Friday, January 14, 2022


Imagine a 2d wizard, living entirely in the photon-thin surface of your television screen, who learns about the existence of a third dimension--hitherto unobserved by himself.

Wizzrobe from Zelda (1986)

And even though the two-dimensional wizard might have some understanding of these spaces and its inhabitants, the wizard still has no way to interact with it.  None of his tools give him the ability to interact with the world in a three-dimensional way.  Even his mightiest spells are two-dimensional.

So what that wizard needs is a three-dimensional tool.  Even a humble instrument would give him the purchase he needs to begin his three-dimensional machinations.  But it is difficult--so crushingly difficult--to construct such things from two-dimensional tools.

But by now you already understand that all of this is just an analogy for three-dimensional wizards struggling to interact with the four-dimensional universe, so let us speak plainly.

A tool that allows a three-dimensional creature to access the fourth dimension is called a tetravect.

The smallest four-dimensional organisms are gorbels, and many wizards attempt to summon the blasted creatures and attempt to make a tetravect from  their bodies (which have organs that grow fourth-dimensionally).  This is a difficult road--gorbels are maddeningly obtuse in both mindset and biology.  (For example, every dissection presents a new set of organs.)

Geminoids are also an option, but no one knows their true nature yet.

Second, other wizards may also attempt to summon slaad, but they are fools.  Slaad interact with the multiverse, which is entirely different from the fourth dimension.

The third and final option is to build a tetravect out of three-dimensional parts.  (This is akin to building a cube out of squares, or building a hypercube out of cubes.)  The resulting creature is a triphage (or more commonly, a tirapheg).  

We'll come back to tiraphegs in a second.  Let's talk more about gorbels first.


Only a fucking idiot would attempt to reach the fourth dimension with a gorbel-based tetravect scheme, and yet it happens often enough that we had better stat out the little monsters.

Gorbels are red, rubbery orb creatures.  They have three eyestalks that can be retracted inside their head.  They have two blubbery baby arms that terminate in bulky claws.  And they have a dull, drooling mouth that hides a decent set of fangs.  They are 2-3' in diameter, and they weigh less that you think.

Gorbel from the Fiend Folio (1981)
Does anyone know who the illustrator is?


Lvl 3  Def leather  Bite 1d6

Climb average  Int 2  Dis oblivious

Rubbery - Immune to bludgeoning damage and falls.  Bounces as well as a basketball.

Self-Insertion - Whenever a gorbel takes damage, it splits into two nearly-identical gorbels (with the same current HP).  (This the actually a different insertion of the same gorbel, but don't worry about that.)

Spike Burst - When a gorbel is killed, it deals 1d4 piercing damage to all creatures within 10'.  Dex save for half.

Psuedoresurrection - Gorbels that die have a 4-in-6 chance of reappearing 1d6 minutes later at some location within 200'.

Gorbels are difficult to keep in captivity.  When bored, they bite themselves (creating more gorbels) or engage in "barbering" where they bite the eyestalks off of other gorbels.  They are famously difficult to entertain, and gorbel-keepers are advised to hire professional entertainers.  (Gorbels enjoy slapstick and children's stories.  At no point do they laugh, smile, or show any reaction.  If bored, they will wander off and commit mischief.)

Wizards who wish to keep gorbels are advised to have a disintegrator on hand so that excess gorbels can be killed instantaneously.  They will also need a system to hunt down psuedoresurrected gorbels and throw them into the disintegrator.

Gorbel-keepers are also advised to construct their lair in such a way as to avoid Gorbel Resonance Cascades.  GRCs occur when a gorbel takes damage in such a way that when new gorbels are inserted into existence, they also take damage.  A pit of acid can cause GRCs.  So can a small room with strong walls.  Once more and more gorbels are bent into a space, they can begin taking crush damage from all of the other gorbels, creating a runaway reaction that can explode castles and collapse dungeons.

And of course, the sequela of a GRC is always a bunch of gorbels reappearing in the area.  Gorbels can become aggressive when they outnumber non-gorbels by a large margin.

It is not known what type of food gorbels actually eat.  They obviously get hungry, and they are always trying to eat things, but nothing seems to give them sustenance and most things cause them to vomit and take damage. 

They are famously oblivious.  Roll a d3 when you encounter one to determine its disposition.

1 - Oblivious.  Ex: staring into the sun.  Aggressive if touched.

2 - Distracted.  Ex: trying to eat a rock, gagging, and throwing it back up again.  Aggressive if touched.

