3 December 2021


The parking lot was mostly empty and drowned in heavy rain, yet I still left the car at the very far end, right next to the fence with only a river beyond. It did mean enduring the sleet as I trekked to the nearby building, but I would rather be hidden from any coincidental meddlesome eyes, and the darkness of heavy clouds and defunct lamps provided for that nicely. I took cover under the small roof above the back entrance and had one last look at the pocket clockwork.

The small hand was pointed at the door and the big hand was nearing twelve. It must be here, though I didn't feel anything except for some strange familiarity with this place. Then again, I wasn't quite at the top of my game. Everything was still so new and a little off - not truly uncomfortable, but different, like a tooth cap you can't stop touching with your tongue.

I couldn't really idle, though, with the readings as urgent as they were. I didn't want to idle.

Picking the lock was easy and I took out a flashlight as I ventured inside. Everything was gloomy and grimy, all sounds drowned out by the insistent rainfall. From what I saw on arrival, this once was a cinema, now rundown and abandoned. A dead place, out of sight of anyone who didn't know what to look for. An ideal place for an incursion.

Then I heard the voices.

Coming from behind the door to my left, they seemed to be chanting. I tried the door handle, and though stiffly, it moved. The room beyond was large and poorly lit by flickering light, its floor strewn with strange shapes. The chanting intensified, accompanied by the sounds of struggle. I attempted to slip through the door without making a sound or drawing attention to myself with abrupt movements, but still the old hinges creaked and I involuntarily cringed and something was really wrong with that scene and I had it on the tip of my proverbial tongue, but-

"Hey you!"

A shape rose up from one of the many seats randomly littering the floor, starting right after me. Then the lights exploded in a crescendo of music and I finally made one more half-step into the room that let me see the threadbare film screen where a cultist just summoned a "demon" in a latex costume.

"I was starting to think you forgot, Robbie," the woman who got up to greet me said.

"Oh, hi. No," I managed, before she threw her arms around my neck and started to kiss me.

Well, that explains the feeling of familiarity with this place. Incited, the memories came flooding in, of this little hideout where I - no, Robert - sometimes went with Kristy to hang out with her rowdy bunch of friends. From the memories I managed to quickly skim through, Kristy was clever and generally fun to be around. Robert had a good taste, though unlike Robert, I wasn't particularly enraptured by the neon green stripe in her hair, nor the piercing currently scratching my tongue.

She pulled away and looked at me questioningly: "Is something wrong?"

I leaned forward for one more quick, reassuring kiss. "No, sorry. I had a few rough days."

"You could've called me," she said, hugging me tight.

"I know, I just needed a while to take stock of, well, everything."

Damn, poor choice of words. She looked me in the eyes, suddenly uncertain and worrying.

"What's happening, Rob?"

Not the time for this! I came here...

"Everything all right, Kristy?"

Dave, I remembered. He always saw Robert as the outsider and rival.

"Everything's just peachy, Dave," I retorted and turned back to Kristy: "My uncle died recently. He made me his heir, and now the family is pretty pissed at me, so I was trying to avoid everyone, I guess. Sorry."

Distract her with a sob story, then get back to work. I came here...

"Oh," she hugged me again. "You could've still called me. Wanna go out and talk about it?"

"No," I offered a smile. "Maybe later. Thanks," I amended quickly to dissuade any further prying.

She dragged me to her cushion and cuddled up as we watched the bad old horror film, but something continued to bother me, and it wasn't my newfound girlfriend nor the squalid, spooky surroundings.

I knew I came here to... to...

I couldn't concentrate. The air was stale and stinky, smelling of old beer and sweat and...

Robert did frequent the parties here, he knew the people and I could chalk up some confused feelings to that, yet I followed the readings, not Robert's memories. I could have made a mistake, maybe? I was missing something obvious, and the acrid air, the loud film and a starting headache from trying too hard to get all the fleeting memories and thoughts in order didn't help.

I had something that might, though.

I reached into my breast pocket for a flask of lishgar. I liked to carry one with me, even if I only rarely used it. The risk of addiction and the sheer price of this stuff made me think twice. I had a new, young, healthy and most importantly completely clean body now, though, and I needed a clear mind. I involuntarily shuddered as I quaffed a small sip.

The film was blaring, but otherwise, everything was so... still.

"Hey, what are you hiding in there?" Kristy grinned at me.

"Nothing particularly tasty," I smiled back and tried to leisurely tuck the potion away, but she was already snatching the flask from my hand.

"Let me be the judge of that, you know I have a cultivated taste," she winked.

I stifled the urge to yank it back. I did not have enough to waste it, but I really did not want to make a scene. The potion was so bitter that she won't drink much, and it can't really harm her with a single dose. I hope.

Sure enough, she swallowed, started to cough and shoved the flask back at me.

"Why in hell would you drink that? That's worse than the rotgut Dave brought that one time!"

"Told you," I said and went to hug her, but then she turned pale and started to scream.

I didn't misread the clockwork. The party was too still. I came here for a reason, but I forgot.

Kristy had fat white worms gnawing through the flesh of her arms.

We both jumped up from the cushion that was crawling with the same worms. My mind cleared as the drug sharpened my focus, and I saw how many people there used to be on the party. The bodies were everywhere. Half-eaten corpses sitting with a slouch, their insides teeming with hatchling grub. Skeletons nearly cleaned of all meat lounging on chairs, the maggots slowly spilling from them to look for another meal. Here and there was somebody still alive, missing limbs or stretches of skin, ignorant of the eggs laid into the bloody holes in their guts or their eye sockets. Dave tried to kiss his girlfriend, but couldn't really do much more than spread some worms over her face, as they have already devoured his lips. She smiled and kissed him back.

Suddenly, I was staring down at the floor, retching. The smell, the sight, lishgar made me take it all in at once and twice as strongly. I squashed some worms that found my boot and tried to centre myself, then heaved again.

"Fuck! What the fuck?! What did you give me? What the fuck was that shit, Robert?!"

Unfortunately for Kristy, lishgar enhanced all forms of perception. Including the sense of pain. She was clawing at her arms, nails digging deep into the open wounds, tearing the worms apart or away.

"It's real," I barely rasped. My throat felt awful and my stomach swayed with each word. "What you see. We have to get out. Get out of here. Quickly."

She wasn't listening. She was taking in everything, too much.

I tried to grab for her arm, but she recoiled, quick and skittish. At least she was paying attention, now.

"We need to run," I said, then seeing her look I added: "Please, you have to trust me."

Lost look in her eyes, she let me take her hand. It was slick with blood, but at least nothing wriggled in the ragged wounds any more. I had to drag her as we moved to the door.

They were all over the ground, but they were just worms. With every step, they squished beneath our boots. I nearly lost my balance when I slipped on an empty beer bottle, and it was Kristy who kept me up, hissing in pain as she strained her wounded arms. I opened the door and slammed it shut again once we were through, crushing even more of the worms. Not that it would matter in the grand scheme of things.

"We'll have to burn all of this. They are everywhere and I don't have anything else that would make sure we stop them before they can get out. I really hope there are no open drains or pipes in here."

"What the- No! Are you insane?!"

"Kristy, I swear this is real. I'm sorry, but it is. The potion we took doesn't make you see things. I mean-"

"I know! I can feel it, no, see it, no, I just- I know it's real!" She gripped me, pupils dilated so wide there was nearly no iris left. "We have to go back. The guys, we can't leave!"

