Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Manchester: The New Fantasy Sensation! (Chapter I)

Conisdering the large number of gameable places in the world, I've noted a distinct lack of representation in RPG writing for the North West of England. Since I'm a Mancunian by birth and remain a resident, my first port of call in rectifying this circumstance has been my own doorstep. (The path of least resistance and all that...)

 It's true that, television's Game of Thrones has made the most recent (vague) stab, at least in the fantasy department. We've been treated to a washed out pseudo North, inhabited largely by British TV regulars with broad Yorkshire accents (which works better than a washed out pseudo North inhabited by Texans, I'll grant you). As is typical of the North's depiction in fiction, a well worn trope is being adhered to; that of the no nonsense meat and potatoes, honest, wet, cold, dour, 'bloody by 'eck' standard, by which it's characters and geography draw inspiration. In truth, I'm rather pleased that the north is enjoying this wee fantasy renaissance. But we need more sides to the die...

 So I began to brainstorm some Mancunian concepts using my own position as a native to get me started. With 'truth tm' as my springboard, I began to pick up a little momentum and it wasn't very long before I started generating ideas based off of these little fact nuggets (not technically facts, but at least primary evidence). I began to see that it was possible to make connections where there were, in truth, none. And that's when I decided that this was officially a 'good idea'. Note that I mix up real and imagined place names with real and imagined history. There's no pattern to inspiration. Well, not one I've been arsed to look for.

 I suppose I should bloody well dive in:

The Northern Quarter: Bohemian, pressed in by rich developers, famous for its twats and its artists, a place to escape the tumult of the city that is now threatened wit gentrification. There are entrances here to another mystic Manchester, back alleys hold apertures the locals call 'Cracks' that lead into the Higher Place. There is a secret path to Salford here.

Image result for northern quarter twats
Blur your eyes and you're in Vornheim.

Madchester: A mythical time when everyone was high and into good music. Many heroes wandered. Some still live but they have been largely corrupted by time and exposure to other dimensions. One of them, Lord Bez  (OK,  ok) has attempted to fight against the rot at the heart of the city. He struggles, since he is both in and outside of our reality. I imagine he's kind of vibrating at super high speeds almost none stop. I think he'd just be one example of his ilk. I think that it'd be interesting if I went through Manchester's musical heritage and tried to glean ideas from that particulalry fertile soil. That's got to be another post. We're near the beginning here. Run with me.

"You wish to see as I have seen? Do you know what it is you ask?"

Redbrick: The principle building matter of the city. Replace red bricks with any favourite colour. Perhaps the city is white, spun silk, mostly built by the region's White Spider Farmers. Of course, the pollution produced by the boiling fat of the area called the Cauldron has stained them a peculiar shade of dirty brown. See Cotton Factories.

Like this except silkier. And dirtier.

Canals: A network of canals built when the region was at its commerical zenith. Brightly painted boats of many shapes and sizes once crowded the water ways, silk flags billowing in a riot of colour. Most of the boats are gone now or in states of poor repair. However,it has become an artery of menace. For example, they are now home to the serial killer known the 'Shover'; an uncatchable drowner of prostitutes and drunk homosexuals. You can replace the Shover's chosen minorities with your own killer's particular prejudice. Likewise, you can replace the Shover with another urban legend...perhaps an Invisible Stalker that gains power from drowning folk...you know, the fear generated by drowning is super intense and this Stalker feeds on fear so...ahh, you catch my drift.
This is near London. But it's dillapidated so cool.

Cotton Factories: Cotton was the lifeblood of Manchester. Replace cotton with some kind of zarjaz silk that can be spun into pretty much anything, including ultra light, portable fortresses and you've got...something. Of course, when the White Spider Famers began to die, so did the city. Their slow demise is perhaps the result of a Torquemadan espionage plot (Torquemada is an evil empire. Replace with your own dish) that is, the introduction of giant vampiric/plague moths into the eco system. They're still about and flourishing (of course), mainly in canal tunnels. Infected humans are known as 'Moth Eaten' and look awful.

Imagine loads of these in abandoned parts of the city.

