Monday, March 23, 2020

Picture Pong: Donkey Pong

1. Mirages are not native to every desert. If they lived (truly lived, like us or bacteria), they could be said to be an invasive species. Somewhere there is an origin. A mother of all mirages.

2. The sands around Vorlith are golden, yet the people of Vorlith are not rich. They are loath to trade anything that is not absolutely vital.

3. The people of Vorlith are defenseless, yet they remain unconquered. Vorlith is the necropolis of emperors.

4. The root of suffering is desire. The fruit of desire is suffering, in its attainment, in its lack. Like matter and energy, the two are equivalent, they are interchangeable.

5. As a bacterium is the most basic agent of decay, a mirage is the most basic agent of this interchange.

But I digress.

Those black and shaggy spirits are incubi. Loping through the heat-haze, they are oft mistaken for jackals, with whom they share a scavenger's aspect. A mirage might take the desperate thirst of a man lost among the dunes, and in return give him a phantom of water. An incubus, alike to the mirage as worm to bacterium, deals in flesh, and fleshly desires. Their scope is not merely sex, as the puritan would have you believe, but all desires which lie deeper in the body than the rational mind: to escape predation, to protect and nurture children, to eat one's fill of fats, salt, and sugar, and yes, sex too, and many others besides.

They are called incubi, "the ones who lie above", because they are believed to exist above the deep, unfathomable web of desire and suffering. Not so. It is their essence, and they feel it perhaps more keenly than any living creature that relies on wet biology to feel. And so they trade in flesh, because they envy it, because it obsesses them, because they would let it bind them.

-A royal couple cry to the night winds for heirs. An incubus slips into their chamber, invisibly reaches to pluck of their organs. From these viands it shapes twins, one for the couple and one to remain with itself. The twins grow strong, the couple weakens, and on the day of their death and their rightful child's coronation, the other twin appears and makes a bid for the throne. Strife spreads faster than wildfire, and the incubus reaps a bounty of desperate flesh.-

The infant they bear is a messiah. The downtrodden in Vorlith wear their chains heavier than ever, shed blood and tears enough for the incubi. They consider their dues already paid, and need only listen to the hopes and bitter wishes of their clients to finish shaping the final product. The inchoate creature is human, in part, but it is also the need for a leader, to be led. How it will lead the people of Vorlith, what it will lead them to, depends on the morass of their collective psyche.

These incubi are among the elites of their kind. Their hearts beat sun-warmed blood through a patchwork of stolen veins. Their minds are meat as much as the airy substance of spirits, and so when they listen to the people of Vorlith pray to a higher power, they recognize, they remember. These incubi will stay in the city, watch the progress of their messiah, and learn how to honour their creator. Only then will they return to the deepest part of the desert, that hole where reality and illusion collapse into one. They will return to the place where all their kind were born, and honour their creator.

Is this an image, or a delusion of the human mind when confronted with a profusion of pixels? Regardless:

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Picture Pong: Things Have Learnt to Ping that Ought to Pong

Waha! The incoherence of the incoherence of the philosophers is laid bare:

And lo! A figure strides:

A Laingmaiden of Mount Gigantomachus, about town on flaneurial diversion.

You might assume that the collared hyena our subject follows would be a pet. You would be grievously mistaken! That hyena is no less than a sacred guide, a conduit for the venerated Gnawsome Force (also less commonly called Greater Entropy, the entropy that cracks bones, shakes the earth, and kills suns, as opposed to the reviled Lesser Entropy which contents itself with smelly decay). Its laughter, bites, and defecation are each contemplated as revealed omens for different spheres.

The elegant elongation of this Laingmaiden's body means that when she was a child she found employ (and modification) as a cat, which on Mount Gigantomachus is a pest-catching profession rather than an animal, as the animal is deemed offensive and competitory to hyenas. Her fellow Langmaidens may also once have been cats, or storkalikes, lookafars, scaffs, or octobassists.

