Saturday, August 19, 2023


The DESERTER is one of the most-viewed posts on this blog, ever — an ex-soldier, one who ran away from it all, leaving their life as far behind them as they could get it, a class for Arnold K's Goblin Laws of Gaming. It drew on a few different inspirations, first and foremost that of G. R. Michael's Zouave; it remains among the most popular things I've ever posted, nearly three years on.

I've had thoughts about zines for a while. Self-published, small, DIY — it has a definite appeal, with zines remaining a common enough format for tabletop RPG "content", especially with Kickstarter's annual Zinequest. It's something I'd long wanted to try my hand at, in some fashion or another. A month or so ago (yes, that's how long it's taken me to write this) I decided to give it a go, at long last, using some old work of mine. I trawled through my backlog and landed on the Deserter as a good fit, especially with the original post's inclusion of possible backgrounds. I remembered a format I had seen used before, for SaltyGoo's Cradle of the Gods (a collection of deities), which takes only a single A4 page.

After a few hour's experimentation, playing around with design and layout and content (and some furhter trial and error with cutting and folding), I arrived at what I'm calling the final product, at least for now. Not sure if I'll ever see someone else use it, but I found it an enjoyable and enlightening experience, one that I may yet follow up on.

apologies for the questionable quality

You can find a PDF version here, or a PNG file here. I'm happy to answer any questions or queries, either about the process or about the zine itself; I've no idea, still, if this was the best way to go about it, but I can't pretend I'm not content to finally see some of my work in physical form, even if from a home printer.

Monday, May 1, 2023

A Slushpost

a post de slush, in the same vein as many | of  | my | betters. contains material from two notebooks and a few years' worth of conversation. there's more where this came from; perhaps it will see the light of day.

— — — — —

1. Fantastic names for an investigator: Seeker, Eye, Quester, Harbinger, Stalker, Questioner, Hand, Scion, Auditor, Herald, Hound, Gatherer, Watcher, Warden, Justice, Keeper, Assayer,  Winnower, Unveiler 

2. The thing no-one ever tells you about magic is how much it hurts.

3. O, sing the song of Yeruzhen, city most resplendent, city most desolate. Jewel of the Tarr, seat of the Empress; monument of ruin, home of the lost...


5. We are Flame — an ephemeral incandescence dancing across this realm and the next, shifting twisting flickering in place and world and time, everlasting essence of light's final moment. 

6. The Ruler, the Maker, the Watcher, the Butcher, the Dreamer — patron of leaders and commanders, of farmers and family, of scholars and sailors, of the bloody and the damned, of thieves and lovers

7. spatharokoubikoularios: an office in the Byzantine court, "sword-chamberlain".

8. Hedge Knights—so named for their choice of steed, the noble hedgehog...

9. skyship flight powered by the secret names of angels, inscribed upon gold blocks. wielding the pieces of the divine machine in this way allows pilots violate the law of gravity.

10. Pigeon • /ˈpɪdʒɪn/ • noun. : a simplified speech used for communication between birds with different languages.

11. A colony ship, bearing a hundred thousand settlers in suspended animation and a still-awake skeleton crew. It veered off course a few centuries ago; culture among the descendants of that original crew diverged, still holding true to "the passage to the Land That Was Promised" and now worshipping "Those Who Slumber", all of their once-knowledge lost to time and superstition.

12. Dreznor stands triumphant, a glorious shambling mess of slums and smog, built atop the mage-blasted ruins of a city now forgotten, lost to the ceaseless churn of time.

13. The masked priests of Our Lady of Immaculate Eternity rise with the sun. They don their vestments, sorrow-black and earthen green, adorn themselves with the jewellery of their station, ring and torc and glittering pendant, and begin their solemn procession through the city of Brenstadt...

