Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Beyond the Bizarre Armoire - Extra Materials: Religious Primer

In my ongoing Bizarre the Beyond Armoire campaign (latest session here) religion has come up a surprising amount. Surprising to me at least, as I provided only a barebones summary of the world's religions at the outset.

So my players and anyone else who's interested can have a better understanding of the world without me going on an exposition dump in-session I've put together this primer on the three main religions/religious groups. The entries are based on the level of knowledge & bias the characters would have (e.g. more on the archons, as Velasco is a heterodox archonic monk):

The Exarchate

The church of the archons is called the Exarchate. At least nominally, the Exarchate administers the entire world for the archons. In reality their authority is much more limited, particularly in regions remote from their centers of power like Nalas-Dula where the campaign takes place.

The archons, the celestial planets, even the sun itself are one and the same. By ineffable means (and the occasional meteor impact) they control the fate of all people. Their actions are often inscrutable, when they're even recognized, but their ultimate end is distant yet just governance of the sub-lunar realm. Those loyal to the archons' Order will prosper and be fruitful, the wicked and disobedient will be brought low. Many of the things which their Order includes are commonsensical: be honest and fair in your dealings, obey rightful authority, honour your parents, your friends, and your enemies as they have honoured you. Sometimes it is not so: sacrifice a thousand cattle at this moment at these locations, build a structure of this material to these exacting geometric specifications, say this phrase with this intonation to that person when you receive such and such signal.

They are not anthropomorphic beings, in fact addressing them by names is taboo. That used to be different, but now only remote cults will worship archons individually.

Their priests (called exarchs) are the only ones who may pray to the archons and expect a response. Exarchs are consulted constantly for the interpretation of witnessed omens, advice, and to act as an intermediary for divine requests. Monks & nuns live a step apart from worldly civilization to observe the stars and other signs to interpret the archons' will and nature. Superstitions to attract fortune and ward off misfortune abound among archon-worshipers. So does vegetarianism. They do not view themselves as having dominion over or especially above animals.

Their worship is transactional, more similar to patronage than faith. To the archons humanity (hedgehogs included) shares the position that a draft horse does to us. It is not the draft horse's place to question why it's made to pull the plough, it only knows that it must. We are protected and succored only so long as we are useful. The world holds the ruins of those before us who were not so useful. That attitude is known and accepted even by laypeople, consider the following joke as an example (adapted from Slovenian rockstar philosopher Slavoj Zizek):

A group of archon-worshipers are in a temple publicly admitting their lowness in the eyes of the archons. First, an exarch stands up and says: “O archons, I know I am a mere beast. I am nothing without your favour!” After he has finished, a rich merchant stands up and says, beating himself on the chest: “O archons, I am also a mere beast, I pursue wealth over your will. I am nothing without your favour!” After this spectacle, a poor ordinary archon-worshiper also stands up and also proclaims: “O archons, I am nothing without your favour.” The rich merchant kicks the exarch and whispers in his ear with scorn: “What insolence! Who is that guy who dares to claim that he is nothing without the archons' favour too!”.

This is accepted because the archons generally hold up their end of the bargain. An ice age has been held back, a supervolcano lulled into dormancy, and legions of demoniac enemies have been obliterated by light from the heavens by their whim. That being said they are not all-powerful (but more powerful than any earthly ruler), they are not all-knowing (but more knowledgeable than any who have not been around since the start of time). Sometimes some things slips through the cracks.

The Shining One

Physical properties, except perhaps position, are all ultimately just descriptions of how an entity will behave in various circumstances. So far as we know, there is nothing it is to be an electron but to interact in this way with the electromagnetic field, this way with gravity, etc. Physics tells us about the mathematical structure of the universe, and the entities it posits are just particular roles within that structure. Trying to find an intrinsic nature to the electron independent of its physical role is like trying to find an intrinsic nature to the number three, independent of its role in arithmetic.

For experiences, this is not the case. Red is the sensation produced by particular patterns of nerve firings, it results in particular outputs like the act of saying "that color is red", it is similar to the sensation of orange, less similar to blue, and less similar still to the feeling of sneezing, but a complete characterization of all of these things doesn't tell you what it's actually like to see a red thing- experiences have intrinsic properties. They have content, independently of their role in some larger structure.

You are not merely physical. You have experiences. This is because you are not of the physical universe. Not originally at least.

There was no beginning to this universe. There was only matter, without context, without purpose, without experience. Then there was light. That light was the Shining One.

