Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Afternoon Tea under Endless Skies

Ah, how I love tea. Almost as much as I love a little weird science-fantasy gaming of an evening. So imagine my delight when I realised tea sets were an item in the core rules of Troika!, which has to be my favourite RPG at the moment
                I've wanted to write something about this lingering idea for a magical version of tea that is prized in certain worlds for its effects- I think it was germinated nearly a decade ago when I first read this thread years ago, which I think had the British of that world doing just that. Anyway: here's a patchy list of fantasy teas. 
Afternoon Tea under Endless Skies

Travellers through the humpback sky meet, and sit and sip at tea while they parley. The denizens of Irifice take theirs on plazas coiled around spires that reach the sky, for pleasure and business. In Azurhaven, visitors are plied with brews made from magical leaves.
            In the Highest Worlds, where magic is purely an imagined and unreal thing, the various forms of tea may simply be relaxing or stimulating to a drinker. As one descends through the worlds towards the deeper chaos, it becomes an altogether different matter: teas’ can be brewed that alter one’s perception, or ameliorate the drinker. There are teas whose steam dances with a genuine will of its own, and teas which reflect the future faces of the one who leans in to taste.

A Menu for your Perusal
Roll 1d2, then 1d6
11…     Empire Breakfast Tea is a blend most popular in the Empire of Prydain, where the Greencoat Druids sip it for its magic-enhancing powers. Gives 1d6 points of Magic, which can be used in place of Stamina for spell costs.
Yennish Sencha is left to dry out in great bowls, only opened under the light of the moon. There are many small cults and initiatory orders built around the prophetic visions granted by this tea. After drinking, a player may receive one description of a future locale from the GM, OR have a free pass on death once by declaring that their vision has not yet come to pass.
Vendin Matcha has a popularity like no other in the former Vendin-Conglomerate, where the powdered leaves are drunk from brew-cannisters which are sold like fizzy drinks there. The cheaper brands are sweetened mush, but the really high-end drinks give their drinkers a temporary 2 points in all mentally focussed skills.
Underwood Brew is a haphazard drink grown from the wiry wild teabushes of Daldria, and brewed largely by the maddened hedge-men and women who haunt the Great Ridge. Your average inhabitant wouldn’t touch the stuff, pungent and bitter… but with it the hedge-folk can speak in the language of trees for as long as the thick taste stays on their tongue.
Milkwood Oolong is an Irifician favourite, delicate and fine. The highest echelon of nobles in the City of Spires sip at Milkwood to sweeten the very meaning of their words, automatically making them more likely to land favourable with listeners.
Tremulan Tisanes are in reality a whole range of teas, spiced and flavoured with various leaves. They are the drink of choice for the djinn-eater theocrats, who bind the unwary spirits to the plants themselves and then drink them down.
Dioresque Tinctures are rarely taken for pleasure. This is a brew, syrupy sweet, which will temporarily fend off almost any of the deadly maladies which stalk that beautiful city. It grants immunity to disease for 1d3 days, at the permanent cost of that many points between Luck and Stamina.
Fomalian Caravan Tea isn’t actually from Fomalia, but the explorers who first brought it to their civilised eastern enclaves thought that sounded more dangerous and exotic. It does have a stimulant effect- a drinker must test their luck, or else have the jitters and lose 2 Skill for the rest of the day and miss a night’s sleep. On a passed test, gain an extra initiative chit until your next rest.
Saahni Chai is a blessed liquid of pure starlight, brewed in the celestial city itself. It’s said to bring true yet fleeting oneness with the multiverse to the drinker, but no-one has yet bottled the stuff to take it from Saah.
Spiced Vyhemi made its way from the sphere of Kraimera to fighting pits on a hundred worlds for its power to send a drinker into a blood-hazed frenzy at the slightest provocation. Curiously, actual Vyhemi-born drinkers remained staunchly unaffected.
Mud Stew is the closest translation for the tea brewed by the Tribal Orders Most Splendid, a collection of diverse cultures dwelling alongside the winding Yahza River. It is very popular amongst the tribes there for the resistance it provides against the ever-present Sorrowflies, though visitors have discovered it grants almost total immunity to all manner of psychic effects.
Cahali White Tea is a relaxing tea which restores all stamina used on spells in the last 2d6 hours. It is another popular Irifician drink, though all of the very high quality stuff is hoarded by the Tower Academies.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Weird Worlds (part four)

