Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Wodlands 5 -The Vermillion Sea






From the Red-Sun sea, the Goblins came

The Vermillion Sea has always been a source of worry in the Wodlands. Even before the Master Masons fall and the creation of the Painted Plane, it was never exactly clear where exactly the Vermillion sea lead to, what shores it washed upon and what lay beneath its waves.

The sea is red for its flowers, which grow upside down, their translucent stems and roots forming a kind of liquid glass Sargasso on its surface.

Beneath the translucent roots, poking down into the water, are the red heads of the carmine lotus-poppies, and beyond them is the crimson of the Red-Sun World.

The sea itself is not a sea, at least not from both directions. Those who plunge beneath its translucent Sargasso surface drown, for the most part. Survivors speak garbled tales of a world lit by a Red Sun, a world in which the envelope of our reality curls around the diver like a sheath, choking and drowning them.

On the north shore of the Vermillion Sea, every month the black fjords of the Plain of Anaesthetic Fire fill with monthly transparent wrack and poppy heads in huge damp corroding piles.

To the east the beach shore of the old orange lands are stained with unpredictable fauna, lichen, vines and wild blue sugar cane growing in the red nocturnal glow of the sun beneath the sea.

To the south the sea fades slowly into a marshland of poppy heads and here the strange sugary flora from the Red-Sun world mixes with local species and the some slightly photographic or computer generated plants and animal species from the Pigment River. Mosaic-Nose Dolphins and Technicolour Hippos. By the time the marshes reach the Pigment River, they turn to near-solid ground. Then, beyond the river are the far Southerlies of the Wodlands reach, and then the Umber Woods where the PenumBeetles ruled, and still do.

On the surface of the sea, far out from shore, it is said that the Invisibeetles, glistening translucent isopod-men, built their palaces of bubblewrack on opalescent wrack islands. The isopod tribes are as translucent as their palace walls so the wrack does give them privacy of a sort - glass knights in glass castles. Beetles with a dignified sense, never seeing what they should not see.

(Quite different to the PenumBeetles of the Umber Woods, their cousins.)

Tales talk also of demonic Pteranodons diving upside from within the surface tension of the Red Sun World, bursting into our air as if t'were water and swimming in bounds while hunting for invisible knights.

So the sea lay, for many moons. At night the glow of the Red Sun shone upwards through its strange tides and the sea itself, unsailable, beating upon unknown shores and unchartable fjords and masking silent access to an unreachable world.

Then came Goblin men.

Upon the Master Mason's fall and the creation of the Painted Plane, in that time of chaos Goblins came goblinwise in copper-green ramshackle submarines full of loud noises and sharp-featured pigs, coming to build their Cube of Genius, their Large Goblin Collider and to deal in terrible herbs.

Whether the Gobins came from the Red-World itself, beneath the sea, or from some unbidden shore, they have neither spoke nor told. All we know and all they will say is that they came 'goblinwise'. Whether this refers to the building of the Copper Submarines, the employment of their anarchic Goblin genius in some way or, as some have theorised, to a direction and dimension that only Goblins can access or understand, none know.

Within a year the shores of the Vermillion Sea were crammed with decaying copper submarines and feral pigs. And within two, the first of the Apocalypse Peaches rose up from the Vermillion Sea.



WASPS OF THE APOCALYPSE

The Peach was vast, a hundred feet above the water-line, and burst up out of the Red Sun world and went through the wrack like a fist through glass. As it rose up, purple sails unfurled and the peach surged towards land leaving a trail of sugary devastation in its wake.

Within the peach were the Apocalypse Wasps, terrible insect men from the Red-Sun World, violent, horrifying, utterly alien with red wasp minds and bloody thoughts. They killed half, took the rest to lay eggs inside and advanced on the Wodlands.

Absolutely every element of the Wodlands, the Goblins, the Humans, the Painted People and all others, joined forces to defeat the Apocalypse Wasps. Thousands died as the big peach rolled over all attempts to besiege it.

Eventually a small group of adventurers infiltrated the peach, crawling through its sticky tunnels, and somehow managed to sabotage it. Its structure decayed and split, the defenders gained access and tore the thing apart, massacring any wasp they found. All that survived was the Hideous Pit, later transported to Pitville for safe keeping.

Of the original adventurers, nothing was found. Since that day the Apocalypse Wasps have come forth 11 more times, sometimes they are destroyed still in the water. On one occasion they have reached the Wodlands before the peach was split with Goblin Technology, on another they besieged the Imaginary City itself. Each time the wasps were broken, but only at great cost. The terrible sugary wrecks lie ruined on the shore and the Hideous Pits, those that have been recovered, are taken to Pitville for study and control. Small bands of Apocalypse Wasps still survive and roam the poppy swamps and black fjords, a terror to all. Everyone hates them because of the invasions and egg-injections and a boundary exists on their wings.

Why the wasps come, if they were somehow summoned or triggered by the Goblins use of the Vermillion Sea, the Goblins will not tell.


THE PITS

Between what is now the Pigment River and the Umber woods, is Pitville, a micro-city built around the containment, investigation and, some would say - illegal worship of the seven Apocalypse Peach Pits that were recovered.

Peach Pit


Here the PenumbraBeetles of the Umber Woods join with the invisibeetles, the saner, less drug-addled goblins and humans from the Imaginary City, and other places, to study and to control the Hideous Pits.

The pits are like huge house-sized scholars stones - throbbing with wasp energy.

Scholars Stone

You just want to stare at them - they get you wasp minded. Only those with strong anti-wasp personalities can commune with them for extended periods, gaining visions of the red sun world.

Attempts have been made to burrow or burn into a pit with anaesthetic fire and painted blades. One can actually be explored but it’s gone totally House of Leaves inside and whoever comes out emerges utterly fucked. And also there might be dErO inside. Also it might be a labyrinth now so now it needs to be guarded from both sides.

Apocalypse Wasp Propoganda

Of course the Chaos Wasps want to invade Pitsville and get at the pits. But the pits are also desired by governments and rulers all over the realities and almost anyone may or may no be doing conspiracies and scams to get a pit, or at least to gain access to one.

There are rumours that in the depths of the poppy swamps one has fruited and birthed a world-destroying tree and that elements in the Imaginary City secretly protect it - hoping to grow their own apocalypse peach and re-invade the red sun world, or even just eat it.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The Wodlands 4 - The Painted Plain

1. The Plains of Anaesthetic Fire.
2. The AntiGoblin Empire
3. The Whetstone Ridge



At some point in history, after the expulsion of the Crazed Theigns from the Wodlands, and before the fall of the Mystery Cults, the Master Mason went north to the plains.

She (or they, or possibly he) plunged their hands into the primal juice and began to re-represent reality itself into a more-perfect form.

Thankfully, (or possibly disastrously), she was stopped.  Or maybe just blew up. Or possibly they succeeded and this is what they wanted? Or maybe they just transcended somewhere else and don't give a fig about what they left behind.

Anyway, they are gone now, and the Painted Plane, and Pigment River are what remains.



THE PAINTED PLANE


Everything is painted. The style is relative and shifts according to the place, the view and the time.

Beauty is everpresent. Every scene and every sight is composed. There is nowhere to look that is not. You cannot turn away from beauty on the Painted Plane. This can cause a kind of numbness or destruction of the sense of beauty, since it has no absence to give it context, or an obsessive refinement to ever-greater perfection. There are disagreements amongst the Picts over whether this is bad or not.

Its bright all the time. This can drive you mad.