You are a piece of that light. That is how you are able to experience. That is why you give meaning to the world.

That light, of which you are a part, is not meant to stay here in this universe. It is only one point in a long, possibly eternal journey There are powers which seem far above you which find you exploitable. They would trap you here. Some among them are called the archons. Some of these archons are known to you by name and title:
-Sabaoth the Red, Sabaoth of Armies, the Star of Discord
-Adonaios the Golden, the Sun, the crippled runt of their litter
-Horaios of Wealth, Horaios the Silver, Goddess of the Coin
-Saklas the Purple, Saklas the Ender, He Who Devours His Children

The Shining One's premier servants in this temporal world are the paladins: living saints, fierce bodhisattvas, walking, talking, burning holes in the universe, far closer to monster than mortal. A single one could break a siege or turn the tide of a battle. They are fortunately rare, and rarely active. They desire nothing more than universal annihilation. They are certain that, on a long enough timescale, they will win.

The Shining One is known according to Exarchate doctrine as TH-R-ZD-N, an entity of invasive  and malignant chaos. They might even be right.

The Natural Spirits

There have been many Orders, many orderings of the world towards an end. However the world is a very complex place, and so the systems for ordering the world must be complex too. The problem with complex systems is that such systems behave in ways not predicted by their components. Even the mere maintenance of an Order produces chaos. Chaos in turn produces irregularities in the functions of elements and forces, which demand an expansion of Order to regulate.

Throughout time there have been agents tasked or created to regulate these irregularities: mephits, nymphs, elementals, and genies among them. Inhabitants and avatars of aspects of the natural world that ensure the natural world behaves in accordance with the natural Order.

Even as agents of Order these spirits are not immune to moral hazard. They may be bribed, seduced, appealed to, coerced, tricked, and so on to bend their charge to the benefit of mortals, regardless of how it might affect the world's stability (or the plans of the world-rulers) in the longest term. Over generations these procedures can become enshrined in impossible-to-dislodge ritual.

That is the basis of worship of the natural spirits. Do a little something for them, they'll do a little something for you: make rain come during an ordained drought, bring the fish swarming upriver out of breeding season, move the roots out of this field, and so on. As long as it stays out of sight of higher powers, everybody might end up happy for a long time.

Some related reading (spiritually if not literally in the same universe):

Curdle

The Republic of Beards

Beyond the Bizarre Armoire Session 4: It All Returns to Nothing, It All Comes Tumbling Down, Tumbling Down, Tumbling Down

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Joining for this session were:
-Maxcan7 (https://weirdwonderfulworlds.blogspot.com/), as Mr. Fox and his War Dogs (less one)
-TheisticGilthoniel (http://pilgrimtemple.blogspot.com/), as Ibrahim the Adept
-Renefor (https://falseidolstla.blogspot.com/) as Velasco the Heterodox Monk
-Oblidisideryptch (https://oblidisideryptch.blogspot.com/), as Sieur Alastair the Knight

This one was a doozie.

Things kicked off by rushing the 2nd in command of Lanky's crew to find the guy before he burned the barge down, and then some bickering on what the end game of their time on the barge was. Velasco insisted on saving Brindle (and only Brindle), the War Dogs wanted to become the puppetmaster, and Sieur Alastair was fed up with the criminal sorts that surrounded them.

They settled on setting up a murder triangle/quadrilateral by convincing Vodyan that the aristocratic mannequettes wanted to kill him. This would not be too difficult, as they really did want to kill him (see: last session).

The party sidled up to a drunken Vodyan at the barge's makeshift bar. Velasco pulled a double-cross on the mannequettes, revealing the poisoning plan to Vodyan, and Alastair won his trust by sharing a few rounds of drinks and playing an oracular dice game.

Vodyan's condition swiftly deteriorated with the amount of turnip-liquor he was chugging, so Alastair carried him up to his suite. Before passing out Vodyan entrusted the knight with a big iron key, which would unlock the pen of the pride of his goose-breeding endeavours, a "very big goose". Alastair also steals a bottle of turnip-liquor from under the drunkard's bed.

Perhaps seeking some heavy support to go with their more subtle intrigues, the party made their way to the goose-pens in the barge's belly. Some quick talk and flashing of the key convinced the mannequette guarding the door that they were here on Vodyan's business. The mannequette's day was ruined by this, as they had always wanted to be entrusted with the very big goose.

The bogoblin who had been beaten by Vodyan's thugs last session is found hung up and badly beaten. The party cut him down and made their way to the huge, iron-barred door which held the goose they were looking for.

