Tuesday 31 August 2021

The Ten-Year Clips Show of False Machine

Do you know I have a Kickstarter on?

I do indeed have a Kickstarter on.

3 days left from the date of this addition. (08/09/2021)

Click the dancing bug if interested;


Ok now back to the post.

I spent so long putting this together I forgot to introduce and title it.

On Sunday it was ten years since I began blogging. I asked people what they wanted and they basically wanted everything, so here is a bit of everything, a journey through ten years, from 2011 to 2021, with highlights and a dab of commentary.

Dip in for a link if you like the look.

2011 - 2012  Birth


Teens! Reading! I ran games!
I think I ran more games for more people and more different *kinds* of people in 2011 to 2013 than I have in all the years since. In fact my first post, the Vampire Table.
The Teens games. The Apocalypse World group. I ran storygames!
My first big post; Monsters of Incompetence and Atomic Bread pretty much set the tone for whatever this blog is about
Oh god the teens, you can try here for a start 


October 2012 - Veins

Fritz Schwimbeck

Here is where I start writing Veins of the Earth
From October 2012 to march 2013 its largely veinsposting
In June 2013 we get the notable Fuck Information Design html and 'Art In Games'. 

2013 - Writing And Playing

Aki Akbar Sadeghi

I think for much of this period though I wasn't running many games, I was playing in a lot and I was writing a lot.
For real-life employment I quit my last non-temporary job in June 2013 after a meltdown. I had other temp jobs since but this was my last 'real' job.
Here in 2013 is the begging post that lead to Maze of the Blue Medusa, oh how PLEASED I was to be involved with that
Here is an oddity, attempting to re-write 5e powers in a gritty old-school style.

In 2013 a brief excursion into talking about minis-as-sculpture begins here with Jesus Likes Your Backpack. 
A final curiosity from 2013 is Ye Ugly Face Clubb, a post which was once linked to from *The New Yorker*....

2014 - The Derp Nerd Rises

Richard Corben

Black Glass, a prose piece from march 2014 which ended up in Veins in altered form, got popular on Reddit
I immediately poste incomprehensible darkness rules to get rid of the redditors. Just post poetry, its like bug spray for a blog.
Did you know I did a damn TRAILER for Deep Carbon Observatory before it came out? I did this thing on a fucking Toshiba laptop that was overheating, using only free download editing software and publicly available video along with scraps music for the soundtrack. Fuck old Patrick was HARDCORE, what a fucking chad.
AND BEHOLD I LIVE! Deep Carbon Observatory released! (A print copy would become available later).
In early 2014 you can see this rashamon-style play report- this was the high point and mid point of player games with Zak and the G-plus crowd online
And in summer 2014 I finally finish reading Rebecca Wests 'Black Lamb, Grey Falcon' and do this pretty decent review.
Honestly for everything in 'Fire on the Velvet Horizon' I think the Paladins of the Fall was probably the best, you can read a fragment of their entry here, I still don't know entirely where it came from.
The end if 2014 and the conception of Broken Fire Regime! A long time ago!

2015 - Mainly Writing And Breakdowns

Harry Clarke

The breakdowns largely happen offscreen, this was a quiet year for posting but I felt like I was doing a lot in the background.
Also this year at the mid point I got a temp job working for Barclays, which I got fired from within a few months, BUT, this was the last time I was deep in my overdraft on my main account.
Since university in 2001 I had never actually had 'money' on my main account, just varying levels of overdraft - but since mid 2015 I have actually had money, not much, and I still have my student debt looming over me but better than nothing (literally in this case).
2015 also brought us....
Strange Grains, a post Kenneth Hite liked
An actual trailer for Fire on the Velvet Horizon. Chad Patrick strikes again, I actually forgot I did that.
SLOW HEROES. the first mention of snail knights. (Will they ever return?)
This still brilliant interview with Dungeon Smash about FIRE. I follow this guy on Instagram and he is still fighting fires! more than ever actually I think.
The Greatest Image Known To Man
And the River of Drowned Queens. Short but sweet. Think I did good on that one.

2016 - Flowers in the Frost

Victor Vastnetov

The year starts with this... OPTIMISTIC prediction of future releases.
The Glass Dungeon Concept eventually became the maze of glass rooks in Silent Titans.
Who Will Stop the Worlds Most Evil Dog, written in a fume of time over about an hour.
Maze of the Blue Medusa came out. I was in something of a STATE at the time... I was actually in the middle of braking up with my girlfriend at the time and moving house, and having a meltdown at yet another call centre job, abut I did (appropriately) find time to write about Stephen Pynes excellent book about Antarctica.
AND, strangely, in the same month, to write this pretty good post inspired by a book on neuroscience Arnold sent me.
Ha! Turns out I was actually running a game; the Isles of the Imprisoned Moon. You can find a few play reports scattered about and here is a little artifact of the last few years of G+.
After moving from Liverpool, my exploration of the Wirral begins with me travelling about, looking through History books and transliterating Gawain because I was sad.
that takes us all the way to the end of 2016, capped be reviews of Blood in the Chocolate and Broodmother Skyfortress
the autumnal hours of the culture are gathering, a year of crisis begins....

