Saturday, July 16, 2022

Underlying Arcs for High-Level Play

There is much of the dark divine madness. What of the light?

You have been adventuring for some time. 

        What is revealed about you?


1 You are monster-adjacent; your mother was mothic, magnetically-entrapped electricity immanentized as information in text and pictures. You gradually manifest related text and powers (ie moth wings/eyes/metabolism, you become magnetically-entrapped electricity with a mutable form (ie capable of taking human shape and huge)). Purpose of your mother’s crossbreeding with humans: gathering information/energy by consuming offspring at a ripe age, simple lust fulfilled by perverse interaction, seed of rebirth like a dragonfly’s shell

2 Actually not a human. You appear to be a human and were gestated in a human’s uterus but are technically a different species for a variety of reasons, and as a result your neurology and physical processes begin to diverge as you are exposed to extreme environmental stressors. Your humanlike form is like a tadpole for what will come.

3 You are a sage from the distant imperial past or the savant-educated future; mind rewritten for safe transport. Capable of etching energetic-manipulation engines into surfaces, like computer programs that affect realspace around them. You have many such latent etchings in the reverse-surface of your skin

4 You are some kind of immanentized spirit, entity, ghost; you may periodically become ethereal (and death-wail with grief etc), and may shade into the spirit realm to deal with ongoing magical effects a la Shadowrun hacking

5 There is an interest in your birth by an exocosmic divinity or extragalactic intelligence because you are some kind of deity projected into this world with your memory compressed for transport or safekeeping, and it is now beginning to unpack itself. You have a sort of save game power; place a savepoint in spacetime and you have 2 minutes until calcification of quantum superposition prevents you from restoring to your point without fracturing or corrupting existence at both your savepoint and the point of departure. Be warned: this can happen anyway.

6 You are meant as the interface for some kind of stone battlemech or other great project (flying submarine / air submarine, coral/kelp superstructure, a class of underworld creature waiting for you to find them) like a tager from CthulhuTech. You can find your ultimate exoskeleton where it waits beneath the earth or stands exocosmically entrapped, and in the meantime you can begin to develop physical elements that microreplicate the power you may one day assume 

7 You are an entity that was immanentized or exiled into human form by rivals or peacekeepers; this was the best they could do, as they were incapable of killing you, and you are now bleeding back into existence and are still bleeding through, giving you purchase on both existential paradigms.
As such, your sense data can be used to build a hypothetical but physical exocosmic representational space where postulates can be tried; it’s like a demiplane where things you have encountered can be generated and experimented with, people spoken to, but nothing can leave and is locked away from the timespace continuum; developments in the meta-reality are not reflected in the dreamspace until you encounter them again.
In short, elements of your experience can be brought together and they can be questioned, dissected, observed, and their interactions can be ascertained.

8 No secret; the PC can be the founder of a lineage rather than its inheritor

9 You are some kind of area-manipulation GUI for a demiurge, the way a level editor in a video game might use a character as a paintbrush for the player to work through; the meta-functionality has lapsed or is not being paid attention to, and you begin to be able to access the functions attached to you. 
Existential Abolitionism, an thought among certain entities; stop the arbitrary possession of humans, which in the case of area-manipulation GUIs renders their consciousness inert. An entity steps in and severs your ties to that demiurge, or makes it seem like you’re corrupted and unsuited for use 
This GUI takes careful focus for a PC to take control of and work through, or some take focus, others emotion, others desire, others mere intent (but intent is the marker of a highly developed connection to the underlying state); others become facts of biology with their own rules.

10 You are a registry for souls; either a kind of refugee system or a natural web that catches them. Their powers can manifest, or the PC can make the powers function so as not to steal the player’s thunder. For very social roleplayers the process can be more conversational.
Screaming soul, battle power, you can have a soul that inhabits you possess someone else as your ally (but not directly under your control). Must remain near you or perish

11 You are a blood disease with utility effects; a giving disease. Your human form is incidental and the circumstances of its acquisition are foggy to you. In the long term you are also a superweapon and existential suicide time bomb, you will unleash havoc on this existence in increasingly severe forms as the weapon charges up, even if you die; it will be disseminated from marked atoms, thus blowing you to smithereens or dissolving you in magma isn’t necessarily a great idea, as you will simply be disseminated more broadly without defusing the weapon

12 You can copy and append occult/animal systems to your own existence in an energetic format; for example, electromagnetically replicating a jumping spider’s hemolymph hydraulic system in your legs (or anywhere, really), or replicating an ant ecosystem with tiny nuclear motes and your heart as the queen (watch for spreading), or modeling the world machine as an electroetheric orrery around your heart, allowing you to plug into latent occult structures and ancient megaprojects like a universal lockpick and cardiac electrode. You cannot, however, easily remove these structures, and they may begin to interact in unexpected ways. 

