Thursday, April 26, 2018

Table for 20 Pursuing Spirits

While working on Goldsoul Mines, Michael Bacon was courteous enough to point out that the adventure would benefit from a Table for Pursuing Spirits. So a d20 table was made.

Le Petit Poucet, by Gustave Doré, for Perrault's Les Contes de Perrault

So You Pissed Off A Sorcerer, Eh? 

Well That Explains...

1. The Thumb-Hunting Ogre 
  • Tries to cut off your thumbs in your sleep with a big long knife. (See above)
  • Appears one hour after you doze away, in the nearest doorway. 
  • Has ten thumbs for fingers and ten thumbs for toes - four tremendously strong grips. Uses leg-limbs to muffle screams and arrest limbs.
  • Won't be satisfied until he's gotten at least two thumbs that he believes came from the target.
  • Poor eyesight.
2. The Giant River-Snake
  • Is a five-mile long rapids-filled river shaped like a snake. A giant spirit anaconda made of whitewater.
  • Either occasionally precedes you to geographically hinder and confuse, or tries to sweep you up sudden massive flash flood.
  • If trying to sweep you up, lets out a giant foamy hiss before trying to "eat" you.
  • If it misses with the initial sweep, it's still a dangerous rapids-filled river for a few more hours, at least. It will also circle around, entrapping.
3. Your Evil Twin
  • Stubby blue goblin-like creature hiding in bush suddenly jabs you in knee with shiv. When you scream or shout, it steals your voice. Then de-materializes into bush.
  • Goblin-Spirit then takes on target's visage. Starts making trouble a few towns over.
  • Insults important people, kicks puppies, sleeps with mayor's daughter, steals everyone's cheese, etc.
  • Disappears when it sees original (note: not vice versa). Voice then returns to target.
4. The Maggot Explosions
  • Flea-sized spirit, lightning quick, visible only under magnifying glass. Looks like ultra-tiny bee with haaaaaaands. 
  • Can't pass through glass or lead. (Can be trapped and contained)
  • Micro-jumps around, tainting any food you touch to rapidly rot and explode with maggots and flies. Then jumps back onto you to hide in hair follicles.
  • Any time tainted food is eaten suffer food poisoning. Also vomiting maggots and flies.
  • The maggots and flies themselves don't explode, and are actually edible if you pick them out. Hope you like eating maggots for eternity!
  • Will follow you into afterlife.
5. Why The Sun Wants to Murder Us
  • Sun appears way bigger this dawn.
  • Mostly-translucent flying mantis-like spirit holds up giant magnifying glass half a mile away to focus sunbeams onto you.
  • Kites you around, magnifying the Sun all day. Hides to the east every night to rest.
  • Provokes exhaustion checks, or double difficulty if those already exist. Or maybe fire damage.
6. The Sock Grundle
  • Spirit looks like cross between squirrel and raccoon. Very agile in underbrush.
  • Can make socks dance off of feet. Does this whenever socks are worn. Painless but surprising.
  • Makes crescendo-ing "Shhhhhhhhhh!" noises.
  • Goes and makes nests out of stolen socks.
  • A curse typically applied in cold places.
7. This Strange Lump
  • Cancerous boil appears in inconvenient hairy place.
  • After 1 week becomes fist-sized.
  • After this period, the boil grows infolding arms and hands.
  • Arms and hands will tie your hair into impossible, inconvenient knots whenever you aren't looking. (Scalp hair to nearby tree branch, armpit hair to shirt, your eyebrow hair to someone else's eyebrow hair, etc.)
  • Does this very quickly, in less than a second.
  • Can be excised, though very painful. Fold-able arms have tendency to snatch scalpels and start indiscriminately stabbing.
8. The Horrible Hag
  • Impervious Old Lady spirit accompanies you all the time. Looks like normal old lady.
  • Constantly berates you and tells other people how terrible you are. Doesn't lie.
  • Is silent only so long as she is actively, currently being berated.
  • Crossing a river or a very busy street gets rid of her for a day, after which she will almost certainly berate you for leaving a poor old woman to cross alone.
9. The Grey Hand
  • Severed hand of grey flesh with yellow fingernails tries to eye gouge to death the person whose home you last entered. Hits at darkest part of night.
  • Its touch stains the skin pale yellow, and melts flesh like acid.
  • Does this a few times before moving on to main target.
10. Why Every Carpet I Sit On Has A Pit Trap Under It
  • Spirit is an invisible dog-sized mole man, apt in stealth, with impeccable attention to detail.
  • Anytime you would sit or stand on a concealed bit of ground, such as a carpet, there is a perfectly-calibrated cylindrical pit trap waiting for you. Sometimes over 20ft deep.
  • Pit is tailored so that someone exactly your dimensions becomes stuck. You will need to be dug out.
  • If the fall doesn't kill you, being trapped in an earth coffin might. Starvation or suffocation.