-My description of this door, and the feeding/viewing slots it held, was not the best. This led to a brief and retconned fight with the goose because I thought that the party had opened the door to look at it. A lesson in clearer communication of imagined spaces, and smoothing over differences in understanding-

Peeking through the view-slot, they see that it truly is a very big goose, perhaps comparable to a smaller elephant, with curling horns of beak-stuff crowning its head. In my notes I have it listed as 'the hell-goose', but the party settles on calling it 'Demogoosegon'. Sieur Alastair is immediately enamoured with it and begins to desire it as his mount, despite how much this might hurt his horse's feelings, and the goose's own diabolical temperament.

After interrogating a worker patching up the barge's hull damage, they learn that the formerly strung-up bogoblin "Counsin Jimerty" was Demogoosegon's handler, so Alastair gave the little guy some water to rouse him, then carried him off on what was claimed to be Vodyan's orders. The workers were all thoroughly terrified of the party by this time.

Deciding to give the wheels of intrigue they set in motion some time to spin, the party prepared to head off to the giant boar corpse that the scent-merchant Killian had mentioned. A raft is built with requisitioned repair materials to hold some of the quickly-growing party who wouldn't fit in the boat, and they set off to a relatively uneventful journey.

Before sundown they come across their destination: a dead and rotting boar big enough to dwarf the I Wanna Die with an equally rotting tree piercing up out its back. The party investigates the corpse and the tree, attempt to talk to the tree for some reason, and discuss possible entrances (the eye-sockets? the nostrils? the anus?) before Ibrahim brought up the possibility of using his magic to simply blow it to kingdom come.

-Ibrahim has access to biomancer and necromancer spells from Skerples' Many Rats on a Stick version of the GLOG. The spell he would use is Explode Corpse. This spell has no size limit. Thank you Skerples-

Agreeing that that would be the simplest and quickest way to fulfill their mission, the party retreated some distance to a floating turnip on the edge of the crater in the swamp's vegetation left by the boar's death throes. Alastair removes and covers his armour, the animals and cargo are battened down, and Ibrahim conducts his fell ritual, permanently sacrificing some of his own health to fuel the detonation. And what a detonation it was.

Unbeknownst to the party, an entire nascent civilization of maggot-people was flourishing in the giant boar's meat and bowels. I had a whole dungeon written up for them and everything. Alas, the best laid plans of DMs are nothing before the ingenuity of players. The boar disintegrates into a reeking mushroom cloud and the party is showered in pink mist and the obliterated material culture of the maggot-people. Cousin Jimerty, shocked out of his half-conscious state by the shockwave, begins to see Ibrahim as something akin to a god of destruction.

Brindle questions Velasco on why the archons, if they are really benevolent and loving divinities, would allow such an atrocity to happen. Velasco and Ibrahim agree that the archons prefer to let people have free will even if it means evil on a scale such as they just perpetrated could happen, thus solving the problem of evil forever.

The session and even our call ended here. Where usually there is some post-game shooting the shit, then there was only grappling with the enormity of their deed.

Will Ibrahim continue his trend of exponentially-increasing massacres? Who will be left alive on the I Wanna Die when the party returns? Where could the Countess have ended up by now? Find out next session of Beyond the Bizarre Armoire.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Beyond the Bizarre Armoire: Session 3; Getting Intruiging

Session 1

Session 2

After a riveting discussion on Y2K, the adventure continues. We're joined by:
-Maxcan7 (https://weirdwonderfulworlds.blogspot.com/), as Mr. Fox and his War Dogs (less one)
-TheisticGilthoniel (http://pilgrimtemple.blogspot.com/), as Ibrahim the Adept
-Renefor (https://falseidolstla.blogspot.com/) as Velasco the Heterodox Monk

The party receives a hero's welcome at the wrecked gambling barge 'I Wanna Die' after saving them from a very pissed-off tree last session.

After surveying the crowd, apparently gathered into factions, they decided to first speak with the mouse Brindle, who had gambled away everything but the shirt on her back. They learned that Brindle was an escapee from the cult of the great worm out east, and her family shunned her for rejecting their anti-clothing beliefs. The party decided they should try to rescue Brindle and her faction of destitute gamblers. Velasco in particular was smitten with the mouse, though Brindle seemed more interested in practical ways to escape the swamp and better her lot than with tales of the archons' love and romantic gestures.

