Friday 29 September 2017

Gristly Skeleton Table Setting

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Picture unrelated

"Minimalism as it applies to RPGs is like Maze Rats, where the setting is a set of words in random tables or a plotline is a rough flowchart of names, objects, and locations. 

Giving yourself room to improvise while giving yourself enough structure to be stable."

Another prompt that I'm responding to RIGHT NOW:


Foundation Of Economy Is:
1.Shark Teeth (cutting, jewelry/art objects, trade object)
2.Sewage Methane (fuel , balloons)
3.Coca leaves (stimulant (mild and completely not mild), medicine , memorial(?), rituals) 
4.Lobotomized Gnomes (labour, food, books, batterys)
5.Condescend Darkness (sun protection, hiding from gods, sleep aid)
6.Rice (food, ethanol , paper)
7.Tea (mild stimulant , status object, ancestor appeasement) 
8.Opium (medicine, drug, astral ablative armour)
9.Uranium (ghost  spirit magic protection, heat, armour + supernatural defense penetrating weapons)
10.Gelatine (glues, sealant , protection against environmental diseases)
11.Guano (for fertilizer + gunpower)
12.Silks, various (clothing , rope, sails, dreamcatchers)

Threat that shapes everyone's lives
1. Hungry Soils
2. Evil stars 
3.Social Structure Dominated by Scattered Feuding Warlords
4.Player Races not native , difficult to get enough protein and nutrition from flora and fauna
5.Barely Contained "cold-war" between 2 massive empires
6.ongoing Colonisation by distinctly advantaged Others
7.Fundamental Forces Essential To Life are weakened e.g the sun , fertility, water
8.Fauna getting steadily more monstrous and hostile
9.Munitions and weapons from ancient war  keep going off or being found and causing upheavals
10. Climate change (either Warming or Cooling)
11.Kaiju Eggs From Space
12.Dangerous Discoveries In Magic or Technology or Brain Powers

Significant Historical Event Which Shaped Quite A Bit I Can Tell You
1.Super Big War
2. Mountains All Started Floating
3. Seas drained to vast underground caves with underworld people
5.Gods all killed each other
6.Alien race started using this world as their transitionary afterlife
7.A better version of fire discovered
9.Universal language discovered, extends to mineral and vegetable kingdom as well as all animals
10.Previous Ancient and Establish Ruling Wizard Class overthrown
11.Doomsday happened but it was mild
12.Seas Rose but super buoyant gas discovered 

Immediately Noticeable
1. Warrior Caste Very Important  but Tattoos as armour and class war
2. All domestic animals some form of worm
3. 7 colours of rain with different properties 
4. Puppet based technologys
5. Sky Rivers and Lakes
6. All plants quite animated and semi-motile
7. Intensive Vertical Architecture 
8. No violence in cities, even waring armys will eat with each other
9.Extremely large anthropods
10.Big Chucks of Death things lying around
11. Bridges To Moons
12. Everyone smokes and lights incense to keep imps, batmites,midges and ghosts away

Underlying Thing:
2.Crazed Optimism 
3. Mystery , Deception
4.Age of Exploration/Exploitation
5. Corruption of Ideal
6. Total War
7. Heroic War Improving Opportunity 
8. Nude Surival
9.Weird Shit All The Time
10.Sacrifice To Maintain Stuff that isn't that great but no-one has better idea  
11.What Cost Is Power
12.Moral Relativism 

Apex Predator:
1.Giant Severed Hands
2.Cog Squid
3.Poison Lion
4. Corpse Python 
5. Sin Dragon
6. Angels
7. Walking Cruelty Tower
8. Starhound
9. Tyrannosaurus Rex 
10. Skinbear
11. Broiling Wheel
12. Trains

Main Adventure Locale:
1. Rotting Palaces and Pleasure domes
2. Crashed WarShips
3. The Fronteir
4. Gristling Skycaves
5. The Past
6. Ice/bone/wart/timebergs
7.the underworld that's actually underground
8.the underworld that's only accessible from weird places and doesn't really geographically make sense
9.scavenging prisons
10.Trash mounds
11. Islands
12. Dense biomes like jungles or grave forests

Picture unrelated, it's from Joan fontcuberta's Stranger than fiction

Wednesday 27 September 2017

My Attempt To Explain The Art

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Now I will attempt to explain why I think those pictures are so good.
(all pictures are from here, kudos and gratitude)

Less as individual art works but more how they embody an idea about game material I'm trying to articulate here.

