Monday, March 30, 2020

Updated Bestiary

The bestiary has been updated.  There's now about 351 entries on it.  That's a lot of monsters. 

Check it out

Looking back at a lot of my old posts, most of them still hold up.

My very first post was the Tumble Melon Tree.  I wrote it in 2012. I had forgotten that it had poop in it, which creates a link to newer posts like the Goblin Filthomancer.  (I guess I haven't changed much.)

The creatures I'm more proud of, though, are the interesting-concept ones like the macrology or the interesting-mechanic ones like the flying eyeball.

How hard is it to introduce a search function for a database on Blogger?  Asking for a friend.

Note: Not a Patreon post.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Hyperparabolic Macrologies

I wanted to write more about Yog, but before I can do that, I have to explain about these guys first.

A Story

Imagine that your world was dying.  Your sun was fading,  Ice and starvation begin to chew your civilizations apart.

And so you set out in a bizarre ship, it's design purchased at great cost from the greatest and farthest of the demons of the upper air.  It the wealth and time of an entire generation, but you set out.  You travel farther than the margins of your maps, farther than the light from your farthest stars, and beyond the trappings of conventional physics.

Finally, beyond the margins of the possible universe, you find an impossible one.  A place of slow time and unimaginable gulfs of space.  You find an entity that lives in that place.  It is colossal beyond imagining-a million miles long, itself more diverse than all of the ecosystems of your homeworld.

At first, your only contact is with the people that live upon it.  Whole civilizations nurture and instruct upon the entity's body, subsisting in secret among its detritus.  Many of your people choose this life, and leave your arcology forever. 

But certain members of your society wish to speak with the entity.  And so you do, though it takes many lifetimes to learn how to speak with it.  Your ship is of a comparable size--it is possible.  It takes a year to speak a couple of sentences to it, another year to hear the response, another year to decipher it.

Over the generations, you learn of the shapes and limits of this outer world.  You meet other entities, and although some of their thoughts and motivations are utterly inscrutable, you are still able to find common ground.  They, too, need to eat every few millenia.  Like you, they have children, some of which are shameful to them, others that are their pride.

These people are similar to bacteria.  We are the entities that they interact with, on an multi-generational timescale.  The hyperbolic macrologies are their arcology ships, which exist uncomfortably in our space.  It is uncertain whether they sprang from the same source, or if they all arrived independently.

Walking Arcologies

Having to deal with gravity, limbs, and "walking" is pretty alien to the worldview of bacteria.  About as strange as hyperspace would be to us.  Perhaps that's the closest analogy--a flying arcology that enters hyperspace and never leaves.

The macrologies exist in a variety of shapes, but the most common one is a sphere that walks on a series of articulated, metal limbs.  It's central sphere is almost indistinguishable beneath arrays of bulbous sensory apparatus, and its manipulator arms reflect a short-sighted series of past needs.  (For example, they build a page-turning hand, but it is too fine to be used for any other purpose.  They couldn't afford a better one--the act of building that simple manipulator nearly bankrupted them, and caused riots that lasted for generations.)

Sometimes they just hire someone to carry them around--a pitted metal pearl with a thousand subtle seams and apertures.  This is risky, though, and even these macrologies must be able to sprout legs when the need arises.  The importance of self-sufficiency is not lost of them.

Older, successful macrologies will have bodies attached to themselves, usually necromantic.  (The analogy breaks down a little bit here, but it would be equivalent to an ark ship attaching itself to the corpse of a space-god in order to better interact with an alien world.)

They can offer a few superlative services.  Playing chess!  Generating vast amounts of mediocre music and poetry!  The construction and repair of ultra-fine structures!  (They can pluck the flaws out of gemstones.)  Many of them become wizards.

The civilizations that exist inside the macrologies tend to be fundamentalist, autocratic regimes.  The true nature of the macrology is almost always hidden from the inhabitants--something that they've learned over many revolutions and purges.  By most accounts, they tend to be pretty brutal and uncompromising.

