Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Picture Pong with Semiurge #4

Semiurge has sent me this picture, in order that I might explain it to him, "if [I'm] so great." You see, we have this humorous rapport where I write droning articles about mythology or GMing and he cuts me down to size with a hip Epstein reference before launching into media-relevant fiction and worldbuilding. There's nothing left to do now, except play my part.  

 Giorgio de Chirico

Look at these things. These people with towns for torsos. Puts one in mind of the cover of Leviathan or other depictions of social organism. In the context of roleplaying games, they also remind me of a useful lesson:

Apply Existing Tools in Creative Ways

Think of these giants on a random encounter table. Suddenly, you get to use any rules or preparations you made for shops, rumors, and other town matters at the drop of a hat. Now you have access to more of the procedures you wrote, allowing you to fill time as you desperately come up with something interesting in the meantime.

Use random loot tables as random room tables, and to determine what loot the the trap you rolled on your random trap table looks like. Use random encounter tables as reaction roll tables. Figure out how to repurpose procedures, maybe swapping which attribute gives a bonus to the odd roll. I once tried to use an existing d12 astrological sign table as a reaction roll table. That failed, but hell if it wasn't a good instinct. You can take the instinct too far, but think of the elegance of how D&D likes to define one magical effect by analogy to a well-known spell.

And if all your campaign-specific tables and procedures reinforce your campaign-specific themes (as they should), repurposing them will maintain whatever themes you're shooting for in the first place. I wish I had written urban encounters for my weekly Okucenza game, but by reinterpreting the wilderness encounters it means I can still hit on miraculous phenomena, religious figures, and the legacies of war I'm trying to hit on.

Just my thoughts, Semiurge:

Friday, December 25, 2020

Religious Schism Generator

 Automating Dan's adaption of religion in Crusader Kings, with some tweaks, to randomly generate faiths for fantasy settings. Each faith will have several "heresies", a broad term including varying degrees of difference between different groups. These different groups have a small chance of treating the same generator results as differences, in which case it is the DM's job to explain how our way of accepting witchcraft is superior to their way of accepting witchcraft.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Picture Pong with Semiurge #3

 Semiurge (which is the name of a blogger, not just the feeling you get when your cousin eats a banana) has sent me this picture, in order that I might explain it to him. 

Scantly and meagre are provisions on the stilt-houses of the lake Pelimer, and little better is the provender found in the forests of the Freeborn Men. But the fruitful border between, for the border between two ecologies always exceeds either exclusively, must always remain undeveloped. For it is a liminal space upon a liminal space. It is where the lake meets the forest meets the mountains meets some otherwhere.

Pantry fare is a serious business, and outsiders may well notice that the floors of the pantries, kitchens, and fanes of both the stilt-houses and the Freesteads are of a different grain from the rest of the communities, which are liable to be cut from the standard oak of the forests, at least half an acre away from the lake. If you ask why, most will offer some hollow excuse, but children will offer their guesses and thereby the truth. It is because the border trees respect each other's domain, and will not harm each other, even when one is turned into boards. So by using the wood of border trees to protect food for the living and the dead, they can avoid the fate that befell the Pelimer bog wizards.

Chantry business is beyond the concern of most, and the esoteric reasons that the Wizarding Circle of St. Bheumes to locate itself in a marsh were never shared with the layfolk. In that bog, where border trees mingle near-indistinguishable from dead wood, the litany of prayers were constant, begging the Adversary to relinquish the immortal soul of Bheumes from his imprisonment. Looking into the burst and overgrown chantry-hall and the submerged chambers beneath, one wonders if the wizards should have spared a prayer for themselves.

Gantry-builders bustle in from the capital with each dry season and with each monarch's accession. In each case, the aim is to make a vantage point from which to spot forest fires. It is said the border trees don't grow from the ground but merely slide further out, like a worm from the mud. They lay themselves in whatever pattern may serve their caprices, and the histories of Very Serious Statesmen claim that the trees have extended as far as the capital to fight for claimants and cessionaries.

Polyandry, it is believed, was practiced by the Kodyad trees who granted their branches as wands to the first alewives and their fruits to the spawn of gods. The men they took as husbands offered their own flesh and blood as dowry, and became border trees. Since the Kodyads were cut down to burn witches by the churches, folk have said the miserable loneliness of their widowers has caused the animosity between these border trees and common folk. To this, abbots ask how this can be, when new border trees are sometimes formed along the lake? Surely they cannot have married a Kodyad after they were all exterminated? In any case, these impious tales will have their end when the Circle of St. Derugwhen finally perfects their breeding of the Gemabore Moth to kill those freak trees without getting too close to them.

Your turn, Semiurge. This is your assignment. Let's see if you can churn out another miracle from this:

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Picture Pong with Semiurge #2

 Semiurge has sent me this picture, in order that I might explain it to him. 

(Note the two figures in the bottom-right. This warrior is big.)

When the Titanomachy came, when Ulasth and Samyazaz and all the giants of the world were slain, enslaved, or degraded, it was not the end of giants. Those giant men sometimes born among us mortals are not half the height nor the tyranny of their atavis. 

Yet, some true titans remain. Prometheus, Enoc, and Cyclops have been spared imprisonment by virtue of their collaboration, transformation, or nepotism, respectively. And the children of each, nearly-titanous, stride across the lands humans traffic with the same reckless daring that they stride through the places where we dare not tread. They perform deeds of service to the gods, in the hopes that they will win freedom for their suffering uncles and aunts in Tartarus.

A premise: your adventuring party wants to rob a dragon of its hoard, but fear its retribution. You know that an Ettin-Paladin is on its way to slay the beast, which you could not do yourselves. When it succeeds, it will seize the hoard for its own as a tithe to the gods, and so you must thread the needle, robbing the dragon's followers at about the same time that the giant arrives. Naturally, if their battle spills into the section you are raiding it will be twice as dangerous as the mere presence of a dragon or giant, for neither care to spare your life and both wield terrible powers.

A premise: you have been sent with tribute, to beseech the Ettercap-Charlemagne of Adder Hill for aid. This requires you to carry an arc across miles of rotting demons strung up and filled with terrible maggots, through the boneyards of vanquished evils, and around the ancient traps of shattered dark towers.

A premise: you have been tasked by an angel with arresting one of these godlings. Good luck.

Your turn, Semiurge. This is your assignment:

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Picture Pong with Semiurge #1

Semiurge has sent me this picture, in order that I might explain it to him. 

A Request Unseen

You hear a voice in crowded spaces,
tinged tenebral with lack of light.
It asks for "a blade, something sharp please."
Its pleading's too piteous to shirk from its plight.
You try the glimpse the unseen creature
but its shrinks back, light and small it seems,
inspecting the shearing knife you offer.
"That's okay, but might you sharpen it please?"

As you drag the heavy metal
'cross the stone with your naked hand
you glimpse its white-stone cope and pelage
as it cranes to appraise the brand.
Shaking as the thing emerges,
you offer the blade, acute as hell.
Embarrassed by the ache of its keen desire,
it takes the knife. "This will do well."

And with a hungry, easy gesture,
It begins to carve the flesh away
Until the web of its living gristle
is bared to the frame in strange display.
Where the giblets are discarded
maggots many marble the meat
"Stranger for your honest kindness,
I offer a fate as free and sweet."

Timid Gore-Ladden
HD 1. Sneaky and indistinct. Prone to grudges and gratitudes. Consuming its blood causes flesh to fall from it, and it uses this to punish those who have wronged it. If granted its wish of a truly sharp implement, it will shed its flesh. Any who have helped it will be granted a boon: they ignore the negative effects of parasites and their skeleton will hatch out of them upon their death. Flesh-denuded Timids gain +1 HD. If multiple are encountered, consider rolling some variations with this table.

Your turn, Semiurge. This is your assignment:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

On the Importance of Rest

 Nickorish of SteppedOnAD4 asked me to write a bit about how it is that eight hours of rest can heal a good deal of hit points in most versions of GLoG.

  1. It reminds players that their characters have basic needs, such as sleep.
  2. It acts as a wish-fulfillment fantasy. These are people who consistently get a full eight hours of sleep in!
  3. It forces time to pass and sets things to a sensible duration of days and nights.
  4. It offers an opportunity to linger just a moment on the sensation of rest. Pleasant sensory experiences such as eating, drinking, and sleeping actual can enhance a game, if you give them a modicum of focus.
  5. HP damage doesn't represent actual wounds. We may not feel great the day after a work-out, but the rest is still necessary to keep going.
  6. HP damage totally represents actual wounds. Regenerating overnight reminds the players that while their characters aren't superheroes they exist in a mythic milieu that supports the genre of derring-do they've come to the table for.
  7. HP is a trick to make players think they have some slack before they start getting dismembered, when really it will be gone after one good hit. Frequently replenishing this resource encourages glorious/vainglorious attempts by PCs.
  8. Sleep is a useful contrivance for GMs to give information and atmosphere through dreams, nocturnal wildlife, camping conditions, and downtime.

Monday, December 14, 2020

A Beard, a Tower, a Weird, a Power: GLoG Wizard Generator

 "Realm spells" are Birthright-style spells that can affect a large area, like summoning a fortress or calling down a plague. Starting equipment taken from Vayra’s microclass generator here:

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Ten Fictional Modern Faiths

These are 

-Fictional in the sense that I made them up. No guarantee that others have not had the same idea before.
-Modern in that they are set in the real, contemporary world and no more supernatural or world-breaking than anything else is.
-Faiths in having customs or beliefs shared among a group, related to the divine. Many of these religions would be considered sects or denominations of nonfictional faiths.

Attention has been paid to tying these faiths to aspects of real-world histories and belief systems, and to their most notable aspects. This is to facilitate recognizability and ease of integration in play.

