Sunday 27 December 2020

Bestiary Review - Planescape Appendix I - A to C

 The Monstrous Compendium was an interesting idea, no? 

Big, modular bestiary full of stuff. Great idea. Unfortunately, a lot of it seems to have fallen into the trap of 'Giant Worm'. 'Giant Bat'. 'Red Worm'. 'Blue Worm'. etc.

i.e., endless uninspired derivatives. 

 People often deride weird niche monsters, but ill take them over the 37th variety of ghost any day. 

I feel like i saw this on someone's OSR blog. Scrap Princess, maybe? Regrettably unsure.

This blog is/was technically a Planescape blog, since that's the setting i've run pretty much all of my D&D Games in thus far, excluding a single jaunt to Ravenloft for Curse of Strahd

So I decided to look at the Planescape Appendix for the Monstrous Compendium, because i like it. 


Aasimon - ★★☆☆☆

I've always considered D&D angels uninspired, then this entry opens with a story about a diviner driven to drink by witnessing the deployment of an angelic superweapon, and that gave me pause. 

Unfortunately then it's straight back to discussing how they're paragons of utter goodness who can sense evil and shit pure marble. Not much consideration is really applied to the concept of a bunch of flying authoritarians who'll deploy a spell that leaves a 200ft. deep crater, without hesitation, on their own soil.

The Light Aasimon get three stars for being judgy clouds of shimmery rainbow energy, which is way more interesting than Winged Guy. 

Animal Lord -★★★☆☆

Animal Lords are fuckin weird. Good. Each one is basically a divine figure for all animals that fall into its category, which is kind of interesting in a setting crowded with humanoid deities. All of them have, effectively, limited precognition, and can shapeshift. 

I think their position as 'Animal Gods' is probably the most interesting part of them, the bestiary entry mostly goes on about how specifically they stab you to death, and the animals chosen - Cat, Wolf, Lizard and Hawk - aren't so inspired. 

What's the Crab Lord's deal, huh? What about the Frog Queen? The High Imperial Minister of Newts? Leech Pope? 

I actually used a version of the Peacock Lord as a patron in my most recent session of my Planescape game. 


Baatezu - ★★★☆☆

I have a soft spot for the Baatezu. 

Wait, I phrased that wrong. I have a soft spot for using them as villains, and watching the players kick the shit out these immortal, shapeshifting, soul-eating, hyperbug warlock fascists. 

The Baatezu (and their cousins the Tanar'ri) are interesting in a way none of the Celestials (or Yugoloths) ever were. Covering every individual type of Baatezu would be a fool's errand, but special mention to the Osyluth and it's hilarious art. They really made that thing scarier in the 5e Monster Manual. 

And to this piece of art for the Abishai. What's going on here? I want to know. 

Baku - ★★☆☆☆

I like seeing monsters from other mythologies in my elfgames. The world's full of beautiful ideas, and the Baku is one of them. 

The first half of the (two-page!) entry is a story about a kind old man who's actually a Baku in disguise, who has to abandon his disguise to go and slay his evil Baku brother. That's cool! 

Unfortunately, the rest of the article is just about exactly how these 'timid, peace-loving creatures' specifically kick your ass. The stats are likely for the small (and exact?) percentage of Baku that are evil. 

The bestiary leaves out the actual mythological Baku's power of eating dreams, which is a really cool concept, and it's a shame. 

The thing saving this from one star status is the fact there's a small sliver of Baku society who are explicitly neutral and apparently Baku holy figures, which I want to learn more about. 

Bariaur - ★★☆☆☆

The entry opens with: "Bariaurs, probably a hardy relative of the centaur and created by the same sylvan being eons ago". 


Give me that lore! Which shitty Aes Sidhe decided to just get wild with it and start mix-and-matching body parts? 

In an interesting departure from the themes thus far, effort is put into making the 'Good' Alignment actually seem earned, by discussing how the greatest sadness for a Bariaur is when a friend is sad, and how their society discourages rivalry and shame, which is interesting.

Unfortunately, the Bariaur are a little generic otherwise. You could replace every instance of Bariaur with Centaur, and nobody would notice. 

Bebilith - ★★★★★




Bodak - ★★★★☆

This creature's entry starts with an interesting story that is made up of remixed elements of Greek Mythology (including the imaginatively named characters Basileus, Helen and Diomed.), but ends up being a version of the Odyssey where Troy is the Abyss, and Odysseus is an undead horror so foul that the mere sight of him kills all present. 

Which is metal as fuck sign me up, hell yeah. The idea of that story alone made me add like 2 stars. 

The Bodak themselves are also interesting, being corrupted humans with formerly good intentions. I feel like you could do a lot with these dudes. 

And their art is hilarious. 

Tuesday 17 November 2020

9 Anomalous Media

 Inspired by the posts over at Throne of Salt and Archons March On. Big Bandwagon Energy. 

1.  Vilnius  

Microfiche contained inside heavy briefcase found in bomb shelter in Ukraine.

Written primarily in Lithuanian, the text of the microfiche is the personal diary of an unnamed c.18th century officer in the Lithuanian Armed Forces. It chronicles, with crude illustrations, his journey across eastern Europe in pursuit of a creature he describes as ‘the mouth’.

The officer eventually tracks the mouth to outside Poltava, where he is eaten by it. The next eight pages describe his experience of the space inside the mouth. After the eighth page, seventeen are left blank. New handwriting picks up in the last few pages of the book, writing from the officer’s point of view about how different the 1950s are. The book ends with a six-page rant, with no punctuation, on the horrors of Mutually Assured Destruction before scrawling off into incomprehensibility.  


2.  Owls

Fifteen-minute-long videotape. The opening six minutes are an elderly woman calmly discussing what she likes about owls. She is sitting inside a screened porch, at night, with only a small white-light lamp. She begins with discussing their ‘cute faces’ and ‘beautiful wings’, but gradually moves into describing their ‘heaving bulk’ and ‘wise piousness’.

At six minutes and fifteen seconds, an indistinct, horse-sized object moves past the screen behind the woman’s head, making no noise.

A minute later, she finishes talking, begins to cry, stands up and exits the porch, and does not return.


3.  Bronze Age Collapse

Two clay tablets written in Babylonic Cuneiform. Each has been carbon dated to c.3000 years old. Each is a poem.

