Sunday 31 January 2021

Glasgow as Endon, Endon as Glasgow


“The great thing about Glasgow is, if there’s a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterwards.” – The Big Yin, Billy Connolly

SkerplesMagical Industrial Revolution is one of those books that makes my neurons do a little dance. Endon’s good, and I love the idea of a campaign set there.

Endon is London, of course. 

I like London, sure, in a sort of… far-away sense. My everyday life does not really ever arc towards me entering that unholy glass blister on the face of the earth.

In fairness, due to The Extenuating Circumstances, my life doesn’t really arc towards me going… anywhere, at the moment. But before the pestilence, I went quite often to Glasgow.

How, I thought, do I make Glasgow into a setting for MIR?

I have an observation first. It’s a bunch of faux-poetic pish, so feel free to skip the first section, if you can’t be arsed.

The Observation  

There’s the tree that never grew,
There’s the bird that never flew,
There’s the fish that never swam,
There’s the bell that never rang. 
Our Honest-tae-God actual city motto.

Glasgow is two cities standing in the same strath, neither of which are fully real. They overlap.

One is what I mentally refer to as Glesga, or, more quietly, St. Mungo. This is the name of our patron saint, and you should never speak of saints in Glesga.

60s Glesga, Colourised

A twisted carcass of a city, grey sky, black buildings and orange sodium street-lights. Glass buildings and half-arsed sky-scrapers do a poor job of disguising that which lies beneath – the titan corpse of industry, sold away by Thatcher (Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead), and turned into a haunted ecological disaster zone of sectarianism and razor gangs.

This is the Glasgow of my childhood years, the Glasgow of Saturday nights at Sauchiehall Street, the Glasgow of the East End and Old Firm violence.

Auld Clydebank and the Yards

The other is what I think of as The Dear Green Place, or perhaps Green Hollow. This is what ‘Glaschu’ means in Gaelic. The more common, contemptuous term for it is ‘BBC Glasgow’.

Mod'rn Skyline

This Glasgow is the phoenix from the ashes, the rising, diverse city of shiny newness and progressive policy. We’ve been claiming to be this city since about 2001, but in my experience, I only started seeing it around 2018.

Here’s the city of the art school, Glasgow Uni, the Lighthouse art gallery, Buchanan street and the West End.

Glasgow University

Neither of these places had an industrial revolution. They had an industrial collapse, for sure, but they’re built over old, dead Industrial Glasgow, like wallpaper over cracked plaster.

Both of these cities are a way of looking at the loss of this first, primordial Glasgow, which went from pointless backwater to industrial giant – from the profits of slavery and empire.

Industry and Empire

Empire is elided in Magical Industrial Revolution. To keep things system and setting agnostic, Endon is allowed to be self-contained. Mention is made of foreign wars, but Endon exists as a city-state, absent of the baggage of a… Longland, I guess, if we’re sticking with syllable swapping.  

I’m honestly unsure how to address it. Empire is what allowed the Industrial Revolution to take off. The Industrial Revolution is what created Glasgow. My city is inextricable from the British Empire, one of the worst examples of widespread, heartless, industrialised oppression in history. 

I feel like it would be dishonest to have a version of Glasgow which hides our complicity. This isn’t something I feel equipped to address in this blog-post, but if I do run MIR, I’m going to have to. 

St. Enoch, the Second City

Maybe, Endon also exists in St. Enoch’s world. I feel like it might, and maybe should – the Endoners chuckling gently at this backwater fishing stop which considers itself a city.

The important part about St. Enoch is that it wasn’t here a century ago.

Or, it was, but it was a provincial burgh-toun, a river-crossing, a nowhere between somewheres. Such a sudden appearance calls to mind the sprouting of a fungus.

St. Enoch is grey and red, northern granite and local sandstone. It is not a city where marble would survive – it projects too much sophistication for bitter Enochites.

Enochites from up and down the rigid social ladder view the world as keeping them down, grinding away at their dreams and attempting to consign them to irrelevance – even though the richest Enochites do this exact thing every day to others, without a hint of cognitive dissonance.

Enochites in general think bankers are a waste of time, lawyers are probably from hell, and politicians should be shot.

They’re warm, gregarious and honest alone and in small groups, and pretty much the archetypal frothing mob in larger numbers.

Enochites have, in all honesty, a deserved reputation for violent behaviour. They’re always looking for an opportunity to ‘take the pish’ and have a laugh.

Enochites have opinions. Every single one of an Enochite’s opinions is linked to a larger, older, social divide, which is why they seem to eager to murder one-another over their opinions on sports. The primary divide is that between the Reformist and Universal Church religious denominations, which has scarred the city’s history.


Roll 1d12 for a major landmark, and 1d20+6 for a location in the city.

1. River Scoury

◊ - Broad and shallow. Splits into a wide, sandy delta west of St. Enoch, full of small island-villages.

◊◊ - The river’s dredged and filthy. The delta’s dried, and replaced by tracts of farmland and industrial pockets. 

◊◊◊ - River has an impossible stink. Covered now constantly in an oily sheen, filled with floating corpses and mechanical wreckage, shoved aside by passing ships. Bloated undead haul themselves up, every so often.


The Humane Society, well-respected group of folk who spend their days rescuing people from the river, retrieving those beyond rescue, and offering ferry rides otherwise.

Claire Hendry, who owns a dredging boat. Regularly dredges up silt and rare junk dumped at the river-bottom. Wields a sword from ancient times with confidence, if no formal training.


2. Squinty Bridge

◊ - A new iron bridge, running at an angle over the Scoury. Subject of constant mockery from the locals due to being ‘built wrong’.

