Monday, 28 March 2016

Cities of the Plain

A red plain with red grass and red poppies opening after the rain like blood welling in a water-washed wound. Canyons bridged by red stone spans, slender and still haunted by the sacrifices made to hold them steady in the air. The heat of the plain and the waves of the heat. The haze of the poppy-pollen rising in the baked air. The red sun setting and the light from the red west staining the red grass white like fields of ghosts. Then the cold and the black and the great incalculable sky, and wolves. Coming down from the hills, out from the forests and the caves, the intelligent wolves of the plains.

And cities, abandoned and burnt black, ruins on the red plain with the red grass whispering against the carbon-caked stone of their unmanned walls, their towers howling in the wind like bottle tops.

No-one builds in the plain any more and no-one lives in the buildings that are there. Abandoned pueblos of green adobe hidden in the creeks, shrines and temples carved into the wind-blown rocks where the trade-routes cross, watch-towers for vanished nations and fortresses of forgotten kings. Even the tombs and barrows of the horse-lords, both recent and more ancient ones who rode the plain before the cities were ever made. Places to shelter for a night perhaps, to fortify against wolves, to decide whether to light a fire and risk a ghost or face the teeth in the dark, but not to stay.

The horse tribes will allow no-one to settle on the Phyrrous Plain, and allow no access to its ruined cities. In Jukai, or the Court of the Caliph of Holes some will say the the horse tribes are protecting the ancient treasures of those burnt cities, so long inaccessible and so far un-plundered, and they are right. But the tribes are also protecting the wanderers, adventurers, historians and thieves who would access them becasue the burnt cities of the plain are very dangerous indeed.

John Martin baby!


Skeletons and doors to the past. Skeletons are blackened in the fire that burnt the city down, with chunks of coal-meat clinging to their bones.

They seem fine though, best not to bother them.

The dead bones lead normal daily lives. They get up in the morning, wander around, cradle their skeleton children and go to the market to buy invisible food from other skeletons, silently performing all the actions of an average life.

They don't see people and pay no attention to them but if you jostle, push or interrupt, they will become confused, then frightened, then run to get help, and return with spear-armed and armoured skeleton guards and priests. Living priests in ancient clothes and basketwork masks that walk with the skeletons as friends and who will point you out and whisper to the dead in their silent tongue and have them blindly hunt you down.

The treasures of this city are lost or decayed, stolen or wasted away. Its chests are empty, its crown oxidised, its coffers and treasury empty, though the skeletons still fiercely guard the empty places where they would have been. Deep in the city, in its empty halls and temples, hidden in its libraries beneath the drifts of ash, are stained brass mirrors, man-high ovals.

Clean the tarnish from its surface and look. Within you find another world, or this world; this city in its past. Press your hand to a mirror and you can pass through and walk in that city.

It's the same buildings, the same streets, but the people are alive, not skeletons. The walls are hung with banners, the market full of music and sound, armoured guardians walk the walls. It's a city, a whole, real, living city with all the adventure and opportunity and wealth and colour and seduction you could wish for. And here the wealth is real. The treasury is full, the paintings and jewels are still there, though they are guarded now by real, living people.

The population don't go outside much, they leave that to the military, and they are frightened of ghosts and invisible spirits which sometimes seem to terrorise the population and which can only be captured and dispelled by the cities secret priests.

To anyone watching this, anyone who has not passed through a mirror, it looks like a normal person wandering around, chatting silently to skeletons, miming eating food and drinking drink, no more aware than the dead of the dark future and the black walls that surround them all.

A day or so after you arrive in the city beyond the brass mirror you feel strange pangs in your stomach, then a passing weakness in your muscles. Around three days in this briefly becomes a wave of overwhelming and incapacitating agony. But don't worry, it's over in minutes, and as soon as its done you feel fine, you can go about the rest of your existence in this ancient place without impediment.