The first poem describes a way to make bronze fragile involving ‘the sea-woman’s blessing.’ The second describes a phrase that, if read aloud, will inspire homicidal rage in listeners. The final word of the second poem is the word in question.

The tablets were found in the office of the former Professor of Archaeology at the University of Manchester in 1983. He had been beaten to death by four PhD students, all of whom are still currently in prison.


4.  The Rhine Chronicle

A long, winding chronicle written in Latin, presumably around the reign of Charlemagne’s son Louis the Pious. It was allegedly written by Wala of Corbie, judging by commentary from later documents found with the chronicle.

It discusses at length the appearance of a ‘white knight’ with a ‘glass face’ on the banks of the Rhine in the third year of Louis’ reign. The figure is described as being bulky, moving slowly, and carrying an unknown banner with red and white stripes and many white stars.


5.  Cats

A forum thread on AlternativeMedicineTalkspace, written by forum user ‘88Cats’, who has apparently been raised in the same household as 88 cats. Their parents are cat-breeders, although account suggest they also appear to be involved in community organising and various poorly described religious movements.

After one of the cats is killed when it is hit by a car, 88Cats comes to the forum to ask for a way to ‘help it’. Another forum user, ‘OpalCarnelian’, sends a detailed series of posts totalling around 50000 words, which describe a variety of rituals involving blood, gasoline, bones, invoking the name of various underworld gods and the disclaimer that the cat will not have the same personality when it returns.

One day later, 88Cats responds with ‘worked :)’ and closes the thread.


6.  Mona Lisa 1999

A semi-accurate forgery of the Mona Lisa, excepting the fact she is depicted with a cut throat. Collected from a large collection of paintings, some reproductions of older paintings, alongside a few original works depicting contemporaneous celebrities. All have gruesome wounds.

All living people depicted died within 3 years, usually in violent or tragic circumstance.  


7.   Neon Genesis Evangelion REDUX

A DVD supposedly produced some time around 1998. Depicts a heavily rewritten version of the cult anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion in which a number of primary characters are cannibals. The plot spirals into incoherence far earlier than in the original work, and characters often eat the large monsters felled during the episodes. The original audio appears to be in Portuguese, and the animation quality varies wildly.

The characters themselves don’t react to the internal incidences of cannibalism, and many are written as being happier or more stable than in the original series.


8.  17 Ways to Improve Your Life!

A VHS tape presumably intended as a self-help product, although produced by an amateur single-person team, as noted on the box. The primary speaker of the VHS is a woman with a south English accent. Identification is inconclusive due to the large rabbit mask she wears throughout the VHS. Each ‘episode’ covers a ‘method’ with which to improve one’s life.

They begin innocuously, as you may expect by now, with various tips about public speaking, comedic timing, and ways to make friends more easily. Episode 4 features the first instance of a monochromatic, featureless humanoid figure standing in the apartment.

As each episode passes, the speaker’s apartment becomes more dishevelled, the rabbit mask grimier and more threadbare, and the speaker herself more visibly emaciated. More and more figures begin to appear in the back of the shot, never moving or doing anything.

Around Episode 10, the host is lying prone on the couch, rabbit mask sideways on her head to look straight into the camera. She goes on a muffled rant about killing everyone who has wronged you and taking their things. Nineteen figures crowd around the couch.

Episode 11 is made up of ‘guest speakers’, that is to say, strung together clips of other self-help media.

Episode 12 appears to be filmed from a hospital bed. The host is visibly healthier, has a new rabbit mask, and a ‘co-host’, a young woman with a north English accent and a cat mask.

The remaining five episodes have a far lighter tone. No further figures appear in the woman’s apartment. The episodes move away from the self-help framing device into long, podcast-format discussions of how lying to yourself leads you down a dark path, and asking for help is crucial to improving your situation.

The final episode is filmed by both co-hosts in a new apartment. It’s mostly devoted to their new cat, Mr. Snuffles, and the positive qualities of the new apartment.


9.  Minutemen Meeting 2005

A six hour long .mov file recording a meeting in a small function hall. The file was recovered from FrontierJustice, an obscure forum that mostly contains amateur recordings of violent acts.

A flag on the wall suggests the meeting takes place somewhere in Arizona, although the primary speaker has an accent more consistent with Florida. The primary speaker remains unidentified. There are around fourteen subjects sitting in plastic chairs in the field of view, with at least six more off-screen.

The primary speaker gives a rambling, incoherent speech, mostly made up of castle doctrine ideology, anti-immigration rhetoric, racist dog whistles, nationalist quips and border patrol slogans strung together with little grammatical sense. The attendees clap enthusiastically whenever he pauses.

At 00:14:17, the primary speaker reaches behind him to a black violin case and produces an object. What the object appears to be changes on a frame by frame basis between a Smith and Wesson revolver, a flute, a matte-black crowbar and a square graphic imprinted directly onto the speaker’s hand.

At irregular intervals, never more than 5 minutes, the speaker says ‘how about a demonstration?’ and ‘shoots’ one of the subjects. The subject’s place on the screen is immediately replaced by extensive visual disruptions that render viewing the subject an impossibility.

The first six shots are accompanied by raucous applause, the last fourteen are met with silence, although the applause continues whenever the speaker pauses. At the end of the speech, the speaker walks into the visual distortions. The empty stage is all that is visible for the last hour and sixteen minutes of the video.

Saturday 14 November 2020

GLOG Class: Verdant Monk

Bouncing around ideas for the ‘Yaalit Desert’, which is basically a cold desert in a giant crater full of lost technology. 

The Verdant Monks rule a single green hill near the city of Tlingos. They left the monastery-city due to the increasing severity of the ruling monks and the dwindling resources.

They live and teach on one verdant hill, defended by the monks. The twin cities of Tlingos and Midaq often try to conquer the place – supposedly the food and water are plentiful there. This is untrue – the monastery is constantly on the verge of collapse, and the monks only maintain it with strict and extensively planned water rationing.

The head of their order is an ancient tree, one of the last in all of Yaalit. Like all trees, it is a repository of ancient wisdom. Unlike most trees, it was taught ancient martial arts from 4000 years ago, which is why it isn’t currently part of the rafters and doors of the Twin Cities.

Verdant Monks wear dull green robes and usually carry planks.  

