Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Conversations to Have With Snakes

I have had to do enough metaphysical conversations with snakes in my campaigns that it's worth making a table about it now. 

Possibly applicable for dragons, too.

The Philosophical Snake is the most dangerous predator of all...
For philosophers, anyway.


1. Do Nightmares Have Dreams?

What is the dream of a dream? 
Sometimes, laying in stillness, I see The Moon.

2. What Does Time Taste Like?

I think it tastes like mice.
Little mice hiding very still, their heartbeats beating like raindrops in a storm.
It tastes coiled, full of a fearful potential energy, on the cusp of a sudden frantic leap...

3. Do Illusions Feel Pain?

I have bitten a phantasm and it recoiled and wept. It tasted empty.
It would be little different for you, I think...

4. What Is The Shape of God?

I think it is the shape like mine.
Powerful, elusive, flexible, growing. It sheds its skin and smaller things come to feast on it. 
It could swallow everything. Perhaps it already has.

5. Do Mice Have Free Will?

They all run and hide and scream. I think if they had agency some might not struggle... 
Will you struggle? Have you agency, or is it determined that you will resist?
(If power is all that determines agency, then which of us has free will?)
Have all the events and causalities of the universe irrevocably led to this moment, where I swallow you whole for nourishment?
Have we any true choice in this matter of consumption? Can I decide not to eat you, tasty meal?
What use is agency to I? Just a way to excuse missing a meal?
(All arguments shall be restated using examples of the snake eating the opposing conversationalists.)

6. Hello, I Am Snake.

(Use This. Type in all player responses.)

7. What Is Joy?

When I have eaten I feel at peace, but it is a still peace. A quiet peace.

8. Why Do You Not Consume Babies?

They are nutritious, soft and delicious, and easy to digest. They do not resist. They have little permanence.
Babies are the best of foods, and yet you spurn them. Why?
What does it matter that it be human or not?

Thursday, July 22, 2021

What Happens When You Kill A King

One does not simply kill a King. Regicide is a divine act.

They who have been pre-ordained to rule bear special metaphysical protections. The divine order does not treat breaches lightly. By birth all peoples are originally bound by their social contracts. Should this contract be one of divine right, then to commit regicide is to declare loudly that one is no longer submissive to the Gods.

And the Gods can't have that now, can they? It is not a question of whether the retribution will come, but a question of when and how.

1. Divine Assassin

The offended gods send an Aasimar, a celestial bailiff, to murder they who slew their king. The Aasimar sees this as a kind of arrest, rather than manslaughter - lawful under the divine order. To this end they are authorized to deputize those who they deem fit, and frequently garner support from clerics and fearful civilians in their mission. Their intentions are always preeminently declared three days ahead of time, by celestial messenger, heavenly choir, black spot, a plague, or whatever methods assassins declare themselves.

In order to properly ensure that the accused is brought to the correct realm, the Aasimar must murder the accused in a specific way. To this end the Aasimar are each specialized in causing a specific kind of death. One may need to slay their quarry in combat. Another might need to seduce their target into committing suicide by overdose. One might need a mob to lynch the kingkiller by hanging. Another might need to behead their target.

Aasimar simultaneously look very willing and
very unlikely to do extraordinary violence.
Source: ExRook

This can be a very tricky business, especially for offended gods in less-than-violent domains, but the Aasimar is a clever practiced assassin. And they're very patient.

Oftentimes the accused will attempt to escape justice by killing themselves in a manner opposite that which the Aasimar requires, or otherwise try to evade assassination by ruse and trickery. The Aasimar has many resources at their disposal, yes, but they are mortal. They're a person with a job via de facto nepotism. They can be fooled.

The most frequent legends across cultures of fooled Aasimars involve twins. Twins are difficult to distinguish by divine mechanism, and so those kingkillers who escaped capture often pinned the murder on identical siblings. The most infamous of these legends involved elf known as Lin, who used his three identical twin brothers as scapegoats to strategically murder three kings in succession, thereby ending the Dynasty of Gol.

