Thursday, 18 January 2018

Superman has a mission in Belgium FQ Book 5 Canto 10

And Thor needs to return to Asgard.

Once again, the super-powered Arthur needs to be separated from the normie trash he's been following around so they can do something in the last Canto. In this case he needs to go and save Belgium in an even-more-allegorical part of this highly allegorical poem in which too little happens without much interest and takes a long time doing it.

The opening verses are perhaps notable in their hypocrisy;

"Some Clarkes doe doubt in their devicefull art,
Whether this heavenly thing, whereof I treat,
To weeten Mercie, be of Justice part,
Or drawne forth from her by divine extreate.
This well I wote, that sure she is as great,
And meriteth to have as high a place,
Sith in the'Almighties everlasting seat
She first was bred, and borne of heavenly race;
From thence pour'd down on men, by influence of grace.

For if that Vertue be of so great might,
Which from just verdict will for nothing start,
But to preserve inviolated right,
Oft spilles the principall, to save the part;
So much more then is that of powre and art,
That seekes to save the subject of her skill,
Yet never doth from doome of right depart:
And it is greater prayse to save, then spill,
And better to reforme, then to cut off the ill."

This in the least-merciful of all Books of the Faerie Queene, defined largely by the murder and mutilation of women by a fucking robot.

Though I will give props for "devicefull art".

Anyway, the rest of this Canto is about an English intervention in the Low Countries.

Some princes turn up. Their mother Belge is oppressed by the Seneshall of Grantorto. Arthor goes to find her living in a bog. They go to the main city where the baddy has built a big castle and set up an idol to false gods with a Rancor under it. Arthur fights the main baddy and kills him in two verses. Three more guys come at him as one and he kills them. Problem solves, Belge restored except I think he still has to fight he Rancor next Canto.

Just enjoy this attractive Walter Crane deal

It's so predictable, tiresome, reductive and boring that, even though it is long, the notes at the back are shorter and more interesting so I will give you those instead;

7 Belgae: The Belge Episode (10.7-11.35) treats the oppression of the Low Countries by Spain. Belge's seventeen 'sonnes' are the seventeen provinces which comprised the Low Countries. In 1580 five of the provinces threw off their allegiance to Phillip II (see stanza 8.1-2) and in 1584 offered Elizabeth the sovereignty, which she refused. In 1585 she sent Leicester and an army of seven thousand to id the provinces. Although the expedition arrived too late to save the besieged city of Antwerp, the provinces were overjoyed with Leicester, to whom they offered the governorship, which he accepted. His acceptance infuriated Elizabeth, who recalled him. When he returned to the Low Countries, the effect of British intervention had been dissipated, although some victories against Spanish oppression had been achieved. Most notable was the battle of Zutphen, in which Sir Philip Sidney was mortally wounded. Spenser models some details of this episode on Orlando's rescue of Olimpia in Holland (OF 9.17 FF).

8-10 fell Tyrant: Gerioneo, with his triple body, represents Phillip II's power, which controlled Spain, Portugal and the Low Countries. The name is derived from Geryon, a monster mentioned in Aen 7.662 and Natalia Comes, 7.1. For other references see Var_., p. 250. Milton, following Spenser, makes the association of Geryon with Spain (PL II.410-11). As one of his twelve labours Hercules had to steal Geryon's cattle, guarded by his herdsman Eurytion and the two-headed dog Orthrus, whose parentage Spenser derived from Hesiod, Theogony, 306-9 or Silius Italicus, 13.845. Spenser makes Echidna the mother of the Blatant Beast (VI.6.9.9).

23 4 cities sackt: the Duke of Alva, Philip II's governor, had ordered any city that would not support a garrison of Spanish troops to be sacked and every inhabitant killed (1572). See Gough, p. 297.

25 1 Citie farre vp land: probably the besieged Antwerp that Leicester came too late to rescue. According to Gough, Antwerp was the richest city in Europe at the time.

25 6 Shut vp her hauen: the Duke of Alva built a bridge across the Scheldt river to keep supplies from Antwerp.

27 2 inquisition: suppression. The word bears some of the weight of the Roman Catholic Inquisition, the heresy-hunting court introduced into the Low Countries by Charles V and enforced by his son Phillip II. In 1568 the Inquisition condemned to death all the inhabitants except for a few, specifically named.

28 The description of Gerioneo's chapel and altar is Spenser's depiction of the Roman Catholic Mass, in which the central part of the liturgy is still called the 'sacrifice' (l.6), the memorial re-enactment of Christ's Last Supper (Matthew 26.26-8). Protestants regarded the re-enactment as a symbolic memorial, while Roman Catholics saw it as an actual renewal of Christ's sacrifice, the wine and the bread becoming the body and blood of Christ. The theological point was a primary source of dissension amongst Protestants and Catholics, who sacrificed both flesh and blood in support of one side or the other of the controversy.

28 9 agrize: horrify.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Hyqueous Vaults & a Hipster Conversion Chart

TLDR: I could have dome with a bit more Hipster Bullshit.

The Hyqueous Vaults is currently available as a free download on Lulu.

There are plans to release it as a PoD.

Unusually, it was released and reviewed by two seperate people who both do good dungeon and adventure reviews and who both liked it.

Melan reviewed it HERE.

And Bryce reviewed it HERE.

This puts us in the interesting position of being able to look, not just at the adventure but also at two pretty intelligent and in-depth responses to the adventure.

I want to be clear; whatever I say about Hyqueous Vaults should be taken IN ADDITION to these two reviews. I don't fundamentally disagree with any of the main points in either of those and those points are almost completely positive about the adventure.

