Friday 30 April 2021

The Knights of Grief

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

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

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

The Knights of Grief

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

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

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

currently 'Sir Tau Hekaton'

The Seven Knights Of Grief

Seven - Sir Iota

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

Six - Sir Rho Pente

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

Five - Sir Sigma Deka

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

Four - Sir Tau Hekaton

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

Three - Sir Phi Chiloili

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

Two - Sir Psi Myrioi

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

One - Sir Omicron Aperion

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

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

- They serve Mabs desires.

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

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

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

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

- They are all fine gentlemen.

- They are all ineffably sad.

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

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

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

- One Knight can reduce a realm to chaos.

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

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

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

Visible/Tangible Effects Of Encountering Them

- They know your name (obviously).

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

- 'Impossible' catches and reactions.

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

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

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


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

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

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

- They can deflect bullets.

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

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

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

Vulnerabilities - Is There Any Way To Escape Them?

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


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

Second, there may be ways....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus Mab can change her mind.

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

Saturday 24 April 2021

Twenty Trade Towns

1. Tortopolis

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

2. Gaggletown 

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

3. Snailopolis

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

4. Dawn, the fading city. 

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

5. The Crawling Mountain

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

6. The Spider Library

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

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

7. The lichCrawler

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

8. Pleasure-barge of the Painted River 

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

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

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

10. The Blue Souk. 

Not sure of original

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

11. The Scarab Travellers

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

12. The Perpetual Gyre

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

13. The Nowhere Bridge. 

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

14. The Caravan of Dreams. 

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

15. The Wild Exchange. 

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

16. The Somnulent Docks. 

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

17. The Tinker-Ouroboros.

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

18. The Slow, Stumbling man. 

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

19. Mammoth-Town. 

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

20. The town of Hidden Giants. 

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

(Idea based on that Warhammer kitbash guy - SORRY)

Monday 19 April 2021

The Tube That Kills!

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

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

The Whirlwind Würm!

Why can't you love meeeeeeee?

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

As true now as it was then. 

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

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

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

Unusually clear and straightforward for one of my monsters.

Missions for Pay


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


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


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


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


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


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

Worm Paperbacks Found Abandoned


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


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


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


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


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


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

Tuesday 13 April 2021

The Sunlands

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 9 April 2021

Velvet Hooks; Wound Whisp

Our attempt to provide useful adventure hooks for the Velvet Horison Monter manual continues;

Previous entries here;


  •  created by magical healing
  • there is a place full of timeless living wounds
  • without healing or rest they go mad
  • cant be hurt with harmful things 
  • grows with blows
  • knows where its mother and father are (dealer and sufferer)
  • so it will search for those first and only start hunting others if it can't find them
  • death and decomposition and healing the same to it
  • You bear the wound but you may also learn what wisdom that wound knows
  • can rest in rocks and trees - possibly useful
  • almost impossible to keep out - since it can inhabit any solid object
  • but its friendly towards its bearer - can even become a useful scar


1. Someone threatens to open a gateway to the Wound Dimension and to release a blizzard of wounds into the earth. Are they super-evil or just trying to release what are essentially sentient creatures from endless captivity?

2. A wound haunts the forests, drifting through trees, inhabiting rocks and sometimes trying to nest in small animals, which it invariably kills. Getting rid of it involves either banishing it with healing magic, accepting it into your own body, or unweaving the mystery of its creation, probably involving speaking to it and finding out who made and who suffered it.

3. Someone is using deluded or manipulated wounds as assassins, sending them burrowing after their target and leaping upon them as-one,  they die quickly of a dozen different wounds, none of which were ever theirs. Finding the wound weaver will be a challenge, defeating them worse and then what to do with the wounds?

4. A group or cult of people have willingly accepted minor wounds over a long period of time - either for personal advantage or due to religious/philosophical reasons - they are now heavily scarred but these scars are 'allies' which will pulse when danger threatens, given them a kind of spider-sense. 

5. Someone afflicted with a 'speaking wound' desperately wants to get rid of it but the only way to do that is to let the wound lead them to its mother or father, and then transfer the wound. Neither of those two people are going to be thrilled to see it.

