Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Worst Day of Braggadochio's Life - FQ Book 5 Canto 3


It's time for Florimell, the super-hot girl that everyone was obsessively chasing through Books 3 and 4, and who got kidnapped by a Sea-God Proteus to finally marry Marinell, the super-hot sea-guy with the overprotective mother who made sure he didn't meet girls because she thought they would kill him.

"To tell the glorie of the feast that day,
The goodly service, the devicefull sights,
The bridegomes state, the brides most rich aray,
The pride of Ladies, and the worth of knights,
The royall banquets, and the rare delights
Were worke fit for an Herald, not for me:
But for so much as to my lot here lights,
That with this present treatise doth agree,
True vertue to advance, shall here recounted bee."

Luckily I think Edmund is finally boring himself with this ceremony stuff as much as he bores me so things are cut realtively short.

The wedding ceremony is another three-day tournament and Marinell has a great time "Rashing off helmes, and ryving plates a sonder" until we get another of the peculiar and interesting repetition patterns Spenser uses for emotional emphasis, and which I quite like;

"But what on earth can alwayes happie stand?
The greater prowesse greater perils find.
So farre he past amongst his enemies band,
That they have him enclosed so behind,
As by no meanes he can himselfe outwind.
And now perforce they have him prisoner taken;
And now the doe with captive bands him bind;
And now they lead him thence, of all forsaken,
Unlesse some succour had in time him overtaken."

Of course 'some succour' does arrive; Artegall, with Braggadochio in tow. Artegall and Marinell join forces to beat everyone up, my boi Braggadochio rolls as only he can;

"Who all this while behind him did remaine,
Keeping there close with him in pretious store
That his false Ladie, as ye heard afore."

He's holding Artegalls sheild while he fights. When Florimell (the real one) comes forth to congratulate all the guys who were good at beating other guys up, Braggadocio pulls another of his classic moves;

"...but for sir Artegall
Came Braggadocio, and did shew his shield,
Which bore the Sunne brode blazed in a golden field.

.....

So unto him they did addeeme the prise
of all that Tryumph. Then the trompets shrill
Don Braggadocios name resounded thrise:
So courage leant a cloak to cowardise."

Despite running a scam, Brag acts in his customary deliriously overbearing manner and;

"With proud distaine did scornefull answere make;
That what he did that day, he did it not
For her, but for his owne deare Ladies sake,
Whom on his perill he did undertake,
Both her and eke all others to excell:
And further did uncomely speaches crake.
Much did his words the gentle Ladie quell,
And turn'd aside for shame to heare, what he did tell."

Brag brings out his demon-powered sex-bot Florimell and everyone freaks because the two are exactly alike. Even Marinell can't tell the difference. I'm including the following lines mainly because they include and old friend;

"As when two sunnes appeare in the azure skye,
Mounted in Phoebus charet fierie bright,
Both darting forth faire beames to each mans eye,
And both adorn'd with lampes of flaming light,
All that behold so strange prodigious sight,
Not knowing natures worke, nor what to weene,
Are rapt with wonder, and with rare affright."



Artegall has been watching this scene unfold, and stewing. He bursts out and accuses Braggadochio of being Braggadochio;

"For proofe shew forht thy sword, and let it tell,
What strokes, that dreadfull stoure it stird this day:
Or shew the wounds, which unto thee befell;
Or shew the sweat, with which thou diddest sway
So sharpe a battell, that so many did dismay."

Artegall then shows the crowd his own sword, shield and wounds, (the sweat is not mentioned);

"As for this Ladie, which he sheweth here,
Is not (I wager) Florimell at all;
But some fayre Franion, fir for such a fere,"

The notes tell us a 'Franion' is a 'loose person' and a 'fere' a companion. So now you know.

They decide to bring out their Florimell and compare them. The Real Florimell is suitably abashed and sensitive, and Spensers customary, and somewhat odd, interest in the exact complexions of women when they blush is brought into play;

"Whereto her bashfull shamefastnesse ywrought
A great increase in her faire blushing face;
As roses did with lillies interlace."

She stands beside False Florimell "Like the true saint beside the image set,", and instantly;

"Th' enchaunted Damzell vanisht into nought:
Her snowy substance melted was with heat,
Ne of that goodly hew remayned ought,
But th'emptie girdle, which about her wast was wrought."

This obvoisly freaks everyone out;

"They striken were with great astonishment,
And their faint hearts with senselesse hourrour queld,"

Spare a thought for the real hero here;

"And Braggadocio selfe with dreriment
So daunted was in his despeyring mood,
That like a lifelesse course immovable he stood."

The poor guy. Probably the fairest and most stable relationship in the book, between a lunatic narcissist and a robot woman, is now over.

Artegall puts Florimels magic virginity girdle back on her. Everyone wonders and defames Braggadochio. Then Sir Guyon (the pleasure-palace-wrecking Puritan knight of Temperance from Book Two) turns up to get his horse back.

Artegall stops him from instantly killing Braggadocio and asks him for proof of horse ownership;

"If that (said Guyon) may you satisfie,
Within his mouth a blacke spot doth appeare,
Shaped like a horses shoe, who list to seeke is there."

People try to check but the horse bites and smashes them (why didn't he do this when Braggadocio stole him?), only Guyon can calm the beast and this proves it to everyone.

Now it is time for Brags depressing punishment;

"But Talus by the backe the boaster hent,
And drawing him out of the open hall,
Upon him did inflict this punishment.
First he his beard did shave, and it renverst,
And blotted out his armes with falsehood blent,
And himselfe baffuld, and his armes unherst,
And broke his sword in twaine, and all his armour sperst.

Anyone who was fat or strange in school will recognise the closing scene;

"All gan to jest and gibe full merilie
At the remembrance of their knaverie.
Ladies can laugh at Ladies, Knights at Knights,
To thinke with how great vaunt of braverie
He them abused, through his subtill slights,
And what a glorious shew he made in all their sights."

Fuck all of you rich bastards. In my Fanon Braggadochio escapes, gets False Flormell back and teams up with Archimago, Duessa, Pyrochles and all the others in team Bad Guy behind the scenes.

Braggadocio and Trompart in the bush by W. Kent
This is how I choose to remember them. Hiding in a bush.


That's all. A short canto to get a minor character out of the way. The next section should be a multi-canto dump as Artegall and his robot fight a Feminist Amazon who has read her De Pizan and created a City of Ladies.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Scars

Scars like mutations or magic tattoos you didn't get a choice in.

Positive, but rare, and conditional, effects in natural language and with in-world fairytale logic rather than plusses, bonuses and re-rolls. This gives players a reason to record them and makes them easier to remember.

(For most people, D&D being what it is there are probably people who find it easier to remember that they have a +3 on a conditional re-roll rather than that they can bleed apple seeds from a wound.)

The idea here being that a particular situation comes up and the player says 'ahhh, but I carry a Troll Tooth scar so I get to do *this*, or *this* should happen.

And the DM says, 'but where is this scar and what does it look like?'

Player - 'well its *here* and it looks like *this* and I got it in *this* adventure when we did the thing. Remember that?



Conditions for Getting a Scar

It shouldn't be too easy, or people will game it. So;

- It needs to make sense in the described event; "The Troll bites deep into your forearm and bears you to the ground" or "The Goblin Scimitar carves a chunk out of your cheek and nocks the bone, your head flies back." Not just; "They swing and hit."

- There should be some exceptional success on the opponents part, or exceptional fail on the players part, as related through dice results. A crit by the monster, being reduced to 0 HP, an unusual magical or physical effect, being tied up and tortured, or a fumble from the player.

- It's largely the players choice as to whether they get a *Scar*, with a mechanical effect, or just a scar. If someone gets covered in dragonfire then they are going to be scarred up but they shouldn't have to accept the complex rules elements of a dragon-breath scar unless they want to.

- The player can decide where on their body it is, broadly. It has to make sense with the imagined sequence of events.

- Once a player does accept a scar, it’s not easy to get rid of. It should be possible, but requiring high level magic or a situational quest.

- Why doesn't magic heal it? In the case of magical beings, it may be their effects can't be fully removed by healing magic. Divine or other magical healing means that the body can only heal in relationship with the spiritual or magical state of the whole. So, in pseudo-Eastern philosophy, a scar from a particular event can't heal because your Chi is knotted around it, and this relates to your spirit and psychology as well as your flesh. Maybe you subconsciously want that scar because you need to remember that event. In western philosophy, maybe you need to remember the sin, perhaps your humours are altered around it or whatever.