If the Aasimar is killed or fails to report back in a certain period then calamity is likely to ensue. Depending on the god this can be anything from the metaphysical equivalent of swarming cops, to celestial SWAT teams, to wholesale indiscriminate retributory apocalypse.

2. Madness

A philosopher by the name of Pintius once named it The Regicide's Curse. He claimed that killing a King produces a particular madness in the murderer that made them paranoid, distrustful, and barbarous - a curse befitting from the gods.

He was correct about the symptoms, but he failed to see that it was not manifested in the killer, but in everyone else.

It is a collective madness of people trapped, willingly or unwillingly, known or unknown, within a social order. The only ones who find themselves immunized to it are independents: the ungovernable, the rebels, the hobos, the practitioners of rogue religions and authorities.

It starts with a gut feeling. Smiles turn to frowns at sight of your face. Distrustful stares become hateful. People spit at your feet and curse you while walking past. Guards turn you away at the gates. Merchants refuse to sell you goods. Beggars will throw back your money. You become a pariah. Then an outlaw. Then something worse. In its final progressions Nature itself turns on you: bugs will burrow into your beds, dogs will choke upon their chains to bite you, vines will reap at your ankles, and flowers die rather than be held in your hands. You become a solitary soldier in a war against all. This effects your companions for as long as they remain with you.

Functionally, this acts as a penalty to Reaction Roll that continuously escalates. -1 per Week. People will treat the regicide and whatever company they keep with less and less friendliness day by day, week by week until repulsion and hostility is inevitable. The only people immune to this are the vagrants of society: philosophical anarchistic rebels, desolate hermits, and strange cults. After hostility is guaranteed among normal people (12 Weeks) the Reaction Roll penalty begins to apply to Nature as well.

3. Haunting

Strike down a King and you will never be rid of them. Their shade is now bound to you forever, a scar upon your soul. This ghost is completely undetectable to all but the murderer by any and all means. It holds the personality of its monarch, and will torment its murderer in ways most appropriate to its person.

The shade cannot do much more than make noise and talk. This is enough. It will watch you when you sleep. If you're having a pleasant dream it will stir you with wailing and moaning. If you're having a nightmare it will leave you be. It will become your worst critic. When you fail it will laugh, and when you succeed it will try to steal the victory out of your mouth.

It might try and feign some meaning. It might try and hint at ways to be rid of it, to grant both he and you peace. These are always lies. You cannot be rid of the Shade. It will be with you always.

4. Long Live The King

If you have claim to the title you can scoop it up. Have a religious figure declare you the new King. It's a lot of responsibility. Good luck!

Okay, maybe it's not that simple. To become a King you need to be coronated. To be coronated you need to demonstrate support of a god. To demonstrate the support of a god you need a cleric, or even better yet a conclave.

Or you can cheat. Happens all the time with Kings. Lucky for them, the piety isn't as important as the gesture. The gods aren't looking that closely, anyway. You can get away with a surprising amount when cutting corners when becoming a King. Your predecessor killed all the clerics? Just make your nephew the new head of the church. Don't have an established right to rule by lineage? Just spread a bunch of stories about how your great-great-grandfather screwed Tiamat or something. Don't have a legitimate claim? Just make one up!

5. Anarchy

"Pray, pray young man, 
for the return of the gods' tormenting attention."

When the gods avert their gaze in shame or rage, sins are no longer recorded or remembered. Anything that happens in this place in this period will carry no mark into the afterlife. The teacher has left the classroom, the warden and the guards have all disappeared, the celestial police are on strike.

The timeframe before the vacuum is filled can be years long or hours short. For opportunists of all stripes, this presents the possibility of a lifetime. It's really a question, first and foremost, about who or what can mobilize first.

The Opportunists

Interests - power-hungry nobles, revolutionaries, freedom fighters. All have a vested interest in the Anarchy. If you have an agenda then this is your time to assert power and usurp the previous regime's legitimacy.

Secret Cults - The best time to stab a god is when they're not looking. The best time to cheat at the game is when your opponent's back is turned. Whether they're trying to attack and dethrone a god or rearrange the pieces of the metaphysical game of life, the Anarchy is the time. People plot for centuries for a moment like this, culting and counter-culting in a Great Game of religion and power.

