Saturday, March 31, 2012

Abandoned By Reason (Wermspittle)


“Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.”
In Wermspittle it is said that 'Genius is but Madness, after a fashion.' They appreciate Madness in Wermspittle. They truly do. It has been a staple of their existence for as long back as anyone can remember, recall or recollect, even among the hierarchies of the dead and the spirits imprisoned within the most ancient reliquaries, ossuaries, and mausoleums.
Conventional wisdom broke down before it ever even reached this place; so say the Midwives.
It is considered bad luck to kill a lunatic at night.

Change, transformation and transgression circulate through Wermspittle like the smoke pouring off of the military crematoria used to clear out those of the Low Land villages, towns or enclaves where the plagues have done their worst. In these days when the dead rise to wage war, flesh melts into strange new forms under the influence of thinking diseases, and even immortals are not above the ravages of a terrible wasting that obeys no established rule or diagnosis; nothing is what it once seemed nor will any of it ever be again.

A Prodigy can be either a beautiful or a terrible thing, and often are a bit of both.

But in truth, nothing ever really was as it might have once seemed. The Past is as much fiction as the Future, only now the Present has caught-up with them both and we know them all to be ambiguous pluralities, overlapping and interpenetrating, like a bezoar caught in a Goddesses' throat. Like a bit of barbed-wire stuck in the craw of a fat magpie. A tumor metastasizing within the guts of a walking corpse. In a place so riddled with Weak Points, surrounded by the Cold Roads, where the Adjacent Worlds and Parallel Realms are imminent and accessible, no longer theories or abstractions...Time grows strange and the Unreal often has its own feelings about things.
Wermspittle was abandoned by reason, or else it was killed and eaten during one of the first Winters; so say the Butchers along the Low Streets.
Horrors are the warped reflections of Wonders and Marvels.

Plague victims are as often turned prophetic as monstrous by the horrid effects of contagions carried up from the Low Lands. Patients may be possessed, Unfortunates might still be vectors for fresh teratogenic effects or after-shocks. The Poxed are to be pitied because they lost all semblance to whatever humanity they might have once had long, long ago when their infections were still only diseases that might have been treated.

Once. Long ago. When it might still have mattered.
Dice play God with the Universe; so say the gamblers hiding in squalid cellars and filthy dens to avoid the Debt-Collectors and Catchpoles.
Ignorance proliferates wherever fear is catered to and not challenged.

Worst of times? Best of times? What does any of that matter when it is survival that occupies every waking thought, invades ones dreams and demands outrageous sacrifices, imposes terrible consequences and forces everyone into confronting decisions both horrific and unconscionable.

Evil flourishes in the absence of action on the part of those who know better.

What is, frankly, should not be. It cannot, should not persist, let alone endure. Flux, turmoil, transition--if ever there was a time for a determined few to make a very real difference...

Hartley Bequest (Patron)

Founded by an illustrious (formerly notorious) Scientist-Condottieri during the close of the Irrational Interregnum as a bulwark against the encroaching forces of ignorance, intolerance and short-term greed, the Hartley Bequest provides sponsorships, scholarships and financial support to thousands of qualified students, researchers and even a few adventurer/explorers.

There are dozens of small, innocuous-looking micro-campuses sponsored and financed by the Hartley Bequest scattered across the academic landscape. None of them have ever been closed. Would-be protesters likewise have not had any success in attempting to sieze a micro-campus under whatever pretenses. These small but self-sufficient places of advanced learning and open information exchange are accorded all the rights and privileges of a full embassy, which is often over-looked by those governments who do not appreciate the principles of free scientific inquiry, self reliance and no tolerance for tyranny.

Unlike many of the surviving NGOs that have morphed into world-spanning logistical networks that have increasingly become politically ineffective due to their emphasis upon care-giving, the Hartley Bequest remains fully independent, outside of all governmental regulation, and very adept at making those politicians who attempt to interfere with them to quickly leave politics or just plain disappear.

Some people feel that it is a bit strange that an organization that is mostly just a dispensary of scholarships or a source of funding for research would also have a very elite security branch. They do. In fact the Scientist-Condottieri of the Hartley Bequest are some of the most well-trained, heavily-armed, best-equipped and ultra-mobile professional mercenaries that can be hired...but they seldom work for simply money.

The Hartley Bequest is dedicated to protecting and expanding the body of knowledge available to all sentient beings who voluntarily agree to the basic principles upon which this organization was founded:

Liberty, Reason, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.

But what kind of a trust fund would have a motto such as that carved above the primary entrances to every walled and fortified micro-campus they sponsor or support? Maybe the rumors about the Hartley Bequest having secret bases outside the boundaries of most stellar states are more than half-true...

Suggested Reading:
H. Beam Piper's Condottieri, or Mercenaries (and just about everything else he wrote...)
Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, Will TravelThe Cat Who Walks Through Walls (Among many others...)
Gordon Dickson's Dorsai (As well as all the rest of the Dorsai/Childe Cycle series...)



Sallow Stains (Corruption Trade/Wermspittle)

