Sunday, March 21, 2021

Artpunk Adventure: Silicasilk

Summary: A mad subterranean plunder-hunt, like sun Vikings in a luxurious Hel the surfacers seek to strip every ounce of the precious silicasilk from outrĂ© underworld civilizations to be sold across the oceans. At the terminus of this worldroot is a legendary ring of giant geodes which contain the souls of a lost civilization's Jonestown moment when they crushed themselves into the foundations of the earth. These souls are your ultimate prize if you can return them to the surface without allowing them to wreak their ultimate revenge on their destroyers along the way, thus throwing your journey into the chaos of underground warfare, atrocity, and tectonic destruction.

Areas are arranged linearly as a descent.


The vast arctic plain is icy black beneath the white night sky where the billowing clouds are given life by the sun-silver moon.

The snow is laced with volcanic ash and falls black onto your skin, spotting you leprous or leopardlike. It melts like mascara tears in sootblack streaks of tigerstripe.

In the ground there are cast iron redoubts and hideouts poured into concrete moulds and set. The concrete is gone and there are dark awnings, concave crescent walls between arched doorways into shadow. Black snow is piled high overhead and underfoot in the smooth semicircle valleys where the dugout-redoubts were cut into the walls of rock.

There are signal fires at intervals around this place. It would be impossible to spot otherwise. From the volcanoside the eight flames on the scarred plain of blackness mark the buckling eruption of a younger, more-vibrant Hell.

That is the fear. This place was chosen to be settled and fortified because the caves here lead to a sump which opens into the greater underdark. A watery umbilical cord to the underworld.

Guards watch the sump in small caverns burning with the dung of polar bears and seals. They bar the way to their fastnesses with pavises emblazoned with renditions of underworld predators, upperworld legends, saints, virgins, chalky dicks with “pleased to meet you” etc scrawled on them. Each man keeps a pike laid against his pavise for quick access and has a pair of dragon blunderbuss pistols hanging about his neck by a watch with a pair of long chains to the pommels. Their load is antimony-hardened buckshot but they can also take rock salt (which illuminates the agonized foe should there be any ambient light). These firearms have barrels shaped like serpents, falcons, earthworms, penis heads, olm frills. One such gun has functional fangs that will envenom a foe who is cut by them.

One of the guards has a big, fluffy white dog with him. It is a sled dog but is also bred to be a warming dog, as in it will lay on you to keep you warm. If you are lagging behind he will tackle you and lay on you because you are the source of food. The guard will sell you this dog for five ounces of gold.

The sump looks like the gullet of a snake. It is 5' wide. A film of water awaits you. The water of the sump is ice cold and entering it feels like you are being stabbed through every inch of your skin. Entering it requires a Will check; take +2 if you are being pursued by hostile forces. Silicasilk is not destroyed by the water.


This is a vast cavern ripe with fungi of every color and description.

The absolute floor of the cavern is not visible even by some form of dark vision. It's all columns and bridges, ramps of stone, an escherscape of mineral curtains all the way down. Everywhere you look there are seams of rock crystal, buttery ore, weeping fungi, vistas of gems scattered across the walls like a God’s haughty charity. Like an aurora borealis caught underneath the earth and eroded through the stone across epochs.

There are scouts at the bottom.

These men were blinded at birth and live their lives from the outposts of their civilization, never to see the polities they protect. They move slowly but relentlessly because they touch everything with their hands before advancing like the whole world was a wall to be climbed. They can hear your heartbeat.

Those who took to the practice later in life wear valuable blindfolds of silicasilk. This is the most precious commodity in the world in terms of weight to value. Its origins are unknown. The scouts do not know its origins; only that they take it at war against those deeper in the earth.

They operate in teams of two. The teams tend to perch along the walls and columns using their climbing gear but may be encountered on a lateral sojourn through this cavern and its adjacent underlands.

Each scout team carries a 12’ smoothbore called a shafter on their shoulders. It is a punt gun wrapped in climbing equipment and it fires a blast of hundreds of 00 steel ball bearings which can ricochet up a curving tunnel for a hundred yards or more. The stone shrapnel of such a blast can be just as deadly as the balls. 

Its length and bore are intended to channel a shockwave up the tunnel but the firers still suffer.

It loads a massive charge of gunpowder requiring 15 minutes to properly pour.

The gunners can fire across caverns from wall to wall because their climbing gear includes means of winching up their gun. Each man carries a pair of short blades. After they fire their weapon, they roll it off their shoulders like a log and then charge in to finish off the wounded and disoriented foe. If there are multiple teams present one will form a backstop. If the advanced teams are driven from the melee they will fall behind the live gun and it’ll fire on their pursuers.

Gun charges are cylindrical and come with a leather carrying handle. Oftentimes they hang from the gun itself while the scout teams travel. The charges are divided by a leather disc, half gunpowder and half ball bearings. They make potent anti-personnel mines should a trail of gunpowder be traced to them.

For a symbol the scouts have a wide, terrified eye raised in polished sandstone so that they can feel it with their fingers. They are bald, pale, and most have a streaked scar from temple to temple where the acid was poured.

If you exit downwards from this cavern you will approach the crown jewel of their civilization- the fastness of the Sepia King of Stygoziana.


This is the personal fief of the Sepia King.

You approach via 7’ x 7’ tunnel. There are veins of chalky crystal lining the walls here but they are not a natural feature. They are powdered arsenic set into a ceramic which coats a thin line of gunpowder. These white veins terminate at a guard post at the end of the tunnel where they can be safely detonated against intruders. This fills the tunnel with a choking dust of powdered arsenic. You cannot see the guard post until you are closer but they are likely to hear you.

