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So, we have a topic for Kickstarter news, and another for tools and softwares.


This is a topic of ideas. I will mostly use this to link to ideas of other people, partially because I intend to use mine instead of talking about them over the internet, and partially because other people sometimes have really ****ing cool ideas.


Feel free to discuss them, link something cool, or post your own stuff.


The Awakened


 It seems that any sentient creature can become an Awakened, simply by staying awake for an extended period of time.

Sleep is poorly understood, but nearly all creatures have some form of it. The druids tell us that even ants sleep.  However, the best theories that purport to explain the necessity of sleep sound like disingenuous bromides.  "Sleep is a way to reset the brain." or "Sleep is how memories are sorted and filed." Or "Just as the body needs rest, so does the brain."  These answers are shallow responses to a much deeper question, all of them ultimately unsatisfying.  What lies behind the veil of sleep?

There are certainly some reasons to believe that it may be something inimical, or even sinister.  The barbarians of the Fangolian wastes believe that sleep is brought by Gemmon, who sleeps on a bed of black feathers and who is the twin brother of Thaskalya, or Death.

The amount of sleep deprivation necessary for "onset" is 3-4 weeks in humans.  This has been confirmed in experiments carried out with certain forbidden drugs and magics--I will not print their names here lest someone think of imitating this most dangerous experiment.  Thesophar the Gilded--rest his soul--did the most research on the subject, and in both of his experiments the elf and the dwarf were murdered before they evinced anything beyond the normal characteristics of sleep deprivations. Demihumans may be immune, but it is more likely that they simply require longer periods of sleep deprivation before becoming Awakened.




They speak of bizarre, almost nonsensical things.  However, several phrases and ideas are common enough to warrant a mention here: "the world behind the sun", "dreamers/sleepers/sleepwalkers" (referring to humans), "the coldness that birthed us all", and "the place between".  The best narrative that Thesophar was able to piece together was that all sentience--NOT "sentient creatures" but sentience itself--was once a thing very similar to an Awakened, or at least from a similar origin.  Sentience is them. . . or they are sentience.  They are our own consciousnesses--the thing that says, "I think, therefor I am"--but from a horrific, external source that we have all forgotten.  It is only by sleep deprivation that the "mind of the flesh" falls away and our naked consciousness is allowed to see the bare truths of the universe, the cosmic underpinnings of all things. . . and to remember what we were, each of us, before we were conceived. 

Thesophar once compared them to souls:  ". . . but if these things are our souls, then they are souls that have forgotten what they once were, and what place they came from.  Perhaps it is no great Nirvana that imbues our bodies with the divine spark, and there is no Great Wheel that washes the memories of our past lives, but things such as these.  Perhaps this is the dark mystery of the human heart."

Of course, these notions are false for reasons that are so apparent that I will not reprint them here.  Thesophar himself said as much, prior to his crucifixion for the crime of blasphemy.  The Church acted rightly--Thesophar's experiments were taking on the dangerous edge of obsession.

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Another excellent post from Arnold K, fleshing out Cauterus, a cursed nation of demon cultists, crazy druids turned up to eleven, and royal cannibals.





A bag saint appears to be a human whose skin has been completely replaced with fabric, most frequently good quality wool.  The fabric is usually dyed in specific colors, usually a combination of plaids and tartans, moons, polka dots, etc.

Bagsaints do not speak.  Their tongues have been cut off.  Males are castrated, and sterility is likewise chemically induced in the females.  Their fingers are bound together, giving them permanent mitten-hands.  Their teeth are also removed.

Beneath their woolen skin, bagsaints do not think much, because they have been lobotomized.  The top of their skull is also removed and replaced with a wooden cap.  The inside of this wooden skullcap is carved with phrases from God-in-the-Woods' scriptures and naturalistic iconography.  They communicate with each other via shuffling dances.

They tend to be smelly, since their woolen skin can't perform many of the functions that biologic skin can.  They have their woolen skin replaced every month or so.  If their woolen skin is removed, they are as vulnerable as a flayed person would normally be, and will invariably die soon after.  Not that they live very long anyway.

Although bagsaints are former members of the community, it is forbidden to refer to them by their old name.  Even if it were your mother who was taken away and made into a bagsaint, the cult does not allow anyone to treat them differently based on who they were before.  Bagsaints are assumed to have forgotten all of their former lives, anyway.

Bagsaints are touted as the embodiment of civilization.  The end point of modernization.  The first man who wrapped his body in woven cloth committed a sin, and that sin is magnified and extrapolated in the form of the bagsaint.

Just as humans have hidden their sexuality beneath chiffon and lace, so has the bagsaint been neutered.  Just as humans have forgotten the succor of violence and self-reliance, so has the bagsaint been made harmless, lacking teeth or claws.  And just as humans have allowed their voices to become meaningless babble full of gossip, lies, and politeness, so has the bagsaint been rendered mute.

"Look at the bagsaint!" cries the cult.  "Is it not disgusting?  This is what your so-called civilization would have brought you!  To worship the bagsaint is to worship cheap kings, crass materialism, and filthy lucre!  But now we have shown you what it truly is, you have been enlightened!"



Royal Cannibals


I've already written a full article about them.  But in a nutshell. . .

When the royal family was overthrown, most of them escaped into the inland hills.  They still persist, living in their secret tunnels beneath the ground.  Their subterranean society has been made in imitation of the courtly lifestyle they once enjoyed, and they refer to themselves as princes, princesses, knights, barons, etc.  All this despite (or because) they live in dirty holes in the ground.

In order to ensure greater stability and fertility, they have used alchemy to give themselves the physiologies of ants.  A single, enormous queen constantly gives birth, while sterile men go hunting for food (often sheep or human) while sterile women care for the royal apartments.  Rarely, the queen will choose to birth a fertile princess and several fertile princess for her to marry, and they will go found a new colony.


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Patrick S has managed to make the drow... less boring.



 Imagine an ocean, a deep one. Imagine the water is black and dark like North-Sea mud. Imagine things living in it, thickly-knitted limbs that churn like a mower motor left tipped up and switched on, cutting blindly in long grass. You can’t see the limbs, or the things to which the limbs attach, but you can feel their movement in the thick black sea. They regard you. They hate you. A hate so deep they tear frantically at their own flesh in substitute for reaching yours.

Imagine the sea restrained by glass. Like the walls of an aquarium built on titanic scale. You stand before the sea that rises out of sight and curves to the horizon on each side. You can hear the surface fretting up its waves in storm a distant mile above your head. The glass holds everything back. Inside it you can see brief churnings of that midnight high-pressure world, raging at your presence just beyond its reach.
Imagine that the glass is beautifully made. Etched and engraved with perfect smiling forms. Beyond it, the black water, but, when the light slants just-so across the pane, a field of translucent harmony gleams, worked there on its surface by hands and minds that leap the greatest human art. A genius casually employed that vaults with ease the best that man has ever made. Crystal signature of thoughtless superiority. So perfect are its fields and processions that when seen, even glimpsed in a trickle of lateral light, you want to live there, with those frozen people, inside the surface of that glass.
This is the Drow.
This is how much the Drow hate you.
This is how much they control that hate.
The offence of your existence cannot be easily expressed.
The Drow are not angry that you live, they are amazed. The knowledge of you stabs them in the flesh with every recollection and event. Though they know it well, the wound of your existence will not close. Each memory of you, each experience, all evidence of your continued being, is like a knife twisting in the skin.
No other species could absorb such titanic contempt and remain sane. They would be reduced to raving berserkers, living only to kill, directly, the loathed enabler of their pain.
But the Drow are old, they know much of patience and control. Nothing is done without intent.
They can speak of you. They can name you. They can even see you in the flesh without breaking down. Some can even speak to you as if you were real, as if your name was something other than the froth-flecked gargling of a beast that dreamed it had a soul. As if your language did not taste like **** on their tongue.
Everything that can be done is being done. The situation is difficult, but there is time. There is always time. They must endure, as they have for so long.
They know an hour will come when horrors fade. When nothing else thinks or speaks upon the earth or in its veins. When even the memory of any other monstrous thing has been expunged. Then. Finally. There will be only Drow.
And they will be at peace. They will live to see it. They do not die.


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Zak S on the inherent complexity of RPGs



 The way I see it, there are a few basic places where fun comes from in an RPG:

-There's hanging out with your friends--who I hope are creative, hilarious, and interesting people. This is fun but it can be done without the RPG.

-The second thing is telling a story collaboratively. The story-providing duties get divided up in different ways between players, GM, and publisher (if published setting stuff is being used), but the point is the transcript of play will be a story that everybody at the table had at least some input into. This also is fun and also could be done without the RPG. You could just write a story about some medieval people or space people or whatever, email it around for a few weeks or months and then you'd have a story.

-The third thing you're doing is "playing a game" in a more traditional pre-simulatory-wargame, pre-rpg sense--that is, trying to succeed in some arbitrary challenge involving some mix of chance and/or skill, whether that be killing monsters or just turning the plot of the story the way you want it to turn. Like the other two funs, this fun can be done without the RPG--if you play a video game at home by yourself you can have this kind of fun.

