Friday, 30 August 2013

Curse the Prince!

Pluvial sits upon the broad and wasted plains of Ennui, highly fertile arable land fed by the flooding of Lethe. Not farmed at any time, its muddy shoals left to rot.


In Pluvium, they don’t call you for jury service, they call you to judge.

The most important factor is that person judging a crime is in exactly the same mental state as the criminal was when the committed it. So, drunk, angry, desperately in love, insane, enraged, jealous or suicidal. Whatever you need to commit that crime, that’s what you need to judge it. The courts of Pluvial send all over the city, and sometimes all over the world for someone in the exact right state of mind to judge a particular crime.

Killing your husband or wife is generally ok, if they were really annoying. Suicides are always found guilty in-absentia during very quick trials. Theft is rarely prosecuted as you never get a conviction.


Any god may be worshipped, but prayers are allowed only to request from a particular god those things the god is unable to give. From the Devil – pity, from the Buddha – engagement, from Thor – calm, from Zeus – chastity. Faith is encouraged so long as you are in the middle of losing it.


Weekend trips are laid on to Cythea, a black naked island in a stormy sea, strewn with creaking gibbets, populated only by wasted and highly political lesbians with a culture of forced nudity in all weathers.


Casual conversation with friends must include some cursing or disparagement of the Prince, he listens at doorways secretly hungering for the amused condescension of the people. If the Prince hears you mocking him, he screams, rolls on the ground clutching his head and staggers away shaking and cursing you. Then he writes a poem about you. If the prince doesn’t hear you cursing him he leaves silently and you disappear the next day.

Conversations begin and end with frightened cried of “curse our worthless Prince!” and “curse the rhymes!”

Alcohol is encouraged but pluvial law says to drink at all you must drink at least 7 units in the first ten minutes or face arrest. Beyond that point you are on your own. Regular drinking tests are administered. Taste is ignored but impurities are added to guarantee particular kinds of hangover. Drinks are named after the depressions and headaches they provoke.
Art and the Media

Portraits are allowed only if the subject is decapitated before they are painted. Famous portraits are required to family tombs, though they can take a while to complete.

Art is only of the dead.
Porn is only of the dead.
Porn is required reading.
Other art is optional.
Most of the newspaper is porn and you have to read it once a day.

Pluvial ID is a copy of todays paper and some questions about its contents. This makes you a citizen.

Everyone is familiar with recent obituaries and editors try to sneak in useful news under descriptions of the recent activities of the just-deceased. For instance, this recent label to a picture of a headless corpse fucking a starved, dead, naked pensioner.

“..while attending the recently-built bridge across the lachrymose tributary, Monsieur R- was decapitated by a falling stanchion from by what he described, a few moments before its collapse, as
 ‘a really excellent piece of engineering!’
The papers artist Mademoiselle G- states of the wound,
‘I couldn’t have done better myself’.
The bridge is now closed and pedestrian traffic is asked to divert around the Rue De Smiles or ‘just throw yourself in the river’. Curse the Prince.”

Pluvians tend to look at your hands while they talk to you, in case they need to recognise your pornographically-arranged corpse in tomorrow’s paper.

A common Pluvian ‘joke’ amongst familiars is “I thought I saw your thumbs in the paper!” Sometimes an expression of happy surprise that you are alive, meaning ‘It’s been too long’. But also, sometimes a coded criticism from an older relative for not visiting enough.

All Pluvian plays and fiction are comedies, all set in a better version of Pluvia, a-

‘Babel of endless stairs, arcades
It was a palace multifold
Replete with pools and bright cascades
Falling in dull and burnished gold’

In these fictions loving couples live happily ever after, caring families stick together, decent Priests praise kind rational gods, wars are short and glorious, cares are few and no crime goes unpunished under the blue and golden sky. The Prince of Carcasses commands this because he wants his subjects to dream of that perfect world. Every morning, when they wake up from that dream, and remember who and where they really are, just for one moment they understand how he feels every day.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

He's finally stopped talking about women at least

Pluvial – city of the Prince of Carcasses

The life of a skeletonised beggar in Pluvial is not so bad. The arthritis from the semi-constant rain is gone so you can stand straight up at least. You get (have) to dress up for the balls as well. You still have to bend, caper and dance madly as the prince goes by. He likes to scream in rage-black madness at the sight. It’s easier, at least, than simply being old.

