Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Visions of Space

The infinite prairie of potential; the infinite jungle of disaster 

Star-pattern organisms; entities whose atomic structure or nodal composition points are stars, their functions distributed across the network. You are a citizen of an entity which you know or don’t know, worship or prey upon, who is your tutelary deity, volksgeist, living symbol or an utter irrelevancy 

Nets of ore like tendrils of prismatic fingers closing around the core of the world; clasping it, grasping it, crushing it or magnetically dragging it to its fate, electrodes hooked up for torture

An expeditionary cult to flame angels

His wings grow from his chest and shoulderblades

The death of time in his universe; he found a moment of bliss when it died and achieved heaven. The other feared wireheading and obliterated himself in such a way as to shift phase, turned to existential charcoal but sentient

A wily, foxy asteroid whose luminous lichenic symbopsoriasis gives thrust through ionic emissions

A composite stone awarded to a gas giant deity for service in sealing a solar information leak from an exocosmic meme war; he has opened the stone for a sky-temple despite the subordination implied in receiving a medal, but as the issue transcended the cosmos he feels it is appropriate

A living sheath that serves as a nebula guide and porter; envelops and transports material that would be degraded by exploration by psychomimetic resonance ghosts, such as communications and data entrapment devices. Bringing an unshielded ansible into the nebula would turn it into a giant simultaneic neurosynchronizer, flooding comms and rewriting personalities for several parallax minutes around the nebula before burning out

A malfunction in a beam DEP fired through an ionic degradation field disentrapped by battle damage causing portions of the target’s vaporizing flesh to undergo ionic crystallization through entrapped secondary airborne sand (the ship had been hit with a sandcloud KEP but the surviving armor regraded; the captain had wisely membranized the armor before the prowl). The DEP operator had whipped the weapon in a spiral for a moment, cutting the target into about 30 distinct pieces, but as the chunks of flesh drifted from their former places they traced crystal matter in the air between them which calcified into luminous, translucent cyan matter energetically forwarding neural signals and electromagnetically echoing work between severed surfaces of flesh. The cyan zebra-pattern juggernaut lashed out and crushed the DEP bearer with a single swing of a glowing composite limb before staggering to a damage control station and vacuum-sealing himself in a cryopreservation sack.
After the battle, the ship’s surgeon assumed command as the highest ranking officer (the captain was psychically dissolved when the Xanthipine boarding element vented an up-down synchronicity cutter into the bridge) and excised large quantities of flesh infrastructure from surviving cadavers, using them to construct bloodflow transmitters between the split one’s islands of flesh in a kind of dark scaffolding linked across the glowing blocks and bands of ion crystal. The surgeon finished with the trivial installation of a caloric battery and awakened the subject.
Whether this de novo hominis will become a hero or villain is yet to be seen.

Convergence cloud- distributed nebula with particles here and there in important places. When the time comes, it will coalesce into a creature and parse out all the things it has seen. Then it will decide what to do about them

The wolf-jaws closing, a crosshatched shotgun-blast of asteroids, the world sure to shatter in the flow-shard mixture of shearing rock, frictive lava and million-MPH dust

A city-state hosted in a pulsar, all elements whirled out in projection and re-contained through gravitation, held in a state of ethereality through a sui-generis habitable zone
Hurled out into materiality- a dangerous process, ripe for impurities
Reciphered into stasis-locked crushed distribution; made astral-ethereal

A rainbow of bioforms bound for an unknown destination

Existential sterilization; sun-snuffing by exocosmic forces 

A bastard sun not created through the usual processes; without its place in the stellar ecology 

The great potential for physical actualization played out in the life of a high ruler; nothing is theoretical, not from their relationships to their ideas about economics to their ambitions for society and culture

An empress in pale and gold kissing a rugged face; some things never change 

A golden asteroid hosting shadowed caverns with pits of tar

A thing beheld at a distance, a thing uninterrupted by arbitrary context, a thing unto itself and superimposed against infinite vastness

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Maximalist Weird Fiction Mercenary Contract Generator Appendix J: Civil Relief

Summary: Prevent atrocities, relieve suffering in cut-off areas, and set up systems of sustenance and protection for people who are under threat of deprivation and violence

The most recent Contract Appendix I published was Stability Actions, but I happened to fill out Civil Relief before the others. To avoid confusion, once I’ve published them all I’ll put out a master post with links to them all, and then link to that at the start of each of these Conract Appendices.

Appendices
A: Investigations: High-risk detective work
B: Special Reconnaissance: Physical surveillance in hostile conditions
C: Military Intervention: Direct action in support of allied military activities
D: Military Assistance: Train, lead, advise and inspire allied military and/or security forces
E: Stability Actions: Ensure that a vulnerable polity, individual, or process thrives by engaging with threats on its behalf
F: Counterconspiracy: Social infiltration and undercover proactive security
G: Counteroccult: Hunt strange creatures, assassinate occultists, minimize the fallout of occult catastrophes, counter malign entities, and safeguard items and places of cosmic provenance
H: Influence Operations: Persuade, influence, subvert and deceive under delicate and/or hostile circumstances
I: Extractions: Recover personnel and assets from hostile forces and other dangerous situations
J: Civil Relief: Prevent atrocities, relieve suffering in cut-off areas, and set up systems of sustenance and protection for people who are under threat of deprivation and violence

Contract Index
Bolster
    Effort
        Ritual Purity
        Resanctification
        Solar Discs
    Polity
        Golden Fleeces
        Complement of Life and Death
        Good Works
Develop
    Institution
        Cosmocrator
        The Murdered Kingdom
        Illegitimate Bastards
    System
        Stygia
        Great Passages
Establish
    Process
        Sea Glissade
        Lifegiving Formulas
        Primal Solidarity
        Elective Monarchy

Bolster
    Effort
        Ritual Purity
You have been contracted to conduct a kind of arcogoetic demining operation in the former territories of the Immobile Dynasty, a civilization of the highest complexity whose hieratic ruling class (suffering from mutational meltdown) overthrew themselves in a coronation ceremony which was usurped by cosmogonic regressors, only half-intentionally, as the imperial heresiarchs had forgotten the Neolithic source of their legitimacy- which was the last time in which they had accurately perceived their place in the order of the cosmos.

Their land was made into mounds and earthvaults by a rippling bombardment by creative/retractive forces, seeding it with a conflagration of exocosmic effects. Many people yet live there, though the ruling class has been retracted and their profoundly complex society has degraded in profoundly complex ways, leaving the populace in a state of confusion and disorganization.

Your job is to allow the construction of a fundamental, cosmically-intramural society by entering locuses of disruption and removing, destroying or burying the occult objects and effects located within. Complicating matters are occultist bonepickers flocking to this region from everywhere on the continent, paying off desperate people for impunity and aid, stripping artifacts or heightening their effects into antagonistic sanctuaries for the occultists’ coarse epiphanies.

The party can either use their own expertise or bring in experts (who will make a lot of dangerously false assumptions). Locals will have practical wisdom when it comes to specific instances. Cadavers are a big problem here, both from a health perspective and because things may live at the bottom of theurgogeographic scars.

        Resanctification
Safeguard, support, supply and participate in a tribal ritual to maintain the purity of lifeblood of passage of time through the material of potential. The tribe resides in a forest permeated by venomous insects, inciting themselves to heroism and revelation with the maddening bites of the Many; the shag/ivy/leaf covered trees play host to massive colonies of insects which have woven barracks into their leaves; disturbing them will unleash a torrent of horrid, dangerous insects.

Pits of sap develop from the leaking roots. You could dive into one of these to rid yourself of insects but would then have to climb out covered in a hardening sap.

The insects don’t go into the pits due to the giant sapeaters, which lay at the bottom of the pit respirating the sap; any insects that land on the surface get taken down by their tongues, which will also latch onto people who fall in. 

The ritual tribe’s rivals are millenarian death worshippers who seek to repel the frontiers and see city-staters as chaos ants. Their impersonal weapons are designed to disrupt the forest’s life around you, their bolas and acrid smoke bombs drenching you in dislodged insects.

        Solar Discs
The jumpin’ jerboa is a hybrid rodent-marsupial that hangs upside down from their tails like little roses. It can stride and lope but primarily jump off of things like treefrogs. Their turds are complete ecosystems which one can hook up positive and negative lines to. Their coproliths function as hyper-efficient batteries and are a major export-market item. The energy from these is critical in the local economy.

Poorly-paid soldiers and separatists with genuine grievances are engaging in poaching of this animal, as are foreign raiders from a city-state where they believe that the animal’s sweat glands are the only way to achieve a consistent erection. Locals have a method of torture for these interlopers where they attach electrodes to a turd and run them into the victim.

Dozens of rangers have been killed in this conflict and they are contracting for outside help to create a paradigm where the jumpin’ jerboa is protected; this will include addressing the grievances of the separatists and government troops, or they can’t be incentivized to stop the poaching without massively escalating the violence in this region. if this fails the government will most likely empty the coprolith warehouses and go abroad, leaving those without connections to their fate in an environment with few other natural resources and little potential for agriculture.

If you want to work with separatists you’ll have to be initiated into their tribe by being scarified and buried alive in a region with colored, sooty soil; government officials who’ve gone through this process to be able to work with them are marked with these soot-tattoos. The exception is a separatist coalition that is being financed and advised by City of Leagues advisors and has been asked to give up initiation rites as part of their cultural preparation for Anarcho-Syndicalism. If you want to work with government troops, you’ll have to confront and somehow mitigate or transform their poaching, silver-or-lead policy towards the rangers, and unwillingness to engage in direct, sustained combat with the sweat gland poachers.

    Polity
        Golden Fleeces
Bring a herd for a developing pastoralist (or would-be-pastoralist) society, before sourcing further development and protection for their herds. Their region suffers from predation by the giant yapok, which strangles you with its human hands while pulling your head off with its jaws. It pisses on its hands first to get a better grip; its piss is a numbing agent so it will squeeze the fuck out of you, and it’s got a mean right cross.

The population has been ravaged by the giant yapoks, and many herds have wandered into the hinterlands and become wild. These could be recovered despite the danger of outlying areas, but the surviving elders of the pastoralists feel that herd animals who could stand off the yapoks would be more stable solution in the long term, or else guardian animals could be found.

