Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creepy "Empty" Room Features

Inspired by a recent post by +Humza K , and just in time for Halloween, here's a list of features for "empty" rooms that hopefully help establish or maintain a creepy horror vibe.

1. Rat corpse, dismembered in a way that indicates cannibalism by other rats.

2. A feast has been prepared, a fire is roaring in the chimney/pit, but the floor is caked with dust and the footprints of vermin. The feast has not been touched by decay or animals.

3. A lived-in room, once-nice things worn with use, a radiator along the wall is roiling with building heat and releasing steam in a growing hiss.

4. A stark but clean room, full of life-sized figures seated on their ankles. It is nigh-impossible to tell if they are very still but alive, well-made statues, or automatica. The ambient breeze complicates testing for breath. There is a sense of intruding.

5. Items lay in disarray, covering the floor and every surface; papers, food scraps, clothing, tools; clear signs of use but not any sane organization.

6. A workbench with tools hanging from hooks. Someone has recently crafted a perfect replica of an item owned by one of the PCs, which is still on the workbench. (Then the candles blow out?)

7. Air rushes into the musty room as you open the door. A chair moves, the curtains ruffle as if shaken.

8. A comfortable, well-appointed seating room with a severed finger in a goblet.

9. Prison and torture chamber, empty now, cleaned poorly.

10. Everything in this room is in visible negative, including any who enter it. Color and shade are reversed.

11. Growling and scratching from within the walls. You are compelled to whisper.

12. Scratched stone, burnt wood, scattered plant dyes. A crude replica of something the PCs have recently discussed is on the floor, fashioned by clumsy, large hands.

13. There is a map of this area beautifully engraved and painted into the tabletop or wall. In some of the rooms, there is a red X next to a recently painted name - some the PCs, some not.

14. Many live rats hang from strings attached to the very high ceiling; there is also one cat.

15. All the shadows are the wrong direction from the firelight; any PC entering the room's shadow will detach and flee.

16. Half the room is carpeted green, half red. An old skeleton with a dagger through it's heart and a scrap of parchment that reads, "the bravest move left". Old "armor" that turns out to be made of upholstery.

17. Many insects lie dormant under rugs and furniture in this room, only stirring as creatures enter and make noise.

18. 1-2 raggedly dressed figures with horribly distended features do nothing but scream. Manacles hang from the wall. The creatures will not defend themselves, or stop screaming.

19. A large black horse, grunting and steaming, it's eyes red. It's too big to get out of the room, and will turn toward any intruders to stare intently.

20. Exactly like the room in this spot in the last area, down the the finest detail.

Discuss or keep the table going on G+ here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dispatch from Airlann

To: Daimyo Matsushita Katsu
for immediate copy to The One Honorable Shogun of the Empire of Three Suns

An Elephantitan has been spotted near a town at the edge of our occupied territory. It is unknown at this time under whose providence it appears.
-the Seamair Óg rebels have acquired one and are preparing for a raid
-The Sidhe required an illusory cover for some trick or other mischief
-A Thamud group have travelled here from near the Colossal Wastes. As trade has not been interrupted, it can be surmised there is no war party, but otherwise the motives of such a group would be mysterious.

If the Seamair Og, they likely acquired one from the Thamud or Waste Giants; either way, it may be a way to get one of these groups to assist in patrolling our farther borders.
If the Sidhe, a high alert for shapeshifters and new love must be issued, but proof must be gained first. I await your wisdom in this matter.

Your faithful warrior,
Takenaka Daisuke

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Hell of Jakob Isaacsz von Swanenburgh and inventing religions

Zak S's latest excellent art post got me paging through my Rembrandt book again, where I ran into (a better reproduction of) the painting below, by Rembrandt's first master, Jacob Isaacsz von Swanenburg (as it's written in the book; the post title is as it's written on artnet)
"It appears that he...specialized in depicting street scenes, architectural views, and nocturnal occult subjects."
 -Rembrandt, by Christopher Baker, Brompton 1993

The Sibyl showing Aeneas the Underworld

Breugel not enough for you? Swanenburg seemed to specialize in scenes of hell with a gaping maw at the lower right.