Serena Malyon

  1. Elatenism, an Abrahamic faith that holds Biblical Moses and the Pharoah Akhenaten to be the same prophet of the sole god. Its temples and churches typically feature a brass or copper idol depicting God with a notably coptic inflection, and uses Passover as its new year. An early schism in its modern founding was led by its original leader from his own organization, leading to the creation of a more explicitly Christian branch based in Alexandria but drawing tithes primarily from Europe and the United States.
  2. Khaganal Sinirism, a politically-involved faith associated with certain cultural groups in southwestern Russia. Though known externally for being the avowed faith of multiple attempted political assassins, Sirinist life is domestically notable for burying their dead in dried river beds, for complex traditions related to the interpretation of dreams, and for cryptic references to Buddhist meditation practices. The characteristic political cause of Sinirists seems to be advocation for strict term limits, which has earned reprisals not only from the current Russian governments but multiple neighboring states.
  3. Arcadianism, a self-titled pagan faith with no formal structure. Acknowledges many deities but centralizes Pan, and mourns his death as a result of a cosmic struggle with Christ. This is notably marked by heavy drinking and ritual screaming on the first day of winter.  Distinguished from most forms of Paganism in that it ascribes notable power to Christian rites, and is denigrated by some pagans as "Self-hating Christianity." [Insert quip here]
  4. Mathasian Negationism, which western theologians often sweep away as a dualistic form of Hinduism. Based in certain monasteries in the state of Karnataka in India, it boasts of clergy which are said not be alive at all. Upon rare occasion in which outsiders have been allowed to inspect these clergy, it has been observed that they speak, move languidly, and eat a kind of vegetable paste. To explain this, the Mathasians simply refer to historical precedent, and to the mercy of gods.
  5. Kititulo No Teishutsu, a strident and nonliteral association of Lovecraftian Mythos, Babylonian spirits and deities, and traditional Shinto practices. Expressed in humanistic, optimistic, humble digital comics describing the fictive hierarchy of such beings. This faith without hierarchy beyond clout and appreciation for literary and artistic ability is intensely interested in the relationship between obscure deities while not stating outright that they literally exist. This plus a jocular tendency in writings, as well as essential texts lacking translations or lacking sufficient translations between Japanese, English, and Spanish render the faith ("KNT") opaque to all but the most interested.
  6. Reformed Baalism, a self-styled "Abrahamic faith without Abraham." Bases its cosmology in the Baal Cycle and worships both Baal and the god of the Old Testament. Baalist apologia claims that Baalites described in ancient myth were slandered for commending miscarried children to their god, for family planning, and for martial virtue. Currently has no notable temporal community, but has successfully managed to lobby their way onto mainstream lists of Judeo-Christian faiths and denominations.
  7. Gaiic Christianity, which hold the Earth to be the fourth part of the trinity quaternity, and that the crucifixion of Christ was to redeem Her-- "for God so loved the world." Tension currently exists among the Gaiic parishes along two axes. The first regards support or condemnation of a nonpartisan group that leans heavily on the suggestion that pollution is literally sacrilege, and that the vast majority of the world is damned to Hell for its complicity. The second is the strained relationship between church heads in Annaba and its bishops in Europe and Canada.
  8. Koreshan Judaism, that holds Cyrus the Great to have been the final messiah, and that foretells his eventual return at the end of all things. Mystics of this faith tend to emphasize the tripartite phases of all things, and debate the cosmological significance of Cyrus's rebuilding the Temple. Koreshan temples are notable for political participation, endorsing candidates for secular office and issuing bulls on how its members should participate in their communities.
  9. Tulayhawatism, which contends Muhammad to be the penultimate prophet, succeeded by Tulayha of the Banu Asad ibn Khuzaymah tribe. This faith reveres the Quran as well as the Atttestations of Tribes, an account of the occult teachings of Tulayha as well as a revisionist version of his relationship with the elder prophet. Based in Nahavand until the Iranian Revolution, the traditions of the original priesthood have split between separate followings in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Though these branches generally hold each other to be righteous, the values and rites upheld by each have slowly drifted out of sync.
  10. Etilism, a Christian "heresy" known for its argument that the true role of Christians is not to make themselves more Christlike (impossible, bland) but to make Christ more human-like (achievable, based). This ranges from ceremonial litanies that exhort God to indulge in hedonistic vices to depicting Christ as a severe sinner or in the act of relieving himself. The Temptation of Christ is considered the holiest part of the new testament and Satan (though not Lucifer or the Devil) is said to be an angel of mercy.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Book of Similes

We put monsters in games because they are cool. They excite the imagination and our visceral reactions to viscera and reaching tendrils. But it can be difficult to mesh the mechanical demands of monsters with the storytelling promise of such creatures. As always, it is a matter of what we want to emphasize. I don't want to retread the concerns Skerples goes over in his philosophy concerning the Monster Overhaul

I have been impressed by an article by Dan at his blog and a collection of monsters written by Cavegirl. In addition to being good pieces, they both lean into the potential for monsters, and therefore the stories in which they appear, to create artistic affect through metaphor and parable. Mythology and folklore are full of strange creatures we can choose to understand through the lens of symbolism. A vampire symbolizes sexuality, or fears about death, or the inherited power of aristocracy, or whatever really. 

Interestingly, the creature doesn't need to have a specific meaning to feel meaning-laden. Consider the Peryton or the Jabberwock, which are memorable despite being gibberish. Dan's tiger is a notable real-world example. By centralizing its cause as British Colonialism, we impart it with a retributive aspect, and make the natural phenomenon of starving tigers into the symbolic phenomenon of a national spirit wronged and vengeful. Yet the contemporary tiger-hunters, who presumably did not consider this analysis, decided that the tiger was meaning-laden in totally different ways. These interpretations are purely instrumental. Dan's metaphor is better for stories about how British Imperialism is bad; a big game hunter's metaphor might be better for stories about how great imperialism is, (citation needed).

To be conscious of the potential for meaning in monsters is not to bind them to a blatant interpretation. I tend to think of such things as simile. The cruel king is like greed incarnate. The dragon acts as death personified would. This way, if players don't clock the specific symbolism they don't feel like they're on the outside of a joke. The simile helps the person running the game to figure out a creature's intent, interesting hooks, vignettes, resonant moments and interactions.

Therefore, I offer the Book of Similes. It is divided into twenty creatures: ten "old" similes, which act as ciphers for the concerns of the pre-modern societies most fantasy games emulate, and ten "new" similes, which stand in for anxieties of the current zeitgeist. Some are pretty simple, the sort of thing that's appropriate to an entry on a random encounter table. Others make for interesting features in a dungeon or to round out other adventures. Some are adventures all in themselves. For each, I've offered some suggested hooks, places, items, and/or encounters to stimulate creativity and establish how I imagine them working at the table. Click the eye below to read.

Click Me

All art by Renegade of False Idols.

Further Godparents


    Expanded from my previous post here. Since it is likely only one or two godparents would be needed in even a long campaign, and since the original article suggests you select a godparent randomly, I would recommend using these to replace godparents on the original list that are not as suitable to the milieu of your campaign.
  1. The Monkey King
    Considers you a servant, but too proud to command you. Loves a good jape.
    1. As-You-Will Gold-Banded Cudgel, a +1 iron staff that can shrink to the size of a needle or grow to 20 feet long.
    2. Quick sutra to repel demons. Also, a blanket 1-in-6 chance that a random encounter is actually a demon in disguise.
    3. Phoenix-feather Cap. Wearer can jump as far as they wish, but the cap does not offer protection against velocity or void.
    4. One of 72 magical transformations. Starting with you, each member of the party names an animal or object, then the DM selects one. You can turn into that entity and back at will.
    Benedick Bana
  2. The Dark Lord
    A lover of towers, and of towering.
    1. Over the course of an afternoon you are summoned to a high place, to see all the lands of the world. Your godfather then points out where his hibernating minions are buried. Such caches are always within 1d4-1 days travel from you, and unearth 1d4 minions. They are warlike, cowardly, and factious, and can only be held in line by threats and clear goals.
    2. Glassy orb, ancient and dangerous. Allows remote viewing and psychic intercourse with those who possess similar objects, but opens the wearer to psychic attacks.
    3. Oversized titanium flail. -2 to hit, but +2 to damage and can break iron forged by country smiths or bandit wrights.
    4. Torc with jet decorations at each end, carved to resemble ravens. The wearer is invisible to mundane folk and animals, but seems like blazing beacons to the supernatural. While worn, the raven heads utter calumnies only the wearer can hear.

  3. Cats
    Feuding and fickle. Kind and condescending. Gifts recharge after ten minutes of sleep in a comfortable place.
    1. Nine-headed whip. Try something profoundly stupid, and if you would die, a head of the whip disappears and you are instead totally fine, back where you started. Remember, this only works for the direct result of follies and only if it would kill you.
    2. Summon a rodent and ask of it a favor. The rodent is bound to do your favor, but will try to do so maliciously.
    3. Afternoons spent practicing the hunt finally pay off. +1 damage when you bite or scratch, and if you grab onto someone you can discharge you gift. If you do, it is impossible to pry you off them.
    4. Suddenly appear anywhere in a crowded place or messy space within 300 feet of you. Any melee with six or more participants counts as crowded.

    Arthur Rackham
  4. The Ancient Wizard
    Would be an angel, if he had a sense of right and wrong. It has been replaced with a sense of necessity and a frustration that he cannot act more openly. His gifts do not need to recharge, but fade and fail with the age. Nothing for you to worry about in this, your youth.
    1. TO MY WILL, a +1 longsword that glows red in the presence of magics opposed to your godparent and white in the presence of magics aligned with your godparent.
    2. Wand that contains 1 MD and the spells circumvent curse, will o wisp, and summon steed.
    3. Cloak of no particular color that contains 1 MD and the spells transfer disease, mundane seeming, and argue with birds
    4. Chain shirt that contains 1 MD and the spells stone to bread and old fruit to oil flasks.

  5. Eternity
    Friend to death, but too often kept in Heaven.
    1. Once per person, take their hand and your godmother will show them a vision of the afterlife that awaits them. Regardless of their fate, this should stun them for at least a moment.
    2. Robes or gown of gossamer. When standing still, allows you to blend into areas of stone or dewy grass. Mundane animals and unicorns will treat you as harmless.
    3. Service of Aghstain, an itinerant warrior. They have been plucked from the end of time for the homage rendered to your godmother. Treat them as a barbarian of your Godchild level.
    4. Once, trade lives with someone. The consequences are vague but dire. You cannot trade lives again until you have rendered sufficient service to your godmother.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Table: Sigils in Mesomergos

 Pursuant to my interest in heraldry, I sometimes wonder how I could turn Spwacks's marvelous tables to the task of blazonry. This is my current attempt, though it does not do a good job of describing the placement of charges. Additionally, it always includes charges, while it might be appropriate to leave many arms as simple patterns.

This generator uses some heraldry-speak, so it is probably just for my own enjoyment. I imagine these would mostly appear on round shields, and I've kept the divisions of the field relatively simple. I am treating sable as a metal and referring to it as "iron" for setting-related reasons. Similarly, bronze is to be treated as a common metal, and some of the colors are named differently. Sanguine is used to the exclusion of gules. Turqoise is used to the exclusion of azure. Jade and vert are mostly redundant with each other (though when they appear together jade is darker).

Ten Challenges I Love in Games

These are the sorts of things I try to combine when running my own games, and the sorts of things I love to see as a player. You can see a significant throughline-- solving a problem where the default method will result in failure. 

  1. Communicating with some who doesn't share a language with you. When given the time and space to do so, playing charades with an NPC or trying to find common terms fully engages me, and makes me identify strongly with that NPC, since this kind of interaction is a rare example of intimacy between strangers.
  2. Communicating with someone who has very different basic assumptions from you. This works for the assumptions of the PCs or of the players. It is why I find it so rewarding to spend time giving the folk inhabiting the setting a properly non-modern mindset, and why many GMs are keen on the "Medieval Mindset" in particular. It makes every encounter an example of negotiating different assumptions.
  3. Fighting something that cannot be harmed by typical means. Many OSR games feature monsters too strong to fight, but other variations work too, and enforces that a problem exists to be solved rather than powered through.
  4. Outsmarting attempts to make you violate a Rule with Fierce Consequences. Taboos and transgressions are interesting themes to me, and imbues the setting itself with some kind of linguistic characterization.
  5. Piecing together a mystery from disparate sources of information. Trying to understand people long-dead based on the extant artifacts still found in our time. Noticing patterns. Inferring and stepping around biases, ancient and modern.
  6. Evading something dangerous. Usually requires exploration. Reminds me as a player that the world is not just an arena for interaction with NPCs and monsters, but a challenge in itself. often gives a concrete reward of understanding how something is laid-out or where something is.
  7. Locating something hidden with clever deduction. Sort of a combination of the previous two, but feels very different to me. Looking at the negative spaces in an area and applying sense to where they might be filled in.
  8. Making trade-offs for the people you are responsible to. Problems with no solution, that are only difficult because they have a cost. Shows the relationship between PCs and the society they keep. Many players are brave in risking the lives of their characters, or of unattached NPCs, but it can be a different game when people who depend on them are affected by their decisions.
  9. Evoking a real-life sensory experience for how your characters enjoy a meal or other pleasant experience. Redwall feasts, that kind of thing. This kind of challenge is offered, without penalty or in-game advantage. It creates small moments, pleasant moments, opportunities to appreciate. 
  10. Creating art. I believe that creating is, by default, good for someone. That when a player writes a poem about their adventures, or when their character designs a coat of arms, or the party christens itself with some self-deprecating name, the game is elevated. It does not matter how technically accomplished any of these small pieces of art are. Accordingly, I want to encourage and create opportunities for descriptions, crafts, poetry, prose, jokes, and the like.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Location: Cursed House of Twin Axes

I've been working on this one for a while. It's a haunted palace nestled in a remote mountainous retreat, in the heart of Mesomergos. I based much of the floorplan on the palace in Minos, so it is labyrinthine and full of thick walls and alcoves. Designing the cursed house, I made sure to allow for points from anywhere, since the building is full of windows and unlocked doors. This dungeon can serve as an extended introduction to domain-level play.
The Cursed House of Twin Axes is appropriate for parties of 2-6 first-level adventurers, and has enough content for several sessions. It has a bronze age feel and borrows some elements from Zhou China and early Germanic vibes, and features themes of astronomy and ancient sins. 
Click the image below to see the full Cursed House, its maps, its random tables, and some advice. I've tried to make the color-coded maps functional for those with most forms of colorblindness-- let me know if they aren't working well for you.
Click the painting

Special thanks to those who helped to playtest the Cursed House, including Oblid, Lotus, Awyrlas, Waqait, and Sir_Ahno.

Sunday, November 22, 2020


 (note: not serious, discord nonsense)

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, I, Phlox, master of art and spurious theology, and frequent blogger of Whose Measure, intend to defend the following claim and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore I ask that those who cannot be present and dispute with me on my blog shall do so in their absence by discord.

It has been contended by many in the GLoGosphere that what we refer to as GLoG cannot be defined or understood, and many jovial "definitions" of the GLoG have been offered, such as to say that GLoG is whatever claims the title of GLoG, or that anything which has touched GLoG becomes GLoG itself. This is the opinion of a pedant!

When we define things as part of a community, we are trying to describe things that make sense, that elucidate ourselves and our interlocutors. it is possible for different sorts of people to have different working definitions for the same thing. Many ancients defined bats as a kind of bird, but modern taxonomists say it is otherwise. Both are correct in the sense that both are using internally-consistent, pragmatic, helpful shorthand to stand in for more complicated ideas. To the ancients, it was far more useful to put bats in the category of flying winged creature than in the category of a genealogical progression about which they knew nothing.

Can you define a bird? Can you describe a bird? I advance that in most cases, definitions are simply the sort of descriptions which are useful for initial explanation. You know what a bird is, and can describe birds as flying, then backtrack and admit that some birds actually don't fly. 

Can you define the GLoG? Can you describe the GLoG? Surely you can come up with some examples of things that are more central examples of the GLoG and of things that are definitely not the GLoG. Arnold K.'s original GLoG notes, Many Rats on Sticks, and GROG are pretty central examples. Pathfinder 2E, Monsterhearts, and George H.W. Bush are definitely not. If there are potential edge cases, that is only because almost every class of things we use frequently has edge cases. Edge cases are not an argument for the undefinability of a classification. 

To that end, I will describe the GLoG as best I can. I do not claim that everything in this list is found in every example of the classification. instead, like all fuzzy classifications (e.g. US territory, Rock Music, happiness, Bronze Ages), I offer that these descriptions might help someone to understand whether MRoS or George H.W. Bush are examples of GLoG.

  1. GLoG is content for roleplaying games. [Sorry George]
  2. GLoG is a specific set of rules written by Arnold K., or taking inspiration from those rules.
  3. GLoG uses classes of four levels ("templates") each. [See how many GLoGhacks don't conform with this point? I don't care. It's still useful description.]
  4. GLoG incorporates OSR principles and indie vibes [See how I refer to other fuzzy definitions? But see how there is truth to it?]
  5. GLoG frequently has a wizard class that uses six-sided "magic dice" to cast spells.
  6. GLoG emphasizes hackability. Many GLoG games incorporate materials from disparate sources that were not conceived to work together.
  7. GLoG tends towards simple systems for character skills.
  8. GLoG tends to be "roll-under."
  9. GLoG is not specifically concerned with balancing character options.
  10. GLoGhacks tend to be incomplete. Even their creators tweak the systems while they are being actively played.

You can’t see anything in the city, they say,
That neon and bulbs black out beauty with promise of endless day.
Starlight is dull there, the concrete sizzling since daybreak,
Cassiopeia imprisoned, etched in planetarium’s edge, fake.
But light is additive and though it in distance can decay,
It grows, rolls, throws lumens, glints with hints of novae
Until the world’s gold web widens, until the gaze of cynics ache,
And “Earth” becomes the name of a star whose measure God could not take.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Anomalous Media

 Okay, here's what I managed to find in my neighborhood. (See here, here, here, here, and here.)

1. The Chrioniad
An ancient epic in the Homeric style, dated to shortly after the Illiad. Describes the end of the Trojan War picking up from the burial of Hector. Most of the piece describes three battles in intricate detail, in which ten of the gods and several of the mortal characters are slain. Zeus survives and takes on the name Elos, and appoints the Trojan prince Abramon as the king of Troy after he sacrifices his son and thirteen bulls to Zeus. 

2. Appendix N Draft
An in-house draft of the appendices section of the original Dungeon Master's Guide, recovered in an office once run by TSR. The draft is typed onto loose sheets of hole-punched paper, with frequent editing notes in pencil. Most of the notes center around the first appendix, dedicated to a rather technical and rote dungeon generation procedure. There are two notes in Appendix N, "Inspirational and Educational Reading." The first, circling "Unaussprechlichen Kulten," reads "good joke, Gary." The second, circling a title and author now redacted, reads "This is NOT. We agreed not to even talk about this junk!!" The final appendix, listing different types of calendars and clocks, has a note recommending its total deletion.

3. Rumpelstiltskin
A low-quality video file, filmed on a handheld camera. The camera operator is filming a televison, showing sections of a independent horror film titled 'Rumpelstiltskin." The scene shown in an interview with the Rumpelstiltskin character, giving a rant that puts one in mind of Tyler Durden or 2019's Joker film. Sneering and breathing heavily, the camera operator carries the camera out of the living room which contains the television, climbing a carpeted staircase and opening a door to a bedroom. We see a man waking in his bed who resembles the interviewer in the film, obvious surprised. The operator begins to scream, which is quickly cut off as the camera is turned off.

4. Rayy Tablet
A partial fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh, describing the offenses of Gilgamesh as king before meeting Enkidu. In addition to wanton violence, he is described as having profaned a temple to Enlil with insufficient sacrifices (because they were crippled?), introspecting (?), waging war on the people "above" Ur and taking one of their "thirds" (?) as a wife. This tablet is the oldest version of the epic yet uncovered, dated to 3000 BCE.

5. Flight Footage
A silent, short clip taken on an early cell phone showing the view from an airplane window. The plane is sharply descending, and in the final frames is shown to collide with what is recognizably the US Capitol Building. 

A Youtube video, twelve years old, will a little over 100,000 views. Features three disembodied voices discussing geometry and four-dimensional shapes, with frequent diversions and corny jokes. Despite explaining that it is impossible for humans to visualize four-dimensional shapes, the voices narrate as simple computer-generated graphics depict a series of such shapes, beginning with a hypercube. Despite the title and the inexplicable depictions, no viewer has exhibited any sign of serious harm from watching the video.

7. Magic Trix
Several shots of two boys, apparently related, performing minor illusions. Only one appears at a time, and the film seems to be shot in and around a small home in the mid-2000's. About two minutes into the seven minute video, the older boy declares "This magic is for babies. Let's see what a real wizard can do!" This leads into a section where slightly more advanced illusions, including those which can only be accomplished with simple video editing, take place. When the older boy performs a trick in this section, the camera notably shakes. When the younger boy performs a trick, he appears obviously reluctant, and the flourish is accompanied by full-body shivers. In one take, blood runs from his nose and he starts to ask the other boy a question-- "Can we please--"

8. Miranda
A complete manuscript of a novel discovered in the writing desk of a recently deceased Virginian politician in 1800. In an epistolary framing narrative, a classical scholar describes how he came to uncover an ancient account of a woman who lived in poverty during the time of the Roman Republic. Descriptions of the marble-shrined city in which she lives have been interpreted by a constitutional scholar as the inspiration for many of the landmarks and features of Washington, D.C.

9. Scan for Anomaly
An audio file of the 1969 moon landing on a collection of cassette tapes. When Armstrong or Aldrin speak while on the moon's surface, the soft sound of singing voices can be heard. The song performed has been identified as an adhan. There is a period of 40 seconds of silence shortly after Armstrong's famous "one small step" line.

10. Police Report: Forced Entry as St. John's Lodge 117
Records from the Hartford Police Department regarding an incident in November, 1976. The report includes a photograph of intricately painted letters on a wood-paneled wall: "BLAKE WAS FORTHRIGHT IN ALL HIS WRITINGS." In the report, Detective Alan Davis reports an alleged break-in of the Masonic Lodge by reporter Dierdre McOwens. She claims to have taken the photograph. Members of the lodge claim that she graffitied the message on their wall and that she has threatened them in the past.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

GLoG Class: the Godchild

    (Note: this is an expansion on notes by our beloved Deus. The formatting, idea, and much of the text is theirs. Other ideas were contributed to them by the likes of Vayra, Xenophon of Athens, purplecthulhu, and rtx.)
    ONCE upon a time, there lived a man who had a son—a lazy, stupid boy who would never do anything he was told... 

    ONCE upon a time, there lived a King and Queen whose children had all died, until only one little daughter remained...

    ONCE upon a time, there was a peasant whose wife died, leaving him with two children— twins— a boy and a girl...

    ONCE upon a time, at the town of Senna on the banks of the Zambesi, was born a child. He was not like other children, for over his shoulder he carried a big sack, and in his hand an iron hammer. He could also speak like a grown man, but he was usually very silent...

    ONCE upon a time, what happened did happen, and if it had not happened this story would never have been told...

Class: Godchild

    You are a normal person in every way, Your godparent, however, is something weird. After being turned out of your home (or orphaned) you have taken to the road.
    A godchild can use light armor and shields and never fumbles while using bows, slings, clubs, hatchets, knives, named swords or anything you took off the body of a dead giant.
    Your godparent will offer you the best advantages they can, though beyond that you will have to manage as best you can.

Kens (d3): 1. Shepherding 2. War 3. Ingratiating yourself to authority. 
Starting Items: sturdy traveling clothes, three days of food in a sack, a hatchet, and one Thing to Remember Your Parents by.
  • A: Godparent
  • B+: go find a real job

    Your parents, desperately poor, selected a godparent who seemed to offer you the most potential for advancement. Roll on the following table to determine your godparent, and then roll on their subtable at every level:
  1. The Moon
    Beautiful, friend to nightingales. Her gifts recharge at dusk.
    1. Summon a +1 shield of perfectly reflective silver to hand with a word.
    2. Learn the language of the songbirds; they will be your everlasting friends.
    3. Conjure a glowing silver javelin dealing 3d6 damage and pinning its target to the ground.
    4. Sing with the voice of an angel (creatures of your choice must Save vs Charm).
    Benedick Bana
  2. The Sun
    Handsome, friend to eagles. His gifts recharge at dawn
    1. Clap your hands and glow with six seconds of sunlight.
    2. A great raptor delivers a gold-buff-coat. Anyone who wears it is recognized as an honorary deva in the war against Evil. Tell one person you are here to vindicate them and they'll believe you (no save.)
    3. Once, borrow your godfather's chariot to transport yourself, your twenty closest friends, and a caravan of supplies to any point on Earth. You won't get a second chance until you do the Sun a major favor.
    4. Call out to your godfather and small fires will fall down onto any place you request, for up to an hour.

  3. The Rain
    Tired, and the oldest of any on this list. Its powers are constant. In normal climates, it has a 1-in-4 chance of raining in a hex that contains you, +1 for each template past the first.
    1. Simple cap. Wearing it backwards summons a terrible storm.
    2. Water always runs towards whatever you're looking for.
    3. Water seals and numbs your wounds. Also, your gear works perfectly in the damp.
    4. A small vial of replenishing water. Tastes like honey and petrichor, and heals 1 HP, but not more than once per set of injuries.
    宋 跃然
  4. The Ocean
    Flashing eyes, sudden rages. She has an uneven soul. Her powers are inconstant, recharging on a 2-in-6 chance every time you sleep.
    1. +1 Orichalcum trident. Discharge its power to double the weight of a foe's armor and weapons upon a failed hit.
    2. Call an allied creature from the deep that will burst in 1d6 hours due to pressure: (1d4) 1. whale, 2. anglerfish, 3. giant man-o-war, 4. giant squid.
    3. Shout a message into any body of water and the next time your intended recipient is by water, they will hear you and be able to dictate a reply.
    4. Algae-coated chest containing 750 doubloons and jewelry worth 250 gold. This is booty freshly freed from one of the many bloody wars fought under the waves. (Does not provide XP in systems where that would be a concern.)

  5. The Winter
    He laughs but his sense of humor is cruel. Each gift is imparted with a cold touch.
    1. You freeze solid, and no longer require heat or water. Touching you is painful (+1 damage for unarmed attacks), and bodies of water freeze before you can sink into them.
    2. By scowling at a tomb or building, you chill its halls. After an hour of staring, it becomes unbearably cold inside without precautions.
    3. Box of matchsticks. People and surroundings are distorted by the match-light, made to resemble something comforting to the viewer. Once you run out of matches, your godfather will replace the box— he's got like a hundred.
    4. Your heart is cold and cruel. Make an Offhand Remark to someone to cause them to despise you and 1d4-1 other people of your choice. Lasts until your next Offhand Remark.

  6. The Devil
    Very busy these days. Each gift comes with a case of cigars as lagniappe. Beware! Lost gifts are never replaced.
    1. Velvet coin-purse. Contains an endless amount of red-gold coins. If anyone learns where they came from, every coin will turn to ash and the bag will melt to nothingness.
    2. Your godfather takes time out of his schedule to teach you how to summon hellfire with a whistle, (1d6 damage, spreads quickly,) but only if you promise never to extinguish a fire again. He'll hold you to it.
    3. A soul. They must obey your commands six days a week but can only briefly turn corporeal. They are one of the victims of a previous deal with the devil, innocent and plucky.
    4. Fraying burlap sack, just big enough to fit a squirming adult inside. Anything within cannot escape.
    Jakub Ruzalski
  7. A Witch
    Just a local one.
    1. Your godmother has taught you a curse. When you glare at someone with the evil eye they get -1 to everything, forever. It doesn't stack. She didn't teach you how to break it.
    2. You get a pair of golden scissors, styled after bird wings. If you snip the scissors while looking at someone, they get nasty cuts.
    3. You get a small whistle. If you blow it, then your Godmother's familiar will creep out of the nearest dark corner, to answer one question or give one piece of advice in her voice. She won't like it if you do this too much...
    4. In a terrifying dream, you are shown the route to a bacchic castle in the borders of Imagination and Hell. You and those you guide can slip between this place and the waking world, but it is dangerous to spend more than a few hours here and you can only return to where you started.