Brindle, depicted fully be-shirted by Renefor

After this contact was made with Lanky, B.K.'s partner in crime, a tall and skinny mannequette dressed like a wise guy. Lanky informed them that the money they were promised by B.K. for rigging the goose-race was kept under lock and key in the suite of the barge's owner, a goose-breeder named Vodyan, who apparently had his own scam going which was ruined in the feast of jockey-flesh last session. Lanky was clearly not the brains of the operation, as he proposed a brutal smash-and-grab. The party, not particularly keen on either Lanky or Vodyan, decided to sow rumours between the barge's factions and snatch the money once chaos ensued.

Taking advantage of Vodyan's regard for them, the party convinced him that B.K., apparently one of his many grandsons, in fact respected him and that his scoundrely ways were simply an attempt to win Vodyan's respect in return. They also turned Vodyan against some of his other relatives on the barge.

Inside the ruptured belly of the ship a makeshift bar had been set up. There the party had a long conversation with the bartender, a lackie whose entire liver had been hacked away. Ibrahim got on the bartender's good side by transferring the scars from his side to Ibrahim's dog, easing his discomfort. The party heard about the Loggerhead, a creature who traded in peoples' parts and thereby created all lackies. While enjoying a drink, they overheard distressed noises below deck.

Among the goose-breeder Vodyan's entourage, the party first talked to a strange little creature with a trunk and no mouth named Killian, a self-described scent merchant. Killian had fallen on hard times due to the stench of rotten pork from the corpse of a great boar that the Daunt had slain for the King's wedding feast, but had lost so many men in the attempt that it lacked the manpower to dredge the boar's corpse out of the swamp.

After this talk with Killian they had a tea party with some fancily-dressed mannequettes, who lacking tea filled their cups with turnip-liquor. To stir up discord in Vodyan's ranks they claimed that the toady man was the one who planned B.K.'s murderous scam, an accusation which riled the noble crew up enough to try killing Vodyan on the spot. Not wanting such open bloodshed, the party talked them down to a poisoning, which Velasco agreed to perform in exchange for a handful of gold coins.

This sparked an OOC discussion as to how the barge's intrigue fits into the big picture of rescuing the Countess. Was the potential for gaining allies worth the time spent here?

Though he'd been rebuffed earlier after offering a bouquet of swamp-flowers to Brindle (who by this time was sick of the swamp), the offer of gold coinage won her over, and she agreed to team up with the party.

While Velasco charmed the mouse, the War Dogs decided to investigate the sounds they overheard at the bar. Sneaking below deck via a circuitous route, a dog spied one of Vodyan's thugs torturing a bogoblin worker, apparently based on the lie the party had said about his treacherous family earlier.

The party circled back with Lanky's group to find the mannequette had grown impatient and decided to go ahead with the assault plan. They convinced his 2nd in command who'd remained behind that they had another, better plan in the works, and to hold off on setting fire to the barge for the moment. That is the briefly-delayed powderkeg explosion the session ended on.

(Between sessions, the previously unnamed pinecone knight who had accompanied the party from the watchtower at the armoire's door is named 'Silverfrost')

Character Cards:

There are a lot of NPCs to juggle in this game. Here's some quick summaries based on what the party knows so far to keep them all straight:

In the mortal world:

Countess Aluya
-Still missing

Count Omedo
-Killed Aluya's brother in the war
-War buddies with Mr. Fox and the War Dogs

Maid Nadiya
-Convinced to stay quiet and stay put until the Countess has been rescued

Beyond the bizarre armoire:

Silverfrost
-Pinecone knight
-First person the party met beyond the armoire
-Agreed to guide the party to the King's palace in gratitude for them healing his comrade

The Couturier Spider
-Big spider
-Obsessed with fashion
-Lives down a well
-Promised silk drip to the party if they brought it a living victim
-Fears the great worm will find it if it emerges

The King in the Pines
-Nominal ruler of the world beyond the armoire
-Ordered the Countess's kidnapping, wants to marry her
-Possible mistaken identity(?)

