Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ignimbrite Mite

This is Pyroxene not Ignimbrite, but real Ignimbrite is fucking boring in photographs.
Tiny bells of dying fire
igniting single signatures inside the stone
a burning word that locks the blazing choir
and opens if when called and then is gone.
The churning flow begs prayers from the crust
whines and curls the continental shield.
It learns a metamorphic spoken trust
and spells the planets voice, the sphere must yield.
Annihilation vacation, lava's jubilee.
A stone-thick fog rolls liquid on the land
a fluid fixed, the mountains squealing glee.
Your lungs boil in your chest your skin is sand,
your culture lost to time, your shape preserved
a last life's moment frozen by the blaze
and, crystalled with you there, the mountains word.
That secret sentence sounded over days
learnt by magmatic tides, in plasmic voice
with whale-length wavelengths whispered to the rock.
Each living, breathing syllabic choice
had mind and impish thought to spurn and mock
but held in slow pronunciations chains
it struggled until spoken, then was free
and danced and raced before the welding rain
and saw a cities death and laughed with glee.

Like spheres cast circles shadowed on the page
their shapes are three-dimensioned silhouettes,
ghost verbs encoded by a world-less mage.
A song from higher spaces whose laws let
the sound-imps seem to shift their forms in ours,
like sparks and flickers, burning words, or birds,
some sealed within the rock that builds the tower
that tombs the town and and plaster-cakes the herd
like curls of black inside the stone, ash-flowers
to be released when Tuff is cut or falls.

But, some un-bonded phonemes dodge the blow
and, wisping in a zig-zag seek earths call
they hunt around the halls where monsters go
they sing and cackle, mocking endless night
and bounce around the heads of questing fools
joy-smug for not embracing ignimbrite
that slowly-flaking grave of living words.

If cunning minds should trap them, learn their words
and lantern them in braille-rows to regard
the sentence strung, a row of readed crowns,
those same minds grasp the speech that mutters far.
And un-knots the earth
and kills it in the night.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Pyroclastic Ghoul

Cannibal aristocrats with souls and skins of ash.

The first thing you notice is the absence of a crouch. They don't move like ghouls. Because, they're not ashamed of anything they've been or done. They walk with confident languorous steps. Imagine strolling through your home from room to room. It's Sunday. There's no one to observe. There's nothing to collect or move. Your hand brushes the wall fingertip light, reasonless. That touch is how they walk. As if they own the wilderness of stone.

Their faces are carved badly with rock-mitten hands. They've no idea. Mirrorless they carve and cut with knaps of flint and broken blades. Each hewing its own motionless grey face. Scraping ash-flakes in the shapes of eyes and mouths. Like a face drawn by a clumsy child. Eyeless, earless, noseless they carve on. A memory of a noble profile lost in endless blind migrations through the heat-hammered dark. A fools attempt at grace, a spastic refinement. This is what they think they looked like once.

The ghouls have other senses now. Unknown to living things. They hunt well and need no light to do it. But touch, tactility, remains. The one remaining aspect of mankind. They feel like people do. But locked and grating through endlessly flaking armour of rock.

The mouths still work. Wet and red inside, half open like a panting dog.

If you keep throwing peasants to an angry volcano deity, eventually they get upset. This puts you in a jam. A wrathful mob around the mountains base, a raging god of fire above. It's only going to end one of two ways and both of those ways involve people burning to death. Either the committee for the revolution sends you godwards face to face, or he pops out the hill to see what’s wrong.

The culture that produces the ghouls is gone. Imagine Rome, or Babylon, the English in India, the Caliphs in Cadiz. Somewhere with things ripe enough to burst.

Wankers essentially. The mountain took them all. A noble-thronged redoubt consumed by ash. The people were eaten.

It might be that the things that ate them stole. The memories that they have may not be theirs. Elemental carrionites* feasting ashy meat of a decadent race. Waking up the flesh inside. Riding on the memories that they found. Dancing distant chimes of murder and control.

But maybe it is them, the original bastards, burnt and preserved in the breath of the volcano. Waking up a long time late, hungry and malformed, immune to heat. They peregrinate inverted down below. Strolling upside-down beneath the crust. Immune to magma. Buoyant enough the treat the continental root as floor. Strolling an waiting for an opening. They swim-crawl up and beach the lava-tubes. Off and out, hunting for meat.

They are utterly refined, at least with the fractured memory of refinement. Manners always. They can be spoken to and negotiated with. But they do not work. Arrangements can be made. They are not paid. They do not trade. A tacit trust can be arranged. The treasures they're no paid with are of stone. Only sculptures work, the craft of perfect hands and inspired minds. If these are provided at regular intervals they ghouls can be persuaded to stay in one place and pursue regular prey.

The lair of the ghouls is filthy. Blood and old bone carpets the floor. Silk hangs in rotting ruins. Occasional treasures lie bent on the floor. The sculptures they demand are scratched. The ash-mitten hands run up and down the perfect marble faces till they dull. Pressing and searching for a tactile memory long since lost.

Anyone entering this room and seeing how they live will be assaulted and killed, employer or no. There is something they're ashamed of after all.

*possibly some kind of voidling?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Arachnopolis Rex

Spiders don't socialise. Spiders don't work together. Spiders don't hunt as packs. Spiders don't use tools. Spiders don't organise large structures*.