2017 - CATACLYSM!!!

Stanislaw Ignacy Witkeiwitz 

Despite it being a nightmare year I manage to start it with a post I am still very proud of; The City of Infinite Ruin.
Where the fuck did the idea of wizards living in towers come from? this meeting of great minds from G+ is the last of these collections and attempts to answer just that question.
My attempt to 'Map the OSR' caused me a fair amount of trouble. I called it a 'living document' but never went back to it.
Robespierre loves Tarts, did you know? Discover more here.
I talk about the fucking ennies. I would end up going to these awards to watch 7th Sea win everything #stillbitter
September 2017! I have a total meltdown, cut my ties with Zak, tell all of you to go fuck yourself and spend five months going through the Farie Queene, resulting in this actually pretty good review in 2018!

2018 - By the Fingernails

Agnes Miller-Parker

I literally have nothing else to do so try to continue writing and making things. ITS THAT OR THE CALL CENTRE.
The Great Crystal Debate haS since been lost I think - Kiel took it down, but in it I take arms against the krystaphiles in our culture.
May 2018 and we have another drama, the details lost in the fall of the G+
June 2018 - Nightmares in Syr Darya. I think this is the last game I actually *ran*. man it was a while ago.
A pretty decent review of Amber Diceless, a seminal but annoying text.
Just before the end of the year I bring forth the cursed word; ARTPUNK. (I'm still sure I am not the first to use this, others are to blame!)
And then the Silent Titans kickstarter begins...
The Patrick of 2013-2016 is basically dead or near-dead at this point. Will anything survive or grow in his place?

2019 - Birth of False Machine Publishing

Peter Klucik

I start working for Eldritch Foundry, there is actually a book, or a books worth of material. I have maybe the only test print but it does exist!
About here I am getting back into Warhammer and painting. this interview with Kevin Chin is still EXCELLENT.
I try to make interesting Halflings, and Gnomes for Eldritch Foundry, and recognise my own worst qualities in the Horus Heresies best character. (My mum did not like this post.)
And I still like this concept for a fantasy-esque tv series.
After fucking up my first attempt at the Kickstarter and falling into despair, my co-creators encourage me to try again. And I FINALLY finish Jon Petersons ‘Playing at the World, HE SAID HE LIKED THIS REVIEW ON TWITTER!
The Prospero. An adventure, or actually a game now, which may one day exist.
And I end the year considering the rules of artificial intelligence as applied to golem, and shitting on JJ Abram’s Star Wars.
I think I also watched ‘cats’ at about the same time and it was a glorious mindfuck.

2020 - I Sell You The Same Thing Again

Horacio Salinas Blach 

Its 2020 and the long brewing remaster of DCO is in the works. At the same time at the urging of Ram I read the Mahabharata and decide that I am not a fan (of its moral message, assuming I even understood it).
I begin to wind up work for Eldritch Foundry . This fragment is an important one, and we get maybe the last of the big community posts? in which we all think about dungeon design by making the worst dungeon ever. This got Zedeck to repeat the phrase ‘camouflaged rape engines’ on twitter, something for which I will ever be proud.
This post, gets big traction on…. twitter (pre first cancellation, I will be dead to these people by the end of the year), and becomes part of a series in which I think about creating a form of D&D for families and children. Think you may still be able to find a version of the design doc on my blog.
Did you know the Streetfighter RPG was actually really well made? Well you do now, find out more here.
In July the first post mentioning 'Queen Mab' is here. I start weebing here, and get cancelled by twitter about the same time.
I ride out the year making monsters

2021 - That's This Year!

Peter Jones

The year is pretty slow as I eventually decide I need to put Goose-Gold and Goblins aside to try to work on active projects, especially Demon-Bone Sarcophagus, the first part of Broken Fire Regime
February is surprisingly active though with a review of the colour revolution, (part of my increasing interest  in colour and camouflage). The dungeon poem challenge and its results.  
I discover Daphne DuMaurier  and continue to harass Games Workshop with my thoughts on what they should be doing = MORE BEASTMAN SLASH FIC.
I read Gormenghast, (still reading it actually), and this is also the year I actually get up to date with EVERY Horus Heresy novel, and decide to talk about that series in EVEN MORE depth.
And begin the…

 Kickstarter for Demon-Bone Sarcophagus!!!!!!!


Monday 30 August 2021

Room #4 - The Big Boss Monk!

Scrap and I's Ping-Pong Exquisite Corpse Dungeon continues.

Room #4 

Here are the strange treasures and meditations of the hierophant of the monks of flame stored. In some ways a peaceful place, the spirit of the ruling monk still hangs out here.


Do you want to steal a bunch of cool stuff?

Or do you truly desire WISDOM??

Well it depends which key you use to enter the room; The AUTUMN KEY or the SUMMER KEY [presumably located somewhere in this dungeon yet to be decided].


A vast ebony portal set into iron and adamantium. Two complex and magical mechanisms meet across the doors like linked forged octopus arms.