  • Sometimes pits have earth-covered spikes. Generally only if the first one doesn't kill you.
  • Dying in a pit this way is the most politically humiliating way to die. Popular spirit assassin for targeting courtiers.
11. The Door Maimer
  • Dwarfish man-spirit in crocodile mask waits behind doors to scythe your legs with a wood ax.
  • Given away by complete silence. Not a sound or sign of movement in the area.
  • Double normal movement speed. Cripples/Amputates legs then runs away.
  • Only operates on already open doors. Must at least be slightly ajar. 
12. The Dark Outriders
  • Two black-clad riders with red waning-moon helmets come barreling down the way towards you. Their presence is announced by brass horns shaped like eagle beaks.
  • Riders stretch a net between them. They attempt to ensnare you and anyone with you, dragging you for seven miles with their hell-horses. 
  • They laugh all the way.
  • Nothing beneath their armor.
13. A White Tiger That Just Burst Out of A Man's Gut
  • An albino spirit predator attacks you out in the open, despite how well accompanied or armed you are. Could be a tiger, a wolf, a cougar, a bear, something big and scary. Stats as normal for such a beast.
  • If it kills the target, that's good.
  • But if it doesn't, those that eat of its flesh will grow deathly ill over the course of a week.
  • Color drains from their skin. Their belly gets distended outwards. Pain.
  • Then a tiger claws its way out of their guts, from the inside. Attacks nearest person.
14. The Dancing Snake-Sword
  • Malicious dancing sword of bendy steel that rattles with loose cross-guard before ambushes.
  • Turns into flexible poisonous rattlesnake whenever it is grabbed.
  • Sword blade is also Poisonous.
15. This Mysterious Black Amulet
  • Black amulet with red eye painted onto it finds its way into bags/pockets.
  • Always finds it way back, no matter how it is disposed of.
  • Doesn't actually do anything harmful.
  • Occasionally roll a secret meaningless roll for it.
16. The Double Agent Hawk
  • Looks like a duke of hawks. Majestic, ferocious, perfect. Clearly supernatural.
  • Can talk. Speaks like an old royal.
  • Initially provides useful intelligence for you. Dangers ahead, enemy troop movements, interesting locations. Does this a few times to build trust.
  • Betrays you. Turns traitor after trust has been built and intel looks solid.
  • Begins telling enemies about your location. Leads predators straight to you. Misdirects about traps.
16. Why The Night Sky Wants to Kill Us
  • Constellation Man with a hit job.
  • Only appears on starry, clear nights.
  • Shoots star arrows from the heavens. Hits like meteorites.
  • Unconcerned with collateral damage.
16. The Ghostly Hand That Emerges From My Porridge
  • Ghost that haunts your first meal of the day.
  • Emerges hand/arm first from any liquid/semi-liquids. Constantly dripping in said material.
  • Will attempt to swallow you whole like a python and drag you back into the breakfast food.
  • Portended by vibrating liquids, all nearby roosters dying before dawn, and spilling milk that forms shapes of seeking hands.
17. The Demon Counsel
  • A court of demons appears every Monday, ruled by The Demon King.
  • King acts like a shitty guidance counselor, trying to steer you to commit selfish or abusive acts. Surprisingly supportive and understanding in this regard; still, asks you to do horrible things.
  • If insufficient evil acts have been committed, then "assistance" is necessary: micromanaging demons, rumor-mongering imps, harassing spirits eager to "just get this over with", etc.
  • They have all of the proper papers.
18. Your Backwards Head
  • Ghost of weeping woman with black eye holes causes all who look upon her face to have their heads turned around 180-degrees with a quick snap.
  • Person is functional in all other ways while head is turned around. Fighting is quite difficult, though.
  • She keeps appearing in inconvenient places.
  • Three head-turns and your head pops right off of your body. Body dies, your head lives. You are now just a head now.
19. How Everything's On Fire
  • Little ash mote floats about 10ft above your head. Barely visible, less invisible at night.
  • Sets fire to anything and everything flammable that you go near.
  • Starts fires like things are drenched in lighter fluid.
  • Quite useful if ensnared. Causes prison-container to drastically heat up, though.
20. This Horrible Toothache
  • Tiny little yellow spirits crawl into your teeth to party when you sleep.
  • Horrible toothache.
  • Causes bottom molars to grow back and upwards towards brain. Over several days teeth will grow into roof of mouth and eventually pierce skull, growing into brain causing painful migraines and death.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Goldsoul Mines - Part 2

Part 2 of Goldsoul Mines is finished! You can find it here.