Clerics - The worst of them all. They'll go nuts. Absolutely nuts. They'll go Lord of the Flies, they'll go postal, they'll engage in witch hunts and mass suicides and serial-killer escapades. They're going to be the first to find out that the gods aren't watching when their divine magic starts to fail. What they lose in magical power they gain in desperation.

Or, they might try and form a conspiracy to conceal it. As long as nobody finds out that the clerics no longer have their magic, perhaps they can buy enough time before the divine power vacuum is filled to avoid chaos and preserve their institutions.

Beasts - The extradimensional equivalent of a bear rummaging through your trash. All sorts of 'things' that are normally hedged out might become curious and venture into the world. Most of these Beasts From Beyond are completely harmless to people, and might even be beneficial, but every so often something predatory comes along that gets disproportional attention and goes on a killing spree or sets up a lair: a mind flayer, an aboleth, a purple worm. Something alien and horrible.


Ordinary people are, strangely, likely to be completely unaffected by the Anarchy, provided they can stay away from any clerics or ambitious people with armies. They might encounter some weird things at increased frequency, but more often then not these things are harmless and as scared of people as they are of them.

It can even be very desirable in some instances. The coming of 'spirits' and other Beasts From Beyond can be enriching in a number of ways. It can grant access to rare resources not normally available, and expose people to strange forces that grant them particular insight. It can be very profitable, both in a materialistic and spiritual sense.

It's anecdotal knowledge that Anarchies produce new generations of magic users. The Anarchy is likened to fertile spiritual soil from which entire novel magical traditions can grow - new cults, new prophets, even new fundamental ways of doing magic.

Each of the Classes of magic user came about in such a way - Druids, Sorcerers, Monks, Paladins, Warlocks, Wizards, and even Clerics found their roots established during Anarchical periods. The oldest of these, the Warlock, has remained fundamentally unchanged since the very first Pacts were formed. Others, such as the Druidic tradition in particular, have evolved drastically over time, though the foundation of their magic remains unaltered. It is likened to a renovated cathedral: the cornerstone remains the same, but bits and pieces can change. Or, perhaps to some, a Ship of Theseus.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Everlasting Summer Foreword / GM Introduction

The Everlasting Summer is a very near future horror campaign for use with whatever game system you desire, though it comes with the Underneath companion system by default. If running it with another system, think about how to integrate or utilize the Insight mechanic, as either a replacement or supplement for Sanity.


My recommendations to you as a horror Game Master starts with this: be flexible. Terror is not best achieved with a calculative pedantic adherence to orthodoxy, nor is horror best achieved in the metaphorical bog of procedure. Hone your instincts during play and try to anticipate when it is a good time to show, when to hide, and when to hint.

Second, let the Players connect the dots. Even if those connections aren't what you intended or expected. Don't correct them with the omniscient voice of the Game Master, but rather soothe them with the unreliable voice of the narrator. "But if that's true..." you may say. "...then what does that mean?" It may not 'mean' anything. That can be scary, too.

Lastly, be ruthless. If the dice have deemed it so, if the players transgress, if they ignore the warning signs, if they misplace their trust then let the punishment come. It's okay - we all know we're playing a horror game. (Or at least we should all know. Tell your players this is a horror campaign, don't leave them guessing the genre.) Losing can be as fun as winning. In this genre it's often more fun.


The primary conceit of the Everlasting Summer campaign is this idea: that there exist terrible cosmic horror elder gods, but that one does not need to look to distant stars or realms beyond space and time to find them. You and I encounter them every day. We take them for granted, being so close and so central to humanity that to be rid of them would strip us down to primordial soup.

They are the Strife that leads us to violence. The Doom of mankind's ecological extinction. The State of our society. The Light that comforts us. The rabbit Hole we blindly crawl down.

Humanity gives birth to things it does not and cannot fully comprehend. They can only be peripherally glimpsed through the lens of philosophy, experienced in fits of raw emotion, or smelled in drug-fueled dreams. They live in the shadows of paleolithic walls, in ancient libraries, in the cruel edges of bayonets, and in social media. They exist in our minds, piece by piece, each to each.