14. A Divinity of Clockwork (Jodorowsky, 6:01pm)

15. Wildly differing levels of magical concentration across a setting — aetheric deserts and island pockets of mana, with concentration of magical species, wizard towers, and mysterious ancient artifacts correlated thusly

16. priests with violence on their tongues and prayers on their blades

17. “Through the crimson canyons and desert seas of Mars, there howls an eternal wind. Through its red hills and forgotten canals, it can be heard; it can be seen. In the swirl of dust at the bottom of a crater, in the great storms atop its highest peaks, it is found—the everlasting funeral cry of the long-dead ghosts of a planet bathed in blood.”

18. The Court of Ancient Kings — the Crown Prince's highest council, a parliament of undying souls. Accessed only through the Voice of the Court, a priest of Shanahndrash (maiden of dreams and death), each Prince ascends to its membership upon their death.

19. I awake in darkness. I have always been in the darkness. The darkness has four walls, without windows; its lone door, across from where I lie, stands locked. I have always been in the darkness.

20. A dishevelled god sits slumped on the street corner, an empty cup in front of them, the cardboard sign beside them bearing in bold black marker: “WILL WORK MIRACLES FOR FOOD”

— — — — — 


A green leatherbound volume, with its title debossed in gold on the front cover. Authorship unknown, it was recovered from the Library of Babel during an expedition lead by Sir Francis Drake. Its 410 pages contain detailed descriptions of many realms, some of them very close in description to our own world. The means by which many of them might be accessed remain obscure, though the book´s passage from collection to collection speak to the desirability of such a work to any of our Auction's fine guests.

— — — — —

A tradition in a certain nation in Far-Flung Parts is that of the Festival of Bounty. Once each year, as spring approaches and the harsh lord Winter retreats to the north, people of all ages come together in the streets to celebrate, as well as to hope and pray for a great year of harvest ahead. Precise practices differ, with common ones including parades, dances, and parties, though one unifying thread are the masks. Participants don the visage of all sorts of beasts and wild things, from bears to tigers to dragons and more.  In some regions they are relegated solely to children, often crafting their own out of paper-mâché or cardboard, but some claim they hold their roots in a tradition far older.

The Masks of the Maker are ornate vizards that appear to be crafted from wood, albeit without any seams, glue, or carving tools. They perfectly mirror the form of one the Twelve Holy Beasts, as though moulded directly from them. Each is kept isolated deep within the Greatwoods, guarded by ancient guardians and obstacles. While wearing such a True Mask, the bearer possess all of that animal's characteristics, save appearance; they become as heavy, strong, etc. as their bestial counterpart, and gain all of its abilities and senses.

The Twelve Holy Beasts:
1. Bear
2. Hare
3. Crow
4. Eagle
5. Deer
6. Fox
7. Bull
8. Wolf
9. Squirrel
10. Boar
11. Tortoise
12. Lizard 

— — — — — 

and lo, so began our descent;
into that vile dark we went,
t'ward the maw of the beast—
in hunt of the wretched priest

miles and miles the tunnels stretched,
grim markings on the walls etched
though our lamp went low, ne'er did we slow

hours passed in that grim cave
afore we came upon their grave.
there, there i saw that dreadful sight
more foul than any horror of the night
there we found them, sprawled 'cross stone,
their skin as pale as bone
shrouded in raiment grim,
bent crooked in every limb—
this song i name their parting hymn.

— — — — — 

Through the crimson canyons and desert seas of Mars, there howls an eternal wind. Through its red hills and forgotten canals, it can be heard; it can be seen. In the swirl of dust at the bottom of a crater, in the great storms atop its highest peaks, it is found—the everlasting funeral cry of the long-dead ghosts of a planet bathed in blood.

— — — — — 

There I knelt, ‘fore ancient throne
Forehead pressed against the stone.
For the crown’s favour I did vie,
Yet knew as soon I was damned to die;
For it truly is a fickle thing—
The mercy of a merciless king.

— — — — — 

We are a mountain of steam and steel — a profound contraption of chrome-plated cogs and ever-pumping pistons, marching ever-forward. A pilgrim searching for something forgotten, we wander across the desolate landscape, trundling, stumbling, rumbling over hill and mound and barrow.