A macrology piloting the corpse of an ogre.
(Actually concept art from Bioshock Infinite.)
Interacting with Macrologies

Because of the sheer number of minds at work within macrology, you might think that they would be extremely intelligent.  And this is true--most of the time.  Although they have a billion minds thinking much faster than we could, they are prone to disruptions and errors of memory.  

"Why should I broadcast the answer to a problem that my great grandfather tasked me with?  There are no such things as Ancient Ones.  There is nothing out there but stars."

One of their "years" goes by approximately every 30 seconds.  Any task that lasts more than a few minutes requires a extremely stable power structure with immaculate record keeping.  

They have deep, synthetic voices.  They tend to talk fast.  They usually hate being told to speak slower--every second you delay costs them precious time.

Macrologies tend to be difficult to wake up in the morning--a thousand years pass every night, and the inheritor civilizations must follow the orders inscribed on their pyramids.  How do you get someone to carry out an instruction a thousand years in the future?  How do you ensure that type of consistency?

They are also prone to sudden bouts of torpor and inactivity, as their worlds are ravaged by civil wars and plagues.  Sometimes they simply destroy themselves unexpectedly, simply destroying themselves though pollution, genocide, or exposure to the outside air.  Dead macrologies can be sold to other macrologies for a hefty sum (a new world-ship!  a second chance!) unless the macrology is uninhabitable for some reason (radioactivity, billions of microscopic undead).

Working with them is also frustrating, because they are sometimes mildly contagious.  It is no uncommon for a (microscopic) ship to leave the macrology every hundred years or so, which is to say, roughly every hour.  If this tiny ark lands on you, you can expect to enjoy a skin rash called "gripworm".  This is the tiny descendants of the macrology attempting to subsist on you.

But within a few days (within a few thousand years) your immune system will fully mobilize to the site and the infection will clear up.  There has never been a recorded case of these tiny people living successfully outside of a macrology--our world is hostile to them in a way that is difficult to explain.

If you scrape out the inside of the blister, you will find the same thing that you will find inside a macrology: very complex dirt.

This post is inspired by a Scrap Princess post about a time bomb, that I cannot find for the life of me.  EDIT: This one.

EDIT: Stats

HD Armor plate  Ragged Claw 1d20+effect
Move dwarf  Int 14

Immune fire, ice, lightning, poison

Weakness sonic

Spells As level 3 wizard.
Sample Spells reverse gravity, emergency exit, transpose

Claw Effects [d3]
1 - Blind (until Con save).
2 - Cast all of your spells at once.  Save to choose target; otherwise random.
3 - Poison 1d6 (until Con save).

When a macrology succeeds on an Int roll, it succeeds in the way that a hypergenius would.  When a macrology fails an Int roll, it fails horrendously, as if it has forgotten something that happened a few minutes ago, or as if it were ignorant of some basic fact.

Saturday, March 28, 2020


All theories about the city of Yog are unlikely.

The Lost God

There is a story about Yog that is almost certainly false.  It goes like this.

A long time ago, there was a god of green places and a generous race.  In time, the people and their cities decayed under the weight of ancient wars and plagues, declined, and were destroyed.

Yog, the god of those people who was also those people, and was also their city, swore that they would not perish but instead persist, for ever and ever.  His lands become wastelands, became swamps, became verdant again.  Yog's eyes grew clouded but his mind became refined, honed to a singular edge by the scouring sands of his guilt.  His world was a distorted one, but he perceived the distortions clearly than he had ever seen the real world (because there is no such thing).

And so he brought them forth again.  

In the deepest bogs, toads went mad, bit off their tongues, and began pushing stones together.  Trees rotted and fell away, forming straight lines and avenues.  New springs burbled forth in the wilderness, forming fountains.

It was not in the same place, and the streets did not quite match the original, but what of it?  Memories are more real than dead stones laying under the peat.

In that place, all of the does miscarried, and all of the unborn crocodiles rotted inside the their shells.  The does became pregnant again, late in the season.  The crocodiles laid new eggs, much larger than the old.