Skeletons and flensed bodies animated by poetic backwash do most of the menial work and Tomb conversion. They don’t really get tired. The free labour has destroyed what’s left of the economy, which runs mainly on prostitution and words.

Ancient men must bend at 90 degrees and crackle around in single file tapped out in held canes cut only from lumps of the darkest wood. No pine. No beech.

The blind are commanded to gawp and loll madly in the streets, regardless of how they feel about the matter, though some have taken to exchanging braille pocketbooks which they read secretly by fingertips whilst moaning at the tapping of dancing skeletons they cannot see.

Young children are allowed out if they look suitably thin, ghastly and/or starving-gamine. Average, plump children, the middle aged, the robustly proportioned and those with good skin and bright eyes, tend to get their jobs done in the morning and mid-afternoon when the Prince of Carcasses sleeps. Or on Tuesdays which he has banned as ‘gauche’ and now ignores as a matter of form. (Or simply expands Monday and Wednesday by 12 hours each to meet in the middle.)

Women by decree must be beautiful or old. Old women must be pitied and wept over wherever they go. Grey locks and ragged hems caressed as periapt’s of Age and Loss. But not actually helped in any physical way, for instance, picked up off the ground, or given somewhere to live.

Social events are sometimes licenced if sufficiently symbolic of decay. For this reason, aging prostitutes in flaking greasepaint are in much demand, bussed in en-masse in broken coaches drawn by pale and plaguy mares. They un-liven retirement parties and camouflage happy weddings with broken decorations and pre-weathered paint that cracks on application to the wall. Burghers hold covert barbecues on tomb-top roofs when the sun peeps out from round a cloud.

The sewer system is excellent. Or at least capacious. Labyrinthine. Cathedral-Naved, baroque, knotted like lost string and several times deeper that the city is tall. Presumably the stuff is going somewhere. Though drainage does descend below the water table and keep going, which seems strange. In a way, it’s lucky it rains so much. The constantly running water means that despite much encouragement, tuberculosis has yet to take hold. White foundation, diet books and re-useable blood clots can be bought at local shops.

Men have been hired to paint the sky the colour of bruises and rot, to no effect. Enquiries of their progress have not yet been made.

Crime has been encouraged in song and handy ratways built across the tomb-top roofs in hopes that assaulters, housebreakers and masked bandits will transit silently in the night. Lack of anything to actually steal has limited opportunities for crime but numerous anonymous try-hards still make the nightly effort, climbing around, passing each other on the midnight eaves, sometimes mugging each other in a sad, ritual way.

Once, someone broke into the Princes garret (he lives alone in a broken-down tenement made especially for him.) The Prince found evidence of the crime and the resulting breakdown kept him out of everyone’s hair for two weeks. Regrettably it also resulted in several poems. The experiment has not been repeated.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Prince of Carcasses

Loathsome, tiresome, heroic only in the smallness of his self-awareness, the Prince of Carcasses throws himself down in the muddy soil next to a tomb, bounces off the marble top and lies writing, undulating like a snake, gripping the cold sides and pushing his head backwards into the mud.

He is weeping a woman’s name. Dull-faced footmen stumble forward holding copper tanks of rocks and rainwater.

“Oh the thunder!” cries the Prince “black consuming horror of endless night!”

On cue three footmen ring the largest cauldron, hoist it up and shake it back and forth. The rolling rocks counterfeit the sound of storms.

A second crew holds up a huge black velvet circular shade on dull brass poles, designed specifically to blot out the sun. They place the Prince of Carcasses in the centre of his carefully ordered blot. A third stands by the moaning man as he crawls, he holds out an iron sieve on a pole and delecatly shakes cold rainwater over the princes weeping face.

“Oh monstrous ice-hearted woman with a daemons eye!” cries the Prince. He waves and makes a writing sign. A servant sighs. Paper is brought. A pen. Another woman will die soon.

The Prince of Carcasses is searching for a woman who can appreciate the grey churning depths of his ennui and the dark silent tragedy of his fallen soul. This will never happen. The Prince of Carcasses is a snivelling privileged little shit who happens to have a magical talent.

The Prince loves women. He doesn’t really pay much attention to what they do or why they do it or what they say, or what that means, or how they act when not around him. But he loves them. He is hungry for them and drawn to them. They pin him with arrows of burning desire. He shakes and shivers in their wake. Turned ankles corkscrew his heart.

When the prince can no longer hold back the red gurgling of his onrushing love, he writes a poem. The woman becomes immortal. Her body dies.