As you come nearer to the guard post the veins begin to meld together into little strands like the veins of leaves terminating into twigs. Between them now the powdered death ivory has been inlaid into little intricate scenes designed to attract the eye and then horrify and demoralize the viewer before being detonated into his gaping face. Guards watch from embrasures in their lightless fastness.

Each individual story chain can be detonated from the guardpost so as to target individuals, whereas the veins further out in the tunnel must be detonated all at once.

Several warriors guard this redoubt. 

They are wispy waifish men all curly tousled hair, poutiness, earrings. Do not confuse this delicacy for the lack of viciousness. In this place, it marks the opposite. Those permitted to be dandies are killers. The least dangerous men in this fortress look rough and tough like poor peasants or weatherbeaten longshoremen. This is purely an effect of early aging.

Once you enter the fortress you’re likely to see a warrior strike a rough and boring laborer with the speed of a viper and the maliciousness of a cat. The laborer could overpower the warrior if both of them were unarmed but he doesn't know that.

One of the warriors of the guard post is a surfacer who became stuck at the citadel in his quest for the precious silicasilk. He came following a legend of a deep, decadent civilization where the men have forgotten how to fight and do nothing but spin silicasilk. To plunder such a place would make a man rich beyond imagining. This is not that civilization.

He wears a necklace shaped like a chariot pulled by mythological beasts, and on the back of his breastplate he has painted death as a mounted mercenary of the type farmers across the world fear more than plague.

He carries a red-bladed flamberge with a golden cup for a hilt; he pours out death.

Beyond the redoubt is the hall of the sepia king.

Bright red spiraling sashes loop around stalactites. They bear stitchframed pictures above a continuous frill of golden tassels like a curtain’s hem.

Band-shaped flags hang from stalactites in hoops of color.

Pillows on stone benches cut from the very walls, luminous things in pastel teal and pink and violet.

All are precious silicasillk.

Servants turn to face you as you enter. They wait on tables in the shadows set with game pieces at play, stone steins, earthware decanters pale blue in the darkness.

Their socks, gloves and cravats are precious silicasilk.

The warriors freeze with their palms on the tables, scarcely armed with stilettos and strangler’s cords.

Their sashes, neckerchiefs and eyepatches are precious silicasilk.

There is a woman officiating a banquet here. She is dressed in a single red ribbon and that she has wrapped around herself many hundreds of times in spiral crosshatches. A tight binding about the waist to draw out her hourglass. The ribbon forms her sandals and terminates in her hair, weaving in and out of her brown curls like a sea serpent.

Her ribbon is precious silicasilk and she wears a great golden crescent on her forehead like a buttery moon.

The ribbon is the garb of Stygozianian women. Each wears it differently, from a broad black band woven into an austere bodysuit to a single jade strand playing about the shoulders like a snake. Their flesh is as cold as ice and they would find you like demons of heat. However, if you aren’t a warrior and you aren’t interesting and graceful these women will mock you relentlessly

Above this hall is the reception chamber of the King of Stygoziana. It is like a full-service theater box from which the Sepia King of Stygoziana observes his subjects. You may spot his eyes when you look around the hall.

His chamber is sepia and so is his throne, but the silicasilk carpet is crimson and the candlesticks adamantine. He wears purple, like a king.

Silicasilk runs from a ring in his nose, covering his mouth and dividing in two near his solar plexus like a great purple moustache. It terminates at his gold bracelets. Naturally you could strip this and run but you'd drag him a ways before his bracelets came free. Not a bad way to take a prisoner. He wears a purple hood that is tied close to his head, but this is linen and not silicasilk. His only visible flesh is between his brow and his nose: huge, mad, orange eyes.

Should the party have managed to enter peacefully, the Sepia King has one offer for them: you may marry into his royal family should you bring him 100 Typhoean foreskins as proof of the owners' destruction. The greatest living Stygozianan warrior has only taken 78 and he is currently laid up wounded. The king refers to the Typhoeans as “vermin” and “the insect-men from the deep.” He knows little of their ways, never having fought them personally.

Below the grand hall is a larder and an armory. 

The larder is first. Servants flit to and fro here and laborers come from their forges in the armory to help themselves. Stygoziana is the land of frozen seafood. It feeds itself off of subterranean rivers and the dark ice of the surface world touches the tunnels here. The larders are simply icebeds in the walls laden with shrimp, clams, cavefish and lobster.

Beyond the larder is the armory. Should the players have mounted an assault on this hold, the heavy infantry will march from the armory to dispose of them. These are the king's personal retainers.

They are like gothic iron lizardmen. Their armor is forged to resemble snakes, snails, alligators, cave lobsters, dragons. They draw themselves up and sit against their tails when they fire for the tail is part and parcel with their weapon systems. 

Some of their weapons billow thermobaric fire-filaments which are subsequently set alight after drifting for some time, and suck the lungs out of their foes. Others fire shaped charges which are stored in the tail and superpressurize tunnel sections to crush their foes from the inside out. Others still hiss desiccation gas into their enemy’s presumed position.

Some of them have armor of finely-worked crystal and you can see the warrior inside. This is in imitation of the translucent cavern creatures. Oftentimes he is shirtless and a direct hit will pool his blood inside his breastplate. You will see him suffer. 

Their captain’s tongue is a rocket, and he will light it with his teeth.

You can hear the metal tails of heavy infantry dragging over the rough stone as they approach your position. It is a horrible sound.

There are 96 determined heavy infantrymen and the party is unlikely to defeat the Stygozianan garrison without using some kind of WMD. However, they will not pursue the party into Typhoea.

