Monday 31 October 2022

The Great Book


So, I lumber towards Bethlehem, ready to be BORN.

As an old Kickstarter passes into completion, a new one crawls forth, gasping. A new books shall be made! Different to the old!

Speak, False Machine!

The first TEN YEARS of this blog, organised, indexed and arranged in hardback form!

It will launch in ONE DAY!

And ye shall be presented with another Sad Month of me whoring myself out.

Go HERE for the pre-launch page.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Trailing Corposant 10 – Swallow it All

In a previous post we considered the mixed but pivotal Graham McNeil. Now we must cross an invisible barrier in quality for, if my usual response to a McNeil book is; “oh that’s, wait, what the fuck, what the fuck is that, why did you do that, oh wow, ok that was fun I suppose

Then my usual expectation for a Swallow book is; “un hu un hu ah, yep yep, ok… well that happened..”

From a pretty good or at least always interesting writing with a lot of weird or bad elements to a generally very boring writer who surprisingly often pokes his head up above the parapet of quality, but is sadly blown away by a waiting sniper. Swallow has rambled all over the Heresy taking on a variety of subjects but not really having an emblematic series, Legion or character. 

I think perhaps he was meant to be the main writer for Sanguinius and the Blood Angels, but he isn’t very good so those works don’t really stand out. Still he makes some good efforts! If wasn’t for the tragic dead weight of his last book, ‘The Buried Dagger’, a truly abominable disaster bringing the poorly-told story of Mortarion to an eve more poorly-told end, he might still rate above average. 

But he does  not. Follow me now into tragedy…



EXECUTION FORCE! The deadliest ever dudes with a very special set of skills! They all wear black and work alone! Now they team up to do a thing! Will they do the thing somehow? And how the fuck are there meant-to-be-used-alone weird as shit skillsets meant to actually work together? Its not like using a knife with a fork or a fork with a cheesegrater even, more like a fork and the colour blue.

Malcador being Malcador has a very bay-of-pigs concept of; hey we got literally piles of assassins around here why not just assassinate Horus?

So a rag tag team of the assasnoriums synth-skin wearing wierdoes are sent to do just that.

Meanwhile someone, (Maloghurst?) realises hey with all this warp gunk we can basically reshape reality and also with our Chaos Prime account we have access to the entire archive of demons dating back to the fucking old ones baby! Surely there is something in the back of the drawer that we can use to kill the Emperor?

And in fact they do have just such a demon -  a shapechanging super-clever psychic leech/capacitor thingy that only gets stronger the more power its target has

High concept. Honestly not bad. Basically a meta-story shaping book; i.e. why not just assassinate horus/e-money. Think this actually invented the execution force, an idea which sounds cool AS SHIT but often works out to be a bit eh.

Ultimately neither E-Dawg or Horus want the other to be assassinated. They both want a Dramatic Last Scene. The Emperor in order to maybe redeem Horus and get him back? Horus so he can eat the Emperor and become double-strong, allowing him to take on the Chaos Gods probably/

What even happens in this?

They try to shoot a giant evangelion style sniper rifle at Horus. It’s so big it has to be hidden in a building. But they only shoot his double. This is one of two times I can recall that someone in the Heresy has dressed up as Horus and pretended to be him and one was Robute Guilliman… Insert your own “weird that its happened twice” joke here.

Good because it leads onto ‘Gunsight’ in which the Vindicare sniper left behind goes mad on the vengeful spirit

Gunsight (Short Story)

A good story! An assassin leftover from a previous book infiltrates the Vengeful Spirit and, while waiting to kill Horus, has a mental. 

The Assassin bumps into a crewman who is still somewhat loyal. A neat look at what it might be like to be an almost-normal human who happened to be one of the hundreds of thousands aboard the Vengeful Spirit when Horus decided he was going to turn evil. Since then the ship has basically melted through reality and turned into a living nightmare, plus all of your colleagues are now big devotees of a scary new religion. It’s a rare sympathetic portrait of a normal human amidst the utter lunacy of the Heresy.