Of course, in our world and our time, your body is dead. It walks around as a mummy while the eyes dry to shriveled nubs and the the skin cracks like parchment in the wind of the plains. If you come back through the mirrors after your heart has stopped, you come back to a dead body. Not a nice reality. Nor a pleasant end.

Of course if you can grab one of the treasures of the City of Brass Mirrors and escape to a mirror, then you can bring it back with you. You just have to be sure not to stay too long. Not to get caught and contained in a cell, or to be banished from the city walls, trapped outside by the secret vampire priests, immortal, living in both the present and the past, ruling them both.


By day this is a bright, burnt, empty place drifting with the the sad ghost-like dandelion seeds of the vermilion flowers that grow between the black bricks.In the charred beds in the charred homes, under the wolfskin sheets, are things curled up like sleeping people.

They are not.

As the sun sinks the things put on their furred black sheets and wolves walk out of the homes. Wolves in the watchtowers, wolves in the streets, and in the streets the space between the wolves is filled with rats. Millions of rats, swarming like a river. At the centre of the city is a Court of Wolves and a Wolf King curled up upon a great stone throne once made for human limbs. The Crown and Sceptre of this kingdom lie in the dirt of the ground, the ruined rugs and torn carpet, but they are not forgotten and the Wolves guard them still. By the side of the King is a Vulture larger than a man, that whispers in the Wolf-Kings ear.

As the dark comes on, the wolves race from the city, out into the darkening plain, dashing in packs, looking for prey. They are faster and more tireless than a mortal wolf, as soulless and intelligent as men.

Twice more fearful still, as these wolves cannot be killed by mortal men.

Mortal women and children are a bit different, they can kill the wolves, and for this reason the Horse-Tribes teach their women and children to fire arrows and guns at a young age. You are literally never too young to kill a wolf.

And for this reason also, the Horse-Tribes take the bodies of their women, and their children, and surrender their flesh to the sky, but keep the bones and carve from them arrowheads and spear blades, to be used only by the family they are from.

And for this reason as well, the Wolves of the City of the Court of Wolves, hate and fear women and children, attack them by whenever they can, dig up their corpses and cairns, feast on their flesh and chew on their bones.


This place is haunted by a storm. Spirits of the air who were the people of the city, now they live in the air and are the air and the walls are continually cloaked and obscured by an eternal hurricane.

They can never be still, never be quiet, never be at peace. They build and destroy and transform without end. The storm of its population passes away or disperses at times and the city becomes quiet. They go to some far corner of the world to fetch a building or roof, water rushes through the streets as the river floods. Then they return carrying towers from alien lands  in a hurricane of bricks and screams, sometimes with people in it.

A river of ghosts dragged by devils in an endless cycle. Claw marks on the buildings. Tombs burst open as ancestors were dragged out. A hell in the air, chasing from the empty sky.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Devil Binding

This is an attempt to create a Devil binding system for Old-School D&D based on the webcomic ‘Kill Six Billion Demons’. The guy who does it would probably get round to it himself but he's into Apocalypse World.

Click through the links and scan to the bottom of the page to read more full and fun descriptions of each Devil.

The rules below don’t perfectly match the webcomic, they are the closest I could get and still have them serviceable for the purpose I imagined.


A name gives a Devil a particular personality and continuity. If it has no name, a devil has no identity, history, knowledge, person or self. A Devil can have a name in up to six parts. Or, we should say that a Devil has six meaningful names, or name-parts. As stated below, a Devil can have hundereds of names and this may be a deliberate act by the Devil-binder so that the Devil does not know which are relevant to it.

Each part or section of the name forces the Devil into a particular relation to reality, making it less powerful the more names it has.

The apparent power of Devils doesn’t run in a direct scale. Each class of devil has a particular nature, and a particular colour, depending on the amount of names it has.

Six names - Pale
Five names - Blue
Four names - Red
Three names - Green
Two names - Gold
One name - Black

The colour of a Devil will be the colour of its mask. This also affects the physical and mental nature of the Devil.

