Tuesday, 11 May 2021

My Beastman/Dryad slash fic should be CANON!

I can't get this out of my head..


So;  Games Workshops Age of Sigmar Wargame has its little army men split into four factions.

Order - normies. Humans, elves, dryads, dwarves, magic aztek lizard dudes etc.

Chaos - evil dudes. The four main gods plus the generally-evil Slaves to Darkness and the Skaven. And Beasts of chaos which is "Beast-Men and Friends"

Death - Death. Skellies, super-skellies, Vampires, ghoooooosts etc.

Destruction - Orcs, Giants, Goblins.



SO WHO IS DESTORYING YOUR CITY AND WHY?


Teclis - to burn a giant anti-chaos sigil into it. Sorry, kind of a zoning screwup there.

Nagash - not really destroying it, just killing everone in it, the city should be fine.

Main Chaos Dudes - they might destroy your city a bit but they are largely interested in perverting the souls inside it, and they quite like cities overall, so long as they are full of chaos stuff. They just smash a lot because they are snorting those souls!

Orcs, Goblins, Ogres, Giants - SMASH SMASH SMASH HE HE HEEE

Skaven - no idea. Presumably they will eat or enslave everyone inside and make what use of the ruins they can.

Arielle the Tree Queen - now she isn't really meant to smash your city and replace it with TREEEEEES without at least writing a strongly-worded letter to Sigmar first but she does have, or to be more precise, she has no direct coNfirmed control over, Tree ISIS which is essentially this bitch, 



Drychia Hamadreth, who will absolutely smash your city and replace it with TREEEEEEES.

And the Beastmen, who will now also be destroying your city and will replace it with.. well Chaos but not god-specific chaos , more of a general spiritual thing. 

In Age of Sigmar the Beastmen are something like Chaos-Daoists? They believe in chaos but are generally not into any of the specific gods, (except for a few of them), they are more just.... generally chaosy?

So the burning issue that prompted this post;  even do for the Chaos factions? What is their place? Skaven have numbers plus technology, plus they have an actual God while Beastmen make a point of not having any.

BUT WAIT!!! I hear you cry..

Aren't GW constantly bringing out new boxed games and stuff with special models and don't they give rules for using them in your warhammer armies??

Like how about the 

MINDSTEALING SPHYRANX


  - thats like a beast right

no

nope

HOW ABOUT THE formaroid crusher??



no


But surely the Ogroid myrmidron?????




LOOK HOW BEASTLY HE IS THEY ALREADY HAVE SRAGON OGRES IN THE BEASTMAN ARMY!!!




COULD IT BE?????



no
.....

no it could not



AH HA! BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

BECAUSE GUESS WHO'S BACK WITH A NEW DANG MODEL!




Its Billy Belkor baybe! The Demon Prince of Chaos Undivided! And guess what, just like AoS Beastmen he ALSO gives no fucks about worshipping the Chaos Gods, in fact they hate each other! A match made in heaven right???

right????


IN fact no.


So walk the lonely beastmen, with an ancient and limited model range and seemingly no interest from GW at all apart from some endless spells. Imagine being cucked by Skaven, could it get worse?

Until, I, in my lonely and ever-vigilant genius, come forth to save thee beastmen, with the following hot and spicy concept!



GOAT/TREE SLASH FIC


Based on my reading of the Mahabharata, and vague memories of the other Indo-European core myths, my idea is this;

Drychia Hamadreth and '[NAMED BEASTMAN CHARACTER] (model yet to be designed)... 


Maybe moonclaw??


.....FALL IN LOVE!!!!

Basic concept here is the hierarchal cosmic layering effect which works as a story-enervator for the Indo-Euopean myths; two gods get angry with each other, or some sort of contest breaks out, or they have a relationship drama, and all the forces and groups aligned to each of them fall into different relationships.

This both echoes down the layers of hierarchy from gods to demigods and spirits, to divinely-awesome heroes to normal high status individuals to ordinary people to slaves and helots, and echoes across the power structures as, with this new conflict or relationship in place the balance of power shifts and everyone has to re-adjust with their own relationships, 

So you get to tell a multi-layered story with gods, heroes and normals, where the lower people live inside a context created by a higher power relationship, BUT, actions taken at the lowest level can still echo up the pyramid to affect decisions and perceptions at the highest level, and because the whole thing is about families and relationships tangible to the ordinary listener, it remains entirely comprehensible for the person receiving or hearing the legend or tale

It's also a way of getting interesting and meaningful-feeling drama out of a morally multipolar legendary setting like AoS - which is why I think the hero-tier and above beings in AoS should have more complex relationships and attitudes to each other across all factions, like surprising friendships and dislikes - it creates more structure.