6. A mighty hero pursued by a flock of wounds, some of which he caused and some he suffered, now racing forever to escape them lest they settle into his skin and kill him

The Merchant of Wounds

Hooded and ragged, perhaps able to bilocate, perhaps one of many, appearing in midnight markets or hidden alcoves for a day or two. Seekers are lead to their parlour by crooked passages. A sinister figure who has shelf-lined rooms or rickety wagons filled with jars containing living wounds.

A weapon wound. This wound too stupid or desperate to try anything other than leaping into the nearest body (so the merchant claims). Hurl it at your foe like a grenade.

A friendly wound. The merchant claims this wound is very small and only looking for a place to rest. If you accept it, it will prove a useful ally, a scar, for instance, in your back, can warn you of hidden dangers. "Or perhaps you are a penitent?"

A trained Utility Wound. the merchant claims this wound will serve like a hunting animal, of a sort, and can be used to crack open doors, walls, stones, and to break other things. "You must keep very careful control of course.... very  careful.."

A particular wound. One suffered or caused by, particular people or in particular circumstances. These go up in price relative to the particularity of the request, and can take several days to "acquire", but their uses are manifold;

- A 'seeker' which can lead you to its 'mother' or 'father'.

- A 'wise wound' which can tell you of a particular fight, or the place it was made, or the people who made it.

(Only wounds healed by magic can be found….)

Books on Healing.  The Merchant (merchants?) of Wounds are very keen on expanding the knowledge of magical healing. They collect, reproduce and disperse texts on the matter, keep a track of who knows the techniques and will receive and sell on any ‘healing artefacts’ for a very reasonable price. “After all, its good for business.”

Wound Views

There is essentially a kind of moral politics over the use of magical healing to treat wounds, though it takes place almost entirely through the letters and journals of those concerned with the strange and abstruse.

Heling those on the brink of death where no other cure will do is surely a good thing?

But the creation of living wounds in a distant dimension is surely both evil and, ultimately, very dangerous?

Are these living wounds the result only of Thaumaturgy or does divine magical also produce them? If so, which gods do or do not produce them? Lots of room for argument on this one.

Should we entirely stop healing wounds with magic, and if so, how might this be enforced? How far are would-be enforcers willing to go?

Monday 5 April 2021

Paradoxes of Defence

 A friend sent me this link to a 1599 fencing manual, by George Silver in which the writer SHITS all over the ITALIAN rapier. Because RAPIERS SUCK!

As well as going in very deep on some quite complex time-and-motion studies through entirely verbal means, and talking a lot about the complex interplay of different weapons and methods, it also contains this interesting part about the change in culture brought about by the Rapier;

"That the reasons used by the Italian fencers in commending the use of the rapier and poniard, because it makes peace, makes against themselves.

It has been commonly held, that since the Italians have taught the rapier fight, by reason of the dangerous use thereof, it has bred great civility among our English nation, they will not now give the lie, nor with such foul speeches abuse themselves, therefore there are fewer frays in these times than were wont to be. 

It cannot be denied but this is true, that we are more circumspect of our words, and more fearful to fight than heretofore we have been. 

But whereof comes it? 

Is it from this, that the rapier makes peace in our minds; or from hence, that it is not so sufficient defence for our bodies in our fight? 

He that will fight when he is armed, will not fight when he is naked: is it therefore good to go naked to keep peace? he that would fight with his sword and buckler, or sword and dagger, being weapons of true defence, will not fight with his rapier and poniard, wherein no true defence or fight is perfect: are these insufficient weapons therefore the better, because not being sufficient to defend us in fight, they force us into peace? 

What else is it, but to say, it is good for subjects to be poor, that they not go to law: or to lack munition, that they may not fight, nor go to the wars: and to conclude, what more follows through the imperfect works of the Italian peacemakers? 

They have made many a strong in his fight weak, many a valiant man fearful, many a worthy man trusting to their imperfect fight, has been slain, and many of our desperate boys and young youths, to become in that rapier fight, as good men as England yielded, and the tallest men of this land, in that fight as very boys as they and no better. 

This good have the Italian teachers of Offense done us, they have transformed our boys into men, and our men into boys, our strong men into weakness, our valiant men doubtful, and many worthy men resolving themselves upon their false resolutions, have most willfully in the field, with their rapiers ended their lives. 