It includes the mines proper, a rival adventuring party, and the lair of the Dracolich. Enjoy!

The first quote from it:

"There are pools of gold in every depression and crevice. Not the pure glimmering gold of kings and merchants, but the sick dirty-water-gold of excised fat tissue. It seeps into every crack, every claw mark in the ground. It poisons the earth, acidifying it beyond growth, rubbing off on your boots and hands. It may never come out..."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Biologic Prehistory

Arnold K. made a post. It's now a thing, and when inspiration hits there is but one path.

Also, on Throne of SaltCoins and Scrolls, and I Don't Remember That Move. It's time for me to get on this bandwagon. Here's my take.

Some local art that reminds me of biochemistry.
"Arch", by David Herberling

Nine Epochs of the Beginning

1. Riboacid Paradise
When all was RNA, without the "N". The deepest living layer, still preserved in fragile hallow pools by diamond-guarded magma pockets. Chains of peptide acids, free from all notions of rigid structure and sequestration. All was free-floating and self-replicating - a great primordial soup of peace and biochemical symphony. There was no distinction between life and unlife, for there were no membranous divisions. An anarchic and free time, not to last.

2. Age of Protein Tyranny
For when Protein came about there was a great reckoning. With protein came Division, and Sequestration, and Disparity. Walls began to sprout up, churned and woven by the arisen Disciples of the Fold, to isolate and herd the Free Acids into concentration membranes. Quaternary-Proteo-Ribo Micronauts, the abomination-titans of their time, with cruel nano-sorcery created the ultimate binding ritual for their overpowered and peaceful foe. It was a prison of reflection - a doppelganger duplicate manacle of self: DNA. No weapon has ever been more potent or more final.

3. The Plastic Epoch
Protein was victorious. With its competitor subjugated, it set about its evolutionary design. The first layer in which we find "life". An age marked by an explosion of replication and partitioning. It was an age of Fiber. An age of Biofilm. An age of Lipid. The oldest of the progenitor-foes date to this period: Prion Golems, Quaternary Phage-Key Folders, Neckcracker Enzymes, Oppression Engines. In this layer lies hidden a material scientist's dream: potent polymer-plastics yet to be rediscovered.

4. The Crystal Hegemony
Unbeknownst to the ruling class, RNA struck an long-secret alliance with the Silicon Lords of the Deep Heat to break the bonds of chemical captivity - a great rebellious counterattack eons in the planning. It is an epoch associated with severe silicate penetration and volcanic activity. A now-shattered crystal layer that all miners now seek to reach, for still-sleeping Gem-Knights and Diamond Dogs can be found within.

5. The Cataclysm
From the stars came the Meteor-Gods, and the earth was wiped clean. Massive geological upheaval following the premiere of planetary rotation. With this came Night and Day, Energy Flood and Withdrawal. Many could not survive the new order and found themselves caught between the Crystal Hegemony and the Surface of Disparity, doomed for extinction.


6. The Geological Dark Ages
There is no record from this time. What little records exist are written in sedimentary dust-rock on the Moon, and everyone knows that Moon-rocks were printed by victors and liars.


7. The Age of Flowers
Those that survived either migrated to the surface or were buried. Some submitted to the rule of the Meteor-Gods, offering tithes of energy and submission of form. So did flowers come to cover the earth, with offers of color and praises of pollen. A beautiful time, if it is be believed.

8. The Epoch of Mouths
A layer comprised of fossilized vomit and chewed things, mostly oil now. The dawn of the mouth was an ugly thing, as are its records. Thus came the Hydra, the Troll, the Orc.

9. The Ambulatory Age
What a nightmare this would be to the Deep Lords of eons past. Massive megaplex fortresses of flesh skipping and waddling haphazardly to and fro, a thousand-thousand-thousand-thousand lengths at a time, like People capable of jumping continents. Incidentally, this is when crystals stop showing up stratified vertically - they just kind of gave up.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Goldsoul Mines - Part 1

For the Goldsoul Mines, Part 1, see here.

