Friday, May 25, 2018

Wizard Gangs!

I couldn't find a (free) resource for wizard gangs, so I decided to make one.

Assumes a high magic, and a particular setting. Probably not for everyone.

Huge thanks to my friend Alex K., especially for his in-game contributions of The Black Magic Fraternity, as well as the League of Felonious Gentlemen, the idea for Dr. Mercy, and reviewing the list.

From here???

Need a wizard gang for your wizard city? Roll a d20!

1. Third Eyes

A bunch of oracles and diviners that figured out they can make way more money by predicting races and gambling outcomes than telling fortunes. They sometimes outsource bandits to rob mail carriers that are secretly carrying valuable goods.

Criminal Activity: Foreseeing gambling outcomes. Robbing mail carriers.

Gang Signal: Lidless eye tattoos on forehead, covered up by hair. Some are real, functional eyes.

Leader: Doria, the Oracle of Greel

By the laws of the land she can never leave her shrine. Her leadership of the gang is a total secret. She rules her gang from the countryside atop a pile of riches, through parcel messengers and animal carriers.  Nobody will ever question why an Oracle has a lot of money, so laundering is never an issue.

She is a thin young woman with unusually long hair bangs - more than enough to cover her actual third eye - with radical, bitter notions of the role of Oracles in society and a tendency of losing her temper with unrelenting questioners. She has little idea what to do with all of her wealth, other than asking animals messengers to buy and bring her luxury foods and jewelry. She eats caviar with actual gold flakes every meal.

2. Transmutation Mafia

Their specialty is minting coins made of wood and transmuting them to gold, then moving the counterfeit currency quickly before the spell ends. Very unpopular with oligarchs and merchants, since they frequently cause and exploit hyper-inflation and deflation. When the police crack down on gang activity, it's usually these guys they're going after.

Criminal Activity: Forgery, Money Minting, Election Fraud, Market Exploitation, Money Laundering

Gang Signal: Secret invisible sigil printed on fake coin.

Leader: Edward Codsworth Humperdink IV

The fourth of his name in a long line of famous transmutation specialists - every one of them an utter nuisance to society. It's a miracle the entire lineage hasn't been snuffed out, as Edward will proudly proclaim. It is, he'll say, only by his family's wile that they have outfoxed society for so long. An exaggeration. (All of his ancestors going back 10 generations have died in prison.)

Despite the somewhat mediocre record, Edward is a very wealthy man. The Transmutation Mafia is great at money laundering, and only a fraction of the family's wealth has been reacquired by authorities. Most of it is very, very old money, kept in land deeds and water rights.

3. The Wandmakers Union

Wandmaking is a tough business. Anyone with the right supplier, a bit of magical aptitude, and a solid amount of time can make wands. The Union makes sure it's done right*. They have a large host of low level spellcasters at their disposal, along with an army of exotic location adventurer-woodcutters ready to take apart any wise guy with eon-tree cutting axes and "smart" pistols (trigger-activated wands). They've got deep pockets and a lot of manpower. Don't mess with them.

* = Exclusively by Themselves.

Criminal Activity: Corruption. Bribery. Grand Larceny. Extortion. Terrorism.

Gang Signal: Axes. "Smart" pistols.

Leader: "Big" Guy Gary

"Big" is a notorious wizard don. He's 3 feet tall. Nobody dares point out the irony. Surrounds himself with hulking lumberjack-bodyguards and carries an ivory-handled smart pistol holstered inside a bespoke suit. Despite his size he's a psychological giant. Always speaks with purpose, or not at all. His one redeeming feature, if any, is that at least he genuinely cares about his people.

4. The Black Magic Fraternity (Order of the Nine Eyes)

Is, in fact, a registered university fraternity. Omega-Alpha-Omega. Nobody even dares walk on the same street as their backalley frat house, which raises such a stink as to drive even the rats away. That street has the highest murder rate in the city by a factor of 3. Its members are constantly up to something awful, whether it's summoning demons, raising undead, or forming non-consensual dark pacts with the terrified mailman.

Criminal Activity: Illegal Summoning, Assault, Manslaughter

Gang Signal: Three triplets of three lidless eyes. Location of triplets on body not important.

Leader: The Man of Many Faces

Nobody knows what he really looks like. Wears several layers of disguise, at least two of them magical and two non-magical. Has adopted no less than 30 identities and personas around the city. Suspected Elf, Unregistered Hivemind Entity, or three children dressed in trench coat.

5. Rooftop Dueling Federation

Wizard street duels are illegal, as they have a high probability of causing collateral damage and burning down entire city blocks. Some ingenious individuals figured out that there was a legal loophole, not disallowing dueling on rooftops, and so a subculture was born.