The city had grown.  Sickly bears regurgitated seeds into half-way cleared fields.  Wild pigs dig ditches until they collapse.  The black pines are not apple trees, but they try their best--slick apples growing in clusters underneath the dark branches.  They are not quite apples, but Yog remembers the apples fondly, and how the children used to spit seeds into the creeks.

And the children!  Now they are arriving.  They crawl out of the mud on the riverbanks.  The does lie down and birth squalling babes.  They are malformed, but perhaps not as much as you might think.  They have a certain consistency.  In their minds, the deer speak, or perhaps Yog speaks, and they grow up with language.  They move into the warped city, filled with dirty stones and crooked streets.  To their eyes, the streets are straight and clean.  In their minds, their grandparents died last summer, instead of ten thousand years prior.  

The streets were made straight, the wild grasses were pulled up and proper wheat was sown.  The walls grew tall, even as the city began extending its roots downward, into the sacred spaces of Yog.  The walls grew thick, and knotted overhead.  The city has been here a long time.  The city never fell.  The city will be here for a long time.  The city is Yog.

Other people, and other cities, have heard this story and prayed to Yog for preservation.  Yog has heard them.

The Calculator

There is a story about Yog that is almost certainly false.  It goes like this.

According to this theory, Yog is not just the center of the world, but is in fact the purpose for the universe's existence, everything else having been built for the sake of the city at the center of everything.  

They say that the city is a thinking machine, a vast and unsympathetic device built prior to the universe to calculate some obscure function.  Or perhaps it is studying us, and every person inside its walls carries a variable of interest.

The fact that we cannot perceive the mechanism is only further proof of its sophistication and antiquity.

People inside Yog go mad with startling frequency, but the madness is specific and directed towards the city's goals.  A fisherman goes mad, forgets all language except for one that he never spoke, and spends a year carving spirals onto the walls.  A doctor, visiting the city for the first time, sees the spirals and goes mad, and spends the rest of her life building an empty tower before strangling a slave with an apron, and only then regaining her sanity.

These are all pieces of the same mechanism.  The parts that seem to be contradictory and opposed are merely the opponent pieces of a calculation.  Whichever faction triumphs over the other is just another binary logic gate, a domino that flipped one way or another, it's calculation finished.

And once the city has finished its calculation, the world will end, swept away by a flame that is swifter than thought.

Worm Steaks

There is a story about Yog that is almost certainly false.  It goes like this.

The worms that are farmed in Yog are victims of a subtle and ubiquitous parasite.  This parasite is not killed by cooking, and those who eat the worm steaks quickly become subjected to the city's own peculiar strain of madness.

Do not the beefworms build tunnels that echo the nonsensical architecture of Yog?  It does not take a large leap of deduction to discern the truth in the matter.  So what if the parasites are too small to be discerned?  It doesn't rule out their existence.  The parasites may be exceedingly fine, of a form not recognized, or perhaps even spiritual in nature.

This also explains the sensation of insects crawling upon the skin that so many experience as they attempt to sleep within Yog for the first time.  The insects are not real, but the sensation is still a warning from the depths of your mind.  Cut your skin and pull forth the long threads of this city's infection!  See?  These threads and nodules do not exist in the flesh of those who have never passed its gates.

And of course, the madness occasionally affects those who bring their own food into the city.  The flaked flesh of the worm is found on nearly every food in Yog.  And of course, on the flesh and breath of every creature within that city.  Best, then, to join the other wise folk in their daily baths of lye.

The rest of can be explained by the unstable geologies unique to the area.

The City of Yog

The northern boundary of Centerran maps is always a purple, equatorial landmass called the Madlands.  Its is nearly twice the size of Centerra, and is regarded as a place of madness, violence, and vice.

In the center of this place is the city of Yog.  Even in such a place, there are a few facts remain unchallenged, even by the lunatics.

First, the city has no formal power structure.  There is no King of Yog (although there are many kings in Yog), and the laws and taxes change from street to street, block to block.  This is not to say that there haven't been many attempts to unify Yog in the past.  (Some have almost been successful.)  But something about the city resists rulership.

