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.


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.


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

"An Emerald holds green like a leaf"

"I run but have no feet"

"Brown and furry
In a hurry"

"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 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 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.


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.


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.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

What counts as a conspiracy to you?

(This is just a thought experiment, until the internet notices it and it goes completely out of control and I shut it down.

It's also not inspired by any particular internet argument, but it is inspired by the whole tenor and action of the various culture wars.)

Imagine there's a group of people in a room or a private digital space and that these people come to a decision about you and that decision affects you in what you would consider a negative way. So you don't get a particular opportunity or your options are restricted in some way.

In one version of this reality you regard the moral nature of this decision as reasonable, non-creepy, an unpleasant but acceptable aspect of the worlds operations. You might be upset about the decision but you don't regard the mechanism of taking it with any sense of deep threat.

In the other version, you regard this as a conspiracy. Not just private, but secret in an illegitimate or immoral way. Not neutral but part of a specific threatening structure aimed specifically at you or at a group that includes you.You are afraid and angry.

What, for you, is the dividing line between a decision you don't like, and a conspiracy?

If you imagine different kinds of decision-maker, different kinds of decision, different circumstances, and you think of one situation which doesn't feel threatening or conspiratorial and of another which does, what elements form the border between the two situations?

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Wodlands - 1. The Plains of Anaesthetic Fire.

A long time ago I wrote to K Yani about Birkenhead, and then she sent me this lovely hand-crafted map based on what I wrote.

And now, I've numbered that map.

Best guess about what this stuff is;

1. The Plains of Anaesthetic Fire.
2. The Antigoblin Empire.
3. Whetstone Ridge.
4. The Painted Plain.
5. The Vermilion Sea.
6. The Goblin Cube.
7. The Wodlands.
8. The Necropolis of Glass.
9. The Incoherent Isles.
10. The Maw.
11. The Umber Woods.
12. The Eastern Reach.

So what I'm going to do is a series of posts and with each post I'm going to describe one part of this map. When the whole thing is done (if it ever is) I'll probably dump it all in a PDF and put it in the 'free stuff' drive over on the right.

So here is part one -

The Plains of Anaesthetic Fire

The black waste of clinker and ash which grows like a living thing, year upon year, spreading tendrils and tentacles worming into every nearby land, is haunted by an invisible flame.

The great terror of the Anaesthetic Fire is first that it is almost invisible, appearing as little more than a heat-haze in the air, the second that it has no smell other than the smell of your own roasting flesh, the third that it moves and flows across the black waste like a river of wind and the last is that it cannot be felt.

The Anaesthetic Fire consumes the bodies of living things without them ever feeling its touch. It could be burning you right now, invisible and odourless, as you read this. Because of this, only fast paranoid animals can live on the Plains of Anaesthetic Fire and they must move continually or be reduced to clinker, ash and shards of blackened bone.

Intermittent rains sometimes reduce the clinker and ash to mud, in places where the fire has not been for some time, Monkeyflowers, Iceplant, Coreopsis and Sage burst forth from the black and hoary fertile earth. These are fed on  by Pronghorn Gazelle and Anaesthetic Hares, all of them naturally camouflaged in grey and black, all extremely paranoid and all incredibly quick.

A few forested islands remain in the waste, left untouched for no comprehensible reason. Perhaps simple chance. They are all perfect circles of forested land and they are all populated by drug-addicted Goblins.

Encounters - d6

1. Asbestos Bedouin
2. Goblin Island
3. Amphetamine Cats
4. Melancholic Condors
5. Ignition Pilgrim
6. The Anaesthetic Fire

1. Asbestos Bedouin

The Bedouin wear thick robes of natural Asbestos harvested from strange black clams on the Eastern Reach. These robes are extremely expensive and most Bedouin will probably only ever own one set over their entire life.

They tame and ride the nicitating Clinkerskippers, big sinuous xanthic lizards that dash over the plains with incredible speed, and which can never be still. Even when they sleep one half of their body twitches and patters, aware of the Anaesthetic Fire. And the tail never sleeps.