So this is my minority report. My response was slightly colder than Melan and Bryce.

If you read it on its own then it will seem more negative than it is. My comments and responses are personal and not absolute.


Firstly its very toyetic, very gamey. Arranged for play and less pseudo-natural or pseudo-historical.

Melan touches on this a little; "more fantastic than strictly realistic" and "the balance of encounters, while overall good, is heavily weighted towards ‘specials".

Nothing wrong with that since D&D is, in fact, a game. No D&D environment can be truly or absolutely naturalistic, there will always be joins and inconsistencies somewhere.

But its useful to talk about one of the main benefits of naturalism and simulation which is that (near-paradoxically) allows intelligent and paradigm-shifting 'ride the iceberg' play.

If the Orcs need to poop then you can climb up the poop hole, and this is an idea anyone can have.

If the dungeon-dwellers need light, if they have general logistical needs like food or something more abtruse, then this is a process you can interrupt, attack, infiltrate or simply manipulate, and again, this is an idea that anyone can have simply by thinking about the imagined world in a coherent way.

"Oh we could pose as a lamp-oil seller."

"Oh we could poison the food supply."

"Oh we could hide in the water when they are fishing and grab a fishing line and drag them in."

And so on and so on.

The more toyetic and arranged for play an adventure is, the more "boring" and unexplained elements are left off the table to speed up "interesting" choices, the more mild inconsistencies there will be that preclude boundary-breaking thought and out of the box solutions and the more difficult and uncomfortably incoherent the adventure or setting will become in response to such activities.

Boredom is Freedom is what I'm saying.

Again, not a failure, but a polarity to manage, an axis where you can't get everything from every range so you have to choose which benefits and flaws you would rather have, and in which the 'goodness' of the adventure should be judged on how well those flaws are mitigated and what advantage is taken of the benefits and where the adventures position on that axis refers more to rightness of fit with any particular group.

Things that make this Toyetic are;

  • What is the Hydra eating and how did it get in there?
  • How are all these weirdos so close to each other for so long and not in continual & absolute war? (Common to many Dungeons)
  • The capital letters trick in the secret message (you better give them the printout).
  • Light - where the fuck are the lanterns? How are people down here seeing anything?
  • The percentages on the spectral candles (oh you need ANOTHER prime rod).

The adventure does have good opportunities for 'classic' out-of-the-box dungeoneering (i.e., you can think out of the box here the same way you thought out of the box last time), unusually good for most adventures. You can hide, turn allies, form partnerships, trade things and deeds that people want, get behind people if you are lucky and get strange & unlikely benefits & game-transforming effects if you take risks are are unusually lucky.

The opportunities for out-of-the-box out-of-the-box thinking, (so you jumped out of the box, which was in a bigger box, and you jumped out of that too) are there but lessened somewhat by the lack of naturalism and simulation.

There should probably be phrases for the kind of oblique, lateral strategy which is uncommon in a lot of mainstream D&D but a solid aim of a lot of OSR design, and for really What The Fuck strategies and tactics, so we can differentiate between them.

Although since a What The Fuck strategy is, by its nature, deeply unpredictable, I really don't know how you would design for it.


The only other thing about Hyqueous Vault is that its pretty Normie.

The Normie/Hipster axis isn't quite the same as Jeff Rients' Retro/Pretentious designations for games. Those could refer to rules systems as well as contents so Dungeon World would be a somewhat pretentious game but also a High Normie game.

There are a lot of things that go into making an adventure Hipster, I'll do a conversion chart at the end of this post. Normie is a lot easier to define, it's simply how much the adventure makes use of known quantities and elements, you could say - how likely is this to have an Orc in it?

If this is done badly then its deep Normie Trash. You will see this in a lot of Bryces reviews; In this room are d6 Orcs. In this room are 2d6 Gnolls.

If its done well the same elements become 'Classic', by which I suppose we mean familiar elements used with energy, imagination and precision. Bryce is particularly fond of this quality in adventures.

"In this room are 3 Orcs roasting a Goblin over a spit. The Goblin is alive and is trying to fake the Orcs voices to generate an argument so it can escape."

Not genius but a bit further along the axis from Normie Trash towards 'Classic'.

Firstly, Hyqueous Vault isn't full-normie, the Eel-Men are pretty good and quite creepy and interesting, the spectral candles are a novel & strange idea; a lot could be done with them, it has a big ameboid thing and in general the rooms towards the rear move more into Hipster territory with time loops, indoors cyclones and Mysterious Studies on a Cyclopean scale.

Secondly, where it does use known elements it generally injects a degree of energy and imagination.

I like the interior and back cover art by Alex Zisch, its has a strange, spiky, angular feel along with a dense scratchyness that I enjoy. The front page cover by Brian "GLAD" Thomas is of greater technical capacity but is definitely on the Normie side of the scales with Zisch on the Hipster side. The aesthetic tension between the two artists being a pretty good guideline to the aesthetic range of the adventure as a whole.

Would I Run this.... eehh maybe, probably not?

Would I have fun playing in it? Prrooobably yes.

For anyone wondering how to Hipsterise their product I have written this handy...