And lastly, have left to remain among us after their deaths, these inconveniences behind them, false fencing books, imperfect weapons, false fights, and evil customs, whereby for lack of use and practice in perfect weapons and true fight, we are disabled for the service of our prince, defence of our country, and safety of our lives in private fight."

What has been disrupted here? for, violence is a social relationship, a social activity as much as love and marriage.

Silver talks in the book about the 'true fight' and whatever that is, is very hard to define, especially through the veil of time and the thorns of specialist lore. Let me see if I can glean some basic points;

- Fighters should be able to take their fighting knowledge to the battlefield.

- Fighters should be able to take on unskilled, but athletic men, and unskilled but brave and/or drunk men as well as to take on other skilled and educated fighters.

- Fighters should be taught grappling and " striking with the foot or knee in the cods".

- There is a lot here about 'the Times' and 'the Governors' that I don't really understand but I think generally he is in favour of fighters dancing around less and prioritising hand movements over foot movements I think.

- People should bear weapons of the right size, to take advantage of their bodies movements (I think) and not over-sword by getting into too-long weapons

Someone better read in the social milieux of the time (1599) might be able to tell us something about what is driving these changes. To me it looks like people are taking up fencing at least in part precisely because it is more ritualised, further from the battlefield, less 'common', has less grappling and cod-kicking and ends with less bits chopped off (though still many deaths). At least you die pretty.

The argument about lethality and skill though, that is truly fascinating, it highlights to me something about fundamentally different attitudes to risk, skill, danger and lethality.

The rapier seems to have introduced something like nuclear mutually assured destruction. It is very lethal, often even in unskilled hands, and Silver thinks its more likely to lead to the deaths of both parties.

The fighting he prefers is something else; more skill-based, with different weapons (he favours the short sword) which can also be used on the battlefield, more likely to lead to clear defeat for one party, but, if I am reading this right, easier to control? Easier for the more skilled party to manage and limit the sanguinary nature of the violence?

"..are these insufficient weapons therefore the better, because not being sufficient to defend us in fight, they force us into peace?"

Silver mislikes this because - perhaps safety won through mutual powerlessness before violence, safety won through mutual danger and the equalising, or neutralising of hard-won skills, is not true safety?

Or that it is a poor safety because it is the safety of weak men, bought through fear and maintained through mutual fear and therefore fragile, or corrupt in some way?

Hobbes (who I am also crawling through at the moment) would love this. He might say that men varying in strength but no man being so strong that the weakest might not kill him, it is through mutual fear that men submit to greater authority. and that the rapier has returned these men closer to the state of nature.

It truly is a "paradox of defence".

Friday 2 April 2021

Weebery Three - He He Heee

Join me as I continue my descent into the anime hidden deep within the Amazon Prime recommendation algorithm.

Parts One and Two.


A quiet group of people try to make a book! Will they succeed???

Presumably there is a Japanese subgenre about groups of people attempting some kind of creative pursuit. This is one of those. Except in this case its the story of a bunch of underpaid and ignored nerds fighting (against the odds) to make a dictionary for a country that already has a bunch.

The dive into the family of Japanese dictionaries is part of the interest, and the reasoning behind the central concept, the dream which inspires our heroes.

Each Japanese dictionary is meant to have a different 'character', to prioritise a slightly different selection of words and to make slightly different definitions. Because of this, each has a world-view, a personality, based on who made it, and when.

I have no idea how much, or if at all, this interacts with the differences between English and Japanese as languages. So far as I know; Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries; about the same, Websters; American and not as good. Collins; unknown. And that’s about it. I have no idea if dictionary nerds think these texts have different approaches to the world. Perhaps they do.

We have our hero, Majime, currently labouring with horrific ineptitude as a salesman, an introverted nerd, obsessed with words but when he is banishpromoted to the low-status team hidden in the old building at the back, undergoing a long term project which eats the companies money but which no-one has the nerve to cancel, we discover - HES A DICTIONARY NATURAL GUYS.

Add the slightly-dodgy hotshot salesman who may be there as a punishment, but watch and learn as these two unlikely colleagues slowly become friends, and when the dictionary gets into trouble with management - will the sketchy salesman’s cunning tactics and Machiavellian dealings be the one to save the day? Yes, yes they will.

As well as a central inspirational elder whose idea the dictionary is, the old team he established, who are now close to aging out of the project, the love interest and partners of the main group, and as the series goes on, in fifteen years time, the new generation who arrive to find Majime occupying the 'elder statesman' role.

The central idea motivating all these different people, what the dictionary is intended to be - is a form of meta-communication, a ship to cross the sea of words. It’s a drama where people can have discussions and arguments about the exact interpretations of the definition of a word in a language I don't speak. Etymology may be pretty different in japan but the strange accrual of meanings, sub-meanings, emotional tenor, and the difficulty of absolutely and precisely defining a word-concept when, in actual life, it exists most truly in a complex web of mutually interacting social and conceptual meanings, each of which are also shifting slowly over time as the nature of life itself shifts and alters, is still there. To define a word you need to look deep into its past, and widely into its current place in the web of things.

It’s a high-stakes low-stakes drama. In comparison to most genre fiction the challenge is; will (another) dictionary get made, or will the publishers finally give up on the long-term money sink and likely low profits and pull the plug?

But while the more-evidently cool and exciting genre stories I describe below have some COOL AS SHIT CONFLICTS up front; SUPER DRUGS, CRIME GANGS, APOCALYPSE WORLDS, EVIL ROBOTS, FUCKING TIME TRAVEL, but underneath those strong drivers, have sustaining webs of complex interpersonal dynamics which counterpoint and lend them meaning of a different kind.

This one is a normal-person story but the very long time over which it takes place, the generational leaping so we can see the consequences and development of individual personalities, and the close and compassionate eye with which it examines its characters, transforms workplace and life dramas into, well, the dramas they actually are. 

Will Majame finally work out how to ask out the cute girl in his building, will salesguy be secretly honourable even though it screws his career? Will they find a way to finish the FUCKING DICITONARY? Will senpai even live to see it done? What does it mean for him if he doesn't? 

There is a cool a fuck episode in the last act where they find, by chance, *one* mistake in the final text. Majame decides they have to re-check, again, the entire text, BUT THEY ONLY HAVE DAYS TO DO IT. ITS IMPOSSIBLE I TELL YOU!!

Its a good series.


This was very gay.

Occidental as fuck. 

Man have I ever seen any main character threatened with rape as much as here? Let alone a male lead?

Japanese-eye view on a American crime/conspiracy drama with very slight sci-fi stylings, so more airport novel/earthbound Bond than actual science fiction, plus alienation, child abuse, an anime take on gang culture, love, loneliness. 

Basically, worlds toughest super-hot teenage gang leader who is also super-intelligent, (though that only comes through in the more genre-y later episodes), falls for super pretty pole vaulting Japanese reporter, in the midst of a gang-war super-conspiracy over a mysterious mind-wrecking drug called 'banana fish'.

Not entirely my jam but I finished it when I haven't finished other series so it must have been pretty good.



tldr; Little House on the Prairie - in BLAME! 

This looks cheap - not that that's the most important thing about it but if you go in not knowing that then you will likely judge it for that first. Reason for this is that it looks like it was made by about three people with limited resources, so its "passion-project-pure-vision-limited-means" cheap, rather than an EA/Disney-style; "marketing-manager-run-shovelware-of-known-IP" cheap. 

The good kind of cheap.

A small group of sisters live on an utterly desolate, dark and ruined place which looks like an abandoned 20th century or 21st century Japan. They are clearly not entirely or mainly human, as they can leap about like super-heroes, can survive purely by drinking water and have a bunch of weird exploits.

Unfortunately, there is no more water and they are being hunted by "red bugs"; mechanistic robot creatures which emerge from an enveloping sea of corruptive red mist which seems to enfold everything outside their home.

This all seems pretty awful, and in fact we learn several sisters have already died. 

But - this life, this existence, is all the sisters know. We don't find out immediately how they came to be but they refer to a "first person" - someone who was there before them, and as far as they are concerned, their entire reality has always been like this, (though slowly getting worse), so while for us it’s an utterly spooky and disturbing post-apocalyptic hellscape, for them, as bad as it is, its normal.

We are generally more disturbed by the environment than the characters are.

There are other islands in this enfolding mist. Previous exploration attempts have lead to deaths but, the water is running out here, and they need to go in search of more, no matter how dangerous it is, if they want to live. And at that exact moment, a strange man just 'appears' from the depths of the island, like the sisters, he has no complex contextual memories of who he is or why he is there, and he is even more of a pure innocent than them.




No it will not.

Or at least not much.

Things generally make sense at the end, or at least as much sense as they need to

what didn't I mention?

Oh yeah, there are goddamn MAGIC LEAVES. The only thing living in this world apart from the Sisters and the Red Bugs is one tree, which they carry around with them in a re-purposed tram car, and this tree sometimes produces leaves, which sometimes looks somewhat holographic or supra-real, (no its not all happening in the matrix), and which have various powers associated with them. You can also sometimes find these things lying around. These are the 'Kemurikusa' of the title, and working out what they are, what they do and what they mean is the key for the characters understanding the world.

Nightmare decayed futurescapes, nation-consuming gigastructures, geology transformed into artifice, but its a story about family, relationships and love y'all!

Honestly I can't go too deep into the meaning of stuff without also going into the secrets of the setting, and revealing those ahead of time would damage the story, so there you go.

(The main male character is REALLY fucking annoying but from reviews apparently that’s a thing in anime).


The magical power to stop time! Just like in Bernards Watch!

(If you are not of my generation you have NO FUCKING IDEA of the scale and level of magically powered artefacts randomly discovered by school-age children on televisions, keys to other worlds, magical wish-granting coins, a fucking SPACE SHIP. They just found this stuff lying about! yet it never happened to me....)

Our spunky main character has a defective family. Useless dad, otaku brother, distant granddad, but after the littlest kid, who everyone actually likes, gets kidnapped, the grandfather reveals that he has an artefact capable of stopping time which he has not used or revealed for reasons that become clear as the series goes on.

Unlike most time-stop dramas, this one takes place almost entirely within one singular stopped moment, there is no going back and forth exerting power in the real world and then stopping time again, instead its more like stranding a bunch of people with highly complex and hugely opposed motivations together in a world made of one moment, a city full of time-stopped people.

As things go on the cast discover more about how this world of 'stasis' works, its strange guardians, the dangers of remaining there and the creepy motherfuckers who have followed them in.

Who will manage to leave 'stasis', who will survive, who will be trapped inside that moment forever??

Top Level - a well worked-out genre setting with complex, (not pathologically detailed in show), but coherent laws.

Mid Level - a tactical and force-of-personality-based game of ruthless opposition between the family and their opponents and the motivations of the different members of both groups. They are all in the city, but they are there alone, or at least, no other human can reach them. They can access any building and grab an object, but cars don't go, phones don't work, only what is around you and grabbed by you becomes subject to motion, so it’s a state-of nature-deal which brings primal motivations to the fore and necessitates low-tech OSR style tactical thinking.

Bottom Level - families, our reasons for doing things, meaning and the loss of meaning, what it means to lose your place in the world and what people might be willing to do to get it back, or make a new one. A lot like Kemurikusa, the high personal stakes and alienating environment which simultaneously separates the characters from ordinary society but also provides limited, and strange, opportunities for power, brings people down to their core values, if they even know what those are, and into developing and contrasting those values with each other.

INTELLIGENCE - Everyone here is as intelligent as a manga author carefully thinking through options. 

Well not everyone, quite a few are dumb, but the 'main characters' are all relatively cold and careful planners. Maybe that’s just what its like in Japan? This isn't a flaw, just a feature.

- things being carefully worked through, relatively original and MAKING FUCKING SENSE both as story AND diegetic elements - oh lord how I have missed thee! 

The sense that the people making the thing have thought about it more deeply and more coherently than I did watching it, holy fuck I haven't had that from western pop culture in a while.

A bunch of reviewers on myanimelist fucking hated this declaiming all the qualities I though it had as ones it didn't. A MYSTERY? Could Histories Greatest Critic be wrong? Or are these the wittering’s of thoughtless drones? U DECIDE.