Sallow Stains form wherever a Loathsome Mass dies and a Wet Spot dries out to leave behind a foul residue. Gritty alchemical salts, fetid drifts of strange dust, even bizarre crystalline formations can be found in the attics, cellars and abandoned properties of the Burned Over District or the deserted sections of the city where the Foragers are reluctant to go and only roving gangs of Feral Children and prowling Jellies know what lurks behind the boarded-over windows of the old shops.
Sallow Stains (D10)
  1. A smallish clump of granular gray-white matter is lodged in the cracks and crevices of the slightly warped floor-boards. If disturbed, it puffs a small cloud of arsenic-laced White Powder into the air, enough to poison a space roughly in a 10' radius.
  2. There is a strange pattern scrawled onto the floor, it looks a lot like a wild series of overlapping chalk-smears. Maybe it is someone's attempt to scratch some diagram or the like into the floor...using the coagulated corruption of a still-writhing Loathsome Mass. The whole thing reeks of unhealthy magics. In fact, there is a large (6HD) Loathsome Mass suspended within the diagram, outside normal time. The victim did not fully succumb to the Vile Transformation, at least not yet, and they are attempting to take control of the process and direct things towards a different outcome. Disturbing the diagram will drop them back into normal time. This thing can still cast a few spells, at least for the next 2d20 minutes...after that, they'll be just another Wet Spot.
  3. The wall shows signs of extensive water damage, but with a dark green tinge to it. The stain grows thicker, more lurid and even begins to curdle off of the surface as it travels down towards the floor. The greenish matter at the base has a thin skin that is easily broken. The inner-stuff is foul-smelling, putty-like and incredibly corrosive to most metals. It does 1d4 damage per minute of contact and can only be removed with a borax solution or extensive scraping (inflicting another 2d4 damage).
  4. A dried pool of iridescent blue pustules has solidified in the middle of the floor. It emits a low grade vibration that causes nausea and disorientation (Save or suffer effects of Confusion). This effect cannot penetrate glass or wax, but it is intensified by the presence of silver in any form. There is about (1d4) pounds of this stuff. It crunches, cracks and chips away with a typical scraper, pry-bar or chisel/blade-edge. However, doing so takes 20 hit points of damage to the stain to break off about a  pound of usable fragments. (Roll Wandering Monster Check for every half-pound collected.)
  5. The off-white streaks of a crude mass of White Powder trails down the ceiling towards the far wall. It appears to have been colonized by a peculiar orange and pink fungus that drips a clear, sweet, syrupy liquid that forms a thin, slippery layer across the entire floor below the stains (Dex Check or fall). The fluid is exceptionally slippery and is harmless for 1d4 minutes, after which time it begins to oxidize exposed flesh, literally causing it to smoke, sizzle and burst into flames. The fluid itself is not flammable. The fluid will retain this effect if removed, as long as it is not exposed to lead or antimony, both of which will render it inert. The oxidization effect will also destroy leather, but it only dissolves wood, cordage or cloth, etc., reducing those sorts of things to jumbled masses of soft fibers that will harden into lumps within 2d4 hours.
  6. All the surfaces of this space are covered in a flaking, noxious coating of phlegm-like material. It is toxic (causes 1d6 damage per minute of breathing-in the dried-flakes). It is a semi-petrified slime-mold that tried to colonize a deposit of White Powder and failed. If properly prepared, it can be used to create a poison that will cause the rampant growth of a fearsome slime-thing that will devour the victim from the inside within 2d4 minutes. The stuff is also explosive and every 10 points of impact damage done to it will require the roll of a D20, any result of a '1' or '20' results in an explosion for 2d4 damage within a 20' radius. The stuff will not burn; it only explodes when jarred abruptly.
  7. Gritty gray powder coats the floor and part way up the walls. It has a tough crust at the edges, but once the center area is broken, it collapses into a swirling mess of lacerating gray dust that will remain in motion for 2d4 hours. Exposure causes 1d4 damage per minute caught within the swirling powder's 20' radius of effect. The powder will settle into the victim's hair, clothing and lungs, where it will slowly feed on their dead cells and grow into a larger mass of gray powder over time.
  8. Black crust of bubbled remnants of a White Powder deposit that someone destroyed with a common low-level fire-spell.
  9. A Galvanic Prod is jammed into the bulbous, burnt central lump of a warped and buckled section of the wall. A fine black ash covers everything. Touching the ash delivers a 1d2 jolt of electrical damage. The Prod holds this stain in-place and keeps it dormant. Removing the Prod will allow the stain to roll back in upon itself and form into a granular black slug-like mass of charcoal-like matter that will spew clouds of blinding ash and strike victims for 1d4 damage as it tries to escape. It leaves a sooty trail behind it.
  10. Thick, green grit clings to the ceiling and upper walls. It is hard, crusty and gives off a metallic scent. If broken, the fragments exude a noxious ammonia sort of smell. It dissolves in water and is highly poisonous, inflicting paralysis and 2d4 damage if ingested (Save for half-damage/duration usually lasts 3d4 minutes). Contact also causes a greenish rash that will persist for 1d4 weeks. The rash will create open sores during the course of a given week that the afflicted fails to make a Save, once it runs its course the victim is marked with green traceries that swirl just beneath their skin and the schlera of their eyes, but they are immune to this substance from that point onward. It might have some anesthetic applications, if someone could refine it and eliminate the rash-effect.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Foragers II: Rumors (Wermspittle/Corruption Trade)

Bottom Of The Heap
Foragers are the most common and least respected of the various scavenger trades, except for maybe looter-crews, even though they aren't technically a trade, but more rather a loose association of enthusiastic amateurs. Foragers are the lowest-paid of the various scavenger trades. They literally make their living by preying upon the victims of the White Powder and the traces that they leave behind. They serve the Corruption Trade which is built upon the transfigured suffering of people converted into Loathsome Masses by the  alchemically-induced Vile Transformation, and the economically-useful by-products that stem from this horrific process. 

Loathsome Masses were once human beings with hopes and dreams, before their descent into madness, despair and ruthless personal commodification stemming from the terrible transformation brought about by the White Powder. But the best, or at least the most successful, Foragers learn to look past that aspect of their incredibly sordid business. If they want to get anywhere within the industry or they wish to ever secure a better position as an apprentice to a distiller or something better, they have to first prove themselves as clever, resourceful and hard-working...and something of a survivor. 

Gossip, innuendo and rumor are tradable commodities among Foragers. They don't have much else.