  1. Monsters are now humans wearing masks of those monsters OOoooO.
  2. Monsters are now really into riddles.
  3. Hot Goth Chicks - but maybe with no faces. Freaky!
  4. Drugs are now involved - these baddies get HIGH.
  5. More specific lighting.
  6. Add Swears.
  7. Add Impossible Moral Choices - do you want to rape the dog or murder the cat? Well you will have to do one or the other to escape!
  8. Any small monsters are now lobotomised children.
  9. Any normal children are now Undead Children - spooky!
  10. It turns out you could have saved the Undead Children but you only get the ability to do this at the end of the adventure when you have already hacked most of them to pieces and there was no real way for you to know this.
  11. Add Colonialism.
  12. Try having more and better art.
  13. Would Gary like and understand the art? If so, adjust till this is not the case.
  14. Could you get a tattoo of whatever it is? If not, adjust till this is the case.
  16. Is the art/map/text layout subtle and difficult enough to arrange that it could kill a friendship? If not, adjust till this is the case.
  17. Could you safely had this to a 12 year old at a Con? If yes, go back & start again.
  18. Is it non-Euclidian? If not, why not?
  19. ADD DEEP TIME. Years? Why not Eons?
  20. Does the pattern of risk to reward make rational and predictable sense? If so, alter until they are partially, but not fully, out of synch. The main treasure isn't really treasure but an ancillary hard-to-get thingy has a lot of specific but hard-to-cash-in value.

Monday, 15 January 2018

The War On Mother Goose

So, this guy;

Went to war against this woman;

And nearly won.

I've been reading through the Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes and its magnificent (and extremely acidic about academics and writers fucking about with imaginary or deluded nursery rhyme origins), from there comes the following;

"Higglety, pigglety, pop!
The dog has eaten the mop;
The pig's in a hurry,
The cats in a flurry,
Higgletyl, pigglety, pop!

This rhyme, orally collected in England in 1945, was the invention of one who was an ardent opponent of nursery rhymes. Samuel Griswold Goodrich, and American born in 1793, and best known as the original 'Peter Parley', devoted thirty years to an endervour to reform children's literature. 

H wrote, on his own reckoning, some seventy volumes of truth and instruction, and in the thirties of the last century very nearly succeeded in banishing the nursery rhyme and fairy tale from the more expensive nurseries of both England and America. In 1846, incensed by the revival of the old lore as exemplified by Halliwell's researches and 'Felix Summerlay's Traditional Songs for the Nursery, he wrote a skit for Merry Museum. Nursery rhymes, he said, were nonsense. Anyone, even a child, could make one up. Listen!

Higglrty, pigglety, pop!
The dog has eaten the mop;
The pig's in a hurry,
The cats in a flurry-
Higgletyl, pigglety, pop!

And because, in spite of everything, he was a bit of a genius, Goodrich had unwittingly added to the store of nursery rhyme literature. The rhyme formed the basis for Maurice Sendak's story Higglety, Pigglety, Pop; there must be more to life (NY: Harper and Row, 1967.


And this article by the Southern Literary Messenger is incredible for its 19thC writing style and for its content;

"There are some persons, and those too among graduates of colleges, who mourn over the change of books for youth—who lament the disgrace into which Mother Goose, Tom Thumb, and Jack the Giant Killer, have fallen. But this mental obliquity only shows, that there are persons, whose minds are so perverted by a false start in education, as never to have enjoyed the exercise of that good old-fashioned guide to truth—common sense


Mr. Goodrich was originally a bookseller, and from his position, his attention was directed to the defective character of books for children and youth. The works of this sort in circulation were, for the most part, reprints of English publications; and nearly the whole of them were designed for amusement, and consisted of antiquated and monstrous fictions. It is not a little curious, that while fiction was thus dealt out in this department of juvenile literature, truth and knowledge were generally presented to children in the dry and repulsive form of technical compends and catechisms.


He has shown that truth, upon which nature and philosophy alike teach us that the young intellect should be fed and fostered, may be rendered as palatable as matters of mere fancy. While it has been discovered, that the stomach of the infant need not be soothed with toddy and paregoric, he has made it apparent that the mind and heart need not be stimulated by fiction.


In illustration of the dramatic and descriptive talent displayed in these works, we will make an extract from Parley’s Tales about America:
“At length the morning came, and the chief of the tribe arrived, with several other Indians. He was an old man, but still strong and active. The Indians told him of my capture, and attempt to escape, and asked him what should be my fate. Having heard the story, he came near to me, and in a stern voice, he spoke as follows:

“White man, listen to me! Once the red man was king over these woods and waters. The mountains and rivers were then the red man’s, and then he was rich and happy.

“At length, the white men, thy fathers, came. The red men bade them welcome. But they were ungrateful and treacherous. When they grew strong, they drove the red men over the mountains, and took their lands—and I was still the white man’s friend.

“But see here,” said he, pointing to a scar on his breast, “this is the mark of a white man’s bullet. I had harmed him not—I had lived among the white men, and served them. But they shot at me as if I were a wild- cat.

“White man,” said he, “listen! I was once the white man’s friend—I am now his enemy. Think no more of escape. This hour you shall die.”

“Chief,” said I, “do as you like. If it is God’s will that I die, I shall die contented. My father was a friend to the red man, and his son has never harmed them.

“My father saved the life of a red man, and now you will kill his son. If it will make an Indian chief happy to spill the blood of one who saved a red man’s life, then kill me—I am ready to die.

“And my soul will go to the Great Spirit, and will say to Him, ‘My father was a benefactor to the red man, and they murdered his son!’ ”

“Speak,” said the Chief, “Where did your father live?”

“In Boston,” said I.

“And who was the Indian whose life he saved?”

“His name was Wampum,” I replied.

“White man,” said he, “look at me, I am Wampum! I know you. You were the boy who came to my wigwam at Holyoke. You were the boy who went with me to the Great Falls. It was your father who saved my life! And shall I suffer his son to die?

“Brethren,” said Wampum, speaking to the Indians, “I was a stranger in a distant city of the white men—I drank their fire-water, and it made me wild—

“I struck a sailor, and he was angry. He came upon me with twelve men. They beat me down, and trampled on me. They would have killed me, but a white man with a strong arm, beat them off. The friend of the red men saved my life. Here is his son—shall he die?”

