Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Goblin Market Generator

Like the Yoon-Suin market generator but with goblins. Could fruitfully be used with the Hexcrawl of the Marcher Lords. For each street of the market roll once on the goods table, 1d3 times on the encounter table and once on the games table. Then scatter a bunch of these and these around. Zak's goblin market post is also useful - I feel like almost everyone has had a go at this at one time or another.

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Fatal Shaft

The empire faced an epidemic of crime. The war had drained their coffers, the population was exploding and the ancient elite clung to what little capital was left, enclosing common land and replacing human workers with hideous new machines. The rural poor terrorised the highways and the urban slum-dwellers haunted the filthy streets, publicly indulging in unnameable sins, ready to do anything for their daily crumb of bread and tot of gin. Worse - Levellers, Radicals and Chartists were active among the mob, organising them to rise against their betters. Something had to be done.

When children toiling in the darkest part of the Cedarbrook Mine found a shaft sunk deep into the earth - a shaft that could have been dug by no human hand - Parliament was quick to act. The blind, emaciated survivors of the First Expedition were hastily packed off to asylums and secluded estates in the country, but the notes and maps they carried home were endlessly poured over by Her Majesty's patient administrators. The discovery - a vast, sprawling cavern system, home to clusters of edible black fungus, accessible only from above - could not have been more perfectly suited to the Empire's needs. They decided to name the settlement Fort Providence.

The army jury-rigged a rope elevator. At its first use the rope snapped, sending a basket-load of convicts clattering down into the dark. Their mangled corpses were never found. The second load of settlers survived for months in near-darkness, on starvation rations dropped down from the surface, desperately trying to work out how to farm the fungus. Parliament intended the colony to be self-sufficient - they resented having to pay for it. It took several years for the convicts, working under military supervision, to hack out houses in the cavern walls and get the hang of subterranean agriculture. Only when they struck a vein of copper did the town really begin to grow.

Decades later, the colony of Miasma thrives. The earliest convicts worked off their seven-year sentences, obtained their tickets of leave, were granted land by the government and a fresh supply of felons to work it. Their children are dark-adapted cave urchins, raised on half-believed tales of the bright lands above. They're allowed to return to the surface but rarely wish to. The First Subterranean Regiment, nicknamed the Devil's Own, are a rum-swilling, unshaven, sadistic mob who enforce the Governor's laws with bayonet and manleather whip. Fort Providence, in its bottle-shaped cavern with its huge central guard-tower, has a church, a hospital, a newspaper. Convicts who violate its myriad laws are dragged off to the secondary hells - satellite colonies in the surrounding caves, established to terrorise and punish those felons who are recalcitrant or incorrigibly criminal by nature. They are all governed by their own sinister Wardens, and all awful. Some contain their own tertiary hells. Nobody knows how far it goes. You can get sent there just for looking at a soldier in a funny way.

Anyone can walk away from Miasma into the surrounding caves at any time. The Veins are so insanely dangerous that most people who do just die, or are returned by Volumefolk or wandering Olm in exchange for rewards. The colony, being supported by a surface state, is very rich by Veins standards. The Devil's Own employ a few Olm trackers on a semi-permanent basis. On the other hand, it's not unknown for a tribe of Veins natives to take an escaped convict in and teach them how to survive in the underworld. These lucky few become Veinrangers - preying on the colony's outskirts, raiding their fungus-farms, stealing a sonic pig or two and vanishing back into the darkness. The PCs begin as convicts in a chain gang, brutalised by a heartless overseer, on the verge of being flogged to death. Escape is their first challenge. Becoming a band of Veinrangers is the second. The campaign's final goal is to find a way back to the surface. The obvious way is the rope elevator in the central shaft above Fort Providence - it can only be operated from above, and gravity is the enemy.