The Switchboard
When the technocratic society of the Vendin-Conglomerates expanded rapidly and spilled out, off their home-sphere, their first act was to establish a vast communication network that would act as the bastion of their ever-growing revolution. It was the Vendin who first designed the crystal-sets which would resonate between realities, and who managed to reverse engineer the songs of dragons and angels to understand the frequency of different spheres. Before these marvellous breakthroughs, though, the daring engeniuses of the Conglomerates set out on an ambitious plan to link as many spheres as they could reach with a powerful wired network. Huge gate-towers still stand on several worlds as testament to this project, but somewhere adrift between these worlds lies the source of the great thick bands of cables that spill out of those towers: the Vendin Switchboard.
            When the Vendin-Conglomerates inevitably collapsed inwards, the Switchboard had been running on a skeleton staff for years: the technology and magic that powered it was long outdated, and it was considered by the engeniuses of the time to be impossible to update and improve. The fall of the Conglomerates forced the last few resident engeniuses to flee the Switchboard, leaving it as a flickering husk, out between the worlds.

The Room
The Inhabitants
The Equipment
A huge room divided into many, many corridors between huge banks of cables and archaic circuitry. Dark and dusty.
The room is deathly silent except for the occasional whirring sound, followed by a gasp. Somewhere out of sight lies a half-clockwork man, dying at an excruciatingly slow pace and completely maddened by the process (9/6/1)
A massive, multi-powered portal cannon sits inert in this room, apparently partially dissected by looters. A misfiring and dangerous cable lies loose from it.
A low-ceilinged crawlspace full of detritus. The “roof” is a wrought iron grate through which a room can be seen above.
There is a constant pattering and ticking, generated by hundreds of tiny copper insects which click and whirr, always endeavouring to stay just out of sight of the players. They are ostensibly there to fix small faults in the cables, but for whatever reason they have swarmed this room (3/2/1 each)
A bank of consoles still occasionally flickers with lights and low “boops” alerting non-existent cable-jockeys to incoming transmissions that are more likely the space-bugs out in Nothingness chewing on the cables somewhere. Maybe they could be jury-rigged to send out some kind of communication?
A long, boxy room with shelves and shelves of machine parts and spools of cable. 1-in-6 chance that there is a still-barely-working version of any broken machine on the Switchboard somewhere in here.
An automaton is slowly working its way through the room, marking notes on a pad it carries as it goes. It will answer most questions the players pose to it, and apparently believes them to be engeniuses here on a survey. (8/20/1)
The various parts of an automaton are in a heap on the floor, right next to a casket that seems built to animate things of that very nature. If only it had a power-source…
A narrow set of corridors and cubicles, each with a dusty little console area of brass dials and switches.
A pair of grubby-looking human looters are here, trying to work out how best to transport spools of the valuable interplanar cable out of the Switchboard. (7/7/2)
A full and working set of engenius tools is laid out on a work-desk, including a spanner-staff and welding rifle plus several high-vibratory screwdrivers and a bag of wire-ties.
A long and low hall with plenty of decorative features and minimal Switchboard hardware. This must have been a reception area of some sort, because there are once-comfortable chairs dotted in the corners.
There’s a curious and immobile set of clockwork androids frozen in interaction with this room, who will activate if moved in any way. Their internal wind-up mechanism is extremely efficient and will power them back up if they are nudged in the slightest, letting them get back to the random busy-jobs they were attending to. (8/10/1)
A loose tangle of cables cascades from the ceiling, with a large and badly damaged portal-hole beneath. Nearby is one of the old portal control panels, which looks vaguely usable.
A tall cable-room, filled with great wrought-iron cages through which run thick lengths of cages from floor to ceiling. The cables disappear into strange devices that would once have acted as portals between the various spheres, but now are inert holes.
EITHER no animate entities inhabiting this room OR a clockwork facsimile of a dragon is coiled dangerously in the corner, depending on your own sensibilities- if, for example, the players have just managed to escape one dragon it would be fair to let them off of this one. The dragon is 16/36/4 and does damage as a real dragon, but cannot breathe fire. It is without a doubt the personal project of an engenius, crudely stashed here as an impromptu security measure.
Hefty, boxy switchboard units have been wheeled in here for storage, each one covered with cable-plugs and levers. One amongst them, barely distinguishable as different, controls the layout of the Switchboard (which itself acts as a huge circuit) and adds or subtracts rooms as required.