Cultural melting pot: Lots of different cultures here. Choose your own mish mash, Of course there is tension at times. But on the whole, they've adapted well and are accepted by people who aren't fascists, forming areas of cultural exclusivity that refuse to become ghettoes.  Which brings me to...

Labour stronghold: Traditionally left wing, its people are poor but rely on an eroding sense of community to get them through hard times. Once dilligently served by the Crimson Council, sadly, that body's leaders have since become corrupt. Now they engage in dark bad sex rituals to unknown gods, their principles thown to the wind. Secretly, they have the only constant supply of Arachnaethol. The entities they have made contact with, are not benign.

Drugs: The people mourn the heady days when they could harvest the by-product of White Spider Farmer silk...the ecstatic, vision producing Arachnaethol.  Arguably responsible for the phase shift of many of the regions great heroes, it vanished quite suddenly when the Torquemadan theocracy cracked down upon mystic states. It was discovered that 90% of the Arachnaethol was being produced by a single Spider Farmer, bloated to unfathomable proportions.

Salford: Within the walls of the city, there is yet another city, somehow finding independence from the greater metropolis that surrounds it. These people emerged from the shadows of Manchester and erected walls within its boundries. Invisible walls which turn men into Salfordites if they remain within the 'inside' city longer than 24 hours. They dance to experimental sorceries in empty Silk Factories and hold certain terrible wisdoms. Every Salfordite is a kind of were creature, only when the ghost moon shines they take on not animal shapes, but the aspects of ancient, anachronistic machines.

Were-Machine. What?

Manchester United/Manchester City: A war between two cults rages between normal, every day people. A two headed god, its worshippers are split between craniums. Nearly the entire city is carried by this madness and its power is greater than anywhere else. People who are normally friends, colleagues, customers or even family will tear each other to pieces should their paths cross on the weekly holy days. Activity is mostly in secret. However, twice a year, the two cults come together in a wild orgy of sexual reconciliation, holding the rites at one of the two major temples. This god could very easily be Demogorgon.

Chorlton: a rich and prosperous area that is almost entirely built by and inhabited by former dungeoneers. Here, wise adventurers spends their fabulous wealth on items that make them feel like they're still adventurers. Everything hearkens to a mythical notion of what it is or was to be wandering the land with one's bosom companions. The taverns are rustic, everyone has a sword...wizard beards are fashionable. Nowhere sells *just* ale. It's Dwarven, or Orcish, or Auld Wyrm Blood...or whatever. Homes are often small strongholds inhabited by entire adventuring parties. Once they come here, they tend to retire, but they cannot admit this to themselves. Thieves prey on the once adventurers of Chorlton mercilessly...it is as if much of the greatest treasure in the city has been concentrated in one place. Chorltonites still remain dangerous  if thoroughly removed from the realities of the city. After all, they were earning XP once.

Ahhh, a succinct picture=more grist for the mill.

I think this has legs.


I'll figure out how to make everything nice eventually. For now, this is like some weird website from the X Files.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Dream Whistler or A Monster on Benefits

This creature was rejected for the LotFP ref book. I can understand the reasoning: the writing is a little clunky/verbose and the overall impression given is of something a little like a boss in Altered Beast. Still, that might be your thing and if you were wondering what I was talking about in the County of Leon post, then here's your answer. Either way, in light of the recent 'Fire On The Velvet Horizon', I couldn't help but be struck with a bout of creator's remorse.
 Not exactly selling the old Whistler here am I?  I genuinely do reckon you'll find something here that you'll be able to use. For instance, the very nature of the monster and its habits suggest scenarios. Mostly Call of Cthulhu style investigative activity. So if you're stuck that way, etc, etc...

NOTE: I'm rather partial to Runequest 6, so I'll convert it to that sooner or later.