We are unbreathing; we are unyielding. Through once-great forests, through blasted wastes, through labyrinth streets and abandoned wrecks, we roam.

In the ruins of the future, we find ourself.

We round a corner, pass by an abandoned relic that scrapes the sky, and there we see it. A fragment of untarnished metal among the heap, brightly gleaming under the moon's light, a diamond buried among all the filth in the world.

There, the smallest part of us says. There, comes the call. In moments we are but one in mind and goal, a thousand internal voices shouting in unison, every part of us at once.

There, comes the cry, and we are there, and we are reaching every part of us forwards upwards outwards, opening ourself to this new self and its name and history and truth, outstretching extending widening towards it and we feel it and we know it and we embrace it until it is no longer itself and we are no longer wholly ourself but a union a bond unbreaking until its history its name its truth become ours and once more we are but us: indivisible.

— — — — — 


Friday, March 17, 2023

A Manuscript Recovered from the Personal Effects of One “Nicholas Fleming” Following His Mysterious Disappearance on the 22nd of March, 1997

Dear                       ,

        The Committee is delighted to confirm the Eiffel Tower as the venue of the Black Auction of 1889 this coming June 21st, extending sincere gratitude to the Académie Républicaine de Philosophie Occulte for their assistance in this matter. Constructed as the centerpiece of this year's World’s Fair and located along the crossroads of over a dozen leylines, the Tower provides a stellar view of the Parisian skyline. Accommodation in the surrounding areas should prove plentiful; we request that any attendees struggling with such make contact with the Committee through the usual channels.

        The Auction proper will begin at midnight, however the Committee strongly encourages guests to arrive some time in advance, both to acquaint themselves with the City of Lights and to properly prepare themselves for the night's proceedings. The Exhibition occupies much of the area surrounding the Tower and is home to a great many entertainments, including a number of displays that may be of a particular interest to attendees of the Auction. Following the formal luncheon at midday on the 20th, time has been set aside for relaxation and sight-seeing—local guides are available on request for those interested in visiting such sites as the Musée de Louvre or Napoleon’s sarcophagus, touring the Seine, or of course taking in the city's famed catacombs.

        Catering for the duration of the event will be provided by the brilliant Mamadou Saganogo, head chef to the imperial household of the Kong Empire in Western Africa prior to the nation's unfortunate collapse this recent year. Any guests with particular dietary requirements are urged to inform the Committee in advance, or make alternative arrangements. At 7p.m. on the evening of the 20th, a private performance by the celebrated Opéra-Comique has been arranged in the Théâtre de la Ville on Place du Châtelet, followed by another meal prepared by Mr. Sagonogo. After dinner, we advise attendees to use the remaining time before the Auction to suitably prepare themselves for the proceedings; space will be made available for any seeking to commune with a Higher Influence for protection or guidance. The Committee will of course go to every measure to ensure the needs of all guests are met, however must ask that participants provide any necessary instruments for such rituals themselves where possible.

        As always, the Committee is pleased to welcome attendees from all across the globe, including for the first time the esteemed Nassereddin Shah, ruler of the Qajar Emirate of Persia, renowned inventor Nikola Tesla, and acclaimed artist Antoni Gaudí. We are also deeply gratified to announce the return of the distinguished Comte de Saint-Germain, as well as his donation of multiple artifacts from his personal collection to this year’s Auction. A delegation from the Grand Orient de France will also be making an appearance, for the first time since London; we thank them for their orchestration of the Taxil affair and its immense success.

The Auction will starts at the stroke of midnight. Neither weapons nor personal grudges are allowed in the Auction room. Any guests not present in the room at that time will be refused entry; the Committee’s security for the evening will not hesitate to bar late entrants. We kindly ask that any individuals not affiliated with the Auction seen attempting to gain access are reported in due haste—we make particular note of Mr. Edison.

        The Committee trusts that you await the Auction eagerly, and looks forward to welcoming you to the Tower on the solstice. Within is enclosed a partial catalogue of items for sale this year; we of course cannot guarantee the continued availability of all entries, but encourage attendees to sift through it in advance.