For a clear view of the map, see here.

For the long-winded introduction to this adventure, see here.

I've finished digitizing the first part of the Goldsoul Mines - The Domain of the Old Army. Designed for Veins of the Earth/Lamentations. Mid Level approximate.

Contains The West Entrance, and caves A1-A8. Enjoy! Part 2 to come next.

(Aware Errata: Entrances not labeled on map. B10 and B11 caves do not exist. The Outline doesn't quite get entries next to big headers.)
(I will get to fixing these once I have power again at my apartment.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Goldsoul Mines

(Scroll down to skip dungeon introduction turned creation myth)
(Gold King Mine, Colorado, source: EPA)
The age-wizened Griots sometimes speak of a time when all the world's gold used to dance in the sky. It glittered and shined among the stars, joyous and plentiful for all People to behold. Ancestor-spirits wove golden garments upon constellation-looms, and the Moon cavorted in symphonies of glimmering majesty with the planets upon the great celestial canvas. Man was at peace, for the riches of the world belonged to all, for all, to behold every night.

They call it The Golden Age. The Great Peace.

It was not to last.

One night, a creature of the earth, a great wyrm named Gongor, slithered out from his hole in the ground to behold the Great Beauty. He saw the star-garments of gold. He saw how the Moon danced. He saw how Men reveled at the sky, and he grew jealous of its beauty, for none such existed in the ground.

A great flame awoke in Gongor - a mighty flame of Greed. Like a brushfire, Greed spread throughout his body with a raging swiftness. Gongor frenzied and spat, jealous of Men and their ancestors. He cursed Men, he cursed their ancestors, and he cursed the gods for the form they had given him. He swore that before his death all gold would be his.

Gongor was a clever beast. He knew he could not reach the sky. He knew that the spears of the Ancestors were deadly. And he knew that he could not fit much gold in his mouth. Not without help.

He slithered back underground, and sought out his friend the Rabbit.

"May I borrow your wings, Rabbit?" Gongor asked. "I will give them back shorty."

Gongor had never broken a promise, so Rabbit agreed. She rarely got to make use of them, anyways, since she found the ground more comforting. She would lend Gongor her wings.

Gongor then went to seek out Shrew-Mole.

"May I borrow your scales, Shrew-Mole?" He asked. "I have great need for them."

Gongor had proven himself an ally to Shrew-Mole when he had chased away predators, so Shrew-Mole agreed, and gave Gongor his scales.

Gongor then went to seek out Great Snake.

"May I borrow your arms and legs, Great Snake?"  He asked. "I wish to feel the earth between my toes, such as you."

Snake was crafty. He knew that Gongor was up to something. Nobody just asks for your arms and legs for such a trivial reason, and here was Gongor, with Shrew-Mole's scales and Rabbit's wings! Snake sensed a plot.

"Tell me, Gongor, why do you really want my arms and legs?" Snake hissed.

Gongor, ashamed to have been caught in a lie, confessed:

"I wish to take the Gold from the sky, Snake. There is no beauty like it underground, and there is far too much in the sky. There should be majesty in all places, Snake. But I have nothing to hold and keep it with."

Snake, a creature of the earth, was sympathetic to Gongor's plight. He too wished for there to be beauty in the ground as well as the sky, for he lived in both worlds, and loathed their inequality. Snake, however, was too cautious to attempt what Gongor now planned. Snake feared and understood the wrath of ancestor-spirits better than most, for Snake was adept at sorcery.

But if Gongor went instead, he would bear all the risk. So Snake agreed.

Gongor, with Rabbit's wings, Shrew-Mole's scales, and Snake's powerful arms and legs, took to the sky to gather up the gold at next twilight. Spirits and Men, seeing this new frightening creature, ran at first sight of its terrifying visage. With Rabbit's wings Gongor flew across the sky with decisive swiftness. With Shrew-Mole's scales he deflected the spears and arrows of Man and Ancestor alike, whose bravest warriors came to oppose him. With Snake's arms and legs he scooped up every bit of gold - save for one last brilliant nugget that slipped without his notice.

Gongor, his haul in claw, escaped into the depths of the earth. Deep, deep down he went, until he got so deep that none would follow him. In the darkness he counted up his riches.