Criminal Activity: Unsanctioned Wizard Duels.

Gang Signal: Weird scars.

Leader: "The Overtaker"

A rather burly wizard, real name Norman Skies (had it legally changed), with a stern face and big black beard, known far and wide for his mastery of reverse-gravity spells. Won several infamous victories by flinging rival wizards a good fifty feet vertically and laterally, well outside the dueling ring... and the rooftop. His win streak caused the Federation to adopt impenetrable sphere cage-match rules. He continued to win despite that, and has been undefeated for 20 years.

6. Charms

What happens when you get a bunch of enchanters and bards with absolutely no moral compass? Charms. They are utterly despised by all decent folk. They get mileage from the Charm Person and Suggestion spells, using them to rob ordinary people of their money or do their dirty work. They are an utter menace. Nobody should travel alone near their territory. Only the prettiest, most charismatic, and creepiest wizards are allowed to join (no magical augmentations!).

Criminal Activity: Fraud, Robbery, Kidnapping

Gang Signal: Bleeding heart stabbed with knife per victim. Always hidden.

Leader: Pretty Derrick

An absolute shit sandwich of a human being - professional on the outside, rotten to the core. Acts as a mentor to would-be creepers and charlatans inside the gang and out. Gives lectures and sermons on a regular basis in seedy bars, behind password-guarded bouncers in VIP sections about how to maximize your "coercion potential". Surrounds himself with people prettier than him who brown-nose their way to his favor by complimenting his looks and awful ideas. Doesn't look as good as he thinks he is.

7. Nightmares Steed Club

Nothing beats the freedom that a good Phantom Steed can bring. These guys are nonconformist outlaws - wizards on rides, driving a variety of high phantom horsepower engines of destruction. Conjured chariots and muscular phantom steeds are popular. The only thing worse than a rogue wizard is a highly mobile rogue wizard.

Criminal Activity: Street Racing. Illegal Drugs. Robbery. Arson.

Gang Signal: A bitchin' ride.

Leader: Black Betty

She loved horses when she was a little girl. The phase never really went away. Now they're spiky black demon horses that exhale burning sulfur and drag flaming chariots of death and misery across the shattering bones of her screaming enemies.

Nobody beats her when it comes to Phantom Steeds - the fastest and toughest rides in the world. The very sight of their burning eyes causes small animals to perish and the feeble to shit themselves. People say she's actually a demon, and her horses are actually Nightmares. It might be true. Black leather jackets, red eye shadow, and metal spikes all day and all night. You will almost never see her without a demonic horse. She takes no nonsense and always gives it direct and straight - leaves more time for death racing.

8. Fourteen and Five-Eighths Street

Technically speaking, extra-dimensional pockets are not a law-enforceable zone. Hence all sorts of illicit and illegal activities can be sanctioned up a Rope Trick or inside a Magnificent Mansion. The gang name refers to the space between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets, where the majority of legal dead zones they've conjured are maintained.

Criminal Activity:  Destruction of Evidence, Kidnapping, Extra-Dimensional Speakeasies

Gang Signal: 14 5/8 tattoos in just the most awkward places.

Leader: Samuel "Aggravated Sal" Williams

His friends call him a "great guy", a "clever guy", but even they won't talk about when he's using. A few drinks or some wizard drugs in him and he's liable to kill someone just for looking at him funny. Doesn't help that he's got a terrible fashion sense - always with mismatched shoes and awful undershirts. His friends have disposed of a lot of bodies into extra-dimensional spaces on his behalf. He's wanted in the city for murder, if he ever returns.

As expected, Aggravated Sal is capable of casually casting spells like Rope Trick, Magnificent Mansion, Secret Chest, and Dimension Door.

9. Steeves

Steeve cloned himself two hundred times. About three-quarters of them are dead or imprisoned. The rest formed a street gang. Steeve was an undiscovered wizard serial killer before the cloning. Forming a gang has only made it worse.

Criminal Activity: Illegal Cloning, Murder, Extortion, Tax Evasion

Gang Signal: Every single one of them is Steeve.

Leader: Steeve.

Steeve has the least memorable face, personality, and fashion sense. He uses this to his advantage. Imagine he looks like that unremarkable coworker you pass by in the hall every day, except he gets this creepy-ass serial killer grin every time you're not looking at him (or maybe your coworkers are like that, who am I to presume?). The creepiness, of course, is multiplied by the number of Steeves simultaneously grinning.

Steeve was an bureaucrat before the cloning, so he knows how to hide his paper trail footprint. He's good with Wall spells, his favorites being "Wall of Kitchen Knives" or "Wall of Screams".