The Dream Whistler

Sometimes, the membrane between the realms of wakefulness and sleep grows threadbare. That untenable things of both beauty and madness sometimes find their way into the waking world, is beyond dispute. That those inhabitants of dream are violently forced to conform with the physical laws of our own bleak cosmos, is fuel enough for a thousand nightmares of horrors born afresh to a hunger, which must now feed.
One such horror is the Dream Whistler.
Arising from the chimera of amour which most often assails youth, in slumber they are amorphous clouds of half forgotten loves and desires. In flesh, they are cruelly rendered as obscene mollusc things as big as hippos (although no bigger than mice when first conceived, upon taking a lair, they quickly and unnaturally grow in size... a process which leaves them ravenously hungry). Their heads are always different: generally idealised representations of people the Whistler's original host once dreamt of. If that love was true and reserved for one person alone, then only one head will be present and near perfect. If that host longed for more than one person, then multiple faces will develop, with imperfections in their features growing with the number present. These slack jawed, drooling countenances are all sculpted from flesh, hair included, so as to resemble awful, glistening statuary. The creature has one functioning mouth set into it's upper trunk. Beneath this horrible lamprey like orifice are arrayed row upon row of pendulous mammary sacs.
Their means of locomotion are extremely limited, having to rely only upon long spindly arms and barely obedient cephalopodium. Ultimately they bind themselves to surfaces wherever they find themselves lairing, in a fashion akin grotesque barnacles. The lair is of particular significance to the Dream Whistler, being in a sense, a part of it's body (and hunting routine). They secrete themselves in lonely places of beauty...beneath crumbled bridges, in the dark of mossy forgotten crypts, at the bottom of crumbling wells, in the hollows of great dead oaks. Places where lovers might wander and carve their names into wood or stone and perhaps leave a little of themselves behind.
How do they get there? Some say that they are born from the death anguish of suicidal unrequited love. The monster manifests near a place where someone has taken their own life out of despair (this is partly true). Others suggest that (and these scholars are perhaps more accurate in their assessment), the Whistler gestates within dreams and whilst still tiny, manifest physically within the cerebellum, ultimately exiting the host via the nasal cavity. This can be the result of grotesque magics, but the spectre of spontaneous creation is also postulated as viable. If this be so, could our very dreams be merely incubators for monstrosities? If so, what then of our true natures?
The Dream Whistler, once created, secretes itself in the aforementioned lair and waits. A kind of hidden antennae set within the creatures' head area, picks up electromagnetic signals from nearby psyches. These are nearly always the minds of romantics, given to wandering and contemplation in places of serenity: poets, artists and lovers--- the forlorn, the lost, the pining and the mad. Once it has detected such a mind, it makes an imprint of the brains waveform and then 'pings' this waveform on a frequency only detectable in deep sleep.
The chosen, wherever he is, receives this waveform and it alters the very fabric of his dreaming. Any loved one that appear in the dreamers' sleeping worlds, can be replaced by an illusionary puppet under the control of the Dream Whistler. This puppet looks, speaks and acts exactly as the dreamer would expect of the loved one being replaced. It then attempts to lure the dreamer back to the place of serenity. This manifests beyond mere reverie. The suggestion or 'whistle' is strong enough to induce somnambulism. The poor slumbering victim will rise from his place of rest and make his way physically to the lair of the Dream Whistler. This may take several attempts over a number of nights and/or weeks. Sometimes the whistle is lost (lead blocks it as do more exotic, magical materials) and the victim awakens to find themselves miles from civilisation in the darkness of the countryside. In terror they flee home, but the process will only repeat itself, night after night.
Upon arrival at the lair of the Dream Whistler, the victim remains asleep, perceiving the image of the dreamt loved one waiting with open arms, drawing the sleep walker to fall into their loving embrace. In reality, the Dream Whistler's physical manifestation enjoys or needs to consume a certain amount of fatty tissue and compels it's victims to suckle at it's grotesque teats. These mammary glands produce something akin to an opiate/glucose/milk. The Dream Whistler will then nurture the victim for weeks. Throughout that time the poor dreamer never awakens, sucking greedily at the things narcotic breasts, insensible to the straining of their flesh and skin, the weird milk coursing through their bodies. In a short period of time, victims are flabby, oily mockeries of their former selves and ready to be plucked like gross fruit.
The ultimate fate of the Whistler's victims is to be messily devoured, lifted with ropey arms and stuffed into the waiting maw. This process is surprisingly swift, considering the measured pace of the Dream Whistler's hunting and fattening ritual; the victim is only barely aware of their own grisly demise as their somnolent bliss is ended.
Hunting the Dream Whistler is not impossible and upon discovery, it can be destroyed with flame and steel. The fact that it is largely stationary works against it. However, it is more than capable of defending itself and is able to use it's milk gorged victims as loyal and suicidal bodyguards (for their part, they perceive attackers as monsters invading their dreaming or threatening their beloved). The creature is dangerously psionic and is capable of employing surges of brain cooking energy waves. Finally, it's long, ropey arms clutch and grasp spasmodically and unpredictably, attempting to grab and then eat brave adventurers.
The final tragedy, is that upon the Dream Whistlers death, it's former victims are never able to truly forget their experience. They pine for that long dream wherein they were glutted upon ambrosia in the arms of their beloved. Following a period wallowing in a wasteland of cakes, pastries and other fattening foods (which they crave following the cessation of the Dream Whistler's milk), they are eventually found, having taken their own lives, at or near the old lair of the Dream Whistler. But before that moment comes, there is yet a worse horror: a freshly incarnated Dream Whistler (the same one?) crawls from the victims nasal cavity to nest anew... to whistle once more into the darkness for prey.

Armor 15 (blubbery almost-flesh), Move 0/80 (mature specimens moored in place/immature specimen)′, 7 Hit Dice, 42hp (an immature Dream Whistler has only 6hp), 2x grasping claws 1d6 damage each, Morale 10. If both claws hit, will lift and attempt to swallow. Save vs paralysation or end up in it's stomach where it's digestive juices deal d4 damage/turn. A swallowed victim can take no physical action. The stomach can digest one victim at a time.

It can forego attacking physically to unleash a wave of brain frying psychic energy. Everyone within 30 feet must save vs magic else suffer d10 damage. It's thralls are immune to this energy. Lead, mithril and adamant protected hats or helms reduce this damage to d3.

It's ability to initially imprint upon the dreams of it's victims requires another save vs magic to resist.

It's milk thralls have stats as normal humans, although their morale rises to 9 and they attack with such ferocity, that their unarmed attacks deal 1d4 damage (thrashing, biting)

Note: Obviously the Dream Whistler makes an eerie whistling sound...like a fragment of a tune. This whistling sounds quite disarming and out of place.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Anti-climatic first blog post is mainly other people's shit.

Without any further ado, here's my first blog post. Since it takes me no time at all and it's pretty fun, I'll follow up on Zack Smith's suggestion of stealing Noisms' County of Leon and adding a couple of bits and bobs to it. Perhaps someone will see this; perhaps not. Either way I'll use it myself, though I suspect I won't be putting it in anything resembling the 'real world', so to speak. Anyway, take a look.


County of Leon
Ruled by: Aqable - Count of Leon (Liege: Duke of Brittany)
Vassals: Baron of Morlaix, Baron of Douarnenez, Baron of Plogonnec
Military: 15 Heavy Cavalry (Knights), 50 Light Cavalry, 50 Heavy Infantry, 100 Medium Infantry, 50 Archers. 5 Cyclops Cavalry.
Income: 8,828 livres (Total guess--Deep Evan help out?)
Major Towns
Brest (Hex 40)
Population: 800
Major Industries: Fishing, trade

Count of Leon and family. All aristocrats in Leon are of a strange line of civilised, scrupulously polite cyclops. They rule benificiently over the human peasantry. These cyclops are about 7ft in height. Like that dude in Krull.

Ibn Al-Aziz - An Ogre Magi from the Sheikhdom of Catalyud, now a powerful merchant who owns five vessels, with lots of 'shady' contacts and a symbiotic eye still connected to his sister (an ogre witch) overseas. She is jealous of his conquests in the mortal world and secretly schemes to destroy his holdings. She's probably in love with him.

A wizard living in a lighthouse on the edge of town - advisor to the Count and ambiguous ally. The light is actually a hive of fireflies upon which the wizard experiments.

Juliette de Nevers, a dwarfess sage, researching in the old library - secretly a spy? Not actually, more just a concerned citizen worried she's more capable and informed on local threats than her lord. Still--she's suspected. The librarian, something of a busy body, is compiling files regarding her studies which he has been dilligently passing to an agent of the Count's. That agent is now dead and replaced by a doppelganger.

Circle of druids - headquarters somewhere in the forest, occasionally come to Brest. They gather information with the help of their owls. These druids smoke a sacred pipe which allows them to 'see the roots'. Their catchphrase is: "We are all trees".


            Wizards Tower - lighthouse, on the rocks on the outside of Brest (Hex 40)
            Ibn's Mansion - also on the outside of town, but on the inland side. (40)
            The Castle - where the Count calls home. (40)The count has a huge, golden telescope which he peers through with his single great eye to enjoy/spy upon the lives of his peasantry.
            Old Monastery - housing a library (& Juliette)(40)
            Smuggler's Caves -  ancient cave system, now abandoned - except for monsters - and the smugglers' hoard? The smugglers remain, as skeletal undead. The actual complex somewhat resembles the layout and content Disney's Pirates of the Carribean ride with the revenant creatures still playing out dramas from past lives.(Hex 20)

            Meriadoc's Tomb - burial place of the semi-mythic founder of Brittany, watched over by an order of clerics. The tomb and the clerics' weapons are made of an eerily dense metal. (Hex 14)Indeed, this metal is known as Pig Iron, formed from the excrement of the Iron Giant's sow herd. Gathering this material is an exercise in sheer nerve.
            Conomor's Tomb - burial place of an ancient king, now haunted. It is in a swamp--the ghosts are not that of the king, but of his many lovers and victims. A lich is entombed in a bog nearby.
            Tower of Erispoe - once owned by a now extinct noble line, reknowned for the eccentricity. Glass cages are built into the walls, housing exotic reptiles.
            Giant's Cave - not apparently inhabited by a giant, but a clan of ogres. The locals suspect they are connected to the merchant Ibn Al-Aziz but they despise the foreigner.(Hex 49)That said, they colour their hatred with a healthy dose of fear, believing that the gaze of an ogre magi will curse them to wither. Thus they struggle to forumlate a plan that involves killing him without their direct participation: an unusal circumstance for an ogre.
            Oessant - island, uninhabited but excellent shelter for raiders. Contains two hidden objects--one blessed, one cursed.(West of Hex 31)
            Witch's Hovel - home of an enchantress. Her features are ever changing--her head bloats into a morbid caricature at whatever woman is most powerful in the county at the time. (Hex 27)
            Castle of Mauclerc - ruined castle, magic treasure inside? There is, but it's in the belly of one of the creatures (or pigs) inside. (Hex 14)This place is home to the Iron Giant, a sinister being with glowing orange or red eyes (depending upon his mood). He keeps a herd of metal pigs as big as elephants. He and the pigs enjoy eating rusty metal. Sometimes he stalks the hills on foggy nights.

Image result for castle ruins map

     Maiden Rocks- A site of great natural beauty that is beloved by the county's cyclopean, water colour enthusiasts.  A kind of psionic siren called a Dream Whistler, lures sleep walkers into the waves and an unknown fate. (Hex 17)
            Adventure Hooks

·       One of Ibn's ships has gone missing and he's certain it's the wreckers in Plogoff, who have caused him trouble before. (It's actually the ogres of the Giant's Cave, but the wreckers are PC-level troublesome dicks--and have treasure. Plogoff is on the coast south of Leon)
·       Juliette de Fevers wants bodyguards to visit the witch with her. They will be alarmed to discover the witch currently wears Juliette's features--because Juliette is sitting on a terrible secret about the Count.
·       A band of gnolls are causing trouble around Morlaix. Their leader communes with the bog lich. (Hex 30) 
·       Pirates spotted around Oessant. They are actually Spanish privateers, including the daughter of a powerful Venetian. Foiling them could result in a full-scale international incident.
·       Druids concerned about a troll. The troll has pustules which burst when struck, expelling poison.
. Pigs are being born with scales like fish. There is something loose, a little like an aquatic Runequest Broo.  It can impregnate any living creature. It is the beloved pet of a distraught undersea demi goddess.
. The Baron of Douarnenez is rumoured to be negotiating for the return of his food taster from bandits holding him hostage.

                   .  Skeleton warriors around Conomor's Tomb. The bog lich sent them to retrieve an artifact buried with the king which will bring the lich back to life.