On the left, a silver device set with strange bezoars. At its centre the leaf-shaped hole for the Autumn Key.

On the right, a gleaming gilded apparatus set with bloodstones and polished red glass. At its centre a hole for the sun-shaped Summer Key.

You can only open the door with a key, you can only open it with ONE KEY (if you try both it won't work) and you can only open it ONCE. Whatever state you find the room in becomes its 'real' state for you.


The calm wood-panelled room of a wise ascetic. Harmless orbs of pale blue fire bob about in a soothing dark. It has the feeling of a warm room in an autumn storm. Strangely it feels as if rain is falling somewhere 'outside' and wind blowing distantly, but here all is calm and silent.

At the far end, the silvery spirit of a bearded man in simple robes sits floating in lotus position above the dusty time-eaten cushions of a decayed pavilion.

As you enter, his eyes open and he burns with blue fire.

"Ah. You have shown great wisdom to reach this place, (or else the fates have favoured you for their own strange reasons)" he chuckles a bit. "What boon may I give thee? Time? Transmutation? Vision, Memory or Resurrection? Ask what you will of each.."

The Guru of Siver Fire will describe exactly what each boon does, he has no intention to trick the PCs.


"I may transport you to any point in any previous time. With these limitations; firstly I can take you only to cities which are about to be consumed by fire, secondly I shall provide no way back, and thirdly, as with many of my boons, details of this place, its contents and how to reach it will be wiped from your mind."


"YOUTH! You will be refreshed and re-made, corruption and pain burnt away. Lost parts re-grown, madness, disease and scars removed and all curses lifted from you. But beware, you shall have a new name and your old life will seem much like a dream. Old friends and foes may not recognise you and even loved ones may not see you as the same person."


"I shall take thee on a balls-out vision quest into the deepest reaches of the multiverse! Though only moments pass in this world as your body is frozen in a kind of uninterruptable stasis. Your spirit is plunged into the very fires of creation and destruction, see all sides and shapes of time and knowledge and though your memory of this will fade, much shall remain - EXCEPT; detailed knowledge of this place and its contents, which shall be wiped from your mind. I warn thee! The wisdom I shall grant thee can change one more than any wound or curse!"

You get 2d4 points of WIS immediately. (The Guru will caution you that wisdom changes a person more than any other quality), also there is a 1 in 4 chance you will become a devotee of the Fire Monk religion. Also you recognise most major planar and outsider entities on sight. (Though you can't exactly remember why).


"Ah the subtlest of boons. You shall receive nothing, except you shall be one of the very few who knows the contents and location of the Hexahedron of the Monks of Flame, and you shall remember all that you have learnt and experienced within. What you do with this knowledge is entirely up to you...."


"Life from lifelessness! By the Eternal Flame I shall reach deep into the Cosmos and return one passed to this mortal coil. But I warn thee all, this shall come at a cost which shall be borne equally by all of you, and if but one of you should break the covenant then the flame shall die, and the one you seek shall still be returned to you, but perhaps not as you knew them...."

Like a reverse auto-de-fe the desired individual unburns themselves before the PCs. To restore them to their XP level when they died, XP are gradually drained from the PCs equally. [They can feel this happening]. 

Any PC can stop this process and if they do the process stops for everyone. The desired individual is still returned but only with the XP already drained from the PCs.


If a PC makes no response, or explicitly asks for nothing, the Guru gives them a cheeky look and says;
"Aah you pass like the wind across the valley, and that is true wisdom."

That PC can now meditate themselves into a state of True Neutrality with a moments preparation (unless they were already True Neutral, in which case they can meditate themselves into a state of ANY ALIGNMENT).

This effect requires concentration to maintain.

They will read magically and spiritually as this alignment, will interact with curses and items as this alignment and may also exhibit some behaviours and attitudes of it. They can stop any time but the longer they maintain a meditation the easier it is and the 'extreme' alignments are addictive if maintained over time.

The Guru also removes key details and elements from their memories of the Hexahedron.


This encounter being ended, the PCs come to their senses in the desert, with confused or absent memories of what happened and any evidence which could lead someone to the Hexahedron burnt to a crisp. (Unless they chose 'Memory' in which case they can find their way back, and lead others.)


Its a room of amber walls full of golden furniture sculpted into waves like fire glittering with rubies and the parts that aren't gold or amber are bloodwood, ceder and maple (all reddish hues).

Though the room is barely lit, every glimmer catches and blazes on a thousand pinpoints. Huge orbs hanging from the ceiling incandesce - they are full of the same flamey cloud as in room #3. with Glass-Body Butterflies in it flpping about their wings reflecting and intensifying the light like a bunch of flappy kaleidoscopes.

A rectangular pool of shimmering mercury nearly cuts the room in half. (Can be navigated to either side.

Brass pole stands along the walls holding pennants like tongues of descending flame embroidered with holy wisdom.

Two huge rug embroidered with golden thread on either side of the mercury pool.

In the centre of the second rug in the shimmering half-lit darkness on the far side of the room, his high monkship sits like a decayed corpse lounging on a maple and gold throne, but still alive, his silken pope-hat tips grotesquely over his sunken face and his eyes glimmer like the bottom of whiskey bottles.