The Indians answered by untying my hands and feet— “Go,” said Wampum, “go to your friends and tell them that the red men will not forget kindness.

“Tell them that we will repay to the children the good deeds of their fathers. We war only with the wicked; we seek only the blood of our enemies.”


"I know that there is a certain music in them that delights the ear of childhood...but what I affirm is that many of these pieces are coarse, vulgar, offensive, and it is precisely these portions that are apt to stick to the minds of children."1 "Do not children love truth?" he asks. "If so, is it necessary to feed them on fiction? Can not History, Natural History, Geography, and Biography, become the elements of juvenile works, in place of fairies and giants, and mere monsters of the imagination?"2

Quoted in The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, Carpenter, Humphrey and Mari Prichard, but googled here.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Terminator vs Plastic Man - FQ Book 5 Canto 9

A poor Canto

The first bit is fun, A&A hunt 'Guyle' who is a LOT like Cugel the Clever.

Then they are both taken to the Court of Good Queen Mercilla (another Elizabeth), who, if you've read even one Court Scene in the Faerie Queene, is pretty much exactly like every other one.

Slow approach through qualitative bodyguards, in this case Awe and Order, witnessing of a doomed baddy, in this case Malfont a *poet bad& who spread scurrilous stories and who has his tongue nailed to a plank.

Then Fairest of the fair, surrounded by virgins, rusty sword because kingdom in peace blah blah blah, the only interesting thing is that they are in the middle of a trial.

It's our own friend Duessa, who you may remember right from the beginning of the book and from the friendship Canto in which she was a massive dick.

The list of witnesses is very slightly interesting; Zeale is the prosecutor, Kingdoms Care, Authority, the Law of Nations, Religion and Justice all speak against. Ok, dull so far.

Those speaking in defence are Pittie, Regard of womanhead, Daunger (threatning hidden dread, And high alliance unto forren powre), Nobilitie and Griefe.

Here she is by Walter Crane

SHOCK TWIST, Duessa gets off. I suppose because its Mercy's Court?*

There are probably complex philosophical reasons for this, none of which I care about.

Instead I'll go back and highlight some of the first twenty verses in which A&A hunt Guyle becasue they are great fun.


".... not fare thence lay;
To weet a wicked villaine, bold and stout,
Which wonned in a rocke not farre away,
That robbed all the countrie there about,
And brought the pillage home, whence none could get it out.

Thereto both his owne wylie wit, (she sayd)
And eke the fastnesse of his dwelling place,
Both unassaylable, gave him great ayde:
For he so crafty was to forge and face,
So light of hand, and nymble of his pace,
So smooth of tongue, and subtile in his tale,
That could deceive one looking in his face;
Therefore by name Malengin they him call,
Well knowen by his feates, and famous over all."

Cugel? It is Cugel isn't it? Somehow he got in here.

Not only that buy he lives in a D&D dungeon;

"And eke the rocke, in which he wonts to dwell,
Is wonderous strong, and hewen farre under ground
An dreadfull depth, how deepe no man can tell;
But some doe say, it goeth downe to hell.
And all within, it full of wyndings is,
And hidden wayes, that scarse an hound by smell
Can follow out those false footsteps of his,
Ne none can backe returne, that once are gone amis."

Crane Again

Not only do these two dickheads refuse to go to the Queen before they have caught the uncatchable man, they essentially force this poor Damizell to act as bait to lure out the baddy.

So she hangs out by this rocke and 'Gan weepe and wayle, as if great griefe had her affected.'

Out comes out fellow and he's magnificent.

"Full dreadfull wight he was, as ever went
Upon the earth, with hollow eyes deepe pent,
And long curld locks, that downe his shoulders shagged,
And on his backe an uncouth vestiment
Made of straunge stuffe, but all to worne and ragged,
And underneath his breech was all to torne and jagged.

Come on guys

And in his hand an huge long staffe he held,
Whose top was arm'd with many an yron hooke,
Fit to catch hold of all that he could weld,
Or in the compasse of his clouches tooke;
And ever round about he cast his looke.
Als at his backe a great wyde net he bore,
With which he seldome fished at the brooke,
But usd to fish for fooles on the dry shore,
Of which he in faire weather wont to take great store."

When she sees him of course this girl is affraid, but;

"He gan with guilefull words her to perswade,
To banish feare, and with Sardonian smyle
Laughing on her, his false intent to shade,
For he in slights and jugling feates did flow,
And of legierdemayne the mysteries did know."

He juggles too!

He grabs the girl in the net and runs to his Rocke, but is blocked by A&A. He drops her and bounds away 'Like a wyld Gote, leaping from hill to hill'. His DEX is so high that Artegall just sends Talus after him and they have a wonderful chase because this dude can also change shapes.

It's the Terminator vs Plastic Man!

"Into a Foxe himselfe he first did tourne;
But he him hunted like a Foxe full fast:
Then to a bush himselfe he did transforme,
But he the bush did beat, till that at last
Into a bird it chaung'd, and from him past,
Flying from tree to tree, from wand to wand:
But he then stones at it so long did cast,
That like a stone it fell upon the land,
But he then tooke it up, and held fast in hand.

So he it brought with him unto the knights,
And to his Lord Sir Artegall it lent,
Warning him hold it fast, for feare of slights.
Who whilest in hadn it gryping hard he hent,
Into a Hedgehogge all unwares it went,
And prickt him so, that he away it threw.
Then gan it runne away incontinent,
Being returned to his former hew:
But Talus soone him overtooke, andbackward drew."