-A fourth place fun comes from is the distance between the three sources of fun. And this fun can only be had with a tabletop RPG (or PBEM or other electronic variants).

This fourth place, I suggest, is where a very big proportion of the fun comes from




The players are something, the rules are something, and the story is something and they clash and don't make any kind of Classical drama and it's all postmodern and ****.

This is--for every player I've seen, and for every player I've heard in an actual-play recording--the typical mode. A racing back and forth between the story-identity and the human identity, plus the drama of simply trying to get **** done against some rules. There are very probably people who don't roll like this, (and some of them are probably reading this) but I have absolutely no first-hand experience of watching or hearing them play.

In this way, you get to have your cake and eat it, too. You get both Lord of the Rings and the Mystery Science Theatering of the Lord of the Rings. In this way, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts--it's not just hanging out with your friends plus an adventure story plus the challenge of a game--it's also and largely that fourth thing that only happens when all of them happen together.

I don't think the Distance affects the ability of the game events to be genuinely interesting. Kimberly's character is called Lady Smashalot. That doesn't stop her from getting scared when her character ****s up or getting worried when she doesn't know what to do or being engaged enough in the weird things happening in the game world to find them interesting as a fiction.




In terms of my awareness of what's going on in the game as a player my mind is constantly racing in a loop from "Oh wow, the Temple of Demogorgon is carved from the ice of solidified tears!" to wanting Mandy to hurry up and pass the ****ing Raisinets. I enjoy this racing. And I suspect that when a lot of people say they don't purposefully want to inject heavy "relevant" themes into their games it's not necessarily because they play to escape reality, but because--like me--when they play they never escape reality, and so any "theme" always remains at a distance. Injecting a theme which one was genuinely conflicted about into this style of play would be, in some way--for this kind of player--trivializing it.

So--for the player who's got distance--when you put together the elf's story you aren't designing the whole experience, you're designing one pole of it--the simple backboard you're bouncing off of. If the typical dungeoncrawl seems devoid of "human complexity", it's because many people who play this kind of game assume the "human complexity" is automatically at the table. The genre tropes and problem-solving situations throw the real people into relief.


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Arnold K wrote up magic shields!



 Pangolin Cloak

This is a cloak made from a giant desert pangolin.  It was crafted by the elves of the Dustwind.  It looks exactly as if it were taken off the back of a giant ****ing pangolin.  I can't explain it any better than that.

The shield is currently is the possession of a desert elf called Viniculaf, leader of the Dustwind outriders.

  • If the shield is gripped in one hand and pulled around the body, it is mechanically treated as a magic shield.  This is cool, but doesn't give any benefit a magic shield normally would.
  • As an action (instead of attacking, casting a spell, or whatever) the cloakbearer can pull the clok around themselves and curl up into a ball.  This gives them 18 AC, but also makes them immobile and unable to see or do anything until they uncurl.  It also reduces damage from falls and impacts by 1d6.
  • The cloakbearer can use a hill to crash into a foe.  The foe must make a save or take 3d6 damage.  Dropping onto foes from a height can be done similarly, but I'll let the DM arbitrate that.
I'm sorry.  I just love pangolins so ****ing much.  You don't understand do you?  Have you seen a baby pangolin?  They have sweet little face and awesome little claws.  You just want to pick them up and nuzzle them and teach them to hunt armadillos and pay for them to get through college.

Turtle Paw

This shield looks like a turtle shell, all made from mossy greens and vibrant, iridescent panels of turquoise.  It is, in fact, a living sort of mutant turtle.  Or, a turtle-ish creature, since it is not very much like a turtle when you get down to it.  It only has two legs and no apparent head. 

It is worn by shoving your arm down its throat and wearing it like a shield.  The turtle paw doesn't mind.  It will happily attempt to digest your arm with powerful acids.  That is why you must also wear the Turtle Glove when you do this.  The Turtle Glove goes up past your elbow, and is made from the intestinal lining of a similar creature.

There is only one living Turtle Paw known to remain in the world (although you can find their shells in many an armory).  It is kept by the monks of the Rigaleign Cloud Garden, and they are desperately seeking a second one to mate with theirs.

  • Counts as both a shield (+1 AC) and an offhand weapon (+1 to hit), since the rear legs end in wicked claws.  +1 AC and +1 to hit.
  • Can also jet around underwater, letting you swim at 3x the normal human rate.
Pangolins are also called trenggiling.  Baby pangolins have soft scales that harden and thicken as they get older.  They are insectivores, and most of them are picky enough to only eat a couple of species of insects.  
Magic Dragon Skull Power Shield
Yo this is a magic dragon skull power shield and you get them from killing magic power dragons.  It has many powers that are magical.
  • Can bite people for 1d8 damage.
  • Can breath fire 1/day.  15' cone.  5d6 fire damage.
  • Can roar 1/day.  All creatures in 30' except shieldbearer save vs fear or flee for 1d6 rounds.
Pangolin forelegs are thick and best suited for digging, and so pangolins usually only walk on their back legs, using their heavy tails to keep their front legs a few inches of the ground (like a suspension bridge).  Their tongues are like anteater tongues, and are longer than their entire bodies.  And people have made armor from their scales before.


Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Patrick S has a few words about how wearing plate mail underground would kill you.


Arnold K brings some really cool gonzo monsters to the table.




This is like a motorcycle, except instead of a gas tank, it has a zombified brain floating in a tank full of green liquid.  The brain tank is usually clear, so you can see the corrugated brain mean clearly through the plastic emerald shine.  

The green fluid is called necro-combustive powersoup.  It's what's used to power the combustion engine.  The necrocombustive powersoup is recycled--it is used to power the engine again and again.  The powersoup is re-energized by the insanity resonance between the zombie brain and the rider.
The more insane the rider, the faster the psychocycle goes.
For a rider with Wis 10, the psychocycle goes about as fast as a horse.  10/10 = 100% speed.
For a rider with Wis 5, the psychocycle goes about twice as fast.  10/5 = 200% speed.
For a rider with Wis 15, the psychocycle goes about 2/3 as fast.  10/15 = 67% speed.
If the rider chooses to permanently sacrifice a point of wisdom to the psychocycle, the vehicle will kick into overdrive.  Green flames will blast out the exhaust, the tires will leave green flamelets licking the trail, and the vehicle will go about 5x faster.  It will also be able to pull 5x as much.  This lasts for 1 minute.  At the beginning of the minute, the rider must save or go insane for 1d20 minutes, and endure impossible colors, vivid hallucinations, and uncontrollable impulses.
Unicorn Addicts

Every part of the unicorn is magical and addictive.  Even a unicorn's poop is mystical.  Eating a full unicorn patty restores 1 HP and causes a pleasant euphoria.  While powerful and gnashing warlords are accustomed to throwing unicorn feasts every year or so (or whenever they feel that their life is growing boring and wish to invite some bloody calamity to liven it up), there is a sadder victim of the unicorn's addictive juices.

They can be easily identified by the (usually curved and stunted) monohorn growing from their foreheads.  Sometimes they cover these horns up with little hats and ribbons.

Unicorn addicts follow unicorn herds around.  These are usually disheveled, unwashed, malnourished people who persist in wearing the brightest colors possible.  They sometimes kidnap virgins in order to entice unicorns closer (possible plot hoot).  They also have horrific breath, due to the constant consumption of unicorn dung.  Many of them are strange, irrational, and  unscrupulous in their desperation to be close to unicorns.

Unicorn Addict
XP 20 HD 1 AC 11 Mv 12 Quarterstaff +1 (1d6), Boomerang +1 (1d6) 50' Save 5+ Morale 8 Int 10/zany
Pacifistic Prattle, Spell Dance, Zany
Pacifistic Prattle: No one take take any offensive actions against unicorn addicts.  This effect ends if the unicorn addict (or his allies) do anything offensive or suspicious, OR if a PC makes a save (they only get one attempt).
Spell Dance: If three or more unicorn addicts spin around in a circle while rubbing their horns, they can cast sleep.  If 20 or more unicorn addicts spin around in a circle, they can cast cure light wounds.  They can do this as many times per day as they want.
Zany: After each round of combat, roll a d10.  1 - Berserk mode.  2 - Run away.  3 - Pledge eternal loyalty (as long as they get a steady payment of unicorn dung).


Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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This is the coolest thing written about wizards, ever.



 When they're not being cast, spells occupy a different dimension than us.  That dimension overlaps with our own, because all dimensions overlap.  It's a plane composed not of atoms or molecules, but consciousness.  Wizards call it the ethereal plane.  It "looks" empty to our eyes because we cannot see the stable, self-sufficient elements of sentience that compose it.

Another word for a stable, self-sufficient element of sentience is "spell".  The power of a spell relies on the tension between the ethereal plane and the material.  A spell's energy, to generate heat or light or power, doesn't seem to come from any material source, because it doesn't.  The ethereal plane powers spellcasting.  Sentience itself powers magic (and sentience is about as difficult to define as magic is).

