Friday, January 31, 2020

Objects from Bebahidari

Inspired mostly by reading this:, and this:, I’ve been thinking about worldbuilding through material culture, through the things you can see, touch, manipulate, explore, etc., rather than through exposition. More thoughts will likely follow, but for now here’s a picture of a culture painted through twenty things you might find from there:

Objects from Bebahidari (D20):

1. A hexagonal crystal bottle of heady honey-wine.

2. A steel spear decorated with hyena-mane tassels at the hilt, its head rubbed with dust to reduce its sheen. Whittled into the shaft is a crude depiction of three people in a row impaled by the spear.

3. An electrum coin bearing the face of the hero-king Hesama and the phrase “May the people rejoice” in Exarchate-script on one side, a tower crowned by a crescent moon and the phrase “May the heavens be content” on the other. Older coins contain more gold in their alloy, and most have been grievously clipped.

4. A thickly lacquered black-and-red box the size of an outstretched hand, decorated with relief images of mountains and flying bustards. The box contains a block of pressed hashish and an integrated mandoline.

5. A defaced brass astrarium metering the seven heavens, though the outer two and their corresponding kosmokrators have been pried off. The kosmokrators are represented by precious stones of different colours embedded in its mechanisms.

6.  A gold-backed hand mirror rimmed with silver hog-headed serpents. The motto "No shame but envy" has been scratched along the top of the glass.

7. A wordless preacher's book, vibrantly illustrated with key imagery of Exarchate teachings: the bestowal of the fiery sword of dominion over the earth, the crowning of the first king, and the revelation of the calendar prime among them.

8. A glass jar full of aromatically-infused butter, which releases a fresh floral scent while it melts in the heat.

9. An oblong ebony case containing silver needles and blue ink-cake.

10. A cotton bag spattered with dark stains that might be mud, might be blood. Within are oracular knucklebones engraved with astrological sigils.

11. A six-stringed lyre adorned with colourful glass beads.

12. A leopard skin and red velvet cloak with a sun-shaped collar pressed with gold leaf. The cloak is tattered with holes, and over a dozen arrowheads dangle from its hem.

13. A pewter set of teacups and accompanying kettle, stamped with daisies. They smell faintly of the spiced tea sediment speckling their bottoms.

14. A tall, cylindrical white hat, stiffened with a wicker frame. Green ribbons make a riotous trail from its peak.

15. A red granite micro-stele with a planting spike on its base. Each face is carved with a stanza of a circular prayer.

16. A hinged wooden mancala board with polished, rounded opals as pieces. The board is engraved with scenes of an army fighting donkeys, and apparently losing.

17. A deep purple veil embroidered with a star chart in gold thread.

18. A long, curved dagger. Its blade is inlaid with yellowed ivory, its horn handle carved in the form of a rearing lioness.

19. A four-chambered clay spice-pot containing enough cinnamon, berbere, cumin, and nutmeg to season a feast.

20. An ostrich-saddle and stirrups, fit for a child or a small adult. The seat reeks of urine.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What Is The Outrageous Deformity Of This Fashionable Lapdog? & Related Miscellanea

Bonus DLC for a larger table that doesn’t exist yet.

The more obvious effort it takes to keep the dog alive, the more prestigious it is.

What is the outrageous deformity of this fashionable lapdog? (D12)

1. No limbs, 90% of its body mass is fluff. Moves like a caterpillar wrapped in cotton candy.

2. Soft-boned, must have its chest massaged at all times to stimulate the pumping of its lungs. Fed pre-chewed gruel with a golden spoon.

3. Teeth grown up and out through the lips, encasing its head in an ivory cage.

4. Grossly overmuscled tail that wags its body in a fit of yipping buffoonery at the slightest excitement.

5. Delicate stilt-legs that produce a gentle, shivering gait.

6. Born without skin. Survives only with frequently replaced, medicine-soaked bandages and sterilizing baths.

7. Constantly lolling tongue, long enough to trip it up when it runs. Perpetual choking hazard. Dog must be fed through syringe squeezed down its throat.

8. Supernumerary heads and forelimbs jutting at discomforting angles from its shoulders. Never stops barking, heads can’t stand each other.

9. Head dominated by bulging eyeballs. They fall out if it moves too quickly, and must be pushed back into their sockets by hand.

10. Looks remarkably like a housecat. Suicidally depressed from chronic pain.

11. Linked by the umbilicus to a train of identical, sequentially smaller dogs.

12. Muzzle so shortened that its face is little more than a concavity in its torso.

Lapdog-related plot hooks (D6):

1. The good reichsfreiin Grizelda von Hooppentof zu Diechenbach auf Surretz wishes for her next lapdog to have a prognathicastic jaw. Go to the orcs of the Weeping Hills, and acquire one of their murder-hounds for breeding stock!

2. A number of brutal killings have shocked the court, all by the adorable tiny paws of the victims’ lapdogs. What is driving these dogs to such violence? Is it an elaborate assassination scheme? You’re being paid to find out!