3 - Aggressive.  Will try to eat you while shouting its name.  Aggressive gorbels in adjacent rooms will hear the commotion and come bouncing in.

Magic Items of the Gorbels

In the process of making a tetravect from a gorbel, there will be many failed attempts.

Gorbelblood Potion 

Creates a clone of the drinker without any clothing or items.).  Prepared spells are split randomly between the two.  Yes, if you use it on a PC, you can now control two identical PCs.  After 1 hour, one of the two clones (determined randomly) melts painfully over the course of five minutes. 

The name of the potion is a bit of a misnomer, as gorbels lack blood, instead having a pneumatic circulatory system.

Gorbel Bile

Comes in a vial with 5 applications.  Each application of bile reduces an objects weight by 20 lbs, down into the negative weights.  Smaller doses can be applied, if you wish.  Lasts 1 hour.

If applied to a 20 lb object, the object now becomes weightless.  A second application causes the object to weigh -20 lbs, and causing it to fall upwards if not secured.  A third application causes it to weigh -40 lbs, and so on.  

If drank, each application gives you +2 to jumping and -2 to shoving (and similar).

The name of this potion is absolutely accurate.  Gorbels are 50% bile by weight--although distilling it correctly is another challenge.

Gorbel Bone Chariot

Gorbels are boneless.  Inducing osteogenesis in gorbels is a biomantic and spiritual challenge.  So is removing them, since gorbel corpse disappear shortly after their death.

A successful gorbel bone chariot is a successful tetravect--the point of this whole exercise.  The chariot described below is only one form that a gorbel-based tetravect could take.  The chariot is a spherical cage, 10' in diameter, made from chrome-plated gorbel bones.  When used, all creatures inside the cage are shifted along a fourth-dimension access to a place a few centimeters outside our universe.  The rider with the highest Charisma is the "driver" and controls the function of the chariot.

Unlike most (spirit-facilitated) teleports, this is a "sharp" teleportation.  Anyone who is halfway in the chariot when it teleports will be cut in half.  If you teleport into a solid object you will be fused with it.  It sounds like a thundercrack every time it is used, and hearing protection is strongly recommended.

There is no three-dimensional air out there.  Anyone who uses the chariot without fully exhaling and relaxing their airways will take 1d6 Con damage (if reduced to 0 Con, the result is lung eversion and death).  Even with that precaution, anyone remaining in an extradimensional space will lose consciousness after 2 rounds.  (I'm glossing over the other effects, like the nitrogen bubbles and edema.  You honestly need a space suit.)

From here, you can observe any location as if you could see through walls.  Additionally, you can teleport to any visible location with 1000'.  Each of these two usages causes the passengers to gain 1 point of Trauma.  

If you see a gorbel's true form from this vantage point, take another point of Trauma.


  1. Deriving 4th-dimensional access from the Slaad isn't entirely insane. It's just mostly insane. See, a lot of tetravect building projects rely on chance and untested thaumaturgy. The Slaad can sense potential outcomes (and are drawn to interesting ones). If you notice that your caged Slaad have stopped grumping and are now watching intently, faces pressed against the shimmering glass walls of their prison, you know you're close to a great discovery.

    Of course, there's no guarantee that what you're about to discover is a tetravect. Or, indeed, survivable.

    1. Yes but the slaad also do that when you're about to choke to death on a sandwich.

    2. You must know some academics. If you offered any of them a magic frog that'd predict great discoveries and/or sandwich-based death (or its equivalent), do you really think they'd turn it down?

  2. First post of 2022 is a banger. Great stuff as always, Arnold!

  3. Oh wizards, and their terrible solutions to problems they make up.

  4. I'm reminded a bit of the ORZ from Star Control 2

  5. Are gorbels actually stupid, or do we just fail to understand what they're doing?

  6. You can easily survive space and stay conscious for like ten seconds at a time. So I guess that's what you have in the 4th dimension. Is there radiation there? Because that might be the bigger concern.

    1. One potential issue is spherically polarized light (the 4D equivalent of circularly polarized light), where the electromagnetic field vector rotates through a plane perpendicular to the direction vector and through the 4th dimension.

      This explains why Gorbels have retractable eyestalks (calibration), and how you can get a sunburn on the inside of your body.

      (This doesn't actually explain that, but nobody needs to know. It can be our little secret).

  7. This is some really cool shit. so to make a chariot you need magic that turns a gorble to bones and then make those bones permanent instead of fading after death and then make a thing out of those. Cool.

  8. I think the illustrator is Alan Hunter.