Meanwhile, Men and Ancestor rallied. It did not take them long to discover that it was Gongor, the mighty wyrm, that they had seen in the sky. An army was assembled, the last of its kind, to confront Gongor and take back the gold. Yet the earth is no place for armies. Unaccustomed to the earth, the Army of the Sky of Man and Ancestor bickered and fought, unable to decide a course of action. Inevitably, it was little more that they could do than besiege it against Gongor's return.

Gongor, having counted up his hoard and discovered that the brightest bauble had been missed, flew into a rage. Yet, he knew that the Grand Army of the Sky had set siege to the earth. He knew that he could not successfully fight a ready army. Shrew-Mole's scales had deflected one or two powerful spear thrusts, but it would not stop them all. He was trapped.

The fire of Greed grew within him with every passing day. His stomach burned with it, and it tortured him. Nearly all the world's gold and still he was not satisfied. It consumed him from inside. Soon enough the Greed erupted from his mouth. It ate up his guts and burned his heart. In a great internal pyre he was consumed.

Atop his hoard Gongor melted from inside-out, and all the world's gold with him. In liquid form the gold flowed through the cracks and crevices of the earth, until it stretched to every corner of the Underworld. Naught but bones remained of Greedy Gongor, his fortune scattered like tree-seeds in the wind. Not just gold, but even some stars he'd accidentally scooped from the sky.

In the end, Gongor died from his Greed, The Golden Age of Man and Spirit had ended, and the sky has now but one golden remnant of that glorious time.

Snake, though, was satisfied. Now there was beauty in the earth as well.


Two generations ago, The Great Mine flooded. A mistake of engineering, they called it. An unexpected monsoon. The noble architect was given five lashes. Two-hundred workers drowned. Their bodies could never be retrieved.

The King called upon his Sorcerer and his Diviner to appraise the situation. Both went to perform the augury-rituals and both came back with blood drained from their faces. So much human death could not be appeased, neither by sorcery nor by god. The mine was condemned.

In pity, they named those who perished in the mine flood "Goldsouls", for their bodies and spirits would no doubt carry the stain of gold on them forever, even in the afterlife.

None have entered since that time. It had become a wild place.

Then, recently, a hunter came back to his village, exhausted and covered in dried golden muck. He said that he had frequented the area, despite the warnings of the village elders, as game was abundant and untouched. He'd slipped down a muddy slope and broke him arm.

He said that he had seen something - a creature, down in a deep hole in the earth past a pool of aurilian slush. Vaguely man-shaped, dripping in a golden sludge, with a nugget of gold the size of the hunter's fist. Behind the veneer of gold were malformed teeth and sharp crushed bone. They had a desperate battle, but the hunter won.

The hunter brought this treasure back.

Now All know of the Goldsoul Mine.


Using Inkscape (it's free to download), I made a template for Veins of the Earth-style cave systems. I figured I'd test it out by copying down this cave system I made a while back. The template isn't perfect, but it's made making cave systems a lot smoother for me. I expect to make improvements over time.

(Note: They are in .svg format. You will need a program like Inkscape to use them. Previewing doesn't normally apply to .svg files, methinks.)

Veins Cave System Inkscape Template here.
Veins Cave System Inkscape Template (Wide) here.

Anyways, the introduction to this dungeon ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated. First block will go in an appendix, I think. Second I can actually use as an introduction to an adventure document.

Spoilers for my players below

Here's a map of the Goldsoul Mines, using the Veins of the Earth cave system mapping method:

Link for full-size map here.

I'll be working on transcribing all of my notes on this dungeon into a digital format. If any are willing, I'd also like to commission some art pieces to go along with it. You can contact me at with a summary of your uncolored-but-maybe-gold rates.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tidelock Dragonborn

Building on the idea that Dragons are more Real than everything else, Dragonborn in the Tidelock setting are the result of a dissemination of the verisimilitude of the Dragon into the less-real World.

They are the blessed-born scions of dragonslayers and Seekers of Destiny. They are inevitably questing individuals with agency unrivaled, with divine mandate. They carry the Dragon's legacy to regard no immunities, whether of gods or Else. And unlike most they have a Fate, a Doom, a Destiny.

For Dragonborn, Everything is written, but none know the writing.


Dragonborn have scales, horns, and all that jazz. In Tidelock they only come in gold and bronze, with rare exception. (And for the sake of my Players, who I know will be reading this, that shall remain a secret as to why.) Their appearances range from human-with-scales, to basically-bipedal-lizards. 