Of course GW can't do that because reflecting it in the actual game would disrupt the careful IP, aesthetic a& marketing protection which the Decision-Squig has decreed.

But I can


GOAT/TREE SLASH FIC - he nibbles her leaves and she's into it, she winds roots about his horns...
its a beautiful thing.

..


And because these two major characters are now working together their armies do too. Anarchist man-hating tree city destroying tree people and daoist/universalist chaos worshipping city destroying goat people are not necessarily incompatible.

So the Beastmen and Anarchist anti-human tree people are just rolling along wrecking shit, and EVERYONE is interested in stopping them, Sigmar because - Cities, Chaos because having these technically-sort-of chaosy beastmen tear off and almost start a whole new faction is not good at all, and Arielle because they are fucking up her Rep

So now a battle is on but its also a soap-opera in which the forces of the Mortal Realms team up to destroy a "budding" (genius Patrick) romance and also to break up a happy couple.




Friday, 7 May 2021

Swordthrust - a Beautiful Curiosity

 This is about the Mayfair Games 'Role Aids' adventure by Sam Shirley and Daniel Greenberg


here
Hard to get a good high-re image of this, sorry!


First thing, why on earth is it called 'Swordthrust'?

The core dungeon is the frozen head of a giant ice titan which is in fact a mountain, (called the 'Titans Crown'), populated by the imagined memories of its ancient life, which is also a field of combat between good and bad thoughts given shape, and if you wake up the Titan then the proportion of good to bad thoughts decides its future character. Plus there is a backstabbing Wizard with a decent name; Morlean. The Mountain is guarded by a guy calling himself 'The King of the Mountain' who has a really fucking cool Boris Vallejo picture for the cover... There is also some silver Mithril armour and a crystal throne....

"Titans Crown."  "The Crystal Throne."  "The King of the Mountain."  "Flamehairs Quest.."

Almost every single one of these ideas and referents makes a better title than 'Swordthrust'.

Ok, I'm done with complaining about this strange thing now.





STRANGE SIMILTUDES


They re-used the image for a pulp sci fi novel
This is the highest res I could find online


This adventure has bizarre pre-echoes of many ideas which I or my contemporaries have considered in our modern age. It strikes me strange. Most strange..

So firstly, its about diving into the mind of a sleeping Titan, which is the dungeon you are in. I did something like that in Silent Titans.

Secondly - the dungeon is semi-transparent - meaning you can sometimes see between rooms. Something we tried to do in the maze of glass rooks in Silent Titans and first conceptualised (by me at least) herehttp://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-glass-dungeon.html

(Link strangely not working though the post is there when you visit it separately? 
http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-glass-dungeon.html )

Thirdly - the Titans mind has a pseudo-cognitive layout, like an idea I talked about here.

(Same problem again http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-ogre-and-golden-bird.html )

"There are two Palaces locked onto the dark rock, mirrors of each other. The sides that face each other are nearly sheer. The sides that face away are crenelated, towered, encrusted with keeps and details, bridges and roof's, multi-levelled, staggering and slipping down to the walls and the glinting hematite on which the palaces reside.

The two sides match each other almost perfectly, the divide observable only from a narrow axis.

Stand here and you can see the gap between the palaces, like the gap between close skyscrapers, and the slender bridge of white that forms their only visible link, hanging high in the air in the near-centre of the buildings shape.

There are no gates to the Palace of the Ogre King, you have to climb in through a window, or sneak in through  hematite caves down below where the Onyx river gushes from the rocks."


And fourthly - this wasn't me but Noisms has a whole series of development posts about a project called 'behind Gently Smiling Jaws'   which is a sandbox of a sort made from the memories of an ancient crocodile  -the empires and peoples it witnessed in its life are the beings you encounter, somewhat altered by their recollection.

What does this similitude mean?

Well most importantly it means I am less special than I like to think I am...

fucking hurts dude

What else - is there some hidden enochian mind script that the fancy boy section of the OSR is destined to follow? NEED TO TRY ANSWERING THAT QUESTION.





THE FROGNARDS


Or whatever we are calling Prince/Bryce/Melan axis now, that particular adventure-design paradigm have a high opinion of Swordthrust. Is it justified?

It seems Well Engineered - I am not in 2nd Ed or whatever this is keyed for to speak with an experts tongue but this feels like an adventure well organised and arranged in terms of resources, opportunity and both rewards and punishment for risk taking. 

There is an economy of +1 rings of bracing and "gloves of smell vision (3 charges left)" or whatever that underpins a lot of this 2e-ish extended playstyle - you are meant to be continually getting, losing, trading etc magical stuff which may or may not be useful to you and this is like an 'extra' layer of floating mechanics on top of levelling and xp which adventure designers have to take account of (and which the Artpunkish wing of the OSR has VERY RIGHTLY DITCHED WHOLESALE). I'm not a frognard but so far as I can see all this stuff looks to be in place and whatever.

It is made of classic Fantasy Stuff Presented Well. We got Goblins, ratmen, Dwarves who mine things.



These are not literally the Dwarves from Swordthrust (though they are from mayfair games), 
but aesthetically they are very much the Dwarves from Swordthrust.
 DWARVES!


A Wizard who, if they don't live in a tower they at least have a nice house. 

There are only two totally new races and they fit neatly within fantasy archetypes of this genre, no fear golems or whatever. Not a bug, just a feature, playability and ease of apprehension versus fancy bullshit, nothing wrong with that. (Though this is also part of the reason I am not as 100% enamoured with it as the Frognards - turns out that when you delve into the mind of an ancient titan it was largely thinking about creatures from the Monster Manual) - So despite having a high concept idea is definitely not 'Artpunk' (not fancy or pretentious enough) and while it has deepish themes it's not an elaborate commentary on anything, simply a very good adventure.

Pre-made PCs are given and they are high-normie; Merrie Flamehair, Yosannah the human thief, Grim Ben the skill 4 fighter, Hogan Iron Shield, Icarus Whitebeard! 

The makeup of this assumed or imagined adventuring party is very 'classical D&D', a bunch of largely good(ish) characters with enough flaws, specialisations and differences in motivation to provide _light_ drama, plus one outright baddy who no doubt proves useful in the end and likely isn't that bad in play anyway.

The town is just really neat. An old mining town, decayed, maybe slightly unnaturally packed with factions considering the low population but that's hardly a hanging offence. 

Yes you will probably end up spending more time in the town than the dungeon and may actually be more likely to die there. Mild complaint - the Town could possibly have done with a little more space and clarity since it is almost certain to become a tactical area in play.

Non-Stupidity of plans - the main wizard quest giver has thought things through at least as well I did reading the adventure, which is all I ask really of something I spend money on. 

That only took a sentence to describe but its actually a vanishingly rare and almost golden quality in any media - that the characters in it have thought through their circumstances and do things that make sense to them.

Does Swordthrust introduce (as a CORE element) that most-loathed of all design tropes, the backstabbing questgiver? And does it somehow GET AWAY WITH THIS????

Yyyyyes. yes it does.

The backstabbing wizard situation is set up with enough skill and has enough thought put into the circumstances; the slow reveal of information, the build up of knowledge, the likely result of interactions, and most importantly - the paradoxical no-win situation for the dungeon which will misfire on the wizard if they do actually win, that it carries off this most laborious of concepts with a degree of elegance and grace. Like watching someone dance with a barbell.

(Also it's from the past, presumably from before the trope was actually a trope, so it can't be blamed really.)

An elegant piece of thinking - it avoids the avoided the 'weird dungeon' conceptual brick wall problem by having the wizard give an (fake and/or incorrect) explanation of what's going on before the PCs go in. 

So instead of players meeting inexplicable shit and getting confused and upset, they meet stuff they think they understand, and then slowly (hopefully) work out that the context is not what they thought, and then the inconsistencies build up and slowly the PCs and players work out more and more of what is going on.

They even through in a reasonable little section at the end for what to do if the Titan actually does wake up - well done

Beyond the aesthetic and my indifference to adventure economics, another difference between I and the Frognards, or at least Bryce and Prince, is that I have had to read waaaay less shit D&D adventures that they have, so I am generally less relentlessly traumatised by the horror of it. For them this is an Oasis in the desert, for me, a nice pint at the pub.




HOW MANY STARS IN THE SKY FOR SWORDTHRUST?


I intuit that it would play well.

This could be a beautiful experience. I don't know if I'm ready to call it a masterwork. 
Being made of standard materials is less fun for  me than the Frognards. 

You can't reconstruct (or at least I don't think you can reconstruct) a pseudohistory of prelapsarian reality from the visions in the Titans mind. (Admittedly you have to be operating way above average quality for that level of criticism to even be levelled.)

Also there are some unclear sections and you are still going to need to transpose a lot into your own notes, especially the town stuff, plus there are definitely some description elements that were slightly unclear.

But I will call it a beautiful curiosity. Perhaps more beautiful for being unexpected.

Four stars for the meat of it. Another half star for going above and beyond the call of duty and a final half star for those of you who like the aesthetic.



THE SIMILTUDE


Ice, glass and the mind.

Is there some kind of homunculus-theory-inevitability thing going on here with people of my neurotype? Some deal where people with a particular quirk of character and who assign themselves the 'god position' in the creation of worlds. Not just worlds but realties. And not just the creation but this uniquely physicalised D&D-ish type of interaction, based around objects and people and tangible systems, do we all, or do many of us end up building an image of the mind inside the world created by it?

(I'm reminded here of the themes of watching eyes in many paintings created by schizophrenics. McGilchrist thinks this is a brain-hemisphere thing with one part of the brain unable to recognise the nature of the other and so interpreting its signals as 'alien' - an unfriendly observer..)

The ice-brain dungeon in swordthrust.

Davids memory sandbox.

My glass dungeons, brain dungeon and Titan minds?

I guess if you are thinking about D&D like this you have the job of thinking about 'everything', to no particular purpose, but just to regard, understand a little and create yourself, and for people in those circumstances - maybe the idea of a crystal dungeon inside the mind of an ancient being, populated by memories, its processes mimicking or simulating the mind itself.

The mind inside the world created by the mind. 

Maybe that idea is just a stone on the road, which many will pass by and a few will pick up. A ripple of creation.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Velvet Hooks: Vore Bull & Vitillary

Previously in this series;

Abhorrer & Aeskithetes
Anemone Men & Ants Of Neutrality
Atrocious Crows & Azul
Bedlam Birds & The Blathering Bird
Boa Boy & Boa Constructor
Brainstormer & Capitualtors
Colour Monster & Corbeau
Crimson Contrarodron & Cryptospider
Xaxavraznazak
Yam-Man
Zen Beast
Zug-Zug

and now...

Vore Bull 


- Hecatomb empire - endlessly sacrificed
- kingdom obsessed with justice revenge and sacrifice
- nothing is forgotten
- deep secreted places, passions in stone
-  army of bulls 
- long darkness 
- hints of rebirth
- bull required
- entering the skinned bull
- slight frame
- virtually indestructible
- some lethal violence
- ferocity into the small beast
- spirit, mind and engine

Cow Country - you just need Bulls for the ritual and that means pastureland, specifically, cattle country. Either the pasture of river valleys or the cowboy-inhabited vast plains of waving grass. The Vore Bull will almost always be a monster of the farmlands or the Plains.

HOOKS
1. The Cult of the Long Darkness - a hidden Mithratic semi-faiths is actually what it thinks it is; the last relic of a long-dead empire, holding a few half-remembered scattered secrets of its magic. They will kill to defend their secrets but what strange memories of the dead empire lie hidden in the caves nearby?
2. The Bull Demon - one, or a series of attacks by a nightmare demon of skinless flesh in the outlands. Whole settlements laid waste and nothing seems able to stop it.  Big surprise the destroyed settlements all have a dark secret in that they ignored or took part in the destruction of an isolated minority community, the survivors of that event are now taking terrible revenge.
3. The Fierce Wee Beasts - a plague or eruption of insanely angry small animals, voles mice etc, which seem possessed by some disease of hyper-wrath. 
4. The Peaceful Ones. A group of abused and maltreated people seek peace in a ranch-like cult out in the valleys. They seem to have found it but their secret is that they are actually forcing their rage into small creatures and disposing of them that way. Like a drug which wears off, the rage re-grows each time, more rapidly and more totally and the surges of wrath are starting to become noticeable.
5. The Foolish Academic. A relatively innocent historical researcher is accidentally finding out stuff about the rituals and nearly making them workable but is being manipulated by a Dickensian grotesque who wants revenge on the world
6. Race for the Ritual. Some evil person heading a cult or org full of damaged people has the last part of the ritual - the Bull part, their own ranch and tbh pretty much everything you need to start up your own army of unkillable monsters and wreck the nation, but they don't know the first part, and the answer is... in a dungeon! Which you need to get to before they do and either control or destroy the info.

Could I go deep on this one? Most of the depth comes not from the circumstances of the origins of the rage - did I write a a .. STORY GAME MOSNTER?? NOOOOO. Yes I probably did. This one is more about people, alienation, societal cruelty victimhood and rage. And access to cows. The bull just makes the rage a physical thing that the culture needs to actually deal with.
OK ON TO THE NEXT ONE







Vitellary
The horror of an insect on your flesh which you can't get off. It feeds off tears, mates then injects eggs  which cause a highly specific disease with some odd upsides but which is always lethal. Vitillary Blindness makes you see the world 'as text', but text which is always 'true'. Essentially you are reading the code of the Matrix, or it seems like you are. But then your head bursts open and Glyphapillars climb out.
here



So I seem to have STACKED this one with possibilities. Insects and Multiple stage life growth patterns seem perfect for D&D somehow, the distinctness and uniqueness of each form, with different dangers, utility and cultural significance and the fact that it transmutes into useful but obscure "lore" as well, ahhh yeahhh baby.

Pretty much in the text:
1. Glyphapillar forest fire! There are known to be Glyphapillars in the woods. A fire has started in the woodlands, which wouldn't be that big of a problem, but its known that burnt Glyphapillars produce Vitillaries and now everyone is too scared to fight the fire. But if the fire goes on, Vitillaries will be everywhere..
2. FUCK THERE ARE VITILLARIES WHAT DO WE DO??? Jump in the fire? Ok does anyone have flour I can roll my kid in and then set them alight? Anyone have acid? How far to the nearest water I can jump in? Can someone hypnotise me or get a dumb monkey to pick them off?
3. Vitiallry suicide armour - you should never have fucked with those swamp drunks because now their shaman or main berserker has gone mental and is rampaging through town covered in fucking vitillaries which means nothing physical can touch them!
4. Bring me the Blindness! A shaman, magic user, maybe someone terminally ill, or a fanatic, wants to be infected with the Vitiallay Blindness so they can see the world "as it truly is". But for that to happen, they will need Vitillaries. Yes its another "find and transport an insanely dangerous animal" mission!
5. Vitillary Detective. Some deadly crimes are going on and the guilty parties have some super-technique or subtle magic to keep the law off their backs. Last resort - *someone* must be infected with the Vitillary Blindness to help them 'read the scene' and catch the baddies. The PCs need to either do this or find and protect someone who can. 
6. Vitillary Conspiracy. Some crime gang or evil conspiracy has a way of inducing and slightly controlling the rate of Vitillary Blindness, they use those infected as guardians and inquisitors to prevent infiltrators. The PCs need to find some way to infiltrate the gang without being discovered....




NOT IN THE DESCRIPTION ARGUABLY
1. Human Testing!. Someone thinks they have found a way to slow, or even put into stasis the vitillary blindness so its non-lethal across the course of a normal human life and is offering money (or freedom, or forgiveness) to test it (this is illegal). Its getting you out of debt/legal trouble etc at least!
2. Search for a Cure! You get the blindness somehow and need to search for some way to end it before it kills you.
3. Glyphapillar Bombers! - some nutter has managed to somehow grab a bunch of them and plans to lock the doors on the longhouse and throw them into the fire - now EVERYONE will see the world 'as it really is'.
4. Aiding the Detective. Someone hires you or you pledge to help them look for a cure and they follow you about - however, their blindness does turn out to be veeeery useful while they have it, do you *really* want them to be cured?
5. Tombs of the Aurulent Empire. Are they a weapon, a tool that got out of control? It would be strange for the Aurulent Empire to leave a 'pure' weapon hanging around. If they are part of a larger, forgotten process, could there be systematically ways to control their effects? Perhaps incorporating them into a larger process? Maybe tomb raiding the Empires leavings will explain things.
6. The Sketchy Treasure. PCs get frozen of amber-held Vitillaires as treasure and/or payment, or an amberised glyphapillar. Its the ultimate in illegal hard currency! Do you try and trade them or do the honourable thing and search for a way to destroy them safely?

The Vore Bull, a giant meat-suit powered by rage and ancient rituals from a forgotten empire.




Lets see what we have here..