It was really dark in here. I thought I brought a flashlight, but I must have left it somewhere.

"Rob? Robbie!"

"Sorry, I... Sure, let's go back. I didn't... I... Let's go back to the party," I smiled. I had a really ugly taste in my mouth.

My head hurt.

"What? No. No, no no no no!"

Damn, I felt tired and sick and didn't pay enough attention to what I was saying. Kristy had a touch of panic in her voice, now.

"Hey, I'm not feeling all that well tonight," I said, trying for a soothing tone. I should get out of here, figure out what's going on, try to remember more about Kristy, her gang and this place, then come back. "Would you mind if I skipped this evening? I will make it up to you, okay? I will call you tomorrow, I just need to sleep it off."

"You vomited," she said, suddenly. It was starting to get on my nerves that I nearly couldn't see her in the dark. I thought I brought a flashlight, but I must have left it somewhere.

"I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to-"

"Robbie, listen! That drug, you have a little bottle in your pocket? You took it and me too, but you vomited it up. You have to take it again!"

She was just a shadowy silhouette, but her hands were trembling as she clutched mine.

Lishgar? How did she know about it? I had some with me, but if I took it and couldn't even...

I took a good gulp. If I couldn't even remember, something was definitely happening here.


With the canister of petrol and other stuff I had in my car, the building was soon up in flames. Limited, controlled flames, I must add, and the heavy rain would limit them further. Enough to scorch everything inside, but not enough to spread. With the dark and stormy night and only old office buildings all around, hopefully no one will call the fire brigade and the fire will have its time to remove all traces of the incursion.

The bodies will be found, and it will be reported as a great tragedy. When we came back, there was nobody left to rescue and save. At least their families will have the memories and some measure of closure.

I sat in my car, intent to keep watch and make sure it is truly over.

Behind me, Kristy was propped on the back seat, her arms patched as best as I could with the first aid kit. I offered to drop her off at the hospital, but she refused. The stitches can wait, she said, and that she wanted to see this through.

But all the action was done and all that was left to do was to wait. I knew the inevitable question will have to come now.

"Who the hell are you?" she asked, her tone low and hard.

"Normally, I would fear to sound totally crazy saying that," I chuckled, "but there is more to the world than meets the eye. There are things that-"

"No. Who the hell are you?" she repeated, pointed and accusing.

"I... beg your pardon?"

"That! The stuff you gave me, whatever it was, it makes you more aware, doesn't it? I started noticing all the little things. Posture, gestures, expressions. Like right now, my Robbie would never say that."

... Oh.

"So fucking tell me, who are you and what did you do with Robbie?!"

1 November 2021


I've been playing Dark Elf lately, an older online kingdom management game, and it has a beautiful map with little regions that you war over. It would be perfect for region-crawling. So I've taken the liberty of keying all the regions, though only with names so far. Hopefully they can serve as hooks in and of themselves. Many places are named in Low Elvish (see the dictionary below), because why not, and some are loosely inspired by their in-game names.



Each region can be handled as a hex or point on a more traditional map, with your favourite rules for overland movement. Any shared border means the regions are adjacent "hexes" and each region takes the same time to traverse - the smaller regions have rougher terrain while the larger ones have nice roads. Rivers and mountains on region borders are impassable unless the PCs find a ferry/mountain guide, while rivers and mountains within a region have bridges or trails.

There are several portals, which can speed up your travels a lot if you know the rune-code of your destination.


As far as starting locations go, I'd suggest Crown-by-the-Sea in the lower left corner, the Refugee Camp in the upper left, one of the settlements around the Undertide Lake, or perhaps the Little Big Burgh in the lower right. (Pro tip: You can Ctrl+F any location on the map.) I'm personally a fan of starting the players in a relatively normal place and then having them delve deeper into the weird, and all of these locations can serve as the grounded base of operations while having something worth exploring only a hex or two away. I'd probably just show the players the named map to give them some idea about what they can expect and aim for.

You can also start some trouble brewing for the players to fix or flee from.

Have I missed any regions on the map? Any suggestions or corrections?

31 August 2021

3d100 Positive Traits

Here's a table to quickly make up competent characters. Just choose or roll for three traits and let your imagination do the rest.

From here.

3AthleticAnimal TrainerAnimal Handling
11CleverBarber-SurgeonAxe Murder
13CunningBeggarBlunt Weapons
14DeceitfulBlack MarketeerBotany
23FastCon ArtistChariot Driving
25FierceCookClose Quarters Combat
30FurtiveDrug DealerDisguise
31GourmetDrunkardDeep Diving
33HardyFaith HealerDuelling
35HelpfulFalse ProphetEscaping
38InconscpicousFortune TellerExotic Weapons
58QuietMartial ArtistKickboxing
59ResilientMercenaryKnife Fighting
63SagaciousMonk/NunLong-Distance Running
67ShiftyPlague DoctorMusic
73SociablePrisonerPole Weapons
74SpitefulProstituteRanged Weapons
76SpunkyRat CatcherRunecraft
83StrongSoldierSiege Weapons
86SultryStalkerSleight of Hand
89TenatiousStreet MagicianStick Fighting
91ToughTax CollectorSurvival
99WiseVagrantUnarmed Combat
100ZealousWet NurseWrestling

29 July 2021

Elemental Powers: Air, Fire, Water

Continuing from the previous post, here are the other three classic elements.

From Avatar: The Last Airbender.
I still haven't actually watched it.

All aeromancers have good stamina and singing voices, though whether that's an aspect of their powers or the result of the many breathing exercises needed to master them is up for debate.

d66Air Powers
11You don't need to breathe and can actually keep breathing out, with up to a gale-force strength.
12Slowly float or walk in the air.
13Dash while in the air, performing double jumps and impossible feats of acrobacy.
14Call winds that will quickly carry you and your companions over long distances. Needs a lot of space to take off and land, not enough control for combat flight.
15Build up pressure, then release it for a massive jump. Jumping between buildings is easy, jumping over a building takes a little while.
16Build up pressure, then release it for a shock wave that sends everything around you flying.
21Empower your voice, letting you speak like through a megaphone or scream with a sonic boom that shatters glass and eardrums.
22Manipulate the air in your vocal cords, mimicking voices or sounds.
23Still the air in a small area, damping all sounds or creating outright zones of silence.
24Stop the air in a small area, creating invisible walls and cages, or holding a creature in place.
25The winds carry sounds far further for you, letting you whisper or listen at range.
26Manipulate the air friction of anything you see, slowing or speeding up its movements and falls.
31Your strikes can project slashing winds.
32Push the air to create a strong directional blast of wind.
33Pull the air around anything you see to hurl it in a direction of your choice. Works better on lighter objects.
34Manipulate air around thrown weapons, directing them around corners and attacking from far further away.
35Surround yourself with swirling winds, deflecting ranged attacks and confounding nearby foes.
36Surround yourself with slashing winds, inflicting a thousand minor cuts on anyone nearby.
41Surround yourself with a tornado. Very long build-up.
42Sense air movements within a room. Precise enough to dodge a blow from behind or fight blinded. Your range expands greatly when you sit down and meditate.
43Call a wind that grows stronger over time, up to a hurricane-force after half an hour. The wind power resets if you change its direction.
44Discorporate into wind for a single heartbeat, pretty much teleporting a short distance. Very disorienting when spammed.
45Force air out of an area no bigger than 3 m in diameter, creating a bubble of vacuum.
46Change the temperature within a small area. The change slows down as you go further from normal temperature, but no real limit until you kill yourself with it.
51Cause a rapid spike or drop in the air pressure, resulting in vertigo, fainting, or even blood vessel ruptures.
52Selectively heat up the air around you, blurring your movements and creating distracting mirages.
53Create elemental-like constructs from wind.
54Form an orb of pressurized air that can be thrown and then triggered like a concussive grenade.
55Filter gases and pollution from air. Also enhances your smell, as you can concentrate it and push it in your nose.
56With a touch, induce rapid oxidation in materials.
61Hyperoxigenate the air in a room, which can help some, but works as a poison for most.
62Attune to a town-sized area over several days, gaining control over temperature, pressure, the winds, ...
63Hold your breath to become as light as a feather.
64The wind lightens your steps. Run as fast as a horse and across twigs, fresh snow, or the surface of water.
65Move as silently and invisibly as a breeze. Any strenuous action (such as attacking) will break this trance-like state.
66For a single breath, you can move with inhuman haste, though it will leave you winded.

