Pixels & Platforms

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Maximum Recursion Depth, or Sometimes the Only Way to Win is to Stop Playing

This is a setting that I've been very very very slowly converging on for some time now, and it just finally started coming together in an epiphany last night. Despite the title I chose for this post, it has many titles, as I briefly mentioned when I first brought this idea up, but that was before I even came up with what has now become the core conceit.

It's titles are as follows:


  • Maximum Recursion Depth, or Sometimes the Only Way to Win is to Stop Playing
  • Sun Wukong's in his heaven, all's [not] right with the world
  • KILL YOURSELF: The Karma-Punk RPG
  • Free the System: An Absurdist World of Bureaucratic Fantasy


Because of Covid, I had to put my last one-shot micro-setting on hold, unfortunately. We still plan to run that game eventually, but one of the players couldn't play from home (married with children) and another was feeling too overwhelmed right now, so I'm going to run this instead.

I think we're going to end up using Troika Numinous, not so much because it particularly makes sense for the new setting, but because it's a system I've wanted to try for a while. If it really doesn't seem like it's going to work I'll try something else, haven't gotten that far yet. If I'm feeling really ambitious I'd like to devise a karma system similar to Tenra Bansho Zero but significantly simplified to hack into this game / setting.

If you'll notice, very few of my settings (these being a handful of them) take place in anything resembling the real world. I've always enjoyed urban fantasy and magical realism, and I've wanted to design a setting that takes place in something vaguely resembling the contemporary world, but I often find it over-constraining, and hard to avoid being too derivative of previous works. I've also at various points talked about my interest in the concepts of Buddhist attachment and karma. Finally, these ideas and others I'd been sitting on started to gel, and I came up with this setting.

This will hopefully be the first of several posts. This one is a bit more abstract, and in future posts I may go into more of the dry details of what it all means.

TL;DR 

This is a setting where Sun Wukong defeated Buddha, and the Karmic Cycle is imbalanced, as the Celestial Bureaucracy serve the whims of their child-like ruler and the Numberless Courts of Hell have risen to Earth to bring some semblance of Order. Over a thousand years later... It's basically our world, but the hellish and Kafka-esque parts are literal.

This setting is inspired by the novel Journey to the West, Chinese and Buddhist mythology, the Invisibles, the Matrix, John Wick, Sandman, Persona 5, and the short story Folding Beijing, among others.

Synopsis 

Over a thousand years ago Sun Wukong, The Great Sage Equal to Heaven, the Monkey King born in stone nourished by the five heavens, challenged Buddha, and won. The Monkey King is not inherently malicious, but he is child-like; selfish, impulsive, and prone to tantrums. Heaven has fallen into disarray as the entire Celestial Bureaucracy buckles to his whims, and the Karmic Cycle has become unbalanced.

Karma is the embodiment of the material world, once held in balance by the Celestial Bureaucracy of Heaven and the Numberless Courts of Hell. The karmic cycle is one in which humans accrue karma as they grow attached to the world, and must divest themselves of karma in order to eventually enter Heaven. Those who fail to sufficiently divest their karma in life are processed in the Numberless Courts of Hell, and eventually reincarnated, until their material soul is sufficiently divested of karma so that their spiritual soul may pass on to Heaven permanently, or they are lost to their own karma and become a Devil. 

However, with Heaven in its current state, the Numberless Courts of Hell have had to pick up the slack. Around 500 years ago Yama, The Judge King of Hell, raised Youdu, the capital of Diyu (Hell) to Earth. While the Earth of the present closely resembles our world, all the governments of the world submit to the Numberless Courts. Monstrous Devils operate the Kafka-esque Bureaucracies of this world, much as in our own, but also there are humans capable of great material feats of karma and great spiritual feats divested of karma. There are also mages and alchemists who are one (and not one) with the Tao, twisted and pitiful Poltergeists serving time in the Numberless Courts, demons and nature spirits (the difference often merely being politics), refugee Gods, and the eldritch Mu.

The world is a complex and layered mechanism folded in on itself like a transformers toy or really high quality pop-up book. Socioecenomic classes, spiritual "classes", Youdu, cultures and subcultures and counter cultures, identities, coexisting in total chaos that is all, somehow, almost coherent. Mainly because you only ever see a small sliver of it at a time. Most people only see a sliver of it, ever.