And then the guy turns into a snake and Talus beats him to death becasue he beats everything to death.

I quite like Talus as a character because he is fucking horrible, but in being so he exposes something in the poem, and something in Spenser, that is just as horrible, but oh my god is he shit for storytelling.

The position of all of these 'helper' characters has been a bit complex when it comes to generating drama. Una knew how to do everything but was sepereated by being a super-pure lady so she couldn't lay hands on anything. The 'Blacke Palmer' also knew everything but would just be a dick about it and inform Guyon after the event. Britomarts Glauce was probably the best, she ended up trapped in drag with a guy who wouldn't listen to her. Fuck knows what was going on with the Friendship Canto.

And now Talus who is just awful awful awful. Drains any drama or danger from a scene. Makes his hero both impotent and also more disgusting. Has no fucking emotions to express. Is probably an avatar of Spenser watching those Spanish and Irish prisoners be executed by his boss. Just an epically BAD idea on Spensers part on every level, yet somehow a very apt one. The nastiness at the heart of Chivalry made manifest.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Castle In a Bag

A bag of holding is a tiresome thing, but I have in mind a plague of castle-bags.

It's like a Bag of Holding but you can only fit one thing in it, and one type of thing. Pull the drawstring of the bag open, hold it near the castle with one hand, reach out, grab the wall and with a gentle hand smoothly tip the castle into the bag.

Do it handily and it will come off the ground like a cereal box and disappear into the bag like a snooker-ball into a hole.

But hesitate, judder, pause or flail and the mass of the castle comes back and you die in an avalanche of stone, along with anyone inside.

Once the castle is inside the bag it fits quite neatly, it looks and feels as if you were carrying around a dolls-house in a sack. If you judder or smash the bag then the castle can get damaged inside.

From the perspective of those inside it feels like the castle is now in a gloomy non-dimensional space. They can't see the fabric of the bag or get out. If you open the top to look in they see an polarised pale glow, but they don't see your giant face looking down at them.

If you dump anything 'normal sized' in the bag then it will crash into the castle. It retains its relative dimensions. If you are being nice you might want to pour corn down a chimney so they can make giant popcorn to feed themselves. If you want to be horrible you can dump a giant rat or some insects in there so the people are chased around the castle by the huge beasts.

When you tip the castle back out, any huge things inside will still be huge. So, huge man-sized popcorn and huge insects and huge rats. You can try to dick about pouring in gold coins and gems but people with a castle bag usually have more important things on their mind, plus when you tip the castle back out all the people in it will still be there (unless they starved and died, in which case they will be undead) and they will want to guard their giant gems and gold coins.

Time does pass in a castle bag, but slowly. Anyone who dies in one becomes a scale-shifting undead and these undead can climb out of the bag, obsessed with killing whoever put them in there and with taking the bag themselves. And this is what ultimately happens to many castle bags, they are left too long and the castles inside them poorly treated and they are stolen by some scale-shifting undead and taken off to some dark corner of the world where the creatures sit and play with their castle.

If you find a castle-bag that already has a castle in it then be careful because if you tip the castle out then it may be full of angry undead and weird spirits.

It could also be full of treasure though, or artefacts from whenever the castle is from, plus its still a castle that you can put wherever you want (so long as there is room), and that's useful.

Plus you could just dump the castle out somewhere and run for it and now you have an empty castle-bag and you can grab a new castle if you want to.


It's best not to get too clever with your definitions. If you slip over into mansion territory on one hand, or just a hill with a fence on the other, then you will only find out if the bag will not accept the castle at the worst possible moment; just as you are about to tip it in.

The bag also only accepts built elements, so if it’s a fort on a hill 90% of the hill will be left behind. In situations with attached aqueducts and other buildings it will usually cut them off after a few metres.

Not what I was thinking of when I came up with this 
but if you want to find out more about Helen Anthonys castle bags 
there is an article here.


The bag will do its best to integrate the castle with wherever it is tipped out, but there are limits to what it can do.

There has to be room. If there are other buildings on the site then, if you are lucky [if the DM has prepped something or doesn't mind winging it] then you might get a mad Escher/Tardis style integration of forms. If you are unlucky [if the DM is pissed with you or you roll badly] you get rubble.

If the shape of a castle is very highly integrated into its environment (like a mountain peak, a river crossing or a port) then its best to try to find somewhere similar to tip it out or you might get a bad reaction.

The bag can't generate water courses. If there is one there then the bag will try to plumb in wells (if they exist) and sewers (if they exist) but that can easily go horribly wrong. If there is no water course then the sewer backs up and the well has no water.


In history there were only ever thirteen Castle-Bags.

Three made by 'Brass Beard' a short and hairy Rumplestiltskin figure in a complex ongoing situation with three Princesses, three Kings, Three Castles and the exact wording of a wish

Seven made by the Greatest Thief Ever Known, who famously used them to re-orient the military border between two powerful nations as part of the  confidence scam that won him (or possibly her) a continent, the so-called 'Continent of Thieves' which does not appear on any map and which can be found only by Thieves, and which probably doesn't actually exist or if it does exist is likely a China Mieville-esque metaphor for the invisible nation of thieves that exists inside and upon our own*.

One handed over by the Devil at a crossroads.

And a pair made for two sisters 'Lady-Bird' and 'Snail-Girl' in a Steppe-Myth which turned out to be true. One bag being forgotten in the treasury of a major Kingdom for a millennia and the other found in a Steppe Tomb.


Eight are held by the two most powerful adjacent nations in the world. Both put enormous resources into attaining and retaining as many bags as possible and maintain a balance of Mutually Assured Parcelling. Each Nation has four each. If one were to gain an advantage in bags then it could precipitate a war.