Point being, if you accept this idea, it should be known in your world that there are some scars, both natural and unnatural, that won't heal, or that need special, magical or mental changes to be allowed to heal.




THE SCARS THEMSELVES

First, standard, boring, non-material scars from creatures that aren't specifically magical or poisonous.

ORCS, GNOLLS, BARBARIANS, all those 'Proud Warrior Race' guys.

Scars from these beings are non-magical, but get you serious cred in other Orc and Barbarian communities. Those guys just sit around comparing scars all day anyway, it’s their written language.

You get a chance to engage if you are willing to bear your chest and go "Do you speak so, to the slayer of SNARLGUT?!?!?!. I shall tell you the tale of our battle, for it was MIGHTY INDEED." This could turn a combat/monster encounter into a social/but-probably-still-combat encounter.


Appearance - Practically probably just a normal scar.

Maybe a green tinge from Orcs who lick their blades before battle (Orcs have anti-coagulant saliva? Makes sense).

Barbarians tend to use serrated blades which, in reality probably aren't always that different in their effects but in fiction can be said to leave saw-tooth tears.

Gnolls can tell which Gnoll bit you, simply by the patterning of teeth, which they recognise. This could be good because it shows you either killed them or just met them and survived, indicating that you are worthy of respect. (Or that you are not that tasty).



DRAGONS

They key thing with a Dragon being that just surviving is impressive, prevailing even more so.

Claws and Teeth

These are heavy-duty versions of Quints speech from Jaws. Even an idiot should be able to hold a bar or a group of rogues spellbound with the story of how that happened. Start thinking of some cool shit to say and bust it out whenever you need to impress a random human encounter or raise your cred with a prospective employer or hire. Assume that whenever you are describing the story of your dragon-scar in a social environment you can at least hold a crowd, if not persuade them.


Burns and Breath

Partial immunity to the effect is the most interesting possibility. That doesn't really make sense if the effect is a blast furnace, but it could make magical or poetic sense.

The most 'useful' parts to get scarred are the hands, so you can grab stuff in fire or acid, and the torso, so you can avoid critical/lethal damage. So if you want a useful hand or torso burn scar you should have to take a hideous facial scar as well, that massively disadvantages you socially.

People with real burn scars do sometimes get them tattooed to reclaim them, so if you get the right magical tattooing added to your Dragon scar then you should get full immunity, for that particular part. (Meaning that when the Dragon toasts the rest of you that one bit is left as a magical relic for others to nab.)

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/08/repainting-the-scar-tattoo-skin-graft-firefighter/4

Gas Scarring to the lungs could mean that you heave and wheeze continually, and maybe occasionally cough out poison gas, but you can also breathe that gas without difficulty.


The Ahab Effect

Limb loss or massive facial scarring means you no longer suffer a fear effect from that particular Dragon, and it’s easy for you to persuade others to fight it, but you have Ahab RAAAAAAGE whenever you think about it and just can't let that shit go, you are effectively geas'd to go after it.




GOOOOBLINS

Goblin scars grow tiny multicoloured mushrooms and sometimes leak a colourful pus if poked or massaged.

Those little mushrooms make the consumer laugh uncontrollably, they are also quite nutritious so eat them yourself and giggle or drug others to distract them.

Licking your own pus lets you have Goblin thoughts, and act in Goblin ways, you get sneaky and crafty, can find places to hide and can make traps and strange devices. The DM has to tell you if there is any place to hide that you missed and you can contort yourself to fit into small spaces. Just hope no-one hears you giggling like a loon in there.

Appearance - Goblin scars heal in the shape of grinning mouths, no matter the original cause, so if you fight Goblins enough you end up covered by these fungal smiles.





DEEEMONS (& DEVILS)

Demon Scars resolve into black letters in an infernal language. The power of the words increases with the power of the Demon that caused them. Very high-powered demons are able to track you with the scar because they have ETERNAL HATRED for you now.

Such a scar can even be passed onto descendants since Demons are timeless.

HOWEVER

'Holy' creatures and Paladins and whatever are able to read it and see that you kicked a Demons ass, or at least survived it.

'Lesser' Demons and supernatural creatures become scared if they see it, reading out the words will frighten them.

The words get you access to certain places, magical portals or altered states.

So yeah, you got scarred by a Demon and that’s 'bad', like a curse or whatever, especially as in regards to the particular Demon. But, the rest of the time it’s actually, effectively, cool as fuck since you carry all the badassery of being 'Demon Touched', meaning you get invited to all the cool parties and can wear sunglasses indoors, but none of the negative social effects since 'good' people know you beat up Demons.

Sure it hurts a bit when you enter a church, but you can always tell attractive members of your preferred gender "Yeah, sure was tough when I fought that Demon and sent it back to Hell, got its mark on me now. A curse, some say,  [rueful sigh, sardonic smile] I guess that's just the card's you're dealt when you are a PROFESSIONAL DEMON FIGHTER."




GHOSTS

Each Ghost is so unique (or should be, in a good game) that the scar should help connect you to the conditions of their creation. It throbs in the presence of their murderer.

The scar helps find your way around places that person was familiar with. Like the dim body-memory you have of where you are in your house or locality, the way you can find your way home drunk.

If you get drunk you get flashes of the Ghosts memories, maybe if you sleep you dream of its death.

If it’s dark, and its quiet, and you don't seem massively out of place and act like a dick, other ghosts will mistake you for one of them, part of their own memoryscape, and you can talk to them about what’s going on with them.

If you set the Ghost to rest the Ghost-Scar becomes a Ghost-Trap, you can force damaged or befuddled Ghosts into it. Good news; they are out of the way and they can't hurt *you*, directly. Bad news; they tend to pop out when you are having nightmares and fuck about with stuff nearby. Arguably-Good-News, people really don't want to go near you when you are sleeping.

Appearance - Just a shade off your natural skin tone in daylight, but silvery and reflective in moonlight and pale in darkness.




ABBERANTS

These help detect the presence of that particular races technology or tools.

They also move around the body at will and always point the way to nearby portals to other dimensions or whatever.

They usually itch when that particular kind of creature, or its effects are near. So you can check if Mind-Flayers are near, but also if anyone nearby has also been effected by them, like a secret brain-slave maybe?

Appearance - Fucking weiiiiird. Not like scars at all. Continually rippling bits of flesh, always mutating slightly on a basic level, different in shape, texture, colour and feel each day.

(They might be like Teratomas actually, but probably players wouldn't want to keep track of those.)





BEHOLDERS

Ray Scars, from a Beholder or anything like it, would look more like modern industrial laser scarring than anything medieval. Just a straight burn across your body

Petrification - You now have stone or ceramic fingernails, or stone teeth, or one stone finger that works like a real finger.

Disintegrate - You got transparent X-Ray flesh where that ray landed now. Plus your bones inside look like blue glass. That's not actually that useful but pretty cool nonetheless.

Fear - A howling munch-scream medusa-head burnmark with the path of the head-snakes following the path of the Ray. Creatures that cause fear are actually nonplussed by seeing this in full and can't activate their effect for a round.

Death Ray - Not only is this scar classic 50's nuclear-phosphorescent, but the sweat from it is also phosphorescent. If you collect enough sweat and use it to mark a portal or forehead, that thing is briefly warded against death magic. (Also people want your sweat now).

Anti-Magic Ray - If you rub something against this scar and it actually is magic, the scar will sting a little. These scars are always negative-image colour to the rest of your body, like they are in a different dimension.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Find-and-Replace Necurat Pitch

Here is my pitch for a thing that didn't end up happening. Find-and-Replace has been used extensively to file the numbers off. Questions will be met with silence.

Back after Christmas.



DIVERSITY, HORRIBLE HORRIBLE DIVERSITY

One interesting element of Necurat is that they might be the only major group to systematically turn 'imperfect' humans like dwarfs, 'freaks', those with downs syndrome, Asperger’s, disabled people, amputees, wheelchair-users, veterans with limb-loss or severe facial damage or any non-standard or physically imperfect individual.