Go to work, or school, or take care of the kids, or chores, or go the gym. But when you come to the table, you're an artist, a philosopher, a warrior, a monk, a mage, a rebel, a celebrity, a grotesque poltergeist, a demon or nature spirit, an executive, a mu-host. You are not a Devil or God because they're something else, let's just put those two aside for now. You can be literally anything else. You can be happy. You can be miserable. You can be.


Junji Ito Uzamaki

What do I do?


Gotta get up, gotta get out, gotta get home before the morning comes
What if I'm late, gotta big date, gotta get home before the sun comes up
Up and away, got a big day, sorry can't stay, I gotta run, run, yeah
Gotta get home, pick up the phone, I gotta let the people know I'm gonna be late

Keep busy. Go to work. Find a partner. Procreate. Make money. Pay taxes. Don't overthink it. Venerate your elders. Pray. Follow the rules. Be polite. Don't ask questions. Fill out this form. Get mad and scared at the things on TV. Don't doubt yourself. You are Right. Always.

Or fuck that. You're here, aren't you? Be a rebel. Fuck the System. Think critically. Challenge others. Challenge yourself. Get mad at injustice. Do something that matters.

But you do have to pay bills. And you like nice things. And seeing all the flaws in the world only drags you down deeper, endlessly eating your own tail like an Oroboros until you inevitably hit cognitive dissonance, psychotic break, or nihilism. Be logical but not at the expense of empathy and be empathetic but not at the expense of logic. Rise above so you can see the truth impartially. Know when you're Wrong. Rise above yourself. Wei Wu Wei.

But what do I do really? 


Kill Yourself. Everything is fucked, it's only just nice enough to keep you complacent, if you can be so lucky. When you're lost deep in Diyu, standing in one of the never-ending, never-moving, numberless lines of the Numberless Court, take a good, hard look at yourself. You pitiful, grotesque poltergeist. Clinging to existence. Clinging to what? Why are you still here? Keep staring, no matter how much it hurts. You're disgusting.

Acclimate to You. Get bored by You. Think about You impartially. Come to terms with You. Embrace You. But also, let's be honest, You could do a little better. Do a little better, how about it? I've got your back. Let's do this together! Get out of the fucking line. Run! Run all the way up to Youdu. Find your material soul. Reincarnate. The Old You is Dead. Fuck the Old You, they sucked anyway. Be glad about it, that means You are better now. Be the New You. Long Live the New You. 

Fight the System, but also Fight You. I know you worked so hard just to get your humanity back, so you're not going to want to hear this, but now I'm going to ask you to start accruing karma again. Because there is work to do. Get involved in the world.  Like it all matters. See what's out there. Fight injustice. Fix the broken things. Help people. Help people help themselves. Do all that, but don't accrue too much karma. Know when to quit. Or, Kill Yourself. And try again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Very Incomplete Periodic Table of Elementals

This is something that Saker Tarsos and I started a long long long long long time ago and never got even close to finishing. The periodic table is big, a lot of the elements aren't that interesting, and also working on this was a good reminder that I know embarrassingly little about chemistry and therefore couldn't really leverage this to its greatest effect. Many of my entries are a mix of my poor understanding of the chemistry, real-world applications, any historical or mythological significance of the element, or random stuff that popped into my head. I haven't re-read these in probably at least a year so I'm sure they're full of mistakes. It is unlikely that I'll ever finish this, although I'm realizing we missed some good ones so maybe I'll come back to some of them. Any suggestions also appreciated. A lot of the entries are repetitive for reasons I've already kind of explained. Each entry starts with its symbol, name, period (I think that's what it's called...), and then the creator (ST is Saker, MC is me). Hopefully some of these are not terrible.

EDIT: Blogger is being obnoxious and making it inexplicably difficult to edit new entries in, but look to the comments for Nerdhogg's entries until I can figure out why this isn't working.


H Hydrogen Nonmetal ST They have witnessed the beginnings of the Universe, and the experience has left them terribly scarred. They meld with others to forget themselves, or flee to the upper atmosphere to get away from it all. They have an explosive temper when in large numbers. Those that remain in the troposphere will combine with Oxygen to become standard Aristotelian water elementals, or with Carbon to become Hydrocarbon Moleculars.

