, they can find ways to leave signs and info for their friends in the future to help them past stuff.

13. Floor paved with ripe babies and spikes.

14. Door is the shadow of a billowing flag, but there are many flags, no light, no wind and they are all highly flammable.

15. Door is under a rug but the whole floor is rugs and a nice old man says the one rule is that you can't move the rugs - he breaks down and goes mad if you do. (i.e. the 'DFD'). Possibly add infinite depth of rugs for interest.

16. Can only be opened with the finger bone of a very recent and entirely willing suicide.

17. Cyclopean Door. - 1 mile high. Latch, handle & key hole half way up sheer dense wood. key in lock but is the size of a house. Gogmagogic sign reads 'Door Opens Quick'. Howling gale from under crack prevents floor level access. Door swings open in a 1/4 mile arc destroying everything. (Possible local settlement & 'Cathedral of the Door'.)

18. Door is glass terrarium full of poisoned ants. They run out and over the handle and about the room. 1 sting painful - many debilitating. Lock keps active by the living ants, if they die, portal permanently shut.

19. Door/Area utterly evil and cursed. Evil kept at bay by 20 sacred statues of Devas/Saints - they have jewel eyes that help them see the evil with. Half of the jewels are missing. PC's can replace them to make area passable, or steal the rest. Other Adventure Party is here and disagrees with whatever the PC's want.

20. Door simply massive boulder, guarded by Giant strong enough to lift or roll it but cursed so that for all who pass that live, he loses one year of life, and for all of the dead who are denied, he also loses a year. The Giant is blind. (i.e. the 'Oddessy'.)

21. Lots of treasure but its invisible and hidden 'between life and death'. Guarded by a Wyvern who drips their poison into a crystal cup every day. Allows those who drink free access, but they always die. (i.e. 'the Potter'.)

22. Climb up giants chimney to get thing. Goblin tends fire at the bottom that fills it with wondrously noxious and choking soot and gas, but keeps it free of Stirges who swoop through whenever fire is out.

23. Key to thing is the golden spear of a noble hero. Hero and spear are the only thing suppressing sea of shadows from slowly consuming building or dungeon from the outside in.

24. Key can only be carried by foot as a slow, even pace. Any alternate or faster movement and it teleports back to the other end of the Dungeon. There are fast monsters. (Or, dangerous but slow monsters, easy to avoid, if you don't have the key.)

25. Door very small. magic fountain shrinks you. Area between fountain and door has foxes, mink and hawks.

26. Love Lock - Door/chest has 'spin the bottle' combination lock, clearly labelled as so. Two present randomly fall in love. Specific actions, gifts, dates, anniversaries, are required and heavy penalties if not met.

27. Treasure is a Witches Shoes. Super valuable but can't be moved without being worn and will always lead anyone who isn't the Witch 'towards danger'.

28. Only those wearing the crown of a King may pass. All others will be transformed into Tapiers. All local kings hate each other, want the treasure behind the portal, don't want the other kings to have it, and have large collections of Tapiers.

29. Rain Gods Treasure - If touched, doors lock and treasure turns to cold wind and rain that gradually fills room and drowns everything. 'Key' to get in and out is a single candleflame.

30. Creepy Wizard made the door. Someone has to fuck the lock to get in. (or handle - REPRESENTATION). (The 'Raggi'.)

31. Treasure room a mess of gold and blood. Main prize is a hurricane gem that activates if touched or if its 'friends' (the other treasures) are taken from it.

32. Dungon has toughish monsters at the start, but they get easier, but they all avoid you mostly. Treasure is poisoned and touching it level drains and nerfs you slowly. Sunlight cures this but now the cowardly goblins at the start are gonna be a major problem, and you just brought them the treasure.

33. Access via Magic God Scales. Needs only 30 hearts from freshly (ie right now) sacrificed honey badgers to activate. (i.e. The 'Anubis'.)

34. Path is broken tube through Demon Space - can only be held open by occupying life-devouring superchair. (i.e. the 'Warhammer'.)

35. Code to pass tattooed on a Succubus.

36. World of teeth? Teeth that make a snake and pull other teeth? Ok I'm waaaay out of ideas.

Saturday 18 August 2018

None Of You Care Enough About Textiles

As is becoming traditional for interviews, the more interesting and original the content, the fewer the views. I suppose that makes this your chance to be amongst the ELITE! One of the FEW.

I am an imperfect interviewer but I found all of this utterly fascinating. I interview Mun Kao and Zedeck Siew about their zine/ongoing artpunk D&D project A Thousand Thousand Islands and the conversation goes all over the place from Malaysian views of D&D, the politics of textiles, negative space in design, art-text collaboration and much more.

Zedeck on Tumblr

Zedeck on G+

Mun Kao on G+

Mun Kao's Patreon, shame him into making more art and writing down the reading list he used to research South East Asian cultures for ATTI.

Politiko - the card game, and app, about Malaysian politics;

That Scandi game Trudvang Mun Kao mentioned as an inspiration.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

The Wodlands 9 - The incoherent Isles

1. The Plains of Anaesthetic Fire.
2. The Antigoblin Empire.
3. The Whetstone Ridge.
4. The Painted Plain.
5. The Vermilion Sea.
6. The Large Goblin Collider.
7. The Wodlands.
8. The Necropolis of Glass.


One legend says the first Incoherent Isle was driven in from the Reach in the worlds greatest storm, lodged upriver of the Imaginary City (then just an illusory town) and grew, multiplying like a cell.

If this is true, whatever made the Isles may still be burrowing deep into the skin of reality at their centre.

The Reach itself is lilac, changing to deep purple out where the high waves endlessly turn. Such is it's nature that no organised polity, no civilisation, may successfully cross. Or if they do, they do not come back. Only savages in oceanic canoes can reach the mythical Dark Continent on the other side, and even that may be a lie.


The Isles are know for several things; they are blurred, and will not resolve their form, as are all things that spring from them, they merge and change, splitting into multiples and combining several into one, from them spring the terrible Singing Raiders in their bearskin cloaks and sealskin shoes, wielding their terrible tines, and they are cold, much colder than the surrounding lands.

They are cold because they are of infinite number. In a manner much like the City of Infinite Ruin, the space inside the Incoherent Isles grows larger the deeper one goes within. They can be circled in a day and a half, to cross them along an axis dividing their centre would take infinite time.

The outer isles are cold, covered with forests, home to bears, beavers, wolves and the Singing Tribes. The seas within are ripe with nutrients, supporting pods of Orca and, though this is mythic, huge semi-aquatic wolves.

Those few who have penetrated deep into the isles and returned say eventually the water becomes utterly flat and still, refusing to accept even a ripple, and that its temperature sinks below freezing, though it remains liquid. Mists cover all, except at night when the surface like sheer glass reflects the cloudless night sky. The stars are not blurred.


The people of the Imaginary City, and others on the coast of the Wodlands, and beyond, have long feared and hated the Singing Tribes. Though direct attacks have been rare, those few that have taken place left deep scars.

The terror of the Blurred Raiders, arriving at will in morning or gloom, evading every defence, merging and emerging from shadows, walls, trees or gusts of leaves, their faces and bodies blurred as if out of focus so their identity can never be known, and singing, singing and chanting all the while, is great.

Despite this, the Imaginary city maintains reasonable relations with many of the outer tribes, as much as is possible before they merge or separate into something new. The majority of the Tribes are not excessively violent, such groups are in the minority and usually come from deeper within the Isles. And those that are violent almost always aim for the Dark Continent beyond the reach, to steal and worship its idols. Only when this fails or circumstance thwarts them do they haunt the coast of the Wodlands.

So the Imaginary City tolerates the blurred oceanic canoes slipping past it in the night, out into the reach, and the fleets of pods of blurred Orca that make navigation of that span almost impossible. Because the alternative is worse. And because they probably couldn't stop it anyway as the tribes would blur through any fortification. (The huge paired cracked lenses on opposite sides of the river illustrate the last, failed, attempt to shut down the strait.)

That said, they do license Lens Hunters to chase down offending tribes. These focusing witchunter types carry huge lenses of rock crystal glass or gemstone on the front of their boats. They go into the Incoherent Isles and peer at people, bringing them into focus and, in the eyes of the natives at least, robbing them of their un-identity. Specifying them.

The Lens Hunters have as dark a reputation inside the Isles as the Singing Raiders do out of it. And so the two peoples are locked together in passive and intermittent cultural conflict.

As well as that, the City, and others, will license, aid or allow mercenaries 'Adventurers', 'explores' and just straight up thieves to go into the Isles, sometimes as punitive expeditions against specific Orca pods that have blurred into the cities cheaper districts and eaten people (the Orca are intelligent and politicised enough that they can reasonably be threatened as a political entity and often the species will give up criminal individuals or groups to avoid an armed response), or simply to get into the Singing Tribes and gain their treasures honey or amber, to steal an Idol from the Dark Continent (a feat never before achieved) or to speak to the wise animals in the isles and gain access to the three worlds, but more of those later.


As we have said. The isles are cold, mountainous and thick with forests. Wolves swim between them (if they can avoid the Orca), salmon fill the streams, black bears are common, hawks of many kinds mount the air above.

Everything is blurred, as if it were far away or seen through a poorly adjusted lens or an old mans eyes. Nothing ever comes entirely into focus at any time.

The Isles are known to shift, blurring together or blurring apart. When two Isles merge their identity, geography, population and, to some extent, history, merge and become one. A new whole carrying traces of both but with an new entire identity.

Likewise they break apart, separating into two new islands, each being a more pure or refined expression of some element of the first.

They break and join like bacteria in a dish, though over years, sometimes invisibly, sometimes very rapidly.

There are roughly a hundred small isles around the outer circumference. Though this does shift over time. About half are permanently populated. The Isles are said to become larger deeper into the area, as more space becomes available, eventually becoming uninhabitable due to the permanent cold.


They learn their song from birth as, since everyone is blurred, it is useful in creating, sustaining and expressing their identity.

In the Isles identity is a matter up for question. No-one has a defined face, just a voice, general features and a bearing. The borders between things are indistinct.

Adults are often not singing but this simply means they have learnt to sing the song inside their heads, without their actual voice, freeing it for more direct speech. Almost all the tribespeople are continually singing their own identity within their own minds.

The tribes tend to be highly individualist and dedicate much of their time to performing notable actions and developing a complex voice/behaviour matrix (though they differ even in this). In the Isles, indistinct people can fade away, literally. Status is accorded to those with most 'identity' as perceived through their voice, bearing, behaviours and actions.

(Though, even this may merely be 'status' as seen by outsiders. Those accorded 'chiefs' may in fact be 'ambassadors', those most fit to communicate with the unblurred. Real power may lie elsewhere, or nowhere.


Effectively, any resident of the Isles can 'blur' themselves into their immediate environment, merging with it, replicating and becoming one, all at the same time. Swapping and sharing identity with local objects and phenomena. Not all master this but many do.

This can be used for travel, blurring into one point at blurring out at another, disguise, religious or personally desired transformation, and most often for hunting.

Since its very hard to do detailed visual work in the Isles, as nothing will cohere. Most tools and crafts are done by touch with the eyes closed. 'Blind' thinking is considered detailed thinking in the Isle and they do not use visual metaphors to describe detailed thought or action.

They hunt by smell and scheme, touch and blur. The tines of their hunting tridents or spears are set at specific distances to match the probability wavelengths of their expected prey.

Of course a hunter must learn to sing within themselves first.

Wars make no use of ranged weapons. Large hardwood polearms, spears, whaletooth knives and weighted nets are employed. Though, for the most part, the Isles are a peaceful land, relatively speaking. Many who find themselves visually disadvantaged or simply disliking their identity, have run away to the Isles over the years.

In many tribes individuals share their identity matrix with their immediate or most commonly inhabited environment. You are not assumed to be an entirely separate identity or object. You can be held responsible for the actions of someone who shares your voice, or for the actions or inactions of objects or processes that have become part of your identity though interaction and common knowledge.

So you could be rewarded or punished, in a deodand-like fashion, for the fall of a tree, a tide, a canoe sinking or doing well or other like events. So people try hard to avoid 'guilty' objects, places or phenomena so they are not associated with them.

When Isles merge or sperate, their populations merge and separate too, producing new identities, individuals and cultures. This means leaving your home isle can be dangerous since you may return to find it separated into extreme versions of its former qualities, or merged with another isle into a gestalt entity.

There are special words in the isles for the grief of having been merged, now being only a part of a new whole, the grief of being separated and finding yourself now only part of what you once were, of returning to find your former culture, family and friends merged or unmerged an  for the pain of identity dysphoria, merged into a new thing but in an uncomfortable way.

Strange merging can produce very 'bright' isles with positive heroic imperialistic domineering cultures and 'dark' isles with introverted gloomy, creepy abducty fey cultures.

Dominant personalities, mission-givers and mission targets can shift back and forth.

The tribes are skilled with rope work and grass and branch weaving. Some weave villages all summer, live in them through winter and burn them in the spring. Some have huge tents from giant wolfskins the size of houses, log palaces, treehouses or homes in root caves, sea caves or pine riddles.

The natures of tribes can flux depending on merges or more prosaic cultural shifts.

Strange intense religion/Materialistic
Division of Labour w Specialist/Generalists
Cultural Chauvinists/ Early culture adopters
Dark Aesthetic/Joyful Open Aesthetic
Wierd Shaman or Priest Class/Folk Rituals
Tabu-obsessed/Almost Thoughtless
high testosterone hunting of charismatic megabeasts/low risk-reward practical farming and gathering

Most tribal leaders (or 'ambassadors'? or low-status 'outer-speakers'?) have highly specific speech/behaviour matrixes;

Highly-Specific Stutter
Uncomfortably Close
Looping Tones
Weaves back and forth
Primal Lisp
Strikes Self
Grinding Teeth
Strange Breath Sounds
Everything a question?
Fey stance
Asthmatic Wheeze
Domineering Presence
Nasal Accusations
Whirls arms
Gurgling Chuckles
Sits like an egg
Nervous Titter
Overtalks all replies
Guttural 'k's
Jabs the Air
Oblique replies
Gestures with chin
Chattering teeth
Falls Over
Hoots their O's
Unnaturally Still
Affectless Voice
Stokes Everything Twice
Smacks Tongue
Hands like Birds
Indraws though closed teeth
Barges and Slumps
Deep Sighs
Strident Blare
Pours like Liquid
Keeps Mouth Closed
Seems Dead

Many tribes will 'keep' a good chief or leader around after their death or disappearance by having a suitable individual adopt their behaviours if possible. If you freakishly have those behaviours they may try to get you to stay (or abduct you).


In the forests are Pine Riddles - half real mazes of pine trees with houses in the centre made of amber. There can be found amberised golden bugs and ancient insect saints which can be used as powerful magical re-agents and holy cures, reality-amending 1-use grails. Some come to quest for these.

The Isles have some 'natural' treasures, blurred bearskins, whale teeth, furs, honey, hardwoods etc. Though the Singing Tribes rarely concentrate wealth.

The Idols of the Dark Continent are kept by many tribes in black guarded sacred tents or caves, and worshipped, sometimes absorbing the numinous powers with which they are declaimed, or perhaps already possessing them.

No-one from outside the isles has ever even seen one of the Idols and one has never been retrieved for study. Since they are the only evidence known for certain to come from that place which can be examined, many desire them.

Otherwise, wisdom can be sought in the Isles. Many of the animals are intelligent and capable of speech. The oldest and wisest of those may offer answers and advice if trapped, or if some boon is done for them.

Most specifically, certain animals can give access to the Three Worlds. Alter-realities that express some aspect of our own in purified form and in which strange treasures can be found.

THE SKY can be found across a Gulls Wing. It is a world of endless white bridges, leading into further bridges upon bridges. Cold and windy, bridges lacing through cumulo nimbus.

The birds rule there as Nomad Kings and the longest-flying, the Terns and Geese, are the most powerful, though all fear the shining Falcon.

The treasures of the sky are lightning bars, coins like snowflakes and necklaces like storms.

THE EARTH can be found by curling up as small as a bug and falling into a maze of roots. It is the belfries and arches of a wood-dark cathedral whose nave and floor you cannot see - but you can feel somewhere down there in the dark. It is very warm and cozy, there is constant movement. There is no 'outside' the cathedral.

There live Worm Priests, armoured Pill Bugs and the Terrible Centipede. It's treasures are blades like leaves of stone, gem animals that give sovereignty over different species and THE SILVER ROOT.

THE RIVER is a stairway of stairways - sometimes steep and narrow, and bright white, sometimes large, brown, wide and shallow. There is nothing beyond the stair, simply nothing. It's easy to go down, hard to go back up and slippery - if you fall you will slide down. But its easier to see up than down what is above you is known, what is about you is uncertain.

There are many creatures on the stairs, friendly leeches, caddis flies and the enormous dragon-pike. It's treasures are silver scales, coins of bone and white horses.