You could make a game out of catching the similarities and differences between the above and below:
Charon's Boat

Canadian death metal band Sympathy used a detail for their 2005 EP Abyssal Throne (well, their designer Samuel Durling did):

These aren't anything necessarily revelatory, but kind of fun:
Harrowing Hell

The gate-demon in this one is kinda like Falcor gone very wrong:
The Final Judgement and Seven Deadly Sins

His The Fall of Troy is a departure:

Thinking about Seven Deadly Sins solidified something I've been thinking about regarding inventing fantasy religions, based on how I think some real religions formed.
If you have a history for your setting, or just some ideas for it, think about what things the authorities would have had trouble getting the populace to do in different regions, what behaviors they would have wanted to encourage or discourage in the populace. The religions that would promote that which those in authority want to encourage and make taboo that which the authorities wanted to discourage would have gotten a boost from those authorities, and be more dominant.
Wish I had more time to develop that, but it's a start.

Monday, September 22, 2014

There is only The City

I'm working on too many things to run games for at least another month, and don't have the spare brain cycles to make new posts, but I thought I'd raid my drafts folder for interesting almost-finished things, polish them, and dribble them out over the next few weeks, probably Mondays.

Things keeping me busy, if you're curious:
-drawings for winners of The Crystal-Headed Contest,
-a sandboxy historical-fiction sci fi adventure that may get published at some point,
-ideas for a new setting that I'd run in a home game and online simultaneously that's quite different from what i've run before, but also similar,
-and non-gaming related comics and stories.

I wrote the below in 2012 and here it sits, a draft still. I feel like I posted this at some point, but can't find evidence of that, and so here - I hope it inspires someone. I posted some tables I wrote to go with this prompt last year.

[Images: From "Dream Isle" by CJ Lim/Studio 8 Architects with Thomas Hillier, Maxwell Mutanda, Rachel Guo, and Ed Liu, from Short Stories: London in Two-and-a-Half Dimensions]. I saw it on BLDGBLOG here.

The mad say there is a city outside time; that it is some obscure mechanism of time. Ugly at first, for one has most often reached it through that dull, monochrome waste which surrounds it, The city's many colors become comforting and familiar after long hours. The mad describe this City as a repulsive mental embrace, squamous and cold, into which one settles as it becomes warmed by one's own heat; a wrinkle of the mind whose very cloying nature becomes respit.

Sages and scholars who have studied it claim that all who travel between worlds appear in the City, as a patch of light or shadow, an instant too short for the traveler to notice. Finding a way to linger a moment longer, they would find it strangely familiar, adventurers and devils both, though they could not say why.

Sages and scholars claim there is much to be gained in the City: great knowledge, deadly weapons, odd treasures, ideas out of time. Perhaps the City lies at the heart of all things, and if one found a reliable way to reach it, one could traverse time and the planes at will. Without a doubt, those who claim knowledge of The City are mad. Their minds could not contain what is in the cracks between worlds, and have ruptured.

One such sage now requests your attention. Beneath a lonely mountain he believes he has located the lost mechanical city of Abah-tai. It is not the City of faded color described above, but Garallur believes the ancient Abah-taiese had found some trick, some mechanism for traveling Between; indeed he claims they could visit The City at will and had established trade with other planes. Garallur needs adventurers to accompany him into the mechanical city and discover what lost technologies there may be. He offers pay, and the lion's share of whatever wealth or weapons are found.
Abah-Tai was lost at the height of it's power an age ago, sunken beneath the ground in a momentous geological event. If you are successful, you could be the first sane person in a millenium to find the secrets of not one lost city, but two.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Santicore 2014 Requests Are Open!

As a humble requestor this year, I'm delighted to see the crack team of Hellves and Paindeer get things rolling.

Go request stuff!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Goddess of War, Chaos, Magic, Confusion

As is her wont, the Tyrannosaurus Hex which ascended into godhood has changed her requirements for clergy completely. Some believe it is because the settlements of Kalak-Nur had adapted to her strange worshippers and began to understand her ways.
Whatever the reason, her new clergy are as follows.