◊◊ - Bridge now crowned with a high metal arch, along which are strung magical lights. Squintiness now a point of pride, rather than mockery.

◊◊◊ - Bridge’s angle gets ever sharper. Seems to get longer while still going the same distance. Iron’s already rusting – why?


John MacAdam, sighing engineer explaining, ‘No, it isn’t squinty.’, to little effect. Heavy smoker.

Rosie Nicolson, smiling tour-guide. Will take you to all the interesting parts of St. Enoch, free of charge. Enthusiastic Radical.


3. Bascule Bridge

◊ - A pair of hauf-built moorings. 1d12 Kids and 1d12 Hooligans hang around the rusted construction, which has stalled, as usual.

◊◊ - The bridge has taken shape. It can lift and open with the assistance of two straining plants powered by magic batteries. The terrific roar of the two halves rising into the sky often halts all conversation nearby. Already derided as old-fashioned.

◊◊◊ - Each half of the bridge is permanently lifted, transformed into the bracket for a short range, highly unstable portal. People gather around to hear it fizz in wet weather.


Bella Ritchie is a rude young urchin who tends to stand on the girders that hold up the southern side of the bridge, busking with a flute. Some passers-by call her a musical savant, though none give her more than a thruppenny bit. 

Travis Fleming, a member of the city Polis, a blustering buffoon who’s appointed himself to ‘guarding the bridge’ - against what, nobody knows. Often goes on long rants to small crowds about the ‘Good Old Days’, etc. Should be watched carefully, despite his incompetence.


4. Auld Stane Bridge

◊ - Medieval sandstone bridge built over the old ford. Festooned with Enoch’s coats of arms and statues of past kings.

◊◊ - Pretty much abandoned – it’s only saved demolition because it’s upriver of all the weirs and shipyards that cross the new Scoury.

◊◊◊ - Revived in a new capacity as a marketplace and location for the organising of Radical protests. All the coats of arms have been defaced, the statues toppled, and a levitating Polis watch-tower looms above the river to the east, spotlights sweeping the bridge.


Michael Morton, costermonger who sells rolls with square slices and tattie scones. Beloved hero of lower class Enochites. Always has good patter, always up for a laugh. Gives excellent advice.

Mrs. Ellen Muir, who runs the Green Butterfly tearoom near the bridge’s northern side. She’s a talented eavesdropper who goes to church every Sunday. Reformist, before you ask!


5. City Chambers

◊ - Huge granite edifice at the head of Royal Square. An obelisk marked with the coat of arms stands in front. Royal Square is a large public gathering place, often host to fetes and events.

◊◊ - The edifice is more dramatic. Glamoured lights gleam brightly into the night as armies of clerks run in and out. Protests outside are common and often Radical. The fetes are gone.

◊◊◊ - Wreckage of barricades. Constant Polis presence on the steps, all the windows have bars to stop Radicals from putting rocks through them. Sweeping lights with divination magic inbuilt observe the square. Lord Provost delivers firebrand speeches from a balcony enclosed in an abjurer’s field that crackles in the rain.


Lord Provost Billy Murdoch, a thick-necked, red-faced bastard of a man. Indeterminate amount of weans, and a determinate amount of morals – zero.

Lady Harriet Ramsay, devout campaigner for the poor and destitute of the city. This doesn’t stop her from being condescending and honestly sadistic. Lots of friends inside her social class, and none outside it.


6. The Necropolis

◊ - Low hill in the middle of toun. Festooned with the solemn graves of the polite and respectable dead. Gated and watched by staff.

◊◊ - Lower class burials common on the lower half of the hills. Rumours of Radical necromancers digging around in the graves of the rich are unconfirmed.

◊◊◊ - Open revolt from the obviously present Radical necromancers, and their army of finely clad skeletons. Most nights the Polis are up on the hill with the city’s wizards, getting ambushed by skeletons with chibs.


Sean McGill, cackling old gravedigger with a terrible problem for alcohol. Susceptible to bribes from everyone.

Alexander Avraham, asthmatic middle-class poet and nervous daydreamer. Half-committed radical with curious ideas about necromancy.

7. Hull Yards

◊ - Three yards, Taskill’s, Athol’s and Incorporated. Slipways and drydocks crowd by the bank. Here Enoch’s daughters, the ships, are assembled. Adapting swimmingly to new ideas like iron-hulled ships and riveting. Wages are low, hours are high.

◊◊ - Gigantic warehouses crowd together. Work happens round the clock, and the wages are still shite. The workforce is a hotbed of Radical sentiment and workplace injury is ubiquitous.

◊◊◊ - Levitated drydocks loom above the yards. The constant rattle of massive ships launched into the Scoury is said to deafen those few who live nearby. Radical sentiments are at a peak, and strikes are regular and devastating.


Ivor Torquil, much pitied widower with a hangdog expression. Works as the very apathetic night watchman at Taskill’s Yard.

Rhys Lawson, leader of the union at Incorporated Yard. A titan of a man, six and a half-feet crowned with an incongruously small waxed moustache. Gives dramatic speeches about the importance of decorum on strike – ‘there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying!’ Thinks the Radicals take it too far, on the whole.


8. Burnett Street

◊ - The largest street in St. Enoch, the High Street. Pavilion Theatre at one end, giant Polis station at the other. Baroque and austere.

◊◊ - Coffee shops, tearooms and bookstores appear. The street begins to fill with buskers and take on a livelier air. Polis station becomes better staffed; Pavilion theatre steps often play host to protests.

◊◊◊ -  Burnett Street has now replaced Royal Square as the primary space for toun-wide public gathering and large-scale community presence. Buskers are omnipresent, department stores have opened, and it’s always mobbed.


