Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Twilight Pomerium

At the heart of the city of November lies the space where gods come to sleep and die. It is a cold, dark place, protected by layers of the dead and their caretakers. The mute gravesmen-lictors who patrol the pomerium wear the insignia of axes to denote their religious right to kill defilers. All others must surrender their weapons and spell foci. Soldiers and provincial administrators are not permitted.

Its circumference is marked by gravestones containing the bound souls of honored drow priests. On them are written the oaths that the priest took in life - fearsome, ascetic, inhuman. ("This priest never consumed anything which cast a shadow for sustenance"; "This priest was never seen by mortal eye."; "This priest mummified their living flesh without assistance.")

Examples of cippi.

They also contain the warning: these elders guard the Pomerium still, whose boundary this demarks. Their shades remain within the stones, guarding against trespassers. Should the eye upon the stone detect weapons or means of magic, their wraiths shall emerge to ward and defend the district. These wraiths do not have eyes. Instead they sense by passing hand over visitor, draining some modicum of life even in cursory examination. Best to have turned back before then.

Or to have come up with a clever means of hiding them.

There are exceptions, sometimes, to the rules. If the armies of November have slain or charmed a god then the soldiers will be permitted a triumph through the pomerium, dragging its corpse in chains or in honors to the cold slumbering depths. Its leader, for having conquered divinity, momentarily becomes one, and becomes immune to all laws of the city for a period of one week.


Of the armies of November the most feared are their priestesses. They are masters of Evocation - the military action of stealing the tutelary gods in siege, sack, or raid. The loss of the blessings of a tutelary god bring utter destruction and ruinous fate upon strongholds and cities. It is the fall of empires.

In times of the Spider Queen, these gods were lured out of their cities and shrines by trickery, craft, and charm. The enemies' shrines were stolen in the night and its priests murdered as false caretakers. The gods were seduced and led through confounding underground and dimensional mazes, strung up upon adamantine webs for the Queen, and by proxy her Venomous Goddess, to poison and devour.

The sustenance of these gods was used to birth thousands of godlings over the millennia.

But since the Spider Queen was overthrown, her House annihilated, and worship of the Venomous Goddess outlawed, a new practice has formed. Instead of devouring these gods they are given reverence and rest. They are given cults of sleepless followers, endlessly devoted to prayer.

This has only strengthened their capacity for Evocation.

I kind of imagine it looks something crazy like this.

The Great Red Dragon and the Beast From the Sea
William Blake, 1805-1810


But why are the priestesses of the drow so skilled at Evocation?

The drow are, quite simply, far better at religion than anyone else. They do not compromise and they do not hesitate in religious matters. They have resolve. Whereas the elites of any society will nearly always barter and compromise with their religions to maintain their positions of power or comfort, the drow have no such allusions. Their priestesses and leaders will proudly die and suffer torment to prove their devotion. What their enemies will do for their gods the drow will unhesitantly do ten-fold. The clerics that rise but once in a generation on the surface will be present in legion among the Twilight Armies.

Despite the stereotype and the ancient myths, the gods do not hate the drow. On the contrary, they love the drow. They love their fanaticism, their will. They love the dread respect that the drow give them, and they love their devoted art. The artisans of the drow spend centuries honing their craft in contemplative sleepless solitude - a hundred lifetimes of mastery channeled into charming one particular deity. Gods rarely receive such flattery, even from other gods.

All prejudices against the drow ultimately branch from this jealousy - this insecurity that your gods love them more than you, despite all efforts. Before the religious might of the drow all are like an unfavored sibling - a Cain before a righteous Abel. After long years of propaganda and generational hate, this core reason has largely been obfuscated to petty xenophobic bigotry. People have forgotten why the drow should be feared.

The drow have not forgotten, though. They are well aware of their strength. They simply bide for time, researching and infiltrating their future foes, formulating stratagem to steal the worlds' gods once again...

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Finders Auction

Two compacted city blocks down Wailing Blvd. from The Portal of Screams in Wizard City, past the scream-squatters and the drug-addled gentlemen and the occasional confused criminal from the future, lies The Finders Auction. It's a soggy, sagging building whose ramshackle and haphazard architecture is accentuated appropriately by the piercing screams echoing down the boulevard. Luckily, business is handled on the street, and only Finders agents need peril themselves inside the interior.

The Finders are a bounty hunting agency. There are no membership dues (hence the dismal state of the building), and anyone may partake in the bounty auctions at their leisure. Patrons of the agency will contract Finders agents to find particular things or people, who then outsource this task to bounty hunters via auction.

The lowest bidder gets exclusive rights to the bounty for a given period of time. If the time expires the rights then pass up to the next-highest bidder for the same time period, repeated ad infinitum. Should someone bring in bounty they do not have rights to, payment shall go to the rights-holder.

Finders agents traditionally take an inverse-proportional cut of the reward money - the lower the cost to the patron, the bigger cut they get. Hence, a certain trust is valued in Finders that don't embezzle their bounty hunters.



The Patron Requires A(n)...


Auction Price Will Be Starting At...


Cute Exotic Pet

It must be ALIVE… and UNSPOILED!

A high-quality ham sandwich.


Joke. A good one.

Nobody’s seen one of those in years!

Five 30-gallon drums of unshelled peanuts.


Criminal from the Past to document for historical purposes.

It must be pristinely clean!

Tutorrage for four years in the topic of the Bounty Hunter’s Choice.


Cursed object in order to entrap and disqualify their sibling from the family fortune.

It can’t be second hand.

Five years worth of rent.


Secret Meeting Place

This thing is the object of a dramatic Butterfly Effect disaster. Expect visitors from the future.

A very nice and expensive dress suit.


Trade Secret, Dubiously Acquired.

Those things are historically very slippery.

A lifetime supply of waffles.


Nice Shrub

Those things have suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from shops everywhere!

University Tenure


Specific irresponsible warlock who skipped Suit Court.

Not that one. They already have that one.

Use of an indentured hireling for no longer than 1 year.


Murder Weapon. (That is, a weapon which has been used to murder someone.)

It must be delivered into a dungeon.

250 Spellgold


Lost cat.

This thing just became the hot new speculative currency.

500 Spellgold


Human footstool of precise dimensions.

A dragon is attempting to hoard all copies of this thing.

1000 Spellgold


Scientific Samples!

The patron definitely misspelled the thing they wanted, and the Finder doesn’t realize the error.

2000 Spellgold

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The New Old Gods

(A follow-up to the Everlasting Summer campaign setting. Musings of worldbuilding and considerations for a possible sequel - something of a mix between American Gods and Lovecraftian horror for the modern era.)

Something happened at the dawn of Man. An intelligence, sophisticated and cruel, birthed itself from itself, becoming something different than what was before.

The Old Gods are forces of nature: Sun, Fire, Ocean, Evolution, Reproduction, Time, Consumption, Violence... They were immortal and dispassionate, living long eons slumbering and gorging, still as glacial cores. Their mutations and decisions occur on the scale of galactic rotations. They are worshipped ignorantly by animals and people alike.

The New Gods were made by Man. Compared to the Old Ones they are weak petulant things, doomed to live and die in the blink of an eye. Their destiny is tied to Man's rise and inevitable extinction.


Boreas, The Nuclear Winter, The Winds of Death

He is a god of mankind's particular ecological apocalypse. Like the ones that came before him he is a thing of duality. The nuclear winds and the nuclear winter. The hot and cold fronts. 

A'aqur demands human sacrifice.

Its cultists hate and fear their god, but they respect its power. They dare not speak of or summon its avatars, for they know the cost. Cults of A'aqur dissolve and reform every 47 Years as the Northern Wind demands more sacrifices. Its leaders tend to be parents and grandparents: patriarchs and matriarchs of old Houses who groom their female children to be suitable sacrifices - conservative, ignorant, and innocent. They do not practice what they demand of their youths.


The Fumbling State, The Blind Listener, Hecatoncheires

The State is a blind, fumbling thing, constantly seeking to ascertain the objects of its domain. It knows not the extent of its body: its people, its resources, its land, its thoughts. It must listen to its whispering priests that it may come to know itself. It must compartmentalize and conceptualize, ever-stretching, ever-listening, until its inevitable singularity.