Ultimately Horus converts the Assassin to Chaos with the inference that he will turn up at the Siege of Terra. (He does not).


Fear to Tread

A pivotal moment and sadly just not that well written.

This should be a major moment of the Heresy. Horus knows Sanguinius is super-dangerous and super-nice and super-loyal to the Emperor. So he sends him, and his entire Legion out to a distant world telling him; “Very dangerous Xenos here bro, take your guys and take em out.”

In fact the planet, and entire system, is and are a warp-drenched, demon-infected spiritual and military trap for Sanguinius designed to either reduce him to a berserk rage and make him a servant of chaos, or simply to kill him.

This does not work largely because the Demons are dumb as shit panto villains. Though that's a bit of a theme in the Heresy – the ruinous powers being basically crackheads and – regardless of the fact they can bleed through reality and travel through time affecting every moment of your life imperceptibly, other than that, they are actually often dinguses who faceplant at the last moment. I suppose being living psychic fatbergs is not a wonder for competence.

Imagine playing chess against an idiot who can see through time. Or to call back to me previous example, imagine if your arch-foe was a crackhead with a TARDIS. Very very dangerous, and in fact terrifying, but likely not competent and, once you have had the first encounter, (from your perspective), you can start to develop safeguards. The Crackhead might have theoretically incredible power but they are going to consistently mis-use it, or make foolish decisions, because they are on crack. 

Demons in the Heresy are written a lot like this, which would make an elegant kind of sense if it were deliberate artifice, but in fact its just largely bad writing making the Demons look like the Chuckle Brothers. 

What happened; Sanguinius is a super pure very great guy and both Khorne and Slaanesh really want him to be their particular murder/perv angel – in an unusual example of chaotic combined arms planning planning the evil joint chiefs of staff have gotten together and set the PERFECT TRAP for the Blood Angels. They have basically cum all over reality in the Signus sector and now the stains won’t come out

Horus will send Sangy and the Angels to Signus where they will have their first no-warnings experience of Chaos ; bad news its not aliens its LITERAL FUCKING DEMONS BABY

Remember the aim here is not just to separate the Blood Angels from the rest of Imperial Forces
But specifically to convert Sanguinius to the ruinous powers. Since he is a space vampire mutant with a near constant thirst for blood ruling over a legion of former blood drinking berserkers – shouldn’t be too hard right?

No because he is the best guy ever

It hard to write Sanguinius. I can think of only a few really good examples of him in the Heresy, one by Chris Wraight where he meets the Khan and ADB in ‘Echoes of Eternity’

As soon as the Blood Angels fleet arrives almost all of the standard humans go mad and/or die. Parts of the Blood Angels assault Signus Prime. Sanguinius crashes on the surface and has a fight in a Beksynski madscape against legions of demons as they try to drive him, and the Blood Angels. Maaad I tell you; “Unleash your beserker rage you nerds!”

Meanwhile a handful of humans have survived on the fleet – due to an unregistered psychic blank lady who protected them without realising.

This whole thing might have worked much better if we didn’t get actual scenes of the main demons plotting and scheming in their tower of bones and goop. If it was played straight as a horror movie, with reality literally melting and the Blood Angels going increasingly mad and even Sanguinius, best guy ever, slowly going nuts, being confronted by that which cannot be, it might have been pretty great.

Perhaps fortunately for humanity, the minions of the Chaos Gods are, during the Heresy, not particularly great at being unknowable horror-movie monsters, instead feeling more like very-knowable batman-villian arguing goons.

Some allowance should be given. They have just come off maternity leave after giving birth to Slaanesh and have not had to deal this directly with corrupting humanity before, at least on this scale, they are not always on their A-Game.

Sangy meets the main demons, fights them, Ka-Banda who is meant to be his nemesis fights him and does pretty well, going I am your doom! Your DOOM! 

Then one of the Blood Angels Librarians sacrifices themselves in Sanguinius’ place and the good guys win. I think that’s what happens.