There are such animals in the region, but they would have to be found and enticed to the hills that the pastoralists know; salt-spraying platywolves, the burncow, whirlingshard magnetosloths, razorwool ram, snipertusk boar (currently aligned with a bandit tribe who construct howdah platforms to hurl mushroom-tipped javelins from either side of the boars’ bodies (inspired by the ability of the boar to discharge its tusks), though the boars are not without exploitable grievances).

        Complement of Life and Death
Travel between outlying villages conducting a vaccination program against superdiseased predavultures which belch superacid in flight (as well as extremophile parasites who will burrow into your gut and make you starve to death - must be surgically removed) as a way of hastening the demise of wounded prey. Putting the scent of your blood into the air here while under the open sky is very hazardous. The vultures also urinate down their legs, which keeps them bacterially clean but also poisons those they claw. These vultures are being secretly cultivated and shepherded by a deep wilderness cavern sect that is not necessarily occult, but has discovered means of guiding and efficiently reproducing predavultures (mostly by garnishing the villagers’ herds to feed the birds). The sect makes special weapons and traps out of the predavultures’ gut biomes and urine, and are gradually gaining the superacidic vomit of the vultures, which they use in the production of dyes that explode when exposed to flame.

        Good Works   
The people of Fissureleak are starving. There is a civil war between the ruling oligarchy (a band of gluttonous kleptocrats who funnel the city’s wealth into unscrupulous financial havens), who take food intended for relief of their people and hoard and devour it or sell it to their people at extortionate prices, and a rural rebellion by farmers who are resisting forced nationalization of their lands by the unfortunate means of propitiating a fertility entity through the sacrifice of most of their food (and, more recently, of government paramilitaries taken captive after battles). The government is intensifying their campaign against the farm rebellions by burning farmhouses and crops in seditious areas.

You must find a way to relieve the suffering of the people in and around Fissureleak; in the short term you can coordinate airdrops of food aid by concerned international NGOs and foreign relief programs, or elephant caravans from tribes traditionally allied with Fissureleak (beware of musth), or even construct a wheeled apparatus to transport food captured from the government and fertility worshippers to people who need it, but in the long term the paradigm in Fissureleak must change or there will be a full-fledged genocide of the farmers and subsequent mass-starvation in the city (while the oligarchs escape with their mercenary retinues and as much plundered wealth as possible).

Develop
    Institution
        Cosmocrator
        The party has been contracted to develop and execute a renumeration program for delivering the looted artifacts of Honorgrave, which was conquered and sacked by Snarethicket before the latter city bit off more than it could chew and was defeated by Honorgrave’s latecoming allies. It was discovered that Honorgrave had secret occult programs and stores of occult material that were plundered by the invader, like Snarethicket had eaten a poisonous animal. The party has two responsibilities: returning treasures (many of which are attributed, some of which are not) to their former owners or the interim government, and to safeguard them from the party’s own greed, robbers, con artists and revanchists. 

Honorgrave has made a limited admission as to the nature of its occult programs, which have concerned its allies deeply, though they have yet to conclude what should be done about it; suffice to say debellatio is not out of the cards. Honorgrave claims that the programs were born out of desperation against the invader; in fact, Honorgrave is not ruled by a council of elders as it claims, but by the Fertile King, a cystic voice which was arrested in heaven in a time before anger and noise and buried between twin sycamores in the Field of Ordeals, from which Honorgrave arose in the ages of man.

He has seeded the people with allegorical ideologies of immemorial paradise, and ost Honorgravens now believe they fall under his archaic jurisdiction. They bear mastic and syrup to pay stereotyped homage at ostentatious tombs heaped and draped with spiritual vegetation, where the elder priests (actually the first men to hear the Fertile King, kept alive in senescence and decrepitude) give benedictions in solar doctrine suffused with soteriological poetry. There are reliquary allusions to a funerary realm among the tombs, and indeed beyond the seal of the decomposing grasshopper there is a domain that is neither spatial nor temporal wherein the Fertile King dwells, transfiguring, a preparatory incarnation sealed on a throne. 
The party is unaware of this when they are contracted.

        The Murdered Kingdom
Red Charter sand theft operations are eroding the highland island city-state of Seagrave and their outlying archipelagic territories. The Red Charter has coopted or eliminated the old sand thieves and sand-smugglers in their areas of interest. Journalists, police officers, government organizers in Seagrave and the isles have been murdered by Red Chartermen and their hirelings.

Whole islands have been eliminated for sand, much of the archipelago massacred and dissipated (like fucking Alderaan getting blown up in Star Wars, leaving only a ravaged and devastated ecosystem; creatures that should be at the seafloor driven to the surface by sand, some of them dangerous like jellyfish that can melt through hulls, jumping superelectric eels, irate polygharials). Taking away sand can salinate nearby soil, which ruins agriculture; this drove off the last survivors from isles which the Red Charter dredged into nubs.

Stop the Red Charter and bring the influence of functional judges to bear upon the local kleptocratic networks that are paralyzing the administration of Seagrave so that the Seagrave Patrol can finally take their riverboats to the shrinking archipelagic coasts and bathe the Red Charter dredgeries in napalm.

        Illegitimate Bastards
Rule of law is extremely weak in the city-state of Deadgod, and it makes it very hard to do business domestically (both in terms of disrupting potential economic development internally and in curtailing outside investment). Crime has a lax treatment as investigating it can be dangerous while you can take bribes if you let it be, and the the sons and nephews of the ruling family commit crimes with impunity (the prime minister has been in for forty years; his daughters and nieces run the city’s largest businesses while his sons lay about, stab tourists and get in shootouts with local gangsters). There is also a foreign guy who murders rude people from abroad who resemble him ethnically, and this is deterring foreign direct investment.

Certain foreign city-states are watching conditions here with interest, and many would like to bring about a regime change, or else invade, subjugate and perhaps enslave the population, depending on the observer. Work to reform the situation (elements of the government have hired you) before the city falls under the hegemony of a foreign state or is sacked and razed (observers: military republic interested in installing a friendly potentate, Anarcho-Syndicalist cadres in a nearby region, the city of Hundredweight which will enslave the population and sell them abroad, and the bandit tribe coalition of the Axenators, who will loot the city and use the remnants as a great training ground for further urban conquests.

    System
        Stygia
You are to re-operationalize the sewage system of a city-state that’s been bombed and bombarded out by a rival, and is in a state of chaos with bandits and ideological militias wreaking havoc alongside saboteur units, militia organizers and periodic bombardment from the repulsed and retreating invaders. Complicating matters, the wartime practice of feeding corpses to shadowed ferrycambions in the ruined sewers has led to a proliferation of atemporal divinities which feast on human flesh.

        Great Passages
The local Anarcho-Syndicalist government of Brinewell has recently been knocked over by monarchists. Their systems of production were inadequate and are now disrupted, which has led to mass death from dehydration and dysentery. The region is very dry and yet blighted by waterborne illness and predators; you are to develop and safeguard new irrigation and water supply systems.

Anarcho-Syndicalist guerrillas in the outlying drylands are attempting to win over the populace by doing the exact same thing you are, and will sabotage your efforts. At the same time, the new king has stipulated that you will engage and destroy the guerrillas wherever you encounter them.

In reality, the whole enterprise is likely to be doomed unless you can reach some kind of understanding or accommodation with the guerrillas, though to integrate the Anarcho-Syndicalists into the government/society would require cutting them off/alienating them somehow from their outside suppliers/coordinators/advisors.

Establish
    Process
        Sea Glissade
Establish a new train ferry system at the Strait of Souls, as the bed of the strait is too unstable for a bridge. This will benefit international trade and the host nation government (the Inward Mysteries of the Breasted Pharaoh), but currently the strait’s water transport authority is having major problems with traffickers (heroin and humans), wreckers, river-pirates and grotto creatures. The party will need to arrange the construction of short railway diversions to the isthmus and ferry slips on either side. There are giant leafy seadragons in the water, but these are not dangerous.

        Lifegiving Formulas
Conduct a backcountry medical tour in the tropical Cataracts of Pleading; go through outlying villages, either employing the party’s organic medical/chemistry capabilities or employing medical personnel furnished by the government/NGO/philanthropist employer, dealing with all dangers of the backcountry. Dental’s a big one with this, though the party’s unlikely to have a dental specialist. People might be desperate for the supplies carried by the party, willing to steal; also beware of robber gorillas (comes through the brush, grabs some shit that you have, strips you of it using its massive back muscles and then runs off. Presents this to a female to mate), and watch for hanging verdant crocodiles on the jungle trails; instead of bumps, it has leaflike projections which just make it look like a bough of the tree it’s hanging in. On the plus-side, their tails are delicious.

        Primal Solidarity
You are to establish an agricultural system in the Plain of Nobility which can’t easily be plundered by bandits nor squandered by the people involved, nor exploited by outside buyers (some of whom will attempt to remove the party and/or passionate/vigorous representatives of the local implementers of the program who might resist exploitation). The people of the Plain are harrowed by the emergence of hippopotapedes, which love furrowed fields, but come out of the earth gullet-first. If one swallows you and you cut your way out, you’ll still have to burrow up out of the earth. The people have begun to fear, revere and propitiate these creatures as nature spirits or god-worms, and one of the sights the party will see upon entering their town is a woman cradling a hippopotapede fetus.

        Elective Monarchy
Wiseredoubt has thrown off its traditional tyranny and is now fragmenting socially and politically as the former structures dissolve. The party must establish stable governance in Wiseredoubt by temporarily serving as the local/regional government at the behest of the provisional chancellor. Part of the problem is that in the midst of the chaos, occult artifacts are being utilized for necessary and desirable systems of worship, governance, production, tourism, and also for hosted research by wealthy occultists.

This all has to stop before stability can be achieved, because physical and psychological conditions under circumstances of occult proliferation can be dangerously hard to predict. Large scale industry, trade and public services will also be difficult to establish as transport systems (trucks, trains, steamboats) are harried by robbers and night rhinos, which are flying rhinos which behave like peregrine falcons, falling silently out of the sky and then striking their target in a swoop before alighting on it later to dine.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Weird Fiction Drugs in a Combat Camp

Index
Amanita muscaria 
Cocaine
Codeine
Crack
Godstool
Hash
Heroin
Inhalants
Ketamine
Lithium silphium
Mescaline
Methamphetamine 
Moonshine
Morphine
Mushrooms
PCP
Poppers
Pseudohuasca
Psychoactive toads
Salvia
Slitgravel
Speed
Worldroot


If the PCs are Empire of the Twin Canals conscript soldiers, they roll on the Sex, Drugs and Violence tables instead of the Training, Leisure and Administration tables between patrols during Camp Phase.
Resolve consequences through gameplay.