Plain green robe.
Bottle of pure water.
A staff made of holy wood.
A bag of seeds.
A bag of tea leaves (for drinking and divination).
A Plant Speech, Leaf-Eating-Beetle-Step
B Twig to Tree
C Dry Tree Seeking Water
D Ghost Tree Valley
Plant Speech
You can communicate with plants. Most Plants do not speak in terms of colour, light or distance, but instead in terms of water, temperature, time, seasons and weather. Only trees are capable of full conversation on a human level, and there are few trees left in Yaalit.
Following the example of the Leaf-Eating-Beetle, anything wooden will support your weight. Even the thinnest twig will hold you upright as if you weigh nothing.
Twig to Tree
You can turn a dead or lifeless piece of wood into a growing tree briefly. The size of the leafy branches which grow depends on the size of the source wood. Twigs make twigs, a roof rafter will grow a whole trunk. You cannot use this ability on living wood, or on wood created by this ability. Trees always grow straight up, when they can. Roots can crack stone. 
Dry Tree Seeking Water
You can instinctively ‘smell’ water up to a mile away. Clean and foul water smell different. Water based liquids, such as wine, beer, and poison, can only be smelled from nearby. You can tell if two liquids have been mixed – for example, water and poison.
Ghost Tree Valley  
By undertaking an hour ritual to enchant a hole in the ground, you can access the Ghost Tree Valley, an ‘echo’ of the ancient forest which once stood where Tlingos is now. Once the ritual is complete, you and your companions may crawl into the hole and appear in a cool, twilight forest, about a kilometre wide. The place is safe, and has plentiful food and water. The ancient masters of the Verdant Monks live here as spirits and will gladly offer advice. If you damage a spirit tree, or stay more than a week, you wake up in the hole you dug at the next sunrise.
Each time after the first you wish to enter the Ghost Tree Valley, you must bring an offering of seeds from a new plant.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

The Dead Fens

The Dead Fens are a vast, cold wetland along the basin of the River Vok. They lie in the distant north of a country called Wurmgar. It stands entirely in the shadow of Grave Ridge, a huge hilly region said to contain the bones of an ancient god.

The fens are known for a few things:

  1. Constant fog, apparently produced by a curse laid by a vengeful druid in eons past.
  2. Red and black flora. Thick beds of fleshy looking moss, obsidian sedges and stands of carmine reeds.
  3. Hideously dangerous fauna. Skitterjaws, catoblepas, giant poisonous dragonflies, screw-worms and ghouls, worst of all.
  4. ‘Godbone’, some kind of organic material that is usually found in huge spires or craggy boulders.

Reports that the godbone spires resemble ribs, or the boulders seem to be teeth and fingerbones fit for a titan, are likely exaggerated.

There are only three places worth visiting in the entire Fen.

Tzorovik – No local would ever admit their city is in the Fen, but the bulwarks and sluices protrude far into the region, and the whole northern side is overgrown with that abominable red moss. The Tzoroviki are in denial.

Tzorovik has been many things. It started as a mining outpost, both for copper and godbone. Both materials are present in the city’s construction, and the hills nearby are pockmarked with deep, winding mineshafts.

Next, it became a military city. Half the Wurmish army is still barracked in the vast, dilapidated Copperhill Barbican, that looms on the hills above the city. Battlements and, rusting, obsolete ballistae abound.

Finally, and most recently, it has become a cult city. Specifically, it is home to two cults: The Children of Thulgan, a ‘family’ of feral, animalistic ghouls that hunt the populace at night, and the Church of Vizkov, a shiny new messianic religion that are also ghouls, just better dressed.

Femur Camp – Built precariously upon the crux of three godbone spires, Femur Camp is home to bonedraggers, reckless fools with guns and pickaxes who are attempting to haul the godbone back to Tzorovik. The only entrance to Femur Camp is a ropeladder – it has exactly one spare room to offer to travellers, and no tavern to speak of.

Godbone is prized for durability, and can be distilled by alchemy into a number of useful products – such as fertiliser. Wurmgar relies on this fertiliser to have its meagre fields feed a growing population. As such, successful bonedraggers make a lot of money. There are not a lot of successful bonedraggers.

The leader of Femur Camp is called Malkus, a Bugbear with a missing eye. He is supposedly some kind of druid, and uses toads to spy on his subordinates. Some people say there’s a screw-worm hiding behind his eyepatch he unleashes on anyone who attacks him.

The Cave of Teeth – A limestone cave carved into a high wall above a particularly reeking segment of wetland. Some jester has placed godbone teeth in a high arch, and a low wall, making the cave resemble a giant, yawning human mouth. The Spirit of the Dead Fens, a calculating creature called Toothblood, slumbers within. She resembles a stretched ox with a horned centipede head, and hooved centipede legs.

Toothblood offers pacts and deals to those who visit, which the people of Tzorovik often avail themselves of. She can turn any liquid within a mile of the Dead Fens into poison, or cure any disease, in exchange for a life, sacrificed in the pool in her cave.