New Background: Old-World Engenius
Whether you’re merely emulating the old Vendin Engeniuses or you’re a bone-fide relic of that time somehow preserved or transported to the present is irrelevant: the fact is that you’re a dedicated problem solver and there are plenty of problems before you. Grab your spanner-staff and tighten up your adrenalin-valves, because the fun has just begun.

- EITHER an archaic spanner-staff OR a repurposed welding-rifle (damage as fusil, but with a limited range)
- A thick, hardy apron and metalworking gauntlets (modest armour)
- A set of goggles that don’t serve any purpose other than emulating the vaguely steampunk aesthetic of the old Vendin ways.
- 1d6 spools of copper wire
- 1d6 Arcane Fuses

2 Metalworking
2 Engineering
2 Evaluate
1 Tool Fighting
2 Spell (Jolt)

Using a combination of evaluation and engineering you can try to jury rig a wide range of objects into animation if you have a spool of copper wire and an arcane fuse handy. The less suited to mobility it is, the faster it decays back into an inert state. 

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Gods of the Weirdways

There's an amazing post on Daniel Sell's blog which is for generating deities for your games. Personally, I think most of the fun is in making them up on the fly and seeing how those celestial or infernal babies learn to walk/run/slither/fly. But that said, I've also become really attached to a few of the gods I've generated from that table. So I'm sharing them here!

Espira, Lady of Metropoli
534: Cities
636: Dolls
114: Destiny
144: Blindness

Lady Espira is the patron Goddess of Irifice, City of Spires. She is the lady of cities and their dwellers all throughout the Spheres, protecting the civilised way of life. But her blessings are not given from any sense of goodness: such a concept is not easily grasped by Espira, who as a mortal knew nothing of love or compassion. Rather, her protection over cities is possessiveness, much in the same way a petty child with churlishly hoard her favourite toys. And that is what Espira sees, when she looks at the settlements she favours: dolls’ houses, to be played with and admired. Her games are part of what weaves the weft of fate and destiny in the cities, animating the streets and buildings with a life all their own and a path through time for the souls inside them. Espira herself is blind, just as Justice is, her attention limited in ways the mortal mind cannot understand.
            Worship of Espira inevitably involves some kind of theatre or play-acting, along with banquets and weddings staged for maximum dramatic effect. These rituals are all designed with the idea of keeping Espira’s attention for as long as possible, that the boons of her good mood may long continue.
Lady-Patrician Eliza (6/14/3) is the closest thing to a High Priestess that Espira has. Eliza dresses in a long, flowing dress that is patch-worked between the styles of a school-yard play-dress and a nanny’s long skirts. Eliza organises the entertainments and rituals, and communes with Espira in the Sanctum of Houses, a huge room filled with tiny model cities. Once a year the children of the city bring fresh toy houses and towers to the Sanctum, made from whatever they have to hand. The finest are brought in and added to the collection.
            Only Eliza knows the location of Espira’s most sacred space, an ancient and hallowed room in the depths of Irifice’s oldest district. Not much can be said of this sealed tomb- for a tomb is what it is, a little concrete cell with nothing in it but the mummified body of a girl, eyeless, and her little doll’s house.

Aspensi, the Owl
446: Animal Spirit
336: Riddles
635: The Afterworld
436: Malice

Aspensi is a great white owl who haunts the limbo-after-life, the great grey space overlaying the material worlds that uncertain souls sometimes find themselves haunting as ghosts. He is a wise and noble creature, to be sure, but has no interest in the living beyond their endings. He is rarely seen to be benevolent or kind, since his role in the limbo-after-life is to frighten and test those who have stumbled there. With riddles and tricks delivered by his owls, he hounds the ghosts of the living to some kind of conclusion.
            Aspensi is only really worshipped in the Barrow Hills, where he is treated with both fear and respect. Barrow Hills is a deeply haunted place, and the few villages that cling to life there are tortured by the moans of ghosts and the predations of ghouls and other corporeal undead. Kindnesses to the owls and the wearing of certain protective charms and sigils holy to Aspensi are thought to keep these restless dead away.

Fergan Son-a-Connah (8/18/3) is the unspoken human champion of Aspensi. He is primarily a hunter and bowman operating humbly in the woods just outside of his village, but he has been acting as shaman and witchdoctor in matters of the dead for his whole life, just like his mother before him and her father before her. Fergan is always followed by a great barn owl.

Banzion, Lord of the Edge-Feast
163: Banquets
643: Excrement
516: Zero
166: Vice

Banzion presides on his court at the edge of Nothing and Something, teetering on the brink of annihilation. Legend has it that he was once solely the lord of Feasts and Wines, in a time long before the current aeon. When his kingdom began to collapse and all that he ruled fell into nothing, Banzion laughed at the disarray and decreed he would have one final feast before his banquet-hall too was consumed. Reality granted him this last wish, and Banzion gleefully set his celebration in motion- and has been partaking of that same feast ever since. Of course, to keep the banquet going it must remain interesting, and so Banzion’s Edge-Feast has become a mess of flagrant vice and abhorrent messes as he and the guests seek ever-new ways to stimulate themselves. Banzion is invoked by those who wish to enjoy life at all costs, those who will selfishly pursue pleasure and the fulfilment of all appetites. He is the god of mouldering cheeses and mushy, overripe fruit. He is the god of perversions, and of balancing between here… and nowhere.

The Noble Paenn Fernandigras (6/20/2) is a practicing worshipper of Banzion. A fundamentally goodnatured man to all who meet him, Fernandigras is a morbidly obese little man who has become almost spherical. Unable to support his own weight, he is ferried around on a litter by his Morsels (5/6/1), tiny muscular men who wear white loin clothes and are always oiled, so as to escape his hungry, grasping hands. The Morsels are inhumanly agile as a result of natural selection: those who are not are ultimately eaten. Fernandigras enjoys his life immensely, touring the banquet-circuits of cities such as Irifice and Troika and telling long-winded and rambling stories which people know by now they have to endure listening to. 

So... what kinds of Gods and Goddesses have you been generating? 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Weird Worlds (Part Three)

In part one I shared the Neverwoods, and then the Garden-Lands in part two. Now, onto Hellgaaz! 

One of the more recent hell-dimensions to spring into existence, Hellgaaz is a post-industrial nightmare, half-alive and half-inanimate and slowly spreading to eat up forgotten parts of other spheres.
            Hellgaaz is a favourite location to banish enemies to, since the local souls are made brutal by the place and the geography itself is unreasonable and untenable. Hellgaaz, as an ever-expanding place which exists somewhere between the real and the abstract, is infinite in its own way. To explore, generate rooms on the table below, varying size and shape as you please but keeping the same decayed-industrial aesthetic:

This room is…
… a huge warehouse-interior, with a collapsing ceiling revealing dark orange skies…
… weird machinery protruding from the ceilings and/or walls, dangling wires and pipes which twitch and grab at those coming too close…
… 2d6 savage-punks, dressed in post-apocalyptic fashion and toting improvised weapons made of whatever they had to hand.
… a cramped set of steel-walkways, under which unseen things scuttle…
… a pit hidden beneath refuse which continues down into endless darkness, hot winds rising up from the depths…
… a great monster of tortured metal and broken tarmac, which slumbers fitfully and snarling as it dreams.
… a mess of rubble, unrecognisable after centuries of erosion…
…a grim heap of mangled machines and bodies, some of which moan feebly as you pass...
… an infestation of the thumb-sized biting flies which drone lazily overhead, until enough have massed to strike.
… a bare concrete pit, open to the hot winds above…
… a hideous and clunking boiler-tank fitted in the centre, filled with a tortured djinn which wails and begs for release…
… an unsteady floor, which could collapse at any moment into another room.
… a factory floor full of the collapsing means of production, slowly rusting all about the place…
… a ramshackle campsite, bearing the flags of one of the savage-punk tribes who stalk this hellhole…
… a wall which has crumbled out into the deserted wasteland of concrete and tarmac outside.
… a cracking and crumbling multi-storey car-park-like shell…
… a collapsing entrance into the goblin labyrinth, almost hidden behind heaps of detritus…
… 1d6 injured savage-punks, spiteful and wanting nothing more than to share their pain.

What terrible things are happening in Hellgaaz?
1.      You are here because abandoned places in an otherwise peaceful sphere are beginning to collapse into this hell, and there must be some way to stop it…
2.      Somewhere in the vastness of Hellgaaz is the palace of a fallen god, only theorised about in certain vile tomes… you intend to discover that place, and the foul intelligence behind Hellgaaz itself…
3.      You are here chasing down criminals who have been using this hellscape as a network between worlds.
4.      You are here because, in desperation, it is the last place you have access to for travelling between worlds… if you can get out again…
5.      You are here because someone told you there are innocent souls to be saved in Hellgaaz, and you cannot abide the thought of them, trapped here.
You are here because some of the Savage-Punks have been whispering about a warlord, one who intends to gather all the damned of Hellgaaz and lead them out, back into the many spheres…

Monday, 27 August 2018

Weird Worlds (Part Two)

To follow Part One, where we briefly visited the grim world of The Neverwoods, we’re dropping into the very different Garden-Lands. Now seems as good a time as any to clear up- these tables aren’t meant to be extensive or exhaustive, but more to be quick and flavourful jumping-in points. Ideally suited to an abrupt and unexpected visit to a weird different-world, but with the potential to spiral into something bigger with a little ingenuity and expansion by your group.

The Garden-Lands
A whole world of fenced off little areas of about 250 square meters, each growing a weird variety of produce and plants and managed by powerful and mysterious patrons from all over the multiverse.
            The Garden-Lands were once a curious expanse of flat, featureless soil which is unusually fertile. Powerful beings began to flock there, travelling to stake out their own allotment and begin growing whatever it is they really felt like. There’s an honour system in place that, rather surprisingly, means most of the beings there stick primarily to their own allotments and do not interfere in each other’s flowerbeds.

Image result for aerial photo of allotments

The Owner
The Produce
The Features
… is an absent-minded but ancient wizard, a master of most if not all arcane arts who has essentially transcended mortality.
… is an exceptional variety of fruit and vegetables, with 2d6 recognisable varieties and an additional 3d6x10 exotic kinds. Closer inspection will reveal it is one huge, fleshy plant which grows all of them.
… are beautiful topiary and carefully trimmed leaves, with meticulous attention to detail. Heaven forbid you should put anything out of place.
… is an incredibly powerful lich who has long since conquered his home-sphere
… is a small orchard growing golden varieties of many fruits- apples, pears, peaches and oranges.
… are unruly plants and messy footways, with no care taken to really organise where things are growing.
… is a demigod of some quality or other who tires of his otherwise two-dimensional existence and spends an increasing amount of time “away from it all”.
… is an extensive range of flowers, a few varieties of which can speak and hold intelligent conversation.
… are unusual creatures and strange little critters. All manner of alien beasts could be hiding under that hedgerow.
… is an extradimensional being who still finds absurd novelty in the most mundane of manual labour.
… is a range of animate plants including mounds that shamble and ivy that strangles, and a particularly characterful hydra-bush (Hydra-angea?)
… are curious little structures- a carefully constructed greenhouse or shed, possibly holding a portal to the owner’s home sphere.
… is an ancient god thought dead in his own mythos, largely to escape the prayers of whatever petitioners remain for him.
… is a set of holes containing little potato-goblins which will shove, fight and bite to be left in their holes.
… are bizarre statues and standing stones, placed tastefully about the allotment.
… is a wise arch-druid who has turned from protecting the wilderness to cultivating his own little patch of plants.
… is whatever has taken hold, since no effort to coordinate has been made. Roll again for the four nearest allotments and assume some mix of these things has spilled into this one.
… are inventive uses of water-distribution systems. A tranquil pond graces the centre.