Three are inside each other, (you can do that, so long as each has a castle in it) with the last being held by 'Brass Beard', this being the current situation with the Princesses. Brass Beard is searching for his True Love, but he is a manipulative riddle-obsessed sociopath with poor person hygiene whose only positive qualities are his ability to make interdimensional bags. He also likes vegetables carved from jewels (lettuces from emeralds, radishes from rubies etc) and one particular song played on the piccolo, but nobody knows which one. To summon him simply sing "Brass Beard, Brass Beard, where are your Swans? The season is setting and shadows are long." three times and he will usually turn up. (You don't want this to happen).

One has been dragged off somewhere by the undead occupants, maybe to Fairyland.

One is in Hell and is used by the Devil to grab new castles to populate that land and also handed out in more crossroads situations to invariably negative effects for everyone.


Someone has found out how to make the bags and is handing them out. A Castle-Stealing war has begun. Troops of Thieves called 'Fortification Men' are sneaking about between kingdoms. No castle is safe. It's geopolitical and architectural chaos. No-one knows what their defence posture is. Every nation seems vulnerable but castles could pop up in strategic places at any time. Peasants are briefly happy that the dicks in the castle have gone until the military chaos enfolds them too. A ridiculous number of Dukes, Duchesses, Princes, Princesses and Horses have all been stolen, along with all the ordinary people paid to follow them about. Knife-fights between gangs of thieves are leaving castles strewn all over the docklands. Someone recently bet a castle on the turn of a card. Confidence men on every corner promise to sell you a castle in a bag, some of them may even be telling the truth. Adventurers are being hired to steal castles, to get back stolen castles, to defend castles from being stolen, to find out what is going on, to stop anyone finding out what is going on. A dwarf calling himself 'Bran Nine-Castles' is heading for the Frontier with what he claims is the beginning of a fresh Empire. Bags are banned in many places and anyone carrying a bulky object in a bag has become a suspect. A small army of bounty hunters was held in a standoff for five days by a Bedlemite who said he would drop a castle on them. Is it Brass-Beard? Is it The Greatest Thief Ever Known? Is it the Devil? The Gygaxian locig of a replicable effect applied to a magical situation? U DECIDE!

See, I did it in one paragraph. Efficiency.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Misogyny Chip: OFFLINE FQ Book 5 Canto 8

This is a rather turgid Canto redeemed slightly towards the end with an interesting fight scene and a rather gory death.

After being freed from cross-dressing bondage Artegall sets off once more on his quest to do whatever the hell it was thing Book was about.

We get a classic meet-cute between Artegall and Arthur, another case of shadow meeting shadow;

Artegall sees a Damizel fleeing some dudes, with another dude following them.

Artegall attacks one of the guys, meanwhile, the pursuer, Arthur, attacks the other. Both win and in the confusion they start fighting each other. Once blows are struck, in true badass fashion, they both realise they are ultimare tough guys. They are about to supermurder each other when the Damizell calms them down;

"They stayd their hands, when she thus gan to speake;
Ah gentle Knights, what meane ye thus to wreake?
I am the wrong'd, whome ye did enterprise
Both to redresse, and both redrest likewise:
Witnesse the Paynims both, whom ye may see
There dead on ground. What doe ye then devise
Of more revenge? if more, then I am shee,
Which was the roote of all, and your revenge on mee."

Luckily Talus's misogyny processor must be offline at this exact moment becasue he doesn't immediately slaughter her, and both Arthur and Arthegall are agreed that this is one of those women that they won't compulsively try to murder.

Info Dump: there is a very nice Queen, Mercilla, and a very bad man, in this case a Souldan and Idol-Worshipper, with an even worse wife, Adicia who are typically bent on being super-evil for reasons. The Queen sent this particular Damizell, Samient, to try to be reasonable with this woman and;

"Me like a dog she out of dores did thrust,
Miscalling me by many a bitter name,
That never did her ill, ne once deserved blame."

She then sends these two to kill Samient, which is where out heroes come in.

Arthur and Arthegall disguise themselves to get into the guys castle and a fight breaks out. This bad guy has a Dick Dastardly Whacky Races Chariot;

"And mounting straight upon a charret hye,
With yron wheeles and hookes arm'd dreadfully,
And drawne of cruell steeds, which he had fed
With flesh of men, whom through fell tyranny
He slaughtered had, and ere they were halfe ded,
Their bodies to his beasts for provender did spread."


The Souldan throws darts at Arthur and Arthur wards them, attempting to strike back, but;

".. he was mounted in his seat so high,
And his wingfooted coursers him did beare
So fast away, that ere his readie speare
He could advence, he farre was gone and past."

The Souldan throws another dart which makes "a griesly wound in his enriven side" and opens "the wellspring of his blood".

"... like to a Lyon wood,
Which being wounded of the huntsmans hand
Can not come neare him in the covert wood,
Where he with boughes hath built his shady stand,
And fenst himself about with many a flaming brand."

Whenever he gets close "His charret wheeles about him whirled round" and his carniverous horses chase his brave, but still herbiverous horse.

"Thus long they trast, and traverse to and fro"

Which an uncharitable mind would regard as somewhat equivalent to a Hanna Barbara cartoon. Arthur still can't get close so he unveils his magical shield;

"Like lightening flash, that hath the gazer burned,
So did the sight thereof their sense dismay,
That backe againe upon themselves they turned,
And with their ryder ranne perforce away:
Ne could the Souldan them from flying stay,
With raynes, or wonted rule, as well he knew.
Nought feared they, what he could do, or say,
But th'onely feare, that was before their vew;
From which like bazed deare, dismayfully they flew."

