Friday, May 28, 2021

Maximum Recursion Depth Poltergeist Form: Bottom of the Bottle Alchemist

By the terms of a diresome pact I have sworn to create a "poltergeist form" for friend of the blog Maxcan7's upcoming Maximum Recursion Depth game (get hype!)1.

It's all quite complex and psychological and whatnot so I'm not going to try explaining anything here. If you're not already familiar with the game I recommend checking out MRD and Max's work in general. To pique your interest, here's a list of names for the poltergeist forms he's written:

Afterbirth of the Broken Machine Dragon
Crashing Rocket Nixie
Pyramid Shines Brightly
Ghost in the Mirror
On a Full Moon an Ichor Heart
Jumping from the Planck Jiangshi
Reclaimer Redcap
Glass Maiden Pixie

Without further ado, the Bottom of the Bottle Alchemist:

Flavour Text

Your Poltergeist Form is an elemental of everted humours. You're incomplete, so you take in shit and venom through empty holes and struggle to uplift it faster than it degrades you. Your Karmic power comes from your contamination and purification of your self, the great work of fulfilling the promise of your body and soul.


1. Patches of your skin are a trypophobic's nightmare.

2. Warning labels blur into illegibility around you.

3. Bulging bubbles seem to form and flow through your veins.

4. Others sometimes see you double, your doubles expressing something you lack.

5. Moldy stains follow you.

6. Your breath stinks like bile.

Starting Karmic Attachments

1. You're addicted to something that hurts you.

2. You witnessed something terrible and preventable happen but were too fucked up to stop it.

3. You're a perfectionist, and would prefer to burn something down than half-ass it.

4. You left a friend behind who fell in deeper than you.

5. You're chasing how good things used to feel.

6. You think too much, second-guess everything, and can't solve that without shutting your brain off entirely.

Reincarnation Ritual

1. Chug bleach, or hydrofluoric acid, anything that'll kill you in a few gulps.

2. Crash a vehicle going way over the speed limit.

3. Dehydrate or starve to death.

4. Mix together something that blows you up.

Poltergeist Features

1. Thousand Poisons Vessel: Vomit up all the nasty little things you've got inside you in a torrent of centipedes, spiders, toads, and scorpions. Deals d6.

2. Stigma Transfusion: If someone's got bleeding wounds you can touch the wounds to transfer them onto your own body. If you've got bleeding wounds you can transfer them to someone you're touching who's drunk blood from them.

3. Nasal Destruction: You can sniff out toxic chemicals, gasoline, explosives, and the like.

4. Contact High: Swap spit or breath with someone to inflict an exaggerated version of one of your compulsions on them for a short time.

5. Cavity Search-Space: You can safely fit way more inside your body than should be physically possible.

6. Sophist's Stone: Agitate a small sample of some substance to make it start behaving like a similar substance or state (water-to-wine, rock-to-magma). The transmutation is partial and confused in ways that tend to hinder you, like it can't remember which it's supposed to be.

7. Rebis Regia: Embrace someone willing to fuse together into a synthesis of the two of you for a short time. Come away after that with bits and pieces of each other.

1 It's not going to be in the book.


  1. This is nice one.
    As it isn't going to be in a book I am starting to collect additional poltergeists in a pdf (for personal use, just so all of them are in the same place).

  2. I had intended to comment on this sooner; still adjusting to my new apartment and getting into a new groove (it takes me a long time with these kinds of things and I sort of shut down for a while 0.o...).

    I think I will need to spend more time with this to properly "deconstruct" it, but I appreciate that there is clearly substance here to be deconstructed; that, to me, is an important part of a Poltergeist Form.

    Speaking of substance, there are obvious allusions to substance abuse, but I appreciate that the subtext of the substance abuse is... substantive (maybe this wordplay is both poor and in poor taste, I'm not altogether back to life yet 0.o). The themes of perfectionism / anxiety that can lead to substance abuse, and the kinds of non-linear consequences that can come with substance abuse, and the feelings of incompleteness and toxicity.

    And as with all your work, it's vivid and well realized, in a way that still feels distinctly you, while following in the general design of MRD.

    I also really like the Poltergeist Features. All of them are unique, give PCs interesting ways to interact with the world, and are thematic, while being a-mechanical and rolls-light. Only comment would be that the 0th Poltergeist Form should probably be, as written, Nd6 (NATure), but I could imagine rather than it being about the physical threat of poisonous animals, it instead being Wd6 (WISdom), where the toxic vomit is more like, you know, seeing an addled homeless person begging on the train, or a strung out person on the street; a reminder of the failings of society and our complicity in allowing other human beings to just fall apart in front of us and be consumed by their consumption, like more of an existential discomfort.