13 You are descended from some kind of concept; pain, rust, entropy, eros. This does not necessarily mean that these concepts are entities with a metaphysical link between instances; chances are you are the product of xenocosmogonic manipulation, as in you were blended with the meta-traits of some phenomenon observable in this cosmos by outside forces. The effects of your phenomenological origin will begin to reify in and/or through your physical body or the dimensions of your consciousness.

14 You are a supergenius who previously had constricted oxygen flow; when this is resolved you begin to discover new mental pathways and qualify for the harry potter school in the merc contract generator through mathematical savantry (theoretical, not yet applied)

15 You are a xenostygian prince produced as part of an occult experiment or xeno/neobiological breeding program, then cast out due to prodigy/oracle that you would become a prophesized/hypothesized prophet, redeemer and destroyer. Some in your true domain would want an outsider like you to come home, others do not. You have special extended family and a forgotten alliance

16 You are a reservoir for a universal energy source, it glows like a firefly with your emotions and your blood gives power to anything

17 You are a psychic or have some other channeled warping or concentration of forces developed due to a confluence of such forces at your conception; perhaps you control this through focal attunement disruptable by distactions, or you are something like a D&D sorcerer where you can entrap and apply existential forces empirically derived in formulaic constructions which you learn and then apply (to your exhaustion, starvation, or Vancian memory-erasure so that forms must be rediscovered or reintuited)

18 You are a deity-demigod made involuntarily of the stuff of the divine, for example the fusion beams of the Burning Eye. Your true form manifests when you encounter elements of your parent’s portfolio

19 You are a fey; from a slightly alternate dimension, slightly underlying the strata you know, and your people (and their rivals) begin to speak to you and invite you and your friends onto their secret paths and into their secret courts

20 You stole your powers from an entity but lost your connection with that time or reality. You begin to make them your own, metabolizing them, and in the process you attract the attention of the entity’s rivals and lovers who treat you as if you were the entity itself

        What is the catalyst for this revelation?


1 Fusion disintegration by exocosmic pretender followed by quick reintegration due to your body’s hitherto-unknown atomic magnetism
2 Occult possession
3 Exposure to extreme mutagenic agent
4 Leukemia
5 Sacrificed, the light of your bones poured as milk into a chrysalis, twiceborn
6 Resuscitated after heart stoppage
7 Lightning strike
8 Spiritplane quest
9 Seaplane crash
10 Lost in the green realm or outer highway
11 Nervous breakdown
12 TBI
13 TMI
14 Immolation, previous body burnt away
15 Wake up gestating in chrysalis
16 Discovery of an obligation to cosmic fire
17 Devoured by animal
18 Sacrifice yourself to yourself 
19 Water filled with lungs
20 Born of your parents, born in death, born in fire, and born the fourth time, your nature then becoming clear 
21 Cathartic glossolalia after existential dysphoria
22 Eyeless hermit-sage in impossible domicile reveals the truth
23 Ground crumbles into pit of gamy black liquid
24 Lost underground, wander into a cavern that serves as an earth elemental’s brain
25 Seem to wake up in home, actually in exocosmically-handled cryptostygian intelligence blacksite, megadosed with hormonal neuroticizer and debriefed about your strange activities
26 Accidentally sealed in a brazen maiden, layer of retroparticles carrying the seed of your transformation seared into you at the atomic level
27 Blessed by a deity, struck by wide angle sanctification beam
28 Choke on something, have strangulated vision of an angel ramming a sword hilt-first down your throat and into your heart 
29 Match pattern with echoes from previous cosmos, see forms and materials that are possible given our physics but totally orthogonal to any known arrangements, see patterns that are dormant in your body but ready to spring into previous arrangements
30 Lose virginity

What adventure could be undertaken to awaken your potential?


