Saturday, 28 November 2015

FotVH Stat attempts

Here are some experimental attempts at starting up monsters from Fire on the Velvet Horizon, what do you think?



Armour leather, Move 20', 8 Hit Dice, 48hp, bite 1d6 damage, Morale 12.

No law or social custom can be broken in the Abhorrers presence. No illegal harm can be done to an Abhorrer.

Treasure - Assume an Abhorrer controls wealth equivalent to at least a third-tier noble in the local polity. If no value can be derived, assume 100,000 total wealth with 50% available as cash and 20,000 in stealable form on its person or in its home.


Abhorrer - AC 12, HP 50, Spd. 20ft, bite +1, 1d6 dm, xp = population of local metropolitan area.


An Abhorrer always has the best protection that money can legally buy. However, it is rarely required.




Armour as plate, Move 30', 6 Hit Dice, 36 hp, tentacles d4/d4 damage or as weapon, Morale 10.

Fearful Masks - On first sight save vs petrification or lose a round of action. In social situations, freeze and stammer before you can speak. If the masks are removed, the Aeskithetes real face is even more terrifying, in this case save or lose two rounds of action.

Vomit Bile - 2d8 acidic damage.

Disappear - If seriously deeply distracted, or at will, an Aeskithete may disappear. If they do, they will not return.

Dimensional Magics - Using dimensional magic is a full action for an Aeskithete and a living target may save against it. The more powerful an Aeskithete is the more of its limbs it can functionally control and the greater the range of its dimensional magics.

Limbs active,   Hit Dice, hp, mass affectable, size shift, distance teleport, time travel

2 limbs active, 6 Hit Dice, 36hp, 1 square foot, 100% + or -, 6 ft, 1 second.

4 limbs active, 8 Hit Dice, 48hp, 2 square feet, 200% + or -, 12 ft, 6 seconds.

6 limbs active, 10 Hit Dice, 60hp, 6 square feet, 300% + or -, 24 ft, 18 seconds.

10 HD Aeskithetes can cast Dermal Imprisonment in which a target is shrunk to microscopic size and imprisoned on their own skin.

Aeskithetes encountered randomly will be 6HD creatures, for every six present, one will be 8HD. 10HD Aeskithetes are only met with under special circumstances.


Aeskithete - AC 18, HP 46, Spd. 30ft, TENTACLE +2, 1d4+1 dm, 600 xp


Fearful Mask - On first sight DC 15 Wis save or lose a round of action. In social situations, freeze and stammer before you can speak. If the masks are removed, the Aeskithetes real face is even more terrifying, in this case save or lose two rounds of action.

Vomit Bile - Range 10ft 1 target, DC 11 Dex save, 2d8 dm if fail, ½ if save.

Limbs active,   hp, DC if target live, mass affectable, size shift, distance teleport, time travel

2 limbs active, 46hp, DC 10 Int save, 1 square foot, 100% + or -, 6 ft, 1 second.

4 limbs active, 60hp, DC 13 Int save, 2 square feet, 200% + or -, 12 ft, 6 seconds.

6 limbs active, 72hp, DC 17 Int save, 6 square feet, 300% + or -, 24 ft, 18 seconds.

6 limb Aeskithetes can cast Dermal Imprisonment in which a target is shrunk to microscopic size and imprisoned on their own skin. DC 17 Int save.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Without Malice

John Masefield was not a great poet.

He kind of was great, just interspersed with 'good' and 'maybe slightly flat sometimes'. If you took all his great lines and put them in one book he would rival the great romantics, but they don't all appear in one book.

In this case my affection for his character and inner nature means that his flaws make him even more likeable to me, an achievable man you can imagine meeting rather than an ariel talent.

A Kirby-esque force of positivity. A self-taught poet who rhymes like a child and doesn't care at all. Boxing fan, ex sailor, probably the most hard working and most quickly forgotten poet lauriat we have ever had and, if you combine his love of adventure, the imagination, sometimes violence and THE SEA, you get a very D&D poet.