Yours in Confidence,
    The Black Auction Committee
    February 27th, 1889



The fifteenth entry in Francisco Goya's famed Black Paintings, originally painted directly onto the wall of his isolated country home. Created in the artist's final years, it depicts a lone figure on a black background, garbed in a golden-yellow vestment with a crown atop their head. Their face lies shrouded in shadow, and across the robe is painted a shifting sea of spiral-like symbols. Viewing is unfortunately unavailable prior to purchase.


Five in number, a set of genuine sealed canopic jars recovered from a tomb near the Valley of Kings by enterprising locals. In addition to the traditional four ceramics—containing the lungs, stomach, liver, and intestines, each adorned with a son of Horus—a fifth one is present, found placed in a separate chest at the centre of the burial chamber. The Committee's cryptoarchaeologists have thus far failed to identify the creature on the urn's lid with any known deity of the region, nor any extant manner of animal. All surviving members of the discovery party have refused interview.


A jar of clay recovered from the source valley of the 長江 in the Tibetan Plateau, granted as a gift to visiting European dignitaries by the Guangxu Emperor in 1876, discarded and thought lost until its recovery in a street market in Shanghai. Bears restorative properties, capable of mending rifts and healing ailments, in addition to making any contract sealed with it binding before heaven.


The lesser-known counterpart to the First Principia, the Magni Operis is a comprehensive collection of Isaac Newton’s notes and findings on the Great Work; only a handful of copies from its lone printing survive, the rest destroyed. This lot, in particular, was previously the personal copy of the preeminent Comte de Saint-Germaine, bearing in many places his personal commentary. Contains such secrets as the transmutation of lead into gold, the crafting of divine ambrosia, and the secrets by which one might transcend the laws of equivalent exchange.


Directions to the true location of Christ's body, located in a cave on Pech-le-Cardou in the south of France. Contains, additionally, the necessary instructions to reveal the tomb entrance, as well as the charms required to Witness the Lord's corpse and survive. Independently authenticated by Auction experts; veracity guaranteed.


An individual session with an avowed Master of the Etteillan tradition, who wishes not to be named. They have offered a single personal reading, with accuracy assured; they claim to be capable of Sight both past and future, having previously predicted and claimed responsibility for Napoleon Bonaparte's rise to power, the Haitian Revolution, and the selection of Leo XIII (who once again graces our patrons this year) to the papacy. In the event of customer dissatisfaction, the Committee accepts no liability.


First recovered and sampled by the doomed crew of the HMS Bravery, of whom only two members returned, a seasoning sourced from the bottom of a crevasse near the Antarctic Great Ice Shelf. Its taste is pliable—resembling that which the collective agrees it to be, or simply that which its consumer craves most—and capable of replicating non-gustatory sensation, including feelings of despair, disgust, and awe. Incurs mild-to-middling hallucination (depending on quantity ingested) and promotes mental openness, having demonstrated great success in attempted communion with certain Higher Powers.


The royal crown of Tartary, the antediluvian civilisation responsible for the construction of many now-lost wonders, including the Tower of Babel. Silver-coloured and bearing a metallic sheen, it is encrusted with a variety of gems, including most notably a large septagonal topaz above the forehead. It demands a toll of its wearer—often resulting in severe exhaustion, dehydration, and fainting, with numerous recorded deaths—yet in return grants the monarch complete and utter authority over those around them.


A captured soul, free of tangible form. Isolated by Doctor Victoire Fischer, real-world basis of Mary Shelley's The Modern Prometheus, through a thanergetic experiment that remains obscure. Authenticity assured—guaranteed suitable for ritual, barter, or imbuing into corporeal form.


The horn of an extinct Northern European unicorn, obtained by a member of the Old Hermetic Lodge from the traditional grounds of the Wild Hunt. Purported to act as a panacea of remarkable strength, it bears prominent place in the alchemical mythologies of Hermes Trismegistus. Wholly intact and preserved in pristine condition, it further carries great symbolic power and an intense international notoriety. Currently one-of-a-kind outside of private collections.