No-one knows what the women involved think of this as he steals their voice at the same time. They are silent forever.

Depending on how the prince felt about them, the women become different kinds of undead. Those he watched and worshipped from afar usually transform into pearly floating ghosts and beautiful wraiths. Those he was sexually obsessed with slowly rot. Zombies. He watches as their naked flesh decays. Knowing no-one can ever comprehend the storm of emotion in his poets’ soul. Who knows the poets spleen!

The Prince of Carcasses has had all the buildings in his city replaced with graves. All the buildings are buried or disguised as statues and tombs. He has taken the tops off drains the make the gurgling resonate and commanded greyness and continual rain. This has had no effect.

He has replaced all forms of entertainment with games of solitaire played with incomplete packs of cards in empty wood-panelled rooms. You can also listen to music, so long as it seeps out of a building several doors down. He also advises you to stare at the sky when it is blank.

He likes cats and is kind to them, possibly recognising the only other form of life as self-centred and indifferent as himself.

The Prince always hungers for witty conversation, his own. He does, however, need someone to talk at. If you visit with the prince he will not listen to you. When you are gone he will compose satirical verse about your stupidity and cloddish indifference, it will be believed. He is a genius after all.

Despite his tendencies, women often still attend the prince. He pays well, the city is poor and there are no jobs. No-one destroys the poems. They are too beautiful. He publishes them. Poetry is the cities remaining export.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Cave Giants

There are shitloads of giants in the monster manual so I can’t see how one more will hurt. Seriously, it seems like every possible type of terrain got its own giant. Mountain giants are not hill giants, forest giants are not jungle giants. There are no garden giants, and no terminal moraine giants. No archipelago giants. I feel like glacier giants deserve to be their own thing, though they seem to have been absorbed in the rather-unimpressive frost giant. Beach giants must be a combination of desert giant and reef giants. There is no city giant and no moor giant.


Arnold K already did a very good post about very giant alien giants who swim through the earth. Go and read that first.

Cave giants can no longer walk. Naked, hairless and pale. Full-body scar marks cross the thumb-sized varicose veins that wind across their skin. They crawl, if they have the space, on deeply calloused forearms and knees, pausing often to listen and sniff the air. Their bones have turned to flexible cartilage like a sharks and will no longer support their weight when standing up. They can, however squeeze their way around underground, passing through narrow gaps that would trap any other kind of giant. This giant could come into your house though the front door. It could slowly squeeze its body up your stairs, filling the stairwell with its flesh, then send one questing hand through your bedroom door. It could squeeze its head into your room and look at you.

Cartilage deforms more than bone so a Cave Giant can, with time, work its way through spaces that in human scale would be little bigger than a letterbox mouth, about the size (relatively) of an A4 book. It could come in through your window like a burglar.

They crawl around, semi-blind and sniffing constantly with their remarkable sense of smell. They have not yet fully lost their sight as long lifespans means giants evolve (or devolve) quite slowly.

If they could stand they would be about 18 or 20 feet tall, but slender and starved. As the crawl, their eyes will be about five feet off the ground, level with yours.

They have lost none of their strength. They climb well, oozing and creeping up the rock with every point of their flexible body in contact. They lack leverage due to their flexible bones so usually choose to strangle, crush or twist apart their prey.

You may be attempting a passage just low enough to make you crouch, and see, ahead of you, a pale gigantic hand reaching towards you, clutching at the rock. Behind it an arm, a shoulder and then a gawping face filling the width of the passageway, rolling opalescent eyes under half-closed lids. A mouth like the boot of an economical car.

What to you, is a walking passage, to the giant is a dangerous squeeze. It must lie flat, with one arm extended out and the other pressed back against its side. It lets the stone scrape and compress its cartilaginous skull and distend its head to the corridors shape.

If you will not, or cannot retreat, the giant has no choice, it cannot turn around. Its only option is to crush you against the wall with its outstretched hand, or grab you and squeeze you to death, then to slither forward and scoop you up in its mouth. It must eat you, chewing well, equipment and all, to get you out of the way.

There are very few Cave Giants and they must move constantly to find food and avoid organised resistance. They call to each other by finding hidden seams of rock, biting into them, and screaming into the stone in ultra low-frequency. It’s huge body, and its wide contact with the stone let it sense low frequency waves reflected from the strata.