I don't know what role this might have played in ***** ** ********previously, obviously, allowing people to play a Undead with Downs syndrome or a Thalidomide victim or anything like that, opens you up to potential criticism in a variety of ways, but there's really no reason that someone with a disability, be it physical or mental, shouldn't be able to imagine themselves as a magic Undead person. Or that we shouldn't be allowed to imagine ourselves as that person.

My rationale for this is that survival as a Necurat in the initial stages is so difficult that it has more to do with will than anything else. The will to separate yourself from shame and your former existence and to do the things you need to do to survive, whether that includes spending a week in a cistern without breathing or just straight-up crawling into a storm drain from the street.

And people with disabilities should be just as capable of doing that, of showing the will to survive, as anyone else. And, in some ways, they lose less than a 'normal' person since they are already right at the bottom of society. If you are already someone that people stare at in the street, or someone who needs to check for stairs everywhere you go because you are in a wheelchair, then how much do you really lose from becoming a hideous super-powered predatory monster?

And Necurat would naturally find themselves in sympathy with people like this.

The same goes for embracing very old people, like people in care homes, those 90 or above, abandoned by their families or just forgotten. Your opinion of the 'horror' of eternal life is probably veeeery different if you have spent the last 15 years in a medical prison asking people to wipe your arse because you can't and simply waiting for a lonely death. Imagine waking up out of that and finding yourself vital and strong, and (potentially) immortal. Quite a different experience.



EGALITARIAN

Beauty has a hierarchy, ugliness is fair. The hideous are hideous together.

I really like the idea of the Necurat as a highly egalitarian culture with relatively flat power networks and a high degree of respect for individuality. A bordering-on-anarchist community with a nominal hierarchy created largely as a representative to the ********* and wider Undead society.

The Horrible Commune.

In Undead society as a whole they might be seen as a hyper-conservative faction, but within their own ranks tend to be more meritocratic. A degree of hypocrisy which makes the ********* nervous.

Extremely individually secretive, with many layers of trust. Within its own personal world the views of a Necurat could be anything.

So even though they might seem to have the same divisions and political and social arguments as the rest of Undead Society, in reality, Necurat are much more aware of each other than you would think from looking at them from the outside. They have their own reputational system that sits alongside and outside the status accorded from the *********. So a Necurat can be isolated and weird to the ********* but very deep 'in with the group' to the Necurat. (Necurat in-group status is always referred to as 'depth'. "How deep are you?" "He is a deep creature, best not to argue."). And the reverse can be true because the job of dealing with the ********* and doing all the official stuff that needs to be done is not necessarily a very high-status one within the group.

So, to Necurat, some crazy 500-year old hag living in a storm drain on the edge of town who communicates only in riddles, might have more status, and more influence within the group, than whoever deals with the Ruler of the City on the Groups behalf.



BEAUTY

The quixotic adore/destroy relationship with beauty has been pretty well gone over by previous creators I think. I would keep almost all of that as it was and intensify it. A few ideas;

A 'murmuration' of Necurat where they are all inexplicably drawn towards an area or presentation of beauty like an art gallery or a fashion show. The artists, or models think they are interacting with normal members of the Bourgeoise then slowly, as the night continues, they begin to seem hideous, one by one their illusions slip away until the creators are faced by a crowd of horrible, stinking, dirty, predatory grinning faces, still asking the same bourgeoise questions.

(I always imagine them grinning, especially around other Undeads. They seem to me like peasants barging into a gathering of the beautiful nobility, deliberately ruing the party, licking the plates and wiping drool from their fangs with other peoples clothes.)

Some Necurat actually turn beautiful when they succumb to the beast adding an extra layer of dark addiction. At the moment when they lose control they pervert into almost supernaturally perfect beings and go mad, unable to speak or act unless it is to kill, though there is thought to be a language of death in the nature of the killings of these Necurat which others wish to study.

They can be egalitarian, sympathetic, compassionate, destructively violent, casually murderous.

I wonder if the Necurat are more likely to carry out an acid attack or to hunt the person responsible?

And of course there is a feminist story there if you want it about the victim of an acid attack being Black-Pilld and then wreaking terrible revenge.

There is a route there in which the Necurat's twisted relationship with beauty merely mirrors the general societal relationship as lensed through the gender wars. We compulsively drown ourselves in images of unattainable perfection and go slowly mad until we only want to reach out to destroy it.

And the idea of the Necurat as the lie that tells the truth. In an endless wash of perfectly toned, digitally-adjusted, Instagram-perfect, tight, peachy flesh, they are like a foul blot, like a spreading ink stain on fine calligraphy, but they are the truth beneath the image leeching out into the world, the product and obverse of our half-poisonous hunger for beauty.




POPULAR CULTURE

Obviously they would be big fans of the film Necurat, both the original and the Herzog version. Big Klaus Kinski fans.

Also fans of 'Interview with a Undead', but they treat it as a comedy, throw things at the screen and boo whenever Lestat gets whiney. An Urb-Ex explorer beneath Paris reports coming upon underground Cinema showing Interview with a Undead with and audience of huddled, cloaked slouched figures. Hears a bizarre hissing, realises they are laughing.

Female Necurat love the Wicked Witch of the West from 'The Wizard of Oz', and are just fond of the Witch motif generally. Eyes Without a Face is a big favourite too.

Probably they like Spy stories and John LeClare.





TECHNOLOGY

They would probably have lots of scientists, be experts in medicine, big on limb replacement and artificial body parts. Much like a culture of war vets would have a huge interest in prostheses. If you want to go into a near-future dark sci-fi direction you could bring in cyborgisation in a quasi-real sense.

Big in cutting edge biology, especially animal biology, always looking for new freaky pets to mutate & create. Big investors in the projects to return extinct species.

HUGE on monkeys, especially the higher Apes, especially Gorillas, which they LOVE. A Necurat Ruler is nothing without at least one giant mutated animal helper. The ultimate in Necurat status symbols. Some have been censured for creating giant subterranean monsters in old missile silos. Someone is working on giant Undead mole-rats.

And I think if a Necurat feels compelled to Black-Pill someone who will have difficulty surviving due to their physical difference, because they have no legs or are warped or disabled in some other way, its a classic custom to gift them a 'pet' if they survive the initial weeks. Like a helper pet but a brain-slaveed, warped, white, monstrous version, like a giant boa-constructor, a piebald chimp, a huge patched hound or something of the kind. So if, during character generation, you choose, or roll some severe physical disability, you also get a free 'helper' from your sire.

I imagine them as having played a large role in the development of the internet, but for them the heyday was the mid 90's to early 21stC. The rise of facebook, twitter, and especially the loathed instagram, has enraged them. They see it as a colonisation of their digital space by their social superiors, those who have every advantage in normal life and did nothing to help create or extend the technology.

Like- Reddit, Usenet, Forums, Podcasts.

Hate - Instagram, Facebook, Youtube.

Probably were really into second life, now into minecraft. Big fans of computer games, they like RPG's.

If you want to bring in much more 'deep-modern' stuff then making Necurat masters, not only of the old-style internet, but also of the physical makeup of the internet, makes sense. Necurat fiddling with junction boxes beneath street corners, hiding in the vast server stacks filling otherwise empty buildings for the financial industry, creeping along the ocean floor and interfering with fiber-optic cables. Fighting to defend their old privileges over this modern technology from other groups that might not understand what the machines do or how the infrastructure works, but who are becoming better at taking advantage of it.

Necurat love trains and big trucks (all Undeads must love trains, one of the most reliable and safe ways to travel long distances. They like driving really fast but rarely get the chance to do it. A bulky figure drives a chugging old Dakota Indian motorcycle around the city at night, their helmet a bit too large..



REALITY DECAY

Masters of paranoia and reality decay. Lords of Conspiracy. Probably their single biggest modern contribution to the Masquerade is that absolutely no-one knows what to believe about anything any more.

Internet-based reality decay would probably have happened to some extent anyway but the Necurat have leapt on it and systematically intensified and deepened it. They run agit-prop operations against everybody, they provoke and disrupt everyone, they keep internet culture wars burning. They blur the boundary between the real and unreal till everybody feels like they are living in an unstable simulation.

I imagine something like an internet 'troll farm', a huge complex full of nerds who's only job is to disrupt, occlude, and ruin online discourse in as many ways as possible, with promotions based on the subtlety and skill with which you can derail or extremify any kind of online community. Special awards given for conspiracy theories. All overseen by a single Necurat brain-slave. Then just repeat that for farm after farm after farm, all pumping out informational chaos, abrading the construction of consensus reality like a sea of chaos.