Rumors Circulating Among the Foragers
  1. There's a cellar in one of the run-down old shops over behind the Pissing Wyvern Tavern that is filled near to bursting with a Type IV Gobbling Grout that someone has been feeding some bizarre new extract derived from White Powder. Best to avoid the area for a few weeks. Until after things blow over or blow up, whichever.
  2. You can buy rune-cut chunks of Purple Amber from Shroedinger & Cave, down along Plattner Street. Cheap. These things will attune themselves to Weak Points if you leave one there for long enough, but even better, if you know the trick and the right spell, they can be made into keys or tokens that'll let you re-tune a Weak Point to another destination. There are some scholars over at the Academy who'll pay nicely for this sort of thing...if you can get past the guards, monitors, and defenses...or catch one of them out and about some night.
  3. New-spawned Molgs can be captured with a couple of small mirrors and a bucket lined with wet moss. A little Dim Ichor added to the moss will placate them nicely. The flesh is tender and worth a fair bit to a Butcher, but the central eye-bud is worth a whole lot more to an Optickalist or one of the Gonnesmiths over on Grimaldi Street. Why a Gonnesmith would want these things makes no sense, but who questions good coins in Spring or a handful of salt in Winter?
  4. Loathsome Masses can't dissolve galvanized pails. There's something about the zinc that messes with their juices...the only downside is that the stuff will become explosive if you leave it in such a bucket for too long.
  5. There's a cantrip in the blue book on the third shelf behind the stuffed Aligatrix in Montrose's Book Shop, just past the old apothecary cases. I think it's on the fortieth page or the forty-second. It makes gathering-up Sallow Stains a whole lot easier. You can fill your receptacles in a tenth the usual time. Just don't let the old man catch you stealing spells from him. He can get mean.
  6. Street Wolves won't follow you if you sprinkle Achromic Powder on the soles of your boots.
  7. Some kid found another Crystal Egg in the attic of a place out behind the Basement Bog behind the crappy little Shanty Camp along Plover Alley.
  8. There are Scaly-men prowling the Burned Over District. They seem to be looking for someone.
  9. There's this insect, it's not an Ungezeifer or anything like that, so don't worry. It's taken-over the third floor of the old Roswell building and it's hiring. Not sure what they want done, but they pay really well. Or so people are saying.
  10. Did you hear about Knute and Tanulf? They stumbled into an attic where the walls were covered with weird egg-things. They were lucky to get out of there with a sample. Or maybe not so lucky. Something has been hunting after them ever since. They're hiding out down below, but they're willing to cut anyone in on a share in what they've found if you think you can drive off or kill whatever is chasing them. I think they're too sick, or maybe poisoned to do much more than hold their own. For now.

Paraversal Planes: Vhonj

Vhonj is a plane made up of interconnecting strands of filamentous landscapes -- Landstrands -- predominantly scalding hot purplish deserts facing the Jewel-suns and scathingly frigid mountainous regions that are turned outwards into the cold, black void. Each of the myriad of interlocking, interlacing land-strands are tangled around a cluster of hot, jewel-faceted suns. In the deep distance there appear to be other, rival clusters of faceted suns surrounded by their own tangled skeins of terrain.

The air is hot, but breathable. The gravity is close enough to normal to not be an issue. The sun is a massive, faceted object that never sets. The sands are dozens of shades of purple. Time passes normally enough, and eight hours is still eight hours, so recovery of spells and healing follow the usual time restrictions, you just don't get any darkness on the sunny side of a Landstrand is all.

A typical Vhonjian 'land-strand'

Vhonj is an old, old place grown bitter and desolate with age and neglect. The days of great empires have come and gone long ago and only scattered ruins, buried tombs and obscure reliquaries remain as monuments and reminders of those who have gone before. Colossal statues and massive idols rear drunkenly out of the hot purple sands of the sunward deserts, each one pitted and eroded into untrue shapes by the erratic caress of the grit-laden winds. On the colder, forlorn and ice-shrouded darkward side of things entire mountains that have been molded and reshaped into strange bas reliefs of incredible scale that few prying eyes have beheld in millennia.

Transplanar Migrations of Pilgrims come to Vhonj, and those who prey upon such, as well as those who would protect them for a price. Bandits, grave-robbers and looters of all sorts and types wander the hot sands and frigid wastes of Vhonj looking for abandoned tombs, forgotten crypts, and whatever pickings they might come across--for this is a realm noted for its peculiar, often unforeseen opportunities for those engaged in their sordid trades. It is not for nothing that the quadrolophic sages of Palza refer to Vhonj as the 'ossuary of secrets.' The Land-strands of Vhonj are encrusted and piled with multitudes of inhuman  mortuaria, alien cenotaphs and strange geomantically-aligned  barrows pre-dating most of the currently active species, known worlds or legendary civilizations. Beings have been leaving dead, deceased and defunct things here for longer than anyone can accurately estimate. Other entities have been pilfering these graves for almost as long.

Few Weak Points offer passage to this plane, though use of certain Amethysts are rumored to be able to make a Weak Point resonate to Vhonj well enough to provide temporary access. The most common means of travel to Vhonj is via a Synchronocitor, though there are rumors of Cthonic Vortexes at the junctures of underground rivers and the inverted ley-lines of the Interior Cavern-systems of the land-strands.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Nerglid

S. P. at How to Succeed at RPGs or Die Trying has done a write-up of the Nerglid and their fungal riding beasts the Pseudoblepas.

Here are a few more notes on these creatures...

Not Like Chicken
The Pseudoblepas are fairly docile and have to be 'trained' to be of any use in combat, a process that can take a lot of work. The creatures can be eaten safely, if steamed or poached. The meat resembles crab after a fashion and is slightly salty. The Nerglids are very unlikely to sell one of their mounts, but then if the fortunes of war shift against them and they are in dire need of cash...it could happen. Especially in Winter.

Ooh Shiny
Never hire Nerglid mercenaries. It's a bad, bad idea. They make reasonable cavalry units, but are terrible when it comes to following orders. They will break off from an engagement to indulge in looting and wanton mayhem at the first good opportunity. And they consider nearly anything to be a good opportunity; they have extremely poor impulse control.

Suckitudinous
Some Nerglid have learned how to drain fluids from mammalian victims and use this to restore their hit points in a semi-vampiric form of regeneration. So far this is a rare talent, and those who've picked-up the ability are not in a hurry to teach anyone else. At least not until things start to go against the Nerglid, such as in the aftermath of a vicious loss on the battlefield, or after a hard day getting driven out of what should have been a fairly easy and eminently lootable farm enclave, but wasn't. In desperation, those Nerglid who've acquired this skill will try to teach it to those who'll meet their price, and as their situation worsens, a lot of the others will cough-up what loot they are carrying in the hopes of living long enough to ride along on another raid.

A Rare Opportunity
A few entrepreneurial-minded Nerglid have set themselves up as quack healers who do the whole bleeding thing like the barbers, only the Nerglid claim better rates of success. The weird thing is, some of them do get rather startling results, but it's more the result of cross-contamination and the slightly rejuvenative properties of the Nerglid's bodily fluids passing across into their victims.

If someone, say a PC working for the barbers, were to figure this out, it could get difficult for the Nerglid to remain at large, as the barbers will surely seek to round them up as fast as they can in order to corner the new market on Nerglid-derived tonics...

Bujilli: Episode 19

There was no sense in trading one set of shackles for another. He wanted to be free. Once and for all. Free. Making his own decisions. Going his own way.
(From Episode 18)

Bujilli touched the glistening green metal(?) of the Transveyance. Not metal. It was smooth, slick, almost oily yet completely unreactive; the oils he felt were those on his own skin. He knew it without asking. The machine was designed and grown to endure for stretches of time for which Bujilli had no symbol, no label, no concept. He removed his hand. Wiped it absently on his vest.

ANALYSIS COMPILED
QUERY: SPECIFY MODE OF RECEPTION

"What?" Bujilli stepped back. "What are you asking?"


SSSSssssSSSsssssssssss. Plop.

There was something coming through the portcullis.

Something foul-smelling and all too familiar.

Miasmagaster.

Bujilli dropped into a crouch and moved away from the Transveyance. He spotted a pair of Miasmagaster spawnlings pushing their way through the translucent bars of the portcullis. They were pale gray, greasy-looking, even more than usual. He watched another one squeeze through.


Plop.

It lay there on the floor for a moment, breathing hard and covered in a sticky light blue ichor or sweat. The nauseous coloration he was more familiar with returned to the thing and it swayed back up on its wormy-haunches and took its bearings with whatever senses with which the thing was equipped.

The nasty things had somehow destabilized their physicality, gone out of phase with things enough to slip past the already phase-impaired portcullis. A handy trick. There were spells for that sort of thing, but so far Bujilli didn't know any of them. Maybe he could study the spawnling he had trapped in a water-skin--

Bujilli checked the tied-off water-skin. It was still tied-shut. The thing inside was still inert. Maybe these things couldn't use their little trick on organic materials. He'd heard of creatures who could not use spells around iron, so why not the other way around? Hmmm. It was a good thing to have acquired a sample for study. Later.

He considered his situation. What spell could he use to eliminate these nasty creatures? There was no way he intended to get close to them, nor to let them spew their toxic vapors at him. Then Bujilli had a thought; why not use them in an experiment? Hah.

"Machine. Can you transport these spawnlings away from here?"


QUERY: SPECIFY COORDINATES

"Hah!" Bujilli slapped the machine lightly. "Make them go away. Send them someplace where they won't be missed."


Pop. Pop-pop. Pop!

The spawnlings were gone. Only a slight distastefully fetid discoloration in the air remained.

"Very nice. Thank you Machine. Where did you send them?" He was beginning to like this machine very much.

A stream of numbers, letters and symbols streamed across his field of vision. It meant nothing to him. Less than nothing.

"Can you show me instead?"

His vision split neatly into two distinctly overlapping sets of images. There was the room with the machines, and there was a dismal swamp of oily black water beneath a hot, red sky streaked with ochre and pink bands. No. The sky wasn't streaked. Something very big up in the sky was banded. The sight frightened Bujilli, so he looked down at the steaming red wetlands. The miasmagaster spawnlings were swimming off away from this spot. They seemed to be right at home. suddenly one jerked under the water and was gone. Just a few ripples and bubbles. The rest scattered. A large mass of aerial fiungi floated by overhead, its shadow slithering over the grassy hummocks and bloated-looking bulgy-bits protruding from the scummy waters.

"Good. That seems an appropriate place for those stinky things. Thank you."

Bujilli considered the machine. He knew that he was playing with something far beyond his comprehension or understanding. It reminded him of all the fables he'd grown up being told by the elders of his mother's people, all those ambitious sorcerers who summoned-up Powers and Potencies beyond their ken, things that catered to their every whim knowing such a course of action would inevitably lead to their destruction. Or at least that was the moral of most of those stories.

"Can you show me where the Synchronocitor is? Where I might find it?"

An icy wasteland stretched out beneath a painfully bright mercury-gray sky -- Trees full of blue vegetable-ants and yellow-crested monkey-things grew overhead, their roots entwined around cables and other things too impossibly overgrown to tell just what they were -- Shimmering cool green and orange and purple lights swarmed beneath churning amber waves of some vast foam-flecked sea or ocean -- A broken black tower jutted out from a chunk of blasted rock, tumbling over a gargantuan whirlpool of -- Dunes of bitter gray powder choked the dry floors of hot canyons eroded from ancient craters whose jagged walls extended upwards past the very sky itself -- 

The images kept coming, faster and faster, overlapping, blurring. There were scores, hundreds, thousands of the things. And more. It was too much.

"Stop!" Bujilli gasped. He was asking too big a question. The answer was overwhelming. Maybe it was the wrong question.

This machine would answer his questions, but he would have to sort what meaning he could from the answers. He simply did not know enough to ask the right questions. But that in itself was useful knowledge.

He thought of the Synchronocitor. It was a device of sorts that would allow him to travel between countless worlds...so long as he knew how to use it and he didn't lose it--or have someone take it away from him. Bujilli had learned all about claim-jumpers and the sorts of competitors and rivals who'd just as soon follow him and try to steal whatever he found rather than risk their necks going down into the dark places on their own. Getting beat-up and robbed only got him a second beating and no supper when he finally got back home to his Uncle's yurt. It was a bitter lesson, but one that stayed with him.

"I don't even know if I should be looking for this Synchronocitor...it was what the Green Gem wanted me to do. I don't trust the Green Gem any more. Maybe this is not what I should be doing? I just don't know enough to make an informed decision..." Bujilli sagged down against the wall. For a moment he despaired. But only for a moment. He had been raised to never expect fairness from an inherently unjust universe. Everything had always been stacked against him from the moment of his birth. His Uncle considered him ill-starred, but the old wise-woman Yaneenya had told him long ago that the clouds and darkness in his life did not come from the stars, nor was his destiny something for his Uncle to decide. It was his own thing, and the stars could only offer assistance or withdraw it as part of their inscrutable game that they played with all mortals below them. The trick was to never count on them. Let the good come as it may, and never let the bad stop you.

The only sure cure for not knowing was to go find out.

Or to ask someone who already knows.

"Machine. Can you tell me about the Synchronocitor? Is there an alternative? Something better suited to myself, something that would allow me to travel without being dependent on some machine that could be taken away from me the first time I run across some thieves or cut-throats? Is there someplace safe that I can go and learn what I need to learn?" He rested his head on his knees. The skin on his back began to crawl. He disliked remaining in this place much longer. He sensed strange things moving about. Prowling on the very peripheries of his perceptions. This was a dangerous place to linger.


SUB-SET EXTRACTED FROM PREVIOUS ANALYSIS

QUERY: SPECIFY MODE OF RECEPTION

"I...don't know. I'm having trouble sorting all this out--"

QUERY: ASSISTANCE REQUIRED

"Yes. I could use some help--"


COUNSEL ASSIGNED

"What does--"

"Do you wish to travel?"

"Who--"

"I am your Counsel. I have been modeled directly from your memories--"

"You are a part of me?"

"Yes."

"And you are to help me?"

"Yes."

"Then what should I do?"

"Leave this place. It is unsafe. You did say you wanted to travel..."

"Yes. But to where? The machine can only send me to one place, then I am on my own, like the spawnlings..."

"Ah. The root of the conflict. The Transveyance cannot determine what would be 'safe' when in fact all situations and locations known to it carry a certain level of inherent risk on some level or another. Also, it senses your turmoil regarding the Synchronocitor. Perhaps we should consider why you want to go seek out such a thing in the first place. Why do you want the Synchronocitor, Bujilli?"

"I...that's just the thing. I don't know if I really want the Synchronocitor itself, or if I'd be better off pursuing something else."

"What does the Synchronocitor do that you want to do as well?"

"Travel. To be free--"

"Mobility does not automatically equate with liberty. You are conflating things a bit. There is a tremendous amount of unresolved emotional turmoil surrounding this notion of travel/escape/running away/adventure."

"I know that I'm conflicted--that's why I asked for help--"

"Of course. Might I make a suggestion?"

"Yes."

"Ask the Transveyance to give you an atlas. That way, no matter where you end up, you'll be able to find a gate, portal or node...so long as one is available from that location."

"A map?"

"Of sorts."

"Machine. Could you do this for me? Can you give me a map of all the places you know about and the ways connecting them all? And can you make it so that no one can take it away from me? Ever?"

COMMENCING APPLOAD INTEGRATION PROTOCOL

"That's not quite what I--"

"No. It's better."


APPLOAD INTEGRATION COMPLETE

"Thank you machine. This map you have given me; it will show me the ways between worlds?"

"Of course it will--"

"Good. Show me the nearest place I can go to learn more about traveling between the worlds. I require a teacher, someone who can instruct me in how to do this without getting killed by making a stupid mistake or overlooking something obvious to anyone skilled in this sort of thing."

"But--"

Bujilli saw a comfortable room, richly paneled in dark woods, where one could see some small section of the walls not obscured by piles, mounds and stacks of books, monographs, scrolls and such. A small fire flickered fitfully in the tile-faced fireplace. A man sat sipping brandy while examining a yellowish sheet of paper printed with all sorts of scandalous gossip and lies. The man looked up--

"Yes. I will go there. Now. Thank you machine."

"Are you certain--"

"Yes. I have decided. It is time to leave. Before anything else tries to eat me or worse."

The overlapping rugs were soft and yielding beneath his rough boots. Bujilli could smell the spicy scent of apples and nutmeg -- mulled cider -- coming from a sooty pot hanging just to the side of the fire.

"Who the blazes are you?!" demanded the whiskered man as he adjusted his patched robe and lurched up from his ratty old chair. It really was upholstered with stitched together rat-hides.

"I am Bujilli. I have come to you to learn how to travel between the worlds."

"But my boy, it looks like you already know how to do that!"

"No. Not really. I had help. Will you teach me?"

"Hmmmm. This is quite irregular. Very peculiar. But intriguing. You're not an assassin sent by my rivals; they'd never send an Almas to do what a crafty pair of Drilg could do in their sleep. Besides my defenses obviously don't see you as a threat. If anything that Jaladari trinket-peddler said was even close to honest, then the calm blue glow from this medallion implies that you speak the truth. So that's in your favor. Hurm. Hah! It might be interesting to at least hear your story. If I think that you have what it takes, then I'll give you my recommendation and we'll get you registered for the application process. Do you know any spells, or was your transition here the extent of your skills?"

"I...do know a few spells. Nothing extraordinary. Mostly things my uncle taught me." Bujilli quickly was on his guard in case the old man wanted to test him with a cheap-shot or some underhanded spell-fighter trick. 'I sense no hostility from the man,' whispered his Counsel.

"Very good. You have talent then. I've had far too many would-be students pester me for instruction in things they'll never be able to do because they lack the necessary foundational abilities. Can you fight, or at least defend yourself?"

"I was raised among my Mother's people, the Almas. My Uncle taught me to fight since I could walk." He pointedly adjusted his tulwar. It snicked slightly as he thumbed the hilt and made it ready for a fast-draw. Just in case.

"Excellent. I can't be bothered to waste my time on pacifists who'll only get skewered and ground into sausage their first time off campus. Yes. I think you'll do nicely. Very nicely." The old man re-adjusted his robe and looked Bujilli over a bit more thoroughly.

"So you will be my teacher?" Bujilli asked in a voice that brooked no obfuscation or equivocation. He wanted a straight answer. He did not like the idea of having wasted his one-way trip.

"Certainly. If you pass the Entrance Exams and qualify for a spot on this Spring's roster. You do have some money with you?"

"I have some. Not much. But I have things to trade."

"Hmmm. Yes? Such as?" the old man grew instantly business-like.

"Dreamsnail teeth, pieces of shell taken from the same Dreamsnails, rubbings of strange glyphs that I took inside some old ruins, things like that."

"My...yes; your specimens would be most welcome, most helpful to a couple of colleagues of mine. Though I think Hedrard will give you the better price, as Teratologists make better livings than Oneirists, generally. These rubbings you have them with you? Would you consent to letting me examine them?"

Bujilli hesitated. He was dealing blindly. But he had just taken a leap of faith into the unknown. He took off his pack and dug out the rubbings and handed them over to his prospective teacher.

'That is not wise...' cautioned his Counsel. "No, but it is a way to see if this old man can be trusted." he whispered back.

The old man spluttered. Coughed. His deeply creased face split into a great big grin.

"My boy," he reached out to shake Bujilli's hand, "Let me welcome you to Wermspittle. You're going to do very well here. Very well indeed. Or my name isn't Gnosiomandus."


Welcome to Wermspittle, Bujilli!

Now things get really interesting as we begin a new chapter.

Someone might want to roll a d20...how clean was Bujilli's transition?

Did anything cross-over with him?

Also, it'd be handy to have a set of 5 or 6 random D20 rolls on-hand for the start of Series Two!


Previous                                                       Next

Series Indexes
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six


About Bujilli (What is This?) | Who is Bujilli? | How to Play

Bujilli's Spells | Little Brown Journals | Loot Tally | House Rules

Episode Guides
Series One (Episodes 1-19)
Series Two (Episode 20-36)
Series Three (Episodes 37-49)
Series Four (Episodes 50-68)
Series Five (Episodes 69-99)
Series Six(Episodes 100-ongoing)

Labyrinth Lord   |   Advanced Edition Companion

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Molg

This week S. P. over at How to Succeed in RPGs or Die Trying has taken on the Molg. Yes. The lowly Molg, that slug-like ectoplasm-devouring scavenger that Fantomists (and others) raise as a sort of protection or defense against the depredations of Ordrang. The enmity and antagonism that exists between these two fellow scavengers often obscures the little known fact that they are both related. You see, after extensive research and the loss of over a dozen apprentice-candidates, it has been conclusively proven that the Ordrang are in fact the females of the species. Molg are the males. No is one quite sure when or how they mate just yet, mostly because no one has funded that particular research at this time.

There are also disturbing rumors concerning illicit and ill-advised graftings being performed in the Arenas by unscrupulous quacks who have learned how to semi-successfully merge Molg tissues with human or abhuman flesh, in one scandalous example much talked about within the yellow press being a warrior whose entire head was replaced with a Molg. The pit-fighter has since gone on to win nearly every fight he's be in, making his handler quite rich in a very short time and sparking a sudden and sickening rash of imitators...

Yellow Wallpaper (Wermspittle)

Yellow Wallpaper
No. Enc.: (Special)
Alignment: n/a
Movement: n/a
Armor Class: n/a
Hit Dice: 1 to 10 (Regenerates 1d4/day)
Attacks: 1
Damage: (Special)
Save: MU (HD=Level)
Morale: 12

Wicked, demoralizing psychic parasites first documented during the waning days of the Midwives' Rebellion, Yellow Wallpaper was used to line the walls of the asylums where captured Midwives were held as prisoners of war. Those that survived their incarceration were never quite the same ever again. They were the lucky ones. The rest were driven to despair, dementia and even suicide as the vile xanthous sheets formed from gutter-silk, Rapunzeline and some peculiar derivative of the White Powder by the patented process of the now defunct Usher-Mifflin Paper Company. Usher-Mifflin went under shortly before the end of the Air-War, and their records were destroyed in a freak fire, including all official formulae for the manufacture of this paper. Some experts claim that a particular form of yellow forest slime, or possibly Crudiv spores were also used in making this hateful stuff, but as no known samples have survived from the war no one has been able to officially verify this claim. A few illicit attempts to re-create the original formula have so far yielded wildly varying results of dubious use or merit. And every now and then someone claims to have found a cache of the stuff, or some old attic or shuttered room is discovered where a few tattered sheets of this are alleged to be still hanging on the walls...just waiting to torment another victim.

Yellow Wallpaper is an insidious thing, incapable of movement or even self-defense, yet pernicious and invasive in its psychic assault upon any and all who are exposed to it for extended periods of time. It stifles emotional expression, deadens the pleasure centers of the human brain, stunts all sense of ambition and slowly drains away the victim's WIS, INT and even CHAR, one point at a time over the course of its oppressive mental malevolence. The effect of exposure to this stuff has been described as being loomed over by a tall, stern judge who heaps unending scorn and ridicule upon every least portion of your identity, suffocating your very sense of self, and crushing all your dreams into meaningless gibberish whether you're asleep or awake, non-stop. (Drains 1 point of whichever characteristic over a 12 hour period, minus as many hours as the thing has HD. For example, a 8 HD specimen could drain 1 point of WIS every 4 hours.)

Worse Than Bad Vibes
Use of Yellow Wallpaper is strictly prohibited within the walls of Wermspittle, ever since the Armistice between the Sewer Militia and the Midwives. Unfortunately, the wording of this prohibition is a bit vague and after the wholesale slaughter of law writers and their ilk during the Rebellion, there are few real standards for interpreting such things any more. All attempts to regularize and reform such things have met with the deeply entrenched disapproval of the Midwives and other factions who do not wish to see any sort of return to the bad old days and the judicial profiteering, Licensing battles, Legitimization pogroms, and other abuses of the past. Thus, there are those within Wermspittle, and other environs, who do still make use of Yellow Wallpaper, but never ever within the hearing or knowledge (or reach) of the Midwives.

There are rumors that certain Nobles, and a few upstarts as well, might be tempted to revive the heinous old practice of maintaining a secret room fitted with Yellow Wallpaper, ostensibly to 'tame shrewish foreign wives,' or to 'cool the passions of over-eager consorts,' but few give much credence to such things. It's not just in bad taste, it would be an act of hubris beyond stupid; especially if the Midwives were to ever find out about it. So far few of these idiots have been able to actually acquire enough of the stuff to proceed with their sick ambitions. But every so often one hears rumors of isolated chambers, remodeled cellars, and other such spaces where some form or another of Yellow Wallpaper might be in use.

The last verified instance of Yellow Wallpaper in Wermspittle resulted in the entire block burning to the ground, and then three levels down past that, despite the initial efforts of hundreds of volunteers attempting to put out the deep blue flames. The impromptu fire-fighters withdrew or dispersed fairly quickly once they were informed that no Midwife would heal anyone injured by the Blue Flames. The owner was allegedly using a set of rooms in the attic, each one lined with Yellow Wallpaper, to 'train in' or 'break down the willful natures' of a dozen or so kidnapped Refugees intended to join the ranks of those serving in one of their bordellos. They themselves were found with their guts woven into the pornographic tapestry hanging over their bed. To this day, it is considered bad luck to sleep before a tapestry with a guilty conscience. Particularly if you're stupid enough to get on the wrong side of the Midwives.

Variants
There are dark rumors of alternate-patterns of Yellow Wallpaper, some of which produce excruciatingly heightened sensitivity, or profoundly disturbing incipient neuroses, psychoses or worse in their victims. Thankfully such things are exceedingly rare. The trademarked symbol used in the original Usher-Mifflin production runs of the authentic Yellow Wallpaper bears a striking resemblance to the Bayrolles Seal in the keeping of the Prismatic Library on the corner of Neely Street and Robardin Avenue. The symbol has since been misappropriated by no fewer than six iterations of a so-called 'Symbol of Insanity.'

Survivors
Those who've been exposed to the pernicious, perpetual psychic assault of Yellow Wallpaper may eventually recover the INT, WIS, and/or CHAR drained from them, but they are forever marked by a lingering restless melancholy. For every hour they rest, they suffer a -1 penalty to reaction rolls (CHAR checks), for the next 2d12 hours, losing one point of penalty per hour spent being active and moving around. Survivors of this horrid, hateful stuff instantly recognize the mark of the thing upon one another. They also suffer a -2 penalty to all Saves versus mind control, insanity or similar psychic attacks. These effects persist even if the victim receives a Restoration spell or something similar. It might be immobile, slow and weak...but it has a devastating, lingering effect.

Inspiration
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which is available via Project Gutenberg, here, or here, as well as a few dozen other sites. Lovecraft was a fan of her story and said of it; 'Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in The Yellow Wall Paper, rises to a classic level in subtly delineating the madness which crawls over a woman dwelling in the hideously papered room where a madwoman was once confined.' High praise from H. P. Lovecraft, which you can find buried within the cosmic fear drenched text of his most famous Essay.


The House of Usher (as in Fall of), is E. A. Poe's tale of a brother and sister with a terrible (possibly sorcerous) affliction, which is also available at Project Gutenberg, and a dozen other sites, or you can read some erudite criticism of the story, but it'll be Roger Corman's movie version from 1960 that stars Vincent Price that you want to watch, at least once. On a rainy day. When you can't get a hold of a copy of The Haunted Palace. We'll be coming back to Poe, Usher and related things soon enough.


In Gilman's tale, it is the enforced inactivity of the so-called 'rest-cure' inflicted upon the main character by her over-bearing walking cliche-hole of a husband that is the real 'monster of the piece,' the insanity brought upon her is more complex than just a response to some ugly interior decorating. But that said, the notion of a mind-warping form of psychically oppressive interior decorating used to subjugate and sap the will of those exposed to it for long periods of confinement just was too wicked  an idea not to develop, especially as it fits into Wermspittle oh so well. And yes, the Yellow Wallpaper above affects everyone exposed to it equally with no discrimination whatsoever, regardless of any of the usual distinctions or provisions. It's thoroughly nasty stuff, but not the sort of thing that jumps out and bites people. It's insidious and subtle, and exactly the sort of thing a bad, bad person would use to line elaborately (Escher-style?) winding passages or stairways within certain decrepit towers...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring in Wermspittle III: Revels

Reckless Revels
The Spring Revels of Wermspittle are notorious, infamous, and outrageous. The bizarre competes with the exceptional and the unusual in an intoxicating and frenzied festival of marvels, wonders and miracles. The Patrols turn a blind eye to the crowded streets and alleys within the areas designated 'safe enough for now,' by the Privy Council. The crowds grow wanton, wild and reckless. The parties explode into wandering riotous mobs and the night is filled with music, laughter and all manner of phantasm, both fair and foul. The Revels are a free-for-all, a no holds barred blow-out that brings a much-needed influx of fresh enthusiasm, malleable young minds, and new blood into the city.