Paul Hood, legendary busker and one of the first in Enoch. Giant beard that goes down to his waist. Three different instruments. Terrible singer, ironically.

Ciara Allan, bookstore owner and aspiring author. She loves gigantic, hyper dramatic fantasy sagas. Approx. a decade away from inventing D&D.


9. Pavilion Theatre

◊ - Large, popular, well-funded theatre. Exclusively used for long, torturous operas and old plays that have become elite by sheer dint of time. Everyone present is well-dressed and polite.

◊◊ - Door’s been opened to more experimental theatre. New class of playwrights watching, and the working class have begun to make headway.

◊◊◊ - Operas are gone. The old plays still run, but the timeslots of the operas are now taken up by raucous and popular pantos for the working class. Concession stands sell little toys for the weans that fire off bright illusions, audience participation is encourages. Programs are displayed on huge illusions floating by the stage, and gaudy pyrotechnics are the order of the day.


Blake Barr, stuffy old director and playwright. Only ever puts on plays where he’s the main character and gets extremely long monologues. Also addicted to certain drugs from Foreign Parts.

Bethany Boyle, newest playwright in toun. Comes from a working-class background. Writes plays about ‘controversial’ topics like women and the poor. Alternately beloved and despised.


10. National Ground

◊ - A grassy field used for all the big fitba’ matches. Standing terraces and lukewarm beer. Constant streams of sectarian chants between Universal and Reformist aligned teams. The two big ones are red-shirted Northern and white-shirted Local-Enoch. Being a referee here requires hazard pay.

◊◊ - Standing terraces increased in size. Chants turn bloodier and meaner. Northern supporters engage in running battles with Local-Enoch lads. Magic mouth spells shout out scores and blare cheesy entrance tunes for the teams.

◊◊◊ - Giant stone stadium with rows of seats, after a fatal crush at a match caused the abolition of standing terraces. Polis sit in the stadium with fans, watching like heavily armed hawks. Poorly understood magic adjudicates disputes, saving referees from grim fates at the cost of anyone understanding what’s going on.


Molly Kincaid, a woman with an impressive shouting voice who’s the primary announcer. Sole person in the entire world respected by both halves of the sectarian divide.

Micky Dunlop, a highly paranoid referee notable for his uncanny skill at dodging flung projectiles and surviving attempted knifings.


11. St. Enoch’s Abbey

◊ - Largest of the city’s Universal churches. Often graffitied, fervently filled on holy days. Large green out the front is home to many amateur fitba’ matches.

◊◊ - Quieter, but somehow even less tolerant. Roof leaks more than ever and fights often break out on the steps. The green is mostly mud.

◊◊◊ - Site of constant sectarian violence by wizards and hooligans alike, aligned one way or the other. A death zone on match night. Increasing magical sink causing terrifying things to manifest inside the Abbey. The green’s a crater.


Abbot Lynch, a sleepy octogenarian who’s not entirely present. Gives long, rambled speeches about peace and respect while also being xenophobic, sectarian and honestly rather rude.

Sister Wilson, a fiery, zealous nun, who actually runs the abbey. Liable to appear at the pulpit with a literal broadsword should you cause trouble.


12. Flesher’s Green

◊ - Vast stretch of swampy land, broken up by green patches of grass, purchased by the Guild of Fleshers for the city in the past. Used to dry linens, as an area for fishing, a place to send the weans to keep them occupied.

◊◊ - The green is purchased from the city, by the city, drained, made shiny and presentable. Visiting circuses come through Tollgate, set up huge stalls in summer and disappear like ghosts in winter. The rest of the time, huge spreads of communal washing lines radiate from the Washhouse on the green’s edge like a spider’ web.

◊◊◊ - Wild lions stalk the green’s interior. City funding has once again collapsed, and the green’s becoming overgrown – though it will never again be a swamp, since the Scoury’s been dredged. The washing lines disappear with the advent of home washing.


Auld Don Gunn, supposed prophet, who stands on a granite balustrade by the entrance and screams prophecies of doom for St. Enoch. 2-in-6 chance he’s completely, utterly right.

Flora Roberts, the Knight of the Green. A distinctly mad young woman of upper-class background, charging around on her horse, in full plate, with a lance. A popular target of derision from the upper and middle classes, but a kind of heroine figure for the destitute poor. She takes her oaths of charity as a knight quite seriously.


13. Old Royal University

◊ - Huge sandstone building in the middle of Espergrove Park. Student body are liberal and politically engaged. Faculty are old, stuffy and casually classist.

◊◊ - Women, foreigners and poor Enochites are now showing up lecture halls and seminar rooms. Student unions are becoming increasingly radical, the old faculty are increasingly disappearing.

◊◊◊ - Booming arcane voice ensorcelled into the clocktower announces the time to all of West Enoch. Student body is staggeringly diverse. Half the new professors are Radicals, and the students are joining in on the open revolts.


Stuart Kerr, the one and only working-class professor at Old Royal. Wants to leave and found his own college dedicated to magical studies. Was sponsored into tenure by a previous Lord Provost, despises this. Looks roughly like a brick in academic robes.

Hazel Byrne, the first woman to be a student at Old Royal. Well-read philosopher and orator of great eloquence. Confidently asserts that she plans to be chancellor of the University in 20 or 30 years.


14. The Big Steamie

◊ - Shared public washhouse for the laundry of the poor and working class. Long, low shed, full of washtubs, washboards and wafting clouds of steam. Undeniable social centre and place of gathering.

◊◊ - New magical methods of cleaning, automated washing drums and the like emphasise social aspect over the aspect of doing the laundry. Discussions often turn political.