Because if they did, we'd all be dead.

In a high-threat, low-energy environment, life finds a way to survive. It probably began small. Spiders do build after all. They even make simulated spiders. They are master engineers. All it took was one useful co-operation to start the trend.

These spiders formed a hive. An amalgamation of silk and bones and scraps of adventurers flesh. The hive they made was spider-shaped. A decoy-spider made to scare and distract. But predators can't stay in one place. The hive had to move. So the hive learnt how. Slowly at first, then quickly and with size.

Arachnopolis Rex is a highly organised hive of spider species symbiotically linked.

You will mistake it for a spider at first. Vast, white, gleaming and slow. Blind and stumbling. Without the spiders expected alien grace. The small hives are dog-sized. No upper limit to their growth is known. The body is a shell of silk. A close glance shows the spider crew beneath the netted skin. A whirlwind of dark forms counter-spiralling like autumn leaves in an alley-gale. The mega-structure is slow. The life that drives it runs. Bones are used, and wood and any available thing to brace the pseudo-skeleton and give it strength. It's fragile still. A handy blow will carve out chunks. Even on its own, wandering through abandoned caverns in search of prey, the meta-spider is in constant repair. Expendable spinnerets are wrung dry keeping it in shape. The used up bodies are eaten or incorporated into the corpus.

The over-spiders eyes are shining spider-backs. It has no eyes. The things you thought they were are black, shimmering, vaguely-iridescent thoraxes. Eight large jumping spiders. Curled up and prepared in just the places where its eyes would be. As the automiton moves into the light, just as you begin to realise what it actually is, they leap. It's eyes jump at you trailing silken thread. Then more attack.

No poison, not yet. Arachnopolis Rex needs energy to move. It's legs are jointed with suspension-cord. Like puppet-wires converging in its core. Inside the thorax spindle-spiders pull and twist, jerking the legs in memorised moves. Complex evolved cybernetic feedbacks maintain the stride. It cannot climb as spiders climb, they hoist it up instead. Pioneer teams of mountaineer-spiders cloud up the slope and slowly pull it up. They lower it the same way.

The reason for the spiders initial boarding-leap is not to kill you. It's to tie you in. The puppet-cords attach and link you up. The silent silk pulleys and levers of bone feed back the tension through the line. If the initial projectile-grapple attack succeeds, add your own attack bonus to that of Arachnopolis. Escape or fight, your own movements are feeding the creature energy to attack you.

And then the poison. Black-widow helix-linked micro-hives in shapes of fangs. A scaffolding of black encrusting borrowed bone from other forms of life. The fangs flow with mass-produced communal-venom. They stab and spit and blind.

The body is easy to damage, difficult to kill. Any part can be repaired. Much of the structural silk is sticky (there are actual flies in there, a handy protein-bonus for the hive) so blades may not come free. In addition to which, every gouge bleeds deadly spiders out. They are the blood-stream of this beast. A severed head fountains tarantulas.

When the giga-spider kills it takes you all. Your body foetus-wrapped and drained of blood. Your bones and possessions scattered and re-used with no regard to form. It's legs may be reinforced with femur-bones, scabbards, swords or ten-foot-poles. Its teeth may be daggers discoloured with an endless venom flow, or a predators recovered incisors, or fossil-shards discovered in the rock, or tiny stalactites. It may trail parchment in spiderweb-rags. Its skin may be the pages of a book. A Mage's handwritten spells fading under the weave.

There's probably some skulls in there because fuck it why not? Maybe the meta-spider has spider-slyle markings made of stolen gems and bits of skull, whatever it can find. Gold teeth and marriage-rings in arachnid predator-warning signs on its lumbering back to warn off Lamenters and Igneous Wrath.

*I have been informed by Scrap Princess that spiders actually do all of these things. I must assume that our rule of this world will not be a long one.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Megaspores and Igneous Wrath

Psychomycosis Megaspores

They look like grim disco-people. If witnesses knew what a disco was.

The spore is basketball sized and round. It flexes slightly, tremors invisibly and frighteningly quick as micro-spurts of desperate growth run through. Like a cell dividing in a scope.

It's greeny-glass blue with big thick wine-bottle-bottom lenses making up the tessellated skin. The cell wall is transparent-opalescent in the light. Though why, no-one can tell. It eats the eyes in the skull so cannot see through those.

The spore comes down over your head like a diving helmet. You drown in toxic psychotropic goo. It eats the flesh in your head. Muscles, skin, lips and eyes. Dissolves much of the meat in the brain, but leaves the neuronal web. It picks you up. And makes you walk.

Looking at the skull that tops the staggering form, observing through the green-blue glass, you see teeth. A halo of them bobbing in the thick dissolve. Sometimes a jaw-bone joins them. Sometimes it slips, like a splinter that's ejected from the flesh. You see it sticking out, half-bare and yet to fall away. The teeth surround the empty skull, dancing in the white neuronal smoke. Your nerve-connections web released from flesh and spilling from the bone, but still hooked up. Expanding in the dusky oil.

So it staggers towards you and beats you to death. Then drags your body to some secret place and dumps it with the rest. Then watches and watches and watches while you rot.