Fast did they fly, as them their feete could beare,
High over hills, and lowly over dales,
As they were follow'd of their former feare.
In vaine the Pagan bannes, and sweares and rayles,
And backe with both his hands unto him hayles
The resty raynes, regarded now no more:
He to them calles and speakes, yet nought avayles;
They heare him not, they have forgot his lore,
But go, which way they list, their guide have forlore."

There are a few verses of this until;

"At last they have all overthrowne to ground
Quite topside turvey, and the pagan hond
Amongst the yron hookes and graples keene,
Torne all to rags, and rent with many a wound,
That no whole peece of him was to be seene,
But scattred all about, and strow'd upon the greene.


So was this Souldan rapt and all to rent,
That of his shape appear'd no litle moniment."

Arthur takes the shield and that has done for the Souldan, what of the wife?

She's pretty cool;

"Yet not, as women wont in dolefull fit,
She was dismayd, or faynted through affright,
But gathered unto her her troubled wit,
And gan eftsoones devize to be aveng'd for it

Streight downe she ranne, like and enraged cow,
That is berobbed of her youngling dere,
With knife in hand, and fatally did vow,
To wreake her on that mayden, messengere,
Whom she had causd be kept as prisonere,
By Artegall, misween'd for her owne Knight,
That brought her backe. And comming present there,
She at her ran with all her force and might,
All flaming with revenge and furious despight."

Artegall manages to grab the knife from her hand;

"With that like one enfelon'd or distraught,
She forth did rome, whether her rage her bore,
With franticke passion, and with furie fraught;
And breaking forth out at a posterne dore,
Unto the wyld wood ranne, her dolours to deplore.

As a mad bytch, when as the franticke fit
Her burning tongue with rage inflamed hath,
Doth runne at randon, and with furious bit
Snatching at every thing, doth wreake her wrath
On man and beast, that commeth in her path.
They they doe say, that she transformed was
Into a Tygre, and that Tygres scath
In crueltie and outrage she did pas,
To prove her surname true, that she imposed has."

She gets away with it! And turns into a Rage-Tyger. End of canto! I told you that robots Misogyny chip was down.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Wizard Ghost

Not a Lich, they are still Skeletons, and they are thinkers and do-ers. A full on ghostly ghost.

The fearful element here being that a Lich at least wants something and is vaguely connected enough to reality to understand if you will or will not give it that thing. But a ghost is just a memory, its pseudo-selfhood feeds into and out of that memory and can relate coherently to nothing else.

And a ghost does not know that it is a ghost, it does not know that it is dead.

So imagine someone terrifyingly intelligent, who can affect reality on a basic level, travel through time, pass through dimensions, summon demons, whatever. And then imagine that they have dementia, and that they don't know they have dementia because they are so powerful that reality around them is usually whatever they think it should be, and that they can't die because they are already dead, they just don't know it, and that you can't punch or stab them and if they touch you they age you to death.

And they are wandering the world haunting something_, but no-one is sure what it is that they haunt because they can fucking time travel and see other dimensions so maybe it’s a ley-line or a particular strand of causality or a particular hive of bees or a gene cluster or a tachyon shower or some fucking thing.

And they turn up, according to some impenetrable logic, and start doing crazy old-man shit, but they can reformat reality, clone people, change memories, charm people, polymorph people and things, summon hyper-intelligent beings who might know they are a mad ghost but who _still have to do what they say_, steal souls or put them back, freeze people in, or move them through, time itself and just do any amount of insane Dr Who shit except they are doing it all in unconscious service to some traumatic memory that _even they_ don't really understand the shape or cause of.

So to get rid of them you have to solve the Ghost Mystery, which could be something as simple as burying a bone comb, but good fucking luck doing that as anyone who gets close to them gets sucked into some reality-mangled hall of mirrors situation, and that's if they are lucky.

Basics of this idea;

  • Driven by Memory
  • Timeless itself, could appear before the cause of its own death, or before its own life.
  • Could 'put off' appearing until the distant future.
  • Can affect reality through spells.
  • Has lots of spells and regenerates each time with all its spells intact.
  • But regenerates with no memory of its previous encounters.
  • So, almost impossible to beat the first time, but could be a live-die-repeat situation where if you survive the first fight or encounter then you stand better and better chances of surviving the next encounters.
  • But as you find out more and more, you get pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery of the wizards death/ghost creation

Ghost-Council-of-Orzhova from magic the Gathering.
The first think I have seen that made me give a damn about MtG.



What is the Triggering Trauma?

  1. Betrayal, by lover, student or friend.
  2. Irreparable Loss of a loved one.
  3. Despair leading to magical suicide.
  4. Death at the hands of super-enemy*.
  5. Death by freaky magic accident.
  6. Religious troubles (knows hell is real as has visited there personally).

*Things that can kill a super-wizard

  1. another super-wizard
  2. a major demon or devil
  3. themselves
  4. inter-dimensional being
  5. a dragon (a big one)
  6. a god or demi-god
  7. the illuminati

And Their Insane Response to It?

  1. Compulsive re-enactment of the event in different forms.
  2. Doing forensics of event it can't remember by following all possibly physical or mental consequences.
  3. Keeps trying to build impenetrable defence against unknown threat but can't remember the threat.
  4. Compulsively tries to stop the same thing happening to anyone else, no matter how likely, with no exact memory of what it is trying to prevent.
  5. Instinctively building a thing or ritual to replace this entire reality with one where the thing didn't happen.
  6. Kill god of death, of just God, or just open the gates to the afterlife permanently.