10. The Good Boyz

A wizard gang composed entirely of dogs. They're either polymorphed, shapeshifted, or otherwise altered to exploit the fact that friendly dogs are cute and fast and people rarely suspect them of foul play. There are probably a few druids in the mix, but nobody's going to judge. Their favorite crime is stealing babies to sell to other wizards.

Criminal Activity: Assault, Shoplifting, Arms Smuggling, Child Abduction

Gang Signal: They're dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Leader: Biscuit

Biscuit is best boy! An adorable golden retriever, which is in actuality a polymorphed balding 30 year old man with horrifying back hair. He will gladly look cute while his Boyz mess you up, sitting upon a dog comforter throne. His weakness is peanut butter.

Biscuit can cast polymorph as a dog. Only his lieutenants, or other experienced members, can do the same.

11. Dirty Rascals

About half of them are prepubescent boy wizards. The other half are wizards disguised as prepubescent boys. They do crimes prepubescent boys are frequently asked to commit: generally tasks requiring small hands and bodies.

Criminal Activity: Pickpocketing, Shoplifting, Burglary, Battery, Murder

Gang Signal: Working class hats. Grimy faces.

Leader: Samantha "Sam" Prescott

Appearing as an 11-year old spunky tomboy is, in actuality, a 50-something year old woman using a magical disguise. Goes by Sam. Call the leader of the Mini Rascals anything other than "Sam" and you'll get properly shanked. She is notoriously ruthless, and doesn't care a lick for new members until they prove themselves by committing a major crime.

Her signature spell is called: “And Now You Don’t Have Hands Or Feet”.

12. Bones ("Dead Janes")

A smuggling ring categorized by flamboyantly-dressed necromancers pimping out their undead for specialized tasks. Typically involves smuggling illegal drugs or weapons inside well-groomed zombie bodies drenched in perfume. Their trademark drug is a substance called Brainjuice, which is drunk right in an open skull and causes major memory dissociation. It's not unheard of for the group to take high profile contract killings by haunting a place with a banshee or violent poltergeist. Most of the group is women.

Criminal Activity: Smuggling, Drugs, Assassination

Gang Signal: Necromancers dress in flamboyant purple with magnificent feathered caps. Zombies have toe tags.

Leader: Dr. Mercier a.k.a. “Dr. Mercy”

She’s got Friends on the other side. Dr. Mercy, holder of a diploma from the definitely-not-fake Wizard City College of Spirits and Ghosts, is a notoriously charismatic gangster with style. She’s got the hat, she’s got the cane, and she’s got about a thousand active deals and pacts going on with various spirits. Her spiritual debt is something to balk at, with no less than twenty big-shot spiritual powers claiming some part of her soul upon death’s release. Won’t that be a sight, when it happens, if it happens.

13. Black Dragons

These guys are all about acid. They dress like they're cosplaying black dragons on a low budget. Notorious for taking hit jobs to throw everburning acid in peoples' faces, mutilating them for the rest of their painful life.

Criminal Activity: Arson, Contract Mutilations, Extortion

Gang Signal: Black parkas lined with metal plates, Splash goggles, making a claw with your hand.

Leader: Ancient Black Dragon (Korbor the Black)

Its leader is actually a adolescent black dragon, masquerading as someone pretending to be an ancient black dragon called "Ancient Black Dragon". He acts all mysterious and cryptic and mystical, in ways that would certainly be considered hokey if someone wouldn't throw acid in your face for calling it out. Long black hair, pale skin, black tongue, long black painted fingernails, fake black dragon wings, the works. A bad actor in every sense, though his minions eat his performances up. His “Lair” is rife with smelly incense and bubblings pits of water with too much green food coloring in it.

14. Better Reality Union

Commonly known as BRU, or "Brewers". Inception-style illusion drugs that whisk users away to new realities for days at a time. Occasionally let a paying client "have fun" with a hallucinating drug user. They wear white robes like healers or doctors, and are absolutely terrible at keeping their facilities and equipment clean.

Criminal Activity: Drugs, Prostitution, Human Trafficking

Gang Signal: White Robes

Leader: Father Bishop

A serene wizard with a god complex and maddening hypocrisy. Looks how you'd expect someone who demands to be called "Father". Speaks in truisms and proverbs, always proclaiming the benefits of the realities he offers while never going under himself. Actively exploits his own gang members and clients. Advertises his services as healing remedies for psychological maladies while roping and entrapping people in and taking their money.

Master of subtle illusion magic, such as making people paranoid, rotting their brains in mind-prisons, and screwing with dreams.