3. Duels with weapons have become terribly boorish. Duels resolved between lapdogs is the next big thing. Rig the duel between the dogs of the sorely cuckolded Herr Friedlander and the slimy svengali Herr Muellin so that Herr Friedlander can avenge his dishonour.

4. The baron believes that his young heir has been replaced by a lapdog bred in his exact image. Discover the truth, then either find the real heir or disabuse the decreasingly sane baron of his delusion.

5. The count’s lap is too large for ordinary lapdogs. Three quite expensive dogs have already suffocated sunken in its folds. Find, or make, a lapdog big enough for the count. Normal large dogs won’t do.

6. Counterfeit freak-dogs made with mutagenic toxins are saturating the market. Professional breeders will shell out to see the source shut down, the perpetrators made an example of.

So you want to sell this weird-looking lapdog:

Prices assume a silver standard.

Dog multiplier:

0.5x: Boring, mutt, common breed.

1x: Breed associated with refinement, unusual colour, deformities that could be replicated with prosthetics.

2x: Real head-turner, freakshow material.

3x: WTF is going on with this dog, how are you going to get it to the buyer before it dies, or: the dog is of credibly divine lineage.


Unscrupulous Butcher (5 copper pieces per dog HD, dog multipliers become dividers).

Aspirational Burgher (1d6 silver pieces).

Voguish Courtier (10 silver pieces, 1 gold piece if no one else at court has a dog like it).

Puppy-Obsessed Prince(ss) (3d6 gold pieces, -1D6 for every four months since the dog was born).

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Break Jesus Out Of Babylon

Been reading some theological stuff, real riveting, like if wookiepedia metastasized for two thousand years, and was written by cool mystics instead of drab nerds.

A digression on creativity: I’ve seen many people talk about their creativity like it’s a muscle. I feel it’s more of a gut: something to be fed a diverse and healthful diet, these inputs mashed apart, transmuted together to new forms, its output an intermittent and urgent interruption in other business, all in all a process managed below the level of conscious attention.


The Mythic Underworld, a realm of danger, mystery, wealth untold won by desperate gambits and the skin scraped from your teeth. What you return with (or fail to return with) from the Mythic Underworld in actual Myth is never gold. Most often it’s a person. Orpheus & Eurydice, Asu-shu-namir & Ishtar, Hunahpu & Xbalanque, Izanagi & Izanami, et cetera & etc. But who could you possibly have to get out from the Underworld who has the same emotional resonance for players as cold, hard cash? The archetypal father of a character you might’ve  rolled up only a minute ago? No. The answer to me is obvious: you have to rescue Jesus.

The year is 66 A.D. Something is terribly wrong.

Jesus Christ disappeared on the eve of His crucifixion, spirited away in the night by Roman priests who would not see their Aeon of Jupiter ended. No death, no resurrection, only decades spent at the mercy of men drunk on hubris, fixed in mortal flesh. Only a forsaken world where gospel fades to gossip.

You play as the wretched of the earth, the rubble of empire, slaves, lepers, zealots, disillusioned priests, gladiators, barbarians, and the like. Maybe you’ve heeded the good word of the few apostles who haven’t yet been hunted down, or perhaps you received a vision, or maybe you just really hate the Romans. Whatever the case, whoever you are, you’re black sheep in a dwindling flock.

Your mission is to rescue Jesus. He is held prisoner in some unwholesome hole in the earth, bound by vain and venal sorceries. Your mission is a covert one. Rome’s beastly legions stand poised to crush any credible liberators of the Liberator. Go in secret, hide among the tomb-robbers and temple-thieves, rob the treasuries, smash the idols, foster rebellion, disrupt sacrifices and grain shipments, find where Jesus is imprisoned and in the end mount a daring raid to earn salvation for all humanity.

Some dungeons you might delve are:
  • The pit below the Colosseum where grub-things feast on blood and corpses thrown down from the carnage above.
  • Diana’s sacred, twisted grove, where unblemished nymphs hunt for human flesh on deerback.
  • A cave in a cliff by the Dead Sea, guarded by ingenious mechanisms and an angel with a hundred flaming eyes. In its depths lie scrolls of precious prophecy, guidance for troubled times laid in wait millennia ago.
  • A library where tongueless slave-scribes are forced to translate their secrets and their magics for Roman perusal. Ink-stained lemures stalk the shelves, hungry for knowledge to slurp from spilled brains.
  • The ruined palace of Amalek, where the Romans gleaned the seed of their God-binding ritual, home to satyrs and jackals, whispering demons, and a legion left to guard it, driven mad to the last man.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Slush Pile Dump

May this dumped slop turn the wheels of content forevermore:

A lone apprentice with rows of crystals, storing the hibernating brains of his master and his master’s master and all others before them, waiting for the lineage to perfect immortality

Frankenstein made from saints’ relics

Prayer wheel-powered golem in a ruined temple, kept running by chanting ghosts. Each ghost fuels a different part of the golem, banish the ghosts to disrupt the golem.