1d10 Encounters on the Dead Fens

  1. 1d6 Screw-worms - These red, spiny worms start out the size of a finger, but eventually grow to the length of a forearm. They're notorious for drilling their massive mouthparts into unsuspecting limbs as they inject a numbing agent. You don't notice the pain, and if it stays there for a whole day, your leg goes dead and it starts chewing it off. Pulling them out is incredibly painful, but they'll release their grip if exposed to fire. 
  2. A Catoblepas - A creature resembling a huge, rotten aurochs with a pendulous neck and stinking, matted fur. Its breath is supposedly fatal, or at least horribly painful, at forty paces. They dislike bright light, which is rarely a problem under the constant fog-cover of the Fens. 
  3. 1d6 Foglings - Strange little spirits that resemble grey, long-limbed, hairless children that sit waist deep in the water, playing childish games with skulls and fingerbones. If you befriend them by winning at their games, they'll follow after you in the fog - clouding your movements from your enemies, and parting it for you at an oppurtune moment. If you anger them, they'll try to drown you by pouring fog into your lungs. 
  4. 1d8 Bonedraggers - Masked and hatted people in overalls, lugging pickaxes and waving pistols. Their 'uniform' is a scrap of black cloth pinned to the shoulder. They're liable to be jumpy, suspicious and really, really excited to not be here. 50% chance they're lugging a huge chunk of cut godbone, upon which they're even more jumpy
  5. 1d12 Swamp Naiads - Translucent, aquatic insects the size of a dog. They bury themselves underwater in shallow mud, then burst out and bite round your ankle, like a chitinous landmine. They never ambush alone, if they can help it. Utterly blind and disturbingly durable.  
  6. A Deathless of Vizkov - An armoured knight, riding a struggling horse through the Fens. They're likely on some important mission. Their cape carries the hexagonal emblem of Vizkov. The horse, beneath the barding, is a zombie, and the knight, beneath the armour, is a ghast, just a well-dressed, perfumed one, with makeup and stitches. 
  7. 1d8 Children of Thulgan - These ghouls lope along on all fours, wearing ragged remnants of clothing. They've clawed away half their own faces, revealing their distended ghoulish fangs. They are liable to greet you politely, call you cousin, then try and eat your entrails. 50% chance they're accompanied by an utterly animalistic ghast they lead on a chain. 
  8. 1d4 Buzzing Things - Venomous, armoured dragonflies the length of a horse. Primary prey of the Skitterjaw, these huge things spend 10 years gestating as Swamp Naiads, before crawling to the top of a godbone spire and molting into a giant, hideous dragonfly. They only live for a year, but in that year, they cause mayhem. They fly faster than a horse, and their long, segmented tails end in a stinger that injects a hallucinogenic poison. 
  9. Toothblood's Thrall - An unfortunate elf, who made the mistake of crossing Toothblood. He wanders the fens, alone, clad in rusting mail, challenging everyone he meets to a duel. His entire head and face have been ripped open by a nesting colony of screw-worms, leaving him blind, but Toothblood's wrath keeps him staggering along. His blood is deadly poison, and the swamp water he dips his blade in before a fight is too. 
  10. A Skitterjaw



“Dragons are Chaos. The scaled terrors represent all in the world that is arrogant, destructive, pagan, primordial, uncontrolled, and detrimental to society and life. All kin to the World Serpent are the same.”

-        Dano Zintana, Cleric of the Triumvirate

Put simply, Dano Zintana is an idiot.

To explain more thoroughly, all Draconic creatures share one origin: the blood of a murdered god called the World Serpent, which spilled across the face of Aclas when the Maker struck him down at the dawn of history.

Those that supped on the heaving rivers of godblood found themselves changed – whales into sea-serpents, songbirds into pseudodragons, and folk into dragonborn - or thus go the myths.

The five eldest True Dragons supposedly pulled themselves free from the Serpent’s corpse, full grown – ravenous Skaelir from the gut, two headed Kythmalus from the eyes, wise Zalarys from the brain, vicious Dastokkar from the liver, and proud, violent Yxamor from the heart.

And surely, all these creatures and more – the drake, the wyvern, every nonsense creature with scales and fiery breath, is chaotic. But dangerous?

Look at the Driggin.

Art by Iguanamouth

Dangerous is, obviously, a stretch.

Nobody can agree on the origins of the Driggin. Most will say dogs, due to the Driggins matching their natural enthusiasm, lovable nature and tendency to get really excited about nothing.

But, the jaw. The massive, impractical mouth. Perhaps the most dangerous looking part, although the lack of leverage or manoeuvrability massive decreases the danger it poses.

Whence doth the Stupid Fucking Jaw originate?

It has no analogue in nature. Thus, the inevitable question arises:

Are the Driggins spontaneous creations, like the great Dragons?

It would certainly be embarrassing for the Dragons. By virtue of size, and, for lack of a better term, originality, they reign supreme over the myriad descendants of the World Serpent. To be upstaged by such a small, stupid, adorable thing would be… unacceptable.

Whichever wizard or naturalist proved it would find themselves firmly on the shit-list of every dragon ever.

As such, research into the Driggin remains a niche topic, to say the least.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

The Phasmovis


There is a reasonable progression to things, say the Corpse-Barons of Cantos.

As new technologies and methods of magic are discovered, new kinds of undead follow in short order.

Fire resulted in the shade, a ghost of ashes.

Ritual desiccation gifted the world the mummy, and rites of ancient binding gave forth the vicious wicht.

It stands to reason, then, that Vis, the fuel of the modern age, should gift us with a new bedevilment of the cold and wayward soul.

The Phasmovis

There have been no deliberately created Phasmovis recorded by history. Necromancy is something of a dying art, considering the fact that it is banned and viciously persecuted pretty much everywhere but Ostow and Cantos.

Natural creation of such a creature, however, comes about when one is killed by Vis. The most common death in this manner is the quick, agonising freeze of being bodily immersed in Vis – like four weeks in the cold plains of the Northern Expanse rushing over you in a second. A leaky pipe or a cracked canister results in a wash of glowing blue. All Phasmovis thus recorded have been workers caught in industrial accidents. 

Vis is not a stable substance. It balances between liquid, gas and pure magic, and is more volatile than all three. The Vis-Explosion is a growing terror on the cities of Aclas, and one which creates Phasmovis in great numbers.

A flash of cyan, a screaming hiss like the gates of hell, then slow, quiet snowfall on a summer’s night.

What does the Phasmovis look like? Well, in the manner of magic, it has become an exaggeration. A frostbitten corpse, often hovering about a hand’s width above the earth, leaking rivulets of Vis and huge clouds of freezing vapour. They rarely speak, but often repeat their final screams of agony.

Bruise-black fingers, crusted in frost, snatch out for warmth and life.

This, but Gorier


  DnD 5e
Medium Undead
AC – 14
HP – 66
SPEED – 20ft. Fly (Hover)
STR – 8 (-1)
DEX – 8 (-1)
CON – 16 (+3)
INT – 10 (+0)
WIS – 14 (+2)
CHA – 12 (+1)
SAVING THROWS – Constitution +6, Wisdom +5
RESISTANCES – Physical, Force
CONDITION IMMUNITIES – Exhausted, Prone, Restrained
SENSES – Darkvision 60ft.
LANGUAGES – Any it spoke in life, although it rarely speaks.
Unstable Vis Reaction – Any source of Vis that a Phasmovis physically touches (such as the Vis inside your autocar engine, your bullets, or the train engine you’re next to) violently explodes. Small sources of Vis (bullets, canisters) deal 1d6 Force Damage in a 5ft. Sphere, no save. Medium sources (Autocars) deal 4d6 in a 20ft. Sphere. Large Sources (Train Engines, Refinery Canisters) deal 10d6 in a 40ft. Sphere. If it hits the mainline of a Refinery, you may as well wave the city goodbye.
Freezing Vapour – Anyone starting their turn within 5ft. of a Phasmovis takes 2d8 Cold Damage.
Rivulets of Vis – The Phasmovis lets of 60ft. of dim light, in a chilling cyan colour.
Chill of Death - The Phasmovis will always move towards sources of warmth hotter than a human body within 60ft. (Such as a torch, a bonfire, or a tiefling). 
 Freezing Grasp – One target within 5ft. must make a DC 15 Strength Save or take 2d8 Cold Damage and have their speed reduced to 0ft. while the Phasmovis is within 15ft.
Scream of Modern Fuel – The Phasmovis screams, and vomits up a stream of glowing Vis in a 30ft. Cone. 3d8 Cold Damage, 3d8 Force Damage, those in the cone can make a DC15 Dex Save to half.

5e Statblocks really are fucking huge aren't they?


Lvl 4 Def Leather Freezing Grasp 1d10 
Move slow hover Con 8 Dis freezing 
Freezing Grasp - Anyone hit by the freezing grasp of the Phasmovis cannot move while it is still nearby. 
Unstable Vis Reaction - Any Vis the Phasmovis touches explodes, dealing 1d6 Damage for small sources, 3d6 for medium, and 6d6 for large ones. 
Scream of Modern Fuel - The Phasmovis can blast everything in front of it with ice-cold Vis, dealing 3d6 Points of damage, Save to half. 

Phasmovis are the screaming terrors that haunt the dreams of the Vis Guild, and that institution will pay handsomely for their destruction.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

The True North


Where does cold come from? What a fascinatingly naïve statement. Everyone knows cold comes from the North.

No, not the north, that mundane direction. I mean the North. It’s what’s off the top of your maps, there. I’ve been there once – should I tell you the story?

Travel far enough north among the sea ice, and you’ll come to an island, green among the white. The locals call this place Ilulissat.

There’s a thriving town here, full of generous people and warm drinks. The hall on the shore is a place where the most beautiful music is played, the most insightful philosophy is considered, and the most inspired learning is done. To marvel in awe for a day is worth the trip alone.

Pitch your tent on the beach, anchor your ship in the cove, and treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect. Then, walk to the northern side of the island.

There you’ll see the sea run out, and the ice sheet float off forever into a sky of eternal night. You’ll see two winding bands of colour, the Great Auroras, green, purple and blue above you, red, orange and gold beneath, through the cracks in the ice. The sound of the endless falling of the sea is immense.

On that endless plain of cracked, floating icebergs and endless, ethereal twilight. You shall see such things. Everyone you meet will be extremely muscular-


Why is everyone there muscular?

Well… I don’t know everything, do I? I suppose you’d need to be muscular to, uh, understand the Northy Mysteries?  Just shoosh and listen.

*ahem*, Everyone you meet will be extremely muscular, and all shall be on the same path as you – the path to consider the Northy Mysteries, the ancient secrets of cold, twilight and stars.

But there are dangers, too! There are many great beasts, driven from southern lands by callous hunters, who make their way along the Twilight Sea. And darker evils still – be wary you of the Eclipse King, greatest of all Vampires!


1d12 Encounters in the True North  

  1. Ripped Philosopher – They’re up from Ilulissat on a little trip to see the stars. They’ve brought their telescope and their books on the meaning of life. They’d be glad of your input into the anthology of opinions they’re writing. Probably have some booze in the barrel they’re sitting on.
  2.  Star Whale – A jet-black, star dappled whale, swimming down from the Higher Aurora. It is curious and intelligent, and will probably have some valuable information on the Northy Mysteries, if that’s your kind of thing. Can also carry you places, in exchange for a song. 
  3.  1d6+2 Muscular Warriors – Proud, philosophical, gullible. Will want to arm wrestle you. They’re from all over. They’re heading to some games in Ilulissat. Their leader is a champion spear thrower.
  4.  1d4x2 Aurora Knights – Two factions, alike in dignity, of sentient solar wind, who each view their aurora as their kingdom, and the other aurora as their polite yet dastardly rivals. They swirl into beautifully crafted armour of brittle ice, twice the height of you, then sail down on ships of frozen mist to wage choreographed war. They’ll pay extravagant sums of raw elements to anyone who can sketch their enchanting battles.
  5.   Seeker of the Garden – This traveller clearly hasn’t been here long, since they’ve not yet achieved the familiar muscularity of the other denizens. They seem lost, babbling on about how they are looking for a shimmering garden of plenty, here among the ice. Could such a place exist?
  6. Living Gale – Not a true Ælemental, since it’s only moving air, but perhaps a cousin. Capricious, distracted and petty. It will follow travellers and make sure to blow bad smells their way.  Any attempt to get rid of it will result in vicious reprisals and flying chunks of ice. It’ll get bored on its own, eventually.
  7. Whalers – They normally catch mundane whales in the sea farther south, but they’re here on a contract from an academic in Ilulissat. They’ve converted their ship into a shaky dirigible – they sail with moonlit harpoons held forward; eyes ever open for the cruel flanks of the Necromancer Whale.
  8. The Necromancer Whale – Actually, it’s a Narwhal. It floats, twisting and bucking, horn held forward to impale. It is surrounded by the ghostly spirits of those whales it has felled in combat, and flanked by an army of muscular zombies. All narwhals are like this, but they’re just better at managing their anger than this one.
  9. 1d6 Star Wanderers – Pallid, long limbed folk with black, reflective eyes and no noses. They wear strange cloth of red and gold, cubical hats, and are often accompanied by gadgets of humming wires and ticking gears. They sometimes have small, useful constructs for hauling and mining, which they will sell to you for a price in raw elements such as magnesium.  
  10. Plant Tender – A frost-marked ceramic giant, pock-marked with copper openings. Its internal chambers are filled with hot, clean water, and it wields a giant rake. It is one of eight, but the twisting crackling movements of the Twilight Sea have thrown it clear from it’s hidden home. It is melancholy and incredibly strong.
  11. Ælemental of Pure Cold – Cylindrical, shimmery pillar of utter chill and stillness. Often contains cryogenically preserved people and animals from ancient times. Can freeze anything, in exchange for a proportionate amount of heat as payment. Heat is like drugs for it. It requires a torch to freeze your drink, a bonfire to freeze that bear chasing you, and a whole forest’s worth of wood to freeze your aging, leaving you immortal, if eternally chilly.
  12. The Eclipse King – A rotten, wiry man, swaddled in furs and rich silks, with massive crystalline fangs. Each of his eyes is an eclipsed star. Should you make eye-contact, save or go permanently blind. He lives in a gigantic iceberg castle filled to the brim with frostbitten ghouls and giant, vampiric walruses.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Staring Into Space

You’ll never get tired of staring into space. 