Past the second guard post, the exit tunnel is a horrific morass of razorwire. Bundles of the shit tangle the air and totally bar the way. When it's time to let someone through, the men of the guard post turn a winch which tightens the wires and straightens them into where they emerge from the walls so that a person could actually pick his way through the laser corridor of perfectly straight wires. When they slacken the corridor returns to being a pipe clogged with razor sharp hair and god help you should you be here when that happens.


You enter the capital greenhouse and breadbasket of the Typhoeans.

This is a cave region of hanging fungal agglomerative vines, thick carpets of moss that squelch hot water over your feet as you pass, a dewy mist in the air that makes everything clammy and alternatingly chills and threatens to overheat you. A thunderous thermal waterfall crashes upon rocks and lends its mist and humidity into every corner of these caverns.

The vines are some kind of flower-tendril; tangled yellow locks like hair amongst languid vines. They pass through hanging moss garlands and herbal entanglements.

From the corners snake sickly-sweet flowers with sawtoothed petals in opulent bloom above stones damp with their natal warmth.

These plants are fed by a radiance field emitted from a bulbous central cavern. This field suppresses the immune systems of all who enter it without gaining the biological permission of its denizens. As such. the party will begin to be overwhelmed by bacteria and suffer from dangerous flu symptoms after about a day, and any existing diseases will be drastically worsened. Individuals who are already immunocompromised will suffer from an immune response brought to near-undetectability, and will be incapacitated after a day, dead in two. This realm is highly bacterial and hostile to intruders.

The party will soon begin to encounter patrols of Typhoean warriors. This is their realm. They are hulking and have rough, pale skin like white rhinos. Should the party run away, they will witness these warriors emitting strange whiplike extensions from their fingertips in lieu of climbing gear, which are also capable of grappling the PCs from a distance. Should the PCs hide, these warriors will explore the crevices of the cavern with their extensions, which on close examination resemble a limp, fleshy tape.

These are the parasite-people. The warriors have worms which act as extra muscle and secrete androgens. Further in, there are peons and the shepherds of camel sloths. These people all have parasites which secrete tranquilizers or stimulants depending on pheromones from a control parasite embedded in the body of a nearby noble. They can shut down commoners, and so could you if you had such a parasite.

The warriors and nobles are privileged with a parasite living behind their eyes which gives darkvision, amplifying existing light, and thermal vision, which aids in hunting. If you shoot this guy in the head and it explodes you’ll see chunks of the parasite go flying too.

The warriors wear heavy silicasilk cloaks patterned with vistas, warrior heraldry, dramatic scenes, stygian hunting beasts or chemical diagrams. Tectonic patterns (which are the astrology of the deep), and veiny ore underlays like the neuronal structure of a brain or universe. Every one of these cloaks is very valuable for its cloth of silk, but it is potentially more valuable for the things it depicts. The trouble will be matching a subject with an appropriate buyer, because the cloaks are dramatically esoteric.

Their primary weapons are matchlock harpoon guns. These fire chitinous tracking parasites linked to the warrior's parasitic suite. Once the parasite is implanted, the warrior can toggle starvation food-interception and dissociation/self-sabotage neurotransmitter effects on its host. A wounded, fleeing foe has not truly escaped.

They also carry grenades that splash those nearby with fungal residue, causing massive cysts to erupt in their flesh. These cysts are largely harmless but critically bog down the victim and take a long time to drain properly. The warriors carry huge obsidian knives to drain your cysts, or your blood if they won't be taking you prisoner.

When you reach the central cavern, you will see that it is a kind of aerial ranch. It is brightly lit and filled with sprigs of greenery; spice herbs of every description and sweet forms of watercress in v-shaped rock troughs. Huge, tan sloths hang from low stalactites by their claws. They lean their white-maned heads back to receive food poured down their gullets by stiff and wizened sloth shepherds overseen by bored and erratic nobles.

The shepherds feed the camel sloths a molten margarine of oxidized synthetic paraffin wax derived from coal. They love their animals and give the margarine flavor with a variety of herbs and sweeteners. The Typhoeans occasionally eat this margarine as well but consider it a starvation food.

The camel sloths are covered with little fleshy nibs here and there. These are the heads of long worms that live inside their bodies. Whenever a Typhoean is hungry, he’ll come to a camel sloth and suck down a worm like meat spaghetti. This is how they eat while at home. When on journeys, they can draw out their own colorectal parasites for sustenance.

In the heart of this underworld ranch is a great black stone. Walk around it until you see a great strip of salmon-colored flesh like an iguana with a hundred little flagella legs and no head. This great parasite has transcended the need for its native realm, but, like a Buddha, remains near so that it can guide and protect its people. Freed from any need for a human host, this parasite basks on a stretch of wall waving its antennae through the air. This generates the radiance field needed to sustain the plant life in these caverns and suppress the immune systems of those not in possession of a Typhoean parasite.

If the Buddhic parasite of Typhoea dies, so too dies the lush greenery which its emanations maintain. With no hope of sustaining their camel sloths the Typhoeans will tearfully euthanize their beloved beasts and immediately invade their neighboring realms: Stygoziana above and another civilization below. They will conquer or die.

Standing serenely atop this great black rock is the Queen in Green, monarch and despot of Typhoea. She is redheaded but her freckles have fallen away, leaving empty flesh where they once stood so that blood continually runs down her face.

She wears white gloves which go halfway up her vibrant white biceps. Her skin has never been touched by the sun. Two white ribbons of cloth extend from her arms to the small of her back with ivory and bone hanging from them- statues, fetishes, shishkebabs of bead-heads, spikes of subdued light. Across her shoulders she wears something like a fur, but it is made up of soft, green, bushy herbs. A long, green serpent-form twists almost invisibly among these sprigs. It weaves its way around her arm from underneath her nail. It appears to be headless, like the creature on the rock.