Her white lower mask, carved from the stone of a chaplain, indicates her virginal status (virginity on Mount Gigantomachus being understood as not having passed beneath the Hymenopteran Gate to seek the counsel of the Black Queen and Yellow King, and so having to carry one of their young to term in exchange). For another adulomorph this might be a sign of lack of ambition, immaturity, or counter-cultural rebellion, but Laingmaidens are ill-suited for childbearing, whether their own or someone else's, and so it may simply be a prudently healthy choice.

Her upper mask, wooden and close-lipped, tilted to stare at the sky, indicates a desire to become a seer (together, the upper and lower masks reflect the higher and lowers souls: as one is, physical existence: below; as one wishes to be, spiritual existence: above). That she places it so high on her hat means this Laingmaiden believes acceptance into apprenticeship by a master seer is close. The unbroken circle her hair is bound in is unorthodox, heretical even depending on the viewer. The circle is entropy defeating itself, an ending that merely results in a new beginning.

The woman's earrings symbolize nothing. They are just stylish.

By the swirling beigeness of the wall behind her we can tell this Laingmaiden is "slumming it" in the Footman District, so-called because it was constructed from the numerous and sparsely equipped bodies of the stone giants surmised to be common footmen.

-A Digression: Mount Gigantomachus was no ordinary mountain, but an open mass grave of stone giants broken upon each others' fists, mauls, and picks. The first of the followers of the Gnawsome Force in the area found a few maddened survivors, and swiftly dismantled them and the bodies to construct the piled city also called Mount Gigantomachus, though outside urban legend the giants are now nothing more than rubble foundations and dwindling quarries.-

The Footman District is a place for foreigners, unappealing industries like leather-making or fermentation, discontinued adulomorphs, and the people who resided on Mount Gigantomachus before the coming of the Gnawsomites, relegated to squatters in their own homeland. Among that latter group are insurgent zealots who call themselves Kosmocorpii, self-mutilators who believe their maimed states makes them a mirror of the Godhead (who must be maimed, else how could evil (and also linear time, though that belief is more obscure for understandable reasons) exist?). Perhaps this Langmaiden wields a wicked knife to defend herself from such, or perhaps she's seeking the human bones that are always in demand by seers, to be crunched by their hyenas.

And now for something completely different:

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

20 Extraneous Miscellaneous Magic Items

First 20 here:

21. Farspeech Pill: The egg of a symbiotic bird. Swallowing it prompts the bird to hatch, and then consume and replace your tongue. The bird resembles a red hummingbird with wriggling villi in place of feathers. It functions as a tongue in all respects (except that it cannot taste spiciness), and can be sent to fly out of your mouth to repeat a message you’ve programmed it with, at a location within line of sight or the location of someone whose blood you’ve tasted (which the bird unerringly tracks). The bird can sound like your voice, or the voice of someone whose blood you’ve tasted. If it’s killed you don’t even have a replacement tongue anymore.

22. The Imprisoned Damsel's Hairbrush: Mother-of-pearl handle with bristles of the finest white. Every round spent brushing one’s hair with the Hairbrush causes it to lengthen by 5 feet, and while it’s being brushed the one brushing it can control it telekinetically with the strength and fine control of one of their arms. If the brushing stops then the extra hair it created that's still attached to its user's head crumbles to dust.

23. Bezmarzen: An unremarkable slab of a half-finished sword, still bearing the marks of forge-soot and hammer-beats. Anything killed by Bezmarzen cannot rise again, or be raised. No afterlife awaits its victims. Not even maggots will grow on their corpses.

24. Fairyprick Needle: Ambiguously (though still uncomfortably) phallic silver needle. Its wielder can cause it to grow, and every hole it's poked grows by the same proportion. The needle cannot be shrunk, however.

25. Nachtschient: A dull and dark iron lantern, with an intricacy of design that reveals itself only to those who deign to feel it out. Only its bearer can see the light it emits, and any other light source is extinguished when Nachtschient's light falls on it. Burns fluid from the eyes of blind men rather than oil, lasting one hour per eye.