Memorizing a spell is not like memorizing a series of noises and hand motions.  It's like inviting a spell into your brain by creating a suitable environment for it to reside.  It's like building a trap for an external fragment of sentience.  It's like creating an impression in our dimensional fabric so that water on the other side can pool there.  It's like a gravity well.
That's why casting a spell "erases it from your memory"--because it's not erasing anything.  It's merely the dissipation of a certain pattern of consciousness.
To put it another way, it's like weaving a netted bag (out of your neurons) to catch (invite) a fish (spell).  You can't handle this fish with your hands, so your only way to affect that fish is through handing the bag.  And then when you want to hit something with the fish, you throw it, releasing both the bag and the fish.  (Why do all of my metaphors get stupid at the end?)
This is why why wizard neurons literally tie themselves in knots.  This is why wizard brains twist themselves into maddening shapes, and carve the inside of the skull.  This is why wizard heads are valuable even if they are severed.  This is why wizards invariably go mad.  (The only wizards who don't go mad are the ones who've managed to cast the fewest spells.)
And this is why wizards are some of the most ignorant people on the planet:
Because spellcasting requires a very specific microenvironment in a very small part of the wizard's brain, the act of "memorizing" a spell requires cultivation of certain mental traits.  Not only must wizards learn otherworldly esoterica, but they must also believe some of it as well.

And so wizards believe such strange things because they must.  If they stopped believing in these things, they would cease being wizards.  No spell would ever come to roost in a brain that hasn't contorted itself into a suitable nest!  The regular sulci and gyri of sailors and scholars are but vulgar and transient to spells.
And so wizards believe that there are barnacles that turn into geese.  That black cats herald doom.  That certain circular patterns can trap demons inside when made from silver.  That crows can carry away souls.  That the planet is hollow and is lit by a miniature star.  That the speak with dead spell actually allows communication with the spirit of one who has passed.
They guard their thoughts by following strange traditions.  They filter their perception of reality by isolating themselves in tower and in monasteries.  In their books they have built a false history of the world with false maps and false assumptions.  And yet the same wizards who can level a city block with a few words are also the ones who have no idea how boats float or babies are concieved.



(Bonus points for Borges reference.)

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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The Seven Dooms of Elysion, a nice collection of apocalyptic entities. One would think that it's hard to improve upon PST's rat-hivemind, but I have to admit, a giant kaiju corpse-golem-thing operated by a rat-hivemind is even cooler.

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"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Exalted actual play: The Immanence Design




 How the Fade Got His Cloak

Once there was a man who was very good at hiding. 

This was a very long time ago, when there were very many people who were very good at lots of things. There were people who were very good at fighting and people who were very good at leading and people who were very good at talking and people who were very good at knowing. There were even others who were very good at hiding, but this man was the best at hiding of them all. He was called the Fade, but that wasn't really his name, and nobody actually called him that way back then. 

There were also lots of people who were less good at things than the people who were very good at them. One day they got jealous, and decided to get rid of all the people who were better at things than they were. So they all got together and killed as many as they could find, the ones who were very good at fighting and the ones who were very good at leading and the ones who were very good at talking and the ones who were very good at knowing, but certainly didn't know that this was going to happen, and even some of the ones who were very good at hiding, who apparently weren't as very good as they'd thought. 

But they couldn't catch the Fade. Not at first. But after he'd escaped, he looked around at the world, and saw that he was one of the only ones left. He wouldn't be able to hide forever, not after all his brothers got found and killed and everybody was looking out for just him. But the Fade was clever, and he thought that if he couldn't hide himself, he could hide all the parts that made him himself. 

First he hid his name; he dug a hole, then he put his name in it, and when one of the Fair Folk came along to see what was caught in the hole, the Fade pushed him in. After a week without sustenance, the Fair One ate the name so that he wouldn't starve, and then the Fade let him back out, so that he could return to the Far Marches of the Wyld and take his name with him. 

Next the Fade hid his memories. He put them all in little boxes, and made little straps so that he could hold onto them all at once. That way his memories didn't have to be in his head, and when he wore the little boxes, he'd know everything he'd need to know. 

His two swords were bright and made of gold, so he had to sit and think for a month about where to hide them so that they wouldn't glitter and shine and draw attention to themselves. He sat and sat, until finally one day he had an idea. He got up and he walked as far north as he could (and this was very far indeed, because Creation was much bigger in those days). He swam through seas choked with ice, but the cold couldn't find him to suck the life out of him. He walked through miles and miles of lifeless tundra, but hunger couldn't find him to sap the muscle off his bones. He climbed ice-cliffs as tall as the sky, and the earth couldn't find him, so that even when he slipped off, he wouldn't hit the ground but could instead just go back to climbing again. Finally he made it to the very end of Creation, and he grabbed the edge and he looked over the side. He couldn't see what was beyond -- he was very very good at hiding, but he was still mortal, after all -- but he could see that, just as he thought, there was a seam between Creation and the Underworld, like the space between two slices of bread. He slipped his gold swords into that seam, and so long as they stayed in-between, nobody could guess where they were. 

Then the Fade walked back south, and as he did, he thought some more. Some of the people who were trying to kill him could read things in the sky. Worse, they were going to get to him sometime or other, and even if he did manage to hide from them, he couldn't hide from Time. Once he died, they'd have their hands on him, and it would be the end. All his hard work would be for nothing. He thought and he thought, but he couldn't see any way out of it. The more he thought, the more desperate his plans became -- impersonate one of the Maidens! Learn to walk on his cheekbones, so that when Death came, he'd laugh so hard he'd let the Fade get away! Suddenly the Fade felt very alone. His memories were all hidden in far away boxes, his weapons were far out of reach, a Fae noble had stolen his name, and most everything in Creation wanted to kill him. The Fade couldn't hide himself from despair, and he sat down on top of a glacier and began crying with all his might. 

He didn't know how long he'd been weeping when the voice interrupted him. "Pardon me, O Prince of the Earth, but I cannot help but notice that you are in some distress." The Fade looked up. Standing in front of him, on top of the glacier, was a man wrapped crown-to-toe in a beautiful cloak. The man had one big extra eye instead of a mouth, and when it blinked, the Fade heard his words melt their way up through his nostrils. "Do not be confused, O Prince, for I am one of the Yozis, and the Gods, in their jealousy, decreed that we must be all mixed-up before they would allow us to live. Now I see that their jealousy has spread so far that they cannot even suffer their Chosen to live in glory, for why else would a man hide his name, his memories, and his swords, if not to try to hide himself from the Gods?" 

"You speak well, O Demon Prince," said the Fade, his cleverness returning now that he saw a worthy foil. "Indeed, you have the right of it, and I am to be cast down like the rest of my brethren, because we grew too bright and too strong for our lessers to abide. But tell me, foul one, how is it that you can be here in Creation, under the watchful eye of the Unconquered Sun, treading upon the flesh of your traitorous sister, without bearing the dismaying brunt of their disapproval?" 

"Ah, the pitiful remnants of my soul are cut to the quick by your plight, O Prince, so I will honor your question with a reply, though it is one of the darkest secrets of my green-lit home. The virtue is in my cloak," the demon said, flaring the garment wide to allow the Fade to see the inner lining. "Witness the yellow-green constellations of my home, coaxed down from the squat heavens of Malfeas by the seductive songs of the tower-sirens which dot my brother's thick surface-skin, and sewn into the trim by generations of seamstresses, each of whom could manage only a single stitch before being immolated by the citrine radiance. While I wear it, none who dwell under the stars of Heaven can know me, or my fate." 

That cloak is a cunning thing indeed, thought the Fade. Fortunately, I am the more cunning still. "O Yozi," he said out loud, "it is clear to us both that your garment is the solution to my current predicament. Still, it would be insulting to us both to presume that you could be cajoled into simply giving it to me." The man blinked his great mouth-eye in pleasant acknowledgment, for the Fade's words were no less than his due. "But it would demean neither of us to consider a trade, would you not agree?" 

"Indeed, O man," the Yozi twinkled, "you know that it is in the nature of demons to appreciate a finely-crafted bargain. And yet, do not think me disrespectful were I to point out that you have very little with which to bargain. You are bereft of name, memory, and weapon: what could you offer in exchange for this wondrous cloak, the hell-borne fruit of ages of labor?" 

"I could offer you my soul," said the Fade. 

"Wouldn't give an obol for it," confessed the Yozi, mirth gleaming through his eye. "That's always the first thing you mortals offer, and there's rather a glut on them, I do confess." 

"I had anticipated that, and made the offer for form's sake, merely. Might I then offer you my mouth?" 

"With which to speak, perhaps? I can do so very well already, as you no doubt have observed. With which to lick the secret places of my consort Brasidas, the Wasp Whose Sting Is Inspiration And Abandon? The novelty would wear out long before your tongue, under the acid touch of her blissful secretions. To affix to my forehead, and therefore cause the mortals to scream even louder when I ride out among them during the five days of Calibration? You must think me a crude, rough beast indeed to propose such a thing." 