Spring is in the air and for a brief shining moment Wermspittle is filled with hopes, dreams, ambitions and opportunities. Hundreds of children flood into the city. Youthful optimism temporarily drives out the lingering shadows of the dark times. Banners wave, liquor flows, inhibitions evaporate and everyone gets caught-up in the giddy carnival-like atmosphere. Money is no good in the rathskellars and beer halls. Everything is run on credit. Landlords, bar-tenders and merchants all keep track of things, as per tradition. Aside from the wagon-loads of provisions sent along with the children of the Low Lander farms (those who still vainly hope such bribery will help their children's chances), there isn't a lot of food available (mostly duck, geese and other migratory water-fowl), but there is plenty of liquor. Lots of liquor and strange new and exotic vices to stimulate the senses and intoxicate, then snare the gullible and vulnerable.


Mobs, Parties and Other Encounters
  1. (1d4) Green-mantled and masked Wardens are ejecting (2d4) would-be guests from an inn that is filled past capacity. The ejectees are extremely upset and quite drunk. At least one of them is suffering from the effects of Dim Ichor. The other one wants to set fire to the place out of revenge.
  2. A novice goat-legged sorcerer stumbles out of an Abandoned Property with a Stranglemass choking him to death. So far no one has noticed anything out of the ordinary.
  3. The street just shuddered. There's a Type IV Gobbling Grout having a fit, thrashing about, and shifting the entire over-packed tavern off of its foundations.
  4. BOOM! Someone just found a pocket of explosive gas that had been building-up in one of the near-by cellar cess-pits. Foul debris rains down over a 300' radius, but the only damage is the smell and the mess.
  5. (4d6) Unchaperoned children are playing games and having a great time enjoying the fireworks and Special Candies that the Candyman is handing out freely to any who'll try some. The candies come in a wide variety of shapes, but all are oily, white marzipan-like confections liberally coated with a White Powder.
  6. A Soulless Scholar escorted by (2d4) burly Morlocks in full chain-mail wielding halberds and truncheons. He is late for an appointment and losing patience with the riff-raff in the street. Unfortunately, he is on notice for having authorized his guards to use unnecessary force upon the wrong bunch of students three days ago and he is being monitored by an invisible member of the Board of Review.
  7. Some Prodigy has just cast a Processions of the Damned spell in the next alley and there's not enough room for the Procession to all fit properly, causing the spell to fluctuate and sputter as it tries to settle into place. The Prodigy will collapse in 2d4 minutes from exhaustion. If no one retrieves the kid, she'll be trampled to death in the street.
  8. (2d4) Wagons driven by Teamsters are being escorted through the crowded street by (4d20) children from the Low Lands. Three Revelers have already been beaten severely for trying to loot the wagons. People are taking bets as to how far the kids will get with their wagons before all hell breaks loose.
  9. Jaladari is selling talismans, amulets, charms and tokens to anyone who'll come near. They warn of the dangers of Red ShadowsGloomswallows and worse, but few are paying any attention.
  10. A Medium screams pitifully as a group of bullies let a small Ordrang strip them of their ectoplasm. The bullies were paid to torment the bloody and bruised fellow by the agent of a group of Fantomists who want to send a message to the other mediums and their ilk. This is their town now. Or so they claim.
  11. (1d6) Eloi and/or (1d4) Blue Angels are leading a drunken mob towards their mistresses' brothel. People either join the mob, or get out of the way. More than half the members of this mob are clueless children caught-up in the whore's sorcerous glamer. A Vigilante has already been left bleeding in the gutter after unsuccessfully attempting to break the spell they've placed upon the children.
  12. A riot is breaking out. Some fool let one of the few surviving Puritans into a tavern and she got stabbed within the first two minutes of trying to bust-up some gambling. The thieves were dicing for who got to keep the Puritan's nice black cloak. So far she has only killed six customers and they've all been driven out into the street by a Pallid sorceress who is being paid to keep things under control by the landlord.
  13. Screams! Chaos! The cobblestones shift. People are running away. (10d10) Revelers all begin to move in the same general direction; away from a collapsed section of street out of which hordes of skittering, panicking rats are pouring forth.
  14. (2d6) Sorcerers are fighting a spell-duel in the street. One of them is an Almas in red robes, another is  clad in filthy manticore-hides and reeks of charnel-clay. The Almas seems to be winning, but the necro-eremite intends to cheat, if necessary.
  15. (1d6) Lurm are haggling with a teamster about securing passage out of here. They want to reach a particular Low Lander hamlet before plowing begins. You overhear something about seeds and something else about the phase of the Moon. One of them is carrying a richly inlaid volley-gonne. The rest are scholars, sorcerers or surgeons. Before they can complete their transaction (6d6) children swarm through the place shouting, laughing and throwing rotten produce. For many of them this is their first time away from home and many of them are already feeling the effects of the long walk, the spectacle, the liquor; their antics have a 40% chance to ignite a violent street fight at any moment.
  16. (1d6) Drunken Steppes-Nomad Revelers are orchestrating an impromptu moist bodice competition that seems to be going over very well with the increasingly drunk and rowdy crowd.
  17. An old pit-fighter with more than half his visible skin replaced with patches of wermhide is handing out flyers and passes to an underground fight if you're interested in that sort of thing.
  18. A very large Cyclopes has passed out in the middle of the street. The Wardens are trying to find out who summoned it in order to get them to remove the damned thing since it's blocking traffic.
  19. A group of (2d4) Refugees from Yudrabak are pushing their way through the mobs looking for one of their people who seems to have gotten separated from the rest. She has been abducted by (2d4) Hunchbacked Grim-Clowns who are running off with her across the rooftops.
  20. (2d6) Members of the Patrol are pointedly ignoring the festivities while keeping a watch on the most notorious cellars, Abandoned Properties, known nests, marked lairs and so on. They will not interfere with the Revels, nor will they participate; they know that far too many unpleasant things are getting stirred up, riled up or driven out from their dens to relax their vigil.

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