15. Lock-Key International

Known colloquially as "LoKI", or "Low Key". They specialize in doors, and are frequently landlords. Breaking and entering or locking people up, they have ways of making life very inconvenient for their "clients". It’s not unheard of, for a person who failed to "pay the rent", to find themselves trapped in a closet for three days, or to have their doors remain open during the winter, or for their locks to suddenly grow teeth and bite them. Technically speaking, this sort of thing is illegal, but wizard cops are easy to pay off. And "misunderstandings" happen.

Criminal Activity: Extortion ("Rent"), Blackmail, Kidnapping, Burglary

Gang Signal: Flash a key tattoo on the ankle.

Leaders: Alfred Lock and Sarah Key, partners, not lovers. Don't make that mistake. They look and act like that couple at the grocery store that's been together for 30 years and still shops together.

Lock specializes in the imprisonment aspects of the group, Key specializes in the breaking and entering. Together they own more domiciles than all the other wizard gangs combined.

16. Sons of the Serpent

They are secretly snakes with fake human heads. They can pop their heads off at any moment and grow a huge snake neck to bite people's' heads off. Also they're wizards, having been witnessed casting a multitude of spells, particularly turning various things into snakes.

Criminal Activity: ???, but it can’t be good...

Gang Signal: Other than secret snake heads? Nothing.

Leader: ???

Barely anything is known about the Sons of the Serpent. Occasionally there will be a story about some store clerk, or old lady walking her dog, or a member of another gang, suddenly being accused of being a snake by a bystander, then popping off their own head and chomping said accuser and eating them, before being shot down by the wizard police.

17. George the Cripple's Gang

They control the docks, and frequently make use of forceful hands to smash open store fronts for looting or to crush those that trespass on their turf.

Criminal Activity: Ram-Raiding, Exortion

Gang Signal: A Closed Fist

Leader: George the Cripple

He can't walk or move his arms, not that he needs to. He is a powerful psychic, capable of reading minds and summoning giant telekinetic hands and feet to compensate for his wrinkly frailty. He typically rides on the back of his hulking nephew, a dull but giant lad named Bo.

18. The Dark Forces of the Curselord

These guys are a bunch of jerks. They’re Evil with a capital “E”, believing that by committing heinous acts they’re yadda yadda cosmic balance yadda yadda divine alignments blah blah blah they must earn the Curselord’s favor. They don’t even commit crime for the money or the power, just for the sake of it, like a bunch of weirdos. The Dark Forces frequently recruit edgy teenagers.

Criminal Activity: All crime, for the sake of EEEEEEEEEEVIL. Tends towards easy victim-crimes like kicking puppies and punching babies.

Gang Signal: Loudly proclaiming fealty to the Dark Curselord. Wearing an impractical number of spikes. Making an “E” with your three middle fingers.

Leader: Tom “Dungeon Master” Gurds

Tom… Oh Tom… He is such a doofus.

Tom has no idea how stupid he looks and sounds literally all the time. He’s like someone in their 40s who never got out of his Edgy Teenager phase. He’s a balding, sweaty, cultist tryhard who needs the affirmation of teenagers and some bogus cult shit to justify his existence. No professional wizard ever takes him seriously, not even the wizard police. He doesn’t commit any crimes, so they don’t bother. His “minions” commit plenty, but they tend to be pretty minor things, and they also tend to stop after reprimanded by the authorities.

Tom ‘specializes’ in curse magic, though his curses fail, often spectacularly, 80% of the time. He’s gotten them to look really dramatic, though, so it might scare someone’s grandma (provided she isn’t a wizard).

19. The League of Felonious Gentlemen

Most gangs are in it for the money and the power. These guys are it in for the fun of the challenge. Impeccably dressed, studiously polite, classy - they are the perfect gentlemen. They are well-known for their ludicrously elaborate heists, using Rube-Goldberg levels of sophistication, to steal utterly unimportant things from very powerful people - a family picture, someone's pillow, a favorite drinking cup. Nobody knows what happens to these items.

Criminal Activity: High Profile Burglary

Gang Signal: Proper Etiquette and Dress. Top hats and bandit masks.

Leader: The Man in the Dazzling Mask (Crown Prince Ferdinand)

The most mysterious and well-kept secret of The League is its de facto leader - a wizard of extraordinary subtly, power, and class. Behind his stunningly beautiful diamond mask is none other than Crown Prince Ferdinand of the Ruby Isles, heir to The Throne of Coal. He is wreathed in diplomatic immunity, should he ever get caught. His masked persona is as famous as he is, and it is only by his clever wizardry and cunning that nobody has drawn the connection between the two. He only ever reveals his masked persona to lower-class women, and his real face to the wealthy and powerful, and so his proclivities remain a secret.

The Crown Prince is enviously proficient in all magic except necromancy. Capable of casting Wish.

20. The Bookprinter's Cartel

You know why textbooks are expensive? These guys. They have a monopoly on book printing and intend to keep it that way. They're well known for various acts of arson whenever an independent entrepreneur gets the bright idea to dip into the book printing market. A side effect of being the only book printer is that they can enchant them with all sorts of Orwellian spells, making every book in the city a potential ear for their "Listeners".

Criminal Activity: Monopoly, Arson, Espionage, Blackmail, Information Brokering

Gang Signal: Official Bookprinter's Cartel Identification, or obviously-trying-too-hard-to-look-casual clothes.

Leader: Professor Z

Zachary Zargot, “Professor Z”. A right greedy bastard, he is. Very fond of overt and decadent displays of wealth, especially in front of people much, much poorer than he is. Includes such activities of dubious stimulation as: smoking banknotes through hole-punched platinum coins, having wizard lackeys transmute everything he touches to gold, snorting relic dust, and having an animated ass wipe.

His worst display of all, however, besides his chin, is that he doesn’t actually have a PhD. At most he got a Master’s in Public Health, and even that is debatable (didn’t complete all the requirements, intimidated his guidance counselor). His magical ability, especially under duress, is particularly lacking.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Regional Meta-Event Tables for Tidelock

Change is a huge theme for my Tidelock home campaigns. The world is specifically designed to be an easily-tipped equilibrium, a breeding ground for chaos that players can easily exploit.

From Game of Thrones, Season 3 Episode 6

One of the things I discovered while running my home campaigns was that it was going to become necessary to create a resource or protocol for what happens when a group returns to an adventure region. Whether it was a party returning after having smashed the equilibrium, or the other party entering the region after the first party bulldozed through it.

These tables can double for "fill the power vacuum" suggestions, too. Although it's likely best to consider exactly what the party did when they first came through the area, one gets a certain degree of hand-waving due to the complex nature of the faction-power dynamics.

It's important that for each meta-event there is an adventure hook attached, or at least implied.

Meta-Events for the Tidelock Campaigns

The Feyfjord

A cold place where the sun barely touches the earth, save for the hilltops. Filled with strange negative-energy monsters and undead-labor farms.
  1. Roaming Zombie Hoards - Hoards of revolutionary zombies from the nearby death farms now roam en-masse across the countryside, attacking anything living. There is a bounty for each jawbone brought in.
  2. Land Rush - Incentives from Twilight City have sent settlers scrambling for arable land. Expect settler caravans and border wars in farming regions. Development of Necromancer-Warlords imminent.
  3. Mysterious Stalkers - A strange cloaked giant has been accosting travelers, causing them to eschew food and forget sleep. It finally hit someone important. Simultaneously, interest has grown in the so-called "Feral Procession" making its way across the region, causing those who look upon it to strip down and follow on all fours, like a beast. It, too, hit someone important.
  4. Were-Wolf Incursion - No, not Werewolves, those don't exist anymore. Were-Wolves. They can't stand fire or sunlight. Normally they haunt the Dark Wood but recently they've grown bold. A culling is needed, though nobody has any idea how to do it. Great reward promised.
  5. Monster Hunt - The Sky Halberd, a blimp-sized levitating river pike, has been targeted by several Houses in Twilight City for its harassment of their necromancer-overseers and their minions. Farming interests want it exterminated and its guts used as fertilizer. One House wants to capture it alive and tame it, turning it into a living airship.
  6. The Parliament of Bones - Apparently a host of skeletons have banded together to overthrow their masters and form their own government. The landowners of Twilight City just can't have that. What if they inspire other undead to rebel? It'll be chaos, CHAOS! Agents of new representative undead government in Feyfjord - Flesh taxes, bone tolls, and meat tariffs enforced at river crossings by new skeletal overlords. New roads and bridges being paved with bones of non-compliant.

The Northshore

Mediterranean climate with little food and water and 8 factions fighting over the scraps - Amazons, Dustfarmer-Militias, Sand Vikings, Imperial Devils, Wizard-Capitalists, Inbred Wood Elves, Violent Ladies (Thank you, Patrick Stuart!), Refugees. All factions (except Refugees) fight over central lone mountain called Golan's Demise in King-of-the-Hill fashion. Also: titanic monsters.

  1. Factional Dominance - Roll a d8, that faction has gained an edge in the ongoing conflict. Nearby rivals are pushed back into other enemies. Decisive victories prevent two factions from sending out raiding parties, makes them desperate for manpower.
  2. Unlikely Alliance - Two non-adjacent factions form strange alliance to gang up on neighbors. Threatens to break equilibrium in region. One faction sandwiched, on brink of oblivion, desperate for help.
  3. Imperial Invasion - The Solar Empire, with its meritocratic army of man-devils, has finally decided to invade the Northshore full-force and bring an end to the rampant injustice of its petty societies. All other factions form a loose alliance to combat the devils. Violent Ladies merely form non-aggression pact. Wizard-Capitalists eschew territorial ambitions and provide clandestine material support to non-imperialists.
  4. Reincarnasaur Population Boom - Additional 1 in 6 chance of Reincarnasaur per Turn. 100-year apex predator population boost discourages travel in region. Internal strife as important people are eaten and reincarnated. 2 in 6 chance each important NPC has changed race. Reincarnasaurs, though difficult to kill, offer a lot of meat and other resources.
  5. New Giga-Monster - Titanic monster, an order of magnitude bigger than the next biggest thing, emerges from earth to begin its crawling trek across the land. It is too big to notice people. Factional scramble for dominance atop its porous, ridged back, where replenishing food source is found.
  6. Millennium Flood - 1000 year flood smashes through the region, forming new lake and river that carves up territory along new practical boundaries. New type of amphibious warfare develops. Food and freshwater about to be plentiful in one growing season, for one additional season.

The Seventh Door

A largely dry, mountainous region adjacent to the large Eastern Desert, with several saltwater rivers snaking through to evapo-lakes. Notable for its rogue sorcerers, dragons, and the Iron People.

  1. Rebellion - The Iron King senses weakness in the aging Mansa, and, having always loathed paying tribute to mortals, pounces on the opportunity. The Iron People enter open rebellion. IP patrols increase. Non-IP, particular those carrying weapons, will be suspected of being assassins or scouts for the Mansa. Trade caravans allowed free mobility, especially foreign ones.
  2. Water Poisoning - Local sources of freshwater have been poisoned by strange gold-sludge creatures emanating from an undertraveled, cursed place. Ecological crisis causes local humans to flee westward, leaving valuables behind/along the way.
  3. Dragon Awakening - The Iron Dragon has awoken from his long slumber, and crawled to the surface. He demands to talk to the highest authority in the region to discuss the terms of his return. His awakening causes all objects of any personal significance in The Seventh Door to grow sentience and speech capabilities.
  4. Witch Hunt - A particular rogue sorcerer gains notoriety after having killed someone important or laying claim to a bold amount of territory. Brave sorcerer hunters and sorcerer-hunters come to combat the infamous one and steal their secrets, flooding the land with strife as the hunters clash against any and all of the antisocial sorcerers at once.
  5. Dreams of Hidden Mask - Several famous hunters from long history-ed tribes, along with someone in the party, get dreams of the location of an ancient Ritual Mask deep in the Swamp of Swords, on the dangerous eastern edge of the Seventh Door. The race is on to obtain it so that its powerful sorcery can be used in their respective secret societies.
  6. The Red Lord - A foreign power has laid claim to a stretch of land along one of the saltwater rivers, calling himself "The Red Lord". He has brought many foreign mercenaries from far-away lands, built forts with astonishing speed, and reached agreements with the local rogue sorcerers. Nobody knows his motives, or why he's protecting wastelands. Disciplined mercenaries dressed in red heraldry patrol the rivers.

The Deadwind Archipelago

A chain of crazy islands in the warmer Estor Ocean, with strong, constantly directional spiral-winds and the occasional waterspout-tornado. Named for the Island-City of Deadwind, where the wind is impossibly still and the city's government changes every three days.

  1. Hydur's Pissed - The God of Air, Wind, and Vengeance has decided to smite. An enormous tornado, miles wide at the base rips its way around the Archipelago in an anti-clockwise fashion. Close your eyes and draw a vague lemon shape on the map with a fat highlighter. Anything standing up on those islands has been smashed to pieces.
  2. Strange Sails - A gigantic fleet of ships bearing sails and colors none have ever seen are holding position somewhere in the Archipelago. They are sending out boat-emissaries seeking to trade strange trinkets and black powder for food. Their ships have hereto-unseen cannons capable of striking from a half-mile away, dwarfing current combat ranges dictated by wizard spells and siege weapons.
  3. Jelly Bridges - Giant flotillas of nutritionless clustered breeding jellyfish are forming land-bridges between adjacent islands, allowing their inhabitants to intermix and preventing certain sea travel. Number the islands, rolling a few d20s, and draw bridges between them. Should last at least a few campaign turns before the breeding cycle finishes and the land-bridges sink to the ocean floor.
  4. Island Shuffle - Assign islands numbers, roll some d20s. Those islands switch locations with each other. Nobody has any idea why. Sea traders, and people in Deadwind, are paying for updated maps.
  5. The Unter-Ooze Adapts - Through lucky mutation the Unter-Ooze has overcome its allergy to saltwater. Giant ooze begins to spread along ocean floor, invisibly taking over nearby islands. Only a matter of time until it spreads to the entire world now. To observer, looks like strange "glitches" occurring all over.
  6. Colonization - Regional interests, satisfied with their appraisal of the Archipelago, have begun carving up the territory and establishing colonies and trading posts. Deadwinders will find their island-city under siege by far empires, and their people impressed into service in foreign navies. Islands found to have valuable resources or capable of sustaining people will gain a foreign presence. The Goddess Liberty begins preparing the population to go to war.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Oppression Engine