She can detonate parasites that are inside of you. This leads to fissures, blood poisoning and compound fractures. She will use this to get what she wants.

Sun-strengthened surfacers are of great appeal to her. If any party members are particularly robust, beauteous, dangerous-looking or impetuous, then she will single them out for an audience. She prefers prowess matched with arrogance in men, but inexperience and curiosity in women.

Her bed is a grand spiderweb of ghostly pale silicasilk set at an angle. Sex with her will inject parasites into you.

When the men and women of this civilization make love, then too will their parasites mate. You will see their bodies wrapped here and there with slick, reedy ropes which curl about one another in true lovers’ knots and stain their sheets with a translucent residue.

Should you make love to a woman of this civilization in her earthwax bower you will find soft worms slipping up your rectum and urethra. Should you surrender to a man, you will feel bundles of tape-serpents moving through you.

Finishing with the Queen in Green feels like being stabbed in the soul as it’s made clear what you’ve done or what’s been done to you.

Further sex may be used to reinforce the power of her hold on you, to inject new parasites, and to recalibrate the ones already inside you. The queen of the parasites lives in the Queen in Green; parasites injected in this way are her agents and may self-detonate should they find you defying their Lady, but their intelligence is alien and their understanding imperfect. Certain drugs could dull them to be surgically removed. Otherwise they will explode when you attempt to draw them out.

An extended battle here will draw warriors from all over Typhoea.

As you depart Typhoea and descend, you will near the source of the silicasilk. The Stygozianans raid Typhoea for it, and the Typhoeans trade for it with the industrial fortress of Asterica.


The narrow tunnel turns and suddenly opens into a dizzyingly vast cavern. Great stone bulwarks hunker beneath a titanic ridged vault wall. They are a fortress shaped like a bisected log with wide ridges and grooves at intervals down its front like bands about a tree. Great livid banners of silicasilk have been flung out from its alures. They contain more silicasilk than could be imagined in Stygoziana or Typhoea.

You see bridges here and there which extend from the fortress to the great floor of the cave, and there is amber light at the tunnel mouths. There are catwalks between balconies and outcroppings on the fortress's exterior. Silver skeletons which seem hazy and furred march precisely along these ramps and walkways.

On closer inspection these skeletons are glazed in lead to weight their bones. Each bone is subsequently flanged with blades so that the whole skeleton seems to be made up of deadly feathers. In its ribcage is a cask made of shale. This is a bomb.

Running along the length of their bones are articulating wires, axles and cams, mechanisms driven watch-like by a central mechanism above the cask in the chest; windup centrifuges kept in balance by a spinning die tip on a radial spirit level adjust their step as they advance along the bridge or tunnel. You hear whirling driveshafts, clinking cam followers and purring gear assemblies. The skeletons clatter and spark off of each other's deadly blades.

When struck but not detonated their mechanism weeps bulbs of carrot-colored engine grease. 

The skeletons of the outer guardposts bear heraldry, dazzle camouflage, or are black to bake them into the shadows. They are eulogies to their former owners and are a form of sacred tax paid by their family. They decorate the bones and this reflects their wealth and taste. Thus a skeleton may bear the regalia of kingship, or piety, wealth, or shameful contrition. They may be gilded or without any decoration whatsoever.

It might be some time before you see people. They come furtively and set their iron skeletons marching at you from the shadows before slipping away in a hurried retreat.

Some skeletons trail deadly greenish gas, others spray unlit naptha across the walls to be set afire by a subsequent skeleton.

Both men and women dress exclusively in robes of silicasilk dyed with the powder of crushed luminous gems or the ink of Stygian bivalves.

In battle, men drag six foot by three foot iron tubes across the stone by leather straps hoisted about their chests. They stand the tubes up and open them and out come the ticking marching skeletons. The skeleton detonates after marching a distance set by the wielder, and their lead-weighted, blade-covered bones make for extraordinarily deadly shrapnel.

In a battle they will march their skeletons down every hallway and staircase at you in a relentless, explosive tide. Their stairs are measured to receive the step of the skeletons.

The interior of the fortress is a honeycomb of infinite pitfalls. 

The rooms are lit by orange crystal in wrought iron cylinders cut with intricate designs and patterns which cast light throughout this place in highly uneven but distractingly intriguing shapes, for many of these crystal cylinders tell stories like Attic pottery.

The halls ripple with luminous neon tapestries in hexagrammic or nettled incomplete concentric rings that seem to rotate in an optical illusion; nets of joined Xs, pink and black, lime green and black, purple and black, teal and black.

As you approach the heart of the fortress, the light changes from freestanding cylinders to hidden compartments cut into the walls. Vents of light made of energized crystal. The air becomes a dazzle camouflage and here you barely see the skeletons move, you just see them in various states of advance. When these crystals are electrified defensively via hand crank stations they will begin to slowly mutate and mutilate those who stand in the light. You will see companions horribly transform frame by frame as you run in bast bars of stagnant but flickering light.

Further confusing matters are charms hanging from stalactites consisting of hollow centered coins hanging on lengths of leather. These coins are remnants of the oldest civilization and the hole punched through the center is part of their debasement. They consist of many rare earth elements blended together into a peppery-colored amalgamation; useful to be rendered down for ancient materials projects.

If you are advancing on the place where the Astericans spin silicasilk they are willing and able to collapse caverns around you. That said, they will not cut off their access to their primary industry completely.

In the heart of this fortress is the place where the Astericans produce their silicasilk. It is a dome of stained glass lit by an ephemeral light. Outside the glass is a thin layer of bioluminescent scarabs.