◊◊◊ - Abandoned with the advent of home washing. The whole shed’s now alternately a haunt for the homeless and a playground for the weans. Scheduled to be knocked down and replaced with one of those nice new bowling greens they have in Endon.


Agnes Gibb, undisputed queen of the Steamie. Usually stands and holds court with a huge gaggle of admirers. Everyone knows Aunty Agnes. Carries mints in her pocket to give to anyone’s wean that passes by, just out of niceness. Makes broad, sweeping statements about the world and expects all listeners to agree.

Ainslie McCabe lives on the roof of the Steamie. They wear a large ragged coat and a variety of mismatched clothes. They feed the pigeons up there and look out across old Enoch. They lead a hard life, but one that they find fulfilling in sort of wide, unexplainable, spiritual sense. Hear all the chat and gossip that goes on below.


15. Cow Hill

◊ - Tenements and grinding poverty. Agitators hand out pamphlets on street corners. There’s a pub every three streets. Universal Church neighbourhood.

◊◊ - Reconstruction. Old buildings being torn down as social movements take root. Hope is in the air, as is Radicalism. Many folk move out as the old toun vanishes.

◊◊◊ - Square block high-rises punch the night sky. Living conditions are even worse than before, but at least they’ve got plumbing now. 


Senga Gillespie, hard working mother of eight. She’s the primary Radical agitator in the area. A wizard of considerable skill, and a self-taught one, no less. Would be a famed polymath under different circumstance.

Noor MacLean, street corner Radical agitator who writes for small, angry newspapers and sends anonymous death threats to the Lord Provost and other members of the Upper Class.


16. Hardie’s Works

◊ - Small time chemical works on a canal, surrounded by a dirty halo of densely packed slums. Coughing kids and sickly workers. Hardie himself keeps his distance.

◊◊ - The houses are gone, replaced by a length of derelict ground. Company boys with vicious dugs and lead pipes hang around outside the new wall. The perilously thin chimneys puke new kinds of smoke every day. Hardie’s rarely seen outside his house.

◊◊◊ - The derelict ground is overrun by chemical spill, a soda waste, an acid lake in the middle of toun. The factory’s waste gushes into the canal, and if the wind’s wrong, you can smell it all the way in the nice part of toun. Hardie’s dead. Something he breathed in at the works, say the company boys.


Findlay Shepherd, hardest worker at the works. Rattling wheeze like you wouldn’t believe, covered in chemical burns. Unquenchable spirit of optimism despite it.

Annie Clark, the leader of the company boys. She’s respected for being vicious in totality. Dressed sharply in tweed, little flecks of blood on her brogues. Knife collector.


17. Riverbend Mill

◊ - Small-time industry of new-fangled mechanical looms. Large, old building, all creaky wood and dust.

◊◊ - Increasingly soulless mills increasingly dehumanise their workforce. Work hours go up as conditions worsen. Building gets reinforced. Light’s drained from the interior as lockable metal shutters seal the windows.

◊◊◊ - Dark, satanic mills in full-force. Gigantic metal looms are regularly anointed with blood, and overseers employ vicious enchantments to stamp out Radical sentiment in the workforce. Reversed sleep spells force involuntary overtime and plague workers with nightmares.


Duncan Craig, the mill foreman. No eviller man stalks St. Enoch. Overworks his vulnerable employees with sadistic glee. Stalks around with a lantern after hours, and beats his dog. No family, thankfully. 

Saoirse Callahan, a loom worker with an ethereal singing voice. Big dreams of escaping this place, and moving to Endon to start a career as an opera singer.


18. Shannon Hill

◊ - Plain green hill north of toun, used for hikes and picnics. Contains the old, dirt paved High Road, where the Uplanders drive their cattle down to Flesher’s Green.

◊◊ - New developments in order to relieve crowding in central Enoch. Houses are assigned by the city council with no consideration for origin. The district is increasingly divided into sharp little pockets of Universal and Reformist sympathies, and violence is increasingly common. The High Road becomes paved.

◊◊◊ - New breeds of gangs have formed, with representatives either side of the faith divide. All of them are penniless youths, but all wear very sharp suits of tweed or twill, and all carry straight razors that are even sharper. The High Road is diverted away to a new way north, and Shannon Hill is bypassed.


Euan Lamb, a young man, lives alone in a small cottage high on Shannon Hill. Wants to be an actor down in the theatre. Interested in the new town forming down below his cottage.

Cora Cassidy, a naturalist interested in the species of rare wildflowers and ground birds found nowhere else but Shannon Hill. Very distracted, aloof way of speaking. Never makes eye-contact, but can speak eloquently for hours on birds.


19. The Whisky Bond

◊ - Huge storage warehouse full of the water of life. Musty smells and the long years’ wait for guid whiskey.

◊◊ - The bond’s increasingly used as a general-purpose storage warehouse. All kinds of junk, magical or otherwise, is taken in by the bond’s owners and stored with little categorisation. Workers get lost in the maze, doors are blocked by high crates and paths through the mess get ever more labyrinthine.

◊◊◊ - A terrible explosion has just occurred. The bond’s levelled, and the air around is hazy with magical debris. Shimmering echoes of fire in the shape of the unfortunate victims whisper and whistle through the streets at night, and strange magical maladies begin to affect the district.


Archer Cairns, an old whisky brewer who’s stored all of his stock in the bond. He hangs about the place, siphoning out of the casks when the porters aren’t looking and drunkenly conversing with management.

Ayesha Sweeny, sarcastic, extremely funny clerk in the bond. The only person trying to keep even a vague track of what’s happening inside the warehouse. Constantly on the verge of quitting.


20. The Temple of Health

◊ - Newly opened semi-public hospital. Better than conveying yourself to the church and praying for recovery, though not by much. Practical, sensible nurses and air-headed doctors with big ideas.