Ancient Amino Foes
More Ancient Amino Foes

Life cannot exist without disparity, without dynamics. Energy must flow from one state to another, or all is stagnant, all is void. Burning suns and raging photons weren't the first sources of energy, neither was heat, nor pressure nor gravity nor electromagnetism. Before Natural Law was written, before gods made the order of things, there were Oppression Engines. Their source of energy was Fear.

Oppression Engines generate a disparity in Fear by creating a metaphysical gradient across the Plane of Power. They then harvest its return, using it to synthesize soluble Oppression.

The steps of this process are gradual and invisible. They are taken for granted.

The bio-mechanical components of the Oppression Engine exist straddled across a metaphysical membrane of reality, but have half-anchored pieces in the physical world. Some of the metaphysical complex is in the minds and souls of the powerful and the truly free, some of it in the the rest.

People who adventure always belong to the former category.

There are no limits of distance to its mechanisms, though they are most pronounced in proximity to its physical components.

What appears as one megaplex of bio-machinery is actually five distinct units, each with its own highly sophisticated function. Each subunit can be physically separated from the others. Each works independently.

Moving individual Complexes isn't easy, given that each structure is roughly the size and weight of a bus. Dragging such weight and bulk deep underground is a challenging task.

Still, it has been done.

Complex I - Hope's End

  • Takes Hope, converts it into Despair
  • Uses this energy to generate Pain.
  • Moves Fear from the Powerful to the Vulnerable

It is a still juggernaut - a bumpy conglomeration of porous ancient plastics and wheezing vents. Its macro structure is reminiscent of a mud-crusted boot. It gnaws Hope right off the soul, leaving only Despair. Its proximity causes Pain - not physical pain, but deep, emotional anguish. The pain of defeat.

Complex I may be found buried under the Highest Mountain, where The Brave come to test their mettle and die. Their still-frozen bodies will forever be little monuments to their failure.

There is a giant whose name was long forgotten, buried deep in the cold stone. A tortured titan, whose eon-screams have faded from his mind and flesh. He is chained, crucified, deep in the mountain, among a mass grave of birds.

The chains rusted away an age ago. He knows nothing but his cave. Complex I lays at his feet.

Complex II - The Strange Complex

  • Takes Passion, converts it into Indifference.
  • Uses this energy to generate Pain.

So called, for it does not directly contribute to the ordering of Fear like the others. It is a mighty wall, with sheets upon sheets of chrome nano-fiber mesh, utterly impenetrable. Its chitinous metal-flesh turns away even the blows of the heavenly host. Those in its presence are drained of their Passion. Its proximity causes the Pain of ennui.

There once was a city whose walls were made of Complex II. It was a City of Uncaring, of Negligence. It had no army, no police. It had no crime and no love. Babes starved in their cribs, unwilling to even cry out. Its beggars and citizens alike piled in rotting masses in the streets. Its king was the King of Nothing, who did, and was, nothing.

A heavenly army destroyed the city for its great blasphemies. Trumpets not heard since the dawn of the universe shattered three walls and razed them to the ground. The fourth wall toppled, but remained intact. The city was purged. In time, another city was built atop the ruins. That city fell, too. Another yet was built. It fell. The ruins of five forgotten cities, stacked atop each other like pancakes.

A metropolis now exists atop the site, though few have dared to venture into the ruins below. Why should they care? Why should it matter? The people of the city have things to do.

Complex III - Cruel Mercy

  • Consumes Pain.
  • Takes Doom, converts it into Destiny
  • Moves Fear from the Powerful to the Vulnerable
It has a porcelain smoothness to its texture. The entire complex seems it were made of fine ceramics and glass. In its form, some see a distracted beautiful woman. Some see a disinterested crone. Some see both. Those near death see The End.

Duality is its nature. It takes away Pain and grants Destiny to those able, while shedding Fear onto the powerless. Forever is it known as The Merciful Complex, The Heroic Complex, for those it eschews never have their stories told.

A rich and mighty king once had Complex III exhumed from the veins of the earth. It came to be greatest conquest - better than his children, or his many beautiful wives, or his vast holdings of riches and territory. He guarded Cruel Mercy jealously, never letting any but himself gaze upon its beauty.