Roll a d6

1-2: See Sex Table

3-4: See Drugs Table

Drugs Table

Roll d100 and go to the results. On an odd result, roll on the drug’s event table. 

1-4 Amanita muscaria 
5-8 Cocaine
9-12 Codeine
13-16 Crack
17-20 Godstool
21-32 Hash
33-36 Heroin
37-40 Inhalants
41-44 Ketamine
45-48 Lithium Silphium
49-52 Mescaline
53-56 Methamphetamine 
57-60 Moonshine
61-64 Morphine
65-68 Mushrooms
69-72 PCP
73-76 Poppers
77-80 Pseudohuasca
81-84 Psychoactive Toads
85-88 Salvia
89-92 Slitgravel
93-96 Speed
97-100 Worldroot


Amanita Muscaria

No dependence
d4
(1) You encounter insectoid statiform micrognomes coming and going from an agaric arcology. You devour the colony and the gnomes become your body’s crew, moving about and working to enhance bodily functions. The mates and senior ratings will silently give you advice, but they may mutiny if you continue to abuse your body.
(2) You wander into fairy ring while picking mushrooms and are dusted by spores from the wings of a giant butterfly descending from the canopy. You make love to the butterfly in the warm grass. Soon you are joined by giant caterpillar for a ménage à trois. As you climax you bloodily sprout butterfly wings. They can be hidden inside your jacket. You will give birth to butterfly babe in six months.
(3) You headbutt a giant elk in its fractal horns as you dispute over a cluster of mushrooms. When you wake up he is licking your face, and though he’s eaten the mushrooms he becomes your mount out of respect.
(4) You shoot a stag that has humanlike eyes. You butcher him and find his stomach is bursting with amanitas. You eat his meat and contract incurable euphoria with ataxia.


Cocaine

Dependence with effects: [15%] + 15% per previous use
d4
(1) Laced with fentanyl, save vs death ray
(2) Actually heroin, save vs death ray
(3) You buy from an evolving deal and the traffickers get in a massive shootout
(4) You dome rails till your face bleeds and then fight local cops while stroking your dick
 

Codeine

Dependence with effects: [15%] + 15% per previous use
d4
(1) Rap battle turns into actual battle
(2) Develop permanent lean
(3) Become accomplished poet but lose ability to speak coherently
(4) Gain the ability cure respiratory diseases through your kiss, making you a minor healer. However, there is a 1/8 chance that those who take your kiss die from respiratory system damage, and those who breastfeed babies within a week after taking it will cause the feeding child to die. Unbeknownst to you, this 1/8 chance will increase by a further 1/8 every month until it is guaranteed to kill.
 

Crack

Dependence with effects: [34%] + 34% per previous use
d4
(1) Run around camp having shit yourself with the turd in your pantcuff, subsequently run around camp while on fire.
(2) Run off a building, 50% chance for one or both conditions in section 1 to be true.
(3) Commit a robbery for more crack money, 25% chance for one or both conditions in section 1 to be true.
(4) Sacrifice to an entity atop a parked car while screaming, 100% chance for one or both conditions in section 1 to be true. The entity then enters your body.
 

Godstool

No dependence
d4
(1) You hang yourself from a tree, and you emasculate yourself with a combat knife in your last movement. Your corpse rots but you eventually clamber hairless from the hollow of the tree. You have become a sacral eunuch capable of giving birth to humans and impregnating any physical substance or phenomena, giving life to new humanohybrids synthesized in stone, steel, silphium, silicon, static electricity and so forth. The children will develop with normal human psychologies, though they will identify with their mother substance in some way; there’s a chance the reflection will be predictable, and there’s a chance it will not. Their bodies will reflect the substance of their birth.
(2) You knap greenstones in a karst hellscape of red-fruited thorntrees and bottomless pits. The stones crack in two and you are sickened to the point of vomiting when you look upon the edges of the broken stones. You can use these little knives to cut entities as well as certain cosmic interferences that take the form of yarns, threads, pools and glasses. You were able to perceive where to break these stones when you were on godstool; you will not be able to replicate that feat while not on godstool, worldroot or possibly some form of pseudohuasca.
(3) You ascend a hill amidst driving rain and a lightning storm. You stand atop a meteoric boulder and slash your hand off with a Bowie knife in the moment you are struck by lightning. Your hand is scorched into motile obsidian and becomes ambulatory under your command and capable of detaching and reattaching. It acts independently when separated - you will be burnt at the stake if this is discovered. The hand can be command-detonated like a lightning bomb in shards of obsidian glass but will take 3 months to pull itself back together.
(4) The trees become acid-spewing black tentacles vortexing smoke. You scream and attack them with a hatchet in one hand and bolo knife in the other. When the murk clears there is sawdust swirling in the air and you find that you have constructed a perfect extended defensive position in anticipation of an enemy surprise attack that begins in five minutes.
 

Hash

Dependence with effects: [5%] + 5% per previous use
d4
(1) You and the boys are smoking shotgun after a range. You get so blitzed that one of your buddies grabs the wrong hammer and blows his brains out.
(2) You get the munchies and devour three packs of rations, then rip on the shotgun again and get so dizzy you barf down the barrel. The guy whose gun it is beats you over the head with it while you sit helplessly in a plundered easy chair.
(3) You are paid to guard the house of a wealthy family during your leave and you pass out on their couch with a blunt in your hand. You wake up in a raging house fire.
(4) You get super emotional listening to the phonograph and cry like a bitch in front of your buddies. They mock you relentlessly.
 

Heroin

Dependence with effects: [34%] + 34% per previous use
d4
(1) This heroin has been cut with the dried and flaked runoff of the captive spawn of the pulsar entity Bexxu; you develop a severe permanent tendency to epilepsy, generally kicking in when adrenaline spikes. When the epilepsy strikes, your vision slowly alternates back and forth between seeing the past and the future of whatever you’re looking at. It plays out in something like disjointed black-and-white stop-motion. When your vision shifts to the past, whatever you do or have done will then change your impending future-vision appropriately. This is massively disorienting but can help you avoid danger.
(2) You contract HIV from a shared needle. If this is the second instance, you catch a different strain and your condition becomes SuperAIDS.
(3) You relax into a helpless fugue and are kidnapped by a blood theft gang.
(4) As you curl up in the attic, ghost dreams manifest in reality. You are transmitted to an alternate mirror/shadow reality with its own social rules and physical laws and must find your way back before you go into cardiac arrest. If you find your way back to the House of Light and Fire you will occasionally see and be able to speak with figures from the fugue.
 

Inhalants

Dependence with effects: [5%] + 5% per previous use
d8
(1) You try to score some solvents but end up superglued to a park bench by orphans. They rob you and superglue your nostrils shut before leaving.
(2) You inhale lighter fuel as your buddy hits a crack pipe while leaning on your shoulder. His pipe explodes and your face is set on fire.
(3) You huff map markers until you enter a euphoric trance. You wake up with obscene, numinous messages and imagery scrawled across your face. Someone tells you that you were the one who wrote them.
(4) You break into a woman’s house to steal nail polish and she attacks you while dual-wielding disassembled pruning shears.
(5) You arsonize a roof so you can huff the toluene in the contact cement, and manage to set yourself on fire. You fall through the weakened ceiling into a kid’s bedroom.
(6) You rip off school kids’ backpacks so you can huff their correction fluid. Their dads and uncles form a posse but you vow they won’t stop you.
(7) You huff jenkem from an unknown source. It turns out to be made from the spoor of an antediluvian cacodile which once draped its tongue down a sandy ant ziggurat extending into alternate timespace. The beast retracted its tongue still wafting with incompatible matter, and its leavings warp your body into something like a retractable gigamillipede capable of seeing in a spectrum of cosmoses. If your head is preserved in pine oil resin then you may be able to maintain the illusion of humanity by donning a greatcoat and tall boots, but you now have to roll Wisdom checks to communicate in a way that humans will understand.
(8) The lead in the gasoline you’re huffing came from a Red Charter Company mine that has not yet been bottomed out by speculators, and in fact it has no terminus as the deepest passage replicates itself into null space. You are nebulized by the infinitely reconcentrated lead and become softly ethereal; you can exert some force but will gradually transpose through anything you touch for more than a few moments. You must expend effort to pull yourself out of the ground every morning.

 
Ketamine

Dependence with effects: [15%] + 15% per previous use
d4
(1) You get tasked out on a QRF a few minutes after you snort a big wad of shimmering ket. You take contact and enter a permanent battle trance.
(2) You wander into occult ruins, engage in battle with antediluvian forces, and return with a strange artifact. You don’t remember a thing the next morning
(3) This ketamine’s been cut, and when you piss in the water supply the next day it puts the whole camp into a weird trance. You have 15 minutes in which to instill suggestions in people at the camp.
(4) You experience severe dissociation. You realize that your body feels awkwardly grafted to your natural couatlform. Luckily, you are able to mantically intuit the necessary path to reclaim your natural body from deep beneath the earth.
 

Lithium Silphium

Dependence with effects: [34%] + 34% per previous use
d4
(1) You win a local sports competition and then eat two greyhounds and a racehorse.
(2) You can’t find food so you lose control and eat a grandmother.
(3) You run to an enemy camp and steal a bunch of shit before running back into your camp and looting the commissary.
(4) You rustle a cow, shepherd it into your tent and eat it alive.

 
Mescaline

Dependence with effects: [0%] + 5% per previous use
d4
(1) You have a hypertranscendent experience and become a religious fanatic. Your beliefs center around [d4] (1) human sacrifice, (2) Occult scarification of self and others, (3) sacral cleansing of the earth through fire, (4) explosion worship.
(2) You bury yourself in the desert like an antlion and wake up the next morning near death from dehydration. You find that you can quickly bury yourself in any terrain, but that things below will tend to notice you.
(3) You approach a bandit tribe and go through their initiation rites, which include scarification, live burial and cannibalism. Your primary firearm is lathered in feathers and inhabited by a malevolent ancestor spirit. The feathers ruffle when it is upset.
(4) You tear open a cactus and climb inside, hands bleeding. The next morning thorns begin to sprout through your flesh and your blood is water.
 