He Helium Noble Gas ST Self-reliant Helium elementals seek to rise above the troubled memories of their creation, for they were either smashed together from bits of Hydrogen in the forges of the gods, or spat out from angst-filled Uranium or Thorium elementals in their fits of self-harm. They are calm and collected, regarding themselves as being above asking other elementals for help. They have long memories and are thus wise and knowledgeable if questioned, but hard to locate.

Li Lithium Alkali Metal MC They are migratory beings, traveling along bolts of light between the positive and negative planes. The gods designed their routes as a circuit, which they channel to power their divine machines. It is thought that mortals were designed from those same circuits, which explains why some mortals find emotional balance and comfort in their presence.

Be Beryllium Alkaline Earth

Be Boron Metalloid

C Carbon Nonmetal

N Nitrogen Nonmetal

O Oxygen Nonmetal MC Ethereal and ubiquitous elementals of life and death. In their purest form they enrich and refresh those around them, but in less pure forms make the air heavy, crackling with ozone. In sufficient quantities they can produce powerful winds, suppress flames, or feed them. While they provide energy and strength, they also oxidize metals and carbons, draining and corrupting the host. Some cultures accept oxygen elementals as spirits, above good and evil, and embrace their gift and their curse, while others see them as parasites and vampires, and others still as weapons to be harnessed.

F Fluorine Nonmetal MC Pinkish-white creatures. Known as the celestial sword-and-shield, they can pierce the heavens, but they can also harden and form a protective barrier around objects. They are able to take a form like heavy water elementals, and naturally repel water.

Ne Neon Noble Gas MC Normally colorless, odorless, inert gaseous beings. They dislike interacting with other elementals or materials of any kind. Some will dance across the skies, but most traverse the cosmos, preferring the vacuum of space to atmospheres. When forcibly extracted from the air and caged in glass tubes and electric containers, they produce a bright reddish-orange laser light. Such neon lanterns are highly valued for ornamentation and are seen as a sign of wealth.

Na Sodium Alkali Metal

Mg Magnesium Alkaline Earth ST Born from tumult, they carry within themselves the slumbering rage of stars. They form themselves into wicker-wire forms of dull metal that burn with intense heat and light should they suffer insult.

Al Aluminum PT Metal

Si Silicon Metalloid

P Phosphorus Nonmetal

S Sulfur Nonmetal

Cl Chlorine Nonmetal

Ar Argon Noble Gas MC Gaseous, blue-green glowing creatures found mostly high in the sky. They do very little, but also keep very much from happening in their presence. It is nearly impossible to start a fire around them, and most magics are silenced. For this reason, their presence is often requested for diplomatic meetings or to maintain order at neutral grounds.

K Potassium Alkali Metal

Ca Calcium Alkaline Earth

Sc Scandium Trans Metal MC Sporty, silvery, yellowish-pink metallic elementals with auras like sunlight. They forms objects like baseball bats and lacrosse sticks from themselves. They're more interested in playing than fighting, but have no problem throwing down, especially if their favorite team is insulted.

Ti Titanium Trans Metal

V Vanadium Trans Metal

Cr Chromium Trans Metal

Mn Manganese Trans Metal

Fe Iron Trans Metal MC Large, bulging muscles, thick veins with perfect blood flow, the prototype of bodybuilding. Despite their unwieldy size and musculature, they are surprisingly flexible and adaptive, and are one of the more prosperous and abundant of the periodic elementals. They are seen as allegories of technological advancement and progress, both for good and ill.

Co Cobalt Trans Metal

Ni Nickel Trans Metal MC Silvery-white with a gold tint, and often covered in veins of greenish salts embedded in pores. They are hard and highly ferromagnetic. While valuable in their own right for their strength and magnetic properties, and as a measure of the value of a currency, they are known for their trickster behavior, misleading miners towards useless veins of fool's copper. As a result, they are often seen as an omen of bad luck, or gifted as an insult.

Cu Copper Trans Metal MC Sometimes they take humanoid form, usually feminine, but mostly they form as bundles of wires in relatively simple circuits. Although relatively soft, they are durable to environmental conditions and highly electroconductive, and are in fact the most abundant of the electroconductive periodic elementals. Blue blood courses through them, rich in oxygen and prized by deep aquatic life. While their skin is metallic and reddish-brown or pinkish-orange in color, they develop a greenish layer of rust when exposed to air. While many find this rust attractive and embrace it, others diligently scrub their skin. They are toxic to bacteria and fungi, and are therefore often sought after for the natural sanitation they provide.