As Cleric, but without spell progression chart.

Gains the ability to cast spells by acquiring mutations and madnesses. For every mutation, madness (or other similar significant physical change) gained, the character may cast their Experience level worth of spell levels per day. So a third level Cleric of NBLML with one mutation could case three first level spells, one first and one second, or one third level spell.
For every non-spell action that directly leads to the death or rescue from death of more than one soul, the Cleric may cast spells as if they had one more mutation for the remainder of that day.
If the Cleric causes a situation where a creature changes their actions because they believe a falsehood, the Cleric casts spells as if they have one additional mutation the rest of the day.

May use any weapons or armor, but for every point of AC improvement above 2 from normal armor and every die bigger than a d4 a normal weapon wielded does, the Cleric casts spells as if she had one less mutation.
So: a Cleric of NICE BOOTS LET'S MAKE LOVE who had two mutations and wears Chain Mail (improves AC by 4) and wields a Short Sword (d6 damage) could not cast any spells.
Were that same cleric to wear Leather (improves AC by 2) and wield a dagger (d4 damage), they could cast spells as normal.

Every beneficial spell cast by a Cleric of NBLML has a % chance equal to the Cleric's level to cause a mutation to the recipient, unless the recipient is a Cleric of NBLML. Her worshippers are to seek mutations from other sources. Her "gifts" are for those that are not yet her Clerics.

Once per level, however, the Cleric may attempt to manifest her holy favor. This is done by acquiring a body part of a significantly different creature and performing a ritual to attempt to graft it to oneself. This includes skin (scales/fur/etc), natural weapons, or strange abilities (Beholder's Eye, Rust monster tentacle, etc - the part cannot be from a creature with more than double the character's HD if magical).
The character must roll under their combined WIS and CON on a percentile die to be successful. For every 100 GP spent on precious materials (which are consumed in the ritual), the roll has a bonus of 1 (success is 1 easier). If successful, the graft is permanent and counts as a mutation.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Taking a break from gaming (except for the fun times Friday for AntiGenCon) and reading the latest BREAK!! teaser got my mind working on what holes there might be to fill in the FLAILSNAILSoverse on the fateful day I have time to run a game regularly again. Also probably inspired by my rabid watching of Hell on Wheels and there being so much gold in The Mines of Bloodstone.

So what is an unconscious/accidental/un-gamed accretion of resources that need more ways to be exhausted creatively and strategically? FLAILSNAILS PCs tend to be poor...until they're not. People who play a lot have rich ass characters, but because of the inherently episodic nature of habitual FLAILSNAILING, the usual domain game doesn't apply-even when it does (the character gets a stronghold) - because it's more fun to have monsters attack the players and run dungeons and stuff.

This makes me want to come up with a fun way for characters to spend LOTS of cash. Strongholds, maintenance and upkeep, hiring staff en mass, recovering from weather and attacks by both armies and monsters, building infrastructure to facilitate native economy, then maintaining that infrastructure (the steam-genie train between Patrick and Chris's strongholds is being robbed! G+ Hangout at 11! or command your forces pbp to colonize the orcs, har har), riff on Zak and others' battlefield command minigames from blogs...

Maybe a use for the FLAILSNAILS quarter, like, a new territory opens up so you've got your shitty flat in the city but spend enough coin and start your own damn...

Somewhere between a wargame, euro strategy board game, and play by post with occasional hangouts? Man, I don't know. I still want to figure out a Pendragon/Stormbringer/BootHill mashup for Gun Knights of Kalak-Nur, too, but any of this would be months away.

Like, this could even be a generative way for old characters to define a world for new characters, with outside elements being randomly generated then...AHHH

ANYWAYS back to work.

A note on terms: while I recognize FLAILSNAILS and ConstantCon as separate ideas that by necessity overlap, and not as the same thing, I have adopted the common usage here of using "FLAILSNAILS" and "FLAILSNAILING" to mean both or either.