The houses of Yog sometimes have allies in the neighboring cities of Bazozo, Zhul, Kel Bethor, and Farthest Vod.

Second, the city is always growing.  Residents (and sometimes visitors) are sometimes afflicted with the strange urge to build.  They will refuse all help, and sometimes spend the rest of their lives building vast, incomprehensible structures.  Mansions without doors.  Stairs too large to ascend.  The Apromenond is a system of pillared chambers beneath the city, flooded and filled with incomprehensible statues, that is used as a passage for ships.

(Buildings without any doors or windows are called 'spirit houses'.  Anyone with a pickaxe and a couple of hours can break into one, but this is considered unwise.  They are not always unoccupied.)

Third, the city is sinking.  This makes more room for new construction, and in fact, may be caused by all of the construction atop unprepared foundations.

Fourth, the city is much larger than it seems.  Infinite, some say.  One thing is certain, each labyrinthine sublevels are larger than the one above.  Certain places are impossible to access a second time--perhaps a function of the unsettled geology of the place, or perhaps something stranger.

Fifth, the people are mad.  (There are humans in Yog, but only as slaves.)  People are sometimes born from animals (sometimes virgin animals) who grow up speaking a language that no one else even recognizes, but who are sometimes able to read graffiti that had long been thought to be incomprehensible.

Visitors sometimes abandon their companions, declaring that they are some other person, from some other place, and that Yog is their true home.  They were confused, but now they can see clearly for the first time in their lives.

Many of them claim to be from distant places, and distant times.  Many claim to have died, after praying to Yog.  If a sailor drowns with Yog's name on his lips, and is reborn 600 years later in Yog from the womb of an anemic cow, does that count as a true resurrection?

Of course.

A lifelong resident looks at a mouldering wall and sees the face of Yog.  They listen to the murmur of the marketplace and hear the voice of the city.  The visitor hears and sees nothing, and is constantly in danger because of this.  Who, then, is mad?

And of course, the residents will tell you that they are sane, and it is you, the visitor, who is insane.  

What proof is there of the outside world?  You babble about Old Bospero and the Church, but those are meaningless noises.  Step past those gates, and you will wander the wastes deluded until you die.  The dundriago spawned you, you mad thing, and it will swallow you again when we are done with you.

The Dundriago

There is no analog for the ecosystem that surrounds Yog.

It is a desert, but the valleys are filled with strange forests of stiff growth that stretch upwards like the pale skeletons of dead leviathans.  Some are pale green.  Most are white.  A few are pink.  There are very few animals, but an astute traveler can can hear writhing underground.

Dundriago plants are generally formed with an extremely long taproot, long enough to access the subterranean seas, sometimes as deep as half a mile beneath the surface.  In these hidden oceans, they function as coral reefs, filtering out their food from the currents.

The part of the plant that extends above ground, then, mostly serves as a place for gas exchange to occur.  Leaves are reduced or (more commonly) absent.  There is no need for tall trunks, except to get above the dunes.  Without leaves, there is little that rots into dirt.  The plants are dry, but perhaps not as dry as you think.

The plants (who grew downwards) compete with the anthozoans (who grew upwards).  Some of the extrusions onto the surface are actual outgrowths of contiguous coral reefs that have their roots in the hidden seas, where they capture blind whales in their filaments and digest them over several years.

It's a complex ecosystem, since the plants of the dundriago respond to changes at both the surface and the subterranean sea (much to the confusion of the locals in both places).

The surface is hostile place.  Compared to a desert, the valleys of the dundriago at least offer shade.  Water is available to anyone who is willing to descend a few hundred feet down, to where the taproots thicken and branch.  But the dundriago is not without its own dangerous fauna, such as the poisonous voles and enormous, psychic beetles.  

And although they are rare, the flying worms of the dundriago are the most famous inhabitant of the dundriago.  Popular knowledge has them cutting horses in half and flying off with men's heads.  (These stories, at least, are accurate.)

Written for Jeff Russell, who wanted lore for a big city in Centerra, and for Sam Passanisi, who wanted to know more about the Darklands.  Thanks for being my patrons!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Goblin Filthomancer

How Human Sages Explain Filthomancy

How much information is there on a sheet of printed paper?