The adults don't seem very interesting? But, someone has found a use for this spore. It has a talent for tongues.

If you force a smaller spore over the head of a pet. Say a dog. Something low and controllable. It can be harnessed and trained. The spore will eat the flesh but the mix of unknown soup and neuronal-skeletal-web grows babel-skills. It can understand any spoken language. However. It cannot speak. It can only sign with the limbs the original animal had. And apes have proven too difficult to control.

A spore on an adult humonoid body is a violent killer, attacking everything it can, dragging the bodies to secret places.

Someone found a different way. They used a child. Around the age of eight is best. You'll need the parents consent. Kill the child by drowning in the spore. As the creature eats, have the mother whisper and hold. She can persuade the spore not to eat the eyes. If the child truly loved its parents the resulting spore-slave-zombie-thing will carry vestigial loyalties in the spinal cord. It can hear and it can move. It will have eyes to read. And it can sign its reading. The spore-child can read any language. It can crack any cypher and code.


Not even the darkest soul has dreamed the truth. The spore-child lies. It seeks the death of nations. Every word is tilted, imperceptibly wrong. The speaking of the spore breeds war. Slowly seeded and tended over time. The translations of the spore-child twist the minds inside the heads of state. They breed chaos, violence and fear. The aim is death.

All the spores want is an endless carrion-warren under the earth. A boundless maze of rotting flesh where every living thing is muck. They are seeds after all. That's what a spore is, a seed-child. The fungus they were made to grow needs dying things to live. That's why the stupid 'adult' spores attack. That's why the kinder-spores exist. To become valuable. To be moved around. To be kept safe. To produce death. It is a long plan. But what is time to a myconid mind?

Igneous Wrath

A fire without flame, a flame without heat. The Ingneous Wrath has burst its bonds. It is skipping on the rock that dents under its legs.

Elementals find it hard to leave. Birthed from cosmic planes, their bones and flesh arranged by delicate compact, if they stay too long they die. A beast of fire won't breach the cold. They freeze in air conditioned rooms. The Wrath found a way.

It lives a kind of endless mirror life that never gives it rest. The Wrath walks on the walls of rock. Gravity has no relevant reference here. The wrath sticks to the walls. Or ceilings. So long as they are natural rock. It does not fall. The stone dimples like a dragonfly's footprint on a pond. Beneath the Wrath is it's reflection, holding it in place. They used to be one thing.

One form of the Igneous wrath is beetle-like. Black, solid flameless as cold coal but burning hot. It stamps and shuffles forward like an awkward bull. A smouldering scarab-predator always on the verge of explosive boiling flight. Hot enough to burn you within feet. Crawling in a compressed mirage-heat-haze. Never never bursting into flame.

The other form, the sometime-rock-reflection is a phoenix-fly. A dragonfly wreathed in fifty-colour shades of fire. Iron-cold rust red fire that never burns. The fire is chill. It lights like twenty burning torches but holds not one breath of heat. It can enfold you and eat the air in your lungs. It can carbonise your clothes and consume your flesh. But it cannot burn as burnings understood.

The two things race together through the caves. As one dives down into the rock the other surges up to take its place. And so they run, endlessly figure-eighting on a regular relative plane. The beetle burrows down into the stone, the dragonfly escapes. And visa-versa. They can never be in the same plane at the same time. This was the arrangement they made. By splitting itself in two the Wrath escapes the fate of failed elementals, cooling and dying in the material world. It can run forever while there is rock to support its division.

But it has to run. It can never stop moving. It is escaping it's own impossibility and if it stops, the mealy laws of time and space catch up. The bailiffs of physics attack.

It is also ridiculously hungry and pissed-off.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Atomic Bees

Silver selinium blooms with uranium stamen. The flowers of the abyss, turning their metre-wide radial heads as distant quasars pass across the hidden sky. The silent gardens of the Archeans look like radio-telescope crops grown from spider silk and silver wire. The polished obsidian roof reflects your up-turned glance. Superconductor-roots to bring the heat, descending multiple miles.

Pollinated by Atomic Bees.

White bees the size of a toy car, heavy as a gamblers wrap of gold, as soft as sleepy mice inside your palm. The wings a silent static blur in blue and gold. Like a failed analogue signal.

The wings vibrate at the exact frequency of one of the inner-ear-bones. You can feel them in your head, passing back and forth, like skull-received radio noise.

The sting of the atomic bee is so fucking deadly that the death it brings briefly outstrips time. Like a gunshot skipping on a lake. Your cells are annihilated at such speed, and with such violence, that you are plunged through nearby wild dimensions as you burn. What this looks like to observers is a victim burning, turning to ash, and being caught in a violent unseen, unfelt wind, all at once as they flickerstop in and out. The wind of your extra-dimensional fall will plaster your ash to a nearby surface. You leave behind hiroshima-scar remains and an agonized radioactive ghost who has briefly seen outside time and space. Communicating with this ghost in incredibly deadly but can supply weird understandings.

The hives are warm atomic piles. Organic termite-mound cooling towers nine feet high, enshrouded in steam. Usually built by flowing water. The bees use burned up bones as carbon rods to soak atomic sparks. The beehive has long black carbonised bones pincushioning the core. This shows you where the honey is.