From 'Wonderings'

I do not know the day, the month, the year:
it was a green time, when the sky was clear;
I was then five or six, in open air,
When suddenly a doorway opened there.
An ecstasy discovered that my mind
Had every wonder that I wished to find,
Limitless strength, to see and create,
A wealth of phantasy, past telling great,
Power to call at will, to see and sway
Peoples and creatures infinitely gay,
Things in perfection, landscapes, forests, seas,
And I, who summoned, king of all of these,
King of a world to enter when I chose,
(O desert spring, O rock-delighting rose).

Instantly then, I summoned, to my joy
The tiny people suited to a boy,
A fairy people, who, in daily dreams
Provisioned ships, and sailed, exploring streams,
Familiar streams, but past the points I knew,
Where undreamed fruits and unseen flowers grew,
Where, in some bay, they purchased priceless things,
LIttle Green Hairstreaks', Purple Emperors' wings,
Crest feathers plucked at night by indian men
Scarlet from woodpecker, or gold from wren,
Or blue-green flash, or golden-tawney gleam
Dropped by the 'fisher skimming down the stream.

Yesterday Malice died. Malice Aforthough the white elf assassin who has been playing in the same game with my characters for.. not sure. Maybe two, three years? I know he's seen three of them come and go so far and I remember carrying around his petrified body for a loong fucking time till we could get him un frozen.

I've spent more time with this imaginary person that I have with many real people. It's weird that he's dead.

(Of course being dead isn't that big a problem at level 11+ but, thanks partially to my errors he's converted to green slime and then de-evolved to two mutually incompatible evolutionary ancestors, so he's more dead than dead really.)

Anyway, the following from Masefield seems appropriate, in all his somewhat-creaky, sometimes inspired enormously (to me) likeable self;

From 'The Ending'

And as she advanced, towing southward, those watchers of ships,
Sang from their places a song of the outgoing spirit
A cry to all farers on ways upon water or earth.

"Adventure on companion, for this
Is God's most greatest gift, the thing that is.
Take it, although it lead to the abyss.

Ceaselessly, like the sunlight, life is spilled
Into these channels till the purpose willed
Meet with the End that is to be fulfilled.

A little hour is given to apprehend
Divine companions from the mortal friend
From mortal hearts, a life that cannot end.

Go forth to seek: the quarry never found
Is still a fever to the questing hound,
The skyline is a promise, not a bound.

Therefore, go forth, companion: when you find
No highway more, no track, all being blind
The way to go shall glimmer in the mind.

Though you have conquered Earth and charted Sea
And planned the courses of all Stars that be,
Adventure on, more wonders are in Thee.

Adventure on, for from the littlest clue
Has come whatever worth man ever knew ;
The next to lighten all men may be you.

Adventure on, and if you suffer, swear
That the next venturer shall have less to bear;
Your way will be retrodden, make it fair.

Think, though you thunder on in might and pride,
Others may follow fainting, without guide,
Burn out a trackway for them; blaze it wide.

Only one banner, Hope: only one star
To steer by, Hope, a dim one seen afar
yet naught will vanquish Hope and nothing bar.

Your Hope is what you venture for, your Hope
is but the shadowed semblance of your scope,
The chink of gleaming towards which you grope.

What though the gleam be but a feeble one,
Go on, the man behind you might have none;
Even the dimmest gleam is from the sun.

All beauty is. No paradise of flowers;
No quiet triumph of perfected powers;
It lives in the attempt to make it ours.

All power is; but with retarding thrift
The watching Strengths administer this gift;
Man's paces as a spirit are not swift.

All that has been imagined from of old
Is, but more glorious a thousandfold;
The pebble lightens, and the clay is gold.

And you, the gray thing dragging on the sea,
Go as a man goes in Eternity
Under a crown of stars to Destiny.

Therefore adventure forth with valiant heart
Knowing that in the utmost stretch of art
Life communes with its heavenly counterpart."

So singing, the Watchers beheld her go on in the dusk;
The evening star brightened the dimness; Pentire dimmed down,
The lights of Land's End were beacons to show her the way.

Monday, 23 November 2015


Fire is change and the Plane of Fire is a halo of violent exchange between the other planes, rendering earth into magma and water into air, where time fades into distance and distance into time.