◊◊ - Renamed to the Royal Enoch Hospital, among some embarrassment. New wards open up and innovative new treatments are developed. Most of them work.

◊◊◊ - Massive mega-hospital incorporates the old with the new. Wards are constantly full of the victims of industrial accents and magical contamination. Buzzing glamoured lights means the hospital can operate round the clock – it needs to.


Dr. A. Graham. Came here from Endon some ten years ago, to make a fortune. Derided, accurately, as a quack. Treatments such as burying folk up to their necks in silt and whipping patients with silk sheets are the order of the day.

Matilda Currie, the head nurse. A kind woman, with a big heart. Prone to bursting into tears at the slightest provocation. Makes sure to sit with the patients who have nobody else in their final hours.


21. Espergrove Park

◊ - Hilly, gated green for the rich and the nice. Equestrian statues of warrior heroes and large, stagnant duck ponds. Park is lazily patrolled by the Polis. Large segment of the park is devoted to a huge golf-course for the well-off.

◊◊ - Humid, spell-heated greenhouse showcases exotic plants. Increasingly extravagant waterworks attempt to outcompete one-another. Golfing tournaments increasingly valuable and exclusive.

◊◊◊- Now dominated by a glittering People’s Palace of shiny glass and public magic. Folk get lost in the greenhouses, and new flower varieties appear daily. If you launch your golf ball into the rough, don’t expect to get it back.


Rebecca McKenzie, a painter who sits at the highest point of the park and paints water colours of the view over Enoch. A big dreamer.

Tom Babcock, well-off mill owner that lives in Gryphon Circus and comes here to golf pretty much every day. Stunningly disconnected from the realities of working-class life.


22. Scourbank

◊ - Working-class area, strung out along the Scoury’s shore. Proudly struggling. Reformist neighbourhood. Houses are one-room single-ends, violence and predictable urban misery cluster in the closes.

◊◊ - Warehouses go up, as do Universal churches and statues of philanthropists. New docks, small theatres and many new pubs spring up.

◊◊◊ - Those who the Enochites would refer to as Foreigners have arrived en masse, already being exploited by the upper-class – but welcomed, at least begrudgingly, by their Enochite neighbours. The warehouses have become almost military affairs, guarded round the clock by a combination of well-paid locals and wizards from across the river.


Marcus Higgins, big tough bastard. Very tall, loud and confrontational. Walks up and asks you for a shilling.

Mary Cowan, local procurer. Constant scowl. Very judgemental. Extremely strong perfumes.


23. Muckle Toll

◊ - The poorest part of St. Enoch. The slum to end all slums. No drains, no shitters – dogs and pigs run wild in the streets. Must be seen to be believed. Hotspot of misery and disease. Reformist, in a desperate way.

◊◊ - Things get worse, somehow. Magical contaminants in the drinking water. All manner of sin hiding in the broken lofts and garrets. Even the churches stay away. Home to the nasty, mean gangs of sectarian legbreakers with no prospects in life.

◊◊◊ - Nearly abandoned. A poisoned ruin. Scheduled to be knocked down and replaced. Nothing even worth looting in this damned place.


Fraser Gallagher, sickly, one legged veteran with a hacking cough. He’s given up on life, because life’s given up on him. Melancholy and poetic.

Daisy Gilmour, miserable teenager with few prospects in life. Spends her time haranguing people and performing impromptu comedy skits. Talented impressionist, doesn’t think the skill’s worth much.


24. Mollendina

◊ - Small village at the northern end of toun. Aligned to the Universal Church. The primary stop in and out of Enoch to the north, towards the High Road that leads to the Uplands. As such, much of the population are Uplanders.

◊◊  - Mollendina is eaten by the city. The roads and buildings catch up and subsume it. The district gets denser and more labyrinthine, and the High Road becomes fenced and paved.

◊◊◊ - The High Road is replaced with a levitating flyover bridge that bypasses Mollendina entirely – the inns, shops and business collapse in the area, and poverty becomes rampant. Bitter locals congregate under the flyover, away from the rain – the ‘Uplander’s Umbrella’ - to hold court on the St. Enoch that’s abandoned them.

Greer Hart, widely grinning cattle drover with grass in their hair. Amazed by the sights and sounds of St. Enoch, even if it is all a bit much. They’re expecting to head back north within the month.  

Fletcher Rennie, Uplander highwayman and exile that cannot go back north. Many people are looking for him. Extremely vigilant and extremely dangerous.


25. Quin’s Road Jail

◊ - A huge, ancient prison, where conditions are so miserable ironic songs are sung in the pubs about it. A-Block is for Reformists, C-Block is for Universal Church folk, and, in-between, B-Block is for what’s termed ‘Ordinary Decent Criminals’, without sectarian motivation. Small, draconian courthouse and large, ominous police station are annexes. Large public gallows out front.

◊◊ - Public Gallows is moved inside. Each block is rebuilt as a separate building, with a massive central yard, watched over at all times by a central panopticon tower. Guards are now armed with spells.

◊◊◊ - Fences are charged with lightning spells. Scrying sensors stalk the corridors. Illusions are cast on all prisoners to make them unrecognisable to fellow inmates when outside their cells. Campaigns begin to lessen the inhumane conditions, to little effect.


Jasper Gray, the King of Quin’s. A gang leader who runs his extensive criminal empire from a well-appointed cell in Quin’s Road’s C-Block. An army veteran who did not return to a land fit for heroes.

Dour Dougal Donnelly, the prison warden. A face like a sad block of granite, and a heart like a lump of coal. Immune to sob stories. Only smiles at executions.