The Yozi, bored, began to turn away, when the Fade's voice came yet again: "Truly, sir, yours is a discerning mind, and a keen eye for a bargain, if you will allow so clumsy a pun to pass my lips without taking your just due of umbrage. I tender to you, then, my final offer. For your cloak, sewn with the yellow-green stars of Malfeas, I make this offer: I will give you my death." 

The demon stood teary-eyed in amazement. "Your death? What would I want with your death? It is a limit, the boundary which circumscribes you, mortal. What use could I, undying, have for such a thing?" 

"Ah," said the Fade, studiously diffident. "I had thought better of the fabled perversity of the Demon Princes. They sought out all that was forbidden, to embrace them for the sheer joy of violation. That they might understand the breathtaking vertigo of limit, of constraint, of boundary. That they might thrill in tainting their own natures with the base stuff of mortality. Alas, I was misinformed, and I therefore am undone." Dejected, the Fade began his long slow climb back towards the frozen seas, and the new Realm of the Dragon-Blooded which wished for nothing better than his heart. 

"Wait!" called the Yozi. "You have piqued my interest, O Prince of the Earth. It is true, none among my fellows have tasted this death of yours -- at least, none who dwell now in Malfeas, death being the part of our Neverborn cousins who slumber dreamingly on Oblivion's blasted slope. Such a thing might have value indeed, value enough to be parted from my cloak." 

"I salute your discernment, O demon, and gratefully accept your acceptance. As there is no use wasting time in matters of business, I trust you will have no objection to handing over the cloak immediately?" 

"Fine, fine," the Demon Prince said grouchily, unhappy to be giving up his prize before first tasting the sweet merit of his bargain, and divested himself of his great cloak. The Fade wrapped it around himself hungrily, savoring the scent of mothballs and burning metals. "Now, then, the cloak is yours. Where, then, is your death?" 

"It is here," boomed the earth, as it felt the foulness walking on top of it. "It is here," whispered the sky, as its gaze beat down upon the uncleanness which offended its sight. "It is here," sighed the wind, as it caressed the demon like a hated lover. "It is here," cried the host of Sidereals, who had been sneaking up on the Fade even as he bargained. 

And that is how the demon got his death, and the Fade got his cloak.

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Castle Psychedelic Panic Dracula to the rescue!



 There are two Draculas.

One is the proper Dracula. Proper gothic:




Cobwebs, corridors, decay. Darkness relieved only by torchlight.

There is (barring the occasional wolf or wife) only one real monster. This is classic horror--there's tension and the fear of anticipation. Suspense. Depression. Mood. Eerie quiet.

This Dracula is fine for a book or a movie or a short story. Or a night of Call of Cthulhu. And a very good GM can manage to make one work in D&D.

But more often in serial fiction, when you have to stretch it and do it again and again and provide variety and detach the character from the tale they were designed to live in, this Dracula starts to go cheesy:Ravenloft and Hammer Horror films and Marvel's Tomb of Dracula comics all spin Dracula out with as much extra gothic as they could stuff in--werewolves and zombies and revenants and chains and floating armor and set-pieces and…

…and it loses something. Because one is the Gothest number. The Count loses his loneliness--and his story isn't about him any more--it's about the next thing you put in the frame with him. It can be fun, but its a series of moments that work or don't, and make you forget yourself or don't, rather than the long terrible dream of the true unified gothic.

But there's another Dracula who is quite at home with the genre addict's voracious need for novelty, with video games' need for 500 foes, with the gore movies' need for endless weird new deaths, with the comic book that just keeps going and going until it gets cancelled and the RPGs' need to fill weird places with even weirder places.

And that Dracula is Psychedelic Panic Dracula.

In Castle Regular Dracula you might find, like, an eyeball in a teacup. But it'll be in black and white and won't do anything and you'll look away right away and go back to being scared. In Castle Psychedelic Panic Dracula there's like a whole eyeball-in-teacups-wing and each one induces a different kind of fever.



The horrors surrounding Regular Gothic Dracula are intimations that He is coming--foreshadowings of him, a clue that his personal drama and wickedness is coming, whereas every ****ed magical thing in the House of Psychedelic Panic Dracula is just evidence of how much madness Dracula is lord of. He's a figurehead and they are his only real content.


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Zak S. has one of the most intense imaginations I've ever seen. His Vornheim City book is flat out amazing.


Yeah. And more importantly, he understands art and aesthetics on a level that is rare among D&D afficionados.

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Read Magic fumble table!






6 Your eyes snap open wide and fill with churning pink clouds, black at the edges like a storm, dim flashes of light perceivable in their midst.
You find yourself blind, groping in lurid darkness, until your eyes settle back on the page. Your eyes are permanently ensorcelled, unable to see anything but writing, but able to decipher any written language or cipher without aid of any kind.
You may find that there is a kind of poetry in the fibre of the world itself, but learning to read that will take some time.


11 Heat emanates from the page and you absent-mindedly place your hand against it to feel the warmth.
The ink burns into your skin like a tattoo.
The first lie you tell will become true, and the writing on your hand will change to remind you of that for all time.


13 The edges of the book slice your fingers open before it drops to the floor, leaving tiny rows of perfect bloodless papercuts.
They will never heal, and from this moment forth you will bleed prose.
It is not for me to know what secrets may be found in your blood.


17 Tendrils snap out from the crease of the book, penetrating your chest and belly, churning as some drain and others pump.
Your organs liquefy and drain out with your blood, and in its place your body fills with fluid like liquid golden light.
You glow like a pinkish-gold beacon, and take a -5 penalty to saves vs. Magic, but cannot be poisoned and gain a d4 bonus to Cast the Bones and Conduit of the Cosmos rolls.




4 The words seem to drive themselves through your pupils, expanding from within and showering your companions with optic fluid, in place of your eyes remain two rolling black orbs, words and phrases wafting from them like smoke.
Somehow you remain able to see, and much hidden knowledge can be learnt by anyone studying your eyes. However, if you spend time looking at your own reflection you must save vs. Magic every 10 minutes after the first 20 or gain a random Insanity. If you fail you must roll under your Wisdom to avoid staring back into your swirling orbs for another 10 minutes.
Even if you never glimpse your reflection, there is a 5% chance every week that the words of the orb will waft back into your brain, subtly changing who you are. Roll on a personality or character quirk table.


8 Fragrant mud pools within the letters and begins to spill down the object, crabs with voices like angels emerge from the pooled muck and beseech to be allowed within you.
They're actually quite persuading.
Save vs. Magic or allow the angelcrabs inside your mouth, and eyes, and various other orifices. They eat their fill and excrete muddy gold in their wake to excavate a home, causing d12 damage directly to Flesh.
If you survive the experience the angelcrabs will live in symbiotic harmony within your body, imparting alien wisdom when they deem it appropriate.


14 The ink drains off the page into a pool at your feet, the pool forms a hole, the hole leads down a winding tunnel, you tumble and fall down its depths into the yawning chasm at the end.
The bulbous thing hunched over the lecturn with quill in hand in the centre of the dripping cavern defies mention, it looks up at you and asks from something not a mouth, "Knowledge or your life? My quill will be fed."
Anything told will be recorded and forgotten, you will be released after you have provided information with power roughly equivalent to a 6th level spell or something cripplingly embarrassing.
Until that time the creatures makes a sound like a dozen churning stomachs as it inches toward you if you are silent for more than 30 seconds.


16 The words snake off of the page and across your skin, circling around your limbs and across your chest until your entire body bears the contents of the book. You fall to the floor in agony as the tiny circlets of writing brand into your flesh.
The deathless librarians of the Mausoleum de Lettres cannot help but seek and catalogue the Living Word, and they always know when a new one has been created.




"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Lots of maps to use as you see fit.


Sadly, the blog is no longer active, but it was among my favorites. It sold me on the new edition of Hackmaster. Gave cool tips on monster design. It has some other useful stuff, but nothing groundbreaking. Still, I remember it fondly. Also, the maps are a good resource.

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Old copies of White Dwarf are to me a very valuable resource, the first twenty or so issues are now prohibitively expensive, but between there and issue #90 or so the magazine was a fantastic resource for AD&D, Runequest and various other systems. Personally I felt at this time that it was a far superior publication to Dragon and Dungeon magazines. The stand out to me was the city of Irilian, documented over five or six issues it was the setting for an epic adventure, but also a detailed exploration of the place, its language, currency, history and whatnot. However there were interesting and brilliant articles almost every issue, and the regular comics were at times hilarious, especially Carl Critchlow's Thrud.


The Games Workshop dungeon planner sets are also worth acquiring if one uses miniatures, or just wants a better visual representation, Caverns of the Dead and Blackmarsh something I believe, very nice and packed full of details and ideas.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.


Tea for the teapot!

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Old copies of White Dwarf are to me a very valuable resource, the first twenty or so issues are now prohibitively expensive, but between there and issue #90 or so the magazine was a fantastic resource for AD&D, Runequest and various other systems. 


Would a link violate forum rules?

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Ebay or Amazon, maybe a local game store if one is in Blighty, though at their age the old White Dwarf's are getting rarer.

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.


Tea for the teapot!

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Science fantasy dragons!