The brightness is an illusion since light itself does not exist on the Plane, only colour does. There is no focus and no depth. Telescopes and lenses have no effect. Mirrors give no reflection. You never have to narrow your eyes to squint against sunlight (it’s only a colour), your eyes never have to change focus much. Night means a shift to nocturnes, rather than actual dark - it is rarely truly black. Lanterns barely work, they have a larger effect if the 'light' they give off is dramatic and adds to the scene.

However the Plains represent themselves it seems to ignore the optic nerve, or perhaps infiltrate it in reverse. The colours and shapes appear directly in the perceptual areas of the mind and flow outwards from there. Colourblind people aren't colourblind here. Blind people aren't blind here.

Physics are slightly fudged. It works of for human-relevant stuff *while directly observed* but the less based around the human life-world it is the more irregular it becomes. As if it were a simulated pseudo-physics.

Sound sounds 'wrong' especially if you close your eyes to escape the brightness. It’s as if all sounds are coming from the next room or are happening behind a curtain.

There are not enough incidental noises - wind, movement, your own breathing, animals, insects, water moving. It's there if you listen for it, but it fills in just a 10th of a second too late - sometimes you notice it gone, as if the sound of your own body disappeared, the you listen for it and it springs back.

The absence of sound is one of the reasons why sleep is scary. Most have the deep sense that while they are unconscious there is no sound. This is impossible to prove but it's like a terrifying absence around the borders of reality. Most visitors to the Plane wake screaming, multiple times a night for the first few nights of sleep. You feel dead when you wake up, as if you weren't really there while asleep.




EFFECTS AND DANGERS


Without any more specific dangers, simply visiting the Plane can have long term negative effects. The longer the stay the deeper the effects and the longer they take to abate once you leave.

Simply crossing the boundary makes the visitor look Rotoscoped. Over time they will become Pict-like in representation, eventually sharpening into a school and style. Most visitors become a relatively classic, representative school, putting them reasonably high up the Planes pseudo-racial hierarchy, but magic-users and some others can become Expressionist, or even surreal.

This effect fades when the visitor leaves but they can be left with;

  • Beauty-Numbness, sometimes including a sense of general crawling disgust with the world outside the plane.
  • Artefact Scars - brush-strokes in the flesh, relics of their painted selves. 
  • Paling - loss of pigment, shape or line. 


These will heal eventually but almost everyone who has visited the Plane carries some small artefact scar on them, often near-indistinguishable from their normal selves. Something like a single painted eye, a painted foot or brush-marks on one limb.




THE PICTS


Some Picts must be descended from the original people of the Plains, others from visitors, some are more recent immigrants. There is no prejudice between recent and late arrivals, or between genders, or races, or species. Instead they discriminate based on style and school.

Those from more representational or classical schools generally regard themselves as being above those from modernist, abstract, futurist, surreal or expressionist schools. Deep surreals or those whose form cannot be understood are often regarded as little better than monsters.

Picts tend to group themselves into clans, tribes, villages and organisations made up largely of one particular school or style, so if you encounter a group, they are likely to all be of a type.

This is only the racial/tribal element of Pict culture. interposed onto and mixed up with this are Pict Politics, based largely on which 'Hand' of the Master Mason each group is loyal to. Right-Handers, or Dexters, tend to be made up more of Classical and representatives. Left-Handers, or Sinisters, are more commonly abstract, expressionist or surreal.

However, there is no absolute stability between, or within, the factions. Groups change sides often and complex political/racial/aesthetic arguments and conflicts rage continually, sending individuals and schools from one side to the other.

Though the Picts are in a continual state of low-level civil war, only about one in four is a deep loyalist to their Hand, the rest being of the party but various kinds of ambivalent, usually. The hardcore belligerents continually berate the less active Handers, pointing out that if they would only pull themselves together, they would have fucking won by now.

So it is that, on encountering any particular group or settlement of Picts, you can never be sure of exactly who or what they are loyal to, what their political situation is (it will be complex) or how they will respond to you. Things can change in an instant if the only truly belligerent member of a group hares off to the Big Hands for Important Reasons, or if an Inquisitor arrives.




GENERAL PSEUDO-BILOOGY



Most beings born on the Painted Plane will never leave. On removal they change slowly to their non-painted selves, this happens more or less slowly depending on the complexity and coherence of the being with the simplest lasting longest and suffering least.

Simple organisms in a naturalistic style, with a high level of skill, can often survive their transformation. Some birds of the Painted Plane can travel a long way before returning.

Complex intelligent beings, even if they are painted skilfully enough to survive the translation, can undergo massive identity reorganisation as they pale to their non-painted selves. (Some part of them always remains painted, even after transformation) because of this, few willingly leave.

Surreals and Impossibles can simply 'die' away from the Plains unreality. They decay into objects, forms, horrible mutants or just gloop. Forcibly removing them is essentially murder and even those formally exiled from Pict culture are not actually driven all the way from the Plains, but only to Gate Town, outside the Plains political influence but just within its reality - a precarious existence.





MONSTERS


Though there are few monsters on the Plane in total, the _variety_ of Monster-like beings is staggering. Absolute codification is impossible but a few general types are below.

- 'Naturals' a painting of a perfectly normal monster, like a picture of a Manticore for instance. This will generally act like something close to its outer-plane version

- Violent Surreals. Some surreals can become predatory, perhaps because it is true to their painted nature, or simply because of the alienation and prejudice of Pict society. Some of the most horrific-seeming surreals are simply bandits with strange forms.

- Stains/Chimerae. The forms of these creatures are blurred and smudged. They are often assumed to be some kind of Tear (see below), which, if intelligent, they will always deny. Stains will often claim to be a modernist or post-modern interpretation of a known form and not a stain at all. Though this may be true they are rarely believed.

- Unknowables. A category used when no-one has any goddanm idea what something or someone is. They could be really radical art, a freaky import monster or 'natural' monster. Or some strange kind of Tear.

- Tears. These are creatures unique to the Plane and the most feared of all its dangers, especially by Picts. Thankfully, it’s impossible for Tears to leave the Plane (so far, probably).

A Tear is simply an area or volume of inexpressible anti-reality. In a world heavy like ink-wet paper, reality can sometimes 'give' and reveal an awful absence which seems to act with a terrifying anti-sentience. There are various types;

Inter-Object - made from the reality between objects and things - often sessile, angular, infiltrating, growing but thankfully usually slow or environmentally related

Intensity Tears - One thing being 'over painted' often in the shape of the thing that was represented. Sometimes animal or person shaped. Ragged, 'pulled apart' rather than angular.

Alteration Tears - From a thing altered or re-drawn too much. Too many corrections. Most like a Chimerae in 'form'. May act something like a Monster.

Intelligent Tears - mythical, nightmarish, demonic, unspoken, greatly feared and often denied to exist.

Tears attack Picts, and anyone in the Plane by Savaging - blurring and permanently shifting lines, by Removal - deleting or removing from existence entire limbs, bodies, beings or objects. By Tearing - like leprosy/cancer which can sometimes create new Tears or 'infect' a Pict with a slow-burning inner Tear, and by Annihilation - complete removal from reality, and communal memory. It's always possible that someone you know has been Annihilated, it’s always possible that everyone you know has been Annihilated.


FIGHTING TEARS


A few methods work and making use of many of them, either culturally (to cross a Pict 'race' line) or practically, requires the intervention of outsiders, 'Visitors' or ‘normies’. This is one of the reasons that Adventurers are often welcomed on the Plane despite its prejudiced culture and fractious politics.