He commissioned an architect to build a vault for it - a vault so crafty that no thief would ever breach it, no giant would ever break it, no god would ever find it.

The architect succeeded, and the king never found the vault again.

He had the architect decapitated, his head put on a salted silver platter. The architect's dying words, while bleeding out on that platter, were nonsense and unimportant by all accounts. The accounts were wrong. He cursed the King, but while doing so gave hint at the vault's location.

"In the souls of the artists, the musicians, the thespians, the architects, rests the Cruel Mercy. It is on somber canvas, in tragedies, amidst the quiet places, along the low notes."

The king, wise but not clever, never found it. His legacy makes no mention.

One might catch a glimpse of the vault of Complex III while making tragic or sorrowful art. Its beating heart can be felt behind the still-wet canvas, or under the stage where pigs' blood drips. It's bound in the note-colors of dirges, or under stones in quiet, contemplative places.

But only to artists.

Complex IV - Heaven's Gate

  • Takes Destiny, converts it into Doom
  • Moves Fear from the Powerful to the Vulnerable 
A radiant beast bearing the seals and brands of six heavens, resembling an open-mouthed whale. It moves as leviathan through the mist, bounding and flowing across ether waves upon ventral sails of solar colors.

Heaven wasn't made in a Day. It was made in seven, after six failures - six monuments to the failures of the divine, commanded by all to have been forgotten. They are particular hells, containing righteous First Men forever tormented by ill-conceived afterlifes.

In the first, the righteous were placed next to the throne of God. This annihilated them instantly, like flash paper placed next to the Sun, and so the throne was abandoned.

In the second, the righteous were granted every wish they ever desired. It became a place of a billion universe-prisons, filled with numberless figment-peoples eternally tortured by the bored whims of the faithful, who in time were all corrupted by their power.

In the third, the righteous souls were teleported to a sky realm, where they sat on clouds, played music all day on celestial instruments, and watched the earth below. This was all they could do... forever. It drove them all mad. It is a violent madhouse now.

In the fourth, there was no pain. People couldn't handle it. The mind and soul, unused to this reality, frantically tried to invent new pains to compensate for this invalidating homogenization. There, new kinds of pain were subconsciously invented. It horrified the divine so greatly that it this heaven was forever quarantined.

In the fifth, there was no notion of time. People were not, they could not. They had no notion of events. They could merely be, and that was all. They exist quantum-locked, forever, in a plane of statues, monuments, trophies. A place where things merely are.

In the sixth, devotion was mandated. They would exist, those people, forever in the service of the gods, reveling in their glory. To ensure this, they had to be broken. Pieces had to be removed. The denizens of this place are devout and holy, but they are not people. They are merely worshiping objects, counter-idols. The longest lasting of the Heavens.

On a plane between these six heavens and the seventh rests Heaven's Gate. It watches over the realms, content in its being, smiting those Heroes and Profane Sorcerers whose hubris leads them to heaven. This is considered merciful compared to allowing them entrance.

Oppression Synthase

  • Moves Fear from the Vulnerable to the Powerful 
  • Produces soluble Oppression.

There are great amounts of potential energy in the Vulnerable. Complexes I through IV have been very busy. Oppression Synthase has much work to do.

It is a great rotary engine of clockwork biomass. It sounds and moves like a great machine press, constantly pounding away with slow, deliberate triplicate piston-chambers.

Soluble Oppression takes many subtle forms. Most of it is whisked away to who-knows-where, for what purpose none dare know. Some of it leaks into our reality along the way. Cruel tyrants and invisible systems of oppression may be born from the tiniest quanta.

Oppression Synthase could not be tolerated in any order begot by gods. To have their creations unafraid was to risk religious-cosmic rebellion. It had to be buried deep - so deep that none could ever conceive of the time without hierarchy, where the vulnerable were unafraid but the powerful were.

So it was cast into the past, buried so deep on the edge of time that none would ever find it.

The problem of this is obvious to anything that exists in time. Not so for gods.

Oppression Synthase never exists in the same time and place for long. It is a cosmic nomad, continuously being cast into the past only to reemerge like a buoyant cork. Nobody but the gods know where and when Oppression Synthase is or was. Eventually, it outlasted even them.

The rituals to move it into the past have been maintained, however, despite gods' passing. There are few who can still recognize the old mechanisms that drive the Synthase's banishment. Such systems are coded in the biology of planets. They're hidden between the unwritten words and taboos of the laws of society. They are written among constellations, cataloged in the spirals of galaxies. The formulae are completely invisible, but won't be forever. Eventually, someone will notice them. Some god-wizard will crack the code, and Oppression Synthase will escape the cycle.

It will come 'round.

ATP Synthase4 - Officially the most awesome protein that ever existed.
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