Every part of the bee and hive is utterly deadly and wildly expensive. Assassins want the stings. Lunatics and liches want the honey. Evil gods hunger for the royal jelly. It can breed new species without divine consent. Alchemists want the bees themselves.

Hit one with your sword and it goes 'clang' and spins away. It may leave a dent in the blade. The bees are peaceful. Do not anger them. They swarm quickly. Often guarded by Archean gardeners.

There may be atomic wasps. If there are, nothing has survived meeting them.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Living liquid moonlight birthing nightmare mind-monsters..

When we think about the moon we must imagine the ways it can terrify us. A certain kind of horror can only take place under moonlight. Darkness is an honest monster. Moonlight lies. It transforms. It seduces. It is beautiful.

The moon is a white face pressing against the darkened glass of a childs bedroom in the night. The moon is that seeming in the word that suggests something else, bulging like a hand against the walls of a tent. The moon is many other things, good and beautiful, but after its distillation in the earth only the evil is left.

The stars and moon water the sunless earth with arrowheads of silver light. Most is reflected, some is absorbed, some is lost.

The lost light seeps into the ground like rainfall, but infinitely less. With different physics. Ignoring hydrological law. The Mondmilch descends in looping stuttering spirals like a coughing bird. The darkness slowly leaches away its lightness in the rock. It becomes heavy. Like white mercury. A single drop can take a thousand years to form. Beading invisibly in some forgotten crypt.

It forms pools of pure moonlight miles underground. An anti-patronus pool surrounded by the skeletons of mad dead artists. The walls are painted silver and the colours lost. Moonlight tends to blue, although the reason for this is unknown. The milk of the moon lives. And what would moonmilk want? Only the dark corrupted shadow of the wants of the moon itself. Art, transformation, mystery, metamorphosis.

The Mondmilch makes nightmare art from the echo of your own silent imaginings. The fears inferred by nightmares you recall. Imagine if your nightmare had a nightmare. A kind of anti-creation-equation that makes terror seem like a positive.

Mondmilch is motile and conscious. It moves like thick living mercury to surround you if it can. It kills you with monsters birthed from its pearly flows and the negative echo of your dread.

Take the WIS of the wisest PC. This is the HD value of the thing the Mondmilch makes to kill you. It can barely be described in words. Looking directly at it causes a save against paralysis every time as your mind fails to process the negative information that shapes it. It cannot be hurt by weapons of any kind and is immune to magic. But, it can be fought.

To fight the Mondmilch-beast the players must use their creative minds to reduce it to the level of mere nightmare.

If the wisest PC can describe their very deepest fear, what it is, and why they fear it, they can force the Mondmilch into that shape. Every further fear described can hive off half the remaining HD of the creature being fought. It will incarnate as the new nightmare made. After the first fear, all other PCs can participate in expressing their nightmares. Once per round each as a standard action.

This can continue every round, until the Mondmilch-thing is reduced to a crowd of individual One-HD horrors.

The nightmares will attack in whatever way seems most appropriate for each nightmare and each is vulnerable in ways you would expect from that particular creature, person or thing. PC's can fight each others nightmares.

Mondmilch lanterns are used by some for their imperishable glow, but they are dangerous. Heavy and bound in iron, they are fishtank prisons with small drips of the angry milk of the moon trying to escape inside.

I goes without saying that the light given off by Mondmilch has all of the magical and spiritual qualities of moonlight. Lycanthropy triggering, etc.

Animal Crackers

This is in my head and I think I need to get it out before I can continue doing monsters.

Sub-scientific rambling and nothing to do with RPG's below

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Eigengraü and Gegenschein

The Eigengraü are terrifying, evil, obsessive stealth-predators that eat your eyes and plant their young in your flesh.

The Gegenschein are, noble, memoryless moth-men. Twilight warriors bearing bones wrapped in silent silk. They seek endlessly to challenge the deadliest foe and take its bones as trophy for their ritual sex.

They are one. The Gegenschein birth the Eigengraü and die, the Eigengraü plant the larval Gegenschein. The Gegenschein do not know this. The Eigengraü do.


A grey-black attack-caterpillar with neurotoxin beading on invisible spikes.

Predatory, malicious and effective. The Eigengraü will hunt you, consuming your fingers and extremities. Slowly. It will wait and take a finger each attack. Sometimes minute by minute. Sometimes day by day. You will not see its approach. You will not recall its attack. The nerve agent dewdropped on its radial filaments will steak its memory from your mind.

The Eigengraü is waiting at watching to see if you survive. It needs a host with a deep well of life brimming over within. The final power that breaks the chain and challenges the edge of death. The last attempt, the failure to submit. It needs born survivors to rape with insect eggs. It will take your fingers first to see how you react. If you do well it will take more. It needs a harmless host that cannot shake the egg but one with wits and strength enough to survive in the darkness. (It may also take soft tissue from your face, nose, ears, lips, subject to taste.)

If you show the capacity to survive its repeated invisible assaults then its final act will be to wait for you to weaken, and eat your eyes, one by one as your fingerless hands flail at its crawling flesh. Then, it drives its gonads into your stomach like a dagger strike. The creature dies. The young self-fertilise inside.