26. Pensive Pen: A pink quill, the calamus cut to resemble corrugated brain. Automatically writes out the current train of thought of the last person to directly touch it.

27. Boots of the Blistered Fool: A pair of cracked and salt-stained leather boots that seem to tap themselves to an unheard rhythm. Are always a little uncomfortable to wear. You and anyone you're leading travel ten times faster when lost, or when moving in a random direction. You never seem to be aware of moving faster, only of time flying like you're having fun.

28. Grafting Mount: A wrist-sized ring with cruel hooks at both ends. When one end is placed against a body and a fresh limb is placed at the other, the ring will dig into both and allow the person it’s attached to to control the limb as if it were one of their own. Using a special power of the limb (e.g. a ghoul’s paralyzing touch, a cockatrice’s petrification, etc.) costs one HP each time.

29. Lucky Lachtna’s Liquor: Tastes like fire and the best day of your life. Said to be flavoured with flowers that grow only on Elysium. For every point of penalty suffered for being drunk on the Liquor, roll that number out of 10 when you would be killed (e.g. with a -3 penalty the odds would be 3-in-10). If you succeed on this roll, you survive with 1 hp remaining, no matter how improbable, stumbling from around a corner after being disintegrated if need be. A bottle found randomly will contain 1d10 shots.

30. Talbis Lamp: Shaped like an androgynous head with four faces, light spilling from laughing brass lips. Any saves/attempts to discern illusions, lies, or disguises within its light automatically fail, no matter how poor the semblance.

31. Lancea Maleficarum: A magic spear. Its haft is black-charred wood from a witch’s pyre. Its head is a giant raven familiar’s skull. It makes a sound like wailing as air passes through the skull-holes. When the lancea maleficarum strikes a spellcaster within a round of when they cast a spell, it deals bonus damage equal to the level of the spell (or the number of spell dice put into the spell in GLOG, or whatever else in another system) as the spellcaster erupts in darkling flame. If it strikes a spellcaster in the middle of casting a spell, that spell will always be interrupted. It will also accusingly wail the names of nearby spellcasters.

32. Orb of Ascension: An orb of some light, glossy substance that shines cerulean and pink. If crushed it teleports you and everyone within ten feet of you to the nearest open surface above you (e.g. the next highest floor, dungeon level, forest canopy, etc.). DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE THE ORB UNDER THE OPEN SKY. If you do it will take you aaaaaall the way up. Single-use.

33. Goblingrass Cheroot: A barf-green cheroot as thick as a gorilla's middle finger. The one who smokes it can blow heatless sparks that adhere to whatever they're blown on, and can cause the sparks to burn up at will, igniting what they're attached to if it's flammable. The sparks will also burn up when the cheroot burns down, which takes an hour. Also gives you a giggling, giddy headrush.

34. Ghombrallu Shell: A living suit of molluscoid shell on the outside, slimy flesh on the inside. Acts as plate armour that takes up one more inventory slot than usual, and if the wearer of the Shell would take 5 or less damage, they instead take no damage. If they would take more than 5 damage, that damage is doubled as the ghombrallu shell's nerves inflict sympathetic agony.

35. Wicker House-Ball: A ball woven from rattan. It can be expanded into a ten feet radius spherical house, with furniture, walls, and doors woven at the bearer’s whim. In a forest, city, or similarly vertical environment the house-ball can extend tendrils and climb at the speed of a drunken monkey. The house-ball is no more durable than well-made wicker.

36. Fifelsnaw Horn: A curling white horn bound with bands of bronze, inlaid with moonstones and pale sapphires. It's plainly not from a ram, goat, or bull. When blown it causes the weather in the same hex (or 3 mile radius) to change to a sudden freezing blizzard for a watch (or six hours). The blizzard will dissipate immediately after this time is up, unless it's blown in an environment where a blizzard could naturally occur, in which case it lasts for an additional 1d6 watches, exploding (6-36+ hours). The blower takes 1d6 damage as they hack up chunks of frozen lung.