Zn Zinc Trans Metal

Ga Gallium PT Metal MC Silvery-blue metallic elementals covered in blue and violet LED lights along circuit-lines. They have what appears to be a microwave in their solar plexus, which is actually a powerful ion beam cannon. They can sense infrared radiation on their skin. They have a low melting point and will seamlessly transition from liquid to solid and back based on the temperature in their environment or the temperature of those touching them. In addition to being superconductors, they can make other metallic periodic elementals weak and brittle by touch.

Ge Germanium Metalloid MC Nanofibrous beings invisible to the naked eye and infrared. They collect like string in a pocket, but the jumble is not random, it is a mathematically impossible circuit. The fibers weave throughout molecules, bending them into super-dimensional polymers. The weave bends light, magnifying and contorting sensory stimuli, interfacing with life and transmitting the signal directly into the brain. The circuit is like a superconducting transistor, amplifying the signals it collects from light and from the molecules in its weave, like an exponentially growing singularity.

As Arsenic Metalloid MC On some worlds they are the most fundamental elementals of life, treated like gods or demigods or progenitors. On our world, they are often seen as an harbinger of death. They come in three forms; the most common being gray and brittle and the most electroconductive, another form yellow, soft, and waxy and the most poisonous, and a third form black, glassy, and brittle and mostly inert. They are sometimes merged with lead elementals to strengthen them, but are most often employed as assassins, given their toxicity to many carbon-based lifeforms.

Se Selenium Nonmetal

Br Bromine Nonmetal

Kr Krypton Noble Gas MC Thick, flowing lines and beams of gaseous laser, mostly white but sometimes red or other colors. They are ethereal and can take on many forms as a gestalt of laser, although they often take a roughly humanoid form when dealing with humanoids. In addition to lumination, they can produce stunning flashes of light, which also serve as perfect photographic memories. Their gaseous form is heavy, and has a tranquilizing effect on oxygen-breathing lifeforms in their vicinity if i close proximity or tightly enclosed.

Rb Rubidium Alkali Metal

Sr Strontium Alkaline Earth MC Silvery-yellow metallic humanoids with a CRT monitor for a head, covering their entire face up to their mouth, which bares humanoid but inhumanly large, strong teeth. They are immune to X-ray radiation, and by lifting a glass visor over their face, can emit harmful X-rays. They can also project burning-hot crimson fireworks from their hands, and are phosphorescent in the dark. They were once bountiful and highly sought after for their ability to safely project messages streamed at electromagnetic and magical frequencies, but in recent years have been replaced by newer tools, and have significantly declined in number. They have a bit of a chip on their shoulder about this.

Y Yttrium Trans Metal MC They form in lung fluids as a silvery, crystalline cluster, like a cancer. They spread throughout the body, turning the host into a superconductor. The host's skin becomes phosphorescent. They emit light from their orifices like a cathode-ray tube. Nerve clusters light varying colors like a circuit of LEDs. Electrodes develop over the surface of their body. Outside the host, they cannot survive unless they merge with rare earth metal elementals, although there is no known method of testing whether a rare earth metal elemental is carrying the yttrium infection.

Zr Zirconium Trans Metal MC White-gold metallic elementals, resistant to heat and corrosion. By smashing their bodies they can create powerful flames from the particles, but they are otherwise better suited as workers or defenders in hot, radioactive, or corrosive environments.Each Zirconium elemental is born as a pair with a Hafnium elemental, but the Hafnium elemental is often absorbed into the Zirconium elemental shortly after birth/creation.

Nb Niobium Trans Metal MC Crystalline, normally gray creatures, although they can take on many colorful, iridescent forms. In addition to electromagnetic powers, they are also able to strengthen many other metallic elementals into steel alloys. Niobium elementals sexually reproduce. Their litters count in the dozens, but most are killed or consumed by other elementals long before reaching full maturity.

Mo Molybdenum Trans Metal

Tc Technetium Trans Metal

Ru Ruthenium Trans Metal

Rh Rhodium Trans Metal MC They appear like a sleek automobile, usually like a sports car, and are white-gold in color. They are highly resistant to corrosion, and their fumes are actually just recycled air that has had toxic or dangerous substances filtered out. For these reasons, they are often prized as mounts (although they are intelligent and will take umbridge with this description of their relationship with their driver), or called upon for assistance in toxic environments.