- Magic. This can work against Tears sometimes.

- Pigment. Taken directly from the Pigment River. If enough can be transported and thrown on the Tear it can be 'coloured in'.

- Non-Pict bodies or tools. Non-pict, or Visitor flesh and materials can damage Tears more than the local Pseudo-matter. Either in battle, or simply from the Tear choking on their still-real intestines.

- Modernist, surrealist or Abstract tools & weapons. The fact that these typically Sinister and low-status cultures can create useful and lifesaving elements has in no way altered the prejudice against them

- Conceptual weapons from the Utopian Ruins. (These are very powerful, but can create new tears, are generally feared and are looped in time so they appear back in their own path after a while, appearing in the ruins from where they were retrieved, having been there undisturbed for centuries.



'MAGIC' OBJECTS


Made objects from the Plane can be removed and will often retain their painted characteristics - little fragments of representational unreality. Their painted qualities can often make them 'magic' objects in the world outside.

Any trade in such objects is heavily controlled by whoever occupied the Hands.



PLACES IN THE PLANE



THE PIGMENT RIVER


The source of the Pigment River, popularly supposed to be the point where the Master Mason performed the Incredible Tear, is a pulsing vortex of blinding hyperreality burning like the bleeding artery of god.

If you go in you don't come out.

Maybe you translate into the transcendent whateverdom but if so no-one has confirmed it.

Reality blurs, trickles, softens and erupts into colour near the source. Movement leaves colour-blurs - you feel yourself softening and becoming brighter. It seems like there is something wonderful in there - shapes moving, adventurous and heroic you want deeply to go in.

Beyond its Spring, the river becomes a line of beautiful un-reality running through the unreal land.

The River is the Sun. The Sun itself is just paint, always out of reach but not that far away, and there's no real light anyway, but the river is always bright with pigment - like bright dyed thread in natural grass, or an iridescent snake. It has moods, sometimes seeming animated, sometimes like glowing ink, sometimes like CGI water. A mutable representation of itself


THE DROPS OF INK


Where the Pigment River falls into Palette Lake, the cliffs are a riot of multicolour. This also marks a wildlife break, climate shift and reality break in the Plane.

Around the Lake the last drops of alter-reality fade into Nature. This is one of the last places a highly-representational life-form can survive.

Below the falls the river looks like CGI or an optical illusion - no longer so terrifyingly, unnaturally bright. River-fauna looks glitched, digitised or like photographic collage - slowly become more 'natural' downstream.

The temperature increases, moving from temperate to near-tropical. Glitchy Crocodiles and Photographic Hippos appear. They never move above the Drops of Ink and Tears and dangerous Surreals have never been seen below it.




 THE MASTER MASONS HANDS


The Picts believe that these fucking huge stone hands reaching out of the earth are the actual hands of the Master Mason. This has not stopped them tunnelling into them like bugs, transforming them into two huge Cappodocian stone labyrinths within.

Almost all politics and political violence on the Place washes around, or emerges from, the Big Hands.

The commanders or rulers of each faction occupy a hand each. Each is lead by a council of five, with each member occupying one of the big fingers and with their title being named after their finger - Pollex, Manus, Medius, Annularis and Minimus Manus.

So the master of the Left Hand Thumb would be the 'Pollex Sinister'.

Of course there are continual intrigues between the fingers of each hand, to add to the inter-hand conflict.


THE UTOPIAN RUINS


The only places in the plains apparently untouched by the paintocalypse and almost certainly products of the pre-paint Mason culture, these are villages and ruined towns based around big white modernist blocks.

Colour leaks in and stains the walls but always dries to brown cake and flakes away.

Deep within and beneath the ruins are dark dungeons walled in white stone, partly ruined by the civilizational collapse and often time-linked so that they cannot be permanently repaired. Here there is actual, real dark, one of the only places on the plane where a Lantern might actually be useful.

Over time Picts visiting the ruins can flake and brown away so 'normies' are needed to explore and penetrate them in search of secrets or Conceptual Weapons, time-looped archeotech capable of killing Alpha-Tears.

They are occupied by Bandits, Blurs, Tears, Surreals and (temporary) Civil-war losers.


THE GOTHIC FOREST


A good 1/4 of the painted plain is not actually plain at all, but crazy, often-Gothic, forest. In the forest, the trees are in different styles. A lot of the Northern Renaissance, engraved, ink-drawn and black and white stuff hides here. Some trees are pure Mondrian.

The forest is more 'winter seasoned' than the plains - snow can sometimes happen here. The colours are cool. Though the living can be hard, the war is not as common or as intensely pursued here. Since almost everyone is relatively low-status the Pict hierarchy doesn't sting quite as much (though it can still be unpleasant at the bottom). 'Monsters' come here for safety, and the poor-looking grotesques, cartoons (in the old sense, not the Roger Rabbit sense), as well as some abstracts, surreals and others.

Though peaceful in political terms, there may be more danger of tears, Unknowables, Violent Surreals and John Martin events. Most high-status Picts and political obsessives of both kinds dislike the Forest and blame its disorder for hiding potentially dangerous Tears and impossible events.



THE ORIENTAL GATE


The Gates, again, almost certainly bizarre relics of the Masons at the height of their pre-disaster powers, are insanely high, like a literal mountain in height - taller than most built things should ever rationally be.

They are accepted by all Picts as the political boundary of the plains, though the effect of the paint goes on much further along the pigment river.

So escapees, exiles (who usually swap over at each regime change), those who want to access the qualities of the Plain but who don't want to mess with the Picts, low-status Picts, petitioners and ambassadors from the Antigoblin Empire, the Imaginary City, The Wodlands, and wherever else all come here and form 'Gate-Town', a hive of crime, radicalism and equality.

There are less explicit racial divisions here, more cross-school relationships (the classic Masterwork/Cartoon romance), along with more Visitors, outsiders, and the usual freaks who can't get along in the system but who won't go live in the woods.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The Wodlands 3 - The Whetstone Ridge





GEOGRAPHY

The ridge cuts the land and leads north in an ever-steepening coagulation of hills.

Straight, slender ravines, the Arrow Valleys run as neatly as an arrow flies and are cut from the Ridge as a whole by the enormous straightness of their stone and scree-sloped sides. Very narrow, very steep rock-cut paths and vertical climbs with cut hand-holds are all that link the valleys to the Ridge itself. Where nature has provided no barrier, human craft has thrown up vast drystone walls pierced by low black passages

Conversely, each mountaintop holds, at its peak, an Ice Daemon meditating in Lotus position. The Demons have been meditating for a geological age, far beyond the record of any sentient species, each encrusted in a thick caul of Hyperblue Ice. They are difficult to see and occasionally crusaders, cultists and academics try to thaw one out or burrow in. They always get horribly frozen and the Crazed Theigns work hard to stop any organised attempts. The Demons exist on the ridge in the same manner as dormant volcanoes to other cultures. One day, presumably, they will 'go off', but since this will happen on a geological scale of time, the level of risk for any individual day is very slight.

So it is that, almost uniquely amongst mountain kingdoms, almost all of the population, agriculture and economy of the Ridge is held in a band of heather and gorse above the meta-monster-haunted, but unpopulated valleys, and below the line of Sociopathic Hyperblue Ice.



MONSTERS

Ontomorphic Manticores

The intelligent and extremely evil Manticores of the Whetstone Ridge lair in the walls of the Arrow Valleys but are known to creep their way anywhere they can in search of food or the means to do harm.

Though they are few, each is formidable, with the body of a gigantic lion, the head of an ancient, evil and intelligent man, steel teeth, bat wings which provide (presumably magical) flight and the tail of a huge scorpion.

The Manticores are cursed so that they can only eat those who give incorrect answers to their questions, though they can simply kill those who give correct answers (they just can't swallow them) and can sting to death or drop from heights those who give no answers. But, in every case, a question must be asked.

They can also Ontomorph themselves into shadows, subtle sounds, snatches of song or strange moods, and thereby pass near-invisibly amongst mankind before emerging into their true form to feed. All of these aspects will leave a particular kind of sting in the tail of their expression and wise Ridge-dwellers have learnt well the particular tenor of experience that shows a Manticore is passing through.

The necessity of giving an incoherent answer to a Manticore, one neither true nor false, is one of the reasons that the rule of the Crazed Theigns is still permitted on the Ridge. The Theigns are expected to don armour and face any Manticores that threaten their Dukedoms, baffling them with insanity so they can be killed.

In most cases the Theigns are happy to fulfil their ancestral duty and in many cases they actually succeed.



The Meta-Fox

Simply a very large fox with the proportions of an extreme wolf, the Meta-Fox is a cunning creature that prefers to eat idiots. (Though, unlike the Manticore, it has no supernatural restrictions.)

The Fox can crawl inside the skin of anything it has eaten and impersonate its behaviour, voice and form. It will use this ability, in either animal or human shape, to test the intelligence of those it targets, hoping to find someone or something stupid (relative to its species as a whole) to eat.

For this reason it is common practice on the Ridge to appear as intelligent as possible before strangers, especially lone strangers in the wilderness. The Intelligent Shepherds (and Pig-heards and Goat-heards, but the name is commonly applied to all) of the Ridge, as well as lone travellers, carry with them books of Philosophy and mathematics and when two meet alone they will often begin their conversation by talking about the ideas in the book they are currently reading. It is also a common, but low practice, for fearful people travelling alone to try to find someone obviously stupider than them as a travelling companion, resulting in rather complex social situations.



Melancholic Condors.

The Condors prey on the Plains of Anaesthetic Fire to the East and rarely bother locals so their nests are usually undisturbed.

The Condors themselves are bedraggled, downhearted but vicious creatures, rarely responding to anything other than the most extreme provocation, but insanely and suicidally violent once fully enraged.


Bristle Pigs ('Bristly Pigs')

Bristle Pigs are big fat boarlike pigs with huge porcupine spines. The spines only partially lie flat, making the Pigs look almost spherical. They are a natural herd species of the Ridge and largely domesticated but some wild examples do remain and can be extremely violent if they think their young are threatened. They do not predate on man, except in childrens tales, but can cause enormous problems if they invade a village or decide to dick about with a fortified orchard.


Cryomaniacs

Every year a small handful of Ridgedwellers turn Cryomaniacal from the thawing Hyperblue Ice and, after doing cold murders, run off to the valleys, or even further. Their powers rarely persist and they are usually broken up and killed by Manticores, Foxes, Goblins, Hunger or expeditions from nearby Baronies.




CULTURE

The human culture of the Ridge is influenced hugely by the rule of the Crazed Theigns. Known in other lands for their lunatic embassies carrying irrational gifts and making impossible demands, the Theigns are largely tolerated by the people of the Ridge since, in their insanity, they have relatively little to do with them compared to any other ruler, as well as for their usefulness in combatting the Manticores.

Once these families ruled the Wodlands with a mad hand and kept it in feudal ruin, but they were driven off and displaced by the covert cults of the Mystery Masons, who worshipped reason. After the revolution they retreated to the ridge, to gaze impotently down on the developing lands, now freed from their lunatic rule, and to plan mad plans about re-taking a nation that did not want them back.

Since then the collapse of the Masonic Cults and the arrival of the Goblin Weed, smoked in the Goblin Pipes (which are addictive, and which turn the smoker into a Goblin), means the mad lords now look down upon a rubbished land almost as disordered as their own minds. Yet none have made any move to return to their much obsessed-over former country.

Yet, at night, there are a handful of places on the ridge where a traveller can look down onto the Wodlands and where the light of the Imaginary City on the shores of the Eastern Reach seems to merge with the lamps in the Masonic Mansions, and where the Painted Plain, the Maw and Goblin Cube are invisible in the dark, and the watcher can imagine what the greatness of that past time might have been.


THE VILLAGES

The moors and scrublands of the Ridge support primarily herders. Rugged sheep, Goats and Bristle Pigs are moved across the maze of ridgelines by the Intelligent Shepherds. Yet, in a few places, isolated lakes, crossroads of mountain paths, defensible sites, natural springs or simple chance mean that villages and a handful of small towns exist.

These places are always built on a slope (everything is on a slope) with densely packed houses, roofs and walls piled upon each other, surrounded by terraced and built-up fields growing the careful crops.

The Whetstone'ers prize their individuality but each Village has a library, a Keep for a Crazed Theign, a huge Pig House and one or more fortified Orchards.

The main source of village pride and group identity is its Mystery Play and the size of its largest Bristly Pig.

The Mystery Plays were originally ordered by the Crazed Theigns but have transformed into a strong independent tradition. They involve a redemptionist re-telling of the betrayal and casting-out of the the Noble Lords of the Wodland by the treacherous and evil rationalistic mystery cults of the Masons.

Though the cults are now in ruins, along with the Wodlands, the plays all end with the 'fall' of the feudal lords and their heroic and noble suffering, and not with the present day situation.

Due to the popularity of the plays (all villagers either take part or watch in a day-long performance once a year, just after the dangers of Thaw and the Cryomaniacal Dreams have ended), most Whetstoners do have the vague but strong sense that the Crazed Theigns are and should be the rightful rulers of the Wodland and that the Masonic cults are evil and insidious institutions.

The other main source of village selfhood is their Bristly Pig. The pride taken in these creatures has lead to an arms-race breeding programme and resulted in some dangerously large, nigh un-controllable Bristly Pigs which exist as a kind of porcine nuke at the centre of each settlement. Everyone is quietly terrified of what happens if the Pig gets out or gets into the fermenting apples.

While the pigs, though dangerous, are civic business, at the state level, the pride and power of each 'Barony' is shown in the quality, number and defensibility of its apples.

Most crops can only be grown in on the Ridge through terracing and building-up flat areas of ground with drystone walling and moving earth. Arable land of this kind is a rare and treasured resource, built over generations. This is probably what initially began the fortification of valuable crops. All that was required was extending the supporting wall above the level of the plough.

Though the Crazed Theigns would prefer more glorious, violent and continual warfare between the Ridge-Dweller they have been persuaded to forgo this (essentially the Intelligent Shepherds refused to engage in organised intra-human violence of any kind) for a culture of ritualised apple-theft.

Though this initially began as a harmless alternative to war, the Ridge Dwellers may have been affected by the rule of the Theigns more than they know. There has been a massive intensification of apple cultivation, apple security, apple horticulture, guard dogs, 'Apple Knights' guard bees, guard geese, silver-tusked 'stick pigs’, apple mafias and the always-feared, sometimes state-actor, deniable apple bandits. Magic apples are obsessed over and commonly grown, treasure is melted into golden apples, the currency of the Ridge is called 'the apple’ and cider and apple pie are high-status, even sacred, foods. Fears and threats over apple security are a major source of inter-Barony conflict.



THE CRAZED THEIGNS

Though each of the Crazed Theigns is rarely more powerful than a small Knight or Village Squire, they refer to their domains as Baronies or Dukedoms and each has a store of ancient items, relics, tales, death-masks, heraldic devices and general expatriate sorrows. They affect a high mien and a tragic aspect which lends them enormous gravitas.

Most of their clothes and heraldry involved apples, goats, Bristly Pigs, Goblins (being crushed and killed), Manticores, Foxes, Gold and Silver apples, strange furs, large conical hats, silver-bound pseudo-books, harps, rich manticore hides, Bristle-Pig coats, apple pies, cider jugs and ceremonial pig-goads. Rather than a jester most retain a dour psychotherapist as a close adviser.


MADNESSES OF THE CRAZED THEIGNS

1. Paranoid about specific natural phenomena.
2. Thinks surrounded by replacements.
3. Thinks you are they and they are you.
4. Hides in corners.
5. Melancholia.
6. Hysteria.
7. Fulminates.
8. Cryomania.
9. Quadromania (Everything in fours, can develop into Octomania).
10. Deceives in speech but communicates truth through hand-signs.
11. Only calm while music plays.
12. Believes self to be gigantic, acts huge, ponderous and careful.
13. Compulsively and continually swaps clothes with all near.
14. Believes is 7 to 15 seconds in the future, they respond first and you have to fill in.
15. Trusts no-one who speaks their language, only happy around those they cannot understand.
16. Obsessively plays board games with small dozing animals as pieces. i.e. chess with sleeping black and white mice, backgammon with drugged snails.
17. Disguises self as member of own staff. takes messages to 'her Ladyship'. Rapidly changes disguise if found out.
18. Can't eat unless food represented in art. Sketches snacks, paints meals.
19. Lives as a 'prisoner of self'. Plays stern tyrant who will not release self and also rots in dungeon below (accessible through secret passage), checks with staff continually about security of 'prisoner', suspects escape attempts.
20. Communicates exclusively through life-sized puppets of self.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Reflection in a Polished Cheese - A Review of Operation Unfathomable

I backed this on Kickstarter and put off reading it until the hardcopy arrived, which it did a few days ago.

tldr; I didn't really like it as much as I was hoping. You might though.


Click to Buy


VEINS COMPARISONS

It's strange and interesting to read this as it covers a similar subject matter as Veins and, if you were to yank out elements of it and abstract the tone, there are lots of parts that wouldn't feel out of place in the Patrickverse. Huge silent segmented giants with glowing eyes wandering the underworld fulfilling the decayed instructions of their ancient creators, intelligent fungal lifeforms performing strange experiments on surface beings and willing to trade fungal hyper-weaponry just to see the effects, an extinct race of beetle-people who created other intelligent species then went mad and genocided everything, leaving only ruins and capering insect ghosts, a cult worshipping nullity itself, a chaos godling sleeping on a beach of gold.

Sounds pretty Patricky, right?

NO.

This is nothing like VotE in either structure, tone, feel, expression or any other way.

It's primarily a dungeon, not a toolbox. A while ago Sholtis did an underworld fragment for Knockspell #5, which Iown. This is that, massively expanded with loads of new stuff, background, items and options. But everything is grown from that one root. A simple, not-quite-railroad Con game.

Jason says he based a long running campaign on this and all the potential elements for such a campaign are present in-utero, races, factions, history, lore and lots of references to a wider world. But this is not a toolbox for creating that campaign, except in the way that any reasonably complex or detailed adventure could kick one off.

All that crap I did about light, climbing, 3-D movement and procedural generation, caving and getting food underground is all completely irrelevant here. Light barely matters, there is underworld gloom in most places. Climbing barely matters, everything is on a plane. Food doesn't matter much. You can still get mutated though.

I think I literally used a comparison to serial television in Veins. Yes, "The cave used in most games is the cave from serial television. A flat-floored arch-shaped space with doors." I was thinking about the caves from Star Trek, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants or any of those TV shows from the 60's.

Well these are those caves, and this is those shows. More than anything else this reminds me of 60's television.

None of this is either here nor there when considering quality, different creative aim, different rules must apply.



OK ENOUGH ABOUT COMPARISONS - WHAT IS IT ACTUALLY LIKE?

Its a relatively simply, well-tested, strong Con-Game One-Shot with expansions. If you were to 'speed run' the adventure based on the opening mission then you could get it done in maybe half an hour. The opening setup has some pretty good idiot-locks to basically polearm people into the adventure and get them doing stuff.

Like, if you imagine the kind of person who I always think of as being the person you meet at cons, who sits down to play a one-shot and then wants to be a tool about why they are going on this particular adventure. Well that shit is covered here.

You can kind of tell that OU is a thing that has had a lot of contact with idiots (not the creators, but rando players they probably didn't know) and so it has a reasonable amount of idiot-proofing in the design.

A very strong element of the design is the encounter table. Encounters are meant to be common and highly vivid. There are multiple different kinds; phenomena, other parties & travellers and Wandering Horrors and each of these sub-tables has a die-lock on it that goes up and down depending on what kind of route you are on. So if you are on the main highway then you get the full range and the smaller passages gives you a smaller range of encounters.

In particular, the Underworld Travellers section, and the effects of that section, do a lot to tie the game together. A lot of the traveller encounters have complex relationships with each other and each others political and cultural business and they are all very vivid and interesting.

Vividness is a strong point in OU. Liveliness and human particularity.

All of these encounters have a very haptic, open feel to them. They are all a little arch and present themselves as ripe for role playing on the DM's part.

Because you are probably going to be meeting a lot of people, a lot of the complexity of the game is going to be about playing out these meetings and what you do or don't do about them. Since everyone has business with each other, the moment you make an ally, you are probably going to run into someone who is an enemy now because they hate the dude you are with, that puts the party in the middle of a little drama and there are a lot of these little dramas waiting with a lot of contextual background info locked into them.

The interrelationship of the living elements also makes the rando, somewhat paratactic Phenomena and Horrors less annoying since you will almost never be encountering them 'alone', instead there will be one or more NPC's hanging out with you to go "Oh, its the Sounds Without Cause'.

The very small physical size of the space, the high encounter probability and the close interrelationship of intelligent encounters gives the feel of a Dense Toybox World.

Though it is physically small there is a lot to do and encounter. It makes a kind of insanity of the imagined space but I don't think that will matter at all for the kind of person who is into this. It seems like the opposite situation than WotC's African thing where there was just a shitload of boring jungle between you and the Main Thing, here we have multiple Chaos Godlings, Giant Clone Wizards, Null Priests and what have you on what would psychically be the same suburban street, or at least one city block.

It's by no means a bad adventure, it should work pretty well. But it depends what your definition of 'fun' is. Because you are definitely going to be having 'fun' and only 'fun'.



THE TONE

The tone is the main thing I dislike about this. It's somewhere between Hydras usual tone and very High Rientsien, though the stuff like Star Trek references and the outright comedy elements push it even higher than High Reintsien.

You can usually run a Hydra module with modernist irony but there is usually enough density of feel that you can push it down into actual-feeling and scrape out many of the ironic elements without having to do a full engineering job on it. Like, a were-bear or Were-Shark Pirate can just about be run as actually-scary if you fiddle with them a bit.

You can't do that with this. It's a comedy really. And it's so densely integrated that if you want to run this in Hipster Mode you would need to literally take it apart, boil it down and reconstruct it from the start.

Again and again and again while reading this I wanted to feel something and that fucking tone came up and smirked in my face. It was a lot like that Thor: Ragnarok movie with the endless Dreamworks-grin Wheadoning skating over the frozen oneric depth of what the story was about. I was bristling somewhat as I came to the end of this adventure, not from any one thing but just the slow accumulation of cheese.

And I really don't give two tenths of a fuck which particular Star Trek: TOS actor, in which role, an NPC sounds like. I don't care about references to anything especially godamnn fucking Nerd Culture references.

Well that's me done shitting on it



DID YOU LIKE ANYTHING THOUGH?

The sub-encounter behaviour rolls are good. A lot of the living encounters have various weird things they are up to that don't involve you at all. Many of the animals are potentially dangerous or not, depending on conditions.

Really the whole encounter matrix is good I think.

The vividness, playability, feelyness, liveliness and specificity of the living encounters is very good. Characters and elements pop off the page and want to be played and embodied. They hold a good polarity between being comprehensible and expressive. IF you don't mind the cheese.

The idea of the PC's being given weapons just so they can test them, and the price being a full report, is interesting.

The Dead Failed Colossal Pal made me sad.

There is a full Alternative Adventuring Party/replacement Adventurer Group in the back Appendices. Again, they are vivid, playable, fun and benefit a huge amount from Jasons characterful and almost tactile portraits.

The pistol rules for the Underworld Rangers and Science Fungi are pretty good if you want to introduce some science fantasy into your game.

The Blind Antler Men feel genuinely strange, same with the Segmented Giants.

The Art Generally;


THE ART

It's monochrome. I really like it. Most is byt Jason I think, other stuff by Chris Brandt, John Larrey and Stefan Poag. I think I could recognise Sholtis and Poag's art the easiest and I like theirs the best from what I could tell.

I think it might be printed at a slightly wrong size or wrong resolution in some cases. It looks likes there are a handful of times where small images are made big and it doesn't quite work.

Jason's NPC's and Monsters are, I've said it before but I'll say it again, specific, lively, interesting, expressive, animated and often humorous.

Some of the big full-page illustrations, especially of the Segmented Giants have the kind of strange oneric feel I wish there was more of in the book. The Blind Antler Men and Psycophage manage to be genuinely creepy.

Many of the other monsters, the Tyrannoclops (we never get to meet one living?) the Glutton Newt with its maniacal grin, and the Worm Sultan, are full of energy and glee.

If there was a part of the book where the creativity matched what I was hoping for and wanted to feel, it's in the art.

The layout is by Jez and is as broadly good as Jez usually is. Monochrome. Informational hierarchy is usually tight though a few minor errors crept in. Informational chunks are usually broken-to-spread with relatively few thought-orphans, though again, some are not. The map is lovely but I think came late in the process as it has some strong potential linking elements that either weren't taken advantage of or weren't part of the creators intent.



MINDLESS NITPICKS

- References to monster in encounters don't give exact page, just numbered element in a section, that's a flip I don't need.

- Cave swallows steal rope but you barely need rope down here anyway.

- In the map the Googlepede runs all over the place and if it actually linked with the tunnels it passed under and over it could drag PC's around & dump them in different places in an interesting way, but that doesn't happen, its just one singular area with an effective death state.

- Same with the river.

- Lots of lassitude effects - is Sholtis a sleepy guy?

- Slight bolding flaw page 61, section 14, last element.

- Main Map has encounter areas numbered - but not the page numbers, they managed page numbers on the encounter chart but not the map?

- Appendix of Coplementary Hirelings is small for a book of this size & layout (but alt adventurers are plentiful & good, see above)

- How is the Science Fungus Dirigible not getting more time?

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Fragments of the Great Inflorescence

Evlyn has sent out a bunch of these game-fragment objects




What are we to make of this? There are three elements.

- The Guilds themselves.
- The Hexes.
- The standees.

It seems like some kind of elaborate D&D art challenge, or some popular tween collectable from an alternative hipsterverse.

If other bloggers received these, and if they want to, we could try a "Yes and" improve game/setting development thing.

The guilds themselves are probably the easiest.



We have these guilds with charming arabesque (I think that's the word?) 19 adventurers with these tiny but expressive body-portraits, with room for wee stats and wee notes.



How would these be used? DM pass-outs? Would each player have a guild of their own?




The Hexes. These are strange dual-coloured, sub-divided bio-landscapes.




How would you actually use these? With the standees?



The standees - charming, animated bio-creatures ranging from pseudo-humanoid to fully non-human, bacterial, protozoic, to splotches and piles of strange infection.

These are by Evlyn so they feel non-threatening, not quite whimsical either - calmly Other. You feel you are going to have a weird conversation with them.

......................................


So, an imagined world  of these somewhat bande dessinee adventurers going into the Great Inflorescence, meeting these freaky dudes, maybe having a fight, maybe getting/being infected by and strange fungal thing.

As I turn them over in my head and hands the elements almost feel like parts of a strategy game or a short, fast diplomacy/combat game where the guilds are in conflict, or like a kids trading-card game where you both bring 3 hexes and a guild while you eat. And you get to keep the artefacts and maybe even the pop-people dudes.

What do you think? What would you make of this?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Stolen Skin of Sun - The Goblin Market

An extension of Part One. With apologies to Christina Rossetti because the poetry is hers.

At the Goblin Market it is not dark, it is not light. Night dew beads the grass and the sky is red and violet. The place is packed with Goblins of every sort.

One like a large jackdaw in a Generals uniform. Some like Gentlemen in wigs and frock coats, sneering and spitting tobacco. Some pretending to be puppets with stiff rods as strings. Goblins doing yoga, their joints squishing and cracking. Goblins making a documentary film. Terrorist Goblins being chased by police Goblins with blue-painted heads. A Goblin owned by a huge frog. A Goblin with the head of a frog. A small Goblin in a golden vest riding a goose-sized blue giraffe, it holds a golden lead to a giraffe-sized goose. A Goblin in a space-suit next to a rotating U.F.O, but the U.F.O is wood spray-painted silver and is driven by Goblins giggling inside on stationary bicycles. One with a cats face. One with a tail. One tramps at a rats pace. one crawls like a snail. one like a wombat prowls obtuse and furry. One like a ratel tumbles hurry skurry. Goblins everywhere crawling, capering, sleeping, marching, pulling, carrying, buying, selling, stealing and lying.

You hear a voice like voice of doves, cooing all together;

"All ripe together
In summer weather,-
Fari eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:"

You must remind the players seriously and directly;

"Their offers should not charm you,
Their evil gifts would harm you."

...........................................

The PC's are looking for the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold.

As part of the magic of that Auction, no one person can remember everything about it. It is definitely here, but any individual can only recall either its smell, its sound, its sight, its guard or the password to get in. No-one can recall more than one of these.

There are five Goblin vendors and each Goblin knows one thing about the Auction, but they will not surrender this information easily. You must buy from them, and all of their objects are cursed. That, or solve their riddle.

...........................................

Getting Around

It is so strange and busy in the Goblin Market that is is impossible to find your way. Trying to get anywhere leads you somewhere random instead;

1. The stall of Mark Me Unreasonable.
2. The small black house.
3. The stall of Doctor Distinguished Green.
4. The Tower of Tomes.
5. The stall of Magnus Intractable.
6. The Black Tortoiseshell House.
7. The stall of Noted Groan.
8. The Palace of the Caterpillar King. 
9. The stall of Lord Captain Pilots Voice-Recording.
10. The stump of the Storm-Toppled Tree.


Listening

But, if they listen (or a Goblin may inform them) the PC's can hear the Goblin vendors singing. If they close their eyes and listen for a song, they can hear different tunes wafting through the crowd and can find their way to a particular stall. 