Future books will see the Blood Angels going off to hang out with Robute, where Sanguinius is made ‘Emperor’ of Imperium Secundus, before finally trying to make it through the Ruinstorm in ‘Ruinstorm’ and ending up in a massive catastrophe at Beta-Garmon in ‘Titandeath’ and finally zooming around the Siege and ultimately fighting at the Eternity Gate in ‘Echoes of Eternity’. All of these by different writers.

Garro !

Garro is boring. Shouldn’t be but is. Maybe he’s ok with that though.

We last saw him back in post 2 where we talked about the Flight of the Eisenstein. Then he ran through the bitz box posts as he fought a demon on the moon, largely didn’t go mad, though did get religion in a major way, then got recruited by Malcador and spent the mid-years of the Heresy wandering around usually on Grey-Knights sub-plot fetch quests saying ‘Come with me to Malcador’

All That Remains (Short Story) 

Another in the ‘Grey Knights’ sub-arc as a bunch of imperial troops are diverted to Titan and thence out of the story.

Ghosts Speak Not (Short Story) 

Hey random Death Guard left behind on the moooooon, come with me..

To Malcador?

No. But I am on a mission from Malcador. Also at the end of this story we blow up a planet. The Emperors Dream is dead!

Lost Sons (Short Story) 

“Warden Arkad, Sangunius is deaaaaaad, (or missing), come with me to Malcador.”

Arkad - “Like fuck I will.”

“Ok well then we are taking all your stuff to Malcador!”

Arkad - “Noooooo fucking way.”

Random Messenger “Guys, text from the astropath, Sanguinius is alive.”

Arkad – “Leave.”

(Sanginius later dies)

Patience (Short Story) 

A… a.. a.. good Garro story?

Garro turns up in this as a mysterious avenging monster slayer seen through the eyes of others who just poses meaningfully and is taciturn but who it turns out later actually had a plan.


The curious frustration of Garros' story is that his fate is to be sent through a WARP HOLE by Malcador, leaving the Heresy story and turning up in the ‘future’ of 40k. 

That’s it really, he goes through a hole.

Sick and Morty

James has a short story AND a major novel about the Death Guard. Ancient lore says the Death Guard were only totally finally corrupted on their way to the Siege of Terra. Caught in a timeless warp Sargasso they were all infected and, over who knows how long of subjective time, went MAAAAD. 

How will this come over in text??

But first;

Exocytosis  (short story)

Typhon comes down with a cold while chilling in Luthers micro-realm. Strangest friendship ever? Its weird that these guys know each other let alone that they get on. Admittedly they do both have somewhat anguished relationships with their Primarch but that’s literally every First Captain of every Legion.

The Buried Dagger

A genuinely bad book and really quite a disappointment.

Just very very very dull. Should be an absolute axial high point horror movie novel for the Heresy. So bad Chris Wraight took, and was allowed, an entire sub chapter in his Siege book in which a demon turns up and talks at length about these events to explain that actually morty is not functionally retarded.

The complete fall of the Death Guard to Nurgle takes place as their fleet is stranded in the warp and infected with a plague that slowly destroys even their fabled resistance. A timeless moment that only ends when Mortarian says ‘ok’ and sells both their souls and his to Nurgle

Dreams and visions fleet through the mind. An infinite time trapped in the warp. How long were they there for, subjectively? Ten years, a hundred, a thousand? Did we get time loops where they were forced to repeat the same horrors again and again? How about body horror- how does it feel to be forcibly transforming into a plague marine? Your body shifting and mind melting, and you can’t even die to stop it? EVEN DEATH IS NO ESCAPE. Time to enter the Ballardian dreamscape of your insane fungal reality! Dreams and truth intermix! What is real?? Does reality even mean anything in this hell? A crazed legion trapped in the dream of a mad god, poisoned with that madness until their personal reality melts and eventually, ultimately, they submit to the nightmare and emerge utterly changed! Sounds pretty great! 