Some possible story-hooks here in the idyllic allotment-Sphere:

What was it that drew you into a brief stint of fence-hopping?
1.      You came to find an expert organimancer who may be able to identify or heal a rare plant specimen.
2.      You have been employed to find a rare fruit for a rich noble’s banquet-hall.
3.      You need desperately to find an old and weary god, to convince him to come home and curb his wicked son.
4.      You have been hired by a wizard with an allotment to defend it from garden-hopping fruit-thieves.
5.      You have been hired by an allotment owner to clear out the thorough infestation of gremlins and goblins which is ruining his courgette-patch.
6.      You have accidentally slipped into this world when a teleportation went wrong, landing on a prize crop. Now that crop’s owner is chasing you murderously through the other gardens as you seek a way off the sphere.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Weird Worlds (Part One)

The Neverwoods
Visitors to the Neverwoods are rarely there on purpose, but the Sphere has a way of drawing in the lost and unwary. Many a dense thicket acts as an accidental portal to this twisted place.
            This world is thick forest all-around, except for where the villages and manors break the foliage. Magical barriers generated by the world’s ever-present ward-stones, weird rune marked rocks that keep the chaos of the forest at bay: for it is more than the threat of wilderness that stalks the perimeters these stones mark out.
            The Neverwoods do not obey the usual rules of space. Once out in the un-warded areas, distance is molten and mutable and time is as fragmentary and fickle as the weather- it is impossible to wander from the few carefully warded paths without becoming hopelessly lost and quickly maddened. The only souls who tread freely between the trees are the Witches, men and women who have submitted to the madness out there and gained twisted powers as a result.

The Village Peasants
The Manor-Nobles
The Woods Around
… are a weak and miserable bunch, terrified of the world outside of their ward-stones and totally subservient to the ruling class.
… are decadent maniacs, dressed in ornate animal masks. They have a penchant for the dramatic, and love to see the reactions of those nearest their victims.
… have an unusual number of Witches who walk amongst the peasants and consort with the nobility.
… are obsessed with a backwards and puritanical religion, regularly burning “witches” to keep the Woods-Gods at bay. Xenophobic and accepting of their roles beneath the nobles.
… are gluttonous brutes, prone to cannibalism and gruesome culinary displays. They keep great and ghastly hounds which are beaten and starved into peak viciousness.
… have a barrow of the dead nearby which periodically rise, drawn to the rare light of the living and the stability created by the ward-stones.
… are scheming and paranoid, split into many cells of revolutionaries who talk empty talk of overthrowing the nobles.
… are perverse schemers, prim and proper in dress and manner but driven by unspeakable and insatiable urges. Their wickedest members are academics of the blackest arts, fascinated by the science of cruelty.
… have a faulty ward-stone, leading to a confusing and disturbing effect on the villages perimeter, where ghosts and illusions pace freely amongst the trees.
… are broken mentally and physically by their constant toiling, with barely a reaction, let alone word, for the worst horrors and surprises in their world.
… are violent, drunken louts with little in the way of civility except perhaps an exquisite wardrobe of breeches, ever stocked to replace those freshly-soiled.
… have a group of rogue peasants camped just barely within reach of a ward-stone, armed and out for blood as they prowl about as highwaymen.
… are kept cheery and bright by the sing-song promises of a pastor who has erected a humble church in the square and has a sinister manner when left alone with the vulnerable…
… are a long and inbred line of wicked necromancers, morbidly drawn to the dead time and time again and with little if any love for the living.
… have been claimed as the hunting grounds for a huge, demonic bear.
… are sinister and cruel, having been moulded by their surroundings. Still powerless to stop the nobles, they unleash their bitterness on any weaker targets they find.
… are seemingly genteel souls, seeming fair and kind on first impression though each and every one holds a private darkness in their heart. Their keeping-up of appearances only serves to salt the wounds of those they inevitably damage irrevocably in pursuit of these “little guilty pleasures”.
…have a particularly ancient and powerful Witch living in them, who causes untold heartache for peasants and nobles alike.

Why would you come to this dreadful place?
1.       You seek information, and only the parun of a particular noble family can give it to you.
2.       You need a curse breaking, and only one of the wild and ancient witches of the Neverwoods can do the job.
3.       You misunderstood how fundamental suffering is to this place, and came hoping to change things for the better.
4.      You came to study the ward-stones, and work out how lumps of rune-scarred rock can impose a kind of reality on this chaos.
5.      You have been tricked here, by an ill-reputed sorcerer who wished you nothing but ill.
6.      You have been hired to broker a deal with a family of nobles… little do you know, it’s for a human trafficker.