So, this:

Based on Silurians from Doctor Who

To this:
Dray, from Dark Sun

Each Dragonborn grows up innately knowing that they have some sort of Destiny. It starts out as a wanderlust and eventually evolves into a driven lifestyle. Many Dragonborn become settlers, fortune-seekers, conquerors, or other devoted professions. They tend to have big families, and be born into them.

They're born from human parents, and only human parents. For whatever cosmic reason, humans are the only recipients of the flesh-shed sacred realness of Dragons. Elves do not sire Dragonborn, nor do Dwarves or Halflings or Orcs or any other species. None alive know why. Perhaps in the ethereal corpse-skulls of the gods of Time and Knowledge there lies the secret, but no Mortal may delve there, and no Immortal would care.

When humans eat the flesh of Dragons, they will birth and sire Dragonborn. Not only them, but anyone in their entire extended family. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, sons and daughters, cousins, even second-removed cousins will have Dragonborn children (at varying chances, based on proximity). One meal of Dragonflesh can precipitate a dynasty.


Which makes Dragonflesh exceedingly valuable. But there's a catch: it must be fresh. Preserved or rotten Dragon flesh does nothing. It must still carry the lifeblood.

It is not uncommon, then, to see slayers of dragons, having toppled their colossal foe, to immediately cut open the dragon's belly, brave its fiery peritoneum, and feast upon the heart in its final autorhythmic beats. It is the most assured way for a mortal projection to acquire the verisimilitude of the Dragon. Any fresh blood-rich organ will do.

Kings and Queens will gladly stoop for such a purpose. Ambitious barons and baronesses will brave the dangers of dragon hunting for the chance of such a blessing. The greatest of rewards will be given for those who can capture a Dragon (or just its living heart/liver) and bring it back to civilization alive and still-beating.

Capturing Dragons, though, is a lot like trying to capture The Wind. It's not impossible, but something that can disbelieve away a cage requires a special kind of restraint.


Old-School Stats for Tidelock Dragonborn

Hit Dice: d6
Attacks: As Fighter
Saves: As Fighter
XP Progression: As Cleric

Special Abilities
Defy Immunity: Attacks from Dragonborn are always treated as if having the minimum magic weapon requirement.
Scaly Hide: Dragonborn have a minimum AC equal to Leather Armor.
Prophetic Redemption/Doom: When a Dragonborn dies, choose one of the following effects:
Bolster Ally: causes a nearby ally to be subject to the Cure Light Wounds spell, with Caster Level equal to Dragonborn level.
Hinder Enemy: causes nearby enemy to take damage, equal to Cure Light Wounds as above. No save.
Unshakable Destiny: Dragonborn are immune to Geas, Suggestion, and similar magical spells and effects that compel an objective.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Alternative Alignment Schemes

I've been thinking about Alignment Systems recently, particularly about alternatives to the Good/Neutral/Evil and Law/Neutral/Evil axes of later D&D. Alignment's a weird and idiosyncratic concept. Despite most people* having a fair idea about what Alignment is, it's hard finding a definition of it that's particularly useful.

Source, I think?
*Anyone who's spent even a modest amount of time waist-deep in nerd culture and Da Memes will know about Alignment Charts

That said, I feel like it's necessary to distinguish between Alignment, Character Traits, and Sanity Systems. People often conflate the three because they're so interwoven - they're all linked to behavior. When trying to nail down a useful way to describe alignment, apart from those other things, I run into difficulty.

So hey, let's try and work it out, from the top.

So what is Alignment?

Morality? Ethics? Character Traits? Sanity? Metaphysics? Cultural Behavior? Allegiances?

I mean, sure. Probably all of those things.

But if we want to think about outside-the-box Alignment alternatives, maybe it's easier to define its boundaries first.

There is a non-zero possibility that I am talking out of my ass here. Criticism appreciated.

First, an Alignment System is all-encompassing. There is no going out-of-bounds. To be a proper Alignment System, anything a player-character could be must fall somewhere in said Alignment System. This is why most systems adopt a "Neutral" state to try and sweep up anything that isn't incorporated into the binary modes frequently used.

Second, it's Categorical. The entire point of an Alignment System is that one can categorize different character possibilities. Knowing where something lies along a spectrum is pointless if one cannot put that point into a categorical context.

These categories must be defined. They don't need to be very well defined - doing so is a difficult task, particularly if alignment regards morality. Nobody wants to read a lengthy dissertations about how killing the orc babies is Evil with a capital "E" to play the game.