The Bedouin usually found armed with small hunting bows used for catching game and testing the boundaries of the Anaesthetic Fire, slender lances used for hunting or hand to hand combat, and with the feared Goblin Guns, which they acquire via trade with the Goblin Islands.

They are almost always on their way to developing a hacking cough and are sometimes wired on the glands of Amphetamine Cats. Chest wraps carry children too young to ride their own Clinkerskipper or any un-hatched Clinkerskipper eggs, both being equally valuable to the Bedouin.

As a people, they know neither safety nor rest, except for the madness of the Goblin Isles but, at least politically, they are free, since no-one wants to bother oppressing them and probably couldn't anyway, even if they wanted to.

Only the Bedouin know how to safely get across the plains, or the secrets of the Anaesthetic Fire, though some say that there is no secret and that, like most living things on the plains, they survive mainly through luck and speed

Goblin Guns

An unreliable and sometimes ineffectual weapon, but one so terrifying to most intelligent beings that terror of it plays a major part in ensuring the Asbestos Bedouin never get fucked with.

A kind of long musket with a green-tinged steel octagonal barrel, and a stock of green un-cured wood which continually leaks mild sap (giving the Bedouin their green fingertips). The gun goes off with a flash of blue fire and a green lead ball like a tiny sculpture of a goblin curled up.

The balls scream and cackle in the air as they fly. On a hit, roll a d4.

1. Goblin ricochet. Counts as a miss.
2. Goblin-ball expands too soon. d4 damage and all within 6 feet of target save or take 1hp damage from shrapnel.
3. Entry/exit - d6 damage.
4. Embedded Impact. 1st round, take d6 damage. 2nd round Goblin screams and cackles from inside body. 3rd round, Goblin bursts out (take 2d6 damage) and climbs over body trying to pull out targets teeth.

2. Goblin Island

No-one knows why the Anaesthetic Fire leaves perfectly circular islands of un-burnt greenery in parts of the plains. The Bedouin say that even the fire doesn't want Goblins. It could simply be an accident of nature. Sometimes islands are found burnt-over and sometimes new-one seem to be born. The Goblins pay no attention to any of it.

The islands range in size and become more common towards the Anti-Goblin Empire in the east. The smallest are about the size of roundabouts and the largest about half a mile in diameter. They are always thick with dirty fast-growing trees and bushes and utterly infested with Goblins.

The Goblins live in crappy lean-to's and horrid burrows of trash and old leaves. Some of the islands have fat heardable Isopods and quick green pigs, the Goblins say they catch hares and pronghorn with cunning tricks. They also trade with the Bedouin for any and everything they desire.

Nevertheless, its not clear where the Goblins are getting all this stuff or exactly what they are eating to support these numbers. Probably its other Goblins.

The Goblins are almost always hungry, crazy, drug-addicted and obsessed with particular forms of government. They need the Bedouin for trade goods, and the Bedouin, and anyone crossing the plains, needs their islands for shelter. Nevertheless, any period spent on a Goblin Island is a complex and unpredictable tradeoff between need, and exactly how insane, predatory and deranged these particular Goblins currently are.

Roll 3d12
Current form of Government
What are they on?
Hunger levels (roll secretly, Goblins will always pretend that they just ate)
Opium – dreamy and poetic
They actually really just ate
Amphetamines – manic and fast
Wouldn’t say no to an after-8
Poetics (Rhetocracy)
Cocaine – Overconfident and verbose
A Theatre State
Heroin – strung out, hopefully sleeping and fucking terrifying
The Training of Small Birds
Khat – chatty, verbose, chilled
Moon Worship
Alcohol – drunk, singing, potentially violent
Pretty Hungry
Weed – chill, but hungry
Competitive Entrail Reading
Shrooms – trippin’
Smoke Ring Parliament
Ecstasy Equivalent – happy, handsy, gurning, dancing, erotic
Chivalric Tournament (riding pigs or Isopods)
Sniffing Glue
Democracy of giant piles of battling goblins
Ritalin equivalent – didactic, obsessional and very hard working
Conspiracy (roll again for the surface appearance)
Crack – get outta there

3. Amphetamine Cats

The primary land predator of the Plains of Anaesthetic Fire. A grey-black cat like a knobbly strung-out Cheetah, the cat process unknown herbs that it secretly eats into black amphetamine glands that cluster around its lips and genitals.