Well none of that happens in the books really. The only way it simulates the horror of Nurgles touch is in how long and dull it is.

Morty is extra-stupid in this, cucked worse than Josh Reynolds being cucked out of a series, by Calas Typhon who pulls some of the most pantomime-villain “it was chaos all along whoo hoo haa ha” bullshit

The poor bloody death guard, always mildly badly written.

Easy to Swallow

James Swallow did some things well. ‘Nemesis’ isn’t bad, bits of ‘Fear to Tread’ are interesting and many of his short stories are quite Good Actually. 

The shorts are generally a much better bet than his longer tales since even if they are boring they are over fast and play well to his strengths of innovative pseudo-sci fi concepts mixed with 40k stuff

The Voice (short story)

A Black Ship straaaaands-oooff-ffaaaate story. Some Sisters of Silence board a Black Ship to uncover spooky doings, turns out they are mixed up with an attempt to use psykers to send a message back in time from the Future. There is this thing called a heresy and they need to stop it. One of the people sending the message back is a future version of someone on the ship now and….., I don’t remember the exact resolution but it ends badly.

Liars Due (short story)

A stranger comes to town on a small world, is he a villain? Yes. And he drives everyone mental with paranoia in order to collapse the society in preparation for team bad guy to arrive. IT’S THE ALPHA LEGION! Slightly notable for the end in which a farm boy chases him into space.

Hard to Swallow

However. For almost all the major elements he wrote about they were handled better by others
Or barely handled at all.

Sanguinius has never been done really WELL (except in ‘Echoes of Eternity)– though his appearances in other things have generally been better than Fear to Tread. Cool but shallow most of the time.

Sraight arrow-Garro outlived his core plot use and was a ping pong ball for most of the heresy until he was literally ping-ponged through a WARP HOLE to a MOON. His religiosity in a still-atheist culture is the most interesting thing about him but rarely comes up.

Morty and the Death Guard were written pretty consistently poorly throughout the Heresy and the book which covers their fall in detail is the WORST ONE. Christ Wraights embarrassing explanation chapter in ‘Warhawk’ is better than the entirety of ‘The Buried Dagger’. It might actually be one of the worst books of the series which is saying something, or would be if the sad tales of Nick Kyme were not there to take the top spot.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Cars, Chips and Rings

Part One -  A reality without Microchips

Microchips won't work in the Star Wars Galaxy

(I can't be the first person to have this idea)

But basically, digital technology can't exist in Star Wars. It seems like most of the things digital tech can do are still possible, but without the 'anything machine' of microchip-based computing, every single solution to each and every problem has to be artisanal, mechanical, analogue, making use of unique and particular properties of particular materials, distinct relationships between materials and systems etc.

It makes, honestly, a surprising amount of sense. Without the massive scaling abilities of microchips, and especially without the abilities of re-programmable computers and the information revolution that results, everything happens much, much slower.

This would be a world where there are still things like hand-screens, but without email as we understand it. Instead text messages would be more like.. analogue code transmissions of great complexity, decoded by receivers built only for that purpose.

Every single piece of tech in the Star Wars Galaxy has been worked out individually, specifically by individual people or small groups, maybe guilds or artisanal experts, who have spent maybe centuries working out how to assemble or build say, a particular kind of transmitter that works mechanically and with analogue transmissions. I suppose this is true for our world but what I mean is that every machine is, inside, working on potentially quite different mechanical and material principals.

Once you design it, industry still works and you can mass-produce them, but without widespread computer-aided design, computer-aided information recall, and the possibility of an infinitely re-programmable base tech, everything is artisanal in design, and designed for that purpose only.

So instead of a massive surge in design with the information revolution, we get something much more like the 19th century, with particular creators bevering away in particular groups or corporations, spending years and years working on something, maybe needing particular and rare materials in its construction and once it is made, perhaps needing very particular skilled work in its manufacture and the Guild or whoever wants their (huge) development costs back and so its going to cost you a bomb to buy one. Until maybe 100 or 200 year later when experience, economies of scale and widespread availability have finally made the thingy relatively cheap to produce.