Trust me. Once you’re up there, no one ever does. It’s an odyssey-en-large, sure, but I’ll bet you all of the money I have, that once you get up there, you’ll never get tired of staring into space.

The thing that everyone thinks of first, is the darkness. The endless black. Yeah. That’s definitely there. All those gaps where time hasn’t caught up, where those faraway infinite stars are striving to be seen. There’s potential there, yeah.

But space is more made of light, than darkness. You ever stood, mag-netics on, on the outside of a ship? Not done an EVA or an external repair job, but ever just… stood there? And looked?

It’s bright. Every single one of those little blinking lights is a star. Hard to think of it like that, huh? Sure, there’s probably one near you. Look at that, then think infinite.

All those little blinking lights. It’s like God’s control console. Or, whatever you prefer to think is hammering the buttons. I once heard someone say it’s like still snowflakes at night. I’ve never seen snow, so I can’t say. But I heard someone say it once.

But believe me, even that, that’s the entry level. I know it sounds crazy, but, it looks even better if you turn of all your lights – get the ship dark, holster your torch. You can’t turn off the local star, sure, but head out as far as you dare. Then stand there, and stare into space.

You can see it all. The faint line of the galaxy, it’s so bright. First time I saw it, I stood and cried like a baby. Take that galaxy line, and think of the size of the thing you’re standing in. Then think infinite.

Yeah, and trust me, I only ever seen it once, but if you’re in real, real dark. Away from any stars. Out there in the black sea. That’s when—

Oh? Huh. Yeah. Interstellar craft. Engines broke down halfway. Ran out of O2 and food, pretty quick. Everyone started killing each other. Killing themselves. Just me left, it was, staring right up into the face of everything.

That’s real stargazing.

Rescue ship showed up an hour later. Just missed my buddy.

Yeah? Yeah. Real tragic story. That’s the only other time I’ve cried like a baby. That and seeing the galaxy line, all bright like that.

Yeah, you’ll never get tired of staring into space.

Wednesday 14 October 2020



Tolkrah, the Capital of Thorumaa, is one of the largest urban centres in the Deep Kingdoms. Across its long and storied history, it has been many things – an Orog hamlet by the River Tolek, neutral ground between rival clans, a trade depot for a rising kingdom, a citadel for an embattled republic, and finally, in 1698, the foundation stone of an Empire.

If the Thorumaans were a more sentimental folk, statues of the first emperor would stud Tolkrah like gems. But they beheaded the first emperor, and struck his name and image from the records. The people of Thorumaa take governance very seriously.

Corruption is kept low by the promise that your immediate successor will personally behead you if it is discovered.

It is not without reason that Thorumaans are joked to have an obsession with beheading.

The Nation

Surface visitors come to Thorumaa, expecting the regimented culture and quiet public places of Zarumaa high above – orcs are orcs, so they say.

Orcs are not orcs, however. Many a travel journal has commented that the local Orogs dress just as sharply as their Zarag cousins above, but where the Zarumaan society is disciplined and polite, Thorumaa is insubordinate and confrontational.

Orders are constantly questioned, authority is challenged whenever it can be – children make fools of parents, and soldiers make demands of their generals.

Thorumaans say, ‘this is all, as it should be’.

In a nation that went through 8 failed governments before the Empire, questioning the legitimacy of the people in charge has been built in for years.

The Politics

The simple fact is, the Thorumaan system is completely incomprehensible to sunwalkers. The institutions are given names in Tradespeak that do not fit their true nature – truly, the titles of Thorumaan government are untranslatable.

The name ‘Empire’ is something of a misnomer. It calls to mind a militaristic state with an autocratic head and a loyal army. Whereas, Thorumaa currently has 3 Emperors and 2 Empresses, all acclaimed by different sections of the army. This is normal, and is expected.

Two of the Emperors are even married, each equally as powerful as the other. The other three tend to form a ‘voting bloc’ against them, although this is another term that doesn’t apply well.

The toregar, the advisors to the Emperors and Empresses, were originally translated as senators, generals or dukes, in equal measure. None apply correctly.

Certainly, most toregar are involved in the military. Some are most definitively great orators and politicians. Some wield disproportionate influence. Some positions are even hereditary.

However, there are just as many pacifists, silent logisticians, political irrelevancies and promoted peasants among the toregar ranks. 

There is no handy guide for their meanings, no explanation for why the system is such chaos.  To understand the system, to comprehend it’s mad workings, is to be Thorumaan.

To require an explanation is to paint oneself as an outsider.

This is why ‘Tolkran’ is an adjective referring to something excessively complicated, and typically involving a great deal of administrative detail.

The City

Speaking of excessively complicated: Tolkrah itself.

Its history is as excessively varied and incomprehensible as that of Thorumaa, and the winding labyrinths of its districts reflect this.

Consider, in the Deep Kingdoms, travel from one place to another is not as simple as on the surface.

Supplies are scarcer, routes are less reliable, and the fauna ranges from troublesome to lethal, and worse besides.

Cities are not designed to welcome you in from the long road – they are designed to be hard for deep-earth demons or aggressive fauna to invade. Combine this with the necessity of saving space, and you end up with cities like Tolkrah -  put bluntly, a habitable maze.

The most navigable districts for outsiders lie around the River Tolek, where the great black palaces of the many current and former Emperors reach for the cavern ceiling, studded with beheaded statues and ragged banners.

Following the river’s flow, one eventually reaches the nice districts – sometimes referred to as ‘downriver’. Downriver holds all the banks, the embassies, and other such frivolities. They’re kept well away from where the actual governing happens. 