Combat with the Eigengraü usually lasts one round. It always wins initiative. If it hits you, or you hit it, the combat is over. The toxins take effect. You are allowed one swing after a successful hit by the beast before the chemicals wipe your mind. Once a combat with the Eigengraü is finished, no-one touched by the Eigengraü may speak of it. Not the player, not the character. They have no memory of it. They do not know what happened. They cannot find the Eigengraü.

PC's can exchange the HP damage for any Eigengraü attack into purely cosmetic damage doing on one HP each time. The price is the loss of a finger, thumb, or meaningful soft tissue from the face. When the character has nothing left to trade the Eigengraü will come for their eyes.


The Gegenschein are intelligent man-sized moths with samurai skills. Their grey wings glow. Like a cloud of cigarette smoke reflecting an unseen flame. The glow is only seen in natural dark, without the merest touch of artificial light.

Under lamplight the subtle greys are a fiendish camouflage.

Gegenschein have claws but wield improvisation like a blade. They make weapons from whatever they find. Rocks, bones, fire, light, patience and rope have all been used.

They grow from eggs maturing in a hero's guts which kill the host. The Gegenscheins first act is to consume the corpse that makes its crib.

The Gegenschein has almost no long-term memory. It is driven by instinct to do good. Its final mating-flight requires a dowry of bones. Only those Gegenschein who have repeatedly sought out and fought the most dangerous and evil creatures and survived will be allowed to mate and breed. They make a trophy of a single bone and wrap it in silent grey silk. These bones are read by prospective mates. They will assess the progression and challenge of each kill. If a Gegenschein does not show constant advancement, courage and skill, it will be denied.

As soon as its eggs are fertilised and hidden, the Gegenschein dies. It never knows what it has created.

The names and places it has seen are written on its wings in silvery thread. It wrote them there. It has no other way to recall where it has been and who it has met. This makes old moths more visible than the young, and more dangerous. Having survived so long and faced so much, they will be difficult to defeat. The last sight of many monsters is an odyssey of names in silver on invisible wings as the Gegenschein swoops down.

If hero's are powerful enough it will challenge them, but tracking is more likely. PC's summon badness from the earth. The Gegenschein will wait for something truly terrible to attack, then dive to engage it alone.

They do this quite a lot and have gained a reputation for heroism as a result. A kind of angel to the weak and lost.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Fungal Ambassodiles

There is a food chain of decay. A sun-linked chain made by plants. A red chain of animal flesh. A dark chain of dead and dying things. The doomed feasting on the ruined who ate the dead. A pyramid of ghouls. Crocodiles survive every extinction. They are a final link of the negative chain. Slow. Patient. Waiting for the world to make a mistake. The river-dwellers eat the things that ate the things that ate the world. They live on.

And the unusual character of the Crocodile, and it's tidal metabolic tick, lend it strength.

There is a fungal life that rules the flesh. Consuming insects, crabs and shrimp from the inside. It saw the crocodile and struck. It found the target lodged. The slow churn of the crocodiles flesh left no purchase for infection. It's infinite calm and brass-cogged cogitatative mind refused the touch of fear. The fungus was trapped. If could only infect the crocodile to a limited extent, could never consume it totally. The crocodile was likewise pinned. It could never fully eradicate the fungal life wrapped around it's scales and mind. Perhaps the only creature alive that would not go irrevocably insane when being consumed by a semi-intelligent fungi.

They learned to live together. They became something new.

The Fungus warms the crocodile from within, and cuts the rope that binds it to the sun. It fixes flesh and lends long life. In return it rides inside a king. A massive, close-to-deathless deep-dwelling apex-killer.

Not a king actually, an Ambassador.

For several excellent reasons.
One - They speak fluent Myconid and almost nothing else does.
Two - The endless conversation between fungal dream-state and crocodile-brain lends them a talent for other languages.
Three – Connection to no particular racial or political group.
Four – Utterly reliable, impossible to bribe.
Five – Cold, quiet crocodile minds have a flair for Realpolitik.
Six – They are their own bodyguard, a regenerating quasi-psychic crocodile the size of a truck is difficult to scare.
Seven – They seem to love the work.
Eight – even though they are the living expression of a continual conflict/symbiosis between a near-immortal reptilian mind and an almost-alien fungal intelligence, they are actually less insane than most of the things they represent.

Intelligence. Calm. Probity. Reliability. Subtlety. Immense patience. The fact that its a fucking tank with teeth. Gigantic fungal Crocodiles are the Ambassadors of the Underdark.

And the embassies. Inside the Crocodiles mouth (or stomach) is sovereign territory. A large male can carry three to five adults in its mouth in reasonable discomfort. Like a close cab. The passengers nest like baby gators. You will be utterly safe within. (Diplomatic immunity.) Unless the political situation outside changes. Should this happen, you will be swallowed. Though it will take some time for you to be digested.

There are tales of still-functional half-digested diplomatic corps being vomited into high-level talks. Reaching out shaking skinless hands to sign treaties in bubbling blood.

Inside the mouth, things are usually calm. Politically important dignitaries can be carried through the darkest war zones in sticky comfort.

Two voices. One, deep, low, sardonic and bass. The other tiny, fast, verbose, polyphonic and irreverent. But one mind. One would quite like to eat you, the other to infect you. Though they will only express this wish in the most charming Wildeian small-talk.