This must be why the Star Wars Galaxy has such a long, slow tech development arc. Everything simply costs more, is harder to make and the resulting tech more expensive.

And without the internet, even more than our world, a realm of experts, of somewhat Renaissance-Men, those with expertise across the field of science, engineering and materials based on their own experience and contained more within their own minds. It’s harder to just reach out and grab the info you want, and even harder to work out what tool, technique or artisanal trick to use to achieve your desired goal for whatever widget you are working on.

Once you get interstellar travel, you get access to new, strange materials, which again creates something of a Victorian foreign policy. You might not be able to synthesise whatever-it-is you need for your thing, or if you can, it may be prohibitively difficult. But probably more important with a Galactic civilisation, you get access to alien minds. In a reality with only artisanal single-use semi-mechanical or analogue computers used probably only for specific hyper-difficult tasks, gaining access to alien experts and thinkers, and being able to share knowledge and expertise with them (via transmitted analogue "air-letter", or just by actual letter) would be indescribably valuable.

Its interesting to think about what our world might be like if microchips just.. didn't work. 

It would in some ways be a lot like the world of the late 60s/early 70s. No internet, no smartphones, no texting. But the technology and methods they did have then would have been improved on. So instead of the internet we might have something like a super-Ceefax. Instead of texting maybe some kind of pager/ticker tape machine. More wires, more cables, keep a notepad by the phone. Mechanical watches. Fewer small devices. Dials on things, less digital displays (as there is less for them to display). Electric typewriters. For scientists, instead of putting in a request for time on the super-computer, they would need to put together a joint request to build a calculation engine for certain major projects. 

Sliderules. Those space ships in Star Wars would probably have been put together by people with slide rules, very possibly drawing out the blueprints on actual paper.

Part Two - Rings in Arda

(I have not watched 'Rings of Power' nor do I intend to)

Is the 'invisibility' caused by the One Ring (and I think by some lesser rings) in fact a strange consequence of mixing the immortal spirit of a Rings creator with the mortal flesh of its wearer?

I think in Arda, firstly evil cannot actually create anything, only change and warp what is there and any power placed in a ring has to come from somewhere, it can't just be generated ex-tempore. So, like Sauron (literally) putting all of his malice and his 'will to dominate all life' into the One Ring, presumably the 'lesser rings' which were made around the same time all had qualities which came from, or were at least placed there by, particular creators. 

Presumably the power or qualities needed to make all other rings 'work' come in some sense (probably) largely from the soul of the creator, and Elves being immortal (or being recycled as long as Arda lasts) they have a lot of Soul to give, and a lot of qualities they can put in a ring.

But 'invisibility'; this is not a quality most things in Arda have. Yet Frodo wearing the ring is 'invisible' only to the living, to the dead he is very visible, as they are to him. So the invisibility is less pure invisibility and more being shifted somewhat into the world of the dead, or the sense-realm of the dead, and why would this be?

Perhaps because if you take a ring created by an immortal entity, one in which, in some sense, time on Arda cannot fully touch, that immortality probably intentionally becomes part of the 'ring', is made permanent, and that, in some distaff way, will apply to or at least effect the wearer of the ring. 

Which won't be a big deal if they are an elf of Mair as they are functionally immortal anyway, but if a very mortal, temporal, man, or hobbit, wears the ring, then the shadow of the eternal being is cast on them, and they are made a bit more 'eternal'.

Except it cant work as that’s not what they are, so they end up sensorially shifted into the realm of the dead, which is the closest Men can get to eternity on Arda.

Could be an early bug in ring design by Anatar and Celebrinbor.

I can imagine Celebrinbor thinking "ah these things are toxic to mortals, better be careful with that" and Anatar thinking "yesss yes ha ha ha ha you want some immortality buddy? You want to live forever my little mortal pal?"