STATS - Pretty much just ripped off the MM so feel free to alter or replace.

 All Devils can see in the dark and all can move between Planes at will.

·         All Devils can read and speak all languages, even the stupid ones.
·         All can Detect Invisible at will.
·         They take half Damage from Cold, Acid, Electricity, Fire & Gas.
·         All have magic resistance 50%


Armour -  As Chain
Hit Dice 7
Attacks d4/d6/d8/
Speed - Half again as fast as an unencumbered man.
Intelligence - Animalistic, a little above a dog. Incapable of complex work or ideas.
Attitude - Slavish and deranged, like a well-paid crackhead. The danger in dealing with them perhaps comes because they do not understand their own self interest. Their masks look kind of crappy and they may have broken or inferior masks. It’s possible that if you only have a crappy mask to use then you have to have a lot of names to keep the thing under control.
Obsessive Counting – Will count anything spread before it.


Armour - As unarmoured
Hit Dice 3
Attacks d3/d3/d4
Speed - Human standard.
Intelligence - Human-Level.
Attitude - Frantic and unwise. Manic. Chatty. Addictive personality. These are the most 'human' of the devils. They and act much of the time like crafty, clever, sneaky people. They can use magic, or at least magic items. They are smaller than people and don't seem to pose much of a physical threat. They are capable of learning magic and has a particular penchant for magical items, which they can use with great facility. If left near magical items or knowledge it will peruse, steal, record, adapt or make use of what it finds.


War Devil
Armour - As leather (usually as plate due to armour).
Hit Dice 10
Attacks d6/d6/d6/d6/
Speed - Twice as fast as an unencumbered man.
Intelligence - Human-Level.
Attitude - Phlegmatic and sardonic. Incredibly violent.

The Crimson Devil enjoys collecting both weapons and armour from their victims and are often found bestrewn with these mementos. They make use of relatively unsubtle but effective combat tactics. They are one of the only Devils to use ranged weapons.

They can learn and use magic, but generally do not.


Verdant - Dead Man's Devil
Armour - as leather
(immune to normal weapons)
Hit Dice 11
Attacks 2d8/2d8/2d10
Can use the following at-will;
·         Raise Dead
·         Speak With Dead
·         Control Undead
·         Create Illusion
·         Cause Fear
·         Detect Magic
·         Dispel Magic
·         Polymorph Self
·         Project Image
·         Teleportation (No Error)
Intelligence - Genius level.
Attitude - Silent and still to a disturbing degree.

The Verdant Devil occupies a great deal of its time with planning, considering and collecting secrets. It always prefers to wait and will act only when certain.

Gilded Devil
Armour - as plate
(immune to normal weapons)
Hit Dice 12
Attacks 10d6 to be distributed however it desires.
Breath weapon if desired.
Can use the following at-will;
·         Create Illusion
·         Cause Fear
·         Detect Magic
·         Charm Person
·         Levitate
·         ESP
·         Pyrotechnics
·         Polymorph Self
·         Project Image
·         Teleportation (No Error)
Intelligence - Extra-Human.
Attitude - Cultivated, cultured, social, subtle, domineering and funny.

The Gilded Devil almost always occupies the centre of a fast network of political, social, military and financial influence.

Ebon Devil
Armour - as plate and shield and two more shields
(immune to normal weapons)
Hit Dice 13
Attacks 2d12/3d12/4d12/5d12
Can use the following at-will;
·         Create Illusion
·         Cause Fear
·         Detect Magic
·         Charm Person
·         ESP
·         Polymorph Self
·         Polymorph Other
·         Project Image
·         Raise Dead
·         Speak With Dead
·         Control Undead
·         Cause Fear
·         Detect Magic
·         Dispel Magic
·         Sleep
·         Teleportation (No Error)

Intelligence – Unknown, but high..
Attitude – Unknown.

These are very bad. They gain whatever power they can however they can and there is no upper limit to this power.