It is possible to persuade one voice of an Ambassodile to hide something from, or deceive the other. But only so long as the silent overmind finds it amusing.

Mad fungal moths sometimes perch in its back in rows like teeth-cleaning birds. They are messengers, flapping wetly through the empty caves to whisper political secrets in the Crocodiles ear.

Its gut holds secrets and gold. Bits of treasure here and there, but also secrets and incriminating works. The Underdark equivalent f the Nixon tapes are probably inside a Crocodiles stomach somewhere.

Should the PC's actually kill one (or more likely find one dead) they will be in much more danger from the secrets they find in it's belly than they were from the creature itself. Like a trippy conspiracy movie.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Ultraviolet Butterfly

You can see them. The sombre'st, darkest, fugue-like deep-ocean blue. The midnight blue between midsummer stars.

The bodies lie below. Paper-thin parchment skulls and wasted uneaten limbs. Rare to see abandoned flesh unused. The butterfly’s throng the walls. The blue is giving you waves of euphoric sorrow. A tragidean high like heroes feel before the axe comes down. If you look to closely at the butterfly wings, gaze the unending edge, your bloodvessels will crimp and burst in your head. The butterflys will eat your eyes and nest inside.

If one flits across your yellow-white light it looks like the shadow of a butterfly caught on a wall, but alive, pressed in living dimensions and pinned, momentarily, in mid-air.

The freshly-dead heads are burning. A soft, dim low-light infra-red, emitted from the mouth and sunken eyes. Like a coal glowing in an empty skull. A blood-clot ruby red. A dead-star-red.

Inside are jewels. Pick-up the skull and turn. Ignore the tears streaming from your eyes. Ignore the petrified childhood dreads cracking their coverings in the back of your head. It's just the butterfly’s bipolar-blue-glow. Inside the empty head, eaten out, they lay their chrysalids. Glimmering ruby-bright lozenges, irregular jewels. At their centres, knots, vaguely pulsing tangles of slight light. The jewels defend themselves with lust. Designed to drive a predator to unexpected doom, they embue anyone touching them with crazed, gothic self-destructive horny lust for any available partner. Be careful when you pick them up.

The caterpillars that will hatch from these glimmering seeds are jewels themselves. Perfect segmented prismatic rainbows of liquid light. Magnificent luxurious slowly ambulatory gem-beasts. Twisting and turning curlicues upon themselves.

The bite of the magnificent caterpillar is the most dangerous and sacred of all. A madness-bite. Instant schizophrenia.

These insects are immeasurably valuable and dangerous at every stage of their development. Much sought by decadent deep-dwelling peoples.

Many a throne-room, netted with silken silver nets, is lit with the butterfly's death-dark blue. Less a colour, almost a living liquid that sloshes immeasurably slowly from surface to surface. It's long looping wavelengths almost fingertip tangible.

The butterfly's blues light causes bipolar behaviour. Mood swings, mania and depressions. The kind of nobles that willing fill their arbours with this blue either don't notice, don't care, or actively enjoy the results. They believe deeply that the butterfly’s can sense noble blood*. More than one feud has begun when two nobles pricked their fingers in the butterfly room and waited, with dark blood beading on their outstretched hands, waiting to see where the first butterfly would land to feed.

The fact that looking closely at the butterfly's wing can kill you in one stroke is considered a handy shibboleth. Keeps the scum out.

The chrysalids are worn as pervy jewels and used as drugs, for obvious purposes.

The liquid-crystal-caterpillars are the most prized of all. Schizophrenia, amongst it's drawbacks, sharpens some aspects of pattern recognition and heightens the threat-sense. For normal people the horrific life-damage done by even temporary madness makes it a poor deal. For the murderous rulers of knife-edge subterranean states, things are a little different.

In a world where almost everyone you know is probably plotting against you to some extent, believing yourself to be under threat is less of a hardship. The obsessive correlating of the tiniest tangential evidence, the half-sensed look, the sly event, into tangled webs of paranoia, this is actually useful. Those webs really do exist. They really are trying to kill you. Being crazy about it just lends you energy and perception. Another advantage is that deranged bouts of terror-strewn violence, random executions, wild accusations and frantic source-less witch-hunts keeps everyone in the right state of apprehensive fear. If a normal person goes crazy, they fuck up their own life. If a tyrant goes crazy, they fuck up everyone's life.

Being known for occasional periodic violent insanity can be handy for a rulers reputation.

They wear them as living earrings. This has created a fashion in Drow society. Fake costume-jewellery crystal caterpillars. (The trick is to look for the tiny scars on the nape of the neck.)

*They can't.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Two hundred and fifty million years ago a war began when something tried to kill the earth. No-one alive knows what or why. The coal burned in the ground and poisoned the sky. The forests were consumed en-mass. They died to fast to leave a trace of oil. A fungal spike occurred. Vast growths feeding on the rotting flesh of disaster-taxons. Whole species. Most species. Big enough to leave a negative trace in rocks we find today. A speckling of empty oil beds, fossil fungal spores, shocked quartz and fullerines holding some unknown extraterrestrial gas.

Ninety four percent of everything alive was killed. We descend from the surviving six per cent. The war was lost by life, which shrivelled on the earth.

But not quite.