Its also kinda interesting the differing motivations for Celebrinbor and Anatar in ring creation.

For Anatar/Sauron its pretty simple - install DRM in peoples souls and 'control all life' but he still needs to make the basic idea interesting enough that elves, and especially Celebrinborn, will help him out.

So what was Celebrinbors motivation in ring creation? Maybe an attempt to match his incredible ancestor Feanor. Maybe he just liked having a friend to hang out with (sad face). Maybe a futurist interest in partial soul-swapping - like, wouldn't it be interesting to share talents with your friends, you could give them your smithing for a bit and they could give you their whatever, or handing parts of yourself on to later generations in a more immediately useful way than just being standard elf-reincarnated or waiting for them in the halls of Mandos.

It could be a pure and holy motivation of trying to preserve more of what is good in Arda, which everyone knows is a place that can only slowly decay and dis-enchant, becoming less obviously divine and magical - probably the three Elven Rings are part of this and actually partially fulfil what was Celebrinbors main actual motivation - keeping bits of magic and eleven wonder and culture alive into a later age, so elves can hang out with, and presumably help, those later people and the world will be a bit less shitty.

Part Three - The Fall of 'Cars'

I can't stop thinking about the Cars universe, and specifically about what would happen, (from the Cars perspective) if it was interdimensionaly invaded by humanity.

What an utter nightmarish lovecraftian/Peter Watts horror story that would be.


Imagine what it would be like, as a living Car, to encounter a human being for the first time.

Firstly their utterly alien body plan, their manipulator tendrils, their disconcerting, almost unbelievable method of rhythmic locomotion. Incredibly slow yet somehow able to easily access and exploit strange and mixed terrain, finding paths, locations and access totally un-intuitive for a Car.

But the most horrific element would be that the aliens have something like a face, like the natural face all cars have, two eyes, an expressive mouth. And they have these cavities above the mouth, just below the eyes. Tiny tiny pseudo-faces with hair draped across the top.

And they can speak with these mouths, in tiny weak voices, in a language not dissimilar to that of Cars


An horrific example of the aliens technology is their creation and use of 'Zombie' Cars.

These at first seem to be just like actual Cars, from a distance their profile seems the same, but their movements, while capable of the same top speeds of a True Car, are staccato and often disjointed.

Horrifically, these 'Cars' have no faces, and no minds, they are in the shape of sentient things but have no sentience, no life at all.

Then the discovery is made as to how the Zombie Cars move.

The aliens burrow inside them, fitting themselves neatly into their brain case, then they control the Zombie cars movements with special arrangements. This is what a 'Zombie Car' is, an undead construct, created purely to allow a human to pilot it, to climb inside it and assume the powers of a True Car. 

You can even see the humans in there, behind the blank, empty 'eyes' of the undead car, a second small face grinning as it moves its spindly limbs and manipulates its undead host


At first the conflict between Cars and Aliens seems one-sided. The Cars are larger, faster, stronger, tougher. If caught in the open, even in their Zombie Cars, aliens simply can't match them.

The horror of 'killing' Zombie Cars breaks the minds of many Car assault troops, the Zombie must be essentially dismembered and the human spewed out before it can be run over. But as time goes by the very results of the conflict create a world in which the aliens have the advantage. Cities are broken, roads cracked and shattered, the complex network of fuel and oil deliveries Cars need to live starts to fray and break down.

Cars starve, or fall asleep.

In the ruins, in the cracks in the world, in places no-one ever thought to look or could even reach if they did, the humans move. They come in the night, slender, alien, horribly vulnerable if caught in the open, but they cling to the corners and empty spaces of the world, then the first possessions take place.


What horrifies about the first alien-car possessions is not just the nightmarish fusion of alien and car, but the ease and fluidity with which it takes place, and the ecstasy with which the first 'owned' cars seem to greet it.

All an alien needs to do is creep close enough to a car to 'open' it, using some unknown incomprehensible form of technology and ability, and they can slip inside a Car, moving behind its eyes, there, in the Cars inner self, they take control.