The cats can choose to activate the glands and drive themselves to achieve insane levels of speed and aggressiveness. This can obviously have a number of negative side effects, including running so fast they break their own limbs, running into a rock, attacking their feet by mistake, running right into the Anaesthetic Fire, attacking their own bodies by mistake or just having a heart attack.

The glands are valuable, and can be harvested from a dead cat, so long as they are plump and un-used. If eaten unprocessed by a human (or fed to a nicitating Clinkerskipper) they can provide a massive adrenaline boost, and also possibly kill the user. They are also a valuable trade good, even dried they can be effective and they are only found on the Plains of Anaesthetic Fire.

Those who hunt the Amphetamine Cat play a dangerous game. If the glands are expanded and flaccid then the cat is relatively safe, but the glands worthless. If the glands are plump and full, they can be harvested, if the cat is killed quickly.

Males Cats have human-level intelligence, though still with animal desires, and there is not known upper limit to their growth. They live in dug-out caverns strewn with bones and the imperishable wrappings of eaten Bedouins and seek to dominate as much territory as possible

Many are as large as Lions and the glands cluster around their mouths and genitals like thick fields of berries. They hunt by listening to people talk in the night (they have exception hearing and many understand language, though they do not speak) and making their plans based on this. This is part of the reason that Asbestos Bedouin will rarely speak the truth at night.  The legends of Blind Regrettable, said to be the oldest and largest of the cats, talk of something almost the size of a shire horse, capable of wiping out an entire Goblin Island in a night (though that could just have been the Goblins themselves).

Although the males are much more feared due to their size and aggressiveness, the female packs are probably more efficient hunters and a more dangerous threat. They stay around Cheetah-size and hunt in packs, chasing down prey in teams.

4. Melancholic Condors

The Condors themselves are too sad to fly. They lair in cracks and caverns high up in the Whetstone Mountains and send their gloomy shadows skidding out over the Plain of Anaesthetic Fire.

The Condors and huge and the shadows likewise so. Looking up from below its impossible to tell if the Condor is really there or not.

When they detect a likely target, usually something solitary and separated from its group. The shadow gusts down and settles over them, wreathing them in sadness and permanent twilight. These poor damned individuals then wander the plain, growing ever more morose and distraught, avoided by all, until they collapse to the cold earth weeping dry tears.

The Condor will set out from its lair, gloomily flapping its way across the Anti-Goblin Empire, zeroing in on the shadow-caul’d individual, eventually descending, cloaking them a second time with its enormous cinerous wings, and crouching down to tear open the softer elements of its now-suicidal prey, pausing to sigh in long wheezing moans and, in some cases, temporarily collapsing itself out of ennui before struggling back to its feet and continuing its horrible work.

Fear of the Condors shadow, and its terrible taste, keep most creatures from attacking it. Nothing wants to be the next victim of its umbral shroud, all except for some of the larger Male Amphetamine Cats who will simply attack it out of rage, because it has trespassed their territory, and Goblins, who will attack and eat anything and who are curiously immune to melancholy.

Escaping the Shadow

Kill the Condor – If the bird dies the shadow will eventually perish.

Bait and Switch at night – Shadows lose their shape and power in the worlds shadow. Close to pitch dark it becomes possible for a clever thief to ‘steal’ the original victim and replace them with something of roughly the same size and mass. Often this involves dressing a Pronghorn, young Clinkerskipper or a pair of Goblins in the victims clothes. When daylight comes, the shadow clings to the new target.

Amphetamine Overload – Dangerous but it can drive the shadow off.

Party Animals – The Condors loathe crowds, noise, music and jollity and any sufficiently loud and long celebration around the victim might drive the shadow off. It can be difficult to attain the resources, guests or jollity on the Plains of Anaesthetic Fire, and the whole thing will be a nightmare for the depressed victim.

Goblin Blood Transfusion – this always works but does usually result in some Goblinification. And getting the blood and/or Goblin can be an issue.

5. Ignition Pilgrim

The pilgrims are some of the strangest, and noblest of creatures encountered on the plains. These strange figures dedicate themselves entirely to tracing, and trying to understand the Anaesthetic Fire itself, to uncover its movements and find its origins.