One survived. Carrying the memory of the war beyond Gowandaland. The Trilobite. A blind and sleepless knight in clanking armour clad. Wandering the hidden places of the world, carrying its burden through the empty night, lest darkness rise again.

They saw the first light on earth. Not the first made, but the first seen. The first eyes possessed by living things. The first to fully know the light, the first to fear the dark. The first to know what shadows were, how colours work. The first to see the other suns beyond the moon. The first to see the light that stains the sky before the dawn. They loved the Earth.  

Trilobite eyes are subtle hexagonal hives of liquid-bright calcite. They see in depth, with great complexity. Their sight became a curse. The artful sheet-glass transparency made them prime, unavoidable, and sole witnesses to the holocaust of earthly things. A scale and intensity of murder forgotten by prophets, a soul-blinding horror.

The few that lived abandoned sight, they moved into the silent knots within the planets skin. They waited while the rotting flesh of every living race piled past in torrents of corruption. They waited while the fungal lords ruled briefly on the dying corpse of earth. They waited while the slow rebirth of life began again. They concentrated on survival. They have a reason to go on. Apart from the strange myconid dream-mind that might or might not span the globe, they are the only ones who remember. The only living thing to even know the threat exists. They are hiding but they are not beaten, they know it will return.

A Trilobite-Knight is a six-foot, silent, intelligent bug. Clothed in natural plate and following something pretty much like the chivalric code. Fight with honour on life's right hand. Never kill a surrendered foe. Defend the weak against the strong. Uphold the right.

They will challenge adventurers to learn their worth. It is not so unusual to find a Psychopyge sword-bearing bug, rearing in heraldic defiance across a needle-thin abyssal pass. Or duelling on the rocks through Nightmare Falls. Sometimes appearing unannounced when danger lurks. Striking evil from the darkness.

They will test the skills and morals of those they meet. They are looking for honourable opponents. A single enemy that advances and fights alone, fail or prevail, will win their respect. They always accept surrenders and always punish scheming and deceit.

They will not help Myconid slaves, or interact with myconids in any way. No-one knows why.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Zombie Coral

A misnomer. The coral lives. The symbiotic algae inside, filling it with strange fires and bloody lusts, does not.

We have to blame Atlantis. As with so much. The long-time-dying, depthlessly mad, endlessly growing empire that crinkled on the planets skin like a fractal scar, always hungry. You know how they end. This is how and why they start, with blood, and bone extracted from the sea.

Their power grew, not through conquest, culture, or force of arms, but murderous biogenesis.

The empire was a pin-prick once. Long ago, one of a tidal archipelago scattered in a forgotten sea. Atlantis had few neighbours, no resources, no trade and nowhere to go.

Many coral and anemones cradle in their core a form of symbiotic Symbiodinium. An algae. It feeds the cradling beast with photosysnthetic skill and in return is guarded by the polyps care. The simple island-dwellers to the coral sang. They made it grow. Forming tiny atolls for canoes and spearing fish. Atlantis was a salty garden the size of St Helena. But the sun to them was moonlike and pale, eclipsed by natal imperial pride. The urge to empire outstripped the corals natural growth.

They spiritually and physically ruined the Symbiodinuim algae. Hollowed out its photosysnthesis and left its cytoskeleton covered in the tattered remains of the cell membrane, its mycoplasmal engines animated not with light, but with death. The ATP from animal cells drove the polyps into a mad, hollow simulation of ferocious life.

It grew and it grew fast and wild. Atlantis stretched out a bony beckoning finger of reef. It touched its closest friend. Then went to war. Not for land but blood. For Atlantis blood was land and land was strength. The future. The ultimate resource from which all others sprang. The source of human power. Ultimately, one island-culture stood victorious. The captives went to feed the hungry coast. Atlantis grew. It needed to keep growing. The island went looking for prey.

All of this took a couple of thousand years and multiple cultural shifts. But at the end, an isolated island state was transformed. Instead, sub-continent of sorcerer kings. New lands, by nature never planned.

Over time the ecosystem around Atlantis adapted to its predatory shore. Vast whale-consuming anemone bloomed in the coral shelf as it loomed. Mile-long jellyfish thronged under the surf, trailing gossamer neuro-toxin tendrils. Nothing survived the seas around Atlantis.

And then it fell. Atlantis shattered and drowned. The coral went un-fed. It did not die. Some flung fragments went wandering under the waves. Some though, was folded under the earth. Hidden in the stone. Waiting for the slow collisions of continents to cut it free.

Zombie Coral can lurch out of an old seam, waving sessile gorgonian fronds. It can form man-shaped things that stumble out of the dark with anemone hands. They are child-sketch-drawing-men. Perhaps the memory of the blood informs them. Perhaps they were men once. The slightest graze of their nodular pipe-cleaner limbs is dangerously toxic.

Desperate hunger and Atlantian science forced the growth of rare and murderous nematocytes holding saturnury ammonium compounds, proteeth, tiny-hydroxy-tryp-the-men, catch-you-cholamines see-me-no-more and hista-mind. Their touch is poisonous and paralysing. The delayed effect, weeks after the initial graze, is worse. Slow transformation.

Where did you think brain-coral came from? Its human brains, changed and growing, falling from the sunken skull.


Wounds should be flushed with large quantities of vinegar or whatever sterile fluid you have available.