Seen from inside, it is a stable maze and the other planes flicker in and out of being, shifting constantly, real only as they burn or are the products of burning. From within it is a still and constant, though labyrinthine, layer to an ever changing cosmos, the roots of which are every fuel, every burning tree, every candle flame, every star, supporting ghostlike realities that rise up out of it like dark arches, tendrils of iron and soot.

An aleph of fire, of every fire that has ever been and ever will be, citadels of star fields spread like labyrinths, burning every colour of the star from its birth to its long, slow death, radial cities, bright and white and pure at the centre and yellow and fine a layer out and then the long low fields of infra-red that represent the dying of the star.

Some bounded by blue-white neutron maquis, the long gusting plasmic seas of a supernova or a fierce city wall of cherenkov radiation mixed with interstellar black, the sign of an eventual black hole.

The cities are like mazes, founded on ultra-dense materials and are one of the few stable places in the plane of fire. Out on their borders is the darkening maze, the place with no foundations where your footing can fall away at any time, you can disappear down into the dark beneath, never seen again.

But out there are small archipelagos of fire, the fires of worlds.

Most are blue-white jagged labyrinths made from every bolt of lighting in a cycling storm, all seen as one, wrapped around the low domes of the red tectonic mazes reaching down into the plane of earth.

But some have life. Living worlds have living fires, wild forest fires of wood and air, the fires of burning plains and sometimes burning cities, strange and unearthly places to the dwellers of the Plane of Fire for their foundations are truly cites, like those of the stars, yet made of fuel. The burning products of culture and thought are places of strange fascination to the beings of fire, signs of life and intelligence of an alien and impossible kind, fey citadels appearing in the wilderness.

And within them, burning people, real only for a moment on the Plane of Fire, coughing out brief prophecies in unknown tongues, then disappearing like ghosts, spiralling invisible into the carbon archways that bar the gateways to the plane of Air.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Shrinking the 5e stat block

This is me trying to turn the overloaded-as-fuck 5e stat block into something that doesn't make me want to vom.

As usual I am requesting that other people do my thinking for me.


Casey G came up with the following stat lines;

Moktar - AC 13, HP 15, Spd. 30ft, greatclub +5, 1d8+3 dm, 100 xp
Aggressive - As a bonus action, a moktar can move its speed toward a hostile creature.
Sick rock poisoning - most moktars in the cave have 4 levels of exhaustion.

Spider - AC 13, HP 11, Spd. 40ft, stealth +7, bite +3, 1d6+1 dm+poison, 50 xp
Poison - DC 11 Con save, 2d6 dm if fail, ½ if save. If target reduced to 0 HP, the target is stable but poisoned and paralyzed for 1 hour, even if it regains HP.

Wolf - AC 13, HP 11, Spd. 40ft, bite +4, 2d4+2 dm+trip, 50 xp
Trip - DC 11 Str save or be knocked prone.

Which I like a great deal. But, (as he pointed out) "They’re missing the ability scores, any saving throw proficiencies, and skills. Thinking a single “bonus” entry might work. Bonus +5 that applies to any appropriate skill rolls or save. Or maybe Bonus +3/+5 one non-proficient and one proficient."


Jeremy Murphy came up with this for stats;

"You can do all the stat in a single line by just putting in the bonus and a * if proficient.


That gives you all the info you need for initiative, save proficiency and skills."

And he's right, that is an elegant notation and I think you could work out almost all of what you need to know from it. The resulting entry would look a bit like this;

Wolf - AC 13, HP 11, Spd. 40ft, bite +4, 2d4+2 dm+trip, 50 xp
Trip - DC 11 Str save or be knocked prone.

Which is by no means offensive, BUT I hate it anyway, not because it's bad but because I fucking hate the idea of counter-referencing monsters stats while fighting them. Also I refuse to re-read the 5e rules before addressing this problem.


So I came up with the following bullshit;

Wolf - AC 13, HP 11, Spd. 40ft, bite +4, 2d4+2 dm+trip, D 3d6, 50 xp
Trip - Str save or knocked prone and grappled.

The only really meaningful addition there is the 'D' number I just made up which are just the dice you roll whenever you need any other number.

This would come in four ranges depending on the kind of monster you were running.

Wieners                   - 3d4
Most things             - 3d6
Badass things          - 3d8
Uber-badass things - 3d12

So it would replace:

  • Stealth
  • Initiative
  • Perception
  • Saves
  • DC values for powers

If you really want to model skills then maybe add a d4 for each skill.

You just roll it as and when you need that number and only then.

The excuse for this is that combat is chaotic and things are changing all the time so maybe this Orc is just having a really bad  or good day.

You lose a LOT of fine detail and perhaps rob monsters of some of their structural identity and makes in-game knowledge less meaningful, (i.e. certain monsters are tough with high CON but dim with low WIS etc)

The benefits are the customary OSR benefits of chaos, its always worth trying some nutso tactic because its just possible you might win, the bad guy might roll a 3 for its save, so it favours improvisation, invention and courage/risk taking over planning and careful knowledge.

Any 5e-experts (5xperts?) feel free to let me know how quickly this would go horribly wrong in the comments.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The River of Drowned Queens

The Virid is a big river, slower than a sleeping snake say some.

It's always hard to cross. At its origins, spewing from the karst of the Sifir, the black cracked desert of the Caliphate of Holes, it rockets forth crook-necking its way through angular steep-sided canyons of unstable scree. The stones slip-slide under the foot at forty-five degrees and though the jagging of the canyon shifts each month, and tonnes of stone must fall into the rocketing spume, the river never fills.

Even here the faint murk of its dark green water hazes up into a sun-reflecting fog that blurs the daylight into splinters but lets through the light of stars

For a thousand miles it runs, widens, deepens, heating up and slowing down. The dank intensifies. On summer days the river casts its smog-self like a skin, or the green ghost of a snake tracking it from the sky.

At its mouth the snake is wide enough across that silty islands in its midst have grown their own ecosystems, which crash together in slow motion over years as the flow deposits and picks up wuth unpredictable lick.

Some have been the base of micro-kingdoms.

Although these kingdoms do not go on very long, because the Virid drowns all Queens that cross its banks.

You can still here them there, moaning in the silt, and see the glimmering glitter of their crowns and gems turning and tumbling in the tangling ooze.

Its bad to cross the river in the day. Even if the day is cold, it might suddenly heat up and should the Virid's virid murk rise up it will shatter the rays of the sun into kaleidoscopic fragments, sending prickles of frustrating gleam networking back and forth, the river so slow by now its impossible to tell which way it runs. You could be trapped for hours there till the night, listening to the sad cries of the drowned queens from under the water, hearing their tales of the kingdoms they once ruled, of their great castles, great beauty, of their dynasties long passed.

The Queens don't come up above the surface of the water. Probably. There is always the feeling that they could if they wished. Nobody dives for the gems in the silt or for the tarnished crowns.

Sometimes the fishing people on the Virid's banks find a single gem inside the belly of a fish or trapped in the claws of a crab. It is always always thrown back in without delay, with apologies. Refusing to obey this rule is one of the few things that can enrage these tribes, in every other respect, despite their differences in race and language, they are extremely egalitarian people. There is no possibility of a King amongst them, and definitely not a Queen. Not even a homecoming Queen or a Harvest Queen.

They tend not to use nets. The fat flatfish with the wrinkled eyes and the pearly crabs for which the river is known, all tangle and intermingle with the bones of the drowned Queens and it is rude and frightening to disturb them and to pull them up out of the silty beds in which they cannot sleep, but only wait, looking at the shadows of the fishing boats on the surface of the water and waiting and whispering their tales.

For the same reason, lobster pots and eel traps above a certain size are never used, a fisherman might return to their trap  in the night and find a Queen in it and that could be frightening and embarrassing.

Crossing at night is better, if the sky is clear. It's cold and the haze is low and, for some reason, it does not blur starlight. Even the Queens are more quiet, they whisper to the fishers of their lost loves and the great romances they had before they were dead, and again they speak of their lost beauty.

There are a lot of Queens in the Virid, almost every dynasty in this Uncertain World has lost one or more to its waters. It's not clear how this happens since its always been called "The River of Drowned Queens" and one would think they might avoid it, but circumstances tend to conspire; pursuing armies or vengeful suitors or parents, act of madness, wild and dangerous hubris, sometimes the drowned girl does not know she is a Queen. Once a Princess crossed the Virid at midnight and never reached tho other side. Later it was discovered that her entire family had been killed on that very same night thousands of miles away. As the only remaining heir she had become a Queen in the middle of the river and it took her then and dragged her down into its bright green heart.

It's always green in the centre of the Virid where the water is deep, tendrils of veridian weed dance and curl in the murk beneath the keels of the boats.

Despite the large number of Queens recorded to be lost, the river seems almost over-full. There are a lot of Queens down there. Some suggest they were washed out of the Sifir when the great temple fell. Others say the Virid runs through many worlds and that all drowned Queens, wherever they are sunk, wash inevitably into its waters.

Legend says that if one Queen ever crosses the Virid, or navigates it from source to sea, the spell and curse upon it will be broken and the bones of the drowned old Queens will be released and a mighty flood will wash them all into Jukai bay, forming a shoal of bone, broken sceptres and murky jewels.

A tempting and interesting idea to the rulers of Jukai, and the tribes of the Melanic Moors, though both decry any belief in the legend.

The Queens beneath the surface know it though and they cry out for the shadow of that one who will come to touch the rivers banks.

She has not come yet.

Monday, 16 November 2015

The year was bad but this is good

Uncle died, lost my job, injured my foot, also global jihad intensified. It's been rough on me and, from reading my G-plus feed and just the news generally, it’s been fucking rough on you as well, layoffs, illness, depression, breakups, breakdowns and in Zak's case he didn't even win every Ennie possible.

There were some he did not win, and for him that's the equivalent of a limb spontaneously falling off. Inexplicable.

And yet into this river of shadows, into this storm of wrath without boundary and despair without end, like the golden bow of Apollo kindling joyous hope within the hearts of men, I fire the fire-bright burning arrow of my genius yet again.

False Readings is LIVE
Click here to buy an e-book

Why? For the money?


Pretty much. Pretty much for the money.

BUT. For other reasons also.

I wanted to work with Paolo since I screwed him out of the False Machine book. (It may one day return but the business of proofing and laying it out would be a nightmare, especially finding illustrations for the sculpture articles, it really wouldn't work without them.)

I wanted to have a kind of grand assessment of my fiction writing, in a sense to see if it is worth continuing in that vein.

Everything else was going very slowly and I didn't want to bring out just one book this year. (Veins and Medusa Maze are both in layout with different people, BFR is being written, expect them all in 2016.)

I wanted to see if, having read them in a proper format, anyone wants me to continue. The Snail Knight stories are going to get written whatever happens but as to the rest it's up in the air. it depends on reader response. If you want to find out what happens to Fiddlin' Joe then contact me, but be aware if I do the next three sections of that story I will be charging you, they are a nightmare to write.

Click to buy from Amazon UK
And I think the stories are good, or at least interesting and no-one was ever going to really read them on the blog. You don't read fiction on the internet, you need a book, or at least a digital reader.

The dual-second-person thing I'm pretty sure no-one has ever done before. The Snail Knight stories are, I think, really good, the fragments of verse are a bit uneven but everything has something interesting in it. Something that gives it a kind of right to exist.

(If it makes you feel any better I spent fucking HOURS on the poetry bits, and a long time on the rest. I do not write fast.)

It’s the Alchemists Laboratory school of art rather than the painters. The abandoned lab of an Alchemist isn't a singular cohesive work, but its interesting, you can wander about at your own pace, pick things up, fiddle with them, wonder about their context and, since you can't be sure what anything is, you don't know if it’s broken or valuable, tarnished gold or polished iron pyrites.

Even fools gold can be fun sometimes, and you need fun don't you? So, if you like the idea of breaking into the laboratory of a mad old man and looking through his stuff then you will  probably like this.

Happy 2015 everyone.

Click to buy from Amazon US

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Six Experimental Men

Six steel sarcophagi, vertical and equidistant, two to a wall, doors heavy but unlocked.