There are five songs and five stalls.

Songs

1. 
"Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I"

2. 
"An Emerald holds green like a leaf"

3.
"I run but have no feet"

4. 
"Brown and furry
In a hurry"

5.
"What are heavy? Sea sand and sorrow:"

.........................................




The Five Goblin Vendors

1. "Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I
I know the trees have seen it pass
Why? Why? Why?"

This leads you to a Goblin with a gigantic orange eye bulging from his face. A small Goblin with a head like a full moon sits in the shadow of his shoulder and drips solution onto it with a long glass pipette.

They are called Mark Me Unreasonable.

He wishes to sell you a tiny tiger in a glass jar "fit to befoul any foe!"

If you buy the Tiger he will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "If you listen to it very carefully, you may hear a chewing sound."

Anyone who holds the Tiger in the jar finds themselves getting gradually angrier and angrier until they cannot restrain themselves and smash the jar on the floor. The Tiger escapes and attacks everyone. It will not leave the owner alone.

If you can answer his song he will owe you a secret. The answer is that the trees bow and wave when they see the wind.



2. "An Emerald holds green like a leaf,
A Ruby holds red blood,
A sapphire holds the sky's blue grief.
A Flint lies in the mud.
A Diamond holds white from a star,
To catch the world's desire,
An Opal holds a firey spark
But flint holds..
What does a flint hold?"

This leads you to four Goblins carrying a sedan chair and sniggering. inside is the shadow of an enormous cat who pokes a pistol barrel out of the curtains.

The cat calls themselves Doctor Distinguished Green.

He wishes to sell you a beautiful Green Pearl which he says will make you "desired above all".

If you buy the pearl he will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "It is held somewhere low and somewhat black."

Anyone who wears the pearl will be desired more each time they are seen with it and for as long as they wear it, but only that long. If they ever do not wear it, they will be despised now as much as they were desired before.

If you can answer his song he will owe you a secret. The answer is that the flint holds fire.

If you do either the Goblins break into laughter and run away. The sedan chair falls apart and a huge, black, but quite normal cat leaps out.




3. "I run but have no feet,
I will not sleep and cannot eat,
I can lose but never win,
I have a face without a chin."

This leads you to a Goblin who is a reflection in a mirror held up by a very grey and ancient man.

They name themselves 'Magnus Intractable'

They wish to sell you a Magic Mirror "a glass oracle to lend you wisdom!"

If you buy the Mirror he will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "It is guarded by a Hedge-Hog."

The Mirror will answer three questions in terse but truthful fashion. On the third the figure will run out of the mirror and caper about saying "free free free!" and whoever asked the last question will be trapped in the mirror.

If you can answer his song he will owe you a secret. The answer is 'a clock'.




4. "Brown and furry,
In a Hurry,
Take your walk,
To the stalk,
Toad not spy you,
Bird pass by you,
Spin and die,
To live again..."

This leads you to a Goblin in a fine red jacket with brass buttons who has eyes like a fox.

They name themselves 'Noted Groan'.

They wish to sell you a pair of Fox-Gloves "to lend you craft and cunning!"

If you buy the gloves Groan will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "It smells of dry parchment."

The Fox Gloves fill the wearer with lies. Their lies are likely to be believed but they cannot stop lying. Only someone who has never lied can remove them from the wearers hands.

If you can answer his song Groan will owe you a secret. The answer is 'a butterfly'.




5. "What are heavy? Sea sand and sorrow:
"What are brief? Today and tomorrow:
What are frail? Spring blossoms and youth:
But what are deep?"

This leads you to a blind and crippled goblin walking with two bone canes. He has a huge peacocks tail and the eyes in the tail stare and blink at you.

They call themselves 'Lord Captain Pilots Voice-Recording'.

They wish to sell you a silver Cod-Skin Cloak "to make you as swift and silent as a fish in the sea!". 

If you buy the cloak he will whisper one secret of the Auction of Things That Cannot Be Sold - "The password is - nuts are falling."

The wearer is completely silent and can swin through the air as if it were water. If they ever remove the cloak they suffocate.

If you can answer his song the Lord Captain will owe you a secret. The answer is 'the ocean and truth'.
..................................





The Five Possible Places

There are five places in the Goblin Market which might be the Auction of Places That Cannot Be Sold.

1. A Small Black House. This house smells of liquorice (in fact it is made of it). It is guarded by a an extremely tuff hedgehog that will knock you about in a terrible way.

2. The Tower of Tomes. This tower is tall and pale, it smells of parchment and is guarded by an animated topiary Hog. Inside it is full of boring scholars.

3. The Black Tortoiseshell House. This smells of parchment and you can hear chewing coming from inside. In fact this is a sleeping Black Tortoise Sorcerer and not a building. They are not pleased to be disturbed and will cast Slow Magics.

4. The Palace of the Caterpillar King. This mansion is small and green in colour. You can hear chewing from inside. It is guarded by a wooden cat carved into a log. The password to pass the cat is 'Nuts are falling' but inside is only the sleepy, hungry and opium-addicted Caterpillar King who will ban intruders from all trees forever.

5. The stump of the Storm-Toppled Tree. This is low and black, it smells of parchment and you can hear chewing coming from inside. It is guarded by an Angry Hedgehog and if you give the password 'Nuts are falling' he will give you an acorn-cup with the size-altering drink to get you in.

This is the Auction of Impossible Things.

Friday, 6 April 2018

The Wodlands 2 - The Antigoblin Empire




Big fat red Ogre-Babies walking slowly on fat legs. Shrivelled old small-featured faces. Fat stubby little fingers and plump warm palms with beads of sweat.

All carry Long-Tongs, primary culture-tool of the AntiGoblins. Strong iron tongs the length of a man which they use to grab and snatch things. partly becasue their fat hands are so poor at grasping, and partly to safely control a Goblin, should they see one.

If Goblin and AntiGoblin physically meet they instantly annihilate each other in a blue-tinged spherical compression wave that destroys everything in a five-metre radius and irradiates high-velocity heavy fey particles up to a 50 metre radius.

They are hideously strong creatures and their tongs can crush a skull or snatch a grown man right off the ground at full extension and carry them around like that at arms length indefinitely. They can squeeze right through a human.

AntiGoblins wear cloaks and big cylindrical hats with hat size showing their relative logic-dominance and progression towards ego-death. Their only other clothes are big nappies and thick yellow wellingtons. They are EXTREMELY SERIOUS beings, with low, fluid but monotone voices and anguished expressions. They hate to be made fun of.

Pedantic, intelligent, unimaginative materialistic reductionists, they believe that the 'self' does not exist.

Common methods of address are;

"The epiphenemon labelled as.. greets you" and

"The gestalt collected under the function of ... acknowledges awareness of the other."

Some likely names (epihenemon labels) are;

1. Gradations Of-Blue
2. Subtle-thought Fabrication
3. Piston Bo-Reason
4. Observable Acts
5. Known-to-be-seen Seen-to-be-known
6. Calculable Contraption
7. Identity Concept
8. Imaginary Concept
9. No-Joke Concept
10. Concept Grasper
11. Preserve-Truth No-Goblins
12. Definitely Notagoblin
13. Objectively Notagoblin
14. Burnagoblin Truth-Irreducable
15. Oneplusone Isto
16. Zero Goblins
17. Intense Calm
18. Mind Zoomfaster
19. Thinkbee Notagoblin
20. Zero Incoherence

Obviously, the Anti-Goblins are at permanent and absolute war with the Goblins. They are desperately afraid of actually coming into direct contact with a Goblin and continually paranoid about the existence or possibility of Goblin infiltration by any means. Goblins are their greatest hate and greatest fear. They will do anything to strike at them and anything to avoid them. They are also low-key obsessed with seeing them, though this is an illegal and loathed fetish.