Also from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

All pyromancers possess a certain level of resistance to fire and heat, from never getting sunstroke to swimming in plasma.

d66Fire Powers
11Direct and move flames. The larger and hotter they are, the more tenuous your control.
12Throw explosive fireballs.
13Breathe fire in a wide cone.
14Shoot sticky flames from your palms, like a flamethrower.
15Spit globs of fire and make them sticky or explosive at will.
16Any fire you concentrate on burns faster, hotter, stronger.
21Heat vision, in both senses of the word. You can see in infrared and shoot heat rays from your eyes.
22Create a miniature sun. It moves at a snail's pace, but burns pretty much anything.
23Surround yourself in a great aura of flames.
24Sweat superheated plasma at will, coating yourself in flames.
25Fire jet flight.
26Teleport by stepping into a flame and emerging from another within 100 m.
31Create elemental-like constructs from fire.
32Create smoke-clones. They cannot deal damage and pop when touched, but you can have a lot of them.
33Conjure a weapon (blade, bow) made of fire.
34Touch an object to imbue it with fire. It can be triggered at will to explode.
35Touch a weapon to infuse it with fire, coating it in searing flames.
36Anything you stare at will go up in flames. Takes longer for less flammable things.
41You have flame for hair and bleed superheated plasma.
42You can raise the temperature of your body enough that your touch will melt metal.
43The more heat and fire is nearby, the faster and stronger you are.
44Make nearby fires emit excessive smoke. Move the smoke as you will.
45Transform into a huge fire bird. You can fly and burn stuff, but are very vulnerable to dousing.
46Form an ember in your hand that can be thrown like a grenade.
51Cause walls of flames to erupt from the ground.
52Concentrate on creatures or objects to grant them fire immunity.
53Snuff out any fire in sight at will.
54Conjure many slow-moving orbs of fire. They will home in on enemies at a walking pace.
55Explode, then reform from the flames. Very exhausting to spam.
56When you touch a flame, you can see and speak from other fires within 1 km.
61Sense heat within a city block, the higher the temperature the clearer the awareness. Body heat is barely perceptible.
62Absorb fire and concentrate it in your cupped hands, then release a devastating plasma beam.
63Call a pillar of plasma from the sky. Has a long wind-up, but extreme destructive power.
64Loop fires, letting them burn indefinitely without requiring further fuel. It's very exhausting to loop many or big fires.
65Consume flammable materials to fuel your inner flame. As long as it burns bright, you don't need to eat and sleep, and never run out of stamina.
66As long as you stand in flames, you feel no pain nor fear nor hesitation. All mind-affecting or emotional effects are burned from your mind.

From Naruto.

All hydromancers are quite adept at swimming and diving.

d66Water Powers
11Move and direct water with concentration. It still has the surface strength of water, though, so no grabbing people with water-tentacles.
12Strengthen the surface tension of water, until it works like an elastic film that lets things bounce off of the surface and traps creatures who were underwater.
13Breathe water and swim as fast as a motorboat.
14Walk or surf on the surface of water, faster than a car can go.
15Any surface you can see and concentrate on will start leaking water.
16With a single glance, you can fill a creature's lungs with water.
21Annihilate water with a touch. This is an instant, clean removal that leaves behind only vacuum.
22Raise or lower temperature of water within eyesight. You may not affect steam or ice.
23Breathe superheated steam.
24Create elemental-like constructs from water.
25Manipulate the viscosity of water, making it air-like, solid, sticky or slippery.
26Touch the surface of water to raise waves. Anything from a ripple to a sudden tsunami is possible, depending on the size of the body of water.
31Purify water with a touch. Touching a bleeding wound turns all of the victim's blood to water.
32Create whirlpools. Pretty useless unless you have a big body of water, then you can ride in a huge waterspout and throw people around.
33You regenerate rapidly by absorbing water. Regrowing a limb would take half a swimming pool.
34Sense all water within a city block. The cleaner it is, the clearer your vision of it. Blood is faint but noticeable when you concentrate.
35Stomp the ground to trigger the sudden eruption of a new geyser. Cannot be used multiple times in one location as it greatly strains the ground water reserves.
36Transform into water at will. You are nigh-invulnerable and can flow even up the walls, but cannot talk or see. You may only turn back if all your water is in liquid state and together.
41Transform into fog at will, but only for a few seconds at a time.
42Generate fog. The more damp the environment, the denser the fog and wider your area of effect. You can see through the fog, unlike you enemies.
43A 100 m radius around you is always affected by a rain of your choice, from drizzle to torrential rain or sleet. You cannot stop the rain completely, though.
44Open a portal to the Plane of Water, no wider than 1 m in diameter.
45Drink unlimited amounts of water with no ill effect, then vomit it back up at will.
46Constantly draw and absorb any water-based fluids within 10 m. Stronger when you concentrate, enough to harm people through dessication.
51Shoot a short beam of high-pressure water from your palms, like a water jet cutter.
52Control a slowly floating orb of water, 3 m in diameter. It falls apart when you can't see it or lose concentration and nothing stops people from walking/swimming out of it.
53Call or banish storms. Takes a while, though.
54Leave behind an after-image of water. Basically when you punch somebody, they get punched again by a splash of water, plus your movements are blurred, but rather loud with all the splashing.
55Create walls and simple objects out of ice. Requires water or humidity, so cannot be used in dry and hot environments.
56Cover yourself in a power armour of ice. Requires water or humidity, so cannot be used in dry and hot environments.
61Cause a mini-blizzard in a 10 m radius around yourself, blasting everything with snow and ice.
62Flash-freeze all water within 10 m radius. Won't directly kill anything bigger than a mouse, but will chill creatures to the bone and likely trap them in ice.
63Form a hailstone, then shoot it out. Depending on how long you keep growing it, it can be anything from a tiny grain through bullet to a cannonball.
64Your senses are greatly enhanced while underwater, allowing you to hear infra- and ultrasound, track by scent, or see clearly even in dark waters.
65Scry through reflections, displaying any other reflection on the same body of water. For example, when you touch a lake, you can make it reflect what is happening on the other shore.
66Your deviant hydrokinesis works better on bodily fluids than clean water. You may puppet a creature around, or painfully extract blood through your victims' pores.