26. Gryphon Circus

◊ - The nice district. Lies on the other side of Espergrove Park, out to the west. They’re rich enough that their religious faction has no effect on their social lives. All broad boulevards, tree-lined lanes and honey-coloured sandstone.

◊◊ - The district begins to open up to commercialisation. Formerly quiet streets increasingly busy. Student clubs and well-off faculty flats expand into the neighbourhood. Churches quiet down.

◊◊◊ - The locality’s become gauche. All the really rich locals now live on estates upriver of St. Enoch. Gryphon Circus, meanwhile, has become a heart of overpriced nightlife and a residence toun for the growing student body at Old Royal. Largest church in the area’s now a bar.


Lord Smythe, a horrible smug old bastard of man. Was in the army, and served with great distinction, he’s quick to remind you. Never saw a fight in his puff, always directing from the back. Notorious for high casualty rates among his regiments. Always walks around with a shooting-stick.

Lady Burnett, nosy busybody who knows so many aristocratic secrets she doesn’t get invited to parties anymore. Learns all the secrets anyway. Plays polo.


I’ve come up with a few Innovations with which to level St. Enoch, but they’ll be a Part 2, should I get around to it.

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Core Themes for Aclas

This was a trend among posts back in 2018-19 – see Tidelock, Mother Stole Fire and The Home Setting over at The Bogeyman's Cave.  It’s a trend I really liked. It’s a trend I’m now jumping onto, two years late, because relevance be damned. I want to.

Aclas is a combination of the Industrial Revolution, the Roaring Twenties and a bunch of other things. But the aesthetics are steam and art deco. The central tension is Tradition vs. Innovation, I guess, because it’s a good central tension.

1. The Past Is Gone

“Like tears in the rain.”

This is probably the central theme. It’s got a couple of dimensions, but the primary one is that Time is always and forever advancing. Even the most powerful magic cannot stall it. It does not advance in any particular direction – there is no goal. Just movement.

Pretty much every place and every NPC has a link to something which is now gone.

The most specific example of this is the Mercurial Wild, a curse of unknown origin which spread across the face of Aclas, which caused land to move unceasingly – forests crawl away, hills rise and fall, oceans sweep through the next day to be replaced by desert. Navigation is nearly impossible, as is settled agricultural society (nomadic peoples are doing relatively fine with the whole thing).

Hundreds of homelands and beautiful places have been chewed up and spit out by the Wilds, as ruins. It was believed the Wilds would destroy the whole world, until the Icon made her Ward – but that’s another story. Everyone’s ancestors came to the Crown to escape the Wild. Everyone’s in the same boat – the History of Aclas is, in a sense, lost. It’s half remembered. Nobody’s history books go back beyond a few thousand years, and it’s unlikely they ever will.

There’s a massive gap in Aclas’ past, and the origins of everything are shrouded in the impenetrable fog of history.

Even the ageless Perpetuals are struck with constant amnesia. They know they’re as old as the world – they just can’t remember anything. If you can restore their memories, maybe the lost past can be recovered? A fool’s errand, sure, but one worth undertaking.

2. Diversity is Everywhere

All of the cultures present in the remaining part of Aclas are combined from other cultures. This is explicit. No species, no physical trait is explicitly linked to a single culture. There’s at least 8 ‘Orcish’ cultures, all of which have members you’d probably consider human, elven or dwarven in a different setting.

Geography doesn’t link with appearance. The primary reason for this is because about 75% of the entire planet’s population live in one-sixth of the planet, inside the Ward, because the Wilds ate their homelands.

There are two other reasons, but they’re the two biggest secrets in the campaign. It does have to do with all that missing history, so there’s a hint.

Everyone's one of the Maker's children, and she'd be disappointed if we all didn't get on - the best summation is a line from one of Throne of Salt's excellent posts on Mother Stole Fire:

All peoples are brother and sister. You don't have to like them, (who gets along with everyone all the time?) but they're family. You never turn your back on family, no matter how much they might deserve it. No exceptions.

3.  Countries Hate, People Love

This one’s connected to the above. But basically, nationalism doesn’t really exist on Aclas. Every state is a construct. Everyone’s an immigrant. Everybody lives next to a staggering variety of people from different cultures and the conditions that breed the ignorant hatred of nationalism pretty much don’t exist. Even the largest states and cultures are made up of a prismatic gleam of hundreds of subcultures.

The Zymani, Nevechi and Surammar city states were once a unified state, The Union. 10 years ago, The Union had a devastating industrialised civil war – the local World War One equivalent, if Aclas is in the Jazz Age.

Imagine this guy, but he's an elf, or a tiefling, or an aasimar or a firbolg.

The city-states are regarded as the most vicious of enemies. Hatred runs deep and the Union will never return.

But, all of the city-states have merchants travelling between them, train lines connecting them – everyone has a relative the next city over, a friend across the continent. The hatred of the construct, of leviathan, does not bleed down to the people, because their neighbours aren’t the ‘Other’, and they love them, even if they do play loud jazz at 4am.


Look at this charming lad. What a guy.

4. Tension Between Nature and Technology

Aclas is overlaid with a Spirit World, full of spirits of the land, of fire and storms - spirits that hate metal, especially silver. Spirits that want to eat Vis and tear up the roads that carve their domains. 

To be fair, they're in the right. They were here first. 

5. Things Change, And Then Change Again

Aclas is a world facing onrushing modernity. Trains, typewriters, automobiles and airships are a thing. Players are likely to witness the invention of the aeroplane. New spells are defined every day. People shape the world around them through invention, understanding, cooperation and simple hard work. Much to the chagrin of the spirits of said world, but they’re a whole other kettle of fish.

All the 'Autocars' look like wood and leather versions of the cars from Disco Elysium.