[D]ragons are (...) the embodiment of apocalyptic tragedy.  Below are the basic chromatic dragons reskinned as nightmare beasts generated by the psychic reverberations of thousands of dying souls during the ancient cataclysmic fall.  The type of tragedy that created the dragon would determine its color, powers and appearance rather than the nature of the environment it lives in.


Irradiated Dragon (White) – The quickest of the cataclysms that befell the old civilizations was the discharge of great weapons that destroyed both target and wielder in a mutual destruction of searing light.  Millions died to these weapons of pure energy, cities were reduced to sand and the earth reduced to glass.  Haunting these glassy sheets, now cracked and scoured by poisoned winds are horrors of pure ravening energy.  The Irradiated dragon, as a creature of almost pure spirit appears much like the legendary beast - reptilian in form, winged and terrible.

Irradiated Dragons' desolations are always the blast areas of ancient atomic weapons, with the dragon always lairing in the blast crater itself while it's offspring are pushed outward from the center depending on size and ferocity.  The most aggressive and bestial of dragons, Irradiated Dragons rarely speak before attacking and rarely attack with strategy or complex efforts at self preservation; instead Irradiated Dragons depend on their terrible breath weapon to annihilate any trespassers into their domains.  The breath of the Irradiated Dragon is a form of the energy that created them, a cone of searing light that reduces those it touches into ash shadows on nearby walls or floors.  Even those who manage to avoid this are blast are exposed to the invisible poisons of the ancient weapons, and will suffer from a terrible wasting disease if not cured, wither by magic or esoteric means.



Verdiginous Dragon (Green) – The winding down of the machines as society collapsed after the cataclysms created collective despair and desperation.  The Verdiginous Dragon is the spirit of the untold deaths caused by the breakdown of technological society.  They are not only the embodiment of starvation and want, but also of the frustration and sadness at the contraction of the world and the panicked struggle to keep machines and technology running long past its functional life.  Verdiginous dragons do not appear to be living at all, but rather to be sculpted from broken and patched machinery, with jagged spines of rust, tangled together with corroded wires and moving on gap toothed gears.  Often thin and spider-like, Vertiginous Dragons frequently have more than four limbs, and creep stealthily about the ruins they commonly lair in.  Excellent magicians and reasonably intelligent, Verdiginous Dragons, more than any of their kin are capable of reasoned discourse.  Yet they are beasts of immense, unnatural sadness and overwhelming hunger.  Greed for the necessities of survival (useless to the dragon) drive a Verdiginous Dragon, and no amount of stockpiled food, wealth or technology can satisfy them.
The lair of a Verdiginous Dragon will always be some place of ancient industry or technological triumph.  The dragon does nothing to repair or keep up these sites as they are slowly subsumed by nature, but is immensely protective of its domain, afraid that strangers will remove items of value from the ruins. When striking Vertiginous Dragons breath a toxic gas cloud, that has the additional effect of rapidly corroding metal and leather equipment and aging those who fail to save against the gas' psychic effects.


Phantasmagoric Dragon (Blue) – Collective insanity, delusions and hopelessness undoubtedly killed as many survivors of the fall as plague, starvation and war, and the draconic spirit formed by these deaths is the Phantasmagoric Dragon.  Sometimes corporeal, sometimes ghostly, these creatures are mercurial, highly intelligent and completely insane.  They don’t have needs and desires so much as whims and intricate delusions that form a separate logic beyond reality’s.  It is hard to describe a phantasmagoric dragon as the creatures can change suddenly and on a wild whim of their corrupted minds, but most often a Phantasmagoric Dragon takes the form of a great ghostly wyrm, swimming through the air.   Phantasmagoric Dragons are accomplished magic users, as sorcery is itself a form of madness and specialize.
The lands around a Phantasmagoric Dragon's lair will have themselves grown terrible and strange, though not lifeless.  A jungle of indescribable plants and twisted animals fill the devestation of the Phantasmagoric Dragon, each a figment of the dragon's twisted mind. Phantasmagoric Dragons are the only dragon that does not seek out the ruins of the civilization, and instead lair in natural caves or deep thickets, often of incredible beauty. 
The breath weapon of a Phantasmagoric Dragon is a beam of pure psychic energy, that not only melts flesh and bone, but also blasts the soul out of its targets, turning those it kills into fragmented vengeful ghosts.
Edited by aluminiumtrioxid
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Quick and easy method of resolving hanging plot hooks in a sandbox.




 Between sessions is the time to give some thought to how each of your open hooks is changing and developing.  Depending on the nature of a particular hook, the situation may be very slow to change, or it may be constantly evolving.  Either way, it doesn't have to be a huge struggle or eat up large amounts of your precious prep time to keep things moving forward.

Figuring out what happens to open hooks and plot threads is much more of an open-ended storytelling function than one of game mechanics, but if you'd rather not rely on pure DM fiat, there's a pretty simple way to inject a little randomness.  Look at each hook, and decide how rapidly the situation is likely to change and evolve.  For something like an old legend of a magical sword hidden deep in a labyrinth of ruins, the situation may be pretty stable, and the status quo may last years or decades.  After all, it already has.  On the other hand, if the bandits who have long been a petty nuisance get a new and ruthless leader driving them to audacious new levels of crime, things might develop very quickly. 

Decide where on the scale each hook lies, and choose a die - a larger one like a d20 or d100 for glacially slow ones, and a small one like a d6 or d4 for those touch-and-go scenarios.  On a roll of 1, the situation changes dramatically for the worse.  A roll of 2 means a change for the worse, but not extreme or severe.  Rolling the maximum possible result on the die signifies a dramatic improvement, perhaps even a resolution, while a roll of 1 less than maximum is a lesser improvement.  Any result in between means that the status quo holds for another period.  You might also make notes about the scenario's momentum, and add a +1 to the roll if things have changed for the better for two consecutive intervals (or a single dramatic improvement,) or -1 if they've gone downhill twice in a row (or a single dramatic deterioration.)

(I should point out that a d4 used in this fashion allows only for positive or negative change, no stable holding pattern possible, which might be appropriate to especially volatile situations.)

For example, let's take the legendary lost sword.  It's been lost for generations, and everybody the PCs ask knows the story, so the status quo has held for as long as anyone can remember.  It's not likely to change, but it still could.  Using a d100 roll, a 100 might mean that a virtuous knight has succeeded in recovering the sword.  A 99 might mean that some new information about the sword's whereabouts has surfaced.  On a 2, a villain takes up the search.  On a 1, he finds it.  Anything else, and the sword remains lost and shrouded in mystery.

The bandit scenario is much more dynamic, so we'll use a d8.  On a 1, the bandits might kidnap an entire caravan, including the wife and son of a local lord, whom they hold for ransom.  On a 2, the gang attracts new members, and its numbers swell.  A 7 might mean that local village militias enjoy some success, a setback for the gang's reign of terror.  With an 8, a high-ranking member of the gang who knows of the leader's long-term plans could be captured. On a 3-6, the bandits continue their depredations, with no appreciable change in the balance of power.

Note that it isn't necessary to determine a list of specific results before rolling the die.  The dice are simply a tool to suggest a direction, not to choose an outcome.  I'd also suggest only rolling when there's some uncertainty to how events will or should progress.  If there's a logical sequence that just makes sense, why muddy the waters with dice?

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Magical hearts.




  These hearts replace your actual heart, and are used by placing over the bare chest of the subject. After an extremely painful minute, they replace the owners actual heart. Only one heart may be used at any time. Often the hearts cause a death effect that prevents raise dead from functioning.




Heart of Blood: This heart is contained in a crystal glass case. When placed on the chest, the red liquid inside slowly drains until empty, at which point the crystal case also dissolves into dust, being absorbed into the skin. The user is no longer subject to disease, illness, or any bleeding effects. They receive a +4 bonus (or advantage) on any death spells or effects, and their aging slows to 1/10th it's normal rate. They also regenerate 1 hit point a minute. The heart prevents any sort of protection from scrying for operating. In addition, their blood works as a healing elixir, curing disease and reducing aging by several months when drunk, as well as producing an overwhelmingly positive feeling of well-being. It is also highly, highly addictive, causing addiction after the first use and dependence soon after. The people who are denied this substance will go to any lengths to acquire it. This can be used to control people who become dependent on it, but there are no cases in which it has not been known to backfire. Upon the users demise, the body turns to red liquid, which then fills a crystal heart in the location of their corpse.


Crystal Heart: This is a heart of reflections and illusions. Any single illusion the caster performs that require concentration to function can be assigned to the heart. For example, an illusionist could cast two spells requiring concentration. Once a day the user can cast Mirror Image. Once a week the user can cast Vanish (Use the heart to create an illusionary double of the caster in reaction to an attack or at will, and turning the caster invisible). Any illusions cast by the caster have their saving throw difficulty class improved by 2 OR provide a -2 penalty to the targets save. The user also gets a +4 (or advantage) bonus on all deception rolls.
The experience of bearing the heart is difficult. Reality seems to fluctuate, and often the user gets glimpses into the shadow and ethereal plane. Often they become paranoid and isolative. They begin to become uncertain about what is real and what is not. When killed the user turns to crystal which crumbles, leaving behind only a crystal heart.