The rest of the time they are silent, like much cave life. Highly intelligent, they exchange much information with their strange long howls into the rock, mainly about threats, prey and changes to the environment. They are of neutral alignment, but, like everything underground, they are constantly hungry. If you could find one after it ate, you might possibly be able to negotiate, though there is nothing they want.

They are loathed perhaps less than they should be, as they hunt Fomorians. They stalk them invisibly from the dark, needing no light, they wait for long periods, days, weeks, or months, without moving. They watch from some impossibly small, door-sized crack, noting the movements of their prey. Then, when all is still, they creep out, crawling silently towards the sleeping freak. They slip rubbery fingers round its neck and choke out its life. Then the drag it away to consume. If necessary they slowly twist off limbs to get it through the gap. Cave Giants have perfected a way of twisting the limbs from a gigantic corpse so that the skin knots at the joints, preventing any flow of blood and meaning they leave no trace as they are carried away. Very rarely, the Cave Giant plans badly and the trunk of the Fomorian is too big to fit. They leave it propped up like a present, arms, legs and head twisted off with neat little fleshknots where they were. They carry the limbs off like a string of sausages.

Fomorian slaves never wake their masters while a cave giant crawls towards them. They know the giant will often release them just before it leaves, though this is to create chaos that will mask its trail while it escapes.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Or Another Of Your Own Creation

The expected market for Vincent Baker's 'The Seclusium of Orphone' is (Choose 2 or 3)

  1. People in the OSR who like posh books and can choke down dodgy design choices.
  2. Those on old White Wolf forums who know who Jack Vance is.
  3. People who don't roll their eyes at the use of the phrase 'Stormy Eyes'.
  4. People with LOTS of free time before games.
  5. People who really enjoy drawing their own detailed maps for a product they just bought.
  6. That guy who thinks Baker is part of a conspiracy to destroy gaming by perving it up.
  7. People who would quite like access to alleged above conspiracy
  8. People who own d7's.
  9. Those people who used to be the forge but I think they're storygames now?
  10. A strange new circle of people who may slowly crystallise around the book over time, it being neither one thing nor another, it may generate it's own subgenre. Vornheim might so this might.
  11.  Basically nice people who want a go at being 'dark' and 'edgy' in controlled circumstances.
  12. Maybe literary people? the tables being fucked makes it look less like a game, so people too up themselves to read Vornheim might potentially read this and think they've discovered and whole new thing and get all up on the lit blogs with it. Could there be an article in Forbes? Gasp.
The first parts of the book were designed; (Choose 1 or more)

  1. For those who like random tables, but not 'too' random.
  2. Specifically to irritate a small circle of OSR bloggers.
  3. For people who would rather put one egg in a pre-bought mix and call it cooking, instead of buying a pre-made pie or cooking it from scratch.
  4. To maximise the pleasure of flipping back and forth in a hardback book. Endlessly.
  5. Not to scare hippies.
  6. To maximise white space.
  7. To show off the cool flower designs on the paper stock.
  8. Because if you can't cram pseudo-magical glyph designs into an rpg book any more then we may as well burn down the whole enterprise and go home.
  9. Because we paid for a special font for the chapter headings and were damn well using it.
  10. Badly.
  11. Cryptically.
  12. Mysteriously.
  13. To annoy people who know the last three options are all true but they can only pick one. (OR ANOTHER OF YOUR OWN CREATION)
  14. Because its a book of random tables, so if you just give people the tables and a fully completed Seclusium with a fucking map they can use straight away they will feel robbed somehow?
  15. To keep the scum out.
  16. To instill wisdom in the reader through suffering, so they have the self knowledge to fully appreciate the good stuff at the back by the time they get there.

 The lists in Seclusium contain; (... and choose 2-4)

  1. Useful things
  2. Good things artfully seperated to ensure maximum flipping back and forth.
  3. Pretentious things
  4. Many things neither 'boring and useful' or 'poetic and energetic' but a strange blur between the two.
  5. Many cases where it would be better if you just used all of the available choices.
  6. Awkward numbering.
  7. Reassuring repetitions of the statement that you can choose or create your own thing, presumably because some fucking idiot somewhere wrote a blog or forum post saying 'this product does not explicitly tell me I can think for myself while using it? How them am I to know if I may do so???'
  8. A lot of good stuff.
  9. Some really interesting rules for magic item creation.
  10. A lot of Bakerism's if you are (choose 1 or 2) into/offended by/amused by/vaguely reassured by them
  11. Some good monster motivations.
The house rules at the back are; (choose as many as apply)

  1. Effectively a whole new game.
  2. Better than Dungeon World.
  3. Lacking options for clerics.
  4. The best use for the soft stats I've seen yet.
  5. How I should have been DM'ing already.