1 Soak in the vitiating energy of an underworld energy stream pretending to be ore but is actually tendril of otherworldly force sinking into this world like the claw of a satisfied cat or something erotic

2 Ascertain whereabouts of true parentage and enact reunion in a form acceptable/recognizable to them

3 Destroy cosmic chains linking your condition to the causality of disaster; free yourself and local spacetime by disrupting prearranged plans of an only partially-ascertainable provenance

4 Find catalytic entity who can awaken full potential for a price (resources, sacrifice, conduct that is anti-human or pro-human)

5 Assassinate cosmic monitor controlling your condition on behalf of pseudointelligent forces so physically and psychologically distant that they could not perceive you without intermediation

6 Destroy self in a particular way at a particular time to as to hoodwink and slip perceivers that may be degrading, speculating on or keeping in check the material of your underlying nature

7 Must undergo extreme protracted stressor to activate relevant epigenetic triggers; intense warfare, underworld sojourn, psychogonic spirit-quest

8 Usurp cryptostygian megaproject, a nightmare immanentizer underlying a city-state (which was built as their laboratory, anyway), warping local space to the dimensions of the horrors of your consciousness and dealing with the outcomes until you can find the dream-machine lucidifier at the core operated by a kind of faceless blue-smoke djinn 


  1. These were really weird and cool, not quite what I was expecting at first but I'm definitely into it

    1. I'm glad you liked it, what did you have in mind going in?

    2. I didn't necessarily intend that as a statement on you as much as just what I expect to see in general, but I was sort of expecting something from the title something more along the lines of generic D&D/Pathfinder-style legendary classes or whatever they call them now, that kind of stuff. Not stuff that was actually conceptually operating on a higher level lol.

    3. Oh yeah, I just ask that as a way of A: gathering atmospherics and B: maybe seeing how you think about things. I have a soft spot for Prestige Classes, but here I was thinking of a way to A: have a progression from baseline human to something mythic without the formal acquisition of magic powers, B: involve players in their own adventures, as in adventures that are actually based around the PCs' personal affairs and arcs while still having all the elements we associate with RPG adventures, and C: get in touch with the fictional/mythical trope of discovering something transcendent about yourself based on your origins and then pursuing and cultivating it. This is also a way of entering the supernatural without the absolute surrender of final control (absent the consent of the empowering entity) that is normally associated with the Occult in the stuff that I write; Dan Sullivan (Blackout) put it like "paying the cost upfront", the idea here being that you don't immediately gain the full strength of the powers that are associated with your underlying condition and they needn't even have any effect on gameplay if the player isn't interested, it only fully "activates" when pursued through adventure, and may remain as a hint or "optional adventure" in your journal if the player doesn't pursue it (except maybe the blood disease but I would give that a long time horizon or not consider it for a player who doesn't seem inclined to that kind of struggle or burden).

    4. prestige class was the word I was looking for! But ya, this totally makes sense, this is more so what I wish I was seeing all over the place, my comment was intended entirely in a good way haha.

  2. I rolled a 1, a 29, and an 8, and find this is about correct. The moths are at this hour and degree of screen door permeability are flittering about the lamp, and if I turn it off, the computer screen. One assumes the once mighty ruins are left scattered about or swallowed by the earth or quarried for houses, you know, the whole “and the princes and travelers, as they fled from the doomed city of Sarnath on horses and camels and elephants, looked again upon the mist-begetting lake and saw the grey rock Akurion was quite submerged” bit, but a gradual crystallization of liquid form is more the play, slower and slower and eventually completely out of phase with the quick apes who generate beautiful light and heat and the beautiful gold for xp (when successfully pursued) turns up the burner to 10. That revealed city is so dense with (slow) motion as to be almost impassable (even as the level 1, a dim little lightbulb, waltzes right through seeing and feeling only progression through space instead of all the quantum insects). It’s like being at your own wedding: every person wants to have a little chat with you.

    With apologies to Herzog, only the overwhelming indifference of nature is of any utility against such an entanglement, without kinship, understanding, or mercy. The blank stare that speaks only of a half-bored interest in food.

    1. Was the previous cosmos nothing but hypergeometric moths? Is that why they seek to bathe in pure energy? Is the dream machine a portal to reify the universal consciousness (mothciousness?) that is latent but holds over from before the Planck Epoch? Is Planck Epoch City of Sarnath, the princes, horses, camels and elephants metamoths all? The Grey Rock our Universal Mothciousness, mists its emanations, lake our heat death and rebirth phoenicis?

      The answer is Yes


Art - First Run