The Daunt
-Bad news
-The King's right hand man
-Can't be killed by mortal means
-Killed the great boar in the swamp
-Killed a lot of people really
-Razed the Couturier Spider's village and strung up some of the pirate mannequettes that stole the Countess from under his nose

Captain Amberdrip
-Leader of the pinecone knight outpost in brocadia
-Defeated by Sir Alistair in a duel for medicine and the freedom of Sir Pineleaf

Sir Pineleaf
-Pinecone knight disgraced by failure to retrieve the Countess before the mannequettes did
-Sworn to serve Sir Alistair for winning back his honour

Mesquite
-Pinecone knight
-Guards the brocadia outpost's dock
-Sold raft to party in exchange for Ibrahim's rings
-Someone on the I Wanna Die owes him money
-Sketchy guy

B.K.
-Bogoblin
-Grandson of Vodyan
-Promised to split gambling winnings with party if they helped rig the result of a goose-race

Lanky
-Tall, skinny mannequette
-B.K.'s accomplice on the I Wanna Die
-Fond of arson

Vodyan
-Bogoblin
-Grandfather of B.K.
-Goose-breeder and owner of the I Wanna Die
-Paranoid about his family trying to overthrow him

Brindle
-Mouse
-Mercenary attitude
-Destitute escapee from the cult of the great worm
-Agreed to work with the party for money and a way out of the swamp

The Loggerhead
-Creator of the lackies, steals/repossesses/buys and sells body parts
-Not a turtle

The Great Worm
-Eats clothing
-Lives to the east
-Tyrant over the nudist mice
-Feared by the Couturier Spider

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

GLOG Class: Abjurer Wizard

You're a specialist in wards, protections, and bindings. If there's an evil that's been sealed away for a thousand years it was probably an abjurer that did it. Might've even been your master's master's master. Abjuration's not as flashy as throwing fireballs, but someone's gotta do it.

Starting Equipment:
Wool cloak, ceremonial silver lock and key, apotropaic amulet

Perk:
You can invest a spell into a physical token no bigger than your fist, and set the spell to go off once the token has met a specific condition*. Tokens don't last longer than a day. If a token's destroyed then the spell and any magic die used to cast it are lost. 

* Condition must be something you personally could observe if you were at the token's position, no setting them to go off if P=NP.

Drawback:
If you personally initiate violence (e.g. sneak attack, duel challenge, etc.) then you lose a magic die. Provoking someone into attacking you is fine.

Cantrips:
1. Stretch a strand of your hair across a threshold. You'll receive a mental alarm sufficient to wake you up if the hair is crossed.
2. Tell at a glance if someone or something is magically protected.
3. If you cup something completely in both hands and whisper magic words to it, it cannot harm you so long as you continue to do so, whether it be a lump of burning coal, or poison dart frog, or whatever else.

Mishaps:
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1 for a day.
2. Spell affects you instead of its intended target.
3. You become unable to see or hear beyond any threshold (doorway, your own barriers, etc.) for an hour.
4. Paralyzed for 1d6 rounds.
5. You're flung out the nearest exit of the room you're in. If you're not in a room it happens the next time you enter one.
6. Any conditional spells you've set up go off simultaneously.

Dooms:
1. Your soul's resistances weaken. Automatically fail any saves vs. magic and possession for the next day.
2. The weakening spreads to your entire being. Fail all saves for the next day. You also become homo sacer, without legal protections, for the same time. Anyone who sees you recognizes this. It's essentially a one-person Purge (like the movie franchise).
3. You become a pariah to the universe. You can own nothing. You can never remain in one place long enough to rest. The law will not recognize your humanity. Fate sees it so. Anyone who shelters you or stays by your side will start to suffer the same effect as long as they do.

Spells:
1. Stasis
2. Barrier
3. Sanctuary
4. Deflection
5. Clear the Air
6. Against Prying Eyes
7. Iron Binding
8. Enfolding Seal
9. Return to Sender
10. Expand Space
11. Guardian Spirit
12. Absolute Territory

1. Stasis
R: touch
T: creature or object
D: [sum] rounds
Touched target becomes locked in time, unmovable (relative to the world's surface) and invincible for the duration. Creatures get save to resist.

2. Barrier
R: touch
T: class of creature or individual
D: concentration
Draw a line in a soft surface or with sprinkled powder and name a class of creature (goblins, birds, etc.) or an individual. To these targets the line will act as a solid, invisible wall with either [sum] HP if a class of creature was named, or [sum]x[dice] if an individual was named. All attacks against the barrier automatically hit.

3. Sanctuary
R: 50 feet
T:  [sum] HD of creatures
D: 10 minutes
Affected creatures must save to attack one another. A creature that makes its save is not longer protected by the spell. You may include yourself in the affected creatures without spending any [sum].

4. Deflection
R: touch
T: self
D: [dice] rounds
You can deflect the next [dice] non-magical attacks aimed at you onto another creature within touch range. If there are no eligible targets the spell has no effect.