25 July 2021

Elemental Powers: Earth

I like elemental powers. They have a strong theme, inbuilt factions and intuitive interactions. However, all too often they are boiled down to shoot fire, shoot ice, superstrength and flight/telekinesis. Not bad powers on their own, but why should every hydromancer shoot ice? That shouldn't even be the primary use of water manipulation!

I think powers should be diverse and distinct. When you have three hydromancers where one controls water, one ice and one steam, they are already more interesting thanks to their unique styles. Specialized, limited powers are more fun that all-encompassing ones, especially when those are still used only to shoot ice in the end.

Anyway, rant over, have some earth powers. The rest are hopefully coming soon.

From Naruto.

d50 Earth Powers

All geomancers have a great sense of direction, as if their understanding of the earth energy flows granted them an intuitive knack for geography.

  1. Slowly levitate unworked earth-based materials within eyesight.
  2. Move metals with concentration. Choose one metal that you have much better control over.
  3. Create elemental-like constructs from an earth-based material (sand, stone, metal, clay, ...; choose one).
  4. Create stationary tentacle-minions that can grapple or throw rocks at your enemies.
  5. Animate statues with a touch.
  6. Call a huge magma golem. It takes a while to arrive, clawing its way up from deep within the earth.
  7. Grow blades of glass from anywhere on your body at will.
  8. Grow metallic scales when attacked. The more brutal the assault, the stronger the scales.
  9. Surround yourself with a small sandstorm, blinding and harming your foes. Also works with glass shards.
  10. Transform into sand. You may fire sandblasts and heal by absorbing sand. However, you lose control of any wet sand and may only turn back if all your sand is dry and together.
  11. Transform into living metal and even reshape your form at will, but you move as if in slow motion.
  12. Transform into night-invulnerable but immobile diamond form. Prone to suddenly form-lock you when spammed.
  13. Surf on sand, faster than a car can go.
  14. Touch two pieces of metal to fuse them.
  15. Call an earthquake. Normally, this shakes the room and creates small cracks or fissures. However, you may meditate for hours to bring about a city-wide earthquake.
  16. Stomp the ground to crack-open a deep rift. Also works when you kick a wall.
  17. Sense tremors of the earth within a city block. Footsteps require deep concentration to hear.
  18. Understanding of geomantic energies allows you to build structures imbued with preternatural hardness and beauty.
  19. By raising menhirs and dolmens at certain places, you can alter the flow of geomantic energies and bring great fertility to a region, or make it barren.
  20. Feng shui mastery allows you to make any structure into a confounding labyrinth. People will get lost even in a two-room apartment. Stops working when the structure is damaged.
  21. Tend to a feng shui garden. If you die, get buried there and not a single stone is amiss, you come back to life. You also don't age and need to eat or sleep in your garden.
  22. Raise or lower ground, creating pillars and pits. Cooldown depends on how big the change is.
  23. Conjure crystal spikes shooting up from the ground.
  24. Grow a crystal shell around yourself or anyone you touch.
  25. Discorporate and meld with the ground to possess a small area, moving the earth within as you wish. You may not move beyond the area without releasing your control, though.
  26. Fall unconscious and possess a new body formed of earth-based materials. You cannot go too far from your real body.
  27. Sink your arm into the ground to grow a gigantic stone arm from somewhere you can see.
  28. Petrification/fossilization/crystallization through touch.
  29. Tunnel through soil and unworked stone at a walking pace, closing the tunel behind you.
  30. Shape an earth-based material (sand, stone, glass, clay, ...; choose one) into weapons and armour, imbuing them with increased strength.
  31. Construct a rough "mecha" around yourself from boulders and rocks.
  32. Breathe out massive clouds of dust.
  33. Projectile vomit asphalt.
  34. Spit big globs of magma.
  35. Absorb soil to grow in size and power, shed it to return to human form.
  36. Absorb metal to fill in injuries and replace missing body parts. Your metal prosthetics work normally, yet keep their hardness. You may even slowly reshape them.
  37. Minor geokinesis allows you to pick up and throw boulders with ease.
  38. Transmute soil into morass and sand to quicksand. The change is much slower for bigger areas. You can walk on such terrains with ease.
  39. Transmute metals (though only about 10 cm3 per day before you start feeling faint) and knead them like clay.
  40. Transmute earth to sharp but fragile crystal.
  41. Rearrange earth on a large scale. Rough walls and structures take hours, new hills and cave systems take days.
  42. Your strength and durability is greatly increased as long as you have skin contact with natural earth (no worked stone or metal).
  43. With a touch, start an explosive growth in bones - but only dead bones, or more specifically calcium. Can be delayed.
  44. Induce rapid erosion with a touch, turning stone to sand and soil to dust.
  45. Annihilate metal with a touch.
  46. Explosively shatter any glass or crystal with a glance.
  47. Touch an object to make it either repel or attract metal for a short while.
  48. Raise the gravity in an area no more than 5 m across severalfold.
  49. You have gemstone eyes that cannot be harmed, unbreakable metal bones, or perfect porcelain teeth. Pretty minor as far as powers go.
  50. Your skin is cold and marble-like, your wounds crack rather than bleed. You feel no pain and mundane damage is non-lethal for you.


Also from Naruto.

15 June 2021

Regional Trouble

Maybe your PCs have been all around the neighbourhood and it's time to spice things up a little. Or maybe you're looking for a way to seed your world with brewing conflicts and problems to be solved.

Either roll on the table when needed, or drop a bunch of d20s on your world map. Where they landed, that trouble starts brewing. Or it might not come about just yet, but there are omens and portents aplenty.

From here.

d20 Natural Disasters and Man-Made Messes

  1. Drought: Start tracking water skins, as in a desert. If not resolved soon, will lead to famine. Water levels might be so low that river trade is crippled. Can the PCs persuade a local god or a coven of witches to bring back rain?
  2. Famine: Might be caused by drought, locust swarms, blight... Cost of food soars, taverns are closed. Bandits everywhere, but they want your rations, not gold. Services and goods can be cheaply bought with a meal, but not with money. Have you heard that you can buy food cheaply and in bulk just over this dangerous (d4) forest/desert/swamp/mountain range? We shall reward you handsomely if you can bring back enough for the town.
  3. Flood/Tsunami: Water everywhere, houses and crops are ruined, survivors are gathering in tent towns up on hills. A boat is a must, aquatic monsters are now a common encounter. A local wizard tower or fortress might be compromised; an ideal time for a heist!
  4. Sinkhole: A megadungeon or a part of the Underdark has partially caved in. Lots of unusual riches are suddenly up for grabs, but also lots of unsettling threats are set free.
  5. Earthquake: Houses collapse and ground breaks up. Might result in a sinkhole or a flood. On the plus side, whatever was the most secure, most impregnable building in town is now sporting large cracks in its walls and many of its guards have been injured or killed. What was it guarding?
  6. Wildfire: How did it start? Can the PCs evacuate the town in time, or divert the fire? And where will all the druids and witches and trolls go when their home is reduced to ashes?
  7. Volcanic eruption: Thankfully you were far enough to avoid the blast of overheated ash, but there is something wrong with this eruption. It's (d4) a greater demon starting to break free of its prison after a thousand years/an army of fire elementals there to take our forests because their nation is starving/an ascension of a lesser volcanic goddess, she has so much more planned now that she can/a female dragon in labour, her newly laid and extremely valuable eggs will now be safely resting somewhere deep in the volcanic caves.
  8. Tornado/Hurricane: This one is probably better as an imminent threat. Can you get to safety before the wind drops a hut on your head or sweeps you away to Kansas? Afterwards, many structures will need to be rebuilt. Maybe the PCs can lend a hand and leave their touch on the town?
  9. Blizzard: The winter this year is colder and darker and longer than any other you remember. Wild animals are starving and coming closer and closer to the town. The roads are nearly impassable, who will brave the blizzard to bring food and medicine?
  10. Meteor: Whatever the most imposing or important structure nearby was, it has been hit by a shooting star. Some people say it's the star-gods coming for their chosen, some that it's an invasion. Others just see a huge chunk of starmetal up for grabs.
  11. Plague: Bring out your dead! Make it some really weird, magical disease, as that would probably be more fun to play than 2020: The Campaign.
  12. Terrorist attacks: Someone is blowing stuff up, or releasing wights in the streets, or laced the water supplies with potions. People are afraid. Martial law might have been declared. Is a cult involved? Or mind control? Lots of opportunities for investigating or bodyguarding.
  13. Witch hunt: The Church is out for blood and any magic-user might be at risk. People are disappearing in the middle of the night and the stakes are already built. Black market in magic blooms. Wizards will offer their services cheaply or for free, if you can just hide them. What triggered this, anyway? And how to stop it before the resident archmage notices and goes to war against the Church?
  14. War: There's always a war on. Except now, it has reached right here. If the PCs are in a town, it is now under siege and they cannot leave. There might be a forceful draft, a spy scare, or a supply shortage that could be solved by someone sneaking out through the old tunnels. If the PCs are out of town, the villages are looted or burned, enemy forces patrol the roads, and if they don't shoot you on sight, they would pay handsomely for information about city defenses.
  15. Crusade/Jihad: Equally likely to be two different religions or two factions of the same religion, but the other side is clearly heretical. Otherwise treat this as a combination of a war and a witch hunt against clerics. Are the PCs religious?
  16. Coup d'état: The king's twin brother has emerged with a claim to the throne! Or the ancient elven conspiracy has finally decided it's time they start ruling over the lesser races in the open! In any case, powerful factions are moving against each other and they need allies. Old allegiances are doubted and new ones sworn. There's a great opportunity to quickly rise to wealth and power, if you can pick the right side.
  17. Civil unrest: The hoi polloi have had enough of the upper classes. There are mobs and looting in the streets. Nobles and the rich are either driven out of town, or outright lynched. Maybe you can use all this chaos as a distraction for your misdeeds. Maybe you can be richly rewarded for helping a noble protect their property, and/or escape with their life. Maybe you can find a way to stir this up into a full-on revolution, because why not?
  18. Criminality: The Thief Guild has collapsed; or the most powerful crime lord is old or dead; or there is a new player in town who wants in on the illicit trades and is ready to spill blood over it. One way or another, this is going to be a big old mess.
  19. Monsters: The monsters are coming out of the dark woods and deep caves, towards the town. The military is overextended, the roads are unsafe and the villagers scared. Lots of monster-hunting and escort contracts. But why have the monsters left their cosy lairs? Are they running away from something worse?
  20. Roll on the Weird Troubles table below.


d6 Weird Troubles

  1. Behemoth: It is huge. It is coming from the (d4) sea/mountains/wilderness/underground. It is not openly hostile yet, but its path will lead it directly through the town in just a few days.
  2. Necromantic outbreak: Corpses rise mere minutes after death. Ghosts appear even in daylight. The graveyards are crawling with all kinds of things that should be dead. Is there a metaphysical imbalance to be righted? Is someone doing it intentionally? Does this herald something else?
  3. Eternal night: The Sun has set one day and then didn't rise in the morning. Mass hysteria. Doomsday cults get an influx of members. Is this a localized event?
  4. Thaumic fallout: It's raining random animals, houses are gaining extra rooms and body horror is ubiquitous. If there was no overt magical incident, then (d4) the ley lines are going haywire/there is a covert wizarding war/the government is experimenting on us/something is coming.
  5. Alchemical spill: A massive amount of toxic and mutagenic waste has leaked into the environment. Clean water is at premium. The sewers are crawling with mutant crocodiles and worse. There's noxious fog and acid rain. The public at large wants some answers. Who is responsible?
  6. Portal: A massive rift to another dimension has opened. If it's full of hostiles and dangers, that's bad. If not, that's still bad, because now everybody will call dibs on the new land and resources. Things will be busy around here.

12 June 2021


I'm still here, real life has just been a bit demanding lately. Now that I do have some time again, I've started reading the Dresden Files and immediately, there's a game-able idea in there. The potion-making in the books would make a nice ad hoc alchemy system for player-made potions.


If you follow traditional mage-craft, then potions are made with seven ingredients and an alchemical base. If you follow the new trends in magical research, then potions are made of eight parts. Now that this academical debate that changes nothing is out of the way, the following ingredients are needed:

  • Five to engage the five senses.
  • One for the mind.
  • One for the spirit.
  • A liquid base to bind them all together.

You also need a cauldron.

The ingredients do not need to be expensive or magical of themselves. They form a symbolic medium that is then filled with magic through the ritualistic alchemical process, influenced by the alchemist's intentions. Except for the alchemical base, they also need not be physical. If you wish to add moonlight, for example, you can brew outside on a clear night, or when you need a child's first cry, get yourself a woman in labour.

Therefore, there are no set recipes for potions. Each part should symbolize the required outcome, but things with similar symbolism are interchangeable. The players should think about the effect they want their potion to accomplish, and then justify the ingredients they are using to the GM. If the ingredients make a lot of sense/are funny or clever/are expensive or rare, the potion will be more potent.

Brewing a potion always takes several hours* of stirring the cauldron, keeping the fire properly lit and mumbling arcane phrases from old books. It's a ritual, the alchemist cannot just let it bubble and go do something else. Afterwards, no matter the ingredients used, everything will have melted and mixed together into a smooth potion. The potion will also be safe to drink, no matter the ingredients used.

Potions do not have a long shelf life, they go bad after a day and a night. Brewing permanently potent potions takes a month, expensive ingredients, an alchemical lab built over a ley line, and in general should be left to the NPCs.

Drinking a stale potion is a VERY BAD IDEA. Drinking a potion while still under the influence of another is slightly less bad idea.

d6 Oops! I Drank a Stale Potion

  1. Vomit for d4 minutes.
  2. Gain a horrific mutation, or one based on the potion's effect. Equal chances.
  3. Drop to 0 hp and Save vs poison.
  4. The potion has a random effect instead.
  5. Nothing happens, at first. The potion's effect will kick in at the worst possible time in the next 24 hours.
  6. You didn't get to drinking the potion. As soon as you uncorked the bottle, it started to boil and overflow. Everyone nearby has to Save or get scalded.

d6 Oops! I Drank Multiple Potions

  1. Save or immediately vomit for d4 rounds. On success, vomit only after the effects wear off. The potions work normally, though.
  2. Gain a mutation for d6 hours. Save afterwards, or it's permanent.
  3. One of the potion's effect is inverted.
  4. One of the potion's power is increased hundredfold, dangerously so.
  5. The potions' effects combine in an inconvenient manner and quadruple in duration.
  6. The potions' effects suddenly stop. No potions will work for you for d6 days.



Here are several example recipes from the Dresden Files:

Escape Potion
BaseEnergy drink
SightFlickering of shadows
SmellMotor oil
TouchBird feathers
TasteCoffee beans
MindBus ticket
SpiritBroken chain

Love Lust Potion
SoundAroused sigh
TasteDark chocolate
SpiritLove letter

Stimulant Potion
SightSunshine at dawn
SoundCock's crow
SmellFresh soap
TouchWash cloth
MindA to-do list
SpiritCheerful music

Inconspicuousness Potion
SightClear plastic
SoundLight wind
TouchWhite cotton
TasteLettuce leaf
MindBlank paper
SpiritElevator music
A potion can be made only with water,
meat, vegetables and spices.
From Charmed.

*) One watch, just like foraging for food or setting up a camp would take. The time doesn't change if you're making more than one dose, you just need a bigger cauldron and more of the ingredients.

**) Though apparently enough cash also works.

***) If you like something else for breakfast, you would use that instead.

13 April 2021

Fever-Dreaming in Marlinko, part 6

This is a game of Finders Keepers set in the city of Marlinko. The dramatis personae are:

  • Atiin Brigantia, a brilliant but lazy lunatic
  • Edward "the Wild" Bleestocles, a leper disowned by his wealthy family
  • Jacobin "Jackass" Valentin, a soulless bastard
  • Tadzio Checker, an estranged son of a powerful mage
  • Victory Alder, a young vampire


From here.

prior | next

Atiin's apartment, afternoon
Eventually, everyone gets back to the flat - except for Tadzio and Edward, who spent the whole day here in a deep discussion about changing their names that led to nothing, because they were mainly just drinking away their problems and chucking empty bottles out of the window. With everyone present and all new developments shared, the gang now has secured a way to escape Jarek's wrath for at least a while and turn some profit at the same time.

Only Ed is still grumbling: "Sure, just gonna rub swamp water in my diseased flesh holes, surely that will help with my condition."

There's just one tiny problem - they don't have the money for the supplies that Atiin ordered. After some deliberation, they decide to finally have a proper look on the troublesome trophies still hidden in a sack under a bed, in case they could be somehow inconspicuously sold.

All drawings by Oddrick.

An abstract granite sculpture labelled from six years ago. Nothing special, really.

A horseshoe with the crest of the House Kladivo in bas-relief and a massive ruby embedded in a nicely crafted case. The ruby turns out to be quite easy to detach from the case.


A humble cup that could have belonged to a carpenter. Looks cheap, but has a certain aura of je ne sais quoi around it.

Also a strange amphora made of unknown material, apparently sealed shut with wax.


A heavy golden samovar with inlaid jade stones. Probably a relic from the north-eastern lands plagued with rival barbarian tribes. Likewise sealed shut, but the wax is old and crumbling. Would probably net a nice sum, but way too recognizable to be sold.

An obsidian sculpture of a mighty steed, one of its legs broken off. It has an inscription in Old Pahr on its belly, and luckily Atiin can read it: "I shall hold the world's shadow's reins."

A main de gloire seemingly making the V sign; there are two candle wicks sprouting out of those fingertips. The hand is obviously mummified and firmly planted on battered clay in a bowl of bronze. The tripod that supports it is made of some polished stone.

Victory goes to close the shutters and draw the curtains, then lights the wicks on the hand.

"What are you doing?" Tadz asks.

"I've heard these kinda hands only light the way for the one who holds them. Can y'all see the light?" she asks from the darkest corner of the room.

And the hand indeed doesn't shine for anyone but her, yet furthermore the rest of the trophies glisten with strangely coloured auras under the touch of the hand of glory's light, as does Jack's rapier, Atiin's knife and even Vic herself.

"These are odd trophies to be sure," Atiin mutters.
"Which reminds me, Tadz, have you seen this?" Victory says as she snuffs out the hand, taking out the Tiger Pit flyer she got from old Slinky. "I know how you like tiger wrestling and there's a special event tomorrow. I guess you shouldn't show yourself to Jarek right now, but we still have the extra clothes and false moustaches, if you'd like to go and watch."

"You know, I've been itching to go to the Pit, but I'm afraid I'll not be able to steer clear from the arena once I'm there. And yes," he smiles, "this is me admitting I might have a problem."


The South Market, late afternoon
The streets are crowded with people waving little banners with their district's symbol as Victory and Jackass make their way to the South Market again, this time to sell the big ruby and thus get enough money to pay for their already ordered supplies. It's a high time they take care of this business, as all the shops will be closing early tonight and in an hour or two, watchmen will be clearing the streets for the Race.

They find and enter The Němec Certified Jewelers' Society, ran by an elderly couple that seems equal parts cute and annoying. They take their precious time doing anything one can imagine - from greeting the customers to doing math. And there's always a rambling about events past thrown in for good measure, story upon story upon story and no point to them at all. They find Jack and Vic a beautiful couple, and they wish them a bountiful and happy life in lawful wedlock under the Sun Lord's merciful gaze.

They offer five hundred gold for the gem.

"Oh, we were hoping for something closer to eight hundred, isn't that right, honey?" Victory leans into Jackass. "You see, we found this cosy place, very close to the Západ Street, actually, and it would be simply wonderful for kids, I mean, fingers crossed that we should be so blessed by our Lord as soon as possible, but unfortunately it is rather pricey for us right now, plus the cost of a crib and nappies and all the extra clothing, however small and cute it is, I mean, you can surely imagine. It's the only reason we're even considering selling this, I mean, I'm sure my grandmother would approve, may the Lord rest her soul, as it is for the well-being of her grandchildren, after all."
The shopkeepers enters this state of silently conferring for a while, doing nothing more than stare at each other and make faces. The old lady makes several pleading faces, then a really impressive threat face. The old man has a shorter repertoire; all his faces are "but honeeeyy" faces.

"Eight hundred is more than fair," the old lady finally says.

Her husband sighs, puts on his best fake smile and start to count the coins. Slowly.

"It is quite impressive stone, after all," the lady continues. "Where did your grandmother get it, if you don't mind me asking, honey?"

"Oh, I don't know much about it, unfortunately. My grandma once told me it was a gift from my grandpa. He used to be a sailor and brought it back from his travels, from somewhere far south, I think."

"Aww. And what would be your family name, dear?"

"Al...nus. Well, it used to be," Vic smiles at Jack again.

"Such a lovely name, darling!" Jack exudes. "It's one of the things that lured me in," he tells the shopkeepers. "That, and her charming smile..."

They both start going through their respective mental files, looking for a respectable Alnus lineage. They're old and slow, and before they are finished, Vic and Jack take their money and bid the old couple a respectful fair-well.

While Jackass hurries to meet with Ed and continue on his duelling date with Kytel, Vic wanders the streets and eventually finds herself back at the Drunken Troll Inn.

The gate to the Tomb of the Town Gods remains open on just a slit, as no one since Fong'orr the barbarian had the guts to tamper with it. In the meantime, people have left a small altar made of religious trinkets in front of it. Maybe a way of wishing Fong'orr luck? Or rather mourning him?

More importantly, Victory finds Steelpike in the tavern proper, drinking by himself. She joins him at the table.

"Good evening, Mr. Steelpike. How do you do? Before you jump to any conclusions, there is no need for concern on your part. I am here only to ask a single question, and then I will be gone again.

Due to new developments that I'm not at liberty to discuss with you, my superiors have become interested in the whereabouts of the gentleman calling himself 'Xoxx'. As you're a known acquaintance of his, I would like to know if you have any information about his current residence here in Marlinko, or where would the League be able to find him? Your cooperation would be deeply appreciated by the League."