Which ; There is blazing-holy and great window of brilliance flickering in the spectrum of goofiness.

Something which risks being goofy is also standing-out from expectations , and humour is always* surprising; as by definition people have noticed something surprising.

So that works for game content.

The next element of it is for it to not be collapsible into pure humour and/or fail to stoke the emotional energy the players are enjoying.

Generally for this to happen it has then bring something else other than goofiness, something exactly opposite what immediate appeared as goofy.

Doing a weird high pitched voice for a warlord is goofy. Playing him completely serious and making him a serious danger goes against the precedent of the voice, and thus has the potential of being brilliant.

 Has the "potential" though, it's an extreme nebulous window , and it can collapse easily.

"Worm Apocalypse"

The arms are floppy and failing and the idea of walking worms is silly. The feet appear too large like clown shoes. How they stand looks uncomfortable, suggesting a grotesque gait. However the eyes are stretched and narrow , unlike anything in nature , with the head appearing stiff and geometric, unlike a worm or anything. The head's stillness frames the violent energy of the arms by its contrast.

That also suggests intention and purposefulness, ditto with the low stance. They are firmly planted and fixed on flailing. The arms don't appear to have obvious danger to them, except the speed they are moving (the blur and the dynamic perspective gives this) and the still malignancy of  face.

The face looks like it wants to do bad things, and its entire body is focused on whipping these arms at you.

The floppiness of the arms suggests a surplus of destructive energy and crazed unpredictable, again which are potentially goofy, but with the cold regard of the face, are not possible to discount as harmless.

The slightly-odd pauldrons mean a civilisation or at least an intelligence behind them (and possibly solved an art problem where the artist couldn't find a way of joining the arm to the body in way that satisfied them) 

Most Yu gi oh cards have exaggerated perspectives, the small size of the cards benefits from the greater sense of depth , and  here it serves to make the arms flailing pushed at you.

The other aspect here is there's more than one worm , the title of card suggesting an apocalypse of them. This is another thing which acts against it being merely funny. 
One worm warrior would be a weird anomaly , this is too many worm warriors , they are here , there is a lot of them, they stand like clowns taking a painful standing shit, their arms whip through the air like a snapped cable , very little about them appears understandable to you except they deliberately mean you harm and they are here right now

Everliving Underworld Cannon
Less to say about this, but notable: the skull takes up a lot of room which being undetailed giving off the moment of sensory overwhelming of a cannon blast.

Skulls have that goofy smile which is seems inappropriate for a thing of death.

The Chains suggestion a solution to the cannons recoil but also a solution to the cannon possible wanting to wander off like a poorly behavioured aggressive dog.
The artfulness of the skull placement but also sense of jury-rigging and make-do is goo.The title is a great example of the poetic run-on sentences of these cards . The way its an "everliving" rather than an "undying" or "undead" cannon suggests a defiant surplus of life and uncontrollability. They can't kill it or control it they can just point at things as it blasts off chucks of laughingly destructive soul matter at people.

Ritual Raven:
What works here as the more you look at it the more you realise how bad it is as a bird.
The feet grow out of the wings and more akin to frogs than anything avian. It has tiny , unnecessary, child or doll arms. 
The things seen as masks then as eyes then as both are an example of the "surprising twist" which seems to a common element in this kind of brilliance.

However what takes it up a notch is it doesn't stop there, in fact it seems to actively work against this core idea with how shit it is a bird.
There's an uncomfortable of scale here , it looks small but looking at the those arms makes you consider what if those arms were human sized and this thing was fucking massive. Then the smoothness of its surface becomes uncanny, as detail is used to suggest size.

The beak has a weird expression. It's just a peak but it has a almost bureaucratic resignedment to it.

The mask are horrible and the careful white teeth are an apt grossness. An conventionally predatory mouth or a gaping void wouldn't work here as well as these nasty little smirks do.

The contrast between that and the beak is potent. The beak is purely administrative , the smirking cruelty is obviously a necessary element to whatever this thing does. Assholedom as a modular battery.

Statue of Anguish Pattern:

this is a good name. Most of my choice to include this is that name. It has that weird beat to it , sTaTue of AnGuish PaTtern.
Anguish is such a weird word choice, despair or fear or terror would be obvious and external.
Anguish is internal, an anguish pattern suggestive of a forced empathy with something, or an internal summoning of personal pain. 5 stars.
The shape , dunno, hexapod is so-so , the weird flared feet suggestion weight ,conflict with the narrows of the join with the body and plasticity of the bend.
It's not quite magic but its uncomfortable. The sphere that is seemingly turned to look at us But gives no clear vindication for our anthropomorphization (e.g a clear eye or other face feature).

This lack of vindication means we** search for something else , maybe we are mistaken and there is a Clear and Definite Head and Face to be found?
There is a circle behind the sphere, is that an eye, is a blowing a stone bubble?
There is no clear resolve, it is stone being plastic, stone animate with no obvious purpose to it yet it moves.

Door of Destiny
That is a dumb title, the only thing okay about it is looks completely hostile yet it has the usually neutral word "destiny" used.

I think I like this because the purple and yellow work and the chaining suggests the door itself , not what is beyond it , is a problem needing containing.
There is nice depth to the doors surface, a in between state of flatness and relief, suggesting an artisan's craft or its about it resolve itself as 3 dimensional from a flat state (the chains holding it back).
Maybe it only can function as a "destiny door" if it itself is forced to never resolve itself as flattened or fleshed? Opening the door is like opening the quantum box, collapsing you possible paths into just one.

There's some nice grots around the place.

Or sometimes you got appreciate a big old purple demon door

Bite Shoes

The bottom of them is like a exaggerated curve of a snarl or smile , yet the main teeth are above it .
That's good.
The blackness inside the mouth is great suggesting it can keep eating and never be full.

The little teeth thorns below it, I can't explain what they are doing , yet if you imagine them gone, it's not as a good of picture.

This is an evil shoe. However, it's not a shoe to help you do evil ; it's gonna bite the foot off anyone that puts it on.
And yet; it's not a trap shoe. It does not look innocuous . Maybe it started out that way, but something about suggests it's always been a bad shoe.
So this shoe.. what , hops it your face trying to bite it off? hops around on the ground attacking your feet ? This thing is fucked , it knows its fucked and it looks extremely happy about it.
The body of it smiles even as the top is an unfeeling hunger.

Bazzo The Soul Eater.

Okay so the title really pushes this one into next level .
It's  fucked up that something so brutish like this mandrill thug is a soul eater.

Usually a "soul eater" is a term used for something insidious or grandiose.

Not a roided up purple ape.

There's something about its expression that seems like its foremost bestial yet a degeneration into bestialness.

Its bulk and fatness , yet the fatness seems like it doesn't translate into immobility but power.
The delicate texture of the hair , it looks soft , and sweet smelling.

The weird bone growths.. maybe they could go and improve it , but they do add something, a hint of cancerousiness to this thing.

The teeth are incisors , that's great because I get a visceral uncomfortabliness to imaging myself biting down hard with my own on something extremely hard.

Alternatively the teeth will slice through the soul like a soft fruit .

Incisors are for eating passive things and a lot of them. Fruit, leaves , things to be snipped.
That these are for souls is a horror.

Parasitic Ticky. The lack of a face, the equipment carried, the legs like tight clad legs poking out of costume.

All make it not easily resolvable as an obvious thing. It does not seem (though it still could) be a warrior , more of hunter gatherer .

You can see the beak as a blind head, or the chest as a head with the beak as a mouth and then suggesting legs in place of the eyes socket.

Should we think of it as distortion or a naturalness ? The awkwardness of the human calves and knees suggest the first , yet the casualness of its going and presentation suggests the later.

"Gimmick Puppet Egg Head" a example of a run on tile which does not have the magic of Statue Of Anguish Pattern.

The Wig and Expression and the Arms coming out of Ears are the most significant factor its brilliance.

Subtler things are the lines across it, the blood red sclera of the ey,  and the colour of it the facebody.

Also how its carrying its weight is weird. The legs aren't loaded enough , suggestive of a puppets strings (yet the tilt of the head makes it hard to pinpoint where the line of thread would be , indicating  the delicacy of the puppeteers hand and/or an uncanniness).

The wig is silly, puppets are silly, an egg man is silly. Yet it seems charged with a dangerous energy (the colours), that's the twist.

The obvious twist to an evil puppet is contrasting child friendly imagery with obvious evil imagery.

This instead has detached stately-ness to it expression. It is potent and purposeful.

Desertapir. Apparently the pun is better in Japanese. And maybe I'm just overly influenced by the cuteness here.
Yet, how fucking passive and simple these things look (also potentially huge) in a context of war , techno-armour, dragons and superbeasts.

Their ability to be asleep right now (also asleep in a lethal context of a near-noon desert with no shade) suggests an ability for indifference that is absurdly cosmic.

Bubble Breeder.
The title, bubbles being fragile, breeding being base and meat bound, already starts making this interesting.
Is it breeding bubbles inside itself? Can it breed bubbles in you?
The glow is ominous , the asymmetricality alien.

If the view angle was looking down on it  (suggesting it small), the ratio of body parts would merely be part of the lightness smallness would give it.
However this angle suggests person size , so its top heavy-ness is suggestive of the dense shoulder mass of strength .

Alternatively a barely contained strong upward motion , that it has purposefully pulled down .

The contained but considerable movement of either interpretation is suggests if it wants to do things, it definitely has the resources to do them  .

Yet the title is "bubble", not water, or ice , or slime.  Bubbles are temporary and fragile, yet this thing is here and looks like it can definitely do things .
If it were Slime or water or ice , there would be no contrast, slime water and ice do things, they effect change. Bubbles do not.
Because its nature is against it, it comes across as even more potent that we can see its potency immediately.

But what does potent to do ? What is its purpose? It breeds.

A Fortress Whale. It's a whale with a lot of guns. This is good.
There's some fun with the castle to suggest size but then the guns completely over sizing the castle , The anachronistic  clash is good too .
The weird baleen grin (though the head is like a pilot or a sperm whale) seemingly means it likes being a gun castle, it's not a beast of burden.

The castle elements seem to not be signs of occupation , almost like a sarcastic touch by the whale. Look how fucking big I am , I mock the most potent of your houses. I am large and mobile, I am not contained the limits of your securities , even as I out-do their strengths.

Yes the best bit is definitely the whale looking like an active (even maybe the sole origin) participate here. It loves what it does.

Other points of note, a few scars or scratches on its head helping give sense of size and resilience and the horn being ludicrously big as if for destroying things big as or bigger than the whale.
To use such a horn effectively , the whale would need to be highly mobile, and it smugness suggests it confident on having far more than just size to rely on.
The horn also keeps the dynamism of the whale going forward , off the edge of the card.  It's both irresistible force and unassailable object .

Giant Flea.
I mean this shouldn't be a good picture to me, it doesn't sell the flea as particular large (except as fleas go) , it doesn't have a horrible flea mouth knife, yet the colours and the greenness of its eyes give it an overwhelming charm.
There's just something about it resembling a video game playable sprite, one which you find yourself jumping constantly, just because jumping feels really good with it.

* Maybe there is humour that is not surprisingly like when you laugh when someone does something so obviously them that it is funny. Then you could argue the humour is because we are surprised about seeing an expectation that we didn't expect to happen , happened?  whatever, what I can say is "surprise is often a element of humour" and that's fairly objective.

**(as in the critics "we" , as in "I" but doing a possible unreasonable assumption and assuming an objective response) 

The Exact Balance of Inventive+Goofy+Sublime

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"Worm Apocalypse" 

"Everliving Underworld Cannon"

"Parasitic Ticky"

"Bazoo The Soul Eater"

"Bite Shoes"

"The Door Of Destiny"

"Statue Of Anguish Pattern"

"Ritual Raven"

"Gimmick Puppet Egg Head"


"Bubble Breeder"

"Fortress Whale"

"Giant Flea"

Yui Gui Oh card art , all from

Okay the Flea and the Desertapir aren't super inventive but come on, look at them.
I didn't include the Curry jug prince , the carrot wrestler or numerous others that while striking , didn't simultaneously  look amazing to use seriously while being completely gleeful stupid at the same time.

Sunday 24 September 2017


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This was prompt for a paragraph response blog post.

Actually it's 2, I'm conjoining them 

"Gross dungeon traps and how to utilize them purposefully."

"traps. why are they there? what are they for? who built them? how do you make them seem like an organic part of the setting and not just something the dm put in to annoy you?"

Firstly making traps "realistic/genre appropriate " is good as it adds predictability to them. 
and predictability in the sense of when something goes wrong for the p.cs , the players feel it's their fault.

Then there's the weird spectator  of "fairness".
The unstated working definition of fairness is often** "it appropriately tests what I enjoying getting better at doing"
(yeah "appropriate" is bit much wiggle room here, but there's no room to sum up difficulty curves here)   

So for traps to be fair, they need to be testing the ability of players to think and understand the environment they are in and solutions they come up with.

If they are somewhere , it needs to make sense in setting. How they work should have enough interactive parts to further predict , tamper, or disable them.

The how-they-work bit can be tricky as a lot of genre appropriate traps are absurd, i.e Indy Jones style magically-working , never-needing-maintenance,auto-resetting traps.

But as long there's enough work parts to them to tamper with , players are generally along for the ride.

Example :poison dart traps will have a supply of darts and a trigger but you can prob get away with 
not worrying about how the poison stays fresh and where all the cogs and springs are.

Magic can used to handwave exact details away, sure, but make sure there's enough working parts to it so it can be tampered and predicted. 

Opening a room to a lightning bolt that comes out of no-where and automatically targets the players and nothing else is bad. Having a pressure plate (classic) , or some secret sign worn by the occupants that avoids triggering , is better.


-Traps can be used to put in alternative entrances to somewhere. The one that the occupants use can have more guards , the rest have a trap , which is at very least a noise or smell maker.

-Some traps aren't designed to be reset. The old caving-in tomb is one.

-Traps can designed so they selective target people, in really simple ways.
A rope with hooks at throat height (for humans ) is very easy to make and small goblins can use harassing fire before fleeing down a corridor just strung.
The tiger pit trap that collapses when something heavier than you walks across it.
Methane pockets against torch users

-If you got higher ground and someone willing to wait around then anything heavy becomes a trap.

- A shallow hole with a shit covered sharp stick is another classic. Best used if the target is otherwise distracted .


Then there's this genre convention of traps everywhere that no-one seems to maintain or reset,   directly benefits from and living beings wander near by etc.
Which can be explain as the dungeon is actually hates you .

(A idea I was trying to trace back , and Scott Martin mentioned this , specifically page 22, in which the weird door rules of early d&d are explained as the metalife of the dungeon acting against you)

 There's a bunch of stuff written now all over the blogosphere about dungeons growing ,actual grow in forgotten areas, creating treasure and monsters inside themselves to lure people in , not being completely lethal so people come out with treasure often enough that people here about it etc, possible gold is evil and tends to get locked up in basements and then hatches in a dungeon etc.

So yes, traps could be another way of a dungeon feeding on people


If a dungeon is a lifeform , and all life forms have parasites then traps could be parasite organisms inside the dungeon.

The pit-trap has spikes which tunnel like tooth bores and secrets digestive acid, but underneath the stoney shell it's killable flesh

Inside the wall shooting poison darts at you is a spine spitting sac , with tendrils that lead down under the floor, little feathery tongues come out and lap away at the paralyzed

Swinging blades that when cut , thrash like gaffed fish on the stone.

**also "inappropriately advantages some people above others" 

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Trees With Shapes

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Here is a quick selection of trees with interesting forms you might not know about it (I'm assuming baobab and sequoia are familiar enough that I don't need to include them)

Ngaio Myoporum laetum  via

Pohutukawa Metrosideros excelsa

Port Jackson Fig
Ficus rubiginosa

Screw pine, corkscrew palm Pandanus spiralis
screw palm Pandanus utilis
another screw palm Pandulus utilis

Hollywood Juniper Juniperus chinensis 'kaizuka' 
Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa'

Dracaena reflexa 

Dracaena draco
Dracaena draco again, but note the phoenix palm for scale. Hint: phoenix palm trunk diameter is about a 50-110 cm on average 

Swamp cypress Taxodium distichum 

Sunday 10 September 2017

Unnatural Philosophy

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YOu got some lunatic sage or gurning academic in your campaign and want some grand theory that they sacrifice time, money, and social tolerance for, which is DISREGARDING AND MOCKED,  by the SUPPING SWINE at TEATS OF DEADS MANS BOOKS, scribbling antmen who have NO CURIOSITY OR FIRE to LIGHT THE DARK 

Here are some ideas.  And yeah , why not have them be true?

The green and wood things of the earth do they not grow up to spread their green supilcantications to the sun? in the absence of sun do they not have NO DIRECTION ?
therefore IT IS ENTIRELy REASONABLE that there must be a CORRESPONDING influence beneath us.

The tenacity of the root is equal to that of the branch. IF NOT GREATER

THUS the root must be drawn by an equal to the sun, the UNDERSUN.

We can assume the palliation of the soil living is due to the properties of this "nether-orb"

Could be it be thought of an inverse of the sun (as all things in natural must have their opposite , cloud to rocks, birds to underbirds)

It is a matter of further research to determine if the Undersea has the properties which are supposed to keep us tether to the ground  Or if the cold pull of the soil at night is it?

Is the lava that is seen gushing AWAY and ABOVE from the UNDERSUN evidence of this COLD? Or is it some more subtle interaction ?

Fungus comes from the ground is it infact a root? And the fruits of this plant below us? 

ARe there antiplant domains beneath us that push roots at the sun and their pallidness at the undersun? What predatory stacks form from the forces of the Undersun , if "all flesh is grass and all grass sun?"

The Moon Is Quite Obviously An Ocean and Clouds do Travel Far 

no rock is sufficiently reflective to light the sky as do the moon , thus it must be a great sea.
Neatly explaining the rain (and the raining of fishes!!!!) and the formation of clouds and offering exciting possibilities of a "reined cloud"  to allow us to travel to the rarefied upper ether .

It is yet to be known if the cloud is essential made of the same matter as the (empirically observed!) soul and only visible to us when carrying water both to and from the Moon .

Why do clouds do this and is a innately property of them or suggestive of agency?

Are we at war with the clouds? 

Is a cloud a chamber pot disposing the effluent of the greater moon beasts who possess fearful intelligence and can reach the "lunatic" with their mental tendril?



It is argument that there is two essential matters to the world and its contents and a poisoning is which A Living Thing trys to draw life (via the Breathing, Drinking or Eating which all life is known to do)from the wrong sort of matter.
This could somewhat explain why wholesome things are poisonous to the unclean (as a toad will flee from gold and grease from soap) .

The question then is there less poison-matter in the world or a balance thereof and as less things are poisonous here is there a continent of where poison is common there? Do snakes there bite curativeness into their victims (thus medically useful to us) ? 

Is the soul neutral to the nature of poison or wholesomeness and can a soul be drawn into a poison body or is there a poison soul?

Does the poison soul explain those refusing to uphold the values and functions of society and instead wallow in the sins and corruptions?


Is thought a bleeding of gods?

The early stories of many cultures have gods rather involved in the world, building and advising and shepherding the mortals.

The early world indeed has mortals few and number and bereft of enterprise  and wit.

As history progresses the gods appearance becomes more rare as mortals numbers rise and our ability to adapt and master the numerous difficulties the gods saw fit to place among us.

I advance to you the idea that each thought we have is plucked from the essence of the gods, weakening them.

(Has not the most bewildering attacks on Progress in recent times come from the hierophants of religion  ?)

I for one am not content to slow drip this "soma" from them, for we risk them crushing us back down to beastialness.

And this is why I approach you today Good Gentle Sirs to fund my construction of the  MERCIFUL AND ABSOLUTE SIPHON , a device that will hasten the final twilight of our increasingly jealous and imperiled teachers .

Furthermore it , Thought Itself  , will not be diluted out among all and sundry , instead concentrated for a noble cabal ,of which you have the opportunity to be a member!