5. Clear the Air
R: 20 feet
T: volume
D: [dice] rounds
Within [sum]5x5x5 feet volume any liquids or contaminants are gently pushed aside until only breathable air is left within the area. Deals [sum] damage to fluid or gaseous creatures if cast inside them.

6. Against Prying Eyes
R: touch
T: area up to [dice]x5 feet in diameter
D: [sum] rounds
Creatures outside the area must save or become physically unable to look at it, even in their peripheral vision.

7.  Iron Binding
R:
touch
T: point
D: [sum] minutes
An iron chain [dice]x20 feet long erupts from a point you touch. You can choose to have one end bolted to a solid surface. When the chain emerges you can use it to tie something within its length up with a ranged grapple attack. After the spell runs out the chains crumble to rusty dust.

8. Enfolding Seal
R: touch
T: object or creature
D: 1 hour
Lay a sheet of paper, blanket, or similar surface on or below a creature or object no bigger than 10x10x10 feet. That target is then folded up inside the surface, effectively existing in a pocket dimension for the duration of the spell. Unfolding the surface or damage to the folded surface immediately breaks the spell. Creatures get a save to resist.

9. Return to Sender
R: 20 feet
T: [sum] HD of hostile summoned or magically created creatures and constructs
D: [dice] minutes
Creatures that fail their save are turned against the one who sent them against you with the same level of hostility. Particularly loyal creatures get a bonus to their save equal to their HD.

10. Expand Space
R: 20 feet
T: two points
D: Concentration, up to [dice]x2 rounds
Space is warped so that the distance between two points within 20 feet of you and each other is increased by [sum]x5 feet. This distance is only experienced when moving between the two points, moving sideways between them isn't affected.

11. Guardian Spirit
R: Touch
T: Animal figurine
D: [dice] hours
Place down an animal figurine. If the real animal's HD would be equal to or less than [dice]x2 then a guardian spirit in the form of that animal will be summoned. The spirit will guard an area up to 50 feet across, and attempt to non-lethally subdue any trespassers who you have not designated as guests. The spirit can see the invisible and the true form of shapeshifters. If the figurine is moved from its initial spot the guardian spirit is banished.

12. Absolute Territory
R: self
T: 10 feet diameter sphere
D: 10 minutes or until area is left, or see below
Choose up to [dice] abstractions or forces (death, gravity, magic, etc.). A 10 feet diameter bubble is created around you wherein those things effectively don't exist. You are not protected from any side effects this might have. If you invest 4 dice into the spell then it lasts until you leave the area. Explosions, radiation, and the like from removing the strong nuclear force or whatever will not pass beyond the area of the bubble even after it drops.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Twenty Minute Dungeon Challenge: The First Batch

Make a dungeon in twenty minutes. Try to make it not completely suck. Simple enough:

https://velvetinks.blogspot.com/2021/03/20-minute-dungeon-trolls-tower.html

This post's got three of them, if anyone's interested I can make cleaned-up versions:

1. Play-Palace of the Deposed Prince

The previous monarch spoiled his sole heir rotten, emptying his treasury to commission a wondrous hide-away full of toys and wonders for the child. That's not the only reason he was overthrown, but it was a big one. The play-palace and the prince were lost in the chaos of the rebellion, its treasures ripe for the taking, if only you can find it...

2. Perplexing Problem of the Prize-Winning Pumpkin

That is not dead which can eternal lie... in the pumpkin patch. Farmer Portman thought he'd struck orange gold when his pumpkin won the village's biggest produce competition by a landslide, but then it just kept growing, and growing, and growing! Turns out some nameless sorcerer in league with dark powers was killed and buried on the land his fields now occupy, and the lingering dregs of their spirit had finally managed to seize a new, unconventional host. Many of the village's inhabitants have now fallen under the pumpkin's dread influence. Are you a bad enough dude to get this gourd to give up the ghost once again?

3. Crawling Cannibal's Creepy Cabin (more of a lair than a dungeon really)

It's kind of like The People Under the Stairs (kino flick). This cozy-seeming cabin turns out to be the honeyed web of an invertebrate killer!

Thoughts:
-Twenty minutes is not a long time for much besides being on fire
-Coming up with decent puzzles quickly is hard
-Twenty minute hexcrawl? Possible, maybe even more feasible than a dungeon
-Favourite is the Play-Palace, did not have nearly enough time to put to paper what I had in my head for it
-This was a fun challenge and I encourage bored people everywhere to try their hand at it

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

D6x6 Mingy Mind Flayers

Alternate names to evade product identity when using mind flayers with the serial numbers filed off*: Brainbusters, Cerebro-Slurpers, Skullfuckers, Chris Angel’s Mindfreaks, Dudes Trying To Get Some Head

*However I would say that keeping the serial numbers as is is pretty neat. They’re like post-humans from the sunless future what’s not to like.