Methamphetamine

Dependence with effects: [34%] + 34% per previous use
d6
(1) Fuck the flesh off your dick
(2) Sell your ass to a bandit tribesman for amber to trade for meth
(3) Meth lab explosion
(4) Ninja the battalion’s plunder
(5) Run screaming into a police station while soaked in blood
(6) All of the above

 
Moonshine 

Dependence with effects: [5%] + 5% per previous use
d4
(1) Slipped a Mickey and wake up with no money and torn asshole
(2) Wake up in the hospital drunk as hell, projectile vomit, claw your way out of bed, arsonize the ward using pure oxygen
(3) Piss on commander’s bed, pass out on commander’s bed
(4) Steal a [d4] (1) jeep, (2) 2-ton truck, (3) main battle tank, (4) biplane
 

Morphine

Dependence with effects: [25%] + 25% per previous use
d4
(1) Steal whole supply from medical stockpile - admit nothing during collective punishment.
(2) The doctor offers to pay you to take your blood on a weekly basis (he sells it to the enemy).
(3) You are fiending so bad you shoot yourself so you can get some morphine. You throw the rifle in the river and claim it was a sniper.
(4) Your buddy gives you a transfusion of his morphine-laced blood and you contract hepatitis B. Subsequent results give you hepatitis C and D.
 

Mushrooms

No dependence
d4
(1) You go into berserker rage and single-handedly assault an enemy encampment.
(2) You start gnawing on table during a poker game and flip it, starting a gigantic brawl.
(3) You complete a super-hazardous climb to the tallest pylon of a power plant and meditate with the dawning sun. Then you have to get down.
(4) You dash around the camp like a perpetually-cornered animal, devouring all food you encounter.

 
PCP

Dependence with effects: [25%] + 25% per previous use
d6
(1) Lift a car over your head and hurl it at someone
(2) Accosted by local policeman, eat his face
(3) Eat own face
(4) Unleash and fight a chimpanzee
(5) Rush into cave, encounter lithocockatritic megascorpion, tear its leg off and beat it to death with leg
(6) Uproot ancient sequoiadendron, carry it to camp, camp is now bisected by a tree
 

Poppers

Dependence with effects: [10%] + 10% per previous use
d4
(1) You decide to fellate a zucchini and it gets stuck in your throat
(2) You dance furiously in a nightclub while having diarrhea without realizing it
(3) You huff leather polish while wolfing vasodilator chocolate and pass out during anonymous sex. You wake up in [d4] (1) the commander’s bed, (2) a prince or princess’s bed, (3) a crime lord’s bed, (4) another PC’s bed
(4) You develop maculopathy which degrades your vision, reducing Shooting and Alertness
 

Pseudohuasca / Glossolalian Gossamer / Corpsefrond

Dependence with effects: [15%] + 30% per previous use
d4
(1) Your whole body fractalizes with microportals to exocosmoses constantly weeping psychotropic mutagenic and matter-distorting ichor.
(2) The Machine Elves recruit you as a sleeper agent.
(3) Your bones are semi-fused and reconstituted into heat-fed silicate integrated circuits with your consciousness uploaded uploaded and distributed through them. You are now a midnight-blue bulletproof skeleton. Your flesh will necrotize and begin to slough in a day or two. Your level of acuity now depends upon ambient heat.
(4) You contract a permanent psychotropic visual overlay which highlights leyfractures ripe for Occult exploitation
 

Psychoactive Toads

No dependence
d4
(1) The toad turns out to be mutagenic and your arms turn into spiny flesh-ferns, which are great for gripping large objects but bad for not being murdered
(2) The frog turns out to be an entity, and it colonizes you
(3) The ichor dissolves most of your personality, leaving room for a rewire
(4) The ichor permanently numbs your body and any flesh you touch

 
Salvia

No dependence
d4
(1) You realize that all existence is comprised of tiny energy biplanes. When you return to normal you are unable to account for this realization but are unable to shake it as your operating schema.
(2) You scream in horror as your consciousness and all matter is engulfed in or revealed to be black soil with only tiny lines of sooty openness accounting for lines of causality. This is a map of the local underworld’s fissures and vaults and is marked indelibly on your consciousness.
(3) You behold the blade of the moment carving the bright mass of potential future into the definite sliced ashes of the past. You gain limited localized precognition alongside bipolar disorder as you fixate between the two sides without the ability to fully control your attention.
(4) You psychically enter a giant orrery vortex where swirling bands of steel destroy all matter in their path. A malevolent face at the heart of the cyclone gnashes its teeth, alternatingly blowing matter into the outer dark and sucking things into the path of its death mechanisms. A million tiny mechanical or crystalline harlequin-pattern birds drift through space awaiting interlopers to annihilate. You hurtle towards the figure somehow dodging all birds and bands, narrowly dashing through its chomping teeth. When you return to reality you gain a massive increase in Piloting skill but acquire a phobia of birds, jesters and watch mechanisms.


Slitgravel

Dependence with effects: [34%] + 34% per previous use
d4
(1) You microdose slitgravel for confidence, cutting the inside wall of your navel and packing it a with slitgravel. The cut becomes infected. The slitgravel helicizes the coccobacilli which subsequently attracts and concentrates ambient spores. You develop a mycoumbilical connection to a cavern of rotting and refreshing corpses where you can go to be made whole. The spillover of this ecosystem finds and feeds your morass bellybutton, and the infection will gradually spread until your biology is permeated, overwritten and replaced with a mycobacterial network of strands and gels serving your ego and the cavern in tandem. Your desires will gradually blend with those of the cavern.
(2) You slit your forearm arteries and descend into a burbling pool, ready to die. Little do you know there is slitgravel in the sediment. Blood blossoms around you until slitgravel hemostasis sets in. You are overcome by a sense of fearlessness and you dive into the water, inhaling as deep as possible. Siltgravel-silt stabs you in the brain and laces its way through your hippocampus- you enter a permanent state of hyperconfident mania and claw your way out of the pond. You now have livid, brass-colored scars all up and down your forearms and sparking golden eyes. You gain in all skills.
(3) You dig a tiny razor into the side of your heel and rub slitgravel into the cut. You leave the outhouse and go up the hill for your fight with Brian Galen. He doesn’t manage to hit you once and you literally beat his brains in. His friends gape in horror and bum rush you.
(4) The robbery has gone awry. You lay in in a garment shop. The clothes hang smeared with your blood. The dogs bark and boots fall as the bank marshals approach. With a shaking hand you pull out the little packet of slitgravel, tear it with your teeth and pour it into your wounds.
 

Speed 

Dependence with effects: [20%] + 20% per previous use
d4
(1) Make new sleeping bag out of human hair
(2) Stay up for 96 hours writing poetry that ends up having arcogoetic effects when recited
(3) Develop a facial twitch
(4) Obsessively clean the weapons of the entire camp and then punch the commandant when he comes to congratulate you
 

Worldroot

No dependence
You gather your companions around the fire and lead them on a dark spirit quest where you aid the Gods of the Twin Canals against archetypal enemies such as the razor windlichens. The gods often don’t know or care that you’re there and you are subject to friendly fire from the dissipating/dissociating gas dispensed from their irises- if you find yourself caught in the motile pools of their eyes your body will be transmuted into a chimera comprised of mythological beasts and there will be only a small change you can control it when you awaken from this quest (25%).
If you survive, the game becomes an Elite campaign.

5-6: See Violence table




Obviously, how quickly an individual develops an addiction will depend on their individual physiology and psychology. I welcome insights that could help me dial in on relative numbers based on the nature of each drug.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Moonrhythm Mire

I am happy to announce that my adventure Moonrhythm Mire has been acquired by David McGrogan for In the Hall of the Third Blue Wizard, a collection of new OSR adventures and fantasy stories now live on Kickstarter.

I am working overseas until July and am unlikely to add much to my blog until then, though in a few days I will post a story which I submitted to In the Hall of the Third Blue Wizard unrelated to Moonrhythm Mire. Ultimately, the project will include one submission per writer.

Of the other writers involved in the project, I am familiar with Sam Doebler of Dreaming Dragonslayer, which has been on my blogroll for some time due to his interesting findings about running roleplaying games for younger players during his work as a camp counselor.

Special thanks to Dan Sullivan, who was the first editor of Moonrhythm Mire, and David McGrogan, who will now become the second. You can find the beginning of the adventure below, but note that it will be subject to change.

Moonrhythm Mire starts on a course set for tragedy, but it can become a tale of heroism, redemption, romance and riches depending on the actions of the players.

Moonrhythm Mire
By Dave Greggs

    Introduction

The imperial soothsayers and dryadic sibyls saw a vision of newborn golden seeds. Such an event is the portent of a golden age ending, impending, or in progress far away.

They saw a tree nymph alight from a cyan sycamore, pray over the seeds, and spirit them away.

The seers have tracked the tree nymph to a magical quagmire of skyless night called Moonrhythm Mire. It is a place where the moon appears only to herald events of great significance. When it does, ghosts dance in its light.
 
Moonrhythm Mire was once a rich forest, but fell to ruin with the madness of its Margrave. He is nothing but a robber baron now.
 
The Seeds of Rebirth are objects of great desire, and two ships have been launched to capture this Seedmaiden. One is a bronzeclad vessel from the emperor’s court, the other is a deadwood carcass birthed by a morass of rotting vegetation with a chthonic intelligence.
 
The imperial merchants would prefer that the emperor didn’t use the seeds in his formal gardens. They have proposed that the players acquire the seeds for ten thousand gold pieces each.
 
They have made it clear that the Margrave and his fortune are expendable.
 
The ships will arrive in Moonrhythm Mire tonight. The party will only just beat them there.
 
The seeds will not stay in the tree nymph’s possession for long, unless the party decides that they should. What the players will do when they learn the true powers of the Seeds of Rebirth? Will they carry the Seedmaiden’s cause, or will they take the seeds for themselves?



1. Arrival: The Tunnel Canal and Startpoint

An old, bald boatman will paddle you to the mire. His name is Ridian. He brings you through the imperial riverlands until you enter a tunnel beneath an overgrown bridge.
 
Ridian rows you for hours through the subterranean canal, then opens a door in the darkness. You see the moonless mire. He rows you into the reeds and rushes.
 
The mire is scattered with spiderwebs of sodden wood and protrusions of jagged rock. It is a maze of trees.
 
There are places where the soil lays just beneath the surface. Elsewhere the water is deep as an ocean trench.
 