This modernity is improving life for many, but it’s also opening up new kinds of inequality and evil across the face of the world.

The primary villains of this world are corporations, arms-manufacturers, war-mongers and capitalists. Sure, there’s dragons and demons and evil spirits and all that, but compared to the industrial war machine they’re small fry.

The R.34, an airship that was built near the tiny village I grew up in. The first aircraft to cross the Atlantic both ways.

6. What is Real and True is Not Objective  

The Grasp of Reality is Weak, in Aclas.

Shatterings are places where the laws of physics break, for an example.

History is written by the victors and morality is informed by circumstance. There are no absolutes – and there’s an exception to every rule.

The status of the known gods, the Maker and the World Serpent, is up for debate – are they dead? Missing? Among us now in the form of mortals? Their clerics both still produce miracles, so what does that mean? Where do the Celestials and Demons fit in? What about the Spirits? How about those hungry things from beyond time, the Voidlings? What about us? Them? You? Me?

I can tell you now: There isn’t a single Aclan who has it right, and it doesn’t matter either way.

This is one of the most nerve wracking images ever. This is a powerful energy. These two are adventurers, let me tell you.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

A Fistful of Setting Questions


Le Naturaliste

This blog will return to the regularly scheduled 'Planescape Shit and Magical Steam Trains' in a bit, but I wanted to ask some setting questions of my own, since Vayra's inspired me. And then probably answer them. 

  1. Which specific NPC do I want to piss off the least? 
  2. Which god should I want to piss off the most? 
  3. What's the worst thing I could meet at a crossroads? 
  4. What's the nearest thing that can utterly destroy me to your starting town? Or starting town equivalent? 
  5. Is apotheosis open to my character? If not, why not? 
  6. Do people in your world have souls? Why? 
  7. Does jazz exist in your setting yet? Can I invent it and not be stoned to death? 
  8. What's the weirdest country/polity/region/area on your map? 
  9. Do guns exist yet? If they do, is there anything making them weird/different?
  10. Is there a divide between mundane/magical animals? 
I'll answer these for Aclas at some point. 

(Edit, 12/02/12)


1. I probably have too many answers to this question. A good contender would be Vec, the head of the Vis Guild, the most powerful of the Old Guilds. The Vis Guild has the power of a small country and Vec can muster it all. They're also a master inventor, judging by their highly advanced 'ironlimb' prostheses and construct bodyguards. Nothing is really known about Vec beyond this. 

2. The most powerful Aspects are the stuffy Triumvirate, (Lantasa, Aspect of the Harvest, Ozo, Aspect of Civilisation, and Wyrva, Aspect of Law), who've banded together to make everything fuckin boring, boo!

(Depending on your viewpoint. Their church tends to be reactionary, anti-magic ('mundanist') and luddite, although the Aspects themselves are too distant to get a real read.)

3. During the day? A deserting war-wizard with a grudge. At night? A Voidling, (creature of Anti-Life spawned from the Void Between Stars) far and away. Devils in this setting don't appear at crossroads unless you're in the Underdark. 

4. In the starting city, Iskadar, there's a homeless, amnesiac archmage wandering around the lower levels of the city (it's five cities stacked on top of each other, basically) called Cadavyx. He's chill, though. Also, 4 days train and a day's walk away there's an Ancient Dragon in the hills of Ivra called Skalar. 

5. Aptheosis is open! You just have to be the most pertinent example of something for a generation (best warrior, best inventor, best musician, best ruler, etc. etc.) and then compete with the current Aspect of That Thing for the position of Aspecthood. There's 48 Aspects and some are harder to unseat than others. 

Or just become a really powerful wizard and you're basically a god by then. 

6. Yes! Life and Magic come from Stars. Stars and Souls are the same thing, in the same way a Planet is the same thing as a grain of sand. This is why Voidlings eat souls, because it's the only way to snuff out a Star (their sworn enemies) whose light burns them. 

7. Yes! You don't need to invent it. It's all the rage. 

8. Other than the entire underdark, what remains of the state of Viciar is a giant Shattering, where the laws of physics have become shifting and liquid. Inside Viciar, the sky changes colour, time dilates, chairs talk to you and solid, liquid and gas are interchangeable, among other things. They grow very weird drugs there. 

9. Yes! They're powered by Vis, which is a recently invented 'Modern Fuel' of magic suspended in water. It explodes if silver (which disrupts magic) is put into it - guns have silver hammers and firing pins. 

10. Nope! Most dogs are druids, all foxes are bards and many sharks are wizards. 

Monday 25 January 2021

Answering Jojiro's GM Orthodoxies

 The questions, because I felt like it. 

1. Your players arrive in an abandoned city – the first thing they do is enter a home, asking what’s left of the pantry. What do you say to them?

"Mostly rotten food, stored in boxes and barrels. Looks like the food stores were well-stocked and abandoned quickly.", or something to that effect, because I want to put the fear of god in them. 

Or there's a demon in there stuffing it's face with rotten food. Depends on the tone of the session.

2. Your players want to talk to a city magistrate about an unpopular idea of theirs. In order to catch the magistrate off-guard, they approach early in the morning. What state do they find the magistrate in?

Probably like, eating something weird for breakfast, or in bed, or on the shitter. Something mundane, vaguely embarassing, and comical. 

Either that or they're like, eating a whole person and are like 'oh damn now i have to have you killed.' 

3.  During character creation, a player mentions that they want a naturally blue-haired character. Not for any particular reason, you were envisioning your campaign setting without this possibility. How do you respond?

"Explain how that came about, since that can't normally happen in this campaign setting. Totally open to it, if you can explain why." and then let them have it anyway even if their explanation is terrible, because it's Our game not My game. 