  1. Mandatory silence, darkness, solitary confinement. Based on the Auburn System. Prisoners weave silk from ultraviolet caterpillars.
  2. Half-flooded tunnels too low for a man to stand. Prisoners shuck black pearls from cave-oysters and slowly forget how to walk upright.
  3. Opal mine. Prisoners keep a fraction of their finds, must use it to pay for food and lodging. Meant to teach virtues of industry. Lots of gambling.
  4. Slowly flooding cells with four convicts apiece. Heavy crank pumps the water out - one person must always be turning it.
  5. Farming unusually huge black fungi. Near a natural fission reactor - convicts are rapidly and grotesquely mutated.
  6. Cramped cages dangling above lakes of lava, their iron bars agonisingly hot. The guards drop food-scraps from above and the prisoners must catch them.
(this is all based on Robert Hughes' classic of Australian history, The Fatal Shore, which I have just read. also there's a joke here about Down Under but I can't figure out what it is. I might do more on the Hells later but also maybe not)

Monday, 5 February 2018

Tools of the Goblin Pirates

Sail south from Yoon-Suin and you come to a chain of atolls and volcanic islands that I don't have a name for yet. They're home to dozens of bickering feudal clans, governed by a puppet Empress who never leaves her floating palace. Sengoku Japan + Miyazaki + Wind Waker + Lafcadio Hearn's ghost stories + Polynesia + Skull Island, with samurai privateers and an untouchable caste of animist priests whose job it is to keep the giant monsters in line. Also goblin pirates. Here are some things the goblin pirates have:

1. Bluebottle Blunderbuss. A hessian sack full of stinging blue man-of-war hydrozoa (technically not jellyfish), crammed into the barrel of a lion's-mouth cannon and set off at close range to entangle you in sticky blue strands of raw agony. Sometimes blows up the cannon and splatters everyone in range with bits of poison tentacle.

2. Divine Dragon Engine. A battery of rocket-propelled fire arrows, all lit from a single fuse, designed to rain bushels of flaming death upon the decks of enemy ships. Wildly inaccurate but good for igniting sails and terrifying sailors. Goblins love these but everyone knows how to make them - countermeasures include armoured turtle ships, fireproof leather sails, bucket chains up the mast and appealing to the kodamas of the ship's wood for protection.

3. Porcupine Mine. Poisonous blowfish inflated to bursting point with lighter-than-air volcanic gasses. Brushing against their spines causes paralyzing seizures. Touching them with fire or squeezing them too tightly makes them explode, hurling spines everywhere. Can be tied to the ends of long poles as a boarding weapon, released in clouds to cover an escape, used in bundles as makeshift scouting balloons.

4. Silken Wings of War. Rocket-propelled triangular kites painted with tigers and skeletons. Goblins can travel over a mile in these, letting them board your ship from what you thought was a safe distance away. Obviously half of them crash into the sea or explode. Slower box-kites are used without the rockets to soar overhead, riding the wind, dropping sea-snakes and burning pitch down onto enemy decks.

5. Hunger Dust. Dried, concentrated goblin guano. Sprinkled on the ocean's surface, it attracts marine predators from miles around and drives them into a psychotic, cannibalistic feeding frenzy. Even in its unprocessed form the guano is an addictive stimulant - sharks, squid and leopard seals will follow a goblin ship for miles just to get a taste of it. It's also high in saltpeter and the goblins use it to make gunpowder.

6. Creaking Mockery. An overcrowded junk built of wood from a desecrated shrine, haunted by an angry minor god who is powerless to personally avenge this violation of taboo. Nature will usually punish those who break the laws of honour, but goblins are living insults to nature and can break all the laws they want without worrying about spiritual retribution. The angry god will bring thunderstorms and misfortune down on the heads of anyone who passes by the ship without making an active attempt to reclaim the shrine's wood and cleanse it.

7. Ghost Gun. A blunderbuss loaded with gravedust and bits of shattered tombstone. Anyone it wounds will be haunted by splinters of angry ghost until a priest ritually cleanses them. Goblins are immune.

8. Sting of Silent Death. A handheld whalebone drill threaded through with a tube of fishgut attached to a bladder of compressed, odourless gas - blackdamp, which silently suffocates, or firedamp, which explodes. Goblin divers bore though the hull of a ship and pump the lower decks full of gas, either killing half the crew in their sleep or turning the whole thing into a bomb that will go off the instant night falls and the first lantern is lit.

9. Firebats. Thousands of bats with small incendiary charges tied to their bellies. Released at night, will disperse far and wide across the ocean, looking for a place to rest before dawn. Half of them will try to return to the ship they were released from and must be shooed away. When the sun rises the charges go off and fires get started in hidden places. Effective in shipyards and against cities.

10. Beseecher of Heaven. A goblin carrying a long metal wire, wrapped in more metal wire, tied to a balloon. Grapples onto the top of the mast and does their best to attract lightning. You would think they'd only use these in thunderstorms, but you'd be wrong.


plus this

equals this

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

d100 Jobs in the Desert

This is a list of jobs that you could have if you lived in a desert. Maybe The Salt or some kind of pseudo-Arabic OSR setting that hasn't been written yet.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Cities of the Veins


City built inside mouth of huge funnel-shaped cavern. All the garbage of the city rolls down the slope of the funnel and into the caverns below. Out of the mouth of the funnel sprouts the Chanterelle, a giant diaphanous fungal 'tree' the exact colour of cherry blossom. It is edible, luminous and so tall that it grazes the cavern's high roof. At semi-regular intervals it weeps psychoactive spores over different parts of the city - this is the famous 'false weather', causing sharp unpredictable mood swings and periods of collective insanity that the locals have learned to live with. A couple of days after a sporefall, sterile baby mushrooms will begin to sprout from every surface. Without a male partner of the same species the Chanterelle cannot properly reproduce and the Mushrogun, who lives in an inverted Japanese castle built into a stalactite in the roof, will pay a fortune for one. Each neighbourhood of the city is controlled by a different daimyo and they all war endlessly over territory. The symbiotic fungal armour of their samurai infects the bloodstream of anyone who wears it.


Anthill slum of dark corners, twisting passages and secret doors. Smells awful. Like every basement, sewer, dive bar and homeless encampment in the world all crammed together. No distinction made between public and private space. Everyone sleeps on the floor, wears rags and mutters. Seems abandoned until you find the gate to the Dark Market, inside a cave that bulges like a cow's stomach, where junk merchants in black silk tents claim to sell everything that's ever been stolen in the world. Founded by the thief who stole fire from the gods - she fled into the Veins to escape thunderbolts and liver-pecking eagles. Illuminated by hooded lanterns that contain embers from that eternal flame. The thieves may seem miserable but they're bound together by criminal solidarity - they steal from each other so casually that all property is essentially held in common. Anyone who can keep up with their constant pickpocketing is welcomed into the fold. It's taken for granted that anyone who walks through the city is constantly robbing and being robbed - travellers with thief levels swap all their treasure with random other treasure, travellers without leave empty-handed. The city is much richer than it looks - it thrives on robbing other Veins communities, to their endless chagrin, though it never steals enough to drive its victims to starvation.


Inhabited mining complex beneath a mountain range of guano. Nobody has ever seen the giant bats who presumably roost in the caverns overhead. The guano is rigid enough to form solid ceilings and the smell is surprisingly mild, almost unnoticable after a few days. It makes excellent fertiliser for fungal crops and is home to a thousand species of roach, worm, centipede and beetle, each more delicious than the last. Fire is banned, since the guano is explosive, so most food is eaten raw. The citizens have learned to navigate by echolocation, constantly clicking under their breath. They have huge texturally-complex Gothic cathedrals, barely visible by glow-worm light, and a kind of Noh-like silent gesture theatre. The dark debating chamber of their parliament hums with excitable clicks and hisses.


Set in the overhang of a frozen tsumani of stone. A bright river of lava cascades over the top and drains away into a burning lake. Pilgrims to the city must duck through the the occasional gaps in the molten curtain, hoping it doesn't come down on their heads. Invading armies are fucked. The black stone is very hard to tunnel through. The proudly-isolationist city is home to all manner of exiles and political refugees, who complain endlessly about the heat and the water rationing. It's infested with tiny adorable house salamanders who chirp like geckoes and spit hot ash. It allows the practice of free religion and its Avenue of the Gods holds the shrines of thousands of jostling microcults, most of which would be banned almost anywhere else. It eats fruit from the white vines that grow up the side of the wave but must import most other food.


A bottomless, echoing ravine with a city built into each wall. The cities hate each other and are constantly at war. The best way to catch the formless pale jelly-things that haunt the air of the ravine, sifting the air for food particles that drift down from some functioning ecology thousands of miles above, is to throw a spider-net from one wall to the other. This requires anchoring-points on both sides of the ravine, which means a constant struggle for territory. Where the ravine is narrow the cities use grappling hooks, crossbows, hooked polearms and javelins. Where it's wide they use batwinged gliders and catapults, hurling boulders hefty enough to dislodge entire neighbourhoods. They regard any suggestion that they ought to work together and forge an alliance with open contempt.


A cold stream running through a warren of soft, pitted limestone. Comfortable, smooth-cornered rooms like the cells of a well-funded monastery. After he was blinded, castrated, flogged and chased naked through his burning palace by a pack of wild dogs, the emperor Basiliscus II 'Kopronymos' found his way to a place of refuge beneath the earth. He survived on sluggish blind fish, unused to predators and easily caught with bare hands, and on a slow trickle of supplies from his loyalists on the surface. When those loyalists were caught, blinded and exiled, they followed him into the Veins. The city is small, really just a town. Every poor soul who lives there is descended from some overthrown aristocrat, and has some wild plot to gather an army and reclaim their ancestral title. Light is illegal and they blind their children at birth. Their alchemists are working on truly invisible fire. About a third of them are members of the Babunic Church, gnostic iconoclasts who believe the sensory world is a sinful delusion. They still sometimes get funding from above, though Basiliscus' empire fell long ago and was forgotten.


The treasure vault of some lost and ancient sovereign. Dunes of gold dust, plains of gold tiles, hills of coins, gilded valleys presided over by the impassive faces of huge golden sphinxes with jewelled eyes. Sparkling chandeliers hanging from bridges of gold chain over gold-rimmed canyons with walls of exquisite porcelain. Colour-coded mountains of emeralds and rubies. Landslides of boulder-sized pearls. Accessible only via a maze of tight, vertical passages that compels any climber to carry the absolute minimum amount of weight - even a single excess crumb can spell doom. Hungry villagers in gold-brick houses rely for their survival on a caste of expert traders who can, with immense effort, escape with a couple of coins, and return with small dark bricks of the densest and most nutritious food-paste they can find. Light is reflected into a warm yellow omnipresent glow.


Permanent thunderstorm inside a huge sparkling geode. Erratically illuminated by lightning bolts that leap between vast columns of rust-infused crystal. Intensely humid and choked with swirling mist from which blind, newborn monsters emerge, screaming in unearthly tongues and flailing their pale tentacles. They were never meant to live and their flesh is usually poisoned with heavy metals. Designed as a terraforming engine, possibly by Archaeans. Something went wrong and now it endlessly shits out impossible foetal life. Townsfolk live in fortified shacks hewn into the sides of crystals, hunting the monsters and painstakingly boiling the toxins out of their corpses. Like fugu chefs, they know exactly what organs to shave away.


Lightless village that may or may not be inside the bowels of a gigantic worm. If you bring heat or light, make too much noise or claim that the worm does not exist, the villagers quietly kill you before you can anger it. If you spend fifteen hours a day licking bacteria off the damp, spongy walls you can get just enough nutrients to survive.

chihuahua, mexico

cappadocia, turkey

Monday, 8 January 2018


A hexcrawl that I made, loosely based on Renaissance poetry and Celtic mythology. Basically this post but a whole setting instead of a set of tables. Unlike the last hexcrawl I made, this one is designed to be played with just standard D&D rules.


The continent of Faerie was colonised once before, by a nameless race of men who sailed west across the trackless Atlantic in the time before the Romans came to Britain. Their dykes and dolmens still scar the land. Their degenerate descendants, the Hairy Men, fell to worshipping pagan gods and became little better than beasts. By the time of St. Brendan the Navigator, who first claimed the continent for Christendom, they were too deeply steeped in sin to greet him with anything but sticks and stones.

The Marcher Lords followed in Brendan’s wake. They hold their corner of Faerie in the name of England’s king, though not a man among them is certain of his name. They keep the peace, suppress the Hairy Men, mount pointless campaigns against each other and sponsor doomed military expeditions into the western wilderness. Their peasants labour as thanklessly as they would in any other feudal state. A steady stream of exiles, rogues and outcasts arrive in the eastern harbours, fleeing persecution or seeking fortune.


Sunday, 29 October 2017



I actually wrote this last year in an interactive-fiction program called Ink, but we didn't get around to hosting it until now. It's still a little clunky but you guys should be able to figure out how to play it. Takes a little while to load, there's no visible scroll bar and there's no reset button so you have to reload the page when you die. Ink is better than Twine in most ways but the lack of free hosting is a killer.

The game is about an awful wizard that you have to find and kill. I hope that you enjoy it.