The thickest groves of watertrees are nearly impassable. They are the sinister intestines of a dead devouring forest, a hungering but ungrowing ghast.
 
The tides move in an invisible spiral toward the Margrave’s tower. An ouroboric tide.
 
Ridian, the boatman, sits back and smiles. Then, he is transparent. He is a ghost.
 
He tells you that he was a subject of the Margrave. He brought you here so that he could witness the depredations of the old man end. He will give his boat to you. It is magical. Fold it, and it will become a scroll case. Open it, and the boat will fold out again.
 
He will disappear after his explanation. This land belongs to the ghosts who died here. He deserted it before the final catastrophe. But he will watch, and perhaps he will reappear at the end of the night.
 
You can see a tower and a glassy crag in the distance. The tower belongs to the Margrave, and it will be full of his plunder, but you could get a better vantage point from the crag.
 
Then, out of nowhere, the moon is shining. White ghosts dance in the starless sky. A great vortex of translucent bodies swirls between the crag and the tower.
 
Then, the moon and ghosts disappear, and the mire is bathed in darkness.
 
What do you do?

Friday, January 7, 2022

Call for Contributors: David McGrogan of Monsters & Manuals

I would like to promote David McGrogan’s call for contributors to his upcoming zine, In the Hall of the Third Blue Wizard, which will go to Kickstarter this spring.

This is a chance for relative unknowns to showcase their abilities and reach new readers. Being selected indicates David’s stamp of quality and will carry one’s work on the advertising tide of a Kickstarter campaign.

I will be submitting several original works to this project. Excellent contributions by other writers and artists will tend to increase the value and the reach of the zine, and in doing so will promote and elevate the contributions of everyone involved. A rising tide lifts all boats.

From David’s post:

In the Hall of the Third Blue Wizard is a new magazine which publishes hexmaps, dungeons and adventure sites for ‘old school’ fantasy games; art; and fantasy fiction. 

It seeks to promote the the beautiful, the strange, the heroic, the fantastical, and, above all, the imaginative.”

You can submit works in the following categories:
-An original hexmap, dungeon or adventure site, accompanied by a fully keyed map (this does not need to be aesthetically pleasing - merely clear and legible), with the minimal stats necessary for use in standard ‘old school’ fantasy games (minimum 2,000/maximum 10,000 words) 
-An original work of art, in full colour, in at least 300dpi format, for a B5 page (full or half page)
-An original short work of fantasy fiction (maximum 5,000 words) 

Payment:
£300 for a piece of cover art 
£200 for a full-page piece of art 
£100 for a half-page piece of art 
2.5p per word for hexmaps, dungeons and adventure sites (no payment is made for the maps themselves) 
3p per word for fiction

The deadline is February 15th to be included in the first edition.

Email submissions to: noismsgames@protonmail.com

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Embodying Existential Debate: Real-Life and 40K

I have attempted to embody worldviews and philosophies through characters, exploring them in the process.

This has been less a matter of steelmanning (which I like) and more of an exercise in steeping yourself in the relevant literature to get a feel, method acting, or adopting an exotic or historical outlook through empathy.

This post is divided into two sections containing executions of this philosophical embodiment.

First, I have adopted four real-life worldviews that are mutually antagonistic, and attempted to express them credibly. None represent me personally, but I have made a good faith effort at embodying each in the voice of a character. You may wish to try this if you like to GM or write fiction.

Second, I have written a series of interlocutory or adversarial dialogues between Arbitrators, Ecclesiarchs, Inquisitors, cultists, and children in Warhammer 40K. I have done this first to explore the problems faced by people in the Imperium, and second to dive into their source of meaning in the credible fictional religion of the Imperial Cult.

I feel that Warhammer 40k has more potential as a medium for exploring existential themes and problems than other popular IPs. I have written the second part of this post to address recent discussions of this subject at Patrick Stuart’s and David McGrogan’s blogs.


Index
    Setting: Starling & Shrike
Social Darwinist
Syndicalist
Theologian 
Ultranationalist

    Setting: 40K
A Chapel in Flames
The Old Man in the Garden
Arbitrators in a Failing Hive
Captured Cultists
Why Doesn’t He Save Them?

Setting: Starling & Shrike

In a coffeehouse in Troutbridge


Social Darwinist

They call it murder. They make reference to “justice”. Make reference to justice when the knife plunges down your throat. You are experiencing justice. You are experiencing the full rigor of the Law, and when you at last drown in your blood, court is adjourned. The plaintiff will take his damages in your gold, your home and your women. Pray he neglects to levy further charges against your estate.

Murder. This is a value judgement. In whose eyes is it “murder”? Someone capable of murdering the murderer? Else if you have not prostrated yourself before a Prosecutor and his dictates, then you are a criminal and you will be “executed” by your Persecutor- unless you be Prosecutor too.

Someday it will come down to the Empire of Grimwall and the Cynthian Empire. Land vs sea. The Cynthians are a marvelous war machine when on the deep but deprived of their coastal tributaries they would not have a leg to stand upon. But if the Cynthians prevailed and made a corpse of every last man of Grimwall, who could gainsay their natural right to the fruit of the earth? It would be theirs to divide amongst themselves. And then it would be theirs to fight over.

Was it not right that Mandala was destroyed by Grimwall? Was it not right that Palmgrove was destroyed by Archzenith? Is it not right that tens of proud peoples hand tribute to their Cynthian suzerains?

Is it not right according to the Sun Lion? He shines upon the bloody battlefield with the self-satisfied serenity of the well-fed predator. He smiles to see other peoples’ children devoured and their mothers taken to wife, for that is the way of the lion, didn’t you know?

Is it not right according to the Burning Eye? But this is the deity of destruction. Soak up the liturgy of his dour cult and be enthralled by the greatest tale of destruction, punishment and revenge ever told. Besides the tale of history.

Is it not right according to the Fates? Nay! It is manifestly ORDAINED by the Fates!

Is it not right according to the Moon Bear? Boo hoo! I spit in the face of such a pathetic specter. And my sputum lands upon the earth. 

Manifestly the history of religion is a chronicle of battle-testament, and when it is not, it is a sad tale of self-castration, sequestration, cowardice and the renunciation of the great game into which we are born. But there is no renunciation of this game, as the anchorites find when the bandit tribes come, or the monastery finds when the monarch comes, or the scrofulous pale-bodied priest finds when palsy and pneumonia come into his peace-ravaged body.

And in all likelihood his soul is devoured by star-sharks because his gods and angels were half-cocked figments of a piteous imagination. Invisible friends who disappear when the palpitations cease.

When the Starling & Shrike detective blows the brains out of a child-devouring serial rapist, do you crow at that as “justice?” When he kills the poor Syndicalist with his delusions of “Brotherhood” or hands the man over to Tourmaline torturers in exchange for a bag of gold? More like blood magic methinks! A true Philosopher, that one!

Or is it justice to you when a “frothing anarchist” gives the darling Starling “labor spy” his “just desserts” with a neat stack of TNT? When he guts the capitalist piggie and watches him squeal? Or when the cunning rapist gives his ambushed detective a taste of eternity, then sends him screaming to meet it?

Some say this is a matter of perspective! I call them sallow-boned philosophers! It is all justice of the highest quality! It is the musica universalis, the metric and the measure, the highest of all philosophies!

    Counterpoint: Why is Troutbridge, a mercantile democracy where people trust each other, more militarily powerful than Grimwall, ruled by a military junta, or Bounty, ruled by industrial slavers? 


Syndicalist

It’s common to speak of human well-being in terms of economics. Let’s talk about it in those terms, then, for sake of argument.

What does an economy consist of? Transactions and production. People make things and trade them.
These are the things that are said to increase the size of the pie, along with more universal factors like population growth.

Highly effective production and trade leads to surplus. Surplus allows for larger-scale endeavors, or for superior trade, both increasing the availability of goods and services with regard to an individual in the society.

So who produces things and who, in the main, trades them? Probably 70-80% of people in the average city-state are involved in the harvesting of raw materials and the production of finished goods, to include things like buildings and infrastructure. Another 10% or so are involved in the provision of necessary services like healthcare. Depending on how you count them, either a few percent of those or a few percent on top of them are involved in the advancement of human knowledge and capacity in the form of things like engineering and developing new medicines. Then you have a few floating percent who aren’t necessarily involved in a large enterprises, artists, musicians, transients and such.

You have all of these people participating in an economy, you have the recipe for continually advancing economic well-being. People are making things, they trade them, and a few experts advance knowledge.

What’s the problem?

Well, there are a few more percent of the population that we haven’t accounted for. The problem is twofold: nonproduction and the effects of these people on culture.

Let’s look at who they are. Clerics, nobles, soldiers, policemen, and rentier capitalists. They don’t assemble or produce goods, so what services do they offer and could these services be better performed for an individual by his peers inside a productive enterprise?

Clerics: I admit that this is not my area of expertise but why should you need a specialist for this? If you must engage in some kind of religion you shouldn’t need mediation between you and your deity, and if you need moral guidance then you’re better off consulting with your peers and your foremen.

Nobles: Aristocracies are created in times of chaos where gangsterism becomes a viable strategy on the large scale, and then afterwards calcify as force and propaganda resign people to their existence. An aristocracy must engage in state terrorism to maintain its power because its value-add is questionable. Ultimately it rests on simple superior force and is buoyed by appealing to people’s basest instincts of tribalism and voyeurism towards the leisurely ‘highborn’. People grow to see aristocrats of their culture as the ‘protagonists’ of life, whereas in reality there are no protagonists, only the common effort towards the common good.

Soldiers: Workers serve as part-time militiamen across the world, and unions (specifically work crews) acting as combat units would by their nature be extremely internally-accountable. But aren’t standing armies of full-time soldiers necessary for the security of a city-state? Under the current international order, perhaps, although an international coalition of union-militias acting in solidarity could stand off most invaders. When city-states and populations are no longer playing pieces for tyrants and schemers there will be much less reason to fight, as well. Hence the concept of international solidarity, international revolution. It’s not about city-versus-city, it’s about the people of the world uniting under one big union. Of course it would be broken up into many, many unions, each a part of their own industry, but united under the same principle.

Policemen: A system where a person is bought-in (based on one’s democratic workcrew also being their political unit), where one’s director and representative is elected by the individual and their tight-knit social circle where everybody knows everybody, is going to tend to reduce the degree to which people want to cause social chaos, but there are always going to be hard-cases and incorrigibles. It’s no use lying about that. If there’s one useful concept to adapt from feudalism, it’s the idea that a small community of equals is responsible for the conduct of its members; that if a member of a work crew is acting out, it falls upon his peers to straighten him out based on what he personally needs, given his personality and the situation he’s facing.