Also called ‘Magnesium Pilgrims’ for the huge rolls of magnesium paper they commonly carry beneath their worn robes. The Pilgrims are responsible for the huge fire-recognition stave-ways that criss-cross the plains. Wherever they can they drive stakes into the earth, marked with a strip of magnesium paper at their tip. When they run out of stakes, they use bones or other fragments.  When they run out of those, they tie the papers to any outcropping or shard they can find. When they run out of magnesium paper they tie tiny fluff-balls of light kindling together.

Wherever the path of the pilgrim goes, they leave behind them a marked way, if possible, of highly flammable and highly visual signs. When the Anaesthetic Fire comes, even though it cannot be easily seen, when it touches these signs the magnesium will burn and incandesce in a bright silver spark, before the stave carrying it chars and drops it to the earth. The small kindling balls will hopefully spark, or at least puff smoke when the fire reaches them.

In this way, those travelling the plains can at least be warned visually of the presence of the fire, though this can create a strange terror of its own as a long line of magnesium brands bursts forth one by one, silently, marking the invisible advancing heat, closing in on your position. Then you must guess which way the fire will flow this time, and quickly run the other way.

The Bedouin have a mixed relationship with the pilgrims. Their knowledge of the plains and the fire is part of their protection against the world, making them absolutely necessary and almost impossible to govern, tax or control, and by making the plains less dangerous the pilgrims are abrading this protection. But the fire is insanely dangerous to all, even the Bedouin and the pilgrims flares have saved tribes before, and some pilgrims were Bedouin, either cast out from their group, or possessed by the mystery of the fire, or simply turning to noble charity in their old age, so the two groups persist in an uneasy and distant respect.

If there were many more pilgrims, and if their efforts were more effective and comprehensive, then attitudes might change, but they die a lot and there are never very many. Since they walk alone, only chance, assistance and their knowledge of the fire can keep them safe. They are continually eaten by Amphetamine Cats, Condors and Goblins, or just scorched and burnt to death.

Some move continually, some keep secret underground, or hidden, hermitages. Rumours say that the only safe and habitable underground space in the plains is controlled by a small conclave of pilgrims, each representing one of the sub-cults.

The Brothers of the Egg – Not all actually male, their numbers are nearly 50/50 male female. These are older Bedouin of a deep or honourable disposition who either have no place left with their tribe or who simply wish to separate from tribal issues.

As the Clinkerskipper keeps its eggs within its mouth-pouch, so do the Brothers keep the paths of the plains, tracking the fire for the protection of all. Though very poorly resourced they will almost always help travellers and a few are very high level though aged, individuals.

Adorers of the Flame – Somewhere far to the west a large religion holds one particular order who place their worship upon fire. This order itself has a small radical faction who particularly worship the invisible fire. Part of the fulfilment of this order is a pilgrimage to the Plains of Anaesthetic Fire, where they must trace and worship the fire itself until they experience spiritual ascension, either through being burnt to death or just descending that they have.

Despisers of Ash– The same religion, or an offshoot of it, has a small radical, and secret faction that believes the invisible fire to be a direct representation of the Demiurge, the creator of the physical universe and that being responsible for all evil. They also send monks and seekers to the plains to study the fire, in this case to test themselves against it, discover its nature and perhaps even destroy it.

From the perspective of the ordinary traveller, they seem to do pretty much exactly what the Adorers of the Flame do, but with different intent. There are regular sectarian conflicts between the two groups on doctrinal matters that no-one else can understand. Sometimes a Despiser of Ash will experience a Spiritual Crisis and become an Adorer of Flame, or visa versa.

Philosopher Entropics – These ‘natural philosophers’ eschew all spiritual reasons for running about on the plains. They are sometimes ex, or current magicians, scientists, poets or explorers. All are obsessed with tracking and understanding the invisible fire for what they call ‘rational reasons’. They tend to carry around a lot of notes and papers and when two meet they will exhaustively compare notes and argue with each other. All regard the religious fire-chasers with some condescension, though their behaviour around the fire is exactly as hypnotically adoring and potentially self-destructive. Most are certain they will be done within a year. Few ever leave.