 They want to be physically incarnated in the ‘real world’.

They want to be Black. That is, the most powerful, the most free, the most under their own control that they can be.

But, they need to keep that last name. If they lose it, they are destroyed.

They have another problem. Names decay. If a Devil keeps a name long enough, the name, and possibly the mask that goes with it, suffers some kind of entropic degradation. It’s possible that just as a Devil desperately wants to lose its names it also needs, very occasionally, to be re-named and re-masked. 


 I came up with some non-canon bullshit to kind-of make sense of this.

Pale - d12 Months.
Blue – d12 Years.
Red – d12 Decades.
Green – d12 Centuries.
Gold – d12 millennia.
Black- d12 Eons.

This gives low-level devils reasons to keep making deals and interacting with people and give high-ranking devils a good reason not to make deals for anything less than really good reasons.

Let’s assume also that if a Devil is outside the material plane, or consensus reality, then the degradation in its mask and name stops or slows. In D&D terms this might be the elemental planes, ethereal plane etc.

This gives Devils somewhere to hang out that isn’t here and reasons to go there. And it gives PC’s good reasons to go to the weird planes and find the Devil bars where they all hang out.


 D&D handles this kind of stuff quite well already. It’s a magical item and we have a thousand ways of placing those.

Find a Lost One - put it in a fucking dungeon man! It's literally the name of the game.

Make One - A very powerful NPC might make one. A very powerful PC might make one. It should have an enormous cost in either cash, time, personal sacrifice, morality, or all four.

Reclaim One - If it’s on a living devil it’s not clear that they come off. If they do, it's not easy. Even if it does, it may still have a name and, though bodiless, an identity. This isn't good for you.


·         The PC who wishes to bind the devil plays their character.
·         The DM plays the Devil.
·         The Other players gather separately and are a kind of invisible broker.
·         You will need a bunch of bits of paper.

Arranging clauses of a contract is like arranging names. There can be six clauses to a contract and six names with one 'agreement' per name. Each 'clause' can be no more than a sentence long with no commas and no punctuation other than a full stop at the end.

·         The Binder - Proposes a clause or term, this has to be written down by the player.
·         The Devil - makes its argument, it would prefer the minimal number of clauses and will remind the Binder of what it can do for them if allowed to be more powerful.
·         If the Devil and the PC can come to an agreement on a particular clause then the player writes it down with a number and give it to the Devil and writes down a name with that number and gives that to the other players.
·         Once a piece of paper is given away the PC cannot look at it.
·         This being accomplished the Devil offers to seal the agreement with a Devils Kiss (effectively a supernatural signature) but the binder probably has more clauses they wish to propose.

(In the webcomic this might be done in song but I won’t enforce that in D&D.)

This goes on with up to six names and up to six clauses.

Assuming neither the Devil or the player have backed out or that combat has not broken out then they 'shake hands'. A Devils Kiss, or fragment of the Black Flame appears on the body of the Binder. They are both bound by the agreement now.

·         The binder takes the mask, puts it on the devil and, WITHOUT LOOKING athe written name, says "I name you..."
·         They have to get all the names in the agreement right, IN ORDER,
·         No hesitation, repetition or deviation (unless the name is a repetition).
·         No coughing, pausing or dallying.
·         If they fuck up a name, the other players don’t have to tell the PC, but they have to tell the Devil and the Devil can tear up the clause that matches that name.
·         The Binder can add other names into the mix if they like. As many as they want so long as the agreement-names are in there, in the right order, and are correct. The devil doesn't get to know which are the agreement names.
·         The devil doesn't have to show the Binder the agreement clauses ever again. It’s the players job to remember them.

That done, the devil is named and must serve the terms of its contract. It can do whatever it likes so long as it doesn’t break any of the written clauses. If it does that then it is banished to the black flame.

Obviously the Devil will try to ‘Monkeys Paw’ the shit out of this contract.