Rentier capitalists: The common argument for allowing industrialists to control huge resources is that if they coordinated the creation of an enterprise then it’s their property, or that if they were able to assemble it then they’re the ones most qualified to direct it. That’s one thing, but then you run into the aristocratic issue where the founder of the enterprise is highly competent but there’s no guarantee that those he names as his successors or regents will be, or that if the industrialist has won the love of his people that those who follow him or govern in his stead will conduct themselves morally. It is necessary to reward those who create new enterprises with prestige and social approval- doors will open for them whether or not there are structural rewards, but once something is constructed it is best if authority is delegated back to the people who comprise it, down to the level of work crews with their elected foremen and treasurers. People need to be incentivized for going above and beyond the call of duty, but not at the expense of the ability of people who work in the enterprises they establish to govern their immediate surroundings.

I ask you: what do you want for your life and fate? The struggle of nations for supremacy over the earth until only one way remains? A full-stop merging of all nation states where the aristocratic or rentier capitalist systems encompass the whole planet? Or a vision of global development and cooperation shared by the bulk of people in all city-states? Our way is the way of democracy distributed down to the work floor. A community of communities joined by a purpose that all people can share.

    Counterpoint: Why does your movement seek revolution in states where the workers seem to be bought-in and prospering generation-to-generation?


Theologian

You live without a system. Forget your Darwinism and your Syndicalism, and I’ll put away the Hymnsinger. I mean you don’t live in an existential system. Do you even know what it is, to live within a system? Did you as a child? Can you remember?

You live in the House of Light and Fire but you grieve in the darkness. You see the world’s designs and you hear its noise but live through only the coldest framework. You are swirling matter, a freak in the eddies of stardust born to experience the crashing of protons, enjoying the magnetism of animal things and the mental activation of fleeting novelty. 

When you accept what you would call a system of metaphysics, you enter the immediate presence of cosmic truths. You feel the reality of evil as a palpable force. Now, you already see the reality of evil, but when you can accept its name you will hear its call and then know it for what it is. It exists as more than a value judgement. You will acknowledge it for what it is. You won’t do that now, or you ascribe it only to temporal things because you live in a world of unthinking physics in which your consciousness is an alien, an aberration. Many people become pacifists when they acknowledge evil, or become moss-eating hermits, or waste away. Degrees on a continuum. Is it evil to cauterize a wound? It is evil to leave a man to infection if he cannot help himself. It is evil to burn healthy flesh. If you would use force against evil, then you must be sure beyond a flicker of doubt. Reactive, not proactive. This is what is commonly called justice.

When you enter a metaphysical structure, you can perceive good and evil, you can feel them, otherwise all you have is inclination.

You walk in the presence of good. You feel something of evil, certainly you see and perhaps experience its works, but you know nothing of good. You are a stranger to good. You catch glimpses of it but have no connection to good as such. You see it in a laughing child’s face, but the child experiences it as a constant presence, something that balances evil, balances the nightmare. You have no balance, only distraction. And you take it away from the child.

That constant presence of good. Do you remember what it felt like? Did it take shape in your imagination, a blue light borne on clouds? Weighed against the smoky fire in darkness and people’s eyes and you. Bracketing your every action between good and evil.

The saint reaching across darkness in the moment of despair, the constant love of the sacred mother, the punishing order of the demanding father, and the lifegiving rain of his satisfaction in your strength, these are immediate presences that buffer you. Well, they buffer young children who believe, and those whom you regard as childlike, such as me.

You and I live in the same system. We just see it differently. I say we see different facets. Different colors.
I am just making observations. What you do with this is up to you. You have time to think, and live.
    
    Counterpoint: What of the human sacrificers? Are they not reacting to a system of existential forces that they too can feel?


Meanwhile, twenty miles from Troutbridge…


Ultranationalist

Sir Therysicado Acheridane hated the filthy, ugly, incoherent, uncultured animals of the coasts. It was a perverse miracle that they could somehow swarm across ships and make them function, but he supposed with conscious mockery that enough effort directed at random within a vessel must at some point make it steam. Certainly the effortless Cynthian victories against so many of the world’s navies attested to the mud-dwellers’ primitive incomprehension of form, elegance, and economy of force in tactics, personal conduct and shipbuilding. Witness the way the primitives lope around their decks slack jawed, filthy, mismatched, ill-built and insubordinate. Only a few navies could contend with the Cynthians, and those were astonishing exceptions.

Mandrake took the cream of every nation’s aristocracy and combined them into a riotous, piratical fleet command. Their rare inspirations were not so inexplicable. Troutbridge seemed to have some kind of uniform standards of dress and cleanliness, so the relatively orderly function of their navy was not illogical, although their uniforms no doubt trapped the mire of soil and city. And their upper class barely differentiated themselves from the lower in terms of uniform. A sickening and telling degeneration that would no doubt lead to the subordination and consumption of the higher order by the lower. It would be seen: will they be crushed by the Cynthians, or by their own dissolution?

He shuddered at the thought of the pigs and apes of the dark inland destroying one of the only manifestations of civilization on the shore. Slavering, uncomprehending, incomplete, unfinished. 
It gave him an utter thrill to watch their greasy hides consumed with flame like cheesecloth cast upon fire.
He stroked his cheeks with his mouth ajar when he watched their corpses weaving in the wind a hundred feet above a blasted battlecruiser among churning steel, smoke, and fire from a successful Cynthian broadside. It turned them to rags, elongated their forms, made them limp like earthworms. Sometimes they came apart in the air and flitted to the sea among the rubble of their hulks. By Her Countenance, if he could give such visions to the Queen! It was enough to make Sir Acheridane weep with pleasure to watch them vanish from the earth, to see the remnants floating in oil-fired seas while the Cynthian fleet steamed away, safe in the knowledge that whatever refuse remained would be drank away by the cleansing sea and its phytoplankton, the sharks and eels.

A great relief. When he watched them die he always felt like laying in his bed hugging his duvet in ecstasy. Pure repose. Inner peace. To sleep in the garden of paradise. 

By the Queen, the Cynthian breed, and the silver gleam of the sea, Sir Acheridine would see their sickening hives crushed. Then he would burn and scourge them, inch by inch, of whatever fetid life was left hiding in their rotten wreckages. Someday the Cynthian Empire would no longer need its filth-dwelling tributaries and then the earth could be cleansed of their hideous memory. 


Setting: 40K

A Chapel in Flames

Arcadia stood watching the vidcaster. The Inquisitor was by his side, arms crossed. Father Timotheus was on his left and to the rear. In the screen an assortment of cultists and commoners were laying jackhammers into a statue of the Emperor. They were smoking out the Chapel of St. Ermine. A few of the most prominent, skins marked by the purple ouroboros, heaped the chapel’s vestry into fires lit on machine salve.

The Inquisitor looked at Arcadia with a cocked eyebrow.

"Exterminatus?"

Arcadia gazed into the screen balefully. People were shouting. White and crimson robes smoked on the bonfires. He saw them laughing insanely and dancing about like imbeciles. He pressed his eyes shut, then opened them again. 

"Not yet. This is an ugly sight but there is much yet to be salvaged." He looked to the Inquisitor. "We owe it to the Emperor to preserve His flock, to the degree that we can do so without error. I have met good men and women out in my patrols." He looked back at the revelers and his face darkened. "And we should preserve the Emperor's industry."

"You would say that."
The Inquisitor was tapping his chin.
"You've spent much time tending your flock, like a priest, and you don't want them burnt with the first sign of mange. But this blasphemy must be answered. Everyone I see on this screen must die.”

Arcadia glanced at the prancing figures assaulting the Imperial chapel. His hand curled round his lasgun handle and his heart visibly beat.

He blinked and shook himself.

Arcadia thought of the Father Assumptor’s words:
"Every man is a vessel for the Emperor. There are only two things that can cut a man off from His light. The physical corruption of Chaos, and the evil seed of the Alien."

The Father leaned in. "Even the foul philosophy of the Tau can be set aside. Never speak of these things to anyone with whom you would not unconditionally entrust your life."

Arcadia looked back at the screen and gestured. "Most of these commoners are not swarm parasites, nor Chaos mutants. Only a few bear the purple mark. I will go with my Arbitrators to determine the source of this madness."

The Inquisitor faced him.

"You tread a fine line, Arbitrator. You will bring this hive to heel. Forever." He looked at the screen, at the lurching figures emptying Ecclesiarchal coffers into the fire. "Or I will burn it from the memory of the Imperium."

"Yes, Inquisitor," said Arcadia. The man gave him a look and swept away.

Arcadia looked over at Brother Timotheus keenly.

"If this hive goes up in flames, what will you do, Brother? Will you take up your eviscerator and lay waste to the heretic?"

"I have no eviscerator," he said gravely. "The moment I believe that will happen I will invoke my charter as a mendicant and leave this place. I will go to the furthest port I can reach and resign myself to a hermitage, never again to look upon the works of man. Or I will start over in the most benighted village on the most irrelevant world I can find, and there I will die. You know I trust you, Arcadia."

"I know.” He looked down on the man, several years his elder, and then they parted.


The Old Man in the Garden

The Emperor is the light and the way for all men and women.

The interpretation of the Emperor, His nature, and His wishes for mankind, are of foremost concern to a great many holy men because of that.

It is such a great concern that being contradicted will drive many of them to violence.

As such, I am going to tell you about the Emperor as he is known to the Sages of Terra, but you must allow other men their views so long as they seek to serve the Emperor and to strengthen the Imperium. Do you understand?

In the beginning, there was Holy Terra, and it was a place of serenity. A garden, like this one, but covering all the world. It was like a field waiting to be furrowed, incomplete, and so Mankind was born to till it. The Emperor was born with Mankind, and it was His to make all the universe a garden for Mankind. He watched, and learned, and guided us as best He could while He made the ways of the universe known to Himself.

But there were many dangers. Brother warred against brother, and finally out of their iniquity their very tools turned against them. The soulless machines of the time nearly wiped us out. That is why our machines have souls now. So that they do not turn on us again.

This strife brought grief to the Emperor, so when He had finally learned enough about mankind and the spheres, He united all of the human race under one banner. Thus mankind prospered among the stars.