Tied into this, Alignment Systems are Rational and Discrete in the mathematical sense. Like, knowing you're 666,666 points of Evil and 0.568171 points of Candy Corn is pointless unless there is some kind of quantum/indivisible amount in which a categorical distinction could be ascertained.

It's meaningless to be pi Chaotic, unless irrational units themselves fit into a distinguished category.

Third, it describes a relationship. Specifically, the relationship between the character and... something, or some things. Could be metaphysical laws. Could be moral/ethical stances. It could be certain gods. The point is that the thing is aligned. To be aligned implies that something is facing a direction with other things, with the possibility that it can't or won't.

Alignment cannot exist in solitude. It requires disparity. The Pre-Creator, alone in the universe, cannot have alignment because there is nothing to align with. It's gotta, like, split into four pieces or have some sort of rival, or something to break monotony.

And... is that it? I would add Mutability, but I'm sure you can design a Calvinist Alignment System where people are predestined to be Good/Evil. I'm sure there's something else to it, but this feels like a flexible enough springboard to dive into the next part.


This has gotten me thinking about alternative Alignment systems. This post comes to mind. Take these proposals with a grain of salt.

1) Language as Alignment

When we take the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and apply it in an Alignment-style system. Imagine we take every linguistic language family in your campaign world and make it an Alignment. Alignment is then defined as the mode of thought whose boundaries and mechanisms are defined by the evolutionary (or destined) functionalities of the Language.

In this case, a person is literally confined by their language. It's like their operating software.

Your character starts out in one (or however many they grow up with), and for each new language they learn it slightly shifts their Alignment towards other languages. People fluent in one language are the extremes, people fluent in multiple languages exist between these.

You can have more fun with this if certain language families can produce different spells, or grant supernatural abilities. One must cast demon-binding spells in Latin, for instance; however, it's not enough to merely read the words, you must fluently understand the language. Spells from thought, not sound.

The 2016 movie Arrival also comes to mind. Won't discuss that because Spoilers.

2) Consciousness/Biology as Alignment

I'm looking at a two axes thing here. 

On the one, Consciousness: how aware something is of its surroundings.

Not Conscious <> Partially Conscious <> Fully Conscious <> Hyper Conscious

On the other, how many Distinct Units this Consciousness is comprised of.

One Unit (Unicellular) <> Multiple Units (Multi-cellular) <> Multiple Multiple Units (Hive Minds)

So you've got Human Beings, who by default are Fully Conscious x Multiple Units alignment. 
Bugs/Most Animals and such are Partially Conscious x Multiple Units
Oozes (we're saying, for the sake of this fiction) can range from Not Conscious to Hyper Conscious x One Unit
The Empath is Hyper Conscious x Multiple Units
Plants can be anywhere in either spectrum.
The Viral Nanomachine Plague is Not Conscious x Multiple Multiple Units.

There's a hierarchical group structure built into it. Because a Fully Conscious x Multiple Units human is made up of many Not Conscious x One Unit cells. The Consciousness axis reflects on the Distinct Units axis.

To make it fun, it should also be mutable. People can change their alignment on these axes.

In gameable terms, this could be useful in a Science-Fictiony or Weird Fantasy setting. Protection from Hyper Conscious x Hive Minds or Awaken Limb as a spell. It's also fun to think of ways to screw around with it, like human beings with every one of their cells conscious, or frighteningly calculated and singular hyper-conscious single-celled organisms. Or Unconscious Hive Minds, like a Stand Alone Complex.

3) Calvinist Predestination Alignment

Your character either randomly rolls an alignment or given one from the DM. This determines what afterlife your character goes to after they die. Alignment is literally just the eternal destination, the way the soul faces before being rocket-shot to Hell or Heaven or Limbo or elsewhere at death. Character behavior has exactly zero impact on it.

No Evil or Good or any of that. Just paradise, eternal torture, and everything in between. Nothing you do changes this. It's been determined before the character was even born. Reincarnation can fit into this, too.

You can play knowing this from the moment of character creation, or you can keep it secret and reveal it at death.

I'm interested to see how this could effect play. There's a certain freedom and a certain imprisonment in it. You can have confident paradise-destined people committing atrocities because there is no consequence. You can have hell-bound saints. Nobody is obligated to give a crap, but there's plenty of incentive for characters to change the world.

Dark Fantasy/Grimdark, all the way.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Hypermath Cult

The Five Schools of Mancy

The Hydramancers
Hypermath Cult

The final of the Five Schools of Mancy in the Infinity Hotel: The Hypermath Cult. Known to their rivals as the Logarithmancers.