The coming of the vis-rail has only just opened the Underdark to the experience of things like cafes and leisure shopping, and these flourish, like fungi, downriver.

A Tolkrah coffee house is a differing experience from a café in Upper Iskadar. For a start, you’re not lounging on wicker chairs on a sunny afternoon. You’re huddling in a narrow booth, around a small table, sitting next to a steam vent for heat. It’s equal parts sauna and salon.

The drinks, too – coffee and tea are rare and highly expensive imports.

More common is boiled water, gella, a hot, greenish drink made from boiled roots, or turstahk, the local liquor. It is made from a particular root that might be a cousin to ginger. Turstahk is dark green, and oily. It is only drunk in small shot glasses, not due to the alcohol content, but due to the hideous flavour. It is acerbic, strong and catches the throat, and reportedly has notes of fungus and ash.

It’s a source of never-ending confusion for tourists that the locals willingly drink such a disgusting liquid. Thorumaans assign the drink medicinal properties, and its health benefits are a common folk myth among the people of Tolkrah. Many Orogs still end the day with a small drink of turstahk. 

Away from the river, the districts twist and turn and wind into themselves. Streets become stairs and vis-driven elevators. The average number of rooms in a house goes from about 8, down to 1. The fashionable hearths of the innercity are replaced with crudely installed steam vents to keep out the cave chill. In this humid environment, lichens, fungi and cave flora bloom. Visitors have called this part of Tolkrah ‘the greenhouse’.

The symbol of Thorumaa – the cavekkan, or ‘bat-wolf’ – can be seen in facing pairs over every heavy stone arch, or curled around the top of every load-bearing pillar. The real things can be seen stalking every twisting back-alley or stair lined pit.

Thorumaans revere the cavekkan for their capability to work in massive packs when necessary, and to tear each other limb from limb for food, when necessary. Adaptability, action, and a grasp of where they lie in the local power structure. All desirous things for a toregar or emperor.

They also eat the cavekkans in great numbers, because bat-wolves are no match for smart people with traps. This appeals to the Thorumaan sense of irony.

Travelling against the river’s flow, one might find the districts of boilers and forges which heat the city, and produce the metalwork which Tolkrah is famous for. Here, in the forges, the swords which carved out Thorumaa were made. 

The swords of famous heroes are brought back and hung from gate-posts as a form of ‘retirement’ for the blade

The boilers are the most isolated part of Tolkrah. In a world that mostly relies on Vis (a suspension of so-called “mana” in water, to simplify heavily) Tolkrah’s industry is uniquely steam-driven. The heat and humidity of the city comes from here. Tolkrah is a powerful industrial organ, responsible for arming Thorumaa’s relatively massive army (as large as a small surface country’s military, which is way more than any of their neighbours can afford to support.) 

Here, metal is smelted, reagents are reacted, water is boiled, waste is processed and finished products churned out the other side in a never-ending stream.

The Bilges

The physical, magical and gaseous waste of all this industry is funnelled down to a series of claustrophobic caves that lie below Tolkrah. These are the Bilges. The Bilges are haunted by oxygen-deprived vagrants, slithering, fungal things, and the repulsive Voidlings called ‘Mozgriken’, the Choke-and-Choking-Ones.

Mozgriken are hideous nightmare things from the Void-Between-the-Stars – they appear in places where there is a high saturation of unbreathable gases. 

They appear to be gnome-sized things, with lumpy, purply-grey skin, long, wet hands, and a nest of purple, pulsating tentacles in place of a head. They can suffocate you from a distance, exude flammable gases and render themselves down into oily smoke, to better infiltrate your house and choke you in your sleep.

Even in the face of the Mozgriken, though, the most nerve-wracking thing in the entirety of the Bilges, is a Golem. A golem is a clay shell filled with a Sun-Spirit by secretive rituals, and set to tirelessly fulfil a set of instructions. On the surface far above, Golems are treated with fear and reverence, as the Maker’s holy, indestructible soldiers.

The Tolkrans realised it didn’t need to breathe, and shoved it down in the Bilges to operate machinery. It’s maintained by the local Temple of Altum Petram, the Aspect of Earth. In truth it is so durable, and so rarely bothered, that maintenance is often unnecessary. To keep its internal flame from igniting flammable gas, or being extinguished by smothering gases, it has a domed helm of tempered glass mounted to its clay skull.

As with all Golems, the true name of the motivating Sun-Spirit is unknown, but it has accepted the nickname Glare-glass.

Saturday 3 October 2020

The Maug

The Maug are one of the many strange species to be found marching the iron cubes of Acheron, The Eternal Battlefield.

The Maug are, apparently, artificial. Nobody – not the Reaves, the Bladelings, or Bane himself – consider them to be native to Acheron. The Maug themselves are reticent on the subject, but their implications seem to agree.


Perhaps they’re the project of some mad Prime wizard? A Baatezu soldier-caste gone wrong? The other project of the Obyriths? Exiles from the Legion of Hell? These ideas swirl and twist with no evidence or end in sight. Perhaps there is some link with their name being a homograph of the Giantish word for sin?

These are curiosities for Sigilite scholars. For those in Acheron, the Maug are simply there, and are a fact of life.


And what facts! Each Maug is exactly twelve and a half feet tall, looming above the height range of even the largest Ogres and Trolls. They are heavy, boxy, massively built – and their ‘skin’, such as it is, is a heavy, black stone, apparently some mutant kind of iron ore.

Their interiors, however, are flesh. This can be seen from the uncomfortably human, lidless eyeballs lurking in their sunken sockets, and the row of massive incisors inside the hinged jaw.

One of the Maug’s most interesting features are their interchangeable limbs – many Maug collect useful arms, often scavenged from other Maug that have fallen on the battlefields. The Maug lack family lines, and instead trace ancestry based on who owned their arm last. Maug with many spare arms are linked to many families. The arms are often marked by each owner, so each arm is in effect a family tree for the Maug that wears it.


Here is the old mini for the 3.5 Maug.
Imagine this but with meat at the joints
and unnerving, lidless eyes. 

Dissection of a dead Maug reveals a rudimentary, vestigial digestive system, a massive heart, eight sets of rubbery lungs, and muscle, muscle, muscle. Their bones are steel, as they have both an endo- and exo-skeleton. They lack gender, and their method of reproduction is unknown or non-existent. All known Maug are old, and being old on Acheron makes you a veteran.