THE CITY

The nature and mythology of the Necurat would be utterly tied up with the existence of the city and with civilisation. For them, even more than with other Undeads, the only way they can survive is in the city, or deep in the wilderness. In any place in-between there would be nowhere to hide.

They would be a major influence on development of sewer systems and hence civilisation. The first sewer system of Ur might have been Necurat-designed. The Civilisation of Indus Valley, was theirs. They lived in the pools during the day. A big association with water, still water & black water.

And their role within the city would give them a very deep, hyper-specific relationship with how it is built.

They are in a very strange position, they need the city to work, if it falls apart or the population drops they are in trouble. But they need it to not work that well.

There need to be slums. There need to be sewers and tunnels, but there need to be cracks in those tunnels.

There needs to be a density of buildings, but it can't be too efficiently dense, there have to be dead spaces and rat-ways and places nobody goes.

On the other side, suburbia is bad. Necurat would *hate* suburbia.

The age of a city is important too, the longer it is continuously inhabited, the deeper its tunnels and infrastructure will sink, the more will be forgotten.

And so there would be massive and intense cultural warfare, and actual warfare, between Necurat groups and individuals based on aspects of planning and building that would seem almost incoherent to other groups. And probably warfare between groups based on structural aesthetics and how a city actually worked. A continual tug of war with some groups trying to produce sleek, modern, empty-feeling spaces with wide boulevards and sharp angles and the Necurat generally trying to drag the city back to dense, byzantine, dark, deeply-interconnected and almost-continually partially ruined systems.

Should a slum be raised, or redeveloped? How about a public transport system? Good or bad?

They would (generally) be obsessive enemies of high modernism. They would loathe Robert Moses, Le Corbusier and the redevelopment of Paris.

But they are the ultimate NIMBY's. All happy to see someone else’s buildings or sewers redeveloped for the good of the whole, but just not my sewers.

Bazalgettes sewers in London would have caused outright warfare, of course it all makes sense now, but think about the Necurat lairing in the Fleet river or the old sewers, hearing they are going to be rationalised into a modern, capacious, regularly patrolled and repaired large-scale sewer system?

In a way the Necurat are in a condition of "gardening" ruins. The climax system, for them, is a slumlike, but well-populated area, full of people, but riven with cracks and secret access. But such a place can only last so long before it is rebuilt or just falls apart and the population leaves so Necurat would have long-term plans for different quarters, bringing them into 'fruit' in different centuries.

They would be localists - have relatively little international of large-scale power, but obsessively interrelated with Local Politics especially local city councils, city planning, local authorities, low-level politicians, local police, highly geographic concentrations of power.

They would be embedded deeply into the social structures that guard and patrol the city infrastructure. The guys who repair the sewers and underground train lines. Anyone wearing a high-vis jacket could be one of theirs, and they would be heavily into unions because they create an alternative hierarchy outside the control of the state and largely opaque to state power. Why bother brain-slaveing a bunch of repairmen when you can control one corrupt union leader?

And they would have a deep and weird relationship with the poor and destitute of the city. They would be both protectors of that class, making sure nobody else preyed on them, and also consumers of them. They would defend the poor up to a point, but they must remain poor, remain vulnerable.



THE DEVELOPING WORLD

I would like to expand Necurat beyond Europe into developing world. In particular, to slums. Slums are important globally and they are a perfect developing ground for Necurat.

I imagine many of them living in giant trash piles in 3rd world cities. Whole communities in there squirming about like rats in tiny tunnels.

I'm really interested to see what you come up with for a global Undead mythos, it has a lot of challenges and opportunities locked inside it.

It has only just occurred to me that areas that have become the victim of location-based long-term environmental disasters would be a perfect place for Undeads to retreat to and hang out in, especially the more anarchistic ones and especially Necurat.

I'm thinking here places like Chernobyl, decade-long tire fires and mineshafts with dumped chemical waste.






HISTORY

In medieval times were big supporters of monastic life, and of leper colonies. Probably they still are.

I can also imagine weird Necurat Knights, or at least one or two. Maybe some crusader or famous jouster got Black-Pilld and wanders around at night on their strange pale horse wearing bulky armour, challenging people at river crossings in the dark.

Would be fine members of the Ugly Face clubbs and probably started them. (These were a real thing about the 18thC, groups of upper-class men who were all hideously ugly would get together in a club for regular meetups. If someone got married they had to pay their dues and leave the club, I will put in a table at the end that I got from a book that mentioned these.)

Machine Gun Summers of the great war - happy days for Necurat as they could walk about freely as veterans. A famous group of Necurat actually barged into high status Paris restaurant in full military uniform and demanded service as patriotic heroes then carried out an all night bacchanal over the sounds of waiters vomiting. Still talked about today.

Mexican 'Cave Lord' Necurats who came over on the land bridge & slunk into caves (exterminated giant ground sloth & still remember its taste), still living down there, really big & pale and weird, may have actual elemental powers. The war between Spanish Undeads and Mexican cave Undeads. Necurat being a big influence on meso-american culture, both good & bad.

'Brown Alex' claims to have spend the middle ages sleeping in an Irish bog, woke up in a museum in the CT scanner & ate the scholars, says he was just waiting for civilisation to come back. Still somewhat mummified.

They allegedly played a large part in extending (though not starting) the cold war as epochal tunnel-building projects were mana from heaven to them.

There may have been a Necurat civil war over whether to actually start WWIII & get everyone mutated. They were heavily censured by more powerful groups over this.




'REAL' PREHISTORY

If you are keeping all the weird biblical stuff from ***, then it would be worthwhile doing some research into what we currently know about pre-history. I think it’s changed quite a bit since the 90’s. Locating the origin Undead story 5 or 10’000 years ago might not work but locating it 20 or 30’000 years ago, in a climax stone-age culture, could be interesting.

A potential translation of ‘Night Hunter’ in reconstructed Indo-European might be “Noqtis Nékami”





THE OCEANS

The Necurat had deep contacts in the submarine forces of all major powers, they have been involved in submarine technology development since its inception, but the cold-war war saw those contacts and that influences stripped away from them as it was feared that a few crazy Necurat might actually use their influence to start WWIII. They have been slowly clawing them back ever since.

There are rumoured to be deep oceanic Necurat, living in shipwrecks in the dark zones. They run the docks where the Russian fleets rust and are in charge of how those husks are deposed, planting them like seeds for darkworld colonies of sleeping Undeads. Abyssal shipwreck Necurat. Necurat rising out of sulphuric vents, encrusted in coral and dripping albino crabs to peer into the portholes of bathyspheres.

Maybe they can actually raise the wrecked and rusting ship and sail it about, pouncing on cruise liners in the night, then once they have fed, they simply scuttle the ship and ride it down to the sea floor where light will never go. Racing the dawn to the abyssal shelf.

There could be 'Wild' Necurat who inhabit river systems, especially slow, silty ones.




DEEP LEGNDARY STUFF

This is where we go deep into quasi-biblical and potentially high-fantasy stuff. Not exactly the brief I think you were looking for but fun to put in. If the storyteller doesn't want it in they can just make it old Necurat mythology.

The first, original, Necurat being a Nephilim, literally the child of an angel and human women, and this being the reason he was such a great hunter. And that being the reason they get on with monsters, and the reason they are so warped and fucked-up because the remnant angel-juice in their bodies reacts with the Undead stuff and it’s like milk mixing with vinegar. Gods Curse and Gods Blood curdling in the flesh.

This also makes the Necurat partially descended from angels, which is an interesting idea.

The first Necurat could be a daughter of Caine.

This is from Numbers 13:32

"The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size.

There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them."

Nephilim under the earth. Many of the descendants of the angels & early human women escaped gods revenge by burrowing deeply under the earth, the Necurat search for them still and are in control of many major mining operations and geological processes in order to find them and destroy them with atomic bombs before they emerge. (Or take control of them and use them to take over the world).

Biblical Monster Island - All the Nephilim and giant creatures from the old testament and apocalypse visions all on a giant volcanic island kept secret by Necurat super-sorcery. Like the actual Whore of Babylon and she’s some kind of Godzilla-sized biblical Kaiju mega-beast.