The old man thought for a time.

Mankind is not alone in this universe, boy. Before you can plant a garden, you have to go through and dig up the roots, pull the weeds and kill all the vermin. The universe is like that. There are pests, but they take many forms. They are monsters. We have to destroy them because if we don’t, they will destroy us. These creatures are called aliens.

The Emperor sought to spare us this danger, for He is compassionate beyond what you or I can know. He created angels to guard us, angels of death, called Astartes, to wreak destruction upon the alien. But the angels did not have our frailties, and thus they lacked our humility. A great many of them were taken with the idea that they were aliens too, not humans, and so they rebelled against the Emperor in the greatest war that has ever been known. This was the Emperor’s greatest challenge: his very children betrayed him, his sons killed each other in numbers that defy the ledger. Can you imagine how that must have hurt him? But he knew what needed to be done; for unlike these Astartes, his heart is full of compassion.

He fought for the people of the Imperium, and of course he won, but no one can be set upon by his own children and come away unscathed. The Emperor fought a duel with his firstborn son, the foremost of the traitors, Horus. The boy was slain, but the Emperor was gravely wounded. He could not die, but nor could his body be sustained, and so ever since that day he has lived on in the space between worlds, guiding us between our homes. He sacrificed himself on our behalf, and now he works every moment for our survival.

You owe the Emperor your life, as do I, and everyone in the Imperium. He is the greatest of us all, and his sacrifice is the example for how every Imperial citizen should live: wisely, forthrightly, powerfully, and with compassion for the good people among mankind. Those who deny the Emperor must be weeded out of the Imperium. By death.   

        “Do the aliens worship the Emperor?”
No, and they cannot worship the Emperor. They are cut off from his light forever, and so they are filled with hatred for mankind and our special charter. They live in shadows, and the only thing they want is to kill human beings and torture us.

        “Did the Emperor destroy all the angels?”
No. He would have been justified to do so, but his mercy is infinite. Those angels that did not betray him, he divided into tiny hosts and allowed them to wander the Imperium, throwing themselves against the alien and the heretic as penance. I warn you boy: there are still some of those dark angels from the Horus Heresy in this universe. They have gone to live with the daemons, which are evil spirits from deep space. Sometimes they come back to haunt us, for their bitterness cannot be measured. But today it falls to ordinary men to defend the Imperium.

        “What aliens are there?”
There are many. Some are like wild animals, others are more cunning, and some even have their own spaceships. The worst of them are the Eldar. They mimic the bodies of Mankind out of spite, for they live only to torture us. Their true forms are like great serpents. They were all born before the Emperor’s light shone upon the universe, so their hatred for us goes beyond what you can imagine. They come to our towns and villages just so that they can torture us in worse ways than your young mind can imagine, and then they make their clothes and ships out of our bones.

There are also some robots left over from the Age of Strife; they are very cold, very cold, and they envy our warm bodies, and so they take our skins to wear. And yet they can never get warm. And they can never learn better, for they are machines.

        “How do we fight them?”
We take weapons and we go to destroy them. Weapons are like tools, but for destroying aliens and anybody who works against the Emperor. I will not teach you forever, Arcadia. Someday, men from a great school will come to take you away to be educated, and they will teach you how to use weapons. But there are many ways to serve the Emperor, and the school will determine which you will do best.

        “What are the ways?”
A boy like you has a special responsibility to the Imperium. It has been decided that you will hold a position of great honor, and great hardship. The common people have their ways of serving the Emperor; they till the great fields, they fix buildings, they make weapons, and they stand shoulder to shoulder to defend the Imperium. But boys like you, boys with no parents, have been singled out to do the hardest jobs of all. Jobs that one must train his whole life to do properly.

If they see that you have a faculty with numbers, then you will go to the Administratum, and you will make sure that the Imperium, which is like a great tractor with many parts, is running the way it was meant to. If you are skilled at thinking strategically, like in a game of blocks, they will teach you how to command a voidship or to lead soldiers into battle. If you are able to speak well, you may go to the Ecclesiarchy and serve others in their worship of the Emperor. If your heart burns for the Emperor all day long, then you may become a Commissar and go to war in the Emperor’s name. And if you are strong, fast and brave, you may become a Tempestus Scion, who are the finest warriors in all the Imperium.”

Arcadia’s heart raced at this last prospect. The old man sat and thought.
“There are also the Arbites; they enforce the Emperor’s law in wicked places, and if you are not strong enough to become a Scion, you may become an Arbitrator.”

        “Don’t worry about that. I will be strong, fast and brave.”
The old man laughed.
“Well, I see how you’re inclined. But don’t think to argue with the Schola. They will put you where you are needed.”
This thought disturbed Arcadia.


Arbitrators in a Failing Hive

Enter two ARBITRATORS
Penitentio, Arbitrator
Arcadia, Arbitrator

P: You have seen destruction beyond measure. Even the Sisters ruin men with their chainswords and delight in their blood. Every creature in the Imperium and beyond seem to be predator and prey, and the prey long to be predators. The workmen starve, freeze, and then are crushed when the hive collapses. There is no reason for this, or it is lazy neglect. They are skinned alive by Eldar, hunted for sport by gangers, sacrificed by cults, and they are probably even eaten alive by your ‘Green Dragon’. It’s not only the workers who suffer. I mention them because at least they add value. But laborious and downtrodden as they are, they still beat anyone to death who they think is a witch or heretic. They believe that the evil eye of their neighbor is making them impotent, and then after the murder the Ecclesiarchy and Mechanicus send Titus Plumber into a technological hell for their petty needs.

A: You’re just listing reasons for us to be here, brother.

P: It’s better that we’re here, yes. That’s why I walk the beat with you. But look at the Imperium we have known. Look at this hive. Look at how people live. Little better than rats. The Emperor Protect them because we can’t. Not when the day of reckoning comes. What will that look like, Arcadia? What will the Imperium come to?

A: We’re on a Hive World. Things aren’t like this everywhere. They were different where I was raised.

P: Were they? There might have been rocks and trees, but from what you’ve told me, there were also wars, massacres, and plagues. Tyranny. 

A: Order. And it was better than Chaos.

P: Yes, tyranny is better than Chaos. But there can be freedom without the influence of the Dark Gods.

A: I know that. I see it every day in the techno-barbarians of the underhive. A beautiful existence.

P: That’s not freedom! Your walks by night are freedom! Completely noncompliant, but I would never report you for it. Because that is freedom. You break our law… you risk everything to do it. It’s that important to you.

A: I do what I do in service of the Arbites and the Emperor. Nothing I’ve done is outside the spirit of our law.

P: It’s not just service. You know that without the freedom to do what one’s conscience tells him to do, existence itself loses all meaning.

A: I don’t know that. Life can be found when the body is caged. We could be captured by gangers. The only thing that would bring us through would be knowledge of the Emperor’s love and the example of His sacrifice. Not freedom.

P: But that is what your conscience compels you to do. To bask in the Emperor’s light.

A: My friend, I love my nighttime walks, but what does that have to do with the travails of the Imperium? 

P: The people live like rats. You see this every day. Yet they cannot palliate themselves. They aren’t allowed to fix the problems around them. Everything must be handed up to the Ecclesiarchy, the Mechanicus, Adeptus Terra, the Arbites.

A: If most people tried to do what we do, they would die. I’ve nearly been killed many times.

P: And yet it’s better to walk into danger with courage than to wait in your hovel for it to come in and take you like a newlywed.

A: So should everyone be trained as an Arbites? Or make decisions for the Administratum?

P: We don’t even give people the chance. It was sheer freak luck that we became Progena, and then Arbitrators. How many people in this Hive could do our job, if they were trained like we were trained? We’ll never find out. Weld here, pray there.

A: You remember the ones who didn’t make it through the Schola. They suffered and then they died. They couldn’t give a thing to the Emperor but their souls. It quickens my heart just to think of it.

P: Not everybody has to go through the Schola. Many could become stronger if their Emperor-given talents were cultivated instead of being crushed into rote meniality.

A: Regular people can be heroes, too. I’ve heard of PDF troopers and Frateris Militiamen driving back Eldar, Orks, and gangers.

P: Yes. And I love those stories, but they’re flashes in the pan. What do those people go back to? The warrens, where there’s no hope.

A: I’m not sure that’s true. Experiences like that probably shape the way that they live, don’t you think? And the lives of their friends and children.

P: That could be. But think of this. That inspiration could manifest itself outside of battle, too. If people were free to innovate, this hive might not be such a hellhole.

A: Perhaps. I don’t disagree with you, but these are times of great risk. The Imperium is like a tight fist right now. I’m not sure we could fight if we let ourselves slacken.

P: Yes, maybe. But can we survive the path that we’re walking? Every day, catastrophe strikes the Imperium. Every day armies are wiped out, manufactorums are destroyed, and knowledge slips away. Fleets disappear into the Warp. Great men are corrupted or mutated. Are we going to fight over it as it burns? Or can we adapt ourselves to it?

A: What do you propose? Do away with the Ecclesiarchy or the Administratum? Every man, woman and child in this hive would tear you limb from limb for proposing it.

P: Not exactly. But the Imperium is… well, it was ideal in the previous age, but planets would do better if each could be governed by its own inhabitants, the way they were before the Great Crusade. Then they could adapt to their own circumstances instead of receiving irrelevant doctrine.

Arcadia’s cheeks go red and he glances around. He leans in and whispers,

A: And what of the Emperor, then? Is there no value at in the thing He built from His mind and eye? By His name, the Imperium may not be perfect, but at least it keeps men from Chaos. If each world had its own way, there’s no telling how deep into horror they might descend, given the terrible things we already do to each other as-is.

P: The Emperor… I would never speak against the Emperor, Arcadia, even as I criticize the Imperium, which today is a work of Man. But the story of the Emperor can be interpreted in many ways. Think of the Primitive Worlds whose pagan beliefs have been syncretized with the Imperial Cult by the Ecclesiarchy. They have no idea of what the Emperor did and what he means to the Imperium at large. But they worship him, and that is sufficient, even if their ways are foreign to us.