How Do the PCs Fix It?

  1. It’s a simple object related to the event, redeem, cleanse, destroy or return it.
  2. It’s a person, find, redeem, return, free or condemn them. (Could be the Wizards own self from another time or dimension.)
  3. It’s a secret one other entity knows, they have to state it openly to the ghost.
  4. It’s a dead person like another ghost or spirit, find them & present them to the Wizard for forgiveness or redemption.
  5. You just have to find out what happened and persuade them that it happened so they can remember it, without being blasted into atoms.


All the weird things the Wizard does which would cause people to become interesting in what he is up to and draw them in.

Hooks are also effectively 'approaches', they could be the chaos left in the blast-radius of the Wizards entry into the world.

  1. Everyone in a population, or half of everyone, mass-charmed and going about life as if they are characters in an historical epic or strange fiction.
  2. Farm or wild animals in a certain area given intelligence, personality and strange drives, they act out the history of an ancient kingdom, or one yet to be.
  3. Wanderers snatched through time, interrogated about some minor element of their lives, then let go. They all speak different languages and come from different eras.
  4. Every living thing in a particular wave-front slowly being transformed into one particular person, maybe a primary, or tertiary character from an important memory.
  5. Big things made small and small things big, giant bugs rule a grass-forest with a floor carpeted with bonsai temperate woodlands, you get bison in your shoes and might step on a city.
  6. Cities or random areas of land teleport-swapped over insane distances.
  7. Particular architectural memory breeding like a disease and replacing local objects, like a cancer of a particular building, an empty plain with the same tower repeated like temple columns, building of a city being consumed by a single set of rooms, or the same house growing like pustules over every surface.
  8. Some Djinn or Demon set to grab every blue shirt in this reality or every descendant of a particular person from a millennia ago, or everyone whose name is an anagram of a particular world, and they are so powerful that they are nearly unstoppable, but they don't really want to be doing this insane bullshit and will drop heavy hints as to what it is all about.
  9. Everyone in a population given the power to read the minds of one other person, an insane informational economy breaking out.
  10. Every dragon on the planet spazzing out because one particular kind of object was stolen from each of them, but the oldest dragon is super-powerful and now it looks like they are going to have a dragon-war.
  11. Everyone’s dreaming of the same girl and can't speak without singing laments to her and no-one knows who the hell she is and it's driving everyone nuts.
  12. A crazy old man or woman comes bustling through everyone dreams, every single night, turning things over, looking for someone, calling you by someone else’s name before getting upset and storming off. When he leaves the dream he leaves a door open and if you go into it in the dream you disappear from this life.


This is the place you have to go to encounter the Wizard Ghost in its most active form.

This is always the same place, it could be a tower, a city street, an isolated house, a ship, an interdimensional hideaway.

The key thing for the adventure is that the floor plan is always the same but the nature of the encounter is always different. The Ghost keeps creating these places wherever it comes so it feels safe and familiar, but that has no (obvious) logic to anyone else. It leaves this shape behind like the trail of a snail, repeated everywhere it goes.

It could be;

  1. Underwater.
  2. Semi-submerged in a swamp.
  3. Hanging side-on a cliff.
  4. In a forest.
  5. On a mountaintop.
  6. In the middle of a city.
  7. In the middle of a ruined city.
  8. Hanging in the air.
  9. Interlaced with the lair of whoever you thought was the most powerful bad-guy. The wizards thoughts have driven them off.

The encounters inside are of three kinds

Stuff from the Hooks; the same kinds of polymorphed, cloned, memory-changed, time-snatched, gated-in or just strange thing that drew your attention.

Stuff from the environment; whatever was living here before is either hiding from the Wizards ideas, fruitlessly contending with them or has been changed, charmed, re-written, altered

And the WYZARD themselves, in all their ghostly and deranged hyper-powerful glory

Kaya, Ghost Assasin, ANOTHER great MtG image.
Is there a whole world of ghostly action I have been missing out on by not caring about card games?


What happens when you actually bump into the wizards ghost itself, this is a mixed social encounter with a crazy, memory-damaged ghost who may be in completely different moods each time and who has insanely powerful spells.


Who doesn't remember meeting you, for either good or ill, and who is always, ultimately, obsessed with the same thing. Even though they might seem to be into different things it all relates to the same mystery.

Even though its the axle of the adventure this is probably the simplest part to create, its essentially a big list of very-powerful spell effects, basically the engine of an interesting combat encounter.

What are they Like?

  1. Opulent, like the Pope of This Dude.
  2. Noble & super-fancy, Queen Elizabeth-style.
  3. Low-Key Gentleman Ghost, like a Squire, Mr Norrell Style.
  4. Heavy-Metal DCC Wizard, mutated & tattooed to fuck with a demon staff & shitload of pentangles.
  5. Animal Form.
  6. Dimensionally Bargled like that painting style, The Angles!
  7. 5E High-Fantasy Asshole.
  8. Storybook.
  9. Potterverse Academic.

How Are They Acting?

  1. Familiar, they treat PCs as people they remember. Better keep up the act.
  2. Paranoid, surrounded by threats, afraid of something they can't sense.
  3. Mundane, acting as still alive on a boring average day, confused as to why work hasn't been done.
  4. Semi-Aware, knows something is wrong, suspects may be in parallel reality or victim of mind-maze.

Triggers! (could just use all of these)

  1. Sanity Status, better not question it.
  2. They are DEFINITELY ALIVE right now and NOT A GHOST, ok?
  3. Politeness.
  4. Do Not Disturb My Great Work!
  5. There's this one particular colour....
  6. Just don't mention the name of that person connected to the thing that definitely didn't happen..