Maug have an interesting psionic ability – they can link their minds to that of the commander under whom they are serving, able to immediately receive and carry out orders. The level of autonomy the Maug have during this ‘command trance’ is under constant debate, and the Maug themselves seem reticent to clarify.


Like most others living on Avalas (the first layer of Acheron) the Maug organise into massive Legions, which are, in essence, mobile polities modelled after Bane’s Great Divine Army and the Legion of Hell (Yugoloths).

These Legions provide mercenary services off-plane or fight endless battles to gain and maintain territory on-plane. Maug territories tend to be dull, boxy, and covered in layered wall-and-trench defenses, sized to fit the big lugs.

The primary Maug Legion is called the Collective. This is a huge structure of Maug, all within a circular, self-linked command trance – in effect, a hive mind. The Collective could almost be considered a Maug-based computer. Its intellect and capacity for calculation far surpasses the breadth, speed and detail of even gods.

The Maug use it to track expenditures and weapon maintenance schedules.

Who or whatever made the Maug, they did not give to them that most mortal of talents: creativity. The Maug are utterly dull, recycling the same six types of interchangeable arm down through history. Their art is made of up of lines and numbers depicting troop movements. Their poetry (a concept introduced to them by the Reaves) is, in effect, literal descriptions of whatever a given Maug can see. Excellence is painstaking accuracy in each description.

The meticulous detail and unswerving honesty of these ‘poets’ has led to the utterly barmy occurrence of Maug War Reporters for the embattled news-rags of the City of Doors.


The Maug have begun to recently adopt names – they can instinctually recognise each other, another psionic power they share, but the same is not true for other folk they deal with. Most Maug call themselves [Colour][Metal][Number], usually with no rhyme or reason. Maug will never call themselves ‘Green’, as this colour is not present on Acheron. If you showed something green to a Maug, they would call it ‘Verdigris’.

Some example Maug names:

Red Iron 47

Umber Steel 91

Verdigris Bronze 11 (A famous commander and “eccentric”)  

Pearl Silver 9

Blue Adamant 804

Much like their Reave neighbours, the Maug are an increasing presence across the multiverse - for good, or for ill. 

Saturday 26 September 2020


 It is widely accepted that geometric patterns in ink, scar or star can control the flow of magic. This is why the constellations are called the Maker's Spellbook. 

For those who know this, a question is often asked: is the mind of the mage required, or does magic flow down any channel, heedless, irrgating the world with chaos?

The answers to these questions may be found in the shell of the Skitterjaw. Endemic to a single region of the frozen Republic of Wurmgar, these titan centipedes can be found stalking a wetland known as the Dead Fens.

The Dead Fens are part of the watershed of the River Vok, which skirts along the Grave Ridge, where the bones of gods are said to lie, and continues to distant Xarrac to the east. These fens are known for their blood-red algal blooms, and the huge spires of 'godbone', carried from the Grave Ridge by storms, landslides and ancient glaciation. 

The Skitterjaws themselves are apex predators, 20ft. long, with poisonous, greatsword sized mandibles. They hunt the giant toads and catoblepas of the Fens as their primary food, but will gladly eat folk, little morsels though they are. 

This is not what terrifies folk. What does terrify folk, keeping children and soldiers alike awake at night in nearby Tzorovik, is the Skitterjaws' use of powerful, primitive necromancy. 

In short, it reanimates its victims. A skitterjaw's horde of shambling, rotten zombies is never far behind it, mostly swamp fauna, but always with a few unfortunate folk shambling alongside.

The skitterjaws' use of the undead is threefold - first, they serve as excellent defense, either guarding the skitterjaw's feeding grounds or accompanying the creature itself. Second, they provide temperature control and defense for the beast by clinging to it, forming an 'armour' of corpses. Third, the mobile, sturdy undead provide perfect repositories for the fist-sized, glistening eggs of the Skitterjaw. 

Rival Skitterjaws have been observed using their hordes to resolve conflicts, with the winner reanimating the usable parts of the loser's legion, and the loser fleeing unharmed into the bogs. 

Stats for these horrible boys:


Level 7 Def plate Jaws 2d6 (Save or take +1d6)
Move fast Climb spider Str 8 Int 3 Dis hungry

Zombies - A given Skitterjaw is surrounded by a horde of 3d6 shambling undead. Roughly a third will have large, translucent eggs protruding from their torsos, containing juvenile skitterlings. The Skitterjaw is violently protective of undead containing eggs, and uncaring for those that do not. The Skitterjaw can take one turn to raise any nearby corpse as a zombie. 

Thick Chitin - Any damage dealt by a slashing weapon is reduced to 1. On the other hand, smashing or bludgeoning weapons like hammers deal an extra 3 damage per attack, as the Chitin cracks and splits. 

Undead Armour - The Skitterjaw can command any number of zombies to cling to it, reducing incoming damage by one point for each two zombies. It knows to split its undead between armour and attackers. 

Phobia - Skitterjaws dislike leaving the comforting fogs of the Dead Fens, and hate direct sunlight or large fires. 

         D&D 5e

Huge Beast
AC – 17
HP – 82
SPEED – 30ft., Climb 20ft. 
STR – 18 (+4) 
DEX – 12 (+1) 
CON – 18 (+4) 
INT – 5 (-3) 
WIS – 14 (+2)
CHA – 6 (-2) 
RESISTANCES – Slashing, Cold, Poison
CONDITION IMMUNITIES – Stunned, Poisoned, Charmed 
SENSES – no special senses. Passive Perception 12

Spider Climb 

Sunlight Sensitivity 

Undead Servitors - The Skitterjaw is accompanied by 3d6 zombies, roughly a third of which contain its eggs. 

Bite - reach, 5ft, +8 to Hit, 3d6 Piercing Damage, Con. Save or take 2d6 Poison Damage and become Poisoned, Save at end of turns. 

Undead Armour - As a bonus action, the Skitterjaw can command any number of zombies to cling onto it. It gains 5 Temporary HP per zombie employed in this manner, to a maximum of 80. While it has these temporary hit points, it is Vulnerable to fire and radiant damage, as the zombies are easily burnt. This vulnerability does not carry over into it's actual HP. 

Raise Undead - As an action, the Skitterjaw can turn a corpse within 60ft. into a zombie