City where the rich dead gamble with the desperate living for blood and life

Dungeon that’s a hoarder’s home, bloated beyond the constraints of space, overrun with filth

Pool with shiny loot at bottom, loot is actually lever that when pulled will flush the pool down to a lower level

Halflings riding giant roosters with razors strapped to their claws

Puppeteering pitcher plant that clamps over an animal’s head

Conjoined clone constantly meditating for the merit of its parent/host

Surgical modification of convicts into creatures like hungry ghosts

Puzzle of magic paintings that are portals to the same pocket world at different times and places

Meat tenderizing anti-haruspexy hammer that snarls fate

Swallowing monster with random potions sloshing in its belly

Antlion dungeon merchant, room full of stuff that shifts into quicksand/whirlpool, try to get out while carrying as much as possible

“Item radar” magic object that detects similar items to the one it’s attached to

The haunted palace of the Drowned Emperor, where new members of the harem are tossed down a well to join their master in undeath

Dungeon that’s a gu ritual (seal a bunch of poisonous creatures inside until one eats the rest and becomes a super-poison)

A village razed by orcs, now possessed by the ghosts of those they killed, attempting a frustrated return to normalcy

Town that’s mostly fallen into a sudden sinkhole, now crawling with scavengers and monsters

Cicada demons: monsters that set ruinous prophesies in motion to feed their grubs over long years of development

Wizards take on apprentices so that they can pass down their spiritual debts past their own lifetimes (and to prevent the same from following into their afterlives)

A land riven by huge canals, tosheroon-boats pulled by teams of elephants ashore mucking accumulated filth out to sea

In the Republic of Beards, every man gets a vote, and everyone becomes a man during voting season.

Amber Lake, with eons preserved below its slow waves

Dungeon peanut gallery of kobolds/goblins/etc. who will help, hamper, and jeer at adventurers as they entertain or bore according to their coarse tastes

Gnomes are the dreams of hibernating animals

Living migratory cathedrals with half-dead saints symbiotically linked in ribcage-reliquaries

Whale-singers, who dive into freezing waters and train their lungs and throats to communicate fishing locations and shipping routes with their fat cousins

Hostile terraforming druid gangs based around different ecosystems/biomes

Mongol-esque horde from collapsed civilization that depended on variant of Create Food & Drink spell that borrowed mass of eldritch being which eventually collected with interest. Horde scours the land like locusts, devouring everything they can digest.

Blossoming fungal mummy-priests sporulating moldy mind-altering mandalas

The first alchemists were also the inventors of cheese

Phallic lance that impregnates those it pierces with fucked-up parasite-babies

Lonely cannibal fills their belly with the silent ghosts of their victims

A flock of trained parrots crying praise to God

Culture which believes bones are the seat of the soul/a person’s power, will replace their own bones with those of their heroic ancestors.

Royal guards that swallow asps, which coil around their heart and bite deep when they taste treachery

Astrologer-prospector who watches the stars for signs of falling meteors

Species with mental swarming instincts, governing how they cluster mentally rather than physically

Dungeon of apotheosis, symbolically mimics legend of hero who became a god but was then cast down, leaving their throne empty. Countless failed attempts to take that throne by completing the dungeon.

Pike-men stretched on racks and grafted with spears and stilts

Cult which removes gonads, genitalia, parts of their brain, etc., to literally excise their fleshly sins

God-In-The-Keg, tapped for its divine ichor

Isolationist village that farms giant teeth, crafts ivory equipment

Vortext: black hole of informational density

Fire as it exists today is a diminished form (as the chicken is to the t. rex) due to elemental politics, hence why there’s so much less fire than earth/air/water

Punishment puppets, still-living bodies of convicts turned into puppets by pulling out their nerves/tendons/etc. into string rigs

Culture that breaks, deforms, and expands their skulls into chambers for alien thoughts

Egg that turns someone who touches it into its child

Rust is the first signs of iron evolving beyond the design of mankind

Lovecraftian tome that drives readers insane because it’s infested with hallucinogenic mold

Gifyanki, and they repeat the same set of actions eternally, respawning if killed. Some of their loops are long enough to link together into something resembling a civilization. Split into eternal, cyclical civil war based on if they pronounce their name with a soft G or hard G.

Diluted waters of Lethe as a recreational drug, forgetting pain, feeling the bliss of annihilation

The tines of crowns were originally designed as antennae to receive the transmissions of the star-gods

Dungeon levels are qlippoth, the shells of previous worlds which underlie the current one

Thieves can become liches by building a legendary hoard of stolen treasure, sustaining themself off the lives of those who try and fail to steal it in turn (like Tomb of Horrors meets One Piece)

The threshold to the mythic underworld/wilderness is getting closer every year. Find out why and how to stop it, or embrace the encroaching chaos.

A city that repeats its destruction every night. Traders come by but do not linger past sundown. Letting the citizens know of their fate is punishable by death. Only ruin has ever resulted from it.

Dungeon-sized mech that is its own reward, the control room is its final section

Every +1 sword contains a fragment of the same artifact. Collect them all to reassemble its true power.

Post-collapse Universe 25-based dungeon (John Calhoun’s mouse overpopulation experiments)

Eyes are the window to the soul, and a reviled sub-class of burglars specialize in breaking and entering through them