37. Bird’s Eye Lens: A clear crystal lens rimmed with delicate golden filaments like the vanes of a feather. Looking through it lets you see through the eyes of the nearest bird. Stroking the filaments lets you switch to the eyes of the next nearest bird, then the next, and so on.

38. Whifflebuster: An amusement for well-to-do gnomish children, resembling several fireworks mashed together and run through DeepMind. For 1d6 rounds after a whifflebuster is burst, all damage within 30 feet becomes non-lethal damage. Wounds appear as taffy-like deformation.

39. Crimson Slurry: Chunky red fluid in a glass jar. On contact with the fluid you must save vs. death or explosively expel all blood in your body. Expelled blood is transmuted into more crimson slurry.

40. Peacelock Bangle: A steel bangle composed of two rings, decorated with images of olive branches. By clasping hands (or forelimbs/tentacles/other analogous appendages) with something you can cause a ring of the bangle to close shut on them. While the two of you are attached by the bangle, neither of you can attack the other (mind control and suchlike counts as attacking).

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Picture Pong: Swift & Silent As Lightning Before the Thunder

Would Sleipnir run faster upon nine legs than eight?

Does the parrot care less than Casanova when it repeats sweet nothings?

Less certain still than these questions is who has the upper hand now that this heavy blow has been struck: Yet the true warrior knows nothing of defeat or victory. Onwards we go:

"The first step into civilization is struggle with nature. Ultimate sophistication comes when nature is beautified and brought into accord with the Universal Objective Morality."
-N'Dar Bar-Ayun, Prime Vector of the Freebloods

Behold the Gentlesteer, a beast as courteously virtuous as any well-bred scion. See the sleekness of its flanks, which shed immediately any fat as aromatic unguents. Note the exacting inclination of its shoulders and feet, the perfect ratios of the eternally fashionable Dagobertian Brunchtime Curtsy it replicates. Were such a creature the standard of the state of nature, it would be the life of man under social contract that was short, nasty, and brutish by comparison.

Alas, the gentlesteer is as it is precisely because it was not the child of nature alone, but midwifed by a meddling hand. Was it a philosopher, a secret society, a whole enlightened kingdom that created the species? Nothing remains of them in stone or ink, nothing but the flourishes they left in wild flesh.

While its thinking remains that of a beast, the gentlesteer possesses the moral soul of humanity, by instinct recognizing the three foundations of all that is Good: Beauty1, Will2, and Property3. Where the gentlesteer roams, forests are hewn into orderly rows, kept clear of branches to the height of a hiker's crown. By cultivating land which was left in untamed roughness, a gentlesteer gains rightful ownership of it, and by its ownership of land it attracts a herd of fellow gentlesteer to itself, which will offer service and mating rights in exchange for the right to graze on that land.

As the gentlesteer entirely lacks fat, their mothers can produce no milk. It is by ingenious innovation that the creature still raises its young to fulsome adulthood. The gentlesteer will find an animal trespassing on its territory4, or another gentlesteer that had violated contract with its herd, lame it, and lay it in its den. The young will then puncture the confined animal's less vital portions, tapping it like a keg, and sup at the blood for as long as it takes the animal to starve. Would that such a disruptive innovation could be applied to human maternity!

1 Beauty being of course the presentation of etiquette and angles, the ordering of rows, and shunning of loathsome contours or abstraction.
2 Will being of course the Will to Work, or the Will to Power over Time, that knows indolence and leisure to be a fool's squandering.
3 Property being of course the ideal arrangement by which Beauty and Will are brought into existence. As plants are indebted to the sun for its light, so too is the worker indebted to the master for their employment, and so exchange and cultivation become possible.

Perhaps one of the rootless indigents who even now loot the crypts of old and honourable lineages!