The man-shaped coral things dimly recall an imperial dream. They can smell magic users and will flock them. The best escape is courtly grace. The coral knows the ways of old Atlantian times. If you should know them too, it may be duped.

Any magic-using PC who has learnt the complex courtly greetings and careful social rituals of ancient Atlantis, may perform them. No actual magic is involved. It is simply a form of unique and flowing approaches and moves. Precisely employed. Part tea-ceremony part dance. This is how high-cast Atlantians held above the mob. If done correctly any coral beings witnessing will cease attack. Lost in a memory of their greatness. They can be directed. They do not understand words or complex physical directions.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

HopFish and Knotsman

HopFish (Crawling Piranha)

Well, these guys are pretty simple. Piranha are already terrifying. Some cave fish have already learnt how to climb up rocks. Piranha like to jump occasionally. What could make more sense than a Piranha species in dangerous circumstances evolving stiffened fins and hopping out of the river after their prey?

Albino of course. Maddened by blood. Strange little “click click click” as the first few leave the water. Then you turn and shine your lantern at the ground and see it covered with these white, twitching, hopping fish. Tapping forward awkwardly on their fintips. Their jaws churning.

They wouldn't be able to stop prey running, or follow them for very long. So they would probably attack where movement is constricted. A series of slight, low islands in a river. Or leaping out of a waterfall as you cross it. Climbing down after you as you attempt an emergency rappel.

They are a pretty low level threat if you think about it, but everything else I've done is terrifying so why not?

Knotsmen (Gordionites)

Some called them Debtsmen, but this name has been forgotten now.

Agonised puritan secret-thieves. Slave-hunters. Desperate fighting philosopher-cowards. The ultimate Sophists, a life built on lies and hidden knives.

They guard the Hive of Glass and the legendary Alepholith* at its centre. They sometimes shepherd the Stormsheep. They map and re-map the Underdark. Searching.

The skin of a Knotsman has bumps. Throbbing nodules of mixed up red and blue. Sticking up through the skin, almost breaching the pale flesh. Its their blood.

Think of two hose-pipes braided together in irregular lumps like the cables behind a cabinet. Then imagine them filling up with water, turgidly locking into place as the stuff flows through. These are the veins and arteries of the Knotsmen. They are mixed up and tangled in the flesh. The pressure forces lumps of body-tubing up under the skin where it ticks with the pulse like a forehead-vein. Every Gordionites tongue has a golf-ball sized lump in its centre where the veins mash. If they were to accidentally bite down on this, they would bleed out in minutes.

The Knotsmen are in incredible discomfort. It hurts to do anything. They will deny this. They are not in pain. You can see in many, broken pins sticking from the veinal twists. This is where some have desperately and dangerously tried to unknot their own flesh. The pins break and cannot be removed. They will deny this. Press again and they attack. Suicidal rage before the truth.

Knotsmen want armour but it makes them very uncomfortable. They fight so very very carefully. 

Knotsmen sold their children and themselves. A single tribe, driven from the surface long ago. Lost in the darkness and the cold. Penned in by waking nightmares. They sought a way to survive. They made a terrible deal. They sold the souls of people yet-to-be. Who to is not known. But results speak for themselves. Knotsmen are lucky. Fiendishly freakishly mad with odd results. The scum succeed and live on every time. As hard to kill for good as funny-book villains. Something awful outside time is watching them and waiting to collect.

The Knotsmen sold their children’s souls before their birth. They live in debt. The debt can be redeemed by surrendering another soul that's not been made. They hope. So every one that lives goes on, knowing they must feed fate their children to escape.

They will not admit this is true. They will not accept this is wrong. They will hold fanatically to the death-deal they have made and, every time each one denies the truth, another knot forms within them. There is a strange power in this.

Old Knotsmen are rabid, twitchy and pustulent with distended knot-flesh. Their leaders and priests have curling back-turned bones and are not seen.

The Knotsmen often run. Young and sometimes old. Often with their children. They try to escape. But this is the Underdark and there is nowhere to escape to.

They obsess over maps. They are seeking their escaped children. Hunting them to ensure their own survival. Not just the parents but the whole culture. Any breaking of the bond of soul-debt is seen as the most terrible threat to all. An obscene and unforgivable crime. Evil and inexplicable. The map-need helps them find their hidden kids. It is a dual-edged blade. Knotsmen know the Underdark better than anyone. Their escapees are well informed.

Knotsmen hoard and trade map-knowledge and will hunt the slaves of other cultures for fun and profit.

*The Alepholith is the Aleph of darkness and silence. A simple point in space from which every hidden part of the underground world can be seen. Every cave, fissure, passage, every hidden ocean and the blind tumbling currents within. Every hidden path, every city lost to gravity and time, every alter to forgotten faiths. If you place your head in the right place and turn just so, you can see it all as one. The hidden Aleph, the secret Aleph.

It lies in the centre of a labyrinth of volcanic glass. Anyone entering can see every single thing inside. The glass cradles light like cathedrals carry sound. Distorted fun-house views of lighted rooms are glowing in the quartzy walls, accessible to all. Nothing is what it seems. Few have survived. Many have tried. The Alepholith is within and anyone who seeks a secret thing can discover it there.