Anaesthetic Thugees – Either a tribe, or a cult, or a conspiracy, or a family, or a secret gang, or something of all of those. A group of criminals who pose as members of one of the other factions and deliberately mislead and kill travellers on the plains. Why is not certain as almost every other place that exists is better suited to doing crimes in. No-one is absolutely certain these exist though everyone is secretly afraid they do. Legend says they seek a way to control, and even spread the fire. That they have been spared by it, but changed by the experience, and now serve it, or think they do.

6. The Anaesthetic Fire

It never entirely goes away and it never goes out. 

Sometimes it shrinks to a small vortex orbiting the centre of the plains, then leaps and expands outwards on unknown vectors. It can lie low like a grass fire and rage into huge invisible infernos. 

The animals usually know when it is coming, but not always. It rarely moves much at night, but sometimes it does. If the fire is high and it rains above it then it will be coated in boiling steam.

The only time a Clinkerskipper screams or a Bedouin shouts is if they are caught in, or threatened by the flame. 

It seems to have its logic. It's power and extent are not infinite. It sometimes tries the boundaries of the plain and burns its way into the surrounding lands but quickly dies back. When it grows to a gigantic storm it must invariably fall back into a dull smoulder, it cannot sustain for ever.

It does not need objects physical to us, but it will burn them. It may be burning some intangible element or be burning in a neighbouring dimension. Those who survive the fire talk of souls being burnt, or memories and characters and histories altered, but its hard to tell these stories apart from trauma. Some speak of secret powers being released by the fires touch, but this is Thugee talk.

Scars from the fire can be a strange swirling blue and silver.

Many empires have sent magicians and philosophers to try to understand and control the Anaesthetic Fire, others have sent great engineers to make sure it never leaves. The relics of their earthen ramparts still circle some parts of the plain. None of these efforts have ever come to any result. The anaesthetic fire is a favoured metaphor for poets all over the world, and much used in religious texts.

Here on the plain, all fear and most flee wherever it is found.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Illustrators of the Faerie Queene

I have a limited number of images for all of these artists and a staggering number for Walter Crane, the titan of the Faerie Queene. When possible I will try to counterpoint scenes from the book drawn by different creators to see how they each envisaged it. Most of these comparisons will come from Crane

William Kent- 1751

The first edition of the Faerie Queene in 1590 has a woodcut of Redcrosse. You can see that here. But for the first illustrated edition, we must go about 150 years on to 1751 and the edition illustrated by William Kent.

It seems very appropriate that he should be the one to illustrate this highly patriotic, half-good, half-awful book should be the dominant artist of his day, who was also considered to be both good, and fucking terrible. (Excellent article here.)

Quote; "However, Kent has also been described (usually by the same people) as an 'opportunist' whose work was 'often third-rate or disastrous'6, an over-rated sycophant who hid his lack of talent behind 'civil and obliging behaviour'7. In this view Kent was a terrible artist whose paintings were 'below mediocrity' and whose portraits 'bore little resemblance' to the sitter8. He was the creator of 'preposterous' designs, 'terrible glaring'9 interiors and 'clumsy' features that were 'a great waste of fine marble'10"

I am 90% certain that if I was alive at the same time as William Kent I would *fucking despise* him.

But, I'm not. So I can afford to be cool about it.

Redcross Knight and Una invited by Subtle Archimago to his Cell. William Kent

In closeup

The House of Pride - William Kent

zoooooom - sorry about the blur, low re image

William Kent (1685-1748), 'Belphoebe kills the Savage Man',

Cranes version of this scene.

Walter Crane 1895

The craze for painting the Faerie Queene starts only a few years after Kents illustrated edition. You can see that in the previous post on painters. That goes on all the way through the 18th and 19th centuries then BOOM, stops dead (so far as I can see) on the borders of the 20th Century.

Right before that, Superman enters the scene.

Walter Crane does seem rather superheroic compared to every other illustrator. Really, just read his lengthy wikipedia page. Quasi-anarchist who bombed his chances in the U.S. by questioning the guilt of (alleged) anarchist bombers, closely aligned with William Morris, illustrated 'How to Dress Without a Corset', and just did a whole, whole bunch of stuff. He seems like a guy I could dive into for a while.