And the Car seems to like this.

At first shocked, outraged and horrified, the 'driven' Car sinks quickly into a kind of ecstatic half-somnolence, they are consumed utterly by the needs of the alien and fulfilling these needs brings deep deep joy. 

'Fulfilment' they call it.

As if, for all of the history of Cars, there was something missing within them, something they had no idea about, something of which they could not even conceive, for their experience had given them no such concepts but here, now, is revealed. They are complete.

Many of the first 'driven' cars are murdered, the Cars Government would say 'released' from the alien possession, by violence. The True Cars have no way to extract the alien inside except through the death of the host. Car families murder their own members, driving into them again and again. Military units kill their squad mates, bashing and smashing into them from every direction until they crack open and the alien inside can be crushed.

The 'driven' Car does not stay silent during this horror. Instead they beg and plead with those trying to destroy them. Though their movements are no longer their own, they can still talk and they beg for mercy, try to persuade their friends and families of the rightness of their cause
this, more than anything, crushes the morale of the Cars Nations;



It is the moral, almost spiritual horror of this new reality which ultimately breaks the society of Cars.

at first one city falls.

the mobs now, instead of punishing the Driven Cars, are made up of them. instead of crushing the aliens, they group together to hold down family members, strangers, anyone, surrounding them until their revving engine drains them dry, until the alien can enter. 

And then a new and blissful member of the possession cult is born.

Slowly their numbers grow.

The Cars government is forced to make use of Nuclear Cars missiles (which have faces also I suppose).

Ultimately the Cars President, unable to face the mass extermination of their own population, falls into madness, with the central government in tatters Cars America breaks into a patchwork of isolated survivor states.

Where there are long roads, flat land and ready oil, True Cars can still live, for a while, but the rest of the nation, the rest of the world, belongs to the invaders.

Thus falls the world of Cars.

Tuesday 11 October 2022

The Soothsayer Class

 Gazing into balls In a haze of misty weirdness, chuckling through pipe smoke, observing, and sometimes gutting, birds, brewing tea and being vague, do they even have powers at all? They don't look like they do much, yet things seem to go their way....


This is an experimental, somewhat conceptual class, based on an idea I had on the blog aaages ago; narrative wizard/old school fighter. A class in an old school bx-commons game where everyone else runs by normal old-school logic but one, a wizard, works via rules and patterns more familiar with what used to be called(?) 'story games'.

Essentially this would make the wizard character a kind of sub, or alter or co-DM for the game, able to introduce elements, shape the course of events, make some events more or less likely, or even certain or impossible.

Their spells, controlled by level and slot as the old Gygaxian master set down affect not the tactical situation, tactically they have the same options as an ordinary human, or a thief without skills, but are meant to interlace with the structure of the story of the game as it evolves. Quite literally changing fate

Some Basic Concepts;


Soothsayers, Haruspex and Fatemasters in general work to keep the nature of their powers secret and obscure. In many cases these powers can lose their effect if their nature is known. In others full knowledge of what they can do creates dangerous moral problems and difficult prophetic feedback effects.

As a general rule, consider this as a possibility; If the Soothsayer can cast the spell without either PCs or NPCs noticing, if takes effect. If anyone directly perceives the spell as a spell, then the targets must save vs spells against it.


Soothsayers start off knowing only one method of prediction. Roll randomly below. On each level gained roll again and if the result is already chosen, pick the closet adjacent available.

1. Examining Smoke from your own Pipe
2. Playing a Silver-Wired Guitar.
3. Casting Tarot Cards
4. Observing the flights of birds.
5. Reading the entrails of animals.
6. Reading Tea Leaves.
7. Observing the stars.
8. Reading palms.

Obviously if a Soothsayer can't obsere the stars or light their pipe they can't do their thing, and if they are known to be casting spells or reading fates then they might not work.


(these should be actually useful in low level adventures)

'Recall' the way - the Player can look at the DMs map for ten seconds.