The Astericans work gently with the silica spiders, shy creatures whose joy is to spin their silk if fed on herbs and button mushrooms. The silica spiders will run and hide if there is chaos in their home, but if seized upon will bite their assailant. Their bite instantly detonates flesh and bone like a hand grenade.

The boldest Astericans cover their eyes with silicasilk and go out into nearby tunnels. They see the prancing ghosts of underworld creatures that have passed away and hunt them with imaginary spears.

The departed beast’s ghost leads them to its carrion, and this is Asterica’s main food source.

Beneath Asterica there is a place the Astericans do not want you to see.


There is a column of fire surrounded by eight hulking geodes. Each has a hole in the side; entry can be achieved quickly if one has metal boots because the geodes are magnetized.

The geodes' exteriors are comprised of phlogiston creosote. Inside them, they are crystal of essential salts. They are the suicide-sacrificed essence of a civilization crushed by those above and now their place of palingenesis.

Each geode has a flame in its core, like the core of the earth. You may step into this fire to add d8 souls to your body. These souls originate from this ancient civilization crushed by Asterica and its cohorts in ages long since passed. If you ask them, they will tell you it was called Orphicorum.

When you sleep for at least nine hours you may cede control of your body to one of these souls more suited to the situation (or deserving of a reward). You remain the primary soul and may always attempt to wrest control from the manifested soul, but doing this outside of a nine-hour sleep period will utterly destroy the controlling soul.

The Orphicorians dream of vengeance against the progeny of their old rivals, namely Asterica, Typhoea and Stygoziana. The souls may present a unified front in their goals and will remember it if you tyrannize them.

In addition to taking revenge on their destroyers, each soul will have a meta-objective from their life that they would like continued. They can guide you to caches of Orphicorum's wealth in exchange for carrying out their old missions.

Roll a d8 to determine each soul’s former profession: 

1 Sage, 2 Priest, 3 Soldier, 4 Mineralogist, 5 Fungicist, 6 Noble, 7 Slave, 8 Trapped Foreigner.

Next, roll a d8 to determine their life orientation:

1: Accelerationist millenarian: Seeks to connect the oil seas to magma flows.

2: Awakener: Seeks to make the earth’s ore veins incandescent and awaken the sleeping consciousness of the world, and believes that smelting ore will make it more stupid and violent when it awakens and should be minimized as such.

3: Core colonization advocate: Seeks infinite energy in the core of the Earth. Knows how to ward off the heat, pressure and creatures there.

4: Revanchist: Wants the players to conquer and colonize Stygoziana, Typhoea and Asterica in the style of Hernan Cortez and will reveal ancient weapon caches to aid you. 

5: Underworld megastructure colonist: Great works in the inner darkness of the earth similar to incomplete runic Dyson sphere plates near great magma pillars, an underworld sea sectioned into a steam engine, etc. Would like to recover these things

6: Petrified ecosystem cultivator: Seeks to awaken the biological potential of petrified bioforms (ie petrified wood) through cosmic ray bombardment; the idea being that they will produce petrified fruit et al with otherwise unachievable properties.

7: Mechanical computer denizen: Once lived in a mechanistic paradise that he or she will seek to recreate. This computer was built of fluid, machines and creatures, and involved many pumping, flooding and counting machines.

8: Outstation anchorite: These folks were notorious for the worship or propitiation of strange entities, elements, phenomena, etc. They will long to seek out their former masters and friends.

You still control your actions when another soul has manifested

However (and you won’t know this until it happens), a soul may go rogue while possessing you and you will need to make a Will check to reassert control; if you fail you may try again in an hour. Your companions will not necessarily know you have been shunted out of command.

The soul is likely to say to you, “I will do this thing and then give you back control. Forgive me but I have unfinished business with these vermin,” and will attempt to do something like flood Stygoziana, kill the Buddhic parasite of Typhoea, or set off the central powder magazine of Asterica, which will bring tectonic ruin to the entire region.

If any of these things happen and the Astericans, Typhoeans or Stygozianans know you did it, they will invade the surface.

Otherwise, they will invade one another in a nightmare war of shadowy screaming death and atrocity and your only escape route will be filled with the clashing of armies and their subterranean superweapons.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Passages from the Gardens of Anomie

Summary: Originally posted this cause I was out of town for a couple weeks.

For those short on time, here are my favorite passages excerpted from the Gardens of Anomie.

Engraving is general across the walls of the six buildings.

Stony star-shapes summoned from a dawning sky-vortex, blood sacrifice upon the pitch.

Male figures ten feet tall hand-in-hand with women half their size. Serpents lazily overlooking asymmetric lovemaking in the orchards.

The moment of carving when the giants scooped away their own genitals as one.

The destruction of whole walled cities, a sprouting of form, a transformation among the great ones. Cities laid on the table. People standing on the rooftops agape at the giant sitting down to eat. Houses cut in two, cross-sectioned with cutlery.

The building of ships, stages, sets where men are ground like wheat. The first floodlights clicking on above sawdust blood-bowers to-be. The unearthing of the scorpions; a flood of them being led into the Garden.

Many brides perished in those first days of horror. Some of heartbreak, some of hemlock, some, finally, upon the table. But some remain.

They were pushed beneath the garden near the waters that once washed them and their quarters given over to the strange animals bred by the Anomites as ammunition.

They wander here in the funnels between deadroot and foundation where the vines which the waters snaked past to caress the garden’s thigh are now poisoned by spite and thirst. For the brides who remain here have not forgotten the solar caress which they once knew, though the angels have forgotten them. So near the mother of rains these women have not perished but their subterranean yearning has warped them into clomping hags just as it has twisted the roots of the poisonous coils of thorns.