Table automator can be found here: http://meanderingbanter.blogspot.com/2018/10/automatic-list-to-html-translator-v2.html

D6These mind flayers eat brains
1 to preserve others’ memories beyond the span of a single life.
2 because they’ve got anodyne souls and only experience intensity of emotion from stolen vicarity.
3 because they contain vital hormones that mind flayers can’t produce themselves.
4 as a panpsychist mission to unite all disparate consciousnesses.
5 because they’re addictively delicious.
6as a symbolic performance to reaffirm themselves as the only beings deserving of rational thought.

D6These mind flayers eat brains by
1 scooping them out in pieces through peoples’ nose/ear/eye holes with their long, hooked fingers.
2 smashing people’s heads in with hooked maces then plucking off the bits that get caught on the hooks.
3 applying a resonant device to people’s heads that liquefy their brains into a jelly that drips out of their orifices for easy slurping.
4 biting people’s heads off and swallowing them whole.
5 overloading their minds with psychic energy so their skulls explode.
6massaging softening slime into peoples’ skulls then absorbing them through the weakened membrane (kind of like in Rabbit of Seville when Bugs Bunny’s massaging Elmer Fudd’s scalp).

D6These mind flayers’ psychic powers
1 are in fact stolen from the brains they eat. The mind flayers cover the brains of human psychics both active and latent.
2 are the only way they can perceive the world, through the eyes, ears, and thoughts of other thinking creatures.
3 are released in a burst of poltergeist activity when they are killed.
4 are limited to replicating what they’ve personally experienced. For example their telekinesis might mimic the sharp swing of a sword or a charging bull, but not a mountain falling on you. Ditto for implanted hallucinations and memories.
5 can literally flay your mind, creating a more-or-less accurate copy of it for them to interrogate and torment.
6cause stark cognitive decline in those exposed too often to them.

D6These mind flayers come from
1 exposure to a memetic virus that corrupts the mind-body relationship.
2 a philosophical cult’s failed transition to forms of pure intellect.
3 the genetically-engineered intellectual caste of a fallen civilization.
4 extraterrestrial brooding chambers embedded within the planet’s crust. The chambers activated when they detected the evolution of centralized nervous systems on the surface.
5 the laboratories of a secret inquisition, which made them as the ultimate censors.
6a new generation of divine beings who seek to usurp the gods as the gods usurped the titans.

D6These mind flayers’ greatest weakness is
1 prions. Their feedstock must be pristine or they’ll suffer rapid neural degeneration.
2 sincerely-held superstitions. The interaction between the belief imbued in these superstitions and the mind flayers’ psychic abilities renders them effective against the creatures.
3 the undead, and necromantic magic. The mind flayers dread them and cannot wield them.
4 that they can get a potent “contact high” from touching the minds of intoxicated people.
5 is their own pride. They’ll underestimate their enemies at every turn.
6is direct physical violence. Despite their mental power their bodies are fragile.

D6These mind flayers scheme
1 to do some Truman Show-style gaslighting on the party to make their minds suitable for implantation in a paranoia-core.
2 to stalk the children of an orphanage, inducing various phobias in them to create a critical mass of nightmares that will sink into the waking world.
3 to test various, potentially very unsafe and/or mutagenic nootropic mixtures supplied to the hyper-competitive students of a renowned university.
4 to infiltrate an archaeological dig and retrieve a fossilized brain unearthed there which contains antediluvian knowledge in its silicate folds.
5 to feed information to a secret police force through patsies, making them believe that the mind flayers’ enemies are actually rebels and dissidents to be crushed.
6to engineer an idyllic micro-society wherein the people will become contented cattle ripe for unbothered harvest.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Beyond the Bizarre Armoire: Session 2

Session 1

 Another week, another session:

For session 2 the players were:
-Maxcan7 (https://weirdwonderfulworlds.blogspot.com/), as Mr. Fox and his War Dogs
-TheisticGilthoniel (http://pilgrimtemple.blogspot.com/), as Ibrahim the Adept
-Renefor (https://falseidolstla.blogspot.com/) as Velasco the Heterodox Monk

We began this session at the pinecone knight outpost where the last session left off, with a winded hedgehog monk stumbling up. This was Velasco, sent by the Count to make sure the party was still alive. Velasco quickly acclimated to the strangeness of the world beyond the armoire, grounded by his familiarity with Mr. Fox, his war dogs, and Sir Alistair. They passed time talking to the pinecones about the land, and heard of the mice who religiously forswore clothing, and of the ermines who savoured their flesh.