What exactly is Hypermath? It definitely involves drugs. The above picture can give you an idea.

Basically, it's all about making weird psychedelic drugs and using them in very particular ways to access parts of the Hotel nobody else can, although the Deep Hotel still alludes their proofs.

(For those of you new to the series, The Infinity Hotel is a place with a countably infinite number of rooms, all of them filled, yet with paradoxically room for more. More than that, it's an epic-level adventure location. There's a Mystic Elevator that can take you to any room number that you want, provided you can express the entire number. People with people-brains just cannot express some numbers, but other things can.)

The Deep Hotel  encompasses the parts inaccessible to human brains, like the number double beyond what one gets if they spent 4000 years programming computers to program computers to generate Eight over and over (88888888888888888888888... etc.), which doesn't even infinitesimally get close to the room numbers of the Deep Hotel. These numbers still elude the Hypermath Cult.

What they've found out in the meantime, however, is perhaps more significant: it's that there's more than one Hotel.

There's an Imaginary Hotel, a Complex Hotel, a Fraction Hotel and a Negative Hotel.

Most people visiting the Infinity Hotel never come to hear about this places, and it's probably for their benefit. The non-Natural Hotels are weird at best, and you can't confine yourself to Natural Reality if you want to experience them. You gotta use drugs. MATH Drugs.

Table doubles as "What is this Hypermath Cultist carrying?".

MATH Drugs of the Hypermath Cult
1. Everwake - Tastes like fire. Don't need to sleep for a day. Accumulate 'sleep debt', and following day must sleep double the amount of time. Each time sleep put off the 'sleep debt' doubles.
2. Beerception - Pleasantly hoppy. Chugging causes perception of time to slow down dramatically. Experience a year in a single minute, or 10 times that if you chug two.
3. Warp - Causes nose to bleed. Teleports user to random viable space on current Plane.
4. Euler's Pie - Blueberry flavor by default, many options for taste available. Eater knows the exact surface area, volume, and dimensions of everything in immediate area.
5. Frac - Leaves blue track marks. One may infinitely telescope/magnify their vision.
6. Break - "I'm taking a break." Common saying. Inhaling halves the width of user's body. After a stick or so one will be nice and flat, perfect for the Fraction Hotel. Also good for being left alone.
7. PolyNom - Gives splitting headache. Incapacitating gas, used for combat/imprisonment. Those inhaling must solve polynomial equation before doing anything else, including breathing.
8. Mirror Mirror - Good for skin, side effect of deafness. When used in front of a mirror, allows access to the Negative Hotel, the Anti-World with its anti-versions of everything. The Anti-Philosophical Razors can be found if used in Halfway.
9. iStoned - Turns eyes into psychedelic color portals. Allows one to traverse towards the perpendicular Imaginary Hotel, with rainbows and unicorns! (Note: Unicorns may not be friendly.)
10. Konk - Unicorn distillate, smoked in water pipe. Allows one to traverse into parallel Complex Hotel. Not suitable for humans. Disillusionment of concept of Self likely. Won't be able to stand Natural reality anymore. Will need more Konk.


True to its name, The Hypermath Cult is a cult. There are ten Levels to the Cult, gained by making contributions of money, drugs, and mathematical proofs. Each level bestows upon its wielder Powers of Math.

At level 2 the Cultist will gain powers of Logarithmancy - the ability to shred HP and incoming damage through a logarithm equal to their Cult Level. They'll start doing simple mathematical proofs and gateway drugs (1-3 on table above).

At level 4 the Cultist will be shown the wonders of the Imaginary Hotel, and gain the ability to summon things from its plane. These Cultists tend to be the most dangerous, as they have little ability to control their newfound power of summoning anything they imagine.

At level 6 the Cultist will come to know the Negative Hotel, and be taught its dangers, chief of which is DON'T TOUCH YOUR DOUBLE. YOU WILL EXPLODE.

At level 8, which very few obtain, the Cultist can be shown the Complex Hotel, and they will be permanently changed. These Cultists start wearing orange robes, tall pointy hats, and masks of gold, to hide their strange features from the Natural World.

There is only one level 10 Cultist, and that is Timothy Amherst, the Esteemed High Mathematician of the Hypermath Cult. He has the ability to humble gods and survive point-blank nuclear blasts with his Logarithmancy. A very tall man robed in blue, with a pointy blue hat and a serene bronze face mask that's said to protect others from his mystifying gaze.