The Crones are still massively sympathetic to the Anomites and their people; they remember the days when the Hanging Gardens were built for them. They believe the Anomites will remember them yet. They are aware many women did not survive the fall. They are unaware of the Anomites’ self-emasculation.
They wander these caverns and carry poisoned pins which inflame wounds. They will hang you on poisoned thorns and torment you with their pins for threatening their angels.

Marching down the valley from this gehenna is a column of five hundred men.

They are clad in hooded black tunics girt with leathern cross-straps bearing sun-discs of gold bleeding with gemslivers laid between the radial veins of light like pools of stained glass wine beneath fallen limbs and wings.

Their arms, calves and chests shine like wavetops with golden plate and scale. On closer inspection, this has been somehow bonded to their actual skin. It cannot be removed without removing the skin.

Tiny gold and silver chains hang like silky spiderwebs between fastnesses set into their chests and shoulders and slinking back and forth along their lengths go tiny statues; graven sphalerite icons of women in gowns, old men writing at desks, clumps of children. The things these men no longer see.

Tucked in broad belts are slithering flamberge daggers, iron question marks with alabaster pommels linked to necklaces by delicate chains.

They have their red rawhide calfskin gloves tucked beneath their belts. Some belts are buffalo fur, others the witch-weird flesh of river snails.

They wear armored torcs and have lengths of canvas twisted around daily servings of tobacco, a linen chain of balls hanging about the neck. Their white teeth are studded with black chew.

The straps of their sandals wind up their legs like parched and undead vines, but some are lined with glittering snakeskin or lengthy climbing caterpillars of buffalo fur.

Red sheets of corded twine broaden here and shimmer there across their bodies, discrete strands bobbing as they move their shoulders.

Some wear catfurs across their shoulders beneath their hoods, tails hanging down the back or arm.

They walk with staves that have unique hafts but uniform cylindrical sockets atop them. One staff might be ivory and notched with cinnabar fire descending through a milky sky, while another is alabaster with jade notching throughout like platforms of grass. A third is a glossy purple metal like a flutelike decanter of wine. And so forth.

Each man has two dozen thin cylinders hanging about him. Some clatter from apostle bandoliers draped around their bodies, others clink round the hems of their tunics like wind chime tassels, others are clasped to the lengths of their limbs by black bindings to turn sword blows. Some have thin gold line-etchings of trees writ deep into their lacquered surfaces, others are bony enamel and writhe with obsidian inkstains bearing bloodstain apples, others are wrapped in sapphire snakeskin and have actual snake heads blinking at the tips, and others are rough sandstone sarcophagi that riot with hidden multitudes within. These cylinders may be slotted into their staves and sent whirling about the party with gasping detonations of unearthly payloads. See Appendix 6: Fruits of the Garden for the most common types of warlock grenade.

The soldiers joyously sing a funerary dirge as they march; ancient language expertise reveals that it is about the death of one’s friends on the battlefield, with the porters murmuring over their corpses in disbelief. It is a boast of the horrors of war.

They are marching to one of their wild slave raids. Alas the people are wrong about this. This is wishful thinking. They do not enslave their captives.

Above you in the reddened clouds there are occasional flickers of darkness. These are warlocks who glide the arid winds on wicker wings stretched with spiderskin.

There he lays a black-boned skeleton swaddled in what remains of a midnight-blue raiment bound fast around his crown by an iron-girt circlet studded with lapis lazuli. Across his chest is a starry nebula of gemstones set in silver, a triptych of treasure hinged about his shoulders and lain atop him like the law tablet of a geode.

Around his bony wrists are white gold bracelets in four quarters around fat dollops of ruby segmenting the monorail. They are bound by tiny gold chains; this was how he closed his eyes, wrists clasped in the high finery of the Anomite age.

The waters wait, dark and hidden with congested magic.

They curl about themselves soft and azure glowing within rich and warm soil beneath the fallow planters of their fallen gardens. This is where the waters have built a bower in which to lay, a place of richness in an ocean of sand. They dream of the sun and sky that once made them glitter, now cut off on the other side of the Garden’s wall. The waters look to the four winds and wait to meet once more such a desire as once inspired them in times of cool spring. They bore fruit for the love of angels and womankind, and this valley was a bedsheet for their rapture. Alas the hearts of angels as men are inconstant and when blood began to soil the sweet streams of the sea snails the waters recoiled and recalled their melody from the sounding valley.

With nowhere to go in this vast desert, the waters fell back into the aquifer and wept while the garden hung with husks and the stones who had known dancing feet cracked beneath the weight of their bereavement.

A purple candelabra writ with white engravings, places where the paint has been peeled away to show the white wax wherein there are symbols of universal rebirth, for few things will survive the closing and the opening but one can step outside the galaxy by the incandescent ekembrites instilled in the antediluvian fat of this preconstructed candle. It will entrap you in an alternate energy form and things will be lost in your reassembly but perhaps an element of your consciousness will survive, for that is the only thing somewhat translatable across universes- but even then information is corrupted.

When you burn this candelabra and sit in its center upon a small steel dais set between the candles, you will be entwined and perforated by the mites of the steel mist and writ into energy currentsimperceptible to mortals of this dimension; you will be spun into the systematic energetic undercurrents of another universe in a way that is able to keep your consciousness more or less consecutive by locating a set of reoccurring energy streams that are compatible with your pattern. Your location will be held by the mites until it is time for you to return to this universe.
Roll a d20:
1: 71 hours
2-10: d20 years
11-19: d100 x d100 years
d20: d100 x 1M years

When you reenter this universe your consciousness will erase the consciousness of another being of your species who is nearest the place of your departure and you will occupy their body until its natural death.