He avoids looking at her altogether, picking his nails. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he mutters.

"Ah, that is quite unfortunate. As I said, I am here only to ask a single question, and then I will be gone. We merely wish to find him." And she keeps sitting, smiling at Steelpike all the time.

After a while, he lowers his voice, puts both hands on the table: "Why? Why would you wish to do such a stupid thing?"

"In my line of work, Mr. Steelpike, I find it's not a good idea to ask why. I am told to do something, I do it. And if you help me, I can personally guarantee you that there will be no mention of your name anywhere, plus I will make doubly sure that nobody from us troubles you again."

She leans closer to him and lower her voice, too. "And just between you and me, if you can tell me why did my superiors take a sudden interest in that guy, I will be in your debt. I haven't seen someone... blue like him before and now I'm supposed to go looking for him all over Marlinko!"

"If Jiří wants to locate Xoxx, then someone must tell him that he is out of his depth. But I suppose that that someone is not gonna be you, miss."

Steelpike sips from his cup, takes a deep breath.

"Listen to me. I don't know where he is. He doesn't tell me anything, except when he wants to meet. But now that the..." he hesitates, his heartbeat speeds up. "Fuck it. Now that the map is once more in their possession, I don't think he'll feel the need to ever contact me again."

"Who's they? And that's not the League asking, that's just me, as I would love to know who or what was I sent after and Jiří most definitely won't tell me."

Steelpike is shaking. He finishes his drink in one gulp.

"Eld," he says. "They're called the Eld. I-I think they have their fingers in a lot of pies. I didn't know that when I set out to find their turf, you know. I didn't even know it was their turf to begin with. You'd think most of the traces of their presence in the Weird point to a long-gone people. I thought so at first. I'm sure Fraža still thinks so. He wouldn't want to mess with the sites on that map otherwise."

"Oh. I can't say I have ever heard that name."

"Count your blessings, then. And if you ever get dragged into a trip to the Misty Isles, you get the fuck out. You just go the opposite direction and don't look back. You hear me?"

"Thank you," she stands up and goes to leave, even as he drops a few coppers on the table for his drink and rushes upstairs.


The Yare Domesman district, evening
Jack and Edward get to Kytel's abode just as the Sun is about to set. It is a nice house with a well-kept garden at the front. Lavender and geraniums, mostly.

Kytel welcomes them inside. He seems worried.

"So," he says, "I've been reading about the matter of duelling, and it seems I've been going about it all wrong!"

He blushes. He's still holding that little book, 'The Art of Properly Duelling'. There are several pieces of cloth marking consecutive sections.

"To begin with, I must apologize to you, my friend, for I am at fault. I should have never proposed to you that we duelled like that, that is to say, out of the blue. That was the most ungentlemanly thing I could have done to someone who has been only decent since we first met, truly." He clutches Jack's shoulder in sincere contrition.

"According to this book, one should only challenge another man to a duel if he believes himself to have been wronged in one way or another. It must be something justifiable according to the rules of morality and/or accepted customs. Never, ever something to indulge for money or personal profit." And a tear runs down his cheek.

Jackass shakes his head. "Ah well. I was afraid you might go and better yourself morally. Still, it's okay - I don't think any less of you. You'll have to make it up to me by buying me dinner some time, that's all!"

Kytel is both embarrassed and grateful. So much so that he insists that Ed and Jack must stay for dinner now, at this very opportunity. That's when they're introduced to Kytel's Auntie Mimi, a nice stocky lady in her sixties. She entertains them with brandy and stories about Kezmarok as Kytel excuses himself for a while - he's the designated cook for the evening.

The dinner is delicious, the presentation exquisite. Both hosts make sure that Jack and Ed are having a great time - Auntie Mimi can be so much more entertaining after a few glasses of Němetzian wine. Her alcohol-fuelled trashy sense of humour seems to bother Kytel at first, but he eventually eases into it. Wine certainly helps.

At one point, the discussion turns to the duel that Kytel has called off about three hours ago. Auntie Mimi finds it ridiculous that her nephew has given up on that, especially as duelling - or at least the idea of duelling - is so obviously his passion. Kytel takes his time to explain that duelling is something to be considered if and only if one of the parties involved can legitimately claim to have been wronged or offended by the other part.

"But wouldn't you say," Mimi asks Jackass, following some rumination, "that you have been wronged by my nephew? After all, he enticed you to duel him - Cold Hell, he even got you to spend money on a weapon! - only to withdraw his challenge without consulting with you first."

She also adds this look that is at once kind and mischievous. There's even a wink there at the end that Kytel doesn't seem to notice.

"Why, you are correct good madame! Kytel, 'tis I who challenge YOU to a duel!" Jack exclaims gleefully.

Kytel is silent at first. It takes a second to sink into his inebriated mind. The realization coincides with him bursting out in tears. He reaches out to Jack, gives him a long hug. There's a lot of "I will forever be in your debt!" and other such gentlemanly statements.

Auntie Mimi discreetly wipes her tears with a handkerchief, declares: "Now, enough of this nonsense! Let us celebrate!" Out of nowhere, she produces a zither and begins playing a cheerful folk song.

The rest of the night is spent singing and dancing and drinking and generally just partying. Ed tries to teach Mimi how to dance this Kezmaroki forlana-like dance. Later on, when everyone's feet are already rather sore from all the dancing, Kytel decides to open a bottle of Marlankh Gold - a strong beverage, the speciality of only a few brewers in the Yare Domesman district. The group raises a toast to... something. No one can really remember to what.

It's a great night.


The Golden Swine district, night
Atiin goes outside to breathe some fresh air and have a look at the neighbourhood as dusk descends upon Marlinko. In a couple of hours, the Great Race opening ceremony shall begin. All the streets' clotheslines are teeming with the district's banners. Food vendors have their carts rolling to make a profit, the streets are getting ever more clogged with people and the barkers are doing a good job of hyping up the crowds for the upcoming event.

As Atiin squeezes his way through a cheerful crowd setting fire to a two-in-one jokey-and-horse dummy sporting the Sullen Apiarian's colours, he passes by a small clique of ruffians sitting on a rail with their legs wide open and bumps into one of those ruffians' feet.

That's all it takes.

"Oi! Whoss the idear here, you wuss? You kickin' Misha's foot on purpose, are you?"

"You tell 'im, Misha!"

"Bash 'is skull in, Misha!"

Atiin is pretty much boxed in by the crowd and the houses. If he was to choose flight over fight, he would still need to flee through those barbarians. If the ruffians are even associated with the Northern Shirtless Barbarians. Perhaps they just enjoy walking around shirtless. Frankly, at this point it is hard to know for sure. But they surely reek of booze.

Still, Atiin is in no mood for combat and bull-rushes Misha to open an escape path. His shoving technique is actually so effective that it cascades down to the other shirtless ruffians, who fall on top of each other like a line of tattooed, swollen-pecked dominoes.

As he darts away, he can hear them call each other "wanker" and wish all kinds of bloody murder on him. Before they get ready to give chase, though, he turns a corner and hides in the first unlocked door.

It's a soirée.

Also lo and behold, if that isn't Littlest Pavol right there, sweating profusely, with a crumpled piece of paper in his hand, which he reads and re-reads nervously, at the same time fidgeting at every brilliant turn of phrase delivered by the poet that is currently performing at the small stage in the middle of the room, surrounded by a bunch of ladies and dandies who are all trying hard to look unimpressed.