 A devil knows its own names and knows that if it loses all its valid names then it is destroyed. It would help if it know which ones were the valid ones, but only the Binder can tell it that.

To remove a name, it has to be accepted somehow by another intelligent being in a bargain involving a Devils kiss. This might involve a bet, a trade, a trick, a scheme or a service of any kind.

The exchange must be willing.

The names can only be removed one at a time.

(This part isn't the best,  need an elegant way to stop the Devils just outright terrorising some poor fuck into taking the name.)

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Fire Ghosts

Difficult to cross the plains without a fire, difficult to start a fire without a ghost, and ghosts are difficult to deal with wisely and well. So, if you plan to journey on the lightning-haunted plain, and don't want death by cold or wolf, or just want to cook your food, then take somebody calm who knows their ghosts.

At night the plain cools like a flicked switch, the sun sinks, sweat freezes on bare backs, robes and wide-brimmed hats are swapped for hoods and dense black furs, horses shiver and steam, oasis’ crack and plink like burning glass as each one grows a cast of ice.

Someone starts a fire, nomads gather round the crackling wood hugging each other under their furs and looking at the stars through steaming breath for stealthy constellations of Grools. They listen to the passing yams. Then the Fire Ghosts come

Like shadows in the flame, faces in the fire, passing strangers silhouettes. Shapes. Azure-emerald twists of light in the helix of the blaze, shadows in the smoke before the stars, voices in the crackling wood, silent women veiled in sparks, old kings in crowns of burning spiralling leaves, ancient sorcerers, not all evil, breathing smoke and wearing robes of fire, holding burning books (which few can read) that teach great craft, if they can be tempted to stay, and understood if they do. Old knights and warriors, heroes of the burnt cities, ladies of great beauty, children and sometimes grinning monster-hearted men

Perhaps they are drawn by the heat of the flames, cold and lonely as the travellers who make the fire, perhaps created by them, gated from their sad, dead world, or brought in memory of their burning deaths.

They are not whole, great souls born of great memories but without a deciding mind.

It is to be hoped this ghost is friendly, or at least not wrathful, and that they speak, whispering from the fire in voices like cracking wood and popping sparks, that they can be appeased with a story, or by listening to one. Stories of their tall towers, now blackened spars, their pride and triumphs, their battles and tragedies, their heroes and monsters. Sometimes simply agreeing with their troubles is enough.

The reverie of the fire can be commanding, visions can be seen there of the cities of the plains, their bright pennants, their fierce legions of cavalry stamping in the bright sun

It’s to be hoped that a ghost knows what it wants and can ask for it, but old ghosts, primal, powerful, simple ghosts, have only needs, are only need.

A child of fire might want a toy which burns to pieces in its hands, a scholar might desire a book, smiling and turning the pages with bright fingers, leaving ash, a King, a crown, a warrior, a sword cast into the fire, (sometimes brave ghosts given swords have watched over sleeping travellers in the night and fought of wolves that came too near the fire, doing in death exactly what they did in life). A Queen may want a gown which incandesces as she puts it on, the ghost of a rogue may wish to steal something, no matter how large or small.

They might beckon you towards the blackened ruins, to avenge some slight or bury some ancient wrong. Sometimes bones must be interred, or names scratched on a rock as a tomb, climb a nearby ruined tower, hang a pennant from its highest room (you might find many pennants there, the ghost asking the same thing with each fire), or even sex sometimes.

The place can sometimes give you clues. The centrepiece of an old campsite might be pile of blackened daggers, or burnt lanterns, the remains of books, or human skulls. Some campsites are surrounded by stone after stone after stone, all bearing the same name in an ancient language, as demanded by the imperious ghost that haunts that place.

The darkest ghosts, the worse, who always seem to haunt the deepest reaches of the plain where a fire is needed most, want blood, or flesh, fresh bone, a human head, a living person thrown into the fire.

Again, as they did in life, they do in death.