But amongst his other magnificent acts he also illustrated the Faerie Queene, and did probably the most complete illustrations for it.

Here's his interpretation of the above scene;
Walter Cranes House of Pride

I may cut out some of his interior images so that we can see them more clearly in closeup. BUT - I'm very uncertain about the validity of doing so. Crane was deep into page construction and stuff that, in the OSR today, we would call layout issues. His 'decoration' is almost certainly meant as a meaningful and necessary part of the image and he put a huge amount of work into it.

Anyway - here's Walter Crane as a child, painted by his father. Because the Victorians were some trippy dudes;

Here's Cranes Arthur fighting Orgoglio

Here's cheery, fat old William Kent's version;

And some more Crane

Agape begs the fates closeup

Britomart bombs through the magic fire

Malegar by Walter Crane

Henry Justice Ford - 1905

Ford was a very prolific illustrator of Fairy Stories, mainly in the late 19th Century, in particular for doing a whole range of colour-coded 'Fairy Books' with Andrew Lang.

One of these, I think the 'Red Fairy Book' tore a few incidents out of the start of the Faerie Queene, so we only have a few relevant illustrations from Ford and, unfortunately, they are exactly the wrong shape for a blog.

Redcrosse in Errors Cave - Henry Justice Ford

Arthur v Duesse, Henry Justice Ford

The Dragon Grabs Una's Parents - Henry Justice Ford.
(This either happened offscreen in the book or didnt happen at all.)

Unfortunately, I can't find a lot of images from other artists for these sections for comparison.

If you want to see a whole lot more from Ford - MONSTER BRAINS DID A WHOLE POST ABOUT HIM.

Gertrude Demain Hammond - 1909

I could find out very little about Gertrude and I only have one image from her;

Gertrude Demain Hammond (I think)
All I know is that she illustrated this book with stuff from the Faerie Queene by Lawrence H. Dawson.

Here is Britomart viewing Artegall in that magic mirror by Walter Crane;

Walter Crane

A.G. Walker - 1914

I have absolutely no idea if this A.G. Walker is this A.G. Walker. The name is the same but the second one seems to be kinda a big deal and the illustrations we got from our A.G. Walker are... ok?;

His illustrations are in another book of stories from the Faerie Queene, this one by Mary Macleod.

You can read the whole thing online here.

I have no real idea why you would just take the narratives out of the Faerie Queene since, even in the good parts, at least 70% of what makes them interesting is the verse. The stories on their own are a bit eh. But I suppose you can read the introduction to that book by John W. Hales and find out for yourself.

Here's some more Walker;

A.G. Walker

The Cave of Despair by A.G. Walker

Here's Kents for comparison;
The Redcross Knight over ruled by Dispair but timely saved by Una - William Kent

And here is a zoom on Cranes interpretation;

Cranes Cave of Despair

Frank Cheyne Pape - 1916

A major illustrator, and Monster Brains has, again, got you with a post.

I couldn't find many exact comparisons, but here's Florimell and creepy old Proteus by both Pape and Agnes Miller Parker from 1953


Eleanor Fortescue Brickdales Golden Book of Famous Women - 1919

Another single illustration for a barely-remembers book.

Again, I know nothing about it. But you can read the whole thing here.

And someone has done a youtube video presentation of it;

Agnes Miller Parker - 1953

Another very accomplished illustrator. Her wikipedia page says she was chilling with Vorticists back in the day.

Una and Redcrosse

Here's Pape doing the same scene;

Cranes version

I absolutely love Parker, she is, by far my favourite of all the FQ illustrators, her compositions ore fucking boss. You can see some charming drawings of her here.

And that

No more Faerie Queene. You are free.

I will leave you with my favourite quotes about William Kent from the article linked to above;

"Unflattering descriptions range from 'very hot and very fat'14 

Braggadocio and Trompart in the bush - William kent

to 'obese and unpromising'15

constantly in need of a 'soft cushion to lay his soft Head and rest his tender Tail' during a life of 'high feeding & much inaction'."