Within each is an Experimental Man. They have no memories and no names. They understand the language of Fire and that of the PC's. Each man has a ceramic key in the centre of his chest. Turning the key activates the man.

Each man is mad and soon to die. When they awaken they roll morale. For every turn they are awake and every question they are asked, make another roll. On each failure an activated Man advances in his madness by one degree.

All stats are as follows unless otherwise stated in the description.

Armor chain, Move standard', 2 Hit Dice, 8hp, blow 1d6 damage, Morale 7.

MAN #1 (Armour - none)

Hollow glass with candles jammed to the inside like an iron maidens inward-facing spikes. Activation makes the man 'breathe' in and the candles ignite. Each candle-flame is a tiny fire-imp making furious abacus-calculations.

Mathematician - Deals easily with logic problems and quantifiable numbers. May provide PC's with knowledge the DM thinks they could have worked out already but have not.

Madness - 1-Counts visible things. 2-Counts invisible things. 3-Counts continously. 4-Demands others count. 5-Attacks any unevenly-numbered things (people, fingers, bricks).

MAN #2

Pure black anthracite with a circulatory system laid out on the surface of his skin in sulphur.
Activation makes the sulphur burn blue and the anthracite glow a deep, dull red.

Prophetic - Can deliver prophecies in a number of words equal to the level of the asking PC. These need not be absolutely predictive but can be created by the DM using their knowledge of this module in its entirety. Every prophecy requires a reaction roll.

Madness - 1-Sees own death at hands of PC's. 2-Asks them to leave. 3-Demands they leave. 4-Asks why they want to destroy him. 5-Attacks PC's madly.

MAN #3 (Regen 1hp per round)

Stacked ceramic discs like a man sculpted from standing coins. Activation makes the coins shift like leaves as a hidden current animates them.

Magic detection and dis-spellment. Immune to magic. Can detect magic once per turn. Can cast dispel magic at will, this requires a reaction roll.

Madness - 1-silence, he will not speak unless spoken to. 2-Isolation, he sits in a corner and will not move unless persuaded to. 3-Self harm, he disrupts his own field and claws out his own ceramic discs. 4-He either throws himself into an electrical field or casts dispel magic on himself, collapsing into a pile of dead disks.

MAN #4

A sheet of thin blue steel etched with a labyrinth of criss crossing straight lines. Activation makes the steel unfold into an origami-man with a face shaped of modernist gaps.

A Thief. This man has all thief skills at 5 in 6 (83% in AD&D)

Madness - 1-Searches the tomb for objects to steal (he is immune to electrocution). 2-Pickpockets PC's. 3-Hides from and tracks PC's. 4-Backstabs and robs PC's.

MAN #5

A man of terracotta with plates of toughened glass, you can see inside he's full of soil with micro-tunnels running through. Activation awakes a colony of burning ants, glowing like specks of flame they dash about inside his shell, visible through the glass their movements sketch the semblance of a face.

A Swordsman and adventurer. The man is bold and fearless, he attacks and moves as a Lvl 7 fighter.

Madness - 1-Seeks out difficult challenges, ants trickle from his mouth. 2-Refuses to ignore very difficult challenges, more ants escape. 3-Relentlessly attacks the most overwhelming challenge possible whilst compulsively vomiting burning ants.

MAN #6 (Armour plate & shield, HD10 d8/d8 damage)

A huge dull-blue ceramic ogre, eight feet high, bound with bands of riveted iron, with a featureless hole for a face and a mask of dark-black glass raised like the visor of a knight. Activation causes a roar like solar wind or radio noise, the face swims with blinding blue-white sunspots and the black visor lowers to protect onlookers from the light

A Poet. This man dreams of another world, one made of and shaped by fire itself.

Madness - 1-asks wide-ranging questions about PC's and the world. 2-becomes ever more absorbed with questions of fire and investigates environment to discover more. 3-Becomes subdued and reluctant to communicate. 4-Opens own casing releasing strand of pure blue-white plasma that burns through immediate area for 3d6 damage before disappearing, leaving empty shell behind.