  8. Death
    No one ever asked him to be a godfather before.
    1. Glass goblet. When you look at a dying person through the goblet, you can see Death at their head (meaning that they are doomed) or at their feet (meaning they will live). Mechanically, roll to stabilize them immediately with a +2 bonus. Succeed or fail, their fate is set.
    2. Death shows up, buzzed and bumbling, and asks you to name anyone who is currently dead. He will gift you the skull of this historical figure, who will answer any questions you have on your journeys.
    3. As long as you are underground, you can speak with the deceased.
    4. Gilded misericorde. Anyone stabbed with it dies, but only while it is still in them. After it is removed, any damage dealt since it was inserted is undone.
    "The Frogs", Broadway 2004
  9. King of Lions
    Proud and warlike. His gifts recharge when you have a meat-based meal.
    1. Skin of a lion who sought to depose your godfather. Negates the first five slashes and cuts it receives before needing to be recharged.
    2. Day spent hunting with your uncle the king. Return with a belly full of meat, a chin dripping with blood, and invisibility while in undergrowth, as long as you move no faster than a crawl.
    3. Charm foes you've bested in physical challenge. Lasts until they see you in an embarrassing situation.
    4. Necklace with witch teeth, claimed from your godfather's foe. When you receive a permanent injury or dismemberment, turns it into merely an impressive scar. Works once before needing to be recharged.

  10. Queen of Bees
    Warlike and proud. Her gifts recharge when you have a plant- or sugar-based meal.
    1. Command a group of unnamed folk with irresistible presumption. "Unnamed" means anyone the GM has not named by the time you command them. 
    2. Retainer, a squire named Allan(druzzizm). He was once a bee knight, now made human to serve you. Loyal, but has no understanding of the humanoid world. Quixotic. Stats as a warrior of your Godchild level.
    3. Orb of wax, 2", that contains a bee princess. She can create a discrete hive in the course of an hour and relay you information on what happens in the area. A new princess enters the wax orb when your gifts recharge.
    4. Claim dominion over a small area (about three large rooms, or an acre of undeveloped land.) Mortals and beasts will recognize the area as yours until you next use this ability.

  11. Father of the Forest
    The oldest, tallest tree. Gifts are constant, never flashy.
    1. Hard, sticky mark on the back of your hand. Entitles you to travel unmolested by animals, or by creatures who fear your godfather. As persuasive as a permission slip.
    2. Yew branch, offered by one of your godfather's closest friends. Its sharpened point ignores manufactured armor. Its reassuring bend eases long hikes.
    3. Walk with the unbothered air of a hermit. Your journeys never seem to take any longer than would be predicted, no matter the misfortunes you encounter.
    4. Detritivores become your best friend, as they are to any tree. They have learned some of your language, can devour an organic item in ten minutes, and know where all the bodies are buried. It's a good bet they're around at any given time.

  12. Bored Fairy
    This seemed like an interesting diversion for a century or two — how long do humans live, exactly?
    1. A tin of three old biscuits. If someone accepts one offered as a gift, they will grant your their most prized possession.
    2. Call out to your godmother, and she'll turn an animal you've been taking care of for at least a day into a humanoid, (deeply confusing it.)
    3. One of many shards from an ancient mirror. When looking through it, you see past any illusions, including friendship and honor.
    4. A lead on an desirable bachelor(ette) and a scheme to win their hand. If you are already in a relationship, the gift is instead an infant, with the ability to see the true nature of things.
    Marc Simonetti
  13. Old Dragon
    Godchildren are, perhaps, another form of treasure. After you grow to self-sufficiency, its love must be bought. More smoke than fire
    1. 1d4+1 goldbugs, friendly to you and all who share your blood. "To guard your hoard."
    2. A cadet branch of its cult, including 1d6 champions, 2d6 priests, and 4d10 followers. Deluded, vain, more trouble than they're worth, but will follow orders as long as they think your godparent will punish them otherwise.
    3. Exquisite pheasant-tail headdress that twitches in the presence of magic. If you sleep on a magic item while wearing the headdress, learn the item's primary function.
    4. SMALL UNAPPEALING THING, the gaudy sword of an old "dragonslayer." Cuts holes through fire big enough to lead a cart through.
Things to Remember Your Parents By
  1. Belt made from ten feet of old rope
  2. Cameo, your father's wedding gift
  3. Ashes of your stillborn elder sister
  4. Collection of old devotionals
  5. Book of fairy tales with the best pages torn out
  6. Scabbard for the lost family sword
  7. Deed to grandpa's old farm, precise location unknown
  8. Scar on your arm where the wolves nicked you
  9. Comb with oxidated silver embellishments
  10. Tea pot, perfectly preserved
  11. Old family motto that people in power all seem to know
  12. Memories of a lullaby
  13. Set of rules, as bizarrely specific as they are applicable to your current situation
  14. Old red key. Each truly important lock it is tried in has a 1-in-3 chance of being its mate
  15. Journal, half-filled with ciphered text
  16. Head of a parent's spear, haftless
  17. Origami bird
  18. Flimsy wand. You haven't figured out how to use it
  19. Sling and ten bits of rubble for slingstones
  20. Scrollcase, locked, and a key you are pathologically unable to insert into the lock.