There's the printed words, and all of their coded and uncoded meanings.  Perhaps the choice of font and ink can tell you about the era and region of origin.  The paper can tell stories, too, of trees and glue and grinding metal.

Now, tear the paper up.  Has the information increased or decreased?

A clever mind can match the edges, and a steady hand can reassemble them.  All of the original information is still there--and a great deal more.  What was the shape of the hand that tore the paper?  Fingers, claws, or blades?  Was the force strong or subtle?  Was the paper gnawed upon as if by vermin, or was it carefully folded before its trauma?

There are obvious limitations--the system gains information even as it loses accessibility, and of course completeness is always a problem.  But these are not insurmountable.  The elegant mathematics of chaos can unmix two dyes as well as it can blend them.  Decay informs as much as construction.

Now that you know this, you must realize that a rotten tome contains a secret chapter, accessible only to some.  The filthomancers know this--they know that a handful of grave dust can speak louder than the living man ever did.  It is truly a wonderous lens through which they gaze out at us, learning carpentry from ashes, and hearing long-dead voices sing out in the crunch of a dead leaf.

How Goblin Filthomancers Explain Filthomancy

Okay, okay.  Shut up.

The first thing you want to do is--

I said shut up!  Clasp ya hole or yammer afar, cotter's bean!

The first thing ya start doing, is you gotta start stretching.  Stretch yer hoops!  Yer neck!  Not your pungies, though.

Practice bending over, then touching your toes.  Thenways, ya fine a big rock with a crack in it and you start sleeping innit, folded over.  If you can't sleep whats bendwise folded, drink some scumbo to grease yer dreams.

Wait, shit.  No, shit.  Wait.  The first thing ya do is stop bathing.  That's the most important thing.  I should have started with that.

Second thing you do is make flexible.

Once you're flexible enough to bend right around, you gotta stick ya face into your own crotch.  Really--and I can't stress this enough--you really gotta stick ya nose in there.  Ya smell that?  That's yer fundus, yer fundament, that's ya animal soul, what ya been ignoring.  That's the real you.

Anyway, then you hyperventilate until you pass out.  Try to get your nostrils to cover your whole taint.

This is the start of self-awareness, and that's the start of business.

from WHFRP, 1st Edition
The Goblin Filthomancer


You lose all of your spellcasting abilities if you are ever cleaned.  Gently easing yourself into the water is fine, but if you fall into water or spend more than a minute in the stuff, you lose your spellcasting.  You can regain your spellcasting by spending 10 minutes rolling around in a dirty place.


Immunity from stench.

Theories of Dust -- decrepit or crumbling books are always legible.

(More broadly, no method of destruction can obscure the information content of an object, as long as all of the pieces are there.  You can smash a chair into tiny splinters and a filthomancer can still tell you what the original carvings were.  Burning makes a book inaccessible (since a lot of information leaves with the smoke).  Likewise, using a statue to make cement also obscures the statue, since not all pieces of the statue are visible.  A stone tablet that has been ground into dust is still 100% readable, and just as easily as the original object.)

Starting Equipment

Giant Back Scratcher (as staff),

Bag of "Magic Dust" (mostly skin flakes) that they sometimes cast on objects but also causes sneezing.

Spellbook (varies, but is usually encoded into their tangled, dirty hair)

While filthomancers can grind their spellbook into dust as use it just as easily, sacks of dust tend to get blown away by wind or dispersed by water, and so dust-books are shunned by adventuring filthomancers (but not sedentary ones--sedentary filthomancers use all sorts of things as "books", and eventually learn to use broken housewares as easily as intact ones).


1. barf
2. burp
3. booger
4. decrepitate
5. dust bunny
6. entropium
7. fart
8. mend
9. piss
10. psychometry

T: self  R: 10' cone  D: 0
You take [dice] damage unless you've eaten in the last 30 minutes.  All objects in range take [sum] acid damage.