The party held to their promise to return medication to the injured comrade of the pinecone knight by the armoire's entrance, and went south. This time they avoided the Couturier Spider's well by a wide margin. Despite their caution, tragedy struck, and one of the war dogs was abducted by a giant bat with fanciful fabric wings swooping out from the darkness.

An enlightening out-of-character discussion of bats, wasps, and the times they've tormented us followed.

True to their word, the party gave the life-saving medicine Sir Alistair had won in his duel with Captain Amberdrip to the watchful pinecone knights. The as-yet-unnamed pinecone knight who was the first creatue they met in the armoire's world joined them as a guide to the palace of its liege, the King in the Pines. It also warned them of the Daunt, the King's brutal right hand man/monster, a creature who could not be killed as simply as other mortals.

On the relatively uneventful return journey back to the swamp the party picked up a golden locket, holding a portrait of a younger Countess, as well as her brother who the Count had slain during the war.

While passing through the glade where the mannequette pirates were hanged, Ibrahim decided to question some of the corpses, learning the following from their wightly whispers:
-They were all hanged by the Daunt
-Snow foxes are all tricksters who speak in opposites
-Though made of wood, mannequettes mimic the functions of life like breathing, and are dependent on them for continued animation
-Mannequettes take on the roles and personalities of what they're dressed as

After this grave conversation the party relaxes with the pinecone knights at the outpost. Velasco wins over a convert with his unorthodox stories of the archons and their love. They learn that turpentine is distilled from pine resin, and the War Dogs receive a wash of the stuff to knock off their fleas.

The next morning they head north to the outpost's dock, currently swarming with swimming beetles tearing away at dumped chum. Mr. Fox dumps the War Dogs' shed fleas in, which turn out to be a particularly delightful treat for the beetles. Ibrahim trades one of his rings to a sketchy pinecone guard who goes by 'Mesquite' for the pinecone's raft, hidden under a pile of silken leaves, and they set off on the directions of the nameless knight to the King's palace.

While paddling north through the giant waterlogged turnips the party encounters another strange crew boating through the mist: one, wistful and lackadaisical, who seems to speak from the party's own perspectives, and the other with a grotesquely concave chest that could only wheeze. As the odd pair drew closer they seemed to suck the air out of the party's lungs, and with a burst of strength Velasco powered them away.

Then in the middle of the swamp the party encounters an even more bizarre sight: a wide whirlpool whipped into motion by froggy people racing giant, greasy swamp-swans. They're able to push against the current and drift to an observation platform. There the race's bookie, another froggy man going by "B.K.", makes them an intriguing offer: make it so none of the racers survive, and he'll split the winnings of his long-odds gamble with them. Ibrahim takes him up on the offer, and permanently sacrifices a point of his HP for the power to cast a 'Become Delicious' spell on a lagging racer. It came up a perfect 6. As the other racers lapped him, their swans lashed out at the newfound treat, tearing him apart and churning the water into a feeding ground for the birds and the marine predators similarly enticed.

TheisticGilthoniel claimed this to be the second most awful thing he's done in a game so far.

Apalled and impressed in equal measure, B.K. pointed them towards the gambling barge 'I Wanna Die' to collect the winnings. Night falls as the party heads over, and through the darkness screams and the sounds of struggle greet them. The barge is under siege by a moving tree! 

After a brief scuffle of maneuvering and hurled turnip-chunks, Mr. Fox has the idea to tie turpentine-soaked rags to the unnamed pinecone's crossbow bolts, and fire them at the drier sackcloth-hung boughs at the tree's crown. This works marvelously, and the tree hurls itself into the water to douse itself.

The waves stirred up by the tree's impact knock the War Dogs and Ibrahim overboard. Fortunately this doesn't attract any beetles, or worse. The party receives a hero's welcome by the relieved gamblers, and the session closes out there.

What awaits our heroes next time? Is this truly the last of the killer tree? Will they find the source of the growing rotten-pork stench, and is it indeed decomposing turnips building up to a catastrophic explosion as surmised? Will they be able to collect the ill-gotten gains from their race-ending atrocity? Only time and the dice can tell.