Ice Heart: You become immune to compulsions and mind-affecting effects. You become immune to charm. You have resistance to ice. You are vulnerable to fire. The ambient temperature around you drops by 20 degrees (f). Your alignment shifts towards neutral evil over time as you become less concerned with the welfare of other living beings. You can create and shape ice at will, requiring your focus and giving you a level of fatigue per every significant creation of ice (i.e. 10' x 10' x 10' cube in 1 minute). Going slower or reducing the amount of ice created or used will reduce the fatigue cost.


Yeah, not exactly the most creative examples, but the core idea is solid (and has a lot more mythopoetic resonance than the conceptually somewhat similar Eye and Hand of Vecna).

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Arnold K. returns with more awesomeness than ever. Seriously, this is some Morrowind-level cool weirdness.



 So, way down south, in the antarctic extremity of the Centerran continent, you'll find a land called Langa.  Most maps will only list a single city for this place: Ba Dwai La.  (baw dwight-minus-the-t law, accent on all  syllables).  Ba Dwai La is bilocational, since the same city also exists on the moon, and is one of two places on Centerra that have any interaction with lunar cultures, languages, and ethnicities.  

Centerra has invasive species, too, and the Langan peninsula (about 2/3 the area of the Iberian peninsula) is a classic example of what happens when a lunar biome invades a terrerestrial one, and how the two ecosystems have adapted to each other.  This resultant biome is called a mismera. (...)
At the bottom of a lunar food chain are tafula, which get their energy from atmospheric discharges (lightning) and the ionosphere (the aurora australis).  They get most of their dry mass from the air via carbon fixation, but many tafula also grow silicate exoskeletons. (...)
If mismera are analogous to forests, then tafula are the trees.
Tafula need lightning strikes, so they grow on mountaintops.  They remain flexible, since many of them endure high winds, but they build silicate struts at their bases (a bit like flying buttresses) that perform some gas exchange, close to the ground.  Many of them are communal, and will support each other with interlocking branches 20'-50' off the ground.  Although they have branching roots, most of the body is built into a single spire, which reaches as high as it possibly can.
A single lightning strike contains more energy than a single tafulum can collect, so excess energy is shared with friendly neighbors.  Roots are also heavily entangled, as each tafula tries to collect energy from the others.
Tafula have "veins" of superconductive crystals which rapidly become insulators as they heat up, as part of the process that allows them to store electricity.  Alchemists harvest these diamond-shaped collectors to make bottled lightning.  (Harvesting bottling lightning is dangerous, due to the high chance of electrocution.  The usual method involves throwing trunks off cliffs, dropping rocks onto clusters of branches, or bringing a catapult to the mountain top.  The loose shards are then collected.)
DSCN2571.JPG this is actually pretty close to what I envision
Tafula forests (mismera) do most of their growing in the summer, when they heat themselves up enough to melt the ice that coats them.  So, mountaintop mismera really have two seasons, hot and cold.
In the cold season, a mismera is a frozen labyrinth of milky, pink, and pale blue crystals filled with buttresses and joints, all nestled under the waving black antenna of the lightning spires.

In the hot season, all of the tafula in a mismera heat up simultaneously, in order to melt the ice that encrusts them and accelerate certain metabolic processes (since tafula do nearly all of their growing during the summer).  The mismera can sometimes get uncomfortably warm, and many of the tafula use different tricks to trap heat, like growing furry "thickets" around their clusters.

A lot of species are communal, like ants or coral.  Different tafula will take up different roles, whether that is storage, support, or lightning collection.  Some species build huge cathedrals around a few spires, built up over hundreds of years. 
CrystalForest.jpg did I mention that they light up?
they totally light up


2.jpg pictured: frozen waterfall

t's a common opinion that mismeras are stunningly beautiful places.  The pastel rock candy of the crystals, the delicate lacework of the silvery veins, the gracile spires of ferruginous lignin, the songs of the antarctic nightingale... all combine to create an unrealistic depiction of natural beauty.  A mismera is the crown of a mountain or, some say, all of Centerra.

Lightning storms are frequent and stunning.  And when the auroras themselves reach down and run their fingers through the branches of tafula, grown men have been known to break down and cry tears of joy.  (Treat this as a charm spell.)

itsfrozen03-640x424.jpg behind a frozen waterfall



It sometimes happens that a visitor to the mismeras become obsessed with the alien beauty of mismeras.  This is common enough in Ba Dwai La that they have a name for it: "lightning-kissed".  These people are despised by the locals, but luckily, the problem usually resolves itself, when the adoring tourist spends too long on the mountain and freezes to death.

Frozen corpses are common enough on the mountain that many of them are known by name.  Every mountain trail has a few frozen corpses, each one a well-known landmark, who has a name and a (probably apocryphal) story about them known to the locals, usually a parable, tragedy, or ghost story.  These corpses are filled with poisonous needles, to prevent cannibalism (and wendigos).

So don't eat any frozen trail-corpses.  Not only will it kill you, but it's also very rude.


The people of Langa and Ba Dwai La are diverse.  When the lunar city of Rah Shembool decided to mirror itself on Langa, they displaced the sparse, nomadic tribes of Nikal people (like Hyperboreans, but black-skinned and who can sometimes recover after freezing to death).  So, people you'll meet in Ba Dwai La:

- Nomadic Nikal, riding mammoths and herding shaggy goats.  Their shaman drink strange liquors and sleep for days, entering through the Dream That Moves Through All Things.  If you piss them off, it's probably never safe to sleep again.

- Urban Nikal from the cities of the Revanwall kings.  They all have blood oaths (each and every one of them has a specific person they're supposed to assassinate, at all times) and mostly hang around Ba Dwai La, drinking too much kelpwine, stealing scrimshaw, and plotting against the gaseous cloud-kings that oppress their people.

- Lunar people (technically, they're Sindrians, but they're different enough that no one associates them with the deviants in Yog nor the weird forest-people in Icewatch, but I've never mentioned any of this on my blog before, so this sentence is really only for my own benefit, I guess).  They sort of look like hermaphroditic humans who continually grow taller throughout their lives (adults range from 4' to 10').  Also, they have shape-shifting hands, like a miniature blob wrapped in skin.  Not that appearances matter, since they almost never leave their houses.  When they travel around town, it's inside hermetically sealed carriages.  When dealing with them, there are two big things that you must know: (1) discussion of money or food is considered obscene, (2) any sort of deal-making or negotiation is probably going to involve sex.  Sindrians are all about sex.  They're like bonobos.

Sidenote: Lunar culture is really weird.  Adventuring on the moon is less about getting eaten by a moon-beast (although that's a risk, too) and more about learning the Byzantine culture before you offend someone powerful enough to have you distilled into your essential oils.

Other sidenote: So all of the default races in Centerra are color-coded mutant humans, because true humans are extinct.  However, you can still find true humans on the moon, where they are kept in ones and twos as celebrated pets, deep in the lunar enclaves.  Humans are like the mascots of the moon.

- Foreigners also come to Ba Dwai La in appreciable numbers.  Easterners come to learn spirituality, others come for the seal trade, others come to plunder the natural resources of the mismeras (which is a source of tension/violence in the community). 

iceberg.jpg holy **** someone has already drawn an iceberg ship and it's awesome

Frost giants also used to visit Langa in their enormous iceberg ships.  Then they would sail their iceberg ships up the mountains (long story), harvest a bunch of lightning crystals, and leave.  However, while all the frost giants are dead now (long story), some of their iceberg ships still remain, parks on the mountainside, frozen sails blocking the sun, filled with undead frost giants and plunder from a previous age.

Elves also visit Langa, but they rarely stop in the city of Ba Dwai La.  Instead, they go straight for the mismeras, where they build beautiful towns among the crystals and forbid anyone else from entering the mismera.  They do this because elves love beauty more than anything.  Also they are ****.

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Zak S's reimagining the Ankhegs.




I (...) obviously redrew them as riding beasts which you can see and why am I even telling you that. But ok, here's the main thing:

The riders are not masters of the beasts, nor even are they Bravestarr-and-Thirty Thirty-like equals: the ankheg controls the rider. Like so many insect empires, they seek to enslave humanoids--uniquely, however, they don't want anyone to know.

So for all your party knows, there's just a ranged panoply of warriors striding boldly across the weatherbeaten plateau atop their chitinous mounts, rearing headlong at the face of a twisting column of  bleak, grey dust. And a violence rings out as the party and the strange cavalry join and mutually assail each other. Then the party slaughters the warriors smugly, but are left tired, bleeding, needing aid. Then and only then do the insects reveal they were the masterminds all the time.

They drag you back to their immensely-sophisticated cave-temple (they can't do the fine carving, so they rip human arms off and slide them over their own pokey arms like gloves) and then let their young batter you psychically by turning your own spoken language into awful insect reverberations (like  locust sounds in a night that only happens between your own ears). If you escape you might walk into sticky honeywax muqarnas falling from the ceiling or a pit where rival subqueens fight using only the limbs of men or find the precious paper they make from spit.

They are at war with driders.

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"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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More Arnold K. goodness. This guy is unbelievably cool.




 Cosmic megafauna swim between the stars above Centerra. Star whales, void wyrms, and thousands of sundry species. The smallest is fifty feet long. The largest can be up to half a mile.
When these star beasts feel the hand of death upon them, they migrate to a certain part of Centerra. They fall from orbit onto an area about the size of Texas. Their scintillant clathrates burn away in the atmosphere, and the exotic metals of their eyes incandesce. Finally, they hit the ground, creating a crater and sending up a huge cloud of dust. 
This is only the start of the story. As soon as the star beast impacts, millions of eyes turn to face it. There are constant clouds over the Gravelands; star corpses are the main source of food.  And correspondingly, every thing is a scavenger.
Most of the colossal corpses that impact the Gravelands belong to never-before species. Space is huge and weird, and so are the creatures that live in it. And for some reason, a great many of them prefer to beach themselves on a particular plain in Centerra.
On rare occasions, the star beast survives the fall, and the first scavengers to arrive at the blast crater are in for a nasty surprise.
The first to arrive are the carrion harpies, whose song rots the flesh and clouds the mind.
Second are the armored ape-hounds, who indulge in vast orgies atop the corpse. They will give birth to thousands of pink babies before the corpse is fully consumed.

And of course, there are the grave lice, but they've always been there.
Then the cities of the necromancers arrive.
Kel Bethor, which walks atop millions of skeletal legs, the buildings swaying with the grace of a corpse.
Kel Dravonis, which is pulled by living slaves and walking corpses (although the two are often indistinguishable). The death knights of that place compete to build the most fearsome steed. Only the youngest death knights still ride skeletal horses. The elder death knights have augmented their 'horses' so much that each monstrosity is unrecognizable as something that was once foaled.
Gulgus is the city of the insect necromancers. They ride in giant undead beetles and adorn their carapaces with corpse candles.
The cites have only a few days to war with each other and harvest precious resources from the huge corpses. After that brief period of rampant butchery, scavenging, and thievery, the eels arrive like a tide of sludge, and no other creature is foolish enough to contest them for ownership of the star corpse.
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"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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Patrick S. of False Machine has been doing weird monsters since forever, so I guess this'll go on for multiple posts.




These are baby cave elementals. Voidlings, absencelemenetals. Not the abstract expressions of rock, but living forms of voids within the rock. The caves. You won't meet the parents. They have strange business deep within the core, below the Mohorovic discontinuity. These are baby negaspawn, migrating through the earth and incarnating as minor absences, like gaps between your teeth or silent whiteness in the letter 'o'.

Splinterlads should be harmless, but sometimes, they are playful. This makes them deadly. They dive up out of non-ity like dolphins breaching surf curve briefly in the air. And just as dolphins sport with ships the Splinterlads love folk. A cave within the rock, a moving breathing spot within the cave. This is addictive paradox to the voidlings. Just like the ships hull and sails are to the dolphin, something within its world and without.
You must never amuse them.
Spliterlad Nymphs are the reason the physics of granular materials seems to make no regular sense. They are whimsical. The worms make worship of them. Earthworm cysts are endlessly renewing micro-temples arranged in cryptic unseen mandalas and honing strange ant-level micro-climates. The larger worms still recognise them, in particular, the Purple Worm, which often carries a murmuration of voidlings flocked around in silent converse. The spell 'rock-to-mud' is actually a decayed fragment of ancient worm-songs learnt by Neanderthal hyper-shamans and passed in damaged form to their Sapien wives.
Think Hitch****'s 'The Birds' except the birds are briefly burning bubbles under your skin, fizzing solids, bubbly rocks and stones that melt in bird-flock-curls.
The best way to avoid a Spliterlad flock it to have glass and crackable chalk. They also hate quartz.
Whirl the glass around your head like a falconer's lure.
If a flock flies through you, your teeth will explode in your head, your blood vessels will burst, your bones will splinter, the fine arteries in your brain will burst. This rarely happens though. Usually just the edge of the flock will dance along your equipment and burst your ropes, crack your swords.
The secret to avoiding them is to break good things. They can talk to the calcium in your bones, so people with multiple broken bones in their past will have a bonus to reaction rolls. Break something else useful, like a relationship, a trust, a heart. They will ask you to. You can hear them whispering distantly 'break break break break break' 





 No-one has seen their heads, dead or alive. But rumours have returned of crystal-things and tendrils. They are not dogs. Not since a long time. But move like hounds on monkey limbs. Long, lithe, matt black and light-absorbent.

If they get close enough to fight, and you can spot them in the glare, their forms seem depthless silhouettes. A long body, whippet-slim and overgrown, and back-bent legs on slender monkey hands.
They hunt by sight, are soundless, quick and bright. The head of the Spotlight Dog, through some unknown bioluminous alchemy, is brighter than a dozen torches, and whiter than a winter sky. The light they make is laser-straight, directed at one spot.
The howl (or howl-equivalent) starts, rises, peaks and flows away in the same time it would take a wolf to howl. At first the air around you greys, the lantern seems to dim, you briefly see the distance in the cave. A soft pale glow picks out the walls. Then tightens. You look down at your clothes, and for the first time in weeks can clearly see the grime and tears. You see the mud and grit ground into your palm, matching the micro-swirls. Your lifeline and the palm-hinge glowing white* against the dirty skin. The light grows stronger narrowing narrowing narrowing. The contrast blacks the cave. Your lantern's light too weak to show beyond. Spots dance in your eyes. You turn away. The mica in the cave wall glows. You stare into your shadow on the rock, its edges sharp and midnight black. You turn to find the source, and as you turn the light begins to fade, from white to sky-blue, violet, sea-blue, abyssal-blue and ultraviolet. Out.
Then another howling dog flares up, and another, and another. The pack answers in the distance.
Spotlight Dogs are persistence hunters. They like to blind and terrorize their prey, chase it till weak, then pounce. If they can't frighten the quarry and if not sure of victory, they will simply follow with their spotlights, highlighting you for a larger predator in the hope of eating the loser.
Obviously fighting them hand-to-hand is as hard as fighting someone who's trying to shine a spotlight in your face while you swing at them. 




The Rapture is not panic attack. It doesn't want to shut you down. It wants you dead.

But first: You have to live a week without light, at least, and you have to be deep within the earth. It will find you on the lip of a rappel. Or as you stare down nightmare falls. It will find you alone. The perfect moment, just as someone disappears from sight, the rope that holds them running through your hands. Or belly crawling sandwiched between rock. Inching your way along with one arm stretched ahead, the other tilted hand pinned at your hip. No room to lie square-set. Your crown grates on the roof, the floor nudges your chin. You tease your candle on with fingertips. Or diving through a sump, invisible in blackness.
The Rapture likes deep spaces and it haunts there. Vertigo's a parasite on Rapture's back. Forced out like dingos fleeing lions on the savannah, orbiting in the high spaces vulturelike while apex killers do the work below.
Rapture is to Vertigo as the lion is to the vulture.
At first you'll feel a nagging in your head. Like smokers feel when smokeless for a week. An almost unconscious uncurling, something twitching back behind your ears.
Then you will forget things. You look at your hands. You look at the rope. You don't know how to tie the knots. Your fingers slow like old folks' on PCs. Your pulse ticks visibly in your neck. You do not know how to rappel. You have forgotten how to escape. You will die here. You know you will die here. Your fingers clench the rope. You don't know to let go. You scream but no-one comes. The rapture has found you by a waterfall or in a tunnel of wind. Or underwater. No-one can hear you. No-one can help you. You scream your mothers name. You talk aloud. You beg your god for help. You have to get out. You shouldn't be here. You have to escape. You will die here. You will die. You need to get out.
Jack is the body of a caver of some sighted, civilised, humanoid race. They're dead, and often wrapped in ropes that broke their neck. The limbs are all splintered from falls, the spine is bent. The wet ropes trail behind them like a veil. The pack is still unopened on their back. The Rapture killed them and took the body for a spin. The skin is bleached. The flesh is puffed. They are screaming for their mother and praying now, locked forever in the seconds of their death. Trying to get out, it wants your help. If you hear the voice of the clambering gasping wailing thing then you must save against Rapture or suffer it yourself. If it touches you, you suffer Rapture.
Sometimes, if the Rapture is clever, and patient, and slow, it takes a team at once. If it can kill the lead in a difficult pitch, and drop the rest, or strand a team in total dark and douse their lights, it can madden and tangle a whole group together.
This is a terrible thing to face. The shattered bodies of a handful of climbers, drowned and tied in bundles by wet rope. A clump of broken backs and back-bent fingers walking on cracked limbs. A dozen begging voices. Wrapped up by equipment. Dead lights dragging and bouncing behind it. Crawling towards you like a pale massacre-pile. 




I have a problem with this thing. It's already a blind, climbing, cave dwelling spider with awful hooks that point each limb. And it's real name is actually Trogloraptor, which is better than anything I was going to come up with. I was going with 'Hook Spider'.