If there is no suitable host available, for example if you utilized the candelabra to escape an extinction event, you will be held in a buffer- an energy entrapment pattern in a suitable host such as a star- until there evolves an organism capable of hosting your re-insertion.
Information corruption is inevitable in this process. Roll a d20 for effects:
1-5: -2d20 IQ
6-10: Retrograde amnesia
11-14: Amygdalian corruption: Extremely poor impulse control and lack of fear
15-18: Hippocampal corruption: Extreme furtiveness and neuroticism
19: Pattern breach: entities rewrite your personality for their purposes or install a backdoor or spy.
20: Left-body paralysis

Naturally this is one way to escape death.

Black musculata, arms and legs. Porcelain wings and volcanic claws, eight sapphire eyes piercing a milky helm, obsidian shard-blades flange its crown.

A gossamer white robe clinging to fatless, fleshless gifts of snakeskin-wrapped muscle. A straining, skinless head, ivory coins upon the eyes, for once this creature conspired to die. A golden wreath about sunken temples.

In ribcage hangs an ambergris brazier whose silkclouds snake between spice-speckled bones.

Plates of ivory, plates of jet in harlequin diamond round him set. Red eyes gleam past a twinkling mask held before his face on a pair of little arms from his upper chest, one jet and one ivory.

A palanquin his own four legs wrapped regally in crimson cape held hand-in-hand before his chest, a lace of gold brocade an inch from every bangled lip. He lays against a seatback throne of velvet pierced with brazen studs, it balanced on his rearmost thighs with oaken slats on femur set. He is a howdah and a burden-beast, a puppet hand and his own priest.

Tales of the Warlock-raiders of Anomie describe sorcerous staffs of many powers.

Indeed. They have many means of capturing you for the blood pits or the tablecloth.

There are three categories of staffshell: dumbfire, airburst and discarding-sabot.

Seer’s stone: Dumbfire crystal linked to a Warlock’s glass eye.

Fin-stabilized discarding sabot serpent shell: This is the extreme long-range Warlock Grenade due to the lightness of its warhead. A snake encased to the neck in a rigid, fin-stabilized tube. The user adjusts the snake-release range by moving a sliding knob up or down the staff to set the detonation distance before firing. When the missile has reached 90% of its range, a gunpowder fuse (set by the slide) detonates and frees the enraged serpent to strike at whoever it lands near. This round is also useful as a close-range chemical weapon because the serpent’s venom sac can be squeezed with a thumb, ejecting a spray; this can be employed once a day or so assuming the serpent has been fed. The fin-stabilized discarding-sabot concept would be a valuable prize for city-state engineers.

Scorpiorion shell: Airburst round loading dozens of small megavenomous scorpions. Their hemotoxic stings bloat up extremities to 2-3 sizes their original mass, drooping, useless, red, and necrotizing into the bloodstream. This shell uses the aforementioned sliding knob to set the scorpiorion shell’s detonation range fuse before firing.

Agrippan beeswax stinger grenade: The fruits of the hanging garden’s beekeepers, this alchemical wonder bursts in the air and sprays a misting of molten beeswax over the target area. Once exposed to oxygen the beeswax bonds at the molecular level with whatever it touches and gradually sets into a ceramic as hard as stone over the course of about a minute. Simple water will prevent the bonding process if applied within 30 seconds, though this was a sacrifice Anom’s enemies were often unwilling to make. This is the origin of the golden-armored bodies of the Warlocks; it is not gold or gilded, but hard-set Agrippan beeswax permanently bound into their flesh. This is a sacrifice; the unnatural and interruptive grafts bother the warriors all day.

Armor piercing discarding sabot love dart penetrator: The love dart of a psychoactive river snail from the time of the hanging gardens. It is sharp-tipped and somewhat rigid, but bendy enough that you could use it to strangle a foe from behind. The dart drips in anticipation. If it hits, d4 snails begin gestation inside the target, emitting megadoses of hallucinogen intended to incapacitate the target while keeping them alive during the three-day gestation period. While the hallucinogen is technically nontoxic, it will gradually psychologically dissolve the target.
5 minutes: the victim begins to see the material world disassociated from his or her personal frame or schema; instead of seeing the world in an instrumental way, the victim simply sees the matter of the objects in question and must focus very hard to know what to do with them and what their context even is.
8 hours: the victim will have developed a radically open personality.
24 hours: the victim will only barely recognize familiar forms; they will be capable of gardening unsupervised, and that’s about it.
48 hours: the victim is completely psychically dissolved and able to respirate but not swallow
72 hours: the snail worms its way out of the host’s rectum.
The only way to stop the process is the surgical removal of the embryonic snails. The surgeon should be careful as the snail ichor carries the hallucinogen.
An alternative round is the love dart flechette canister round, which contains a bundle of love darts from sea snails younger than the ones which standard darts are derived from. When these canister rounds burst, a shotgun blast of small love darts hits the target area. Each delivers only a single embryonic sea snail rather than the d4 from a mature penetrator.

Diamond dust round: The cloud from this airburst round perforates lungs and degloves eyes.

He is the Honey Knight.

He was a mighty mason taken captive on the dunes. His test in the Playsets was a driftwood castle set afire, with children tied among the highest branches. The mason rescued one but couldn’t reach the other. He dragged his ward through the fire and the flame but was horrifyingly burnt. He is beloved of the Anomites now, who fused his sloughing flesh with the musculata, mask, greaves and braces of gold honey plate from the bees of paradise. He cannot speak any longer, but the boy can tell the party about him.
He despises the mutilated angels. He cares only for the boy he rescued, who was spared from the table using the sole wish granted the mason by the Anomites for his performance.