Arcing over heaven, my technique has no equal upon the earth. See if you can return this serve, if you dare:

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Picture Pong Riposte: The Rememberdismove Strain


What is it called: Trilumopsian, You-See-Me-I-See-You, Grampa Watch-Closely, P.N.U.S. (Perceptual Nodal Unit of Support)

What are its aspects: Taller than two tall men competing to see who can stand taller, body like sludge only very compacted (each having a uniquely unpleasant smell that lodges itself in a inextricable fold of memory), commanding voice-recordings that echo out from every bit of glass around you (and its triplicate glass eyes most of any), galumphing gait.

Why fear such a contrivancy: Clobbering fat mauls for hands, glass explodes in glittering shrapnel when it shrieks, and most of all the infernal ingenuity of its eyes. If you can see it, it sees itself through your eyes, and through this visual piggyback controls how you see it. When it focuses its red eye, it becomes an object of abject terror. When it focuses its green eye, it appears to be an old friend you nearly forgot the face of. With its blue eye focused it becomes invisible to you when you look directly and clearly at it. Without an observer a trilumopsian is blind, and so many will befriend a mouse to have constant vision.

WHY IS THIS THING?: History is written by the victor, but the loser is preserved in the victor’s remembrance. As history outlasts victory, some come to covet this ignominious immortality.

There was an un-empire (always was, only just was, chasing the present like a hungry wolf). An un-empire, because it was conquered by all and never conquering, simultaneously at the height of soft decadence and the depths of crude barbarity. Everyone everywhere, no matter how bad the humiliation of their people, can look back on this un-empire and think to themselves “at least we’re not them”. In the ruined halls of the un-empire (which can be found close to every place, else how could they be conquered too by that isolated village?) the mocking laughter of their courts echoes, just around the corner.

The un-empire is a fiction, coming into existence from the tips of prideful pens. The un-empire took steps to preserve the fictional luxury of its elites, the pitiable illusion of its underclass. Trilumopsians are deceptive guardians of lure-sites: richly appointed dungeons to attract new victors, win for themselves new defeats, endure in memory long after the greatest kings and the monuments to their victories are dust.

Next up in the picture pong:

Thursday, March 5, 2020

I’m Writing For A Centipede Zine & You Can Still Get It If You Want

Hello friends & bots. Have you ever wished to see if I could write a dungeon? Do you share an unwholesome fondness for the venomous and many-legged? Would additional works by Chuffed Chuffer, Sofinho, Spwack, and Nroman (among others) sweeten the deal? Then you might be interested in Centipedes!:

I got on-board when the Kickstarter was already funded, but apparently printing isn’t yet finalized and you can still contact Chuffed Chuffer directly (on discord, twitter, blog, email presumably) to work something out vis-a-vis getting a print and/or PDF copy.

I’m not getting paid to do this advertisement, but I am getting paid a fair rate for the writing, which I immediately reinvested into getting more pretty pictures in the zine. This is purely an ego trip for me!

I’m including two sample rooms from the dungeon below. If you like what you see, and would like it more when it’s whole and has an editor and illustrations, consider Checking It Out:

Sepulchre Mouth

Cave clouded by mosquitoes. The floor is moist guano littered with bat bones. Centipedes chase roaches through it. Crunches underfoot. There are old footprints, fresh drag marks, fresh blood spatters.

The walls are slick stone. Waterworn sinuous shapes are carved into them.

To the northeast is a pathway of splintery, moldering planks leading to room 2.

To the south a corpse is lodged in a tunnel up to the waist, feet splayed out. Chittering and chewing can be heard behind it. The tunnel leads to room 5.

Hidden Chamber

The air is free of mosquitoes here. The smell is of an old forest.

Arched roots form the walls, ceiling, and floor, converging in the middle of the chamber in a burl that resembles a human heart. Stuck halfway in the burl is a rusted shortsword with a snakeskin grip. Any poisonous creature wounded by the shortsword must save or be affected by its own poison. Tied to the hilt with red silk is an ivory figurine of a jolly priest worth 50 silver pieces.