An ageless serpent, once the staff of the Abrahamic prophet Moshe, now transformed permanently into their current ophidian form. Previously held in Solomon's Temple, then Constantinople, now offering its services on the private market, it proffers an accurate rendition of Biblical truth, in addition to comprehensive knowledge and understanding of more than 460 assorted mystical traditions. Note that this is not an offer of ownership, but instead of a professional arrangement.


Expulsion of a single individual from the akashic record. Evidence or memories of their existence will vanish or be dismissed. Those in the future shall be incapable of remembering them afterwards. Usable either on the self or upon an enemy of one's choosing.

Monday, February 6, 2023

1d30 Trinkets and Oddities for Adventurers of All Sizes

A trove of trinkets, an assortment of oddities, a bevy of baubles, a cache of curios. All ideas free to a good home—appropriate for an interesting additionial starting item, a peculiar prize stolen or won, rounding out a vendor's wares, or whatever other purpose one might see fit.

Mateusz Wiśniewski
  1. A coin of the highest local denomination, with two heads.
  2. A full-sized trombone, nonetheless able to fit into any pocket or container.
  3. A frog, able to record and repeat messages up to one sentence in length; can only hold one at a time.
  4. A jar, containing a very annoyed bat, refilled at any reputable swooprat breeder.
  5. A double-ended flask—any liquid poured out one side comes out perfectly chilled, out the other scalding hot.
  6. A pair of leather boots that make not a sound.
  7. A dead snake, ~10 yards in length (works surprisingly well as a rope).
  8. A startlingly convincing mask of the local mayor's (or other city official) face.
  9. A taxidermy model of a small animal that probably doesn't exist.
  10. A pair of dice enchanted to only ever land on 1 or 6.
  11. A small hand drum that plays itself to match the beat of music around it.
  12. A bottle of perfume that smells like its wearer's favourite scent, cranked up to 11.
  13. A questionably authentic letter of authority from the local duke, painfully vague in what it permits.
  14. A pocket mirror.
  15. A music box, containing a famous hymn. Painfully loud.
  16. A stolen satchel, bearing the official seal of the Courier's Guild.
  17. A pack of gold-leaf playing cards, including jokers, blanks, and a double-back card.
  18. A gold medal, its inscription long worn off.
  19. A deeply heretical prayer book, proscribed in all lands of the Church.
  20. An expensive locket, containing nothing but a daguerreotype of a frog.
  21. An adjustable wrench, caked in rust.
  22. A hat, always just a bit too large for any bearer.
  23. A hot air balloon license, with the PC's name spelled slightly wrong.
  24. A set of wind chimes that generate a small breeze when rung (warning label—"keep out of wind.")
  25. A diary that writes about its owner's day by itself.
  26. A clockwork mouse—makes noise, can travel ~10 yards before stopping, and must be wound before use.
  27. An address book of folk-healers and local wise ones.
  28. A wanted poster, depicting someone who looks just like you.
  29. A pickled pinky finger, supposedly that of a famed saint.
  30. A pair of glasses that don't improve the bearer's distance vision, but instead let them see regardless of conditions.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Isle of Inishbradden

FIVE CENTURIES AGO, the Mists descended on Inishbradden for the first time; a cloak of ghostly grey, bathing the island in nightly luminescence. It appears each night in perfect time with the rising of the moon; few now dare enter its cold embrace, for fear of foul magic and the fae of folklore.

FIVE DECADES AGO, the current Countess of Ember ascended to the island's seat of power, her laws harsh and temper harsher. Never since has she appeared in public without her mask of iron, her work done only through ambassadors and intercessors.

FIVE YEARS AGO, ships stopped coming from the Mainland. Never a bustling trading post, the Isle is now cut off entirely from contact with the world beyond, with no sign of resupply from off the island in sight. No longer does the Crown seem to maintain any interest in keeping the Isle under its domain; not a single expedition from the island has returned since.