GONCALDA

Most Necurat believe almost instinctively that Freak-Heaven is somehow in the earth, that it is, in some way, an actual and real place and often end up trying to get as deep as possible in one way or another, worming their way deeper and deeper as they age. First through tunnel building or creeping to the bottom of the oceans and ultimately perhaps by simply starting to dig their way down on their own.

See "The Coming Race" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and "The Morning of the Magicians"; tells the story of an underground city powered by the energy form 'Vril'. A race of magical beings lives off this magical primal energy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agartha

Taken by some Necurat as being the blood of the earth, viate that comes not from living beings in the common sense but from the primal source of life itself, the earth and that ultimately Necurat can learn to subsist on this primal life energy without killing, forming a necessary part of the Entropic natural cycle, and this is a subterranean city where they live in harmony with the Nephilim.

Richard Shaver clearly fell into an early Necurat Reality-Decay operation beneath the earth, despite their attempts to fracture his memory he escaped and began to spread his 'Dero' mythology about hideous under-beings controlling everything from secret cities. Perhaps his madness gave him the occult power to escape the Necurat somewhat, or maybe they just let him go to help form a next-generation reality decay operation.




THE UNDERWORLD WAR / WORM WAR ONE

Underground Nephilim vs Rapey Gandalfs horror-creations. A war raging across geological time. Noahs flood washed the majority of the 'biblical' and 'unnatural' creatures underground, where many of them still are, and where they are continually battling the descendants of the Rapey Gandalfs paeleo-experiments which are growing within the planet like a pus-boil and would quite like to burst it open like a sore and escape into the blackness of space.

This is why the underworld Necurat aren't more important in the upper world, they are already deep in the grip of Underworld War One, a battle raging miles beneath the planets surface.


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Shit. Just. Got. Dark.- FQ Book 5 Cantos 0 to 2

Well it was always dark. But if there is an invisible tipping point where a fiction crosses over in our state of mind from being good, and its flaws being considered as seperate, individual elements to that goodness, to being bad, with its positive or redeeming features being regarded so, then this is that point.

Probably that point was somewhere in Book 3 or 4. We just didn't see it go past.

To recap;

Book One -  a straight-up heroic journey story with Redcrosse and Una vs Archimago and Duessa, with a Dragon fight at the end.

Book Two - a slightly darker heroic journey story with Guyon and his 'Blacke Palmer' looking for Acrasias Bowre of Blisse so they can FUCKING WRECK IT.

Books Three and Four - a (to me) confused fucking jumble of stories with things I liked and disliked being spread out over both books;

The Good Bits - Britomart being a badass, her hanging out with Glauce, her hanging out with Amoret where Amoret thinks she is a Guy but Britomart is being reeeal friendly, and Amoret gets scared, then she's like 'oooohhh'. Britomart jumping through fire. Every time Britomart unveils her MAGNIFICENT HAIR. Britomart being so into Arthegall that she just keeps walking along with him even though they are meant to be saying goodbye.

The Bits I Either Didn't Like or Was Like Eh - People chasing Florimell. Some of  the mirror-chivalry bits with people chasing False Florimell were Ok. All the fucking about with Triamond and Campbell and just all the general dicking about.

So what do we have coming up in Book Four?

I've only read the first two Canto's so far, but there is good news and bad.

Good News - it seems more tightly focused.

Bad News - Arthegall teams up with a Terminator-Style Genocide machine and slaughters everything that irritates him, including foreigners, women and Levellers, with all of this being regarded as super-awesome by the stunned narrator.

The Book is called Justice.


PROEM!

We open with a requiem for a more-pure ancient world, where truth and justice ruled, before modern man completely fucked it all up by being a bunch of perverse wierdos.

This is a theme that Spenser has looked at before, but here he really dives into it. It is a grim but intense vision, performed with admirable intensity. The age;

".. now at earst become a stonie one;
And men themselves, the which at first were framed
Of earthly mould, and form'd of flesh and bone,
Are now transformed into hardest stone:"

Vice a virtue have changed places. The Heavens themselves are wasted and out of joint, the Ptolemaic order is winding down. The constellations are failing;

"So now all range, and doe at random roue
Out of their proper place farre away,
And all this world wth them amisse doe move,
And all his creatures from their course astray,
Till they arrive at their last ruinous decay."

Everything is utterly terrible, right down to the system of the world. And how do we fix terrible worlds? Well, you've seen a few 70's Bond films haven't you.




Canto One

We begin with a description of the redemption of the injustice of the ancient world through force. Hercules, apparently, being a primal force for Justice;

"Who all the West with equall conquest wonne,
And monstrous tyrants with his club subdewed;
The club of Justice dread, which kingly powre endewed."

Then Arthegalls youth and training;

"For Artegall in justice was upbrought
Even from the cradle of his infancie,
And all the depth of rightfull doome was taught
By faire Astroea, with great industrie,
Whilest here on earth she lived mortallie.
For till the world from his perfection fell
Into all filth and foule inidquitie,
Astroea in the rules of justice them instructed well."

Astroea seems to be some kind of quasi-angelic spirit. She doesn't get described in the notes. Possibly a Spenserian invention?

Astroea sees Arthegall as a child, judges him 'clean' and 'with no crime defilde,' and, creepily, lures him away to a cave with 'gifts and speaches milde'. In the cave she teaches him all about Justice, using, in part the apparent torture of wild animals?

"She caused him to make experience
Upon wylde beasts, which she in woods did find,
With wrongfull powre oppressing others of their kind."

She gives him a 'steely brand' Chrysaor' which Jove used to kill Titans.

Eventually the world 'with sinne gan to abound,' she leaves and goes back to the heavens, becoming a contellation;

"... the Virgin, sixt in her degree,
And next her selfe her righteous ballance hanging bee."

So, Libra?

Before she leaves she gives Arthur a Very Special Friend. As all knights need to have.

Redcrosse - Una, she does save his ass from Despair.

Guyon - Black Palmer, bit of a dick but very handy.

Britomart - Glauce, cross-dressing Nurse.

Those Other Guys - Fuck knows, can't remember, it was mid-season.

Arthegall;

"But when she parted hence, she left her groome
An yron man, which did on her attend
Alwayes, to execute her stedfast doome,
And willed him with Artegall to wend,
And doe what ever thing he did intend.
His name was Talus, made of yron mould,
Immovable, resistless, without end.
Who in his hand an yron flale did hould,
With which he thresht out falsehood, and did truth unfould."

Sir Arthegal, the Knight of Justice, with Talus, the Iron Man (from Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene’)

So that's Sir John Mortomimers version of Talus. He acts, in the poem, nothing like what this guy looks.

What does he act like?



DUN DUN DUN, DUN-DUN
HE'S THE FUCKING TERMINATOR


Artegall has his mission from the Faerie Queene, which is to rescue some chick Eirena_ from the Tyrant Grantorto_ who, like many villians in the FQ is essentially Catholocism.

So Arthegall and Talus go on their merry way.

And find, almost immediately, a sorrowful Squire with 'many bitter teares shed from his blubbred eyne.' sitting there with a young woman who has had her head cut off.

The Squire tells them a story about how he was out chilling with his own lady when a super bad dude, who also has a lady on his horse, sees them.

The bad guy likes the Squires girl more, so just kicks his current girl off the horse, grabs the new one and rides off. His (now) ex follows after him;

"And on him catching hold, gan loud to crie
Not so to leave her, nor away to cast,
But rather of his hand besaught to die.
With that his sword he drew all wrathfully,
And at one stroke cropt off her head with scorne,
In that same place, whereas it now doth lie.
So he may love away with him hath borne,
And left me here, both his & mine owne love to mourne."

Which is a whole new level of motherfucker, even for the Faerie Queene. Arthegall quickly sends after the guy;

"His yron page, who him pursew'd so light,
As that it seem'd above the ground he went:
For he was swift as swallow in her flight,"

Talus grabs the guy and simply drags him back in his iron paw.

The bad guy, Sangliere, denies everything and blames it on the Squire, who has no counter-argument.

Arthegall has a topping scheme to prove the truth;

"Let both the dead and living equally
bevided be betwixt you here in sight,
And each of either take his share aright."

Yes just chop up both women and share them out and whoever disagrees must be the killer and gets to have the dead girls head wrapped around their neck for a year. (No-one asks the living woman what she thinks about anything.)

Sangliere, being a baddy, happily consents to this. The Squire, being in love, and not a totally fucking insane sociopath, says he would rather take the blame of the murder and carry the head.

Sanglier has never read the old testement basically. Probably was too busy being evil.

Of course this proves the Squire is innocent, so Sangliere is forced to carry the dead girls head by Arthurs murdering robot.

Justice is served. End of Canto.






Canto Two

Arthegall meets a Dwarfe 'in hasty course', this is Florimells Dwarf who everyone has certainly forgotten by this point, he tells Arthegall about the upcoming marriage of Flormell and Marinell in three days, Arthegall says he will certainly be there.

The Dwarf tells him there is a problem; a classic Robber Knight situation. This guy controls a bridge over a river.  The Knight Pollente, threatens the rich and robs them and his squire does the same to the poor.

Anyone who disagrees gets to fight this guy on the bridge, tt's only a span or so wide and has trapdoors so they either die there or fall into the river where he jumps them and kills them in the water.

The money goes to his daughter in a castle, a girl 'With golden hands and silver feet beside'

"Which she with wrongs hat heaped up so hy,
That many Princes she in wealth exceeds,
And purchast all the countrey lying ny
With the revenue of her plenteous meedes,
Her name is Munera, agreeing with her deedes."

Arthegall goes to the bridge;

"Who as they to the passage gan to draw,
A villiane to them came with scull all raw,
That passage money did of them require,
According to the custome of their law.
To whom he answerd wroth, loe there thy hire;
And with that word him strooke, that streight he did expire."

A fight is on, Arthegall and the Knight run at each other. Both fall through a trap into the river. They fight there;

"As when a Dolphin and a Sele are met,
In the wide champain of the Ocean plaine:"

Which is a metaphor I bet you did not expect. They are roughly equal. The Knight eventually beings to tire and goes for the shore


Which works exactly as well. Arthegall cuts his head off, his head is so sinful;

"It bit the earth for very fell despight,
And gnashed with his teeth, as if he band
High God, whose goodnesse he despaired quight,
Or curst the hand, which did that vengeance on him dight."

Arthur and Talus go to the castle where Munera, with the golden hands and silve feet lives.

Talus bangs upon the door;

"And thundred strokes thereon so hideouslie,
That all the peece he shaked from the flore,
And filled all the house with feare and great uprore."

They throw missiles at him, that doesn't work. Munera throws sacks of gold at him, that doesn't work.

Talus breaks his way in. Munea hides.

Talus finds her hiding beneath a pile of gold;

"Thence he her drew
By the faire lockes, and fowly did array,
Withouten pitty of her goodly hew,
That Artegall him selve her seemelesse plight did rew.

Yet for no pitty would he change the course
Of Justice, which in Talus hand did lye;
Who rudely halyd her forth without remorse,
Still holding up her suppliant hands on hye,
And kneeling at his feete submissively.
But he her suppliant hands, those hands of gold,
And eke her feete, those feete of silver trye,
Which sought unrighteouusnesse, and justice sold,
Chopt off, and nayld on high, that all might them behold.

Her selfe then tooke he by the slender wast,
In vaine loud crying, and into the flood
Over the Castle wall adowne her cast,
And there her drowned in the durty mud:"

Then he destroys the castle.

We are not done with this Canto. We still have to deal with Gyant Leveller Karl Marx.

Yes, someone has time-travelled Karl Marx back into the Faerie Queene and turned him into a Gyant, and that is who we meet next.






Arthegall and Talus see a great crowd and wonder what draws them there;

"There they beheld a mighty Gyant stand
Upon a rocke, and holding forth on hie
An huge great paire of ballance in his hand,
With which he boasted in his surquedrie,
That all the world he would weight equallie,
If ought he had the same to counterpoys.
For want whereof he weighed vanity,
And fild his ballaunce full of idle toys:
Yet was admired much of fooles, women, and boys."

The Gyant wants to re-balance and re-distribute everything in the whole world, including mountains and seas, and abstract qualities;

"Therefore the vilgar did about him flocke,
And cluster thicke unto his leasings vaine,
Like foolish flies about an hony crocke,
In hope by him great benefite to gaine,
And uncontrolled freedome to obtaine."

Arthegall decides to debate the Gyant, so the whole second half of the Canto is a long argument between Mel Gibson and Hugo Chavez.

Its a actually kind of good. In parts.

"Thou foolishe Elfe (said then the Gyant wroth)
Seest not, how badly all things present bee,
And each estate quite out of order goth?
The sea it selfe doest thou not plainely see
Encroch, uppon the land there under thee;
And th'earth it selfe how daily it's increast,
By all that dying to it turned be.
Were it not good that wrong were then surceast,
And from the most, that some were given to the least?

Therefore I will throw downe these mountains hie,
And make them levell with the lowly plaine:
These towring rocks, which reach unto the skie,
I will thrust downe into the deepest maine,
And as they were, them equalize againe.
Tyrants that make men subject to their law,
I will supprese, that they no more may raine;
And Lordlings curbe, that commons over-aw;
And all the wealth of rich men to the poore will draw.

Of things unseene how can thou deeme aright,
Then answered the righteous Artegall,
Sith thou misdeem'st so much of things in sight?
What though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eat the earth, it is no more at all:
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought,
For whatsoever from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide unto another brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought."

Eventually Arthegall goes full fallen-world, divine-sanction hyper-conservative;

"They live, they die, like as he doth ordaine,
Ne ever any asketh reason why.
The hils doe not the lowly dales disdaine;
The dales doe not the lofty hils envy.
He maketh Kings to sit in soverainty;
He maketh subjects to their powre obay;
He pulleth downe, he setteth up on hy;
He give to this, from that he takes away.
For all we have is his, what he lis doe, he may.

Eventually Arthegall and the Gyant get into some kind of abstract-quality measuring contest, the Gyant finds that right sits in the middle of the scales 'For truth is one, and right is ever one.'

The Gyant doesn't like this and thrusts right away. Talus picks him up and throws him into the sea where he gets smashed up like a big ship (probably the biggest thing Spenser aver get smashed up);

"Her shattered ribs in thousand peeces rives,
And spyling all her geares and goodly ray,
Does make her selfe misfortunes piteous ray.
So downe the cliffe the wretched Gyant tumbled;
His battred ballances in peeces lay,
His timbered bones all broken rudely rumbled,
So was they high aspyring with huge ruine humbled."

And off our heroes go, they have a wedding to get to.


Also, William Blake did a 'Wheres Wally' of the Faerie Queene. 
Can you find the murdering robot?


(click for site)

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

A Review of 'The Shadow People' by Margaret St. Clair

This is a book you might have assumed I would have already read. I think its on the 'Appendix N' and is often given as one of the main inspirations for the Underdark and the Drow. It showed up on my prospective research for Veins of the Earth but I only got round to reading it in the last few days.



What a remarkable, strange and interesting book this is.

There are two parts, the part that everyone talks about and the strange prophetic tail dragging after it.

The first part is about the Underdark. We open in the San Francisco of the late 60's (think it was written in 69). There are rats in the walls and scratches from behind the bamboo screens. Our hero wakes up to find his girlfriend gone. They argued the previous night, so that makes sense, but her camera, which she adored, is still there, which does not.

The slow decay into strangeness is very neatly done. The hero does and says all the frightened things we would do or say, police, friends, local haunts. The sense of something being deeply and invisibly off slowly rises with his inner tension.

This matching of the overwhelming strangeness of the world with the psychological state of the protagonist, a classic horror technique, so that the victim/heroes mental state mirrors that of the reader and the incursions into the real are impossible to discern from fear and madness in the head, all of this is very well carried off.

This is also where magic makes its first appearance, in an elegant form and style which carries over to the whole of the first half of the book. Someone advises the hero to scry for his girlfriend. The social milieu of the book (which was probably close to the writers own) is such that this is an entirely reasonable suggestion from the kind of people he hangs out with. He makes the rationalist response and they reply that yes, it probably isn't magic, but the meditation and focus allows the mind to process information it might not otherwise be able to arrange.

He tries scrying in a whisky glass and something happens.

Like the blending of decaying mind state and growing alter-verse, the tension between magic as maybe-real and magic as alternative-paradigm also tracks for the first half. The potential reality of magic grows slowly, rarely breaking out into unquestionably open reality.

A key moment comes where a friend tells him where his partner might be. She can't explain directly, but she can show him the way.

She takes him to the basement of his apartment. They wait, and feel with their faces for a cold breeze and a particular scent. Slowly he becomes aware of it. They follow it.

He finds a black gap just behind the buildings pipes, just large enough for someone to slide through side-on.

He slides through.

He enters another basement. Then finds the breeze again. Another strange gap. he keeps going.

And keeps going. Another basement, a forgotten crawl space, an old industrial space, a warehouse. He climbs. More. Another space. All different, never a clear path, only just accessible. He travels for a day.

He crosses the city, passing through junk yards, back lots, empty sheds. It is this long circuitous path that leads him to the Under-World.

He finds a sword. One of the more interesting swords in fiction. It’s simply been left hanging on a wall in an antechamber to the Underworld and it’s is safe because the people of that world hate Steel. They cannot touch it.

Ultimately, he crosses a water barrier and enters a realm adjacent to myth but always carrying the tantalising strands of possibility.

The logic for the Under-People is similar to that used in 'The Descent' - a pre ice-age hominid divide with one group going underground and staying there, effectively becoming a sub-species, one so sensitive, silent and secret that they border on the supernatural.

We discover stuff about the Under-People. They live on trash and this barley infected with this strange fungus. The fungus is a hallucinogen, so everyone underground is on a constant, eternal drugs loop where they are imagining themselves to be animals (usually), then coming down and feeling utter despair.

At one point the hero remarks that he understands now why the Under-people arch their eyebrows like they do, it’s because they are supporting the weight of imaginary horns.

Dream fades into reality into dream, he fights and kills and decides whilst imagining he is a thousand different animals.

I don't want to spoil the details. Suffice to say that he finds the girl, gets her out but ends up having to spend much longer underground than he expected.

And that is the part of the book you were probably expecting, the part that Gygax was probably drawing from and the part most people are interested in.

In the second part it gets really weird.





Ok, so its three years later and the guy gets back to San Francisco. Except the culture represented feels like a Dark Future Sci Fi story written in 2017.

In the three years he's been gone the culture has become so violent that people are forced to wear ID discs to walk the streets. Robot cops stop you to check your disc. One tries to do this to him (he looks like an insane homeless person and has walked through his shoes) and he wrecks it with the Sword.

Luckily (this is a world with only about five or six people in it and they just re-encounter each other), he runs into the woman who advised him about the underworld previously. She's working for the government bureaucracy and offers to help him with a fake identity. Breakdown;

- The fake I.D. has to have a certain level of rule breaking in it or it looks unnatural to the computers that now run everything.

- The hills of San Francisco are gone. Computer-controlled industrial machinery went wild because of a bug and levelled them in a few days. No-one could stop the machines. The people were paid off and the materials went to make new land in the bay. It's generally assumed that it was a land scam of some kind.

- The woman wants him to live with her. They don't get on and conditions are hard but women almost always want men to live with them 'because it’s safer'. Fears of home invasion and street attacks are now utterly common.

- The guy goes to work at his job and usually sees at least one knife attack and at least one fight. It’s just the new background.

- Food shortages are common. A point later in the book is where the main characters manage to come upon a rural market with no food controls and happily load up on fresh food.

- Hardly anyone goes to the University any more, but the University grounds are 'safe ground', if you can touch the gates whoever is chasing you will usually stop. He asks where this custom developed and is told it just grew on its own.

- The boring boyfriend of a character talks constantly of bombs and how he can make them, what he is willing to do. This is played as just some annoying thing he does. Political extremes are considered normal now.

- A couple go dancing, the music is described in a way that it feels almost like a conservative/ironic regurgitation of an old style that no-one really likes but they have to be careful now. Then someone throws a bomb into the crowd. This is normal now. No reason is ever given for the bomb.


So the rest of the book is him trying to get back the girl he originally saved from the Underdark. This involves some detective stuff, some espionage stuff, and at least one full-on shamanic dream session where he witnesses and channels the power of some extra-dimensional entity.

There are people who know about the Underdark and a guy who it seems is trying to set up some kind of global conspiracy to do with the Underdark powers.

These Elves that live underneath the world feeding on trash and their hallucinogenic barley are strangely powerful above ground. Not directly because they fear light, but like an ever-present low-level threat. You can never be safe. Any crawl space could lead right to the dark underneath the world.

They manage to take out the bad guy, kind of, and he frees his girl, kind of, but the knowledge/addiction of the Underworld is still with her, and with him a bit. Even though it’s the most terrible place imaginable it has this dark consuming power. People just don't leave it.

The 'good guys' kind of win but society is so utterly fucked that it doesn't really matter. They are caught in a riot, which might also be a government assassination attempt (no-one knows who is really working for the government or who really has power, there are assumed to be constant shifts between invisible factions) because they wouldn't give the government the secret to the Elves hallucinogenic fungi.

Fuck this book is strange. Like really no-faking original strange. Margaret St Claire was a unique woman.

Then eventually their old friend, who went back underground to be a Queen, due to the Underdark-addiction, sends them a powerful magic stone which protects them.

And that’s it.

No-one really seems to know what to make of this book. It's not like anything else. I think probably if Margaret St Clair was a man she would be a well know cult author, like maybe Phillip K Dick well known.

If it was just about the origins to the Underdark it would be important. It’s all there, in deep feel at least, the seed of it.

And then there is this whole other half to the book about this doomed future that looks a lot like our present.

And how those two interact and what the whole thing is, well your guess is as good as mine.

Monday, 18 December 2017

This Shit Takes a While



So its written. Now I have to work out how Kickstarter and Publishing works.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

What do you think of this?

Top-of-my-head encounter advice for Silent Titans


Running an Encounter

An encounter is any time the player characters come into contact with something potentially lethal, dramatic, interesting, useful, active or complicated. The exact borders of what it and is not an ‘encounter’ blur a little, if a nice old lady pulls out a knife then a social situations can turn into an encounter, if the PC’s bluff or persuade a potentially deadly enemy then a tactical situation can become a social one.

In Legions Fort, almost everything will be a social situation, inside a Titan, almost everything will be an encounter.

The Into the Odd ruleset which powers Silent Titans is not designed with elaborate tactical complexity in mind, this has been sacrificed for simplicity of apprehension and rapidity of decision, with the hope that the freed up cognitive surplus goes into investigation of the imagined world.

When running a combat encounter most of the interesting complexity comes from the environment, the social and personal situation, the strange nature of the opponent and the use of various simple and unusual objects, from rope to machine guns.

Here are a few fragments of typical old-school advice;

·        It doesn’t have to start with an attack.
o   Maybe the PCs become aware of a strange sensory element.
o   Maybe they have to make a bad choice and expose themselves to danger.
·        Make a sketch map.
o   Make the map interesting.
o   Its good if there are levels, things to climb and fall down.
o   Its good if parts of the map are separated, by a creek, a cliff, ruins, a fallen tree, strange rails etc.
o   Its good if there are things to run in and out of, things to hide inside, cover and occluded spaces.
o   Its good if there are things held in tension, like things held by ropes, things leaning against other things, large things that could roll downhill, things that could easily tip over, elements that can flow and escape like water, animals, oil or fire,
o   And of course its good if things can collapse or burn down, or break.
·        If an opponent can pick someone up, throw them, mutate them, blind them or alter them somehow rather than kill them, then that’s good.
·        Remind the players its always ok to run.
·        The advice about decisions, dilemmas and consequences all applies to combat as much as anything else; “You can try to save your friend, but it will expose you to this.” “You can try to get into a better position but it will lose you time and this might happen.”
·        Be honest and direct about risks and dangers.
·        By sympathetic and supportive, but roll openly and never flake a bad result.
·        And don’t do their work for them.


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

A Review of Vances Lyonesse (with spoilers)

(I did review Suldruns Garden on Goodreads earlier and there are bits of that review in this.)

First, some generalities;

Vance is a prose obsessive, though not with a heavily-rhythm'd euphonic 'sounded' line. Instead of sombre rolls of declarative speech, we get words as playful toys, his characters are always thinking and manipulating, rather than emoting and revealing. Flute music rather than drums.

And he shows an enormous and overwhelming dedication to, and incredible talent for, the embroidery of names and places. He has a kind of Genius for it.



This feeds into his meticulous worldbuilding, and correctness in matters of scale and location. (I suspect stuff like relative troop numbers and economic capacities was worked out behind the scenes.) Distance, as a dramatic element, matters. A big part of Suldruns Garden is a man desperately trying to travel a long way and being stopped, and the movements of everyone else are all locked together.