A rasping voice...

"My treasures... my wisdom... YOU SHALL HAVE NONE!!!"

Burning phoenix wings erupt and a fight is on!


The two carpets are asbestos or flameproof and can be rolled up.

The pool of mercury is only an inch deep but but can be skated across, fallen into and slows action in it.

The big glass balls can fall, roll and slam into things, if they break open the flaming cloud gets out along with the butterflies.

The brass pole stands  holding pennants like tongues of descending flame embroidered with holy wisdom, could maybe be used as a pole or whip. The Fire Monk will be unwilling to burn these words; "Nooo, the holy texts!" so they can be used as a temporary sheild.


(He can do three of these a round, but no other actions. On 2/3 hit points he can do two, and one normal action. On 1/3 Hit Points he can do one, and one normal action.)

> Firesnakes! A gesture and they spew from your clothes, hissing and burning!

> Fire whip! Lashes out and flings you about! balrog style.

> He speaks a command a 2d6 burning skeletons emerge from any fire in the room holding blades of liquid silver which cut like razors (they turn into liquid mercury if the Fire Monk dies).

> Smoke Breath! He breathes out a great gout of smoke and ash which blinds and chokes.

> Heat ray! A ray springs from the tip of his ruby staff and torches you like a war of the worlds Martian.

> Whirlwind Form! He transforms into a whirling tornado of fire and races across the room sending everything in his path flying and scorched.

> Furnace Hands! Super-glowy furnace hands melt swords and turn armour to trickles of molten liquid!


If you defeat the Burning Monk you get... all the treasure! The Amber Walls, the fancy furniture, the cool ruby-topped staff, the banners of holy wisdom, all the gold bits on the furniture, his cool hat and robes.

A lot of it is pretty heavy but the whole thing should be worth a significant shitload.



Sunday 29 August 2021

Ten Years of False Machine

 Yes, at 14:50 (UK time) tonight, it will be ten years exactly since I started the False Machine Blog with this Vampire Table.

I should probably do something for the anniversary, I was thinking maybe a 'clip show' of old posts or something. 

Anyone have any ideas or desires?

Thursday 26 August 2021


 tldr; Scrap and I are doing a 'Ping-Pong' Exquisite Corpse fire-themed dungeon to bring attention to our Kickstarter.

"What Kickstarter?" you simply and perhaps foolishly ask.




just click the links!

Ok, now on with the post AND..


What is this? - HERE is the start of the whole thing and a description.

HERE is Scraps first response.

HERE is  a map

And here is my response; 

Room 8



Three doors on the main level, all are wood inlayed and edged with brass. 

West to Room #7 – door slightly open. 

South-West Corner to room #11- brass bar across it on this side attached to a strange mechanism attached to a pipe coming from the room beyond. Rack nearby with small sticks of fragrant wood. 

East to Room #9 – Door locked. 

Secret Door, South East  to Room #9 - right at the bottom of the shaft, hidden in darkness is a door which could be revealed by bringing light to this level and carefully looking around.



General Description

A multi-layered well of light. This place glows with life. A deep well in the centre of the room. In the centre of that, like the trunk of a tree which has grown up from some lower level, is a stack of prayer wheels. This huge column of amber and basalt, the wheels of gold rotating between wheels of black stone, like thick mill-wheels stacked up. The deep well is surrounded by wooden platforms going down down down, like scaffolding, (only three floors or so but it still looks pretty dramatic). 

Above head height in the main room are brazen branches of shining metal, sculpted as of they were the branches of the tree at the centre, from the branches hang strange iridescent orbs, like ripe fruit 

On the main floor, and down on the several levels of the wooden platforms in the centre which surround the pilar of wheels like scaffolding or the steps of a well-pit, are the carbonised corpses of monks wearing pure robes of orange fire sitting in lotus position. 



A room for worship contemplation and joy. The monks would come here to meditate on the great tree of flame bringing both death and  life to all things, the opener of the gates of renewal, redemption and rebirth. 

In autumn they would grieve for the tree of fire, and give respectful sorrows to its grim nature. 

Though dead, the monks are still spiritually present in this room, still meditating on the tree of wheels and adding their power to its unending movement. If you mess with the monks bodies or the wheels you will get a firey ghost attack! 

The Light

The light comes down from above through a light well cunningly disguised in the roof - it looks like stone from above AND ITS A HUGE BLOCK OF AMBER. This is not necessarily obvious to PCs as it just seems like translucent yellowy light. Getting it out safely and transporting it would be a nightmare - plus removing it would likely doom the temple. Plus monk attacks and whatever other guardians we dream up. 

The Big Tree

The Turning Wheels of stone 

Like giant thick mill wheels, turning very very slowly though with no apparent friction. The amber-seeming chunks have strange ritual glyphs cut into them which glimmer and flash vaguely as the wheels turn in the amber light. Likewise the dark onyx wheels have glyphs and signs cut into them – hard to see, black against black, but slowly the wheels turn in strange spears and arrows of shifting light it feels as if for moments in places on the tree words or phrases in some unknown language are spelled out before passing away. 