4.  Read the following entry for a “point of interest”, and then refine how you would present it in a game in some way. You might change how you would describe it out loud, edit it in writing, add typographical emphasis (bold, italics, underlining) for a play-by-post game, etc.

Hidden within a secluded forest glade is a ruined shrine of ancient granite, vines of ivy peeking through the cracked stone pillars. The shrine was built by ash dwarves, and like most such shrines, it is guarded by a salamander. Within the shrine is a pool of simmering water. Characters who drink here receive the benefits of the fire shield spell for the rest of the day.

And I'd put it:

Within this glade, secluded deep in the forest, is an ancient structure of familiarly ash dwarven architecture. It's made of worn granite, and bears a cover of ivy and many cracks. Inside the shrine's portico, there lies a pool of simmering, glimmering water, which smells strongly of sulphur. You can see a long, sinuous, creatre, with fire coloured scales, four short legs, a long, lizardlike face, and muscular arms. It's clutching a red hot pole arm and lounging on the hot steps of the shrine, scanning the nearby woods. It looks wary. What's your approach? 

Because the pool's secret and the salamander's role in this place are things to be discovered, I'd argue. 

5.  Your players enter a dungeon you have prepared, and leave after being spooked by the monsters within. In truth, they are more than powerful enough to overcome the threats of the dungeon, and well-equipped to do so. One of the players asks you, “Do you think we’re ready for this dungeon?” How do you answer?

"Only one way to find out!" 

6.  One of your players has a spell, speak with insects. They use it to speak with a spider, at which point another player points out that it shouldn’t work. The first player is obviously disappointed, and looks to you hopefully for you to overrule the other player. You don’t remember the actual details of how the spell works, but your rulebook is handy if you need to look it up. What do you do?

Shrug and say, "For this purposes of this, I'll say it's 'Speak with Arthropods' and the medieval wizard who made the spell doesn't know Spiders aren't technically insects. 

I will admit, however, if this was 5e i'd probably quickly google the spell, then make a song and dance of ruling in the spider-talker player's favour anyway. 

7. (response to 1) “There’s nothing in the pantry.”

Man this is nearly the exact opposite answer I would give. Saying there's nothing there at all kind of invalidates the player's curiosity, which is, in my opinion, a bad. Let them find a weird bug or something. 

Or a demon. 

8.  (response to 2) “The magistrate – only a petty official who has temporarily taken over this post, by the way – isn’t even tired – he’s an early morning sort of gentleman. Despite the early hour, the dawn’s rays still barely tickling over the hills, he looks well put-together. Not a hair is out of place on his head, and his sharply kept mustache suggests a morning ritual of wax-infused grooming. The man is already making steady headway into a stack of tidy paperwork as you arrive. You’re in luck, however – he seems to be in a good mood, which may make him more amenable to your suggestion than normal.”

This one is interesting. Because it's rewarding the players for their intiative but is also a counter to their idea. So I'm not against it, but it seems like... if the magistrate is a morning person, maybe the plan shouldn't work? Since he's very much awake and on guard? Not really sure. Have to give that one more thought. 

9. (response to 3) “Sure you can have blue hair! I hope you don’t mind if nobody else does though – I didn’t really originally picture that sort of hair, and I’ve got so much else to juggle that I probably won’t add a whole lot of world responsiveness to blue hair. It’ll just be an aesthetic thing to help you better picture your character, not much beyond that.”

This is an equally good answer. I definitely need to remember that PCs dont necessarily equal settings: there's not that many goblins in this continent, which is why it's really weird that four of the PCs are goblins, right? 

10(response to 4) “The point of interest should be more direct, short and to the point. I don’t want to mention other shrines, since they’ll come up when they come up, and players can make the connection about salamanders being normal if they want to. Since it’s for a game, the phrases don’t have to be grammatically correct or complete sentences – they just need to convey information. For a play-by-post game, I also want the keywords to stand out, so I will bold them:”

This one's more based on my personal taste. To be honest, I see the value of short, sharp descriptions, but they really aren't my thing as a DM or a player. I like imagining things, so more description is fun from both ends for me. 

11. (response to 5) “Who knows? Haha.”

This blithe answer implies I don't know. 

And I don't, because that's not how i build dungeons, but my beloved players don't necessarily need to know that. 

12.  (response to 6) “I would look it up in the book, and if it’s a regular question, I would add a sticky-note to that page so I could find it faster, to show my players what the rules say. Knowing the rules and when to look them up is important, and I want to lead by example.”

Eh. Disagree. It's my weird hacked version of whatever we're playing anyway. Sticky noting pages seems suspiciously like organising things, which is anathema and should be avoided. Leaving it up to you to decide if that's sarcasm. 

13.  Imagine, briefly, that the responses in 7 through 12 all came from the same GM, within the same campaign. Are there patterns that emerge about how this GM runs? Would you want the GM to be more consistent and predictable about anything?
Does examining this hypothetical GM change how you thought about your own tendencies, and your own patterns? Would you want to learn anything from this hypothetical GM, or not? Why?

The Hypothetical GM (presumably cousin to the Angry GM) seems to be a little inconsistent with how much effort they put into description. They're open to player choice, which I like, but don't seem to necessarily reward player engagement (?). They care about the specific rules of game they're playing and sometimes overshare meta-information (salamander lore, the job status of this magistrate) that could be got in RP. 

I feel like Hypothetical GM's style contrasts with my "Comedy, Horror and Funny Voices" style a bit, seem to prefer narration to in-character talking (which is fine, but i like doing Funny Voices) and let stuff that could be discovered be plain information, which is bad for Dramatic Reveals, which are my favourite.