The Warlocks live on caravan raiding. This is where their bounty is kept. Aching moats of rice greet the party when they enter, bags blasted open by being flung on the floor spilling alps of shivering snow-spikes, here and there bales of barley by the bushel wound up in twine and hairy like filth-matted dogs, buckets of beans like ten thousand inverse eyes all distended pupil with but a fleck of white to bear the burden, sausages rotating in space like medals to be contemplated, pears on pears in baskets pushing stem down into mottled flesh like sister-sabotaging bucket crabs, whole heaps of jerky on bloodstained butcher paper, their innermost reaches bearing an ephemeral glow like the last light in the eyes of a dying life, sweet potatoes with their skin split in transit looking like autumn in the earth, dumplings losing face and deflating before the onslaught of pretzel sticks tearing them gaping and shivering to spill a salty brew from their innards inappropriately over the crystalline skin of ripe apples whose fragrance dominates all, a spring victor, orchard king, ringing word of plenty over the meek voices of subtler cohorts. The Warlocks could bathe in their grain, riding ass-first down dusty piles of oats or diving nosefirst into vast quivering casks of strawberry jam, swinging about on whole banana bunches like lemonade chandeliers, or climbing two-by-two vast ropes of licorice slimy and dank like the pseudopods of a giant spider’s nasal parasite. The giant erotic ass of a plum. The butter bounty of coffee beans, mudstaining cocoa lumps like unicorn turds, calamari tentacles that point accusingly over the ice, you, you, you.

Waist-deep in water is a stone. It was once tall and majestic, a tablet of law for a thousand tiny tribes who once stood in harmony beholding his kneeling shoulders. When the angels came the people besought him, “o stone of worth and prophecy, give our bodies to the angels that we may host the gift of God.” And the stone did as they asked and gave union to seven men of the tribes and the seven angels lit with celestial fire (for they too were stones).

But they were usurpers, and in time the men of the tribes played treason upon the stone and rolled it into this clammy nightmare cave where loping hags rake it with their bone-white dripping talons to keep the lengths down. The waters of the aquifer set loose by the dimming of the garden began to pour past the rock in eternal retreat and thus he has been much diminished, the old laws all but washed away, his hulking form shrunken like a prized head.

He wants revenge and will say as much. The party finds him half-submerged and crooked in waist-high water. He will speak to them in terms of their strange missions, for time and erosion have humbled him. He will offer to unlock the Angels’ greatest treasure for the party, or whatever elsehe can give or promise to remove him from this grinding hell. Two could roll him, four could carry him. He describes the treasure of the Anomites; a great golden spear with spirals of coral etched like ibex horns curling to the base and at the top a conic mound of outrĂ© ichor bought at blood-price from otherworldly outlaws when the garden first fell. This burbling pile is an opaque, sunny blue like tropical waters and is priceless beyond priceless to any who would know the places where the incompatible incomparable matter of universes intersect and misalign themselves. The stone will offer to use what power it has left to unlock the spear from its moorage, for the spear can be used to destroy the angels for good. This is true in a broad sense.

When the spear is removed from its docket, a great burning sigil silently appears above anearby mountaintop. The livid, star-fusion bars of blinding, steam-wreathed light form an esoteric, angular eye which glares down on the valley of its betrayal, for this is a manifestation of the Angels’ master and the removal of their spear has unhidden them. The mountain weeps like bloody wax beneath the burning eye, a lava lament for lost children.

The valley heats horrifically as the burning eye bathes it in macro-microwave which flash-focuses about the bones of the warlocks, His marrow superheating sight blasting their bones like alabaster shrapnel through ragged flesh and fabric, remnants flopping like spongiform aquatic animals. A burning blasting pillar-ray erupts from the starlight iris of the burning eye and goes raking through the valley rocks and what is left of garden stone goes blasting wide beneath the pulse of godly mighty thunder-wrath, a beam of vengeance long denied. This superpowered electrolaseris like a thousand bolts of lightning woven together into a constant strand and demolishes all discrete forms in the valley.

That is the punishment of mortals. About the Anomites grow shimmering and then all-consuming vortices; localized gravitational axes that slowly and with relish twist the Anomites into coiled ropes, barely-recognizable ridges of color and texture denoting what had been where, now wrapping tape for their horrifically constricted and elongated bodies. The vortices of the burning eye wrap these angel-coils about each other into a great multicolored beehive of twisted material which it then turns its electrolaser upon and sears into a molten bundle of inconstant colors and alternatingly clinging and weeping materials. The Anomites will remain in this bundle as it cools, and there they shall experience the full rigor of the Burning Eye’s justice as their trained, insatiable hunger can meet no peace.

There they shall fuse and harden and experience a long, slow death of starvation and calcification, and their fading essences shall not be captured by their home universe. This woven, spiral-bodied cask of angel flesh shall be of immeasurable worth to any who study mysterious science or the divine.

Players need to face d4 deadly challenges each to survive this cleansing, such as staggering through superheated air, lifting burning boulders from the way to shelter, dropping behind crushed masonry and rolling to put out one’s burning clothes, rushing to a blasted Warlock and using his burble-boiling gore-slicked corpse as a fireshield, diving from the way of an armed collapsing warrior statue, and evading the very beam of the Burning Eye.

Once the last of the Anomites have been twisted into their barrel-form, the great electrolaser will dissipate and the burning eye will grow translucent before disappearing, bathing the charnel valley in night once more.

After this, if the stone has not been destroyed it will relax and go dormant unless the GM can think of something he’d really like to use it for. For those interested, the rock was once a forge chimera who spent a day and a night immersed in molten gold and emeralds; his siphoned ashes became the rock. This was long ago.

Art - First Run