A: But why do they worship Him? The same reasons that we worship Him. The Emperor brought us through the Imperium’s darkest hour. In fact, He gave His waking life to do so. Can you imagine if the Space Marines turned on us today? Whatever our problems are, we can’t even imagine that. When He was betrayed by His sons, what did He do? When He saw them tear each other to pieces? When the whole Imperium went up in flames? When He was forced to kill His most trusted servant, who crippled Him with his own hand? What did He do? He held the Imperium together. He kept mankind unified. He gave His life for it. Then in dying He walked into the warp, hell itself, on our behalf. How many ways of interpreting His story are there? Which is more powerful than that? We owe it to Him to follow in His footsteps and to keep the faith in the Imperium.

P: Good! Very well said! So the Emperor is an ideal. But the Ecclesiarchy and the Tithe are not! Let him bridge the Warp, and we can use it to trade for what we need, not merely for the delivery of orders and tithes.

A: An Imperium run by Rogue Traders? May the Emperor preserve us. There is a reason that on Knight Worlds the merchants are held in contempt. A man has higher purposes. And what should happen now that we’ve been cut off from the Imperium? Surely we can’t trade for food.

P: This world is rich with water. Nothing is stopping us from setting up an agricultural system. This hive could be a heaven on earth with proper guidance. The Arbites and Sororitas hold the mandate of the Emperor here. If the Planetary Governor refuses to adapt in the face of starvation and obliteration, we’ll take charge of things.

A: Hold now, brother. He hasn’t stepped out of line yet. And assuming he did, there are rules about how to govern a world in absence of an Imperial Governor. For one thing, the Inquisitor would become the head of state until contact could be reestablished with Holy Terra.

P: True. Don’t worry brother, this is all just talk. I confide in you because I know that you can handle a thought without opening fire on me. Whatever happens, all we need to be concerned about is protecting the future of this Hive.


Captured Cultists

A pre-Khornate cultist and a Slaaneshi

PKC: I have seen brutality that defies description. There is no higher law in the Imperium. I’ve seen good people ruined by violence, their killers and maimers unknown, unpunished. What are all the voidships, Basilisks and lasguns? Pure force. The Emperor’s divine right. His right is in his weapons.

Look at the creeping things. Look at the servo-cherubs. We live in a waking nightmare. If you have ever lived one holy moment in your life you know what a parody of beatitude this is. This rat-trap. Have you ever seen the delight in a murderer’s face? After he’s killed an innocent and walks away with their blood on his boots? Screaming, still dying, over nothing? There is a man with divine right. On a divine mission. The son of a god. The highest purpose of man, embodied. And then the lust in his woman’s eyes.

Are we made in the Emperor’s image? The great conqueror’s image? The slaughterer of whole races? The deadliest warrior to have ever lived? And the greatest tyrant? Why shall we not keep the faith then, with his sword arm? With his naked blade? He who enslaved the universe. He who bound us to our every factory and dirt patch. Ten thousand years of slavery. He put us in chains… and it was his right, I suppose. Who might gainsay him? Horus, who lies dead and buried. 

As does the Emperor. Let us gain from his example, yes, but not be chained to the ghost of a ghost. Whatever his spirit does to the warp, he is dead here, and his lovers work no miracles. He cleared out barbarians and built his bastions. He slaughtered whatever knaves dared raise their eyes to him, and in the end the sword claimed him too. He is the example, but not the king. So who are the others who bind us? The fat, soft, mewling eunuchs of the ecclesiarchy and their rabid dogs and bitches. The “Imperial Guard”, who long for freedom and go rogue at the drop of a hat. The Astartes, locked in a death struggle with the deadliest predators in the galaxy; we are beneath their vision, should we be careful. The Arbites, pitifully few. Who can say this is an edifice that cannot be tipped over? You say we serve Chaos; I say we are free of a captor.

S: We do not serve chaos! All is chaos! You are a speck in a whirling sea! You speak of the Emperor but you are just a forgotten plaything of the real gods! There can be no structure, no order, no plans! All folly! There is but hand against hand for a breath of air in the maelstrom!

A: You’re wrong. Chaos does not preclude order. 

C: It does in this hive! In this system! Its time has come, as it will for all things...

A: No. There is entropy, but by will, faith and a cold eye we rebuild and bring order to chaos again. 

C: Enough! There is one thing that never changes, and that is the agony of witnessing self-deception! Grant me my afterlife, for I hear the daemons call...


Why Doesn’t He Save Them?

Arcadia, the purpose of the Ecclesiarchy is to minister to the souls of the Emperor’s people. You live a good life here but the time will come when you see what is the lot of the many souls of this Imperium, and you’ll realize that just continuing to labor on in the galaxy we inhabit is no mean feat. There is a reason that we continue to face the Enemy and will always face him in some guise or another. The thing that becomes corrupt is already inside of you. It will become corrupt if you do not understand what you labor and fight for.

All this, he gestured around the quiet garden, is, to me… he thought deeply, if not the best thing that one can know, at least conditions that should prevail when a man is at repose. Places like this are known to almost no one, from the highest noble to the meanest workman to the most debased criminal. They are all caught in deadly traps, particular to their own classes. 

        “Why? Why can’t they have this? It’s so simple.”
The old man looked at the stars.
We live at the very edge of things, Arcadia. There is much that we are sheltered from by the labors and privations of men you will never meet.

He looked at Arcadia.

You will pay your toll too someday. You will stand at the frontline or the furnace. That is why I speak to you of these things. Not idly. You will not play among the berries like a squirrel your whole life, and when you reach your station you will need to know why you must endure, or you will not.

        “Why must I endure?” It was the simplest way to ask.
Because every man around you is a vessel of the Emperor’s light. The Emperor intended a life of honest labor, repose, prayer, contemplation and plenty for His servants. But conditions do not yet permit this. We cannot all sit at the Emperor’s table and break bread with Him as we wish to. Instead we are called to stand by His side in battle. To some, that is the highest ideal. It is a great honor indeed.

He knelt and spoke quietly.

But that is not the Emperor’s final purpose for His children. The wars He fought were to create a sanctuary where this could be. He gestured around.

When you fight, this is what you will fight for. Garden, library, open sky, and our descendants.

        “Do the people out there not have such things?”
In the main they do not, or they cannot use them as we do. You’ll see in time. You will remember this life, for you are one of the very few who has known it. This place is a shrine, a grove to the Emperor. You must carry the spirit of this place wherever you go.

       “I will, Father. You said we must always face the Enemy. That he will always come to being in some way. Why is that?”
The Enemy is unique among mankind’s foes in that he takes his initiates exclusively from our numbers.

What happens is this.

Perhaps your world is destroyed by the Alien while you are on a journey and everyone you have ever loved is devoured by beasts. Or worse, your world is being conquered by a foe, and so the Navy destroys it at the Inquisition’s behest-

        “What? How could that ever happen? Why would they do that?” *Tears came to Arcadia’s eyes.
Now, sweet child… the old man’s face fell, The decisions we must face in our life are not of our own making. Who would set himself such a choice, that millions of good men and women be felled by his own hand, or that they all be set to the purposes of the enemy that millions more may die?

Arcadia was crying.
        “That’s… harsh.”
It is, my boy. But we are not the Emperor, that we might reshape matter at will and save the many where the enemy is overpowering. We must work with the tools that we have, and they are not always enough to save those caught up in the axle. But we must still labor, fight, and choose, such as we can, so that as many can be saved as might ever have ever been.

        “Why doesn’t the He save them?”
The old man looked at the sky.
Because they will sit by His side in death. He is fighting a war of His own in Heaven. The forces that we face transcend this mortal realm.

He plucked a blade of grass and held it, then let it fall.

There are dark forces. They are stitched deeply into our reality. The Emperor’s eye is turned to rooting them out. Only his most trusted servants aid him in that task. Count yourself lucky that you have not been called upon for this.

He glanced into the darkest part of the sky, then looked down at Arcadia from where he sat on his light wooden bench.

We have our own weeds to root out, and we are blessed for this, terrible as our foes may be.

        “Its so cruel. Why do things have to work this way?”
Some people ask that question and never come to an answer. That is where the danger lies, and where the Ecclesiarchy’s first duty is found. Some decide that the Emperor is dead, because they have never looked upon his face.

        “What?”
The old man raised a finger.

The Emperor lives because ships can travel through space.

He lowered his finger.

The danger comes when a man has never looked clearly at the good that the Emperor has made, but the power of the Enemy is made all too clear to him. So he says that the only Gods are the Chaos Gods, and the universe reflects their nature. And so all of the horror and destruction makes sense. It becomes a good thing: this is the will of the Gods. He sees their works everywhere. He calls it good and joins in the revel.

Some become killers, others thieves, others mere apostates who undermine the good works of the Emperor and Imperium so that more may fall from light unto their varying sins. Those that walk among desperadoes may openly speak of their revelations, but others hide their hand and speak their piece as Imperial citizens.

The Ecclesiarchy would by and large simply crush these whisperers, but I caution you there; quick brutality will drive more souls into the darkness. Keep your fell hand ready, but first show the glory of the Emperor in your words and deeds. That will be holy fire enough. Few are so far gone that they must be torn out root and branch. But never forget that such men exist. The Emperor’s mercy is for all, but it is for the wellbeing of the Imperium that some must give their lives before they receive it.

        “Why?”
He sighed.
Not all men control their own bodies. Some share them with spirits. That is why when you find yourself off the path you must find it again and quickly, for there are ghosts in the darkness who will enter you like wasp larvae. Some come from the Warp and leave burning footprints in the sand. They claw their way in through your flesh. Some slip into you if you have uttered cursed words, but this you must do willingly. But some spirits live within you already, not yet daemons, but rather like machine spirits. They serve their purposes but may become corrupted like a bad liver should you give them enough pique. Then they become daemons, and you become a mutant. You may see this in men who have grown horns, whips, and toad legs.

        “Horns?”
Yes, my boy. Now, some deformities may come from the sun or the soil, or from good service in the Emperor’s name. If the Enemy cannot manage slaying you then he may maim you and this is a badge of honor. And sometimes our bodies just wither and die by the Emperor’s will alone, for he needs us early in the war in heaven. A fact that turns many from Him. But some maladies are born in the soul.

        “So people turn into the Enemy when they get upset enough?”
That is one thing that can happen. But it is always a choice. You will know this when it comes, and by the Emperor, remember this place and remember my words. Do not let it make you a slave to darkness. Remember this place. Remember my words. Give your soul balm, not bile.

He sat back heavily. There was silence for some time save for the chirping of birds and the buzzing of green insects.

But there is not only pain. Now I will tell you of fear, and desire. 

Art - First Run