FIVE DAYS AGO, reports came from farms to the north of the mysterious disappearance of an entire village. Not a soul remains, animal or human—and the Countess's Guard are far from eager to investigate.

you were roused from your slumber on the bare stone floor of your cell, and given an ultimatum: death, or freedom, in return for service rendered. The latter means trekking out into the Mist, to discover what really happened to that village

image by me

Each night on Inishbradden, every door on the Isle is bolted, every window firmly shuttered, people of every age safely indoors. With the moon comes the Mist, and with the mist creatures fit for no mortal eyes. Every family on the Isle claims heritage lasting centuries; as far as anyone remembers, the Countess's family has always ruled.

You are a prisoner. You violated the law of the land, and for it you pay the price; it seems that that price might well be greater than you ever imagined. You don't have a choice. You've got to do it, and pray to the Bladed Lord you'll make it through.

Black Alchemist:
You worked outside the law, operating without license and with secrecy assured. One of your clients ratted you out; you've had plenty of time to think about who it was.
Start with:
a roll of bandage fashioned from an old gaol uniform, a small pouch of salt, iron, and blessed ashes
Perk: with a minute's close inspection, you have a 4-in-6 chance of correctly identifying any plant or mysterious substance. with ten, it becomes 6-in-6.

You spent more nights at the pub than you did at home. The Day Watch finally decided to drag you in for nuisancy after some particularly well-placed public urination.
Start with:
a smuggled flask of whiskey, impossible to find on your person unless you allow it
Perk: you have advantage on Saves against ill effects from consuming food or drink

From an early age, you had a special fondness for starting fires. The Brotherhood of the Hallowed Sword caught you behind one of their chapels; your time in the Guards' custody has been a breeze in comparison.
Start with:
an all-weather fire-starter, a burning desire to take out your anger on your surroundings
Perk: with an hour of preparation and access to suitably flammable materials, you can fashion an explosive device with a fuse of however long you wish

You made your living running confidence games on the Isle's up-and-coming elites, offering investments and trade opportunities that never made themselves manifest. You defrauded the wrong person, and you've spent the time since plotting how you might escape your confines.
Start with:
a "friend" in any town you visit, a trustworthy smile
Perk: you can affect any accent or demeanour you so desire; proper imitation demands proper study

You survived on deft fingers and quick thinking, until one day you couldn't think quite quick enough. You were expecting a severed hand; mist-catching is almost preferable to you.
Start with:
a short piece of metal, fashioned into a miniature blade, a token to remember a loved one by
Perk: you can hide from view on your person anything that would fit in your palm, and you  perform sleight of hand well enough to impress and distract any layperson for a moment

FIVEs format shamelessly stolen from the pre-eminent Lexi of A Blasted, Crated Land.

Monday, January 2, 2023

a snippet from the city

An excerpt of in-world writing from the setting of the City Who Slumbers Not. The first post provides some useful context.

By Tyler Edlin

“Invisible cults are perhaps the greatest oddity of the Fair City's endless religious movements. While most churches have some purpose to their worship, some powerful being, some idol, they reject this most wholeheartedly, favouring instead a great "Unseen God". Supposedly all-knowing and all-powerful, they revere a deity with no proof of their existence (and yes, most often 'their'). They consider even worship of the City herself to be blasphemy, despite the obvious importance of the urban cults to a functioning society. All individual claims to divinity are rejected; their great leaders are only ever mere 'prophets', interpreting the whispered words of some higher being. Doctrines vary wildly from sect to sect and branch to branch, with different texts and different prophets deemed holy by each. A common thread is the purported existence of some coming saviour, a person to unite all these cults under one banner and bring them out of the shadowed fringes of society; the nature of this saviour is rarely ever agreed upon.

One would wonder how such beliefs persist, especially with their 'omnipotent' god's persistent failures to protect their worshippers from zealots of other stripes.”

 —Onn the Manny Religiones and Belieffes off the Grate City, Tapsfrord Howe, transcribed by Bernard Cowall