There's almost nothing I can add to make this more charismatic or unnerving than it already is.
Perhaps it carries children on its back as eggs. Like, anyone's children. Yours maybe. Attacks like a hook horror with eight legs. Intelligent. Translucent ochre. Needs more kids to put its eggs inside. And the kids are still alive and crying for help. Because that's its hunting tactic. It eats the parents when they come looking.
Obviously I'm making it giant, and self-aware. Though I'm tempted not to as the child-egg-bait thing almost seems more horrible as a ****ed up hyper-specific evolutionary tactic. So maybe as smart as an Orca or a wolfpack.
The sound of weeping children in the darkness is a classic. Because you know there are kids to be rescued. And you know the only reason you can hear them is because Trogloraptor is hunting you and it wants to draw you in. I'm imagining one long slender limb curving up over its own back to gag a weeping child that's bound in silk. It stares down from the wall, watching the lanternlight pool, waiting for you to approach. 




We can think of culture, the product of civilisation, as a living thing. Then consider the means of culture to seek its own survival.

Those means will include a freight-train sized centipede.
The Civilopede is a scavenger/predator. When the cities of the Underdark burn and fall, the Civilopede arrives to hunt through the wreckage, discover and preserve the artefacts and records, and ruthlessly hunt the survivors.
A few librarians and archivists are spared, they enter into a symbiotic relationship with the Civilopede, becoming its back-riding teamster-curators.
The nerdy remnants of every race swarm on the creatures hide, arranging and re-arranging the endless piles of art, artefacts, museum pieces, records, writing and treasure. Anything you could find in a gallery, museum, archive or library will be stored there.
The only place in the Underdark that culture could be preserved in this way is by something big, scary, violent and dangerous enough to keep it safe.
The Civilopede never stops moving in its endless perambulations beneath the earth. It can be mounted, with great danger and risk. The curators will turn against any invaders unless they bring or produce culture, so boarders can exist safely, but trapped in a kind of endless salon. Decadent aristocrats of civilised races sometimes try to board for exactly this reason. 




These green-eyed temple-dwelling monkeys are incredibly calm and well mannered. Just having them around chills people out and makes easier to relax and concentrate. For unknown reasons they have hearts of pure Jade. For reasons even more unknown, the heart of a Jade monkey is itself in the shape of a monkey.

The stone jade monkey that makes the heart of an actual living jade monkey, if worn around the neck, can guide the bearer through the afterlife and back to their body, thereby raising them from the dead. Once.
Of course anyone wearing a stone Jade monkey had to actually kill a real Jade monkey to get it. Everybody loves Jade monkeys. EVERYBODY. Even vampires and Liches and age-old evil gods like them. Even Cthulhu likes them. If anyone finds you with a Jade monkey pendant then you will be looked down on by the scum of the earth.


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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False Patrick can turn anything D&D-able.



[James C. Scott's] theory is an attempt to turn on its head the standard narrative of civilisation in which centres of agricultural power gradually expand, drawing to themselves various people with the strength of their highly organised society, before  reaching the hills and mountains where they find dispersed ancient peoples, relics of a past age from before civilisation, people made hardy, uncivilised but independent and freedom-loving by the mountains in which they live.

In Scotts re-telling of this story Civilised centers essentially bully captive or near-captive populations into doing what they want. They fill flat valley-areas with grain-based agriculture, not because it is more efficient but because it locks people in place and makes them easier to control.

Then various peoples decide they want nothing at all to do with Civilisation and, as this is before the modern era and civilisations find it very hard to project force in highly complex mountainous terrain they bugger off to the mountains and build societies defined by the fact that they are very hard to centrally control.

So, in this version, the mountains don't make people independent, independent people go to the mountains. Mountain agriculture isn't necessarily that much less efficient than plains agriculture, its methods are chosen for political and semi-political reasons. To make the people who use it harder to find, harder to count and harder to control. And there is an economic relationship between the mountains the valley even if they are politically separate. And the mountains aren't full of ancient peoples, some of them may be ancient, but some may be quite recent indeed.

And, this is the part where it gets very interesting for me, even their forms of social-remembering may be specifically arranged to make them harder for the state to make use of. He mentions that all the societies he talks about have legends about how they could once write and had a written tongue, and in many cases that writing was stolen from them.

Oral cultures are more plastic, more personal and, crucially, are hard to reveal to strangers unless you specifically decide to.

This lead me to think of the nature of memory and of what civilisation does.

We live inside a kind of global Mnemarchy. Oral cultures are pretty good and you can do a lot with them but there is a hard limit to the amount of information they can carry. Civilisations are the guardians of deep-memory-in-detail. What we know, we know of densely-organised peoples, the history of distributed peoples is generally lost to us.


Let’s accept Scotts argument about memory, in fact lets over-accept it and assume its the most important thing. People go to the hills and build societies where they carefully half-sabotage their own cultural memories, oralising what was written, embodying what was disembodied, turning record into behaviours and what can be read by anyone into something that can only be understood by a few, to make themselves hard to understand or control by the Civilised valley.

So the Valley Civililisation becomes the guardian of a certain kind of 'national memory' a structure for arranging and understanding knowledge of the world and making an identity of it.

What about the *opposite effect*.

Some people try to avoid the Valley Civilisation by going to the hills and making their memories shorter, more personal, more plastic. What if there was an opposite place, a place opposite to the hills where people went, maybe because, like the hill people, they wanted to, or maybe because they were forced to, or simply it was a natural progression of their nature.

These groups might not be driven by the expansion of the Valley Civilisation but perhaps separated when it goes through its periodic (but almost inevitable) contractions.

And in this place, rather than changing their own memories to make them more plastic, more personal, more embodied, less comprehensible to outsiders, they went the opposite way, they built huge icy labyrinths of total memory in which they lived. Absolute memories. Memories that could not be contradicted. Memories that could not actually be lived with comfortably in the Valley Civilisation.

And where is this place they might go? Well it has to be the opposite of the Mountains and in South East Asia, that is the Sea. The sea is wring because it’s actually very easy to travel by water instead of in the mountains, and maybe there isn’t an actual physical archipelago where you need one, but this is D&D and you might not be able to build the kinds of thing you would need in the 'real' world anyway. There is always they Plane of Shadow.

An archipelago of Shadow Islands, only part real, strung around the city at a distance, just far enough and strange enough that it is almost impossible, or very hard, to project military force there. But related, like the hill peoples, in some kind of cultural contact with the centre, defining the centre by what it is not. Changeless where the centre is alive, absolute where it is adaptable, locked into an unforgiving history and identity while the centre is strangely mutable by comparison. Like there is a certain level of forgetting you need to do to have a functional civilisation and they won't do it.

Not the remnants of an ethnic group that nearly got wiped out, but perhaps the remnants of the people who did the wiping out, and are still pretty much fine with that.

And all different, ancient histories and ethnicities and philosophies and ethnic or racial groups strung out like a ring of shadowy pearls around the City State.

An archipelago of eternal White Russians and loyalists to fallen crowns and adherents to once nation-shaping faiths now lost or changed. Each very small, yet many, an archipelago of hidden Taiwan’s holding alternative histories, almost like parallel political and cultural worlds. Expressions of what could have been if things had gone a different way, thousands of them from the long long history of the state as it grew and changed and fell and grew again, and shrank and grew and fell again and was re-built. All those other histories that were lost, distant but somehow keenly yearning. 

The default idea is undead, and yes they might be there, but it’s almost more interesting to think of them as frozen or undead cultures, but full of living people.

The islands are half shadow and you can only really reach them when there is certain light and certain shadow on the sea, which is rare, the shadows of certain storms and certain great waves against certain stars or certain faces of the moon. Or perhaps it simply takes a long long time to reach the shoreline of a shadow isle and if you go there, though the visit may be short for you, you come back years later.

But they are there and you can almost sense them as you sail past or through the oddly-stilled patches of sea.

Would the communicate with each other? It seems like they wouldn't be able to stand each other, demanding as they would the sole representation of the true history and true self. But, perhaps over time they might. They have something in common after all, they all remember the same place and I suppose each one would consider itself the 'real' nation and everything else relics or shadows of it and therefore no offence.

What would they trade in the Shadow Archipelago and what would they build? I don't know, art perhaps. Music. What would you pay to hear Roman music as the Romans heard it? Or to see a Greek play as the ancient Greeks saw it. The Spartans weren't allowed to write but they were famous for their music and their dancing, what would it be like to see that, or to own a Tang Dynasty vase made only a week ago?

Perhaps they would go mad and become fierce. And they would always be a strange threat to the Civilisation that birthed them, small as they are, with their alternate histories and alternate sense of self.

They would know a lot about certain things, scholars would try to get there.

Scott would say the closeness of the hills placed a kind of natural limit on the ability of the state to control its populations. If it comes down to it they can just go away and this puts a kind of pressure valve on what they can do. What would the Shadow Archipelago prevent or allow. Perhaps it would govern or control the amount of forgetting they could do.


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."


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