Its perhaps a little mediocre to say that a story has its times and distances sorted out, but it does also play into Vances love of procedural problem solving. Problems are never (for a pov character), simply elided with "oh they did it because they have heroic power". They have to solve it with the tools at hand and you have to see them solving it.

In a way, his stories are a contest between procedural problem solvers - with the 'hero' of Suldruns Garden effectively being the best problem-solver and the story of the 'hero' being one of bad things happening to him and him surviving them until he gets really, really ruthless about problem solving.

The grasping amorality of Vances characters is curious, and unrealistic. Not in that it doesn't happen, but that it can't happen that totally or that absolutely. Even in a corrupt kleptocracy, sometimes you ask for a drink and the price is just the price. I doubt any society could survive for long with everyone acting like a Jack Vance character.

The characters run all the way from predatory rapist sub-magician, to near sociopathic realpolitik monarch to magicians; pervy, indifferent and bad, to the good characters, who are often heroic, but rarely idealistic, and who are always, unquestionably, tricky, lateral, practical and extremely defensive about money.

There is an obsession with the driving mediocrity of a lot of peoples shitty ambitions and the enormous length many of them will go to in order to fulfil them. There are many, many, many, MANY of what I call 'grey negotiation scenes' where two characters argue at length about the precise nature of a deal, with a lot of self-justification and itemisation with a deep sense that at least one side, and probably both, are trying to fuck each other over while retaining the slightest veneer of civility.

I hate this kind of conversation in real life and I don't really like them here. They do work very well at highlighting the dark and threatening nature of the world, almost anyone could screw you over at any time for the most venal and pathetic of reasons. In particular, a scene in the last book with a group of travelling entertainers invisibly and relentlessly pressing against the social boundaries of a par of travelling children, culminating in their total robbery, is almost tangibly unpleasant.

(The same scene makes clear the enormous, but rarely directly stated vulnerability of women in Vances world, dependent on men for protection and also afraid of their would-be protectors, should their mood change.)



And it fits with the dark logic of the Fairytale, where any particular deal or mislaid word can crush you, so that works.

I keep wondering what the hell happened in Jack Vances life, but it looks like the great depression hit when he was 14 so maybe that explains it?

He has a fondness for sociopaths; the two layers of the story of Suldruns Garden are driven by two different sociopaths - King Casmir, who wants power and feels almost nothing, and Ffaude Carfilhiot, a magic man made from one third of the soul of a Sorceress who breathed in a bit of the burnt evil third and is now a handsome narcissistic villain. (Another Carfilhiot-type is re-introduced in later books, a Ska renagade who is almost perfectly Iago-esqe in his remorseless power-hunger).

The material world is unforgiving - but the people in it aren't. Suldrun and her lover refuse to kill a creepy priest - he entirely predictably fucks them over by revealing her pregnancy - and then revealing the identity of the dead baby they used to hide their real child. In later books he eventually screws the family again by revealing more information. He is eventually drowned. Sometimes being good and kind gets you screwed - at various other times it helps people stay alive, gain advantages or meet important allies.

With this comes a general air of tragedy and inevitability. When people are making bad choices, especially when considered generationaly - as a result of the way they were brought up or of what they have experienced - their situations seem almost fated, as if being who they are, what they are, and believing what they do about themselves, there is nothing else they could do in that situation other than what they did.

Human cruelty is assumed almost as standard.

Not discussing information assumed as standard.

Cruelty and advantage have a voice, they talk and describe themselves at length, they are verbose. Moments of affection, friendship and loyalty tend to be silent. They are inferred by action and event - not self-described or discussed till moments of stress and then often as a threat. (Affection and friendship being extremely double-edged blades in Vances mind and maybe his sympathies being split.)

There’s a fair amount of sex in Lyonesse, with sexual desire as a mover of action. (Almost as much as in the real world.) A suffused physicality and general hornieness. There really is quite a lot of inferred, threatened and actual sexual assault now I come to think of it. Plus inferred intra-generational attraction. Also I think a twelve year old girl gets raped by a giant?

Christians are somewhat rubbish in Vance, as they are in Cornwell. The Holy Grail turns up, does no good for anyone and is ultimately lost in a footnote.

Vance has his science-fictional demon-dimensions for transcendence and his own moral logic which has nothing to do with Christianity. He would probably see it as a scam.

Jack Vance is not a transcendent man.



The structure is interesting.

Lyonesse is a non-story-shaped-story, that is making a bit of a point about not being shaped like a standard narrative

Different power levels interweave, the plot loops elliptically and this artifice mimics the strangeness of our reality. The reader, like the characters, never knows what small and apparently irrelevant element will turn out to actually be insanely super-important.

At the end of the book, a strange figure tied up in a wizards cupboard manages to loose an arm.

In fact, a Witch, upset by the deeds of men, and with the aid of a Demonic colour green, has launched a decades-long multi-layered assassination plot which included her apparent death and subdivision into multiple quasi-autonomous sub-personalities. .

The green is at war in another dimension with even stranger dimensional powers and ultimately loses, or loses this battle anyway. But it's this struggle which leads to the loosing of the figure.

The figure is actually the representation of a gogmagogic giant, trapped on the oceans floor. In the cupboard he raises his free arm and out in the sea an arm the size of a nation rears up.

They get the guy in the cupboard back under control, the arm at sea goes back down. The volume of water displaced by this causes a tidal wave which wipes an entire coast of Lyonesse, including a timeless city of Legend. This is probably the biggest loss of life in the book.

The chaos caused by this forms the trigger for the main evil King to launch his invasion plan, which ends up slaughtering even more people and leads to his doom and the resolution of the story.

This happens towards the end of book three. A footnote at the beginning of book one says the main harbour to Lyonesse town, in mythic ages past, was carved out with the aid of a sub-aquatic giant.

I barely noticed this footnote (two books back), and with the kind of book Lyonesse is, there are probably a lot more of this kind of thing that I didn't detect. Presumably someone, somewhere, has done a website.

And that, in miniature, is the structure of Lyonesse. There's probably a name for it.

(Vances integration of Faerie into a near-real pseudo-medievalism is very well done and surprisingly fun. There are deep-Faerie zones where you are entirely likely to encounter say, a Witch, who hides you in her hat and sells you to a Troll who intends to eat you. and as you get further and further away from that space fairy stuff and magic  turns into a mysterious threat instead of an everyday danger - and then there are areas of the story where stuff like economics and politics are exponentially more important BUT it is always reasonable everywhere to consider magic and if someone turns up saying that they don't know where they are because they offended a rabbits wife and the rabbit was a butler to a fairy lord and the lord wrote their name in a puddle with a stalk of golden grass and they need to find water from that exact puddle with the stalk still floating in it and drink it to remember - then that very well might be the truth.)

Bernard Cornwell says he makes his historical dramas with a 'Big Story' in the background, and a 'Small Story', of these particular people in the grip of these larger events, in the foreground.

If we take Cornwells foreground/background deal as something like a classic painting, then we should maybe think of Lyonesse as an Escher image of a sort, the background becomes the foreground becomes the midground becomes the border becomes the figure.

So the uncertainty and the shifting perspective gives us a particular kind of feeling, perhaps one of indistinct wholeness.

A lot of the people reviewing Lyonesse say find it hard to summarise a mid-level synthesis of what it is. They can talk about the whole thing and say the writing is very good and it made them feel a certain way, they can do a granular analysis and talk about the individual events and trace the lines of the various plots but the mid-theme and mid-range of thought is a bit complex.

Some people say that they find it hard to explain the spell cast by the book, that while reading, and on considering it had aesthetic and emotional power, but when they come to pick up its parts, to describe it in 'plain text', they find it hard to show the thing that moved them.

It might be that the (I actually stopped writing here for a day and now I can't remember my point). It might be that the Escher-hive structure helps to cast this spell. The eyes of the reader, like that of the cast, are deluded by the movement of events up and down the scale in unpredictable ways, reader and character are almost helpless to fully understand and predict what will be, we can only wait and attend, trying to make the best of developing events.

People often say it’s like a Fairy Tale, but there is no Fairy Tale anywhere that is like Lyonesse. It’s a hive of buzzing Fairy Stories, all writhing and bustling through each others paths.