Littlest Pavol is standing by the stage steps, obviously up to perform next. Except he doesn't look ready in the slightest. He chugs deeply from a tankard of... well, something.

After he catches his breath, Atiin goes up to Pavol: "You got this man. Poetry is from the cosmos, you are a highly tuned instrument conveying that to the adoring masses, yadda yadda. You will do fine."

Then he notices that Pavol's precious piece of paper is blank.

"I-I... I can't do this... I don't feel well. Must be something I had earlier! I don't know," he looks at Atiin with big puppy eyes. "Maybe it's okay if I skip this one, right? They would understand. Right?"

"I understand, man."

Pavol smiles, somewhat relieved. "I... I got some hruz left here-" He pats his pockets. "-somewhere. Wanna help me find a cooking pot?"

"Sure bud."

Atiin follows Littlest Pavol to the kitchen, where their presence disturbs all the work, though the staff seems very good at concealing just how pissed they are about that. Not that Pavol would ever notice that. He grabs a pot and a bottle of wine on his way out, telling Atiin to get a couple of cups.

They navigate to this place's little library, which has a fireplace already stocked with wood. Atiin kindles the fire as Pavol takes care of their assorted cookware.

"I'm Pavol, by the way," he says. "People call me Littlest Pavol, since there are too many Little Pavols in Marlinko already. What about you? What should I call you?"

"I'm Atiin."

They fill their cups and have a drink. The wine is surprisingly good.
Then Pavol grabs a book from one of his pockets and opens it to reveal a carved-in hollow holding a metal case. Inside the case are two flasks; inside each flask is a snail.

Pavol is quite meticulous about what comes next. He picks one flask, uncorks it, shakes it to drop its content in the cooking pot. He corks the empty flask again, puts it away carefully. He repeats the exact same with the second flask. With a needle, he pricks each snail at one specific spot.

"You don't wanna think of them sizzling still alive in there. That's a recipe for a bad trip. Oh, there's some oil left in this pot. Good."

He hangs the pot on a hook over the fire. When it starts to sizzle, he sprinkles some wine on the snails. A minute or so later, he picks one fried snail and passes it to Atiin.

"You just let it melt beneath your tongue. That's how I do it anyway."

They both indulge and drink some more wine, chatting about nothing.

Half an hour goes by. Attin gets more and more sick in his stomach. He can feel it coming. He rushes to a corner behind a bookcase and hurls it all out.

Once he finally stops retching, Atiin sits by Pavol who is by now sprawled over an ottoman and giggling softly, eyes rolled back into the head and completely lost in his dreamscapes. This is a golden opportunity and Atiin knows that. He just isn't sure what to do with it.

Eventually, he starts to speak: "Listen to my voice. It's Atiin. I'm your best bud, okay? Remember it. Never forget it. You trust me completely, Pavol. You trust me with your life. We're buddies, you and me. You would never doubt me. Remember that. You trust me, you trust me absolutely..." And he drones on and on and on. The dregs of the drug keeps him going non-stop for hours upon hours, whispering about their eternal, unbreakable bond of trust.

When Atiin wakes up in the morning, the fire has completely died out. It's cold in there.

Littlest Pavol is gone.


Kytel's Abode, morning
Jacobin Valentin comes to on Kytel's couch. He can just barely recall having dreamt of his time at the Merciful Sun Lord's Saintly Orphaned Children's Choir. That is where he first learned that he was nothing but a soulless jackass, when every time he sang, it hurt the Mother Superior's ears. Yes, he was a cursed boy, a bastard through and through.

But today, the dream was different than before. Today, he looked up at the Mother Superior as she raised her cane to strike, and he yelled at her. From the top of his lungs, he let out this string of the worst insults he knew. He persevered at it even as his mouth stiffened and increasingly refused to follow his intent. At a certain point, Jacobin became aware of a slight shift in the scenery: the Mother Superior was somehow also Revoc, the razor-tongued god.

He was not offended by all the cursing, oh no. Indeed, he seemed to be quite pleased by such demonstration of guile and... soulfulness? He held his belly as he laughed, as a father would laugh about something amusing his little child did or said.

As a reward, his razor-bladed tongue whipped Jacobin in the face, shredding the skin and drowning Jacobin's vision in blood. That is when Jackass woke up.

Kytel is already preparing them a hearty breakfast and Auntie Mimi is upstairs, finishing all the morning preparations that women of certain social status seem to require.

Only Edward is unaccounted for.


The Tomb Plaza, still the previous evening
Victory resupplies her cigarettes at a tobacco stand.

There are many now in the streets, peddlers specializing in all sorts of goods, the majority of them predictably gravitating towards the Town Council Hall, where the opening ceremony of the Great Race is taking place. There are streamers hanging from a multitude of lines criss-crossing the night sky in most streets, and somehow they managed to do the same with that patch of the Tomb Plaza that faces the Council Hall building.

This is by far the largest, most regal building in all of Marlinko. On a work day, it would be teeming with bureaucrats, solicitors, guild representatives and the occasional grandmaster or undercouncilperson scheduled for an appointment or a speech at one of the chambers. Throughout the day there would be a meagre but steady influx of unemployed adventurers stopping by the big board to check for new gigs. Sometimes, a convicted felon would be escorted out of the building after hearing the judge's verdict and straight into one of the four Undercouncil Halls, where they will serve their life sentences as convict-jockeys, training without respite to bring the district that has their custody the next year's Great Race trophy.

This is how it goes during ordinary days - not today, though. Today the jockeys are not treated as convicts, but as heroes. There they are, being cheered left and right as they are led to the scaffolding structure assembled in front of the Hall. Soon, the Head Councilman will speak, then the Chief Undercouncilman for the Golden Swine district will speak. Then the contenders will line up before the public. Then the Head Councilman will extol their bravery, their selflessness. Then he will declare this year's Race open, even though it will not start until dawn. Then there will be music and before long everyone will be even drunker than they already are.

Victory strolls around the Tomb Plaza until she spots a group of rakes joking around near the Tomb. She joins their group and soon they are trying to one-up each other and show off.

"Oh, I'm sure you could beat two of Jarek's tigers with your hands tied behind your back," Vic flutters her eyelashes, "but you know what would be really impressive? I bet you wouldn't put a foot into the Tomb over there! Yeah, where the crazy barbarian broke in. That guy had some guts!"
She leans into one of the rakes, then moves towards the door and pulls him with her.

"Come on, pretty boy! Don't tell me you'd be scared of the dark," she giggles.

The bro-dude gulps and looks around. People nearby have now taken notice of what's going on with this little group. A dozen commoners stop what they're doing to watch. The remaining rakes cannot make up their minds about stepping ahead or back, but eventually decide to take several teeny-tiny steps back, hoping that no one will notice the receding line of bro-dudes getting farther and farther away from the Tomb.

The one dragged by Vic, though, throws his cup over his shoulder, hits a random passer-by, and steps ahead of her, not to be humbled by a pretty girl.

He grabs a torch from another bystander.

A few teenagers start to cheer for the two of them. Other people beg of them not to do anything stupid.

All of this gets to the guy, he trembles with every word addressed to him. When he cautiously pushes the door, there must be about forty people gathered around for the unexpected show.

Victory and the rake cross the threshold together. They disappear into the darkness, their torch illuminating just a sorry small circle on the dark floor.

The door closes.

Everyone gasps.

Nothing happens, only the Great Race celebrations continue in the background.

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