It’s good if a ghost can ask for what it wants, even if it’s very bad, because if a ghost doesn't get what it asks for before the dawn, it won't let go, it will follow as you cross the plain. Every time you light a fire, wherever it is, the ghost will come for its answer, its object, its action, and every time the ghost comes it grows more dangerous in its alienation and more powerful in its wrath.

At first it can perhaps flick pebbles about, briefly blind with an illusion, reach wistfully from the fire and scorch your fingers with a touch, but the more times it comes back, night after night after night, the more times it comes back the more powerful it becomes.

First it can hurl stones, then rocks, then people. Its illusions, the reverie of the fire, become more powerful, more difficult to separate from reality, slowly brings you in to its forgotten world.

The most powerful dead, (not always evil), with deep souls and deep needs, will crawl forth from the fire in bodies of burning wood and bright flame, striding inexorably, imperishable, torching the scrub and forests in their rage, trapping you within a tightening circle of fire, banished only by the dawn.

The truly evil, awful ghosts, the monster-hearted memories, will even follow you once you leave the plain, sneaking into your life, hiding in candles or hearths, watching you and waiting to reveal their power. They do not want to be appeased. They want harm. In death, as in life. Every time you light a fire they will be there.

Form of this Ghost
A King or Queen
A Sorcerer, Scholar or Witch
A Knight, Hero or Noble Lady
A Child
A lost Soldier
A Traveller, like you
An Ancient Tribesman
An Ancient Shaman
A Rogue or Adventurer
A Mother
A Lunatic
A Slave

Do they talk?
They speak in a low clear voice.
They whisper if you listen close.
They speak, but in an ancient tongue.
They mouth words but no sound comes. They can gesture though.
They can neither mouth words or make complex gestures but only the simplest action relating to their need and nothing else.
They only sit within the fire with pleading faces and open arms, everything else is lost to them.

What are they after?
It's simple and completely obvious object based on their appearance and actions alone. A King might be missing a crown, a Knight might be missing a sword etc.
It's a simple object but unless stated it might not be clear what. It might be a flower, some hair, a blanket.
It's a simple thing and not necessarily clear, but there might be evidence in the area if other people have had fires here. Horseshoes buried in the ashes, single cold coins left half-melted, burnt pages of poetry.
It's not simple, not obvious and there's no evidence, if they can't tell you and you don't know, the only way to work it out is from their actions as they grow more powerful. They will seem to be looking for it or doing it, it, or its absence will show up in the illusions they cast.
It's some fucking nearby quest thing in a tower, dungeon or ruin. It may be dangerous. Others may have done it before you. Them doing it might have made it more or less dangerous.
It's something bad or really bad, human flesh, lots of blood, a living being, something you will miss.

The Growing Power of the Ghost
Leaves & Smoke
Shapes in the fire

Sounds & shapes in the night.

Stinging sparks
Stones, small handheld objects
Things in the distance, even in daylight when no fires are present.

Heavy objects like swords.
Things in mirrors, water, any reflective surfaces in day & night.
Can reach limbs out of fire.
Flecks d4 of fire, d4 damage
Knock people off their feet
Full, simulated audio-visual living objects. At night they can touch you.
Can crawl short distance from fire.

Throw people around like dolls
Fully tactile beings and objects in daylight. Flashes of ancient world at night.
Can leave fire and walk freely.
Equivalent of Burning Hands
Full-spectrum ancient world where you have an identity, are a character in the story and must play it through.
Inexorable Golem or Tulpa of fire.
Equivalent of Fireball spell.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

30 Adventure Seeds by Gardner Fox

All taken from the first two years of the Justice League of America comic, 1960 to 1962.

1. A Puffer Fish tells its king of the arrival of an alien conqueror in the dead of night.

2. Someone steals a building full of wizards to steal their brainpower, to beat the thief, get the building back.

3. At the moment of their meeting, a team is faced by a villain from the future who seeks to battle them based on a half-obscured record of the fight they are about to have.