Leviathan seeks to grow more eyes, more ears. It needs more priests: bureaucrats, quantifiers, software engineers. It needs technology, and most importantly data: cameras, GPS tracking, satellites, surveys, statistics, facial recognition, social media.

Its cultists work as nonpartisan governmental bureaucrats, or nowadays in Big Data tech. They occupy positions of power that are not subject to political sway. They are difficult to discover and even more difficult to uproot. Their God has a righteous monopoly on violence, or so they believe. Police, members of the military, lawyers, and religious figures all act in service to Leviathan, often without consideration.


The Black Key, The Light in the Dark, The Chemical God, Prometheus

It is a God of luminescence but it is always depicted as pitch black. Delved from deep underground, from the blood and bones of the earth came the means to dispel the darkness. It lives in everything that is electric: the generators, the fluorescent bulbs, the power lines and pacemakers. It is life, it is light, and it is lucid. It is the opposite of everything that is dreamlike and predatory in the dark. It is a god with disciples and with enemies.

Theorized to be the oldest of the New Gods. Its presence is found in shadow, cast on painted-wall of ancient cave-homes. Where once it was fire and hearth it now lives in electrical grid and radiator, in appliances and televisions. It is comfort, it is safety. It is, as its cultists say, humanity.

Its cultists are everyday working class people: tradesmen, nurses, technicians, janitors, truck drivers, operators. Those who maintain the shrines and offer daily prayers. Their devotion is frequently fanatical and evangelical. They will lay down their lives for the cult and try to recruit others in their social circles. They fear, above all, losing what amenities they have. When the lights threaten to go out, when the price of gas shoots up, when the internet dies, they will mobilize.


The Fruit of Cain, The Red Mask, The Heart of Darkness

Scholars have long held contentious the idea of pure ideological or religious violence. It is almost always complex - a product of community, identity, economic, secular and political interests. So rarely is it distilled to purest form - a hateful and cruel bloody mask made bare for all to see.

Even a false idea cynically given lip service can gain power beyond the control of its creators. Though the reasons of conflict remain complex, among its perpetrators there are true believers. Zin is this phenomenon given name and form: the essence of religious and ideological violence spawned from all other reasons.

Zin is paradoxically a most alien thing, despite its proximity and dependence on Man. Its agents are incomprehensible to the typical person: try to imagine the mind of a true believer or a zealot. In most cases, Zin is perpetuated by unwitting peddlers cynically justifying violence for their own ends.

Its cultists are divided into two lots: those who are aware of Zin and those who aren't.

Those who aren't are arms dealers, politicians, clerics, and trolls: those who feast on the battlefields, suckle on the teats of wartime funding, and unwittingly sew the seeds of discord. They unknowingly worship for selfish reasons: money, power, entertainment, self-affirmation.

Those who are aware are far more dangerous but far more rare. They are strange, elusive, and monstrously competent at magic and violence. They often become Wizards: isolating themselves in towers and practicing misanthropic science.

(Pronounced: Hole)

The White Rabbit, Son of Man, Soul of the Old Gods

For long eons the Old Gods did not have souls. They had no need. Humanity changed that. The side effect of having pattern recognition in an evolutionarily developed brain is that it over-fires: apophenia. From this birthed a god that spawned the souls of all gods: the neverending hole.

It is apophenia itself - the finding of patterns from the truly random. A relic of the development of the human mind. That which needed rationalization for Everything. It is the personification of all Old Gods - from Zeus to Tiamat to the Jade Emperor. Because it is personification, it is their literal souls. Indeed, Heol is the very notion of the Soul itself. For what is a soul but a personification without substance?

Its cultists are conspiracy theorists, ghost hunters, and religious figures. They are wielders of metaphor and men-at-arms of the post-truth order. They gather on online message boards and corners of the dark web to disassociate reality from itself, diving down rabbit holes in perpetual endless fall. Those who succumb to the plunge become mad, like drug addicts.