THE EMPIRE ITSELF.

The nation is not large and, at least compared to mane other areas of the Wodlands, quite calm. The AntiGoblins are careful and lawful rulers and obvious adventure scenarios are (relatively) rare, while travel is (technically) much easier than in other places. Well paved roads and secure Inns are common.

There are three main areas of interest, the Inverse Forest to the north, source of the Empires wealth, the Lolipop Hills to the south, and Place-Prime, heart of the Empire.



THE INVERSE FOREST

The trees of the inverse forest are all upside down. Their tops merely graze the earth and their roots tangle in interlocked escher-patterns deep into the sky, far beyond easy sight.

In the heights (depths) of the tree roots, a parasitic vine grows a mistletoe-white antigravity pear which, if eaten or processed into cider, gives the power of floating, for a time. The pear also dries and keeps reasonably well, making it an excellent trade good.

The AntiGoblins are too big and horrid to climb into the escher-maze of the trees roots so they employ, or in some cases enslave, depending on their reasoning about such matters, huge numbers of workers to do so for them.

The AntiGoblin plantation owners patrol the ground level with 'tame' Giant Shoebills, the only animals the AntiGoblins seem to like.

There is always work in the sky plantations for extra planters, slaves, slave-catchers, security staff, Shoebill minders and all manner of other thing.

The AntiGoblins fear creatures they call the 'Anti-Gravity Invaders, translucent sky-dwelling balloon people who wrap themselves in chains and 'sink' down to the plantations to abduct staff, steal pears, kill Shoebills and foil AntiGoblin plans.

It is highly likely that the Invaders are not real in any way, no-one AntiGoblin has ever seen them, and if they were real, its no clear how they would be any kind of tactical threat, being made of translucent balloons. Nevertheless, they are spoken of often by sky-planters and their complete absence from measurable reality casts a strange pall in the midst of the AntiGoblins, causing them to be feared in a mysterious way, as if the very concept of them were disturbing.


THE LOLLIPOP HILLS

Other than their tongs, their blue city of Place-Prime and their continual 3rd-hand war with all Goblins everywhere, the only major expenditure of the AntiGoblins is their continual urge and desire to plant and prune an entire section of their nation so that every plant forms a perfect sphere.

This is AntiGoblin leisure time. They often come here with huge long clippers riding enslaved Procoptodon to prune the trees, plants, and anything else. The area is large and the AntiGoblins few, they will not allow anyone else to prune the trees so the work never ends. When a plant is pruned into a perfect sphere the AntiGoblins will clap their hands, say "Oh. Wonderful." and almost smile. No sooner is one part 'perfect' that another has fallen into disarray.

Because of its size and unpopulated condition, the area of the Lolipop hills is the primary hiding place of any radical or illegal element in the Empire, though they must all continually move to stay ahead of the pruning AntiGoblins.

Escaped slaves will hide here. Since much of the trade that moves through the Empire is based, ultimately, on contact with Goblins on either end, almost every merchant is also technically a drug dealer and smuggler. This results in massive taxation, paranoia and culture war regarding the trade amongst the AntiGoblins

The place is also full of Bandits and robbers. Their acknowledged 'leader', or at least the guy that nobody fucks with, is 'Bobbin Ten-Goblins', a huge man who continually wears armour consisting of ten live goblins trapped all over his body, tied to him even while he sleeps.

And of course there are actual Goblin Infiltrators. They have squeezed a juice that can turn anyone, physically, into an AntiGoblin. They wage a continual and covert terroristic war to destroy the AntiGoblin Empire and the Grand Catalyst, using themselves as bombs.

Obviously, the AntiGoblins loathe this disorder, but they will not spoil their hills with fortifications or settlements. Anti-Bandit patrols of mercenaries and hirelings are common.


PLACE PRIME

The beating heart of AntiGoblin life and culture. Place Prime is actually the name of the central cubic fortress where the Grand Catalyst dwells.

In Place Prime everything that can be square, doors, rooms, tiles, paving slabs, glasses, meals, plates, is square, and everything that can be a shade of blue, is a shade of blue.

The Gates - These are guarded by the Malakaj Kudroj -the Joke Police. These employed and expert human absurdists perform ridiculous antics and strange performance art with deep intensity before everyone trying to get in. They seek to provoke a reaction in hidden Goblins, or part-goblins, to reveal their true form.

Within the blue city, at its square central square, is the Fortress of the Grand Catalyst.

Level 1 - The Halls of the Absurd. A maze of rooms patrolled by the elite performance artists Malakaj Kudroj and filled with surreal and absurdist art of the most remarkable kinds. AntiGoblins looking to make a deal will often come here to display their own lack of Goblinness and to check for any Goblin elements in their potential partners.

Level 2 - The Beastly Disquisition. To progress further everyone must enter one of a series of rooms, totally alone. Within is an angry monkey. They must calm the monkey using only Pure Reason. If the monkey dies, another will be added. Only once the monkey has reached a reasonable level of calm will it cough up the ceramic key needed to pass on to the next level.

Level 3 - The Scythes of Illusion. Both the name for this level and of the  military faction of the Esploradoj - the AntiGoblin Inquisition who control it. Supplicants must meditate while the Esploradoj patrol around them and shout random rationalist questions and swing their scythes. Fear, flinching or an incorrect response means instant decapitation. Those who answer wisely may pass to Level Four.

Level 4 - The Conclave of Equations. This is the AntiGoblin Parliament, where the laws are created. Anyone capable of passing the challenged may attend, but the job of the Conclave is only to interpret the law in the words passed down from the Thrones of Ego Death in the higher levels. The walls of the Conclave are all chalkboards for only laws that can be proven to be logical are allowed to be enacted.

To leave the Conclave and move upwards, take the Stairs of Ascention which, allegedly, the truly wise will be able to levitate up while meditating.

Level 5 - The Inquisition of Penitants. This is the lair and headquarters of the Esploradoj, the most fanatically AntiGoblin AntiGoblins in the AntiGoblin Empire. The Inquisitors keep actual Goblins imprisoned floating in superthick test tubes and glass tesseracts, questioning them to learn more of their nature, though the Goblins tend to be bored to death rather than anything else. None of them are actually penitant.

Level 6 - The Thrones of Ego Death. Here are the endlessly-meditating Ascended Minds of the Empire. They do indeed float while chilling in a Lotus position. They listen carefully to the occasional gnomic statements of the Grand Catalyst and translate his words in turn. Their statements are recorded by the Esploradoj and taken down to the Conclave of Equations, presumably unaltered.

Level 7 - THE ARK OF THE GRAND CATALYST. Locked in eternal meditation, the first AntiGoblin to free themselves from Goblinhood though PURE THOUGHT. They sit veiled within their Ark. They may seem unaware of what happens  but, being purely and perfectly logical, it is assumed they are capable of predicting any element of the material world and will simply speak when it is necessary they do so.

The Grand Catalyst still has the Goblin they once were growing out of them, essentially their leg is part of his huge arm and they look like an insane glovepuppet. The Goblin is insane and claims that the Grand Catalyst is just a huge animate radiation tumour that grew out of them and took over. The Catalysts hat is really big.