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.


  1. Are you thinking of the Flowering Bomb from this article?

  2. Replies
    1. Sorry if I fangirl a little much over these btw! I just quite like your writing style and imagination

  3. Would you believe that I had, up to two years ago a eerily similar idea for a player race for Pathfinder? They were ancient egyptian themed, half-undead, half-construct's called Ushabtiu. Like, I didn't have a name for what they were or anything and your's is definitely better than whatever my half-concocted silliness was. It's really cool knowing that someone actually made something similar to my silly idea!

  4. Hah! I was thinking of alien caddisfly communal coccoons that worked like this on a more modest scale, I love the idea of an autocrat concealing the existence of the outer world from their fellows. If the caddisfly adults are non-sapient a larva implanted with a not!wasp parasite that hard-codes neoteny might go from one nest of naïve grubs to the next, guiding through the dangerous world as long as the spin and articulate a shell-body for it.

    1. Well I feel silly, I forgot that I cribbed the engineered neoteny idea from the Ungreya post. Come to think of it the wood and spittle hive-tanks might have come from some bloke on deviantart too.

  5. I couldnt help but notice the phrase deomons of the upper air at the beginning.
    Does this prove the heralds of the immaculate morning to have the correct theology?

  6. It took me like, three re-reads to understand wtf was going on. Well worth it!