"Seems like Troll country" - Player can look at the current encounter chart for ten seconds.

"You were meant to find it" - cast on a particular PC, the next time they search for a hidden thing that is present, they will find it, they need only look.

"Foolishly left unlocked" the next lock the Soothsayer tries will have been left unlocked.

"Curious Clouds today.." - the Soothsayer examines the clouds. The DM must roll or decide an extreme weather event, and how long it will last and communicate it secretly to the Soothsayer. This event will take place in d6 hours.

"Some suffer dark dreams" - Last night a single named individual whose name the PCs know, suffered painful nightmares in which the lowest-level PC figured strongly. Though they don't remember everything this individual will be troubled and frightened by this PC till they sleep again.

"A Message is on its Way" - For the next encounter. The next potential or actual foe of the PCs will receive a message which will radically change their behaviour. This will take place after 1 minutes of observation or conversation. If a fight breaks out the message will not reach them.


(what's the fatemaster equivalent to 'Fireball'?)

"The time is now" - Cast upon the PCs as a whole. When they next encounter an enemy, that enemies morale has already been damaged by previous events unknown to the PCs, in this case if forced to test morale, this foe will break automatically without a roll.

"Not by the hand... of man..." - The Soothsayer prophecies that, before the next dawn, one named individual known to them, shall not die, by one specific physical means. i.e. not by the blade, not by the 'hand of man', not by poison, not by spellcraft'. This prediction becomes true though it refers only to death and not any similar status like mutilation, petrification, madness, etc. The Soothplayer must use the simplest possible descriptor for that physical means. The DM can ask for a more specific wording if the Soothplayer uses "by violence" or something like that.

Unholy Knowledge - Through a foul and disturbing ritual which must not be observed, the  Soothsayer discovers a hidden truth. The Soothplayer can write a single question on a note and pass it to the DM. The DM writes a note back and MUST answer honestly, though they are free to be terse. If the  character OR Soothplayer ever directly or specifically mentions what they have learned from that answer the DM is allowed to change the truth of it. 

"it carries a shared doom" - Can be cast a weapon, arrow, tool etc when 'found'. It cannot be cast on a weapon the party already holds. This weapon is fated to kill a particular, named opponent whom the party has encountered already. IF they fight using this weapon then it will always hit and always wound to the greatest damage possible against this one, singular opponent. However, if lost, dropped, fumbled or in any way turned against the wielder, it will do the same to them.


Their Fate is Set - during the NEXT encounter one named enemy will suffer the maximum damage from any successful attack.

"They shall not prevail" - during the next combat encounter, the enemies of the PCs will not win. If the PCs prevail 'normally', no action need be taken. However, if the PCs are 'losing' this encounter, the DM may intercede to make sure the enemy of the PCs does not "win". The means and method by which they do this are entirely up to the pleasure of the DM.

"Your goal is near" - Is 'cast' upon a single PC with the focus of one single, particular physical goal of that PC. The DM must inform the Soothplayer exactly where it is and what stands between the PC and their goal. The Soothsayer, and Soothplayer, may communicate this to the PC once, verbally, and ONLY in the form of poetic rhyme. If the Soothsayer or Soothplayer communicates the same information in any other way at any time, the DM may change the details referred to.

Prophecy - the Soothsayer makes a Nostrodamus-style prophecy. A prophecy is made up of an object or identity, an action or situation and a result and reads something like; "when the king of crows swims in wine, the mage shall fall". the Soothplayer takes three pieces of paper. They keep one for themselves, give one to the DM and one to another player. The Soothplayer can decide who writes which element, i.e. "I will write the result, you Jack write the object or person and you DM write the action or incident", but they cannot control _what_ each individual writes, and none of them can reveal what they are writing to each other during this process. Each individual then hands back thier slip to the Soothplayer who reveals them. The Soothplayer then may combine each of these elements in a single sentence with no punctuation - this sentence is then TRUE for this campaign until its prophecy is fulfilled.