The Brazen Branches 

Not gold but gilded they wave and writhe along the ceiling like very dangerous low-hanging chandeliers. There are about 8 branches with d4 orb-fruit on them. You could maybe climb on the branches but even touching one slightly sends it swaying and rocking with a 1 in 3 chance of disturbing each branch to each side and so on.

If a branch stars rocking its fruit will drop and either split immediately or roll randomly and then split.


The Orb Fruit 

Fruit splits and (roll a d10) 

1 to 4 – A spaff of fire which quickly goes out, d2 damage if its near you.
5 or 6 – Small puddle of Napalm, sets ablaze & will stick to anything that tries to go through it.
7 or 8 – White Phosphorous cloud. Adheres to and eats at all flesh.
9 – Cracks open to reveal a spiky red hedgehog creature. A FireHog. Friendly, like to snuffle around, can be tamed easily, like to roll up in pockets, need to sleep in a fire now and again, snorts and sneezes fire when tickled so can essentially be used as a firelighter though its not useful in combat.
10 – A Firechild who stands like a candleflame and sings out;


“Fire is natures gift to time
Oriflamme of new-born things
Time darkens life
Fire brightens time
And so, all flame must live.” 

Any reasonable combination of these concepts will serve as an answer to the question ‘”Why do I live?” in room #12 

The FlameChild then disappears and a single monk sighs, collapses and decays to ash in a moment. 


The Combusted Monks

The monks are stil wrapped in clean silk robes which are almost like liquid fire. Their bodies carbonised as if by spontaneous combustion, but they remained totally still during this and are still psychically, spiritually active. the hideously burned bodies look like victims of some natural disaster, if not for their expressions of peace and the uncorrupted nature of their robes. 

Stitched into the monks robes and written upon the torcs of amber bronze and red gold wrapped around their necks are combinations of this phrasing; 

“Fire is natures gift to time
Oriflamme of new-born things
Time darkens life
Fire brightens time
And so, all flame must live.” 

But, again, if you fuck with the monks PSYCHICH BURNING GHOST ATTACK!

Here is the next room.

Sunday 22 August 2021

The Hexahedron of the Monks of Flame!


Has Victory truly defeated us? Perhaps poor planning, house moves, health problems and general malaise have muted our powers...

That includes multiple ribbons, 150gms paper and a spot highlight cover!

And £5,000 after that, Bukako Shall Feast Again! 

Yes more levelels spells for the ever-growing Feast of Bukako PDF which shall hopefully one day swell to become a true, free open tome of leveless spells for all.

But to be honest, no-one really seemed THAT interested in Bukako to begin with.... (not that I care, I intend to do it anyway).

So, with 20 (19 by the time you read this probably) days to go, Scrap and I fall back on an OLD CLASSIC.

Yes, the blog ping-pong content creation contest. 

One of us does a post and poses a challenge for the other, to be answered by them on their blog. At the end of that post they in turn propose their own challenge and so on.

(If you would like to see the first ping-pong contest we did for DCO then you can start HERE.)


In this case we will not be proposing any random image-based challenge, but instead the creation of an ENTIRE (& relatively small) DUNGEON!

I present.. 


(Ok so this dungeon is not 'canon' and it doesn't involve content from Broken Fire REgime or Demon-Bone Sarcophagus, bt we will try to throw in some general fire-themeing, plus there may or may not be nods or links in deniable ways, so hopefully it will prove useful or at least interesting in some way or another.)


A mountainside like a tumbled river of stone, layers of forgotten epochs tipped like laden plates, 
lost and compresed, eroded and chiselled by wind. An escarpment, the image from a film still, the banded red rock broken like an eternally collapsing wave, labouring redly beneath a red sun.
And in this maze of fractal shadows and broken stone; the strange sides and regular angles of a perfect Cube poking from the shattered scree, a temple carved directly from the stone of the mountain. 

After many days of travel on the Phyrrous Plain, sweating horses, parched riverbeds, sleepless nights, hissing snakes and constant fear, this is the first unnatural shape or texture you have seen. It feels unreal, like childs toy abandoned in the wild....

It is no illusion! For here at last is the end of your quest, the mysterious and long-forgotten...


a dark stair beckons in the shadowed stone. the stars glimmer overhead and from beneath, a wisp of scent. a long corridor, two passages. You take the leftward path...



The flames from any lamps or torches carried reach towards the door even before it is opened. They seem to form small hands and fingers which trace against its surface but leave no mark.


The room has two aspects, one if it is lit by flame, one if it is not.


A bright room, painted with mandalas, wheels and chariots of fire. Across its ceiling the image of a god of frozen flame made from the conflagrations of destroyed cities.

An the southern wall, an arch of iron shows the way to the surface.

In the western wall, an arch of ivory marks the exit.

If any member of the party is carrying a naked flame, it speaks! Crying out as a child in pain and asks...


Of course the answers to these two questions, as well as the correct propitiation and sacrifices, will only be known to those who have already reached the deepest rooms of the Hexahedron.