4. A  golden golem king turns itself into a time machine, but is tricked by a wizard who lives in its belly into following their commands.

5. An enemy separates a group and battles them one-by-one, but at the end of each encounter, returns to the start to fight a new member of the team, any damage done to the enemy carries over from fight to fight, even though they are happening at the same time.

6. Purple shrink ray with infinite charges, but it wears off quickly if the target is not continually hit, and a smaller target is harder to hit.

7. Weapon firing bubbles which enfold the target and which are relentlessly attracted to a yellow star 250 trillion miles away.

8. Demigods keep a friendly idiot around as a kind of failsafe, their high-level foes always forget to take the moron into account in their schemes.

9. Illusion-making weapon which makes teams fight each other to death as they see each other as monsters.

10. A wizard steals all the powers of a powerful group and combines them in one golem, slaved to his will, but the golem also has all the weaknesses of the same group, and does not know what they are.

11. A villain seeks to create an elixir of immortality by acquiring the oldest man, the oldest reptile, the oldest bird, beast, fish and man, the heroes must find and guard these creatures.

12. Someone escapes from being imprisoned in an aviary by plucking single feathers from every bird and fashioning magical wings.

13. A villain forces a hero to play a game with miniatures of their friends, every move they lose sends that friend to a different plane of existence.

14. A gigantic lens in the sky threatens to boil away the sea, the sea creatures call their king for aid.

15. Evil wizards swap two worlds between realities, on one world where science was real now only magic works, on their own where magic was real, now only science works, and the wizards have machine guns and cadillacs. A golden doorway in the sky links the two realities.

16. Three wizards each hold one third of a vital spell, one is protected by a manticore and griffin, one by a castle full of traps and trolls with tommy guns, the last must be defeated three times, on land, in the sea and in the air before he can be captured.

17. A wizard freezes the population of a city with the tones of a magic bell, to free them he demands to hear his three arch-enemies, a dryad queen, a lizardman tyrant and a golem lord, each speak his name out loud at the same time.

18. The light of three suns combined will give a tyrant incredible powers.

19. Five demigods are imprisoned in a giant diamond, to free them, shoot the diamond-tipped arrow at exactly the right spot, but you only have one chance.

20. A cursed but noble exile general fakes villainy to provoke heroes into actions they cannot take himself in order to save a world.

21. Three doomsday machines must be deactivated, one makes all small creatures large and aggressive, it has an invisible handle, the second sinks continents under the sea, it cannot be approached by anyone in our reality, the last unleashes a race of golden titans but the handle kills anyone who turns it.

22. A genius in prison builds a shrink ray and uses it to escape in the most insane way possible simply to piss off the people who put them there.

23. In a castle of ice a gigantic clock of ice conceals an inescapable trap.

24. Gigantic deadly black puppets dangle from the sky.

25. Villains make golems that look exactly like themselves and mine them to explode.

26. A group of demigods doesn't notice that one of them has been replaced by an evil wizard in disguise becasue they all habitually wear masks.

27. A cunning wizard steal the luck of a group of protective demigods, sending the world into chaos, meanwhile the wizard grows in power. However, one demigod is of alien origin and has no fortune to be stolen, either good or bad.

28. Extra-reality invaders disguise their fortress of dimensional gates, alien monsters, reality-bending fields and mind-twisting energies, as a simple fun-house. No-one knows that the 'illusions' they are experiencing are entirely real, and that their bodies are stolen by the invaders.

29. An evil wizard plans to slowly and stealthily abduct and teleport everyone in a city, replacing them with criminals from all over reality and turning the city into a pirate state.

30. A low-level criminal discovers a magic lamp the light of which causes any being to follow their commands, and uses it to auction the services of the gods to the highest bidder.

Oh, I almost forgot, this exists now, its a kind of zine-collection thing of False Machine blog posts. There's one on Lulu too.

 Click the painting (its Joseph Wright)