As message, except that it carries [dice] words and [dice] smells, delivered in any order you wish.  Also gives you a new saving throw against any ingested or inhaled poison.

T: self  R: 1 mile  D: until divested
You pick a booger out of your nose.  You have [dice] senses that extend through the booger.  Sight counts as two senses.  If you put your booger in someone else's nose, you can also control what they smell.  Flicking a booger with any accuracy requires an attack roll.

Sidebar: Goblin Greetings
A quick tug on the nose is a casual hello, but friends usually greet each other by picking their nose and putting the booger into their friend's nose.  Because of this, blowing your nose is considered very rude.

T: object  R: 50'  D: 0
Object ages.  You can age a single part of a living creature by [sum] years.  Objects damaged by the passage of time take [sum] damage and become tarnished.  This is the opposite of mend.  This spell is also useful for aging wine instantly.  If decrepitate is cast on an object multiple times, only the highest [sum] applies.

Dust Bunny
T: dust  R: 10'  D: until you cast another spell
You spit into the dust and create [dice] dust bunnies.  They're basically just soot sprites from Spirited Away.

T: object  R: touch  D: 6 rounds
A touched object becomes more disordered.  The letters in a book become more scrambled every round.  A soup becomes extremely well-mixed.  A trombone warps to become out of tune.  And a living creature takes [dice] damage each turn, as their face and organs become slightly asymmetrical.  (The damage mostly comes from mild, systemic hemorraging, as certain capillaries no longer line up quite right.)

T: creature  R: 100'  D: 1 minute
You rip a tremendously loud fart.  Although others may get faint whiffs of it, only your target will smell its full strength.  As message, except the only message a single, chosen foetor and does [sum] stench damage.  If this damage does not kill the target, the damage vanishes 2 rounds later.

T: object  R: 50'  D: 0
An object repairs itself.  Broken swords rejoin, and ancient metal regains its luster.  Objects regain [sum] hit points.  Because the scars and mental clutter are essential to wisdom, if you cast this spell on someone's head within 10 minutes of them making a decision, they have a [sum]-in-20 chance of behaving foolishly.

T: self  R: 0  D: 0
If you are poisoned, you piss out the poison.  This works on drunkenness.  Additionally, if you invest 2 MD, the piss poison retains its potency, and can be reused.  Additionally, if invest 3 MD, you can piss up to 50' away.  Additionally, if you invest 4 MD, it also works on curses.

T: object: R: self  D: 10 minutes
You learn the physical history of an object, essentially learning about everything that has affected that object.  Every scuff, every sun-fade, every ingrained odor.  1 MD yields you minor revelations, while 4 MD gives you a staggering, encyclopedic knowledge of the object's entire history (down to learning about the wildlife that lived on the mountains where the ore was mined that was used to make the sword).

Legendary Spells of the Filthomancer

These spells are not learned by leveling up.  Instead, they are discovered in dungeons and other perilous places.

T: spell or magic effect  R: 50'  D: permanent
Only works on spells that have a duration.  (Permanent and instantaneous spells are unchanged).  You can choose to either double the intensity while halving the duration, or vice versa.  You must invest a number of MD equal to (or greater than) the strength of the spell effect.

Power Word: Shit
T: self  R: 0  D: 8 hours
You take a big, smelly shit.  Your shit stinks to everyone except [dice] categories of creatures that you have chosen to exclude.  Those creatures take [dice] damage per round that they smell your shit.  A creature is immune to this damage if they pinch their nose (requires a hand) and close their eyes tightly.  Regardless of damage and spell immunity, all affected creatures are repulsed by your shit as if by antipathy.  You can only cast this spell once per day, and only if you ate a big dinner the night before.  You can throw your shit up to 50', but it requires a second action.

Where is Filth?

A lot of the filthomancer's abilities depend on being able to spit in dusty place, or to roll around in a dirty place.  These qualities depend on your DM (and you should ask how common they are before you roll a filthomancer) but it is fair to say that your average dungeon is probably quite filthy.

I found this guy when I googled "garbage goblin" and he is also quite lovely.
From here.