Insight, the insanity mechanic of this campaign, is an abstract measurement of how much a person innately and unconsciously realizes this. As they experience the supernatural their Insight will climb. As they attempt to rationalize or forget what they've witnessed, Insight will fall. As their Insight climbs they begin to experience things differently. They see things as they 'truly' are. They begin to see the Platonic forms, the magic, the monsters. Things that don't like being seen.

The Player-Characters will not be heroes. They will be ordinary people with ordinary skills, driven to interrogate the truth in a desperate attrition-retreat from comfort. They will encounter things they likely won't understand. The closer to understanding they get, the closer the danger.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Underneath - Resolving Differing Realities

These rules are for use with the Underneath system, which makes use of a sanity mechanic to potentially have different player-characters seeing the same thing differently, simultaneously.

It's assumed that we're working within the horror genre here, although I suppose the same arbitration/narrative issue will crop up when dealing with any sort of diverged realities- be it hallucinogenic drugs, magical illusions, or whatnot.

When you're at the table, one of the unspoken assumptions is that all of the player-characters are essentially experiencing the same reality. This is derived as a matter of convenience - one Game Master, one reality. Having multiple realities simultaneously present necessitates a kind of narrative juggling which can be difficult to manage.

And in my experience if two realities are being experienced, the players will poke at it until it stops or they give up and leave. This can be difficult to narrate and reconcile. So here's a procedure for Underneath to help you as a GM.


Group A experiences "Reality A", Group B experiences "Reality B". How do you resolve this difference? Do you resolve it?

There are four possibilities for how it can resolve:

  1. Reality snaps to A for everyone.
  2. Reality snaps to B for everyone.
  3. Reality remains differentiated.
  4. A Synergistic Reality - A-B - comes into being.
And because we're working within the Horror genre here, Reality A-B on average is going to be the worst option for the PCs. They'll find they really don't want A-B, and that'll hopefully drive reality towards a tablewide consensus.

Underneath Resolution Rules

i. If neither group acts upon, acknowledges, or undeniably interacts with their reality, then both realities remain differentiated. Sound of a tree falling alone in the woods.

ii. If one group declares their reality and the other does not acknowledge it, reality snaps to the side that declared.

iii. If both groups declare their realities to each other, then we enter into conflict. When this happens, they argue with each other and to the GM upon which reality is more believable. The GM acts as an arbiter, but not a judge, facilitating and encouraging roleplay. If a consensus among the players is reached reality snaps to that decision.

iv. If both groups declare their realities and cannot come to a consensus in a modest amount of time, a Synergistic Reality comes into being.

Synergistic Realities


Synergistic Reality



Reality begins shifting back and forth between the two. In the chaos a Wandering Encounter is drawn.

If this Wandering Encounter also produces a Synergistic Reality then all Players immediately become Lost in Space and Time.


Reality begins frantically tearing, opening a widening hole in reality. All who remain by this hole are Lost in Space and Time.

All players who don’t immediately begin leaving will get sucked in.


The area or creature simply disappears. It returns in 4d6 Hours.

If it’s a place, space neatly folds around it. All NPCs have no memory of the thing.


The object is now called ‘Something Incomprehensible’ by the GM. Something Incomprehensible crawls out of the object like a hatching egg.

Eyes and wings - too many eyes and wings. Unless all present characters prostrate themselves or avert their gaze, everyone immediately wakes up the next day with their Insight scores +3.


Things begin to glitch. The Glitched Man inconspicuously appears. Whoever next discusses the object will become infected with the Glitch. 

Each additional discussion on the topic advances the Glitch injury one step.


A true synergistic reality appears. The object is now a hybrid of the two realities, a conglomerate of aspects of each. It becomes Something In Between.

Something In Between has 4 HD and alternates its low Insight and high Insight behaviors. Its injuries permanently reduce one random stat each time it hits. 1d6: 1. Resolve 2. Instinct 3. Body 4. Empathy 5. Insight 6. Resources.