Monday, 12 August 2013


It’s only just crossed my mind that I’m unemployed and need a job and have a blog that people sometimes read.

If anyone needs any writing or RPG work doing, drop me a line. If you want to know what I can do look over on the right, or just read the blog. I do this stuff for free so if you pay me I can probably do better. 

As a reward for reading through that corporate whoredom, here are the final requests from when I was doing requests. I DID NOT FORGET YOU MATT H, OK I DID A BIT.

“Thousands of years ago the archipelago was a thriving maritime civilization which dominated its neighbors through superior sorcerous firepower. It is now long defunct and, though it is a very long way from anywhere, a whole economy has sprung up around salvaging useful relics from the ruins. Think the 17th-century Javan spice trade. The locals, who are largely lizard people, consider all this wizard trash a nuisance at best, and they have an uneasy relationship with the weird militant strangers from the far seas who are going to force you into trading pacts whether you like it or not. What kind of treasure are they digging up on these islands and why is it worth the months of starvation and scurvy you have to go through to get there?

Alternatively, I don't know, a list of motivations for ghosts.”

But what if the things they were digging up were also motivations for a dead empire of ghosts and that was the source of their power and it was like ghost-colonialism (ghostlonial?) and people of the present were using artefacts to use memories of the past for political gain?  Sorry Matt, I mashed your requests up together to make one thing. Here are some things you could dig up that are also motivations for ghosts.

You could roll 2d6 if you like.

Specie from the empire of MANPAC. Anyone eating a coin can consume one ghost
Worthless coppers, covered eyes of true loves corpse
Sold soul for this cash, will kill whomever has it.
Final payment for unfinished contract, mercenary ghost needs to get it done.
Forged coins bought an Empire. Ghosts will serve coin holders and detect fraud and lies
Whip of coins for greedy and faithless, following ghost eager to get back into it.
Portrait only link to earth, destruction sends directly to hell.
Last image of only child, dies young.
Concerto stolen from hell, when played activates all nearby angry ghosts, makes more angry
Awful saccharine hyper-patriotic statue of Generals pathetic death, fills army ghosts with sadness/rage.
Automated playmate misfired and mashed a kid. Ghost of builder will inhabit toy and protect you as child.
Ikon of future prophet ghost is waiting for to be born. Ghost follows portrait doing compare & contrast.
Psychopomp axe can cut ghost necks
Duelling blade broken defending lovers honour
“That killed me! It must be destroyed!”
“I will hold your oath fulfilled!” Aragorn-style bitches.
Badly forged blade broke at wrong moment. Possess it and blacksmith ghost will help you spot flaws in swords/tools.
Warhammer of healing. Blow to head dispels all negative statuses and does critical damage. Ghost wants to hit everyone.
Gem throbs in hand, shows way to ghost bones (re potential defilement)
Wedding ring
Blood Diamonds. Your blood!
Swore to strangle daemon with own necklace of coal. Stole necklace, missed daemon. Up for some intermediate strangling between here & main target.
Pearl was poets price for abandoning someone they loved. If they help you woo someone you love they get to rest.
Irritating metaphorical jewel. Glass till you understand mystery, then giant diamond, but then you don’t want it. Confused ghost died trying to solve. Still trying.
Wearing robes allows mortal to possess ghost & force action
Wedding dress/suit
Last remnant of evil fashion trend, must never be allowed to return. Activates all aesthetic ghosts.
Crown of dead kingdom. Ghost gotta serve yo.
Judges wig from dead corrupt judge. Wear it and judge will help you discern d100 lies then betray you.
Fake turin shroud inhabited by angry atheist ghost, will happly assist in fooling any and all faithful, any religion, out of bitterness re ghost form.
Plate Suit, when opened, will chase nearest ghost & wrap around, imprisoning forever
Book of handwritten poems with an arrow shot into it.
Mirror shield shows dead their old living features. Undead always attack shield (or wielder)
Badly fitting plate. Each piece from Knight that failed to save king. Wear it and they save you and get to rest. One at a time though.
Loyal ghost of armoured dog. PUGWRAITH.
Symbolic shroud you wear instead of real armour Does nothing. When you die your ghost has to hang around till someone else dies wearing it.