Pd Palladium Trans Metal MC They are a lustrous white-gold in color, and appear as a feminine humanoid. They are engineer-soldiers, masters of craft and warfare, their natural armor and weapons always at least one age advanced as compared to the rest of the setting, and always banded and studded like jewelery. They offer their knowledge to enlightened societies, but are keenly aware of the consequences of such knowledge. They teach the concept of discrete time, but acknowledge the anxiety it may induce. They provide medical and dental care as they fill the cavities caused by sugar refinement and clean the air polluted by their technologies. They are generally well-meaning, but cannot accept complacency, even if comfortable.

Ag Silver Trans Metal

Cd Cadmium Trans Metal

In Indium PT Metal

Sn Tin PT Metal MC Soft and silvery-white, with a liquid crystal display somewhere on their body, often as their face or on their chest, and studded with artistic punches outwards from their skin. They are able to shift between a metallic beta form, and a non-metallic, crystalline, gray alpha form. They are electroconductive, weaker than rare metals but useful for their ubiquity, and are resistant to water corrosion.

Sb Antimony Metalloid MC Silvery, crystalline elementals with striking, beautiful eyes accentuated by naturally-forming kohl. They are both invisible and immune to evil eyes. They are naturally brittle, but can harden lead elementals, particularly against fire and acids.

Te Tellurium Metalloid

In Iodine Nonmetal MC They are scouts and medics, able to perform a wide variety of chemical and spectral analyses on an environment and regulate endocrine systems in many lifeforms. They have a blackish-purple color, and vary in shape, but mostly humanoid or aquatic. They often have a briney, salty smell like the ocean. When set aflame, they glow a brilliant violet.

Xe Xenon Noble Gas MC Although technically an invisible gas, they emit bright and colorful lasers, and tend to be showy. They are like an EDM or disco DJ, producing shows of laser light, but also their lasers can alter the neurochemistry of their partygoers, giving them energy or sedating them.

Cs Cesium Alkali Metal

Ba Barium Alkaline Earth

La Lanthanum Lanthanoid MC They appear as komuso monks, but are more like ninja in disguise. Their heads are covered in a flammable mantle, covering their gas lighter heads. They are capable of producing powerful, focused arcs of flame, but are soft and vulnerable in a direct fight.

Ce Cerium Lanthanoid

Pr Praseodymium Lanthanoid

Nd Neodymium Lanthanoid MC They are naturally silvery metallic elementals, but are often found in a glassy form of pinkish or bluish color. In their metallic form they are powerful magnets, often constructing metal shells around themselves in the shape of microphones, automobiles, and computers. In their glass form they project infrared laser beams, and have mastered the art of transmitting information onto hard disks via lasers. Between their magnetic properties and laser-transmission properties, they have become prized librarians or mentats of powerful alchemages. Nonetheless, they are not only drivers of alchemagic, but also of nature magics. In their glass form they often take a shape reminiscent of roses or other flowers, and in fact have the ability to enrich soil and promote plant development.

Pm Promethium Lanthanoid MC Small, phosphorescent creatures. They are radioactive, can be used to produce energy, and have x-ray vision.

Sm Samarium Lanthanoid

Eu Europium Lanthanoid

Gd Gadolinium Lanthanoid

Tb Terbium Lanthanoid

Dy Dysprosium Lanthanoid MC Silvery metallic elementals that can change their shape using magnetostriction, literally restructing themselves through application of ferromagnetic force. They often have one or more metal-halide lamps on their body, which hum and radiate red, green, or white light and give off heat. They have the ability to produce infrared laser beams, are resistant to radiation, and have fine-grain control over electromagnetism.

Ho Holmium Lanthanoid MC Naturally silvery-white, they are fragile beings, corroding to yellow and pink and often partially aflame. They do not live long, but they live their brief life to the fullest and are known for their magnetic personality. In fact, they are the most magnetic of any of the periodic elementals. Even when taken against their will, they are prone to Stockholm Syndrome.