Once the correct answers, propitiations and sacrifices are made, the flames fall silent.

If they are not answered or made, any flame held by the characters grows and swells like a vile cancer forming a hideous spawn of toxic fire and attacking them!

This flame spawn can be killed by extinguishing the initial fuel and flame, to which it remains connected as if by a shining cord of fire.

Of course if this is done they must face the room in its second state;


If there is no fire within the room the mandalas fade revealing the natural strata of the rock behind, which glows as if beneath pal moonlight, before expanding into a seemingly infinite distance!
The far door seems many leagues away, across a desert of ash!

Tis a cold desert, beset with (2d6) wolves - cold and brutal, as is the life of man without fire to bless it.
Not only this but your weapons shall be made bone and your meat made raw, ye leather shall be un-cured and all that is metal or born of flame shall be remade into stone, bone and wood and ye shall suffer in darkness!

The desert in an illusion which you can roll to disbelieve or dispel in the usual way but if you can't do that then you must travel across it for 1d3 days before you reach the door on the other side.

Should you reach the exit (an arch or iron or ivory standing in the desert of Ash), the transmutation of your treasure and equipment persists! 

Keep your eyes peeled!

Look for the next room in the dungeon over at Monster Manual Sewn from Pants!

Saturday 21 August 2021

Trailing Corposant 5 - Shell Game



Book Seven: Legion

The Alphas in (rough*) Publication Order 

Tracing the Alpha Legion through the Heresy is, fittingly, very difficult indeed. My search for sources may be even more flawed than usual in this one so I am open to corrections. 

The Alphas appear as secondary elements, and very often as antagonists in many books. ‘Praetorian of Dorn’ has a lot on them, but they are almost never the main characters or central protagonists.

 So far as I can tell, there are only two books specifically about the Alpha Legion, one at the very start; Dan Abnetts ‘Legion’, and right at the end, Mike Brooks Primarch book ‘Alpharius, Head of the Hydra’. Pleasingly, their presence in the sources is a lot like their presence in the history, split apart into a thousand plots before cohering at the end. 

Pleasing in a metatextual sense anyway. In a straightforward story sense, not so much. 




March 2008 – Legion. Heresy Novel by Dan Abnett. A few years pre-Heresy. The Alphas are sneaking around being sneaky as the Imperium’s C.I.A when some questionable alien conspirators give them info about the upcoming Heresy and tell them the only way to fully defeat Chaos and save all life, is to make sure Horus wins and Humanity Dies. The Alphas, or some of them, buy this, or seem to, and they become pre-emptive allies of Horus. Dan Abnett has decided Perpetuals exist. I hope you like Perpetuals because as far as he is concerned the Horus Heresy Series is now the Perpetuals Series. 

May 2011 - The Face of Treachery. Short Story by Gav Thorpe in 'Age of Darkness'. Post Istvaan V and some raven Guard have come to try to rescue Corax from the surface. The Alphas intend to infiltrate the Raven guard for Reasons. 

December 2011 – Deliverance Lost. Novel by Gav Thorpe. More infiltrating the Ravens and ruining Coraxs’ day. 

May 2012 – The Serpent Beneath. Novella by Rob Sanders collected in 'The Primarchs'. “Omegon” runs a super-even-more-secret black ops mission against his own side to destroy a special station which is keeping the White Scars in the dark. 

August 2012 - Fear to Tread. Novel by James Swallow. A Blood Angels book but we get a nice glimpse of the Alphas from another legions perspective. They infiltrate and destroy an Ork empire, breking them into fragments and driving them to the Blood Angles to be wiped out. They also irritate the BA by telling them nothing and using them as an ork lawnmower. 

October 2013 – Scars. Novel by Chris Wright. The White Scars don’t actually know they were fighting the Alpha Legion, until they do. The Scars make a break for it. 

October 2013 – Unremembered Empire. Novel by Dan Abnett. Face-swapped Alphas have a go at killing Robute and make a pretty decent show of it. 

Jan 2014 - Hunters Moon. Audio drama by Guy Haley. What happened to the Space Wolves sent to watch Alpharius? Nothing good, hers a peek. This is a pretty good story about some fishermen finding a crashed space-ship and rescuing the Space Wolf they find inside. 

March 2014 - Wolfs Claw. Audio Drama by Chris Wraight. The Alphas jump the Wolves after Prospero and have them bottled up in a nebula. Russ feels sad. Bjorn gets a hand. 

November 2014 - The Seventh Serpent. Novella by Graham McNeil. One of the Twins cosplays rebel leader Meduson to trick some loyalists into assassinating ‘Alpharius’, who turns out to be a loyalist Alpha Legion commander. I am still not sure if this made any sense. 

October 2015 - Wolf King. Novella by Chris Wraight. The wolves being chased by the Alphas in the Alaxxes Nebula. 

August 2016 - Praetorian of Dorn. Novel by John French. Dorn vs Alpharius. Kind of a big deal. More below. 

July 2017 – Tallarn. Novel by John French, but the stories which make it up date from earlier, around 2015. The Alphas have their sneaky business interrupted by Pertuabo wrecking the planet they are on, then do more sneaky business in the wasteland left behind.

May 2018 – Wolfsbane. Novel by Guy Haley. They are barely in this but do play a part in the battle of Yarant, which leads on from these events. 

August 2018 - Slaves to Darkness. Novel by John French. Horus gets more chaos on/in him & gathers team bad guy. Omegon (or Alpharius) turns up to let him know the alphas are completely fucked up after the events of ‘Praetorian of Dorn’. 

February 2019 - First Legion. A short by Chris Wraight in 'Scions of the Emperor'. The Alphas meet the First, described in the last post from the DA perspective and to be described again in the Alpharius Primarch Book. 

October 2019 - The First Wall. I *think* there are Alpha infiltrators in this and their plotline has not been resolved... 

April 2021 - Alpharius, Head of the Hydra. Mike Brooks please fix this shit. Ties everything together almost neatly.



The important thing about the shell-game is that it's a scam


Don’t Let Those Schemes Stay Dreams… 

To rationalise all those fragmentary bits and pieces, lets look at the Alpha Legions actual plans in the Heresy and how they turned out. 


Plan A - Make Sure Horus Wins 

The Cabal want the Alpha Legion to side with Horus ahead of time as part of a plot to destroy Chaos. 

Like with everything the Alphas do, its hard to tell if they are in it to win it, or in it to seem to win it while actually making sure it fails. Its also impossible to really know which of the twins is which when. There is likely an authors intent for each story but that means little in the overall drama. Suffice to say, one twin is probably still loyal to the Emperor and one is probably working against him to a degree. 

Result - Massive, massive, massive fail. 

Horus does not win and the Emperor barely survives. Whatever anyone intended it’s unlikely it was this. 



Plan B – Gene-Stealers! 

Post Istvaan, Corax goes crying to Dad and, as a son he actually likes, will receive hyper-special gene tech to help rebuild his Legion. The Alphas know this and want that tech! With brain-eating, false faces, albums by The Joy Division and copies of Neil Gaimans ‘Sandman’,  they infiltrate the Raven Guard! 

Result - Likely partial success. 

Despite the usual clusterfuck the Alphas seem to get their hands on something, though it may already have been corrupted by their arch-foes, the Alpha Legion. At least Corax doesn’t have it and can’t rebuild his Legion now. 



Plan C – Trick the Scars! 

After wrecking the Ork Empire on Ullanor, Horus sends Jaghati to chase down the survivors. This he happily does, tracking them to Chondax where the Scars have a fine old time racing about killing Orks and leaving their emails on out-of-office auto-reply. 

What they don’t know is that as well as fighting Orks they are also fighting the Alpha Legion who have been tasked with boxing them in, making sure they receive no news and hopefully aiding Horus in ultimately turning them to his side. 

Result – Failure. 

Significant parts of the Legion either knowingly, or subverted by one of the Twins against the other, fuck this up by destroying special hyper-tech that keeps Chondax in the dark, explicitly attacking the Scars in Chondax itself and by turning up in force long enough to make sure they hear both messages, the false one from Horus, and the true one from Dorn. Jaghatai investigates a bit and eventually is one of the few Legions to make it to Terra and actually stick there.



Plan D.1 – Get Russ to Wreck Prospero! 

The Emperor has given orders to Russ to go and arrest Magnus for being weird. Get those orders and shift a comma or whatever so instead of reading “get Magnus”, they read “get Magnus ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)”. 

Result – Success 

Not only is Russ really easy to manipulate into taking the hardest possible line against Magnus, but he even fucks up the final execution, sending Magnus and his Legion right into the arms of Tzeentch. 


Plan D.2 - Jump the Wolves after Prospero! 

Ok Russ should be pretty fucked up after Prospero. The idiot has outlived his usefulness, go and jump him on the way home and take him out. 

Result – failure (probably). 

Russ escapes into a Nebulae, meets some who-the-fuck-knows Dark Angels, calls Jaghatai for help and is ignored and eventually gets away possibly partially due to complex webs of infiltration on one of his ships. A clusterfuck. 



Plan E - Stop Perty pulling a ‘Molech’ 

Pertuabo bio-nukes Tallarn and races around doing armoured warfare in the resulting hellscape while secretly looking for a demon-gate. Stop Pertuabo finding that big ring of stone! No super-powers for Perty! 

Result – Success pretty much. 

It’s not clear if this was the Alphas original mission, if they wanted the Demon Gate themselves or if they were just generally up to sneaky business. They seemed to have had plans for Tallarn before Perty even arrived. Nevertheless they bollock up his schemes enough that orders from Horus arrive jusssst before he can get his hands on Godpowers. 



Plan… F? - Kill Robute?! 

He he heee, lets wear the faces of dead Ultramarines from Calth, infiltrate Ultramar and kill Guilliman, hee hee hee.  

Its not clear what if any relationship this scheme has to anything else the Alphas are up to, or if the Chaos powers even want Guilliman dead at this point as he is a main thing drawing forces to the Eastern Rim and away from Terra, but they have a go anyway, who even cares at this point? 

Result – Fail. 

They give it a good effort but even unarmoured and unaware Guilliman royally wrecks their shit. They got close though! 



Plan G – Assassinate… Alpharius? What? 

In McNeills ‘Seventh Serpent’ one of the twins, presumably Alpharius.., sets up McNeils saturday-morning-cartoon good guys to assassinate.. Alpharius. The Alpharius they assassinate is actually an Alpha still loyal to the throne. 

Result – Success? 



Plan H - Invade the Sol System! 

Alpharius (probably) has a super-secret long-prepared extra-clever multi-layered scheme to provoke and baffle Rogal Dorn before grabbing Pluto and opening the Sol system to the traitors. 

As usual, there are multiple reads on this. It may be that this is an actually-real plan to take Pluto, or, it may be an even more subtle scheme to simply meet with Dorn and persuade him of… something


If the plan was to take Pluto, it failed. Alpharius is a soudcloud rapper who quotes Machiavelli and Dorn is the nondescript uncle who always wins at bridge. Dorn rumbles the Pluto scheme and pincers the Alpha Legion when they are extended. The Alphas main forces are tabled by turn five and they are no longer a major military threat. 

If the plan was to get Dorn to come to Pluto so they could have a chat, then A; that’s fucking stupid, and B; it still fails as Dorn just kills Alpharius in mid-monologue. 

This is probably an actual Primarch death. We then cut to Omegon out in space. If ‘siding with Horus’ was ever part of a long-term scheme, it isn’t now. 



Plan I – Gather Intel on Dorns Defences 

A twin turns up in ‘Slaves to Darkness’ to present Horus with a complete plan of the Sol Systems defences and then strongly indicates that they are done with the Heresy. 

Result – Success. 

Well Horus does take the Sol System, and pretty quickly too. 


Plan J - Kill the Wolves and Ravens at Yarant 

After his failed assassination/enlightenment attempt on Horus in ‘Vengeful Spirit’, Russ is badly wounded and chased by whoever the Warmaster can spare. He ends up in the Yarant system where good-old Corax arrives to help out. At least some of the Traitor forces are Alpha Legion though they are not in command. 

Result – Fail. 

I think as of current lore this battle is still in progress but since both Wolves and Ravens still exist in M41 we can assume they escape somehow. 



Plan A-PLUS! Be the Emperors ‘Knife In The Dark’ 

Yes there was a plan before plan A! At the start of the Great Crusade E-Dawg recovers Alpharius, keeps him secret and tells him to just go out and do pro-Imperial black-ops shit try to be useful you know? Secret missions, that kind of thing.. 

Result – Suc…. FAIL. 

Alpharius is pretty great at this job, but then he finds his mystery twin Omegon on a planet somewhere, doesn’t tell anyone, and then we loop back around to their encounter with the Cabal. 

Dan Abnetts Bad Ideas 

The Alphas are wonderful Polyfilla for any heresy writer. They can fill any gap in any story, provide motivation, add a bit of spicy danger and deception. They work reasonably well when added to things. 

The central axis of the decisions they are actually seen to make are… just stupid. 

There is no way you can make the Alphas agreement with the Cabal make any sense. No matter how good that book is, the choice is dense, Its like the head of the CIA being scammed by an email from a Nigerian Prince. 

I can see how it illuminates character and is yet another Heresy example of the whatever-it-takes paradox; If you make a sneaky sociopath to do whatever-it-takes in pursuit of destroying chaos and they decide that whatever it takes involves the destruction of humanity then that’s a sort of interesting story. 

It would be almost good if an Alpharius came to this decision on their own, if though being intelligent, investigating, uncovering secrets, history and motivation, they worked out the truth about chaos, even predicted the Heresy, exactly the kind of thing they are meant to do, and then made an unexpected choice, truly putting the final aim above the means, but the fact that they got barnumed by a bunch of Xenos is daft. 

And again in ‘Praetorian of Dorn’ – another plan, stupid at its core, executed with genius. 

Lack of any guaranteed stability of identity means alpha legion stories lack meaning, or that they are all the same story of a self-causing, self-resolving problem. 

You think Tzeentch would like the Alphas, but Nurgle is more likely. The sum total of all their intelligence, perception and ambition is a flat zero – a total paradox. They nullify themselves time and again. 

It’s largely Dan Abnett’s Fault. 

He wrote a book, good in its elements, engaging in its mood and plot reveals, but its core it was built on poor foundations and those foundations play out again and again throughout the Heresy. The tics and tricks of the Alpha Legion infinite-plot-bucket proliferate and grow. More schemes within schemes, more is-it-a-primarch shell games. By the time we get to the other end of the Hydra of plots, all there is left for Mike Brooks to do is to slot the Alphas into the pre-existing Heresy lore and basically explain roughly who is who and what has been going on. 

He at least manages to do so cleanly. 

This was a wasted opportunity. 

Alpharius/Omegon as Characters 

There’s nothing really meaningful I can add that isn’t in either ‘Legion’ and/or ‘Alpharius: Head of the Hydra’. No grand synthesis or outside look at the character. There’s not much there.