Friday 28 June 2019

The Assassins Lamp

The Assassins Lamp

This is an an idea for a slightly different pattern of Investigation Adventure, which I will probably never have the time to flesh out into a real thing so here you go.

It was provoked a little by listening to that FoaBD podcast episode about Death on the Reik and by thinking about Investigations in games generally and the challenging polarity of creating a network of clues which both presents a meaningful challenge but which also doesn't leave the investigators trapped and sprawling.


This would suit an Arabian Nights-style setting in which the Genie would be an actual Genie,
but could probably be adapted to a variety of settings.

This is how it goes;

- Someone is doing murders around the city (this would probably have to take place in a city, town or even more closely connected community).

- These murders are, in some sense, impossible. Either locked-door mysteries, victim killed with some unlikely substance (i.e. a sword of cheese), or in some other unlikely way.

- The PCs work out that a Genie is responsible for the deaths.

- The Genie is too powerful for anyone in town to defeat it directly or easily.

- However. The Genie is being ordered to commit these crimes by whoever has its lamp. And the Genie does not want to be doing these things.

- But it has to obey the directly-given orders of its lamp-holder.

- So the Genie will keep killing people as ordered. But it will do so in such a way that it actively tries to leave clues, inferences and details which will help the Investigators (the PC's) find their way to the holder of its Lamp.


- If the Lamp-Holder works out the Genie is doing this, they will;

First, give specific orders for the Genie to not do the things it has previously been doing, meaning the nature of its clues will shift each time its actions are discovered, becoming more and more distantly contextual.

Second, order the Genie to kill the PCs.

So the PCs will have to investigate in such a way that the successes of their investigation are near-invisible, at least so the Lamp-Holder cannot tell the PCs are on their trail. And they will have to wait until they are absolutely certain before they pounce.


This is essentially a kind of Death Note game of wits situation, except that the Shiginami is actually trying to help the detectives.

Its meant to get over the 'searching for clues' part of the Investigation without resorting to too much world-bending fluffiness because the PCs know there are going to be clues because they know the Genie is trying to leave them. They just don't know in which form the clue will exist.

And hopefully the 'Game of Wits' thing where the PCs realise they have to disguise their investigation as something else would just emerge naturally from play.


List of Victims. 

The first few victims of the Lamp Holder may provide the strongest initial indicators to their identity. At this stage they may not have fully processed that they were going to be investigated and could have chosen people based on more personal factors.

As time goes by they will probably try to obscure their trail by killing random or semi-randomly chosen people. They will have to kill people who are on their trail, and will have to kill more so those particular murders are lost in the pattern or ignored completely.

So the list would actually only be a 'list' for the first few murders. After that it would be a series of randomisers and possible methods of concealing murders.

Limits of the Lamp

The more limits are placed on the use of the Lamp (if it is a lamp) and the more contextual and specific they are, the easier the investigation will be.

Specifically, if there is some limit on the number of murders. If they can only kill once per night then the Lamp Holder may have to restrain themselves in order to defend their own safety. If there are only specific ways that someone can be killed (i.e. never the same method twice or never the same wish twice), that places a harness on their (and your) imagination and makes the PCs safer the more deaths they fail to prevent.

Safe zones. Maybe the Lamp can't be used during the day, or during a certain festival or when loud music is playing, maybe it is recharged by the moon, maybe the Genie can't enter certain sacred spaces or has to do something to get in, like be invited, or knock.

Tracing the Lamp. Tracking the Lamp itself has to be one of the best ways to find the killer and the more specifics there are to the nature of the killings the easier its will be to trace.

Investigating the Lamp could also reveal a specific secret weakness that maybe even the Lamp Holder doesn't know about, allowing the PCs to pull a last-minute emergency deactivation during the final scene and engaging Genie Vengeance.

Patterning of the Clues

The more the Lamp Holder realises they are being traced, the more specific will be the orders they give the Genie, restricting its actions and what it can reveal.

Of course if the Lamp Holder gives orders of overwhelming restriction then those risk allowing the Genie to prevent the murder, or to do something the Lamp Holder really doesn't want as, with mutually-impossible overriding instructions, there is a risk the Genie could just make something up that fits.

So the patterning of clues has to begin in a way that's clearly legible to the PCs. But once they follow up the initial clues, the patterning has to change, and change again each time they make a visible successful assumption.

So the opening encounter could be something as simple as them witnessing a terrible murder, maybe of a child or woman. Then they try to stop it. The Genie easily defeats them (but doesn't kill them as it hasn't specifically been ordered to do so.

But the Genie can actually talk to them (because it hasn't been ordered not to yet). It can't give away any details of its owner, but it can effectively tell the PCs it doesn't want to be doing this. Maybe it can tell them that it cannot by any word or omission reveal the identity of its master.

But it could leave something behind, an object, something moved in the room, the location of the murder, the methods used, the murder weapon....

Derpy Cops?

The local cops need to be that strange combination of investigation stories, clearly competent and well-meaning enough to interact with, but also so generally derpy that only the PCs ever really get anywhere.

Or you can go for a darker feel in which the Cops or city authorities are somehow 'in on it' or just generally corrupt and bad. In this case maybe the PCs are the only ones who know or believe their theory about the Genie.

Even then you would need a Jim Gordon figure to bring them info about the case.

And you would need some element to make the PCs Investigators. Maybe they get a special badge from the Arabic Feds, like the Caliph gives them a scroll but he's gotta go out of town. Maybe there are some complex inter-ethnic or fantasy-ethnic fractures in the city so this group of high-status, or unknown-status outsiders (the PCs) are the only ones who can cross those lines and talk to everyone.

Probably what I would go for, in my usual style, is an actual opening scene with the Caliph themselves.

Say there's a murder of some vulnerable person and the PCs witness this and/or get wrapped up in it *as it happens*.

Hopefully they are heroic about it and at least try to be useful.

Then we have a big Robin Hood/Lionheart reveal scene, because one of the people who witnessed this was in fact THE CALIPH IN DISGUISE (as subtly suggested some time near the beginning of the scene).

So the Caliph, in full regalia (as the cloak is thrown back). The Caliph is a noble dude, like a Disney dad, he's regal, but he cares about his people. And he's old, or maybe he's got a wasting disease or something (which he bears with nobly), or maybe he's a kid.

But the Caliph knows the PCs are good guys, and knows about the situation with the Genie, and obviously understands that their investigation must remain secret, but, as honourable outsiders "You are the only people I can trust, will you help me my friends?". Also he's getting the fuck out of town till this invisible assassin situation is resolved. Here's my seal, good luck.

So we have the avengers of social wrong motivation with the murder of some innocent, and the agents of righteous authority motivation with the "Guys, the Caliph needs you." So if you don't get 90% of players with both of those at the same time then I have no idea what to do.

Oh, also there's a reward and its that thing you were looking for, social position and/or a bunch of cash. There, now 99% of players.

Suggestive Nerd

Probably you would want some helpful dork to come along and tell the players, or at least suggest to the players, basic concepts they should have already gotten in their heads but which are utterly necessary to the investigation. In Silent Titans the Ouzel played this role, maybe here you could have some Blind Fakir or wandering Holy Man who just happens to be around to offer good advice. A Genie expert or Lamp salesman. (Who can also be a possible suspect).

Obvious Methods of Concealment

Hopefully the players rapidly get the idea that they should be concealing their advances (and possibly emphasising their failures) to stop the Lamp Holder realising what is going on.

So it would be helpful if the city in question thronged with opportunities for concealment or invisible action. Maybe there are groups with masks or who go around in long robes. A festival where everyone dresses up. Geography or a built environment that makes concealment and secret movement possible (rooftops, sewers, multi-exit homes, areas divided by screens, hanging cloths or passable obstacles of some kind, ethno-social position uniforms or ID-fashions of some kind that make it relatively easy to 'swap costume'.

In another murder story these would be ways for the killers to escape detection, but here the Genie can do that easily so they are meant to prompt the PCs to find ways to hide what they are up to, because...

The Baddy is Getting Closer

In classic Death Note style, since all of the other cops are Derplords, the Lamp Holder is going to realise that the PCs are their main enemy, and they are going to try to find ways to get close to the investigation.

The more they can find out about the PCs the better they can combat them, but the more vulnerable they become.

So this provides both opportunity and threat to the PCs as, if the Lamp Holder finds out a lot about them, they can just take them out, but as they are getting closer they are more and more likely to make a mistake themselves and to become vulnerable in some way.

There would need to be some kind of mechanism. No, it wouldn't need to be a mechanic, but some suggested routes or paths for the Lamp Holder to use to get close to the PC's, like threatening the family of this one guard, worming their way into the affections of the bureaucratic overseer, becoming a housemaid and cleaner to the PCs, creeping around in the sewers etc.

Whats the Motive

Is it like a Death Note thing where they are bringing JUSTICE to the world and stopping them is a matter of philosophy more than anything? Are they a killer with a point? Or a mad Anarchist like the Joker who is trying to pull the skin off the face of the social world? Does this one go "right to the top" and there is a head of department or Vizier who is trying to make some kind of point? Or maybe they are a very small, very ignored person like a housewife or beggar who has stumbled into unexpected power and is now getting a chance to use their previously un-demanded intelligence?

Since the motive and relative social position (and access to information it provides) is going to be the major constraining factor on the choice of victim, probably best to work that out first.

And then what about High Level Play?

The Goddamn high-level investigation and magical tracing spells. Fucking mystery-killing fuckers.

We can maybe get around this somewhat by making the Genie, or Demon or whatever, either very high-level or from outside the socio-cultural context of the PCs. So maybe its this thing or entity they have never seen before, so their dispels and trackers won't work on it.

That's a half-bullshit explanation but whatever.

So far as tracing the lamp, well, who's to say its actually a Lamp? Or what it is? All you really know about it is whatever you can learn from the circumstances of its use.

The Speak with Dead stuff actually isn't that bad, as the murderer didn't do the killing themselves the most useful things that can be found out are stuff that might place the victim in the pattern of people who came into the notice of the Lamp Holder. So the PCs would still need to 'investigate' by asking the spirit questions.

Really the most dangerous stuff is the meta-magical spells that would dispel, trap or kill the 'Genie' or compel it to truth right away. Not sure what to do about those other than nerf them. Its a bit of a basic bitch answer I know.


So, there you go. With about a month of work you could probably get the simple version where there is one set killer in a specified social network and a specific lamp with particular rules.

With maybe a year of work you could get the full Ennie-bait version where all that stuff is broken down into tables and the killer, motivation and nature of the Lamp are different each time.

Instead you get this.

Monday 24 June 2019

The Snow

"I cannot sleep, I cannot leave the house, I am distressed because of it. There is no world, no ford, no hillside, no open space, no ground today. I won't be tempted out of my house into the fine snow, at the word of a girl.

What a plague the thing is, feathers on ones gown that cling like the spume of fighting dragons! My excuse is that my clothes would be all as white as the clothes of a miller. After New Year's Day, it is no lie, everyone dresses in white fur; in the month of January, the first of the series, God makes us into hermits. God has whitewashed the black earth all around; there is no underwood without its white dress, there is no copse without its coverlet.

Fine flour is the fur on every bough, flour of the sky like the flowers of April; a bitter cold sheet over the greenwood grove, a load of chalk flattening the wood, a mirage of wheaten flour, a mail coat vesting the level ground. The soil of the plough-land is a cold grit, a thick tallow on the face of the earth, a very thick shower of foam, fleeces bigger than a man's fist; throughout North Wales they made their way, they are white bees from Heaven.

Whence can God raise up so great a plague? Where is there room for so many goose-feathers of the saints? Own brother to a heap of chaff, in its ermine shirt, the snow is skilled to leap the heather. The dust has changed to snowdrifts now, where once was bird-song and the narrow lanes.

Does anyone know what sort of folk are spitting on the ground in the month of January? White angels it must be, no less, who are sawing wood up in Heaven; see, from the floor of the flour-loft they have raised the plank trapdoor.

An ephemeral silver dress of ice, quicksilver, coldest in the world, a cold mantle (too sad that it stays), the cement of hill and dale and dyke, a thick steel coat, heavy as a landslide, a pavement greater than the sea's graveyard; a great fall it is upon my land, a pale wall reaching from sea to sea. Who dares cry shame upon it? It is like lead in the cloak! Where is the rain?"

Welsh; attributed to Dafydd ap Gwilym, c.1325-1380.

Taken by me (and paragraphs added) from 'A Celtic Miscellany', Penguin Classics, by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson.

Friday 21 June 2019

Can Gnomes Be Interesting?

Possibly. There is only one way to find out for sure and that is to read what follows;

Every Gnome is a potential capacitor of astonishing magical power.

They hide this from the world. Though seen as moody and irascible, their demeanour is simply a disguise, beneath it they are some of the most reasonable, rational and compassionate creatures in the Weave.

Unless, of course, they misuse their inborn power. Then they can go dangerously and manically insane.


The classic Gnome is a medium-sized fey creature of about Goblin size. Though spry, once they hit middle age, if they are forced to carry heavy loads, or if they simply become sad, Gnomes age to an extraordinary degree. They grow hunched and crabbed, with huge noses, squinting eyes and fingers like knobbly twigs.

A Gnomes physical 'age' depends more on their mood and sense of self than on chronology.

A Gnome is truly as old as they feel. Grief, rage and loss can wither them into brown twisted knurls like the stumps of windblown trees in which the grain has curved and cramped around itself. A Gnome can die of sadness or grief, perishing under the years emotions heap upon them. But, hope, joy and love can quicken them like green shoots in spring, smoothing skin, unknotting joints and straightening the spine.

Gnomes do have a minor magical peculiarity; their ability to carry enormous loads. A Gnome can be seen labouring under a Grand Piano, a huge boulder or a massive cauldron.

This strength does not translate into combat power, or the ability to lift buildings. The Gnome must either pick up the object with their natural strength, or have it placed upon them.
But once this is done, though they are small the mass of weight they carry does not press them down into the earth.

The secret of this ability is that the weight is carried by their souls, rather than their muscles. Gnomes bent under these heavy loads are always fatalistic and depressed, crooked and aged to an enormous degree.


Gnomes find it very hard to rest securely if their position is known. Few Gnome homes are obvious, and even when one part has to be public, like a shop front, there is always some hidden aspect; a secret passage, rooms within rooms, a house in a teapot or travel via a series of pneumatic brass tubes.

Gnomes in the wild like to hide themselves and Gnome tents are incredibly well camouflaged to look like tree-trunks, piles of sticks, giant snail shells, sleeping sheep or other things.

Many rumours state that Gnomes can manipulate the substance of Marginalia to create 'pocket realms', hidden citied built at Gnome size, entirely for Gnomes.

Of course these cities have never actually been found....


All Gnomes are magical capacitors; agents of material transformation. While they are famed for their crafts, learning and ability to build and make, the potential power of Gnomes actually goes much, much deeper than this.

Fundamentally, any Gnome could perform astonishing transmutations of one thing into another.
They could weave straw into gold, or freeze tears into diamonds, they could turn Time into ice, or light itself into music.

Three things limit this power, the talent and experience of the Gnome in question, their inability to affect living things, and the Golden Rule, sometimes called the Terrible Law of Equivalent Exchange.

Firstly, this power or talent is expressed through the subtlety of a Gnomes craft.

Weaving straw into gold is not simply a matter of waving your hands and having it be so. For a start, you need to know how to weave, and to a high degree too, then there is the subtlety of the act itself.

Then the Gnome must have some detailed knowledge of their desired final result. A Gnome who had never seen Gold and did not know what it was could not weave anything into Gold. A Gnome who wished to build a magical ship would first need to learn, in detail, how ships work.

So a Gnome that has no crafts (impossible thought!) would be unable to alter reality in this way at all, and for the crafts they do have, they must be truly expert in one before it can be used in one of these great transformations. Expert-beyond-expert in a way, for the change-craft of a Gnome is more like skill driven to a dreamlike excess than it is like any 'standard' magic.

So, the more crafts a Gnome has, and the more they are expert in, the greater the potential.

Secondly, it is impossible for a Gnome to craft with still-living materials. Growing plants, beating wings, pulsing skin, anything with life still in it is immune to the magic of the Gnomes. Or at least, it cannot be used by them as the substance of their craft.

Finally, the Golden Rule.

For something to be gained, something of equal value must be given. Gnomes often refer to this amongst themselves as “The Terrible Law of Equivalent Exchange”.

It is this law, more than anything else, which not only limits the power of the Gnomes, but causes them to limit themselves, to obfuscate the extent of their talents, hide their abilities and to keep their knowledge and skills secret.

Anything they do must equal-out. Everything must be paid for, one way or another.

So if a Gnome wished to, for instance, make a sword so powerful that it could kill Yggsrathaal and make them ruler of Uud;

Firstly, they would need the materials, which would be rare and impossible things, the Dreams of Dead Gods, Daemon Tears, Fallen Stars and the like.

Secondly, they would need the crafting skill to work these materials. Even for a highly intelligent and long-lived Gnome this would take a huge amount of time and effort.

If the Gnome were to slip in some microscopic way, to miss some tiny error or failure in technique, something so small that even an experienced Somon craftsman would not notice it, then the blow-back, would be proportionate to the power of the thing they were trying to build.

Finally, they would need to pay the price themselves. For when a Gnome makes something for themselves alone, they alone must pay. Not the mere price in materials, but the price of Transformation. And for an artefact of such incredible power, the price would be high indeed.

For minor magic items, the price might be memories, or a smile. Not a singular smile, but the ability, and desire, to smile at all. The price might be a sense of happiness, or a Gnomes youth, so that they can never be young again. Or their name, their ability to dream, their desires or their hopes. The price might be a mortal soul, or many such souls. The price might be the future of a kingdom, or the dreams of an entire world. The price might be the stars falling from the sky beyond Marginalia.

For there is always a price, and the price must always be paid.


Gnomes escape the terrible weight of their inborn power in many ways.

A great many Gnomes live lives in which their natural power plays no, or little, part. They can be Detectives, Doctors, Scientists, Novelists, Wizards, Cartographers (very important for Marginalia) and Gardeners.

There are few places safer (in a moral sense) for a Gnome than in a garden. There, there is nothing they can affect. All they can do is the hard work of digging and planting and the slow work of weeding and growth.

Gnomes do love Gardens, and many suffer under a form of "Garden Hypnosis"; on entering an exceptionally beautiful garden they freeze, as if like a statue, locked in wonder. This effect is used by some evil creatures to capture and enslave Gnomes.

A Gnomes intelligence and drive can be applied in many ways which do not directly involve developing the skill of craft, or if they do, they involve them only tangentially. A Gnome can be a Thief, for instance, in which case they make hardly anything at all. Or a Theatre critic, a poet or a botanist.

Gnomes who do make use of their powers in crafting, will usually only do so on request. They may make things for others, if not themselves. For if another asks for the transformation, another must pay the price.

Of course, if a Gnome actually likes the person asking for something, and thinks they deserve to have it, they will ask for a heavy price in gold or gems. This might seem greedy, and those who are not wise in Gnome-lore often assume it to be so. But in fact this heavy, but purely material price, is a Gnomes honest attempt to help the person in question. The alternative to gold and gems is not a lower price, but a more dangerous one, an immaterial price which the customer in question might not understand. That price might be someone’s beauty, or wisdom, their skill with a sword, or their name. Or their hope.

Foolish people might be willing to pay such a price, but a decent Gnome will never take that deal.
In fact they will be proud of the high material cost of their creations, because that is proof of their honesty and good intentions, and their unwillingness to wreak havoc and madness upon another’s existance.

Finally, through Gnomes tend to be fundamentally decent, stable, conservative and honourable types (especially for Margenalia!) they often obsessively hide these qualities under the behaviours of irascible grumpy arseholes.

In part, they do not wish to be tricked or taken advantage of, if it was clear how essentially noble their motivations were, many darker beings would prey upon their good intentions.

Gnomes also wish to keep others safe from the consequences of their own desires.

Mortals are fools.

Almost all of them believe some simple material acquisition will solve all of their problems. Few of them would meaningfully understand the price of their desires. If they knew a Gnome could make this desired prize for them, hordes of greedy, stupid, often well-meaning idiots would besiege them, and throw themselves into disaster.

And those who are greedy and not well-meaning would be more dangerous still.

A Gnome would often wish to hide its abilities, skills and powers, even from other Gnomes. It is terribly gauche to show off. A Gnome that boasts is looked on as a very low thing by others of their kind.

And of course it might be the case that any particular Gnome is a little pissed-off, or a little crazed from some previous unwise adventure, and reluctant to be caught up in another.

Whatever the reasons, Gnomes hate people being able to perceive their good intentions, to an almost pathological degree. They will almost always disguise their powers, their desires and their positive emotions, always pretending they have other reasons for doing whatever they do.
They prefer to be seen as moody, irascible, easily-offended, grumpy and greedy beings.
Anything other than the truth.


Sadly, some Gnomes do turn evil and mad.

Sometimes their powers get the better of them. They might start creating magical items, perhaps for the noblest of reasons, but slowly lose more and more of themselves to the Terrible Law until all that remains is an overpowering intelligence and a driving will with no context or memories to give it shape, meaning or direction, but only an unanswerable sense of loneliness and loss.

Many powerful beings desire even-more-powerful weapons, and decide that Gnomes can produce them. A Gnome forced, or persuaded to produce some terrible weapon of doom, like the Spear of the Sun or the Sword of Infinite Bites, could fall into despair.

Gnomes can be horribly wronged by others and may seek a particular kind of revenge. Sometimes Gnomes are captured by evil Sprites, trapped in beautiful gardens and forced to carry huge piles of treasure and stone across Marginalia while being whipped with sharp thorns, or are tied with living Ivy in the court of some dark Fey ruler and made to cobble shoes into infinity.

The vengeance, or madness of a Gnome Alone, takes a particular form. A powerful Gnome will not simply organise an army and attack their enemy, or use force directly. Instead they may aid the enemies of their enemy, delivering them the power to do the hated ones harm.

Or they may deliver gifts.

Few things could be more dangerous than the un-asked for gift of an Lone, Unknown Gnome.

For everything has a price, and that price must be paid. Once the gift is accepted, it is too lage.

The demand of the Gnome might be the delivery of some impossible object or entity; the eyes of the moon, a flower fertilised from the silence of a spiders tread, a cloak made from the shadows of mosquitos, or a crown made from their stings.

If their terms are not met, the price might be the breath in a families lungs, or the beats of their hearts, or something else more terrible.

These mad and terrible Gnomes are hard to capture and harder to imprison. The most dangerous cases are held on lily pads surrounded by circling Pike, watched over constantly by hawks in daylight and owls at night, without even a pinch of inanimate matter nearby.

But they still escape sometimes via cut hair, nail clippings or broken tooth fragments.


Gnomes are found throughout the Tangled Land in a variety of roles but two of the strongest themes are those of Gnomes-Technical and Gnomes-Magical.

Gnomes are guardians of technology and craft in the Weave-of-Thought. Not only the workers, but the factory itself; many worked objects in Marginalia simply would not exist without them.

Gnomes do have a high theoretical tech level, if you can get a few of them working together, but, like everything in Marginalia, there is no systemisation of any kind. Everything is bespoke, with every nail, screw, fitting and plank designed for this particular project. This means that Gnomes not only control most technology in the Shifting Kingdom, but also that they hold back its development.

Guilds of strange Gnomes also find, utilise and guard the 'dark strands' which connect differing levels of the Udd-verse. Their skill at cartography allows them to trace these strands and their mastery of technology allows them to travel through them in airships or on rail-riding engines, in pressurised compartments and wearing vacuum suits. The Gnomes of the Cold Rails are one of the things that keeps the different 'levels' of Uud even partially connected to each other.

Far at the other end of the spectrum of Gnome behaviour, highly magical Gnomes are often Artifex or Viziers to Fey rulers. The most powerful are servants of the Seasons who shape the environment of Marginalia via their endless chase through its capillaries. They organise the armies of sprights and spirits who flood through the filaments painting leaves brown, building flowers, hanging icicles and constructing snowflakes in the air.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Silent Titans - What Did and Didn't Work?

Reviews are mixed.

It doesn't work.

No, wait, it does.


Ah crap, no it don't.

So, not quite a bullet in the head, but no triumph with laurels either.

So for anyone who has tried to actually run it, what parts did you find worked and what didn't?

Also if you have questions I will try (?) to answer them.

Also please be civil, I realise experiencing these intuitive differences in perception can be frustrating but the intention here is more of a neutral forum.

And I meant be civil to each other but now I think about it be civil to me as well please.

Saturday 15 June 2019

Gackling Moon

At the ends of the understood earth, trapped between contending seas, crazed with fractured realities and bathed in the glow of a mad satellite, itself reflecting light from unreal suns hidden in the shadow of the night, lie the lands of the Gackling Moon.

Guarded from the North by the Plains of Anaesthetic Fire, the fierce Whetstone Ridge and the unnerving para-reality of the Painted Plain, from the West by the Vermillion Sea, the flower-strewn surface of which borders on a murderous otherwold of mad red light, and from the East by the surging seas of the Reach, an ocean whos opposite waves tickle the beaches of the ever-mythical Dark Continent, the Lands of the Moonlands are not an easy place to reach.

Yet some do find their way there, for this realm of cracked realities is the origin of rare resources and secret wisdom. From the strange drugs of the Asbestos Bedouin to the magical apples of the Whetstone Ridge, the fictional weapons of the Picts of the Painted Plain, to the secrets of the Great Goblin Market in the Necropolis of Glass, to Narcissolis, the ever-shifting city at its centre, the Moonlands hold treasures and secrets of such rare and inexpressible strangeness that in any other place, possession of the smallest of them may draw the eye, burnish reputations and summon awe.

For all their deep differences and continual conflicts, those who populate these lands are united by two things. Firstly; absolute terror of the Apocalypse Wasps; nightmarish invaders from the Red World beneath and beyond the Vermillion Sea, who despise all life and wish to lay eggs in everyone. And secondly, their shared experience of the light of the Gackling Moon; for the orb which rolls over these lands in the night is of no ordinary kind, and such is the enchantment in its light that all beneath its grin must keep care of their calendar, for to leave shelter on a cloudless night, without noting the face of the moon, can summon doom.

Doom, or adventure.

The Gackling Moon Itself

A smashed moon for a smashed land, crazed and cratered like a pale cracked mirror in the sky, a blind, moaning moon with a broken face. Such is the shape of the Gackling Moon.

Legends, myths and imagined origins abound, but the most commonly accepted theory of its nature is that each cracked fragment of the face of the Gackling Moon reflects upon the world, the light of a differing sun.

And each mosaick’d slice does glow with a different hue, so that the Full Mad Face of the Gackling Moon is a tatterdemalion chequerboard of gash-bright light from incomprehensible stars.

Each wavelength of eldritch light carries with it a little of the power and strangeness of the reality from which it shines. The moon is mirror to a range of cosmic lamps, and in their light, the physics, logic and reality so illuminated must match and balance that of the emitting sun.

These lights have magical properties, each different, and all comprehensively intermixed and blended in the face of the Gackling Moon.

As the shadow of the real cuts slowly over the smile of the Gackling Moon, day by day and week by week, revealing and disguising more or less each night, the balance and composition of the unreal light shifts and alters, different colours matching, mixing, conflicting and combining as the month drifts by.

Though the moon is crazed, the arrangement of its fragments does not change, and so the people of the Moonlands know at least one clear moon-boon; the cycles of its witch-light are predictable and known, and the effects of each face of the Gackling Moon are understood and accounted for by all who live beneath its glow.

Moon Rules

Even in madness, there is law. The following rules always apply to the light of the Gackling Moon unless specifically stated otherwise.

·        The magical effects of the moon count only in direct moonlight.

·        Moon Effects last only as long as moonlight shines directly upon the effected being.

·        Moon Effects only work at night. They end at dawn. The moon is sometimes visible in the sky by day, this moon has no magical properties.

·        Depending on the weather, clouds may occlude the moon. This can be decided by the DM but for a random decision try this method;

First hour of moonlight – roll a D6

1-2 Full cloud cover.
3-4 Clouds scud across the face of the moon.
5-6 The moon is fully visible.

Every subsequent hour the cloud cover has a one-third chance of changing.

·        The population of the lands of the Gackling Moon are familiar with its many faces and know what it’s various powers can do.

The simplest response to potentially dangerous moonlight is to stay indoors or hide beneath shade. Other, more complex responses will be discussed either in the description for that particular face of the moon or in reference to individual cultures and populations.

Phases of the Gackling Moon

1. A Fine Gackling Moon

Perhaps not the worst moon, but certainly the most powerful and most feared


The full, mad face of the Fine Gackling Moon is entirely visible, staring down at reality with its wild eyes and crooked smile, its face a mosaic of reflected sunlight from alien realms.

The colour of its light is an indescribable nullfire which veils all beneath it with the texture of a dream


One - Anyone looking directly into the face of the Fine Gackling Moon will go quite mad and not know who they are for as long is its light shines.

Two - Anyone in direct moonlight can change shape with nothing more than a silent thought.

·        Women can change into Animals.
·        Men into Stones.
·        Murderers into weapons.
·        Goblins into animals, humans, objects or plants.
·        Animals into Humans.
·        And Children into Goblins.

If the transformed individual forgets who or what they are, or is not in daylight as the sun rises the transformation can become permanent, at least until the next Fine Gackling Moon.

Three - The Fine Gackling Moon will grant each individual a single wish, once in their life.

·        The effects of this wish are limited, usually it involves the moon moving something under its purview around. Often after changing its shape.
·        To wish you must look directly at the Fine Gackling Moon, meaning you will lose your identity and go mad.
·        These wishes go horribly wrong.


Being a time of madness and transformation, almost all sane cultures, and even Goblins, obsessively avoid the light of this moon, even if the sky is overcast. The danger of being caught in its light and of seeing its face is simply too great.

Three simple rules are beaten into every sane brain in the land;

1.      Never go out in a Gackling Moon.
2.      Never look at a Gackling Moon.
3.      And never, ever, wish on a Gackling Moon.

However, nothing is ever simple, and mistakes, emergencies, desperation or malice can lead to moon-exposure and its results.

If a family or community member goes missing during a Fine Gackling Moon, then any altered, extra or eldritch items are sought out in the day and guarded so they might be restored.

Men and Murderers can be easily located, being stone and weapons, each incapable of individual movement.

Women can be hard to find in animal form, and children extremely hard to find in Goblin form.

And almost anything or anyone new to a community encountered after a Gackling Moon may be a transformed Goblin.


·        A family looking for help moving and guarding a strange stone which they say is a relative, they want to place it somewhere where it will see the sun coming up
·        A family, village or Kin-group likewise worried about a common animal they think is their wife, mother or grandmother.
·        The discovery of a ‘Moon Blade’. These transformed murderers always have magical or remarkable powers and possession and use of them always leads to discord, horror and strife.
·        The discovery of a Moon Blade indicating someone in the village is a murderer.
·        A culture group taking radical action in forcing someone to transform under a Gackling Moon to prove they are not a murderer.
·        Someone falling in love only to discover that the object of their affection is a transformed Goblin or Animal, and perhaps attempting to make sure this is undiscovered and they do not turn back.
·        A family having to control and take care of a Goblin who they say (and hope) is their transformed child.
·        Moon-Ruin, the results of someone wishing on a Gackling Moon leading to people and places being swept up into the air and re-distributed, people and things being transformed in strange ways, outbreaks of particular madness and delusion and all manner of other strangeness.
·        Someone depressed, angry or alienated actually wants to forget themselves and transform into something else, permanently. In the case of a self-assured adult it can be hard to work out if this is something you should try to stop or not.

Everyone sighs in relief when a Gackling Moon finally occludes into the by-comparison, quite safe and sane, Painted Moon.

2. A Painted Moon


The Painted Moon is a mosaic of glimmering colours like the fragments of a gem catching light.

Images seem to dance through the air like a procession of bright people winding their way through the air, or like fireflies travelling up, up, up to the surface of the Painted Moon.


One - For those who sleep directly in the light of this moon, their dreams will either migrate, (5 in 6 chance) or, more rarely, become active and tangible illusions around them. (1 in 6 chance).

Migrated Dreams; those who experience this swap dreams with someone else nearby having roughly the same dream.

Embodied Dreams; those who experience this have their dreams become visible around them, like a projected image.

The only significant physical danger from such Embodied Dreams is if very powerful or very scared people have nightmares, they can effectively act as monsters.

If Magic-Users have spells memorised while they dream beneath a Painted Moon, these will become active as fully-mobile independent beings with forms and intentions shaped by their natures.

In any case, waking the individual, or any absence of moonlight, ends the effect immediately.


Almost all of the dangers of a Painted Moon can be avoided by simply not sleeping under its light, and for those witnessing potentially dangerous embodied dreams, any possible threat can be escaped with nothing more than a moon-shade, or by waiting for day.

The main dangers of a Painted Moon are social and psychological. At times, the inadvertent swapping or sharing of dreams between community members can cause social ructions.


·        A pair of young lovers setting out to sleep under a Painted Moon in the hopes that they will swap dreams.
·        An argument or fight between people due to information they think they received while experiencing someone else’s dream (i.e. someone does/does not love their spouse, is lying about something, is subconsciously into some freaky stuff etc).
·        A monster or dangerous situation which has sprung up around an unaware sleeper, and which may not be immediately obvious as a dreamed illusion.
·        An encounter with a ‘living spell’ sprung from the mind of a sleeping Mage, the spell has its own personality and knows it will only ‘live’ for a short time, this can make them quite capricious (though not necessarily evil). They may not reveal what they are.
·        A group of edgy young men setting out to sleep under the light of a Painted Moon because it’s very-slightly somewhat dangerous and boundary breaking.

3. A Sorrowing Moon


This sad moon casts all beneath it in a sombre pall. All colours fade, the silver of the moonlight turns to grey.

Black pools of shadow hang from eves and branches like fuliginous cloaks.


This moon presents no physical threats and at least one great advantage. Nevertheless its extremely melancholic glow makes it a significant danger for those suffering loss, or of a naturally gloomy temperament.

One - In the light of a Sorrowing Moon, all become deeply sad. Grief can be dangerously intense

Two - It is impossible to joke or laugh beneath its light.

Three - Once you start crying it can be impossible to stop.

Even Goblins are made sombre by this moon. Unable to have fun they just trudge in endless circles in the night or break into peoples homes to clean them, do their accounts and weed the garden. Goblins hate this moon.

Four - This moon gifts animals in its light intelligence and speech. However, only the nocturnal ones are active and all of the animals are saddened by the cruelty of nature and their own brief awareness of it so they either sit there weeping or just cry in their sleep.


The chief dangers of the Sorrowing Moon are psychological. Anyone suffering grief or depression is strongly urged not to go out in a Sorrowing Moon, as they may be stricken with terminal gloom.

Likewise, sensitive carnivores are advised not to go beneath its light as witnessing the sadness of the animals may turn them into vegans.

Children are kept out of this moon as hearing farm animals cry in the night, and witnessing them form words and make statements in dreams or sad nightmares can be disturbing for them.

This can be a good time to question animals, if they are thought to possess needed information, though talking through their tiredness and sadness can be tiresome.

Conversely, a Sorrowing Moon is a great time to escape, confound, oppose or defy Goblins as any under its light will be stricken with a mental heaviness and lose utterly their maniacal genius and deranged courage.


·        Investigators tracing a crime systemically drag every animal in a village into the moonlight and interrogate it, but are gradually worn down by the consuming sorrows of the beasts.
·        Dumb kids decide to fuck with some Goblins by hurling school homework at them in the night, adults who realise the Goblins will take revenge under the coming Ruinous moon try to stop them.
·        The weeping and wailing of farm animals disturbs as you pass in the night.
·        A favourite pet or animal has quite a lot to say, and is extremely depressed.
·        Suicide watch by the home of a grieving widower are themselves crying.
·        Weeping housewife watched glum Goblins skilfully but gloomily tend to her pumpkins in the night.

4. A Ruinous Moon


A classic silvery-white moonlight with a tinge of sapphire-blue. Slightly brighter and more directional than ‘average’ moonlight

Shadows are depthless pools.


One - Under this moon the ghosts of those slain by mortal hands seek out their killer.

Depending on the strength of the personality behind the Ghost, may simply follow them accusing them of the crime, or may pursue more direct vengance.

Two - Shadows cast by the light of this moon sometimes rebel against their caster if offended.

They escape and run away into a great Parliament of Shadows. If you can find this Parliament it can lift curses, deliver knowledge or amend mistakes.


A moon of revenge and the accounting of old wrongs, where many lose their shadows and others are harrowed by ghosts. Still, a Ruinous Moon is not particularly dangerous for most people, providing they treat their shadows kindly, and are not killers.

Criminals, murderers, but also soldiers and executioners, will all try to avoid this moon. As will anyone who has ever killed a Wizard or Magic-User.

The possibility of exposing a murderer or discovering the Parliament of Shadows provokes certain groups and people to undertake unusual actions in the light of this moon.


·        A legal trial held out in the open, beneath moonlight. If the accused is guilty, the ghost of their victim will arrive to accuse them.
·        Knights or adventurers in combat with their own shadows after offending them.
·        A potent warrior trapped beneath shade by fear of the numerous ghosts who will seek them out should they step out under the light of the Ruinous Moon.
·        A battle between the ghost of a Wizard and their killers, who foolishly let themselves be caught under moonlight.
·        A pilgrim or group of adventurers who seek the Parliament of Shadows, either to regain their own shadows or to solve some irresolvable mystery or danger.
·        The Parliament of Shadows itself.

5. A New Moon

Joy to the world the New Moon is here!

Here are the safest and most secure handful of nights in all the lands of the Gackling Moon. With the moons face totally occluded, there are no magical effects or strange lunar dangers at all.

Many settlements have night-festivals to mark this time of the month in which all the citizens, who might otherwise have some reason to avoid the moonlight, walk about beneath the light of the stars without fear or restraint.

Night markets and late openings are common for these few eves.

Yet all make ready and prepare for perhaps the worst moon of all, which comes soon….

6. A Wasp Moon


The light of the Wasp Moon is a virulent, violent red that washes over bodies like crimson ink and stains reality like a charnel house.

The Red Wasp Moon breeds, and feeds on, anger, resentment and wrath. Under its light people become their red, wounded selves, all of the harms of their life visible as vivid flesh hacks and raw damage.


One - Meat rots in the red light and births red flies which swarm in the night.

Two - Hatred breathes out like a caustic gas which cuts like a knife.

Three - Bad thoughts squirm like red eggs under the skin, then burst like buboes, releasing the poisonous red wasps of wrath.

These wasps buzz with a high-pitched keening sound like blades on glass, they are aggressive and their sting is painful to the point of being disabling. The pain only dies with dawn.

Four - Those who swear an oath of vengeance to this moon grow buzzing wasp wings which burst from wounds in their back and carry them towards the object of their hate at incredible speed.


More even than the Gackling Moon, this is an orb to be avoided at all costs. All pray for clouds to cover this most poisonous selene. Since this moon is of aid only by those who wish to do harm, and since it shows all under it in the most terrible light, travel under it is abjured, regardless of circumstance.

Culturally, it’s considered reasonable to miss any appointment or meeting, to avoid any duty or to break any oath or promise, if to meet or fulfil them requires that you walk under a Wasp Moon.

Doors and windows are locked. Children are terrorised by tales to be sure they do not leave the house.

Cursed are those who choose openly to walk under the Wasp Moon. They are villains all.


·        A wrath-filled wanderer squats like a rank encrusted hive of hate, spitting out wasps.
·        Dark towns and empty villages with every door and window battened tight and all valued animals under shade. Few doors will open, regardless of the circumstance.
·        Evil men walking freely beneath the Red Moon like grinning flensed corpses, followed by swarms of their own bad thoughts.
·        The terrible buzz of wings in the night air and a hated enemy left behind long ago swoops upon you in a moment.
·        The bodies of friends caught in the Wasp Moon by mistake, who’s argument turned to horror, their thoughts bursting from them as flies and their breath slicing each other like knives.
·        Bodies in the red light, impossible to tell if corpses or sleeping men.

7. A Goblin Moon


The Goblin Moon is a crazy facepunching GREEEEEEN.

Moving bodies to hop and skip. Faces look like carnival masks. The green of leaves, grasses, and goblin faces, grows pale. Those which match exactly the light of the moon look white.

Shadows are a dusky, dusty red.


One - Lies are always believed.

Two - Locks don't work.

Three - The strong cannot restrain those weaker than themselves with bonds or chains.

Four - It’s easy to hide in the shadows cast from this moon if you are hiding from someone specifically looking for you.

Five - One anyone laughs, it takes serious effort for them to stop. Weak or distracted people can die laughing, so can Goblins.


While the Goblin Moon is a troublesome one, people usually view it with a degree of resignation. As bad as Goblins are, they are mainly into theft, chaos and mischief, rather than murder and death. At least it’s not the Wasp Moon.

This Moon massively encourages thieves and most settlements have curfews, nearly as serious as those for the Wasp Moon, to prevent anyone from walking abroad under it.

Unlike the Wasp Moon, this curfew is actually policed by MoonCops, out looking for Goblins and other nere-do-wells. (and usually not finding them, but at least it’s something.)

Wealthy homeowners often have secondary doors on their houses, built inside, beneath the eaves, out of the light of the Moon, so they can actually be locked. Poorer families often team up and sleep in each others houses to keep watch.

Particularly useful for this are children as, being weaker than a Goblin, and most thieves, they cannot be restrained and can therefore warn their family if they sense anything awry.

Many children are bribed to stay up all night over a Goblin Moon, and many of the caffeine addicts of this land can date their preferences to heady, adventuresome nights beneath the Goblin Moon.


·        Goblins creeping in the shadows.
·        MoonCops stalking, poking shadows with poking sticks, running after Goblins both real and unreal.
·        Goblins stealing trash to build a giant ladder in a crazed desire to reach the Goblin Moon.
·        Caffeinated children running about screaming dirty jokes at empty corners. Goblins have a terrible sense of humour so making them laugh, and keep laughing is a key way to force them to expose themselves.
·        Goblins flying about on the back of huge owls, causing trouble.
·        Goblins poking people with sticks for fun.
·        Goblins paired up on each others shoulders, wearing long coats, pretending to be MoonCops as part of some insane scam.
·        Goblins building giant lunar capacitors to store the energy of the Goblin Moon in special glass vials.

8. A Forgotten Moon


A glistering crystalline gleam highlights every edge. The air hums with a kind of static energy. Jewels and the edges of blades sparkle.

Shadows are a lambent blue, like lantern-lit velvet.

Moths fill the air like stars and land like snowfields in its light. Huge moths seems to orbit around the moon itself. Storms and high winds blow them away like hurricanes of tumbling leaves but they always return.


One - Any secret whispered under the light of a Forgotten Moon will be overheard by a moth. The moth will then carry this secret to another and whisper it into their ear.

Two - Those who sacrifice an Owl to the Forgotten moon may summon one of the huge, Moon-Circling Moths from the upper air. This Moth will carry them to any place beneath the moons light where they have already been

Three - Rumours say that, very occasionally, a large moth will arrive from the deep past and whisper into an ear, requesting a single drop of blood. If this is given, they will relate a secret from ancient history.


Obviously, a Forgotten Moon is a bad time to conspire, as any secret could easily escape. Because of this, in many cultures, some rituals, contracts and agreements can only take place under a Forgotten Moon.

The ease of transport via giant moth means people are accustomed to both receiving visitors from their past, and to visiting old places known to them, during these nights.

But sometimes dark things live in the past as well and the Moths of the Forgotten Moon can both deliver, and bring people to, black forgotten fates.

Most actual conspirators are careful not to speak secrets under the Forgotten Moon and the majority of secrets lost and found are those of children. But, people being what they are, you never know…


·        A Moon Marriage taking place beneath the Forgotten Moon.
·        A village full of people; distant family members are visiting each other.
·        An empty village where almost everyone has gone of to visit somewhere else.
·        The return of a long-thought-lost son or daughter has erupted into social drama.
·        Someone claims to have received a secret from the ancient past and is looking for help in exploiting it.
·        A dark secret heard by a child leaves a village in uproar as everyone tries to work out who’s it is.

With the end of the Forgotten Moon, we return again to the Fine Gackling Moon as the cycle of the month repeats.