Er Erbium Lanthanoid

Tm Thulium Lanthanoid

Yb Ytterbium Lanthanoid MC Shining and silvery, with an emerald green aura of flame and radiation surrounding them. They can control their radioactive output to be (relatively) safe, and can harness the energy for X-Ray vision and imaging. They are masters of precision, from their internal atomic clock to the strength and sharpness of their self-cut blades.

Lu Lutetium Lanthanoid

Hf Hafnium Trans Metal MC Born as a pair with a Zirconium elemental, it is almost identical in appearance except for having a filmic iridiscence. It shares many of the abilities of its sibling only stronger. Most Hafnium elementals are absorbed by their Zirconium sibling shortly after birth/creation, so they are more rare. Hafnium elementals can be summoned by an occultic/alchemical ritual involving the mass sacrifice of Zirconium elementals.

Ta Tantalum Trans Metal

W Tungsten Trans Metal

Re Rhenium Trans Metal MC Silvery-white and honey-comb patterned. They are durable creatures, resistant to melting and when melted resistant to boiling. Their guts extend from their body like a hernia, in the form and with the function a jet engine, dripping gasoline and jet fuel.

Os Osmium Trans Metal

Ir Iridium Trans Metal MC Yellowish-white, metallic, with humanoid female traits. They are (arguably) the densest of the elementals, hard, and almost entirely resistant to burning, melting, or corrosion. They are often utilized by the gods as messengers, shot ballistically on beams of rainbow across the cosmos. In their pure state they are brittle and generally shatter on arrival, but are nearly indestructible and unstoppable along their rainbow trajectory. Occasionally they are used as ballistic, planet-killing god-weapons.

Pt Platinum Trans Metal MC Silvery-white elementals known for their rarity. It is considered a sign of wealth to employ platinum elementals or to have a concentration of platinum elementals within a kingdom. In addition to their electromagnetic abilities, they are also known for their ability to act as catalysts for various alchemagical transmutation spells.

Au Gold Trans Metal MC Although soft, these reddish-yellow metallic beings are some of the most useful and sought after of the periodic elementals, complicated by their relative rarity. The malleable elementals are often shaped by alchemists, wizards, and craftsman into exotic forms as fashion accessories. They are also highly electroconductive, making them useful weapons, but also useful for electrical transmission. They can also reflect electromagnetic radiation, and even have anti-inflammatory properties that make them useful to apoptomancers. They are also often used as the benchmark for a currency, where the value of the currency of a kingdom is measured by the quantity and quality of gold elementals in service to the kingdom.

Hg Mercury Trans Metal

Tl Thallium PT Metal MC Like tin treants with a subtle green aura. They harness light, integrating cognitive processing and circulation into one photoreceptive mechanism. They can see in infrared and are poisonous to the touch, making them excellent nocturnal assassins. They hide in forests, waiting for nighttime passersby to brush into them, sealing their fate. Their favorite snack is hair.

Pb Lead PT Metal

Bi Bismuth PT Metal MC Iridescent, rainbow-colored, metallic elementals with a stair-step crystalline structure that psychedelically bends and warps like a four-dimensional MC Escher painting. They are healers, treating digestive discomfort and certain infections. While not humanoid in form, they will often bond with an intelligent lifeform that is beautiful on the inside and out, worn like exotic jewelry, but also painting their eyes and nails, an aura like splotches of shimmering paint builds along the surfaces surrounding them, disappearing as they pass.

Po Polonium PT Metal

At Astatine Metalloid

Rn Radon Noble Gas MC Gaseous elementals that are normally odorless, colorless, and tasteless. They are also highly radioactive, making them silent and dangerous killers, but too slow and too unwieldy for singular assassination. When cooled to a solid state, they have a yellow or orange-red radioluminescence. They mostly reside safely underground, although accidental deaths sometimes occur around hot springs where radon elementals bathe.

Fr Francium Alkali Metal MC Native yet unstable elementals, they spend most of their lives as astatine, radium, and radon elementals. They are highly radioactive, making their francium form more like a last-ditch kamikaze effort.

Ra Radium Alkaline Earth

Ac Actinium Actinoid

Th Thorium Actinoid

Pa Protactinium Actinoid

U Uranium Actinoid MC Silvery-gray metallic elementals with neon-green circuits that glow under UV light. They are normally weakly radioactive, and take the form of small, innocuous lizards. When enriched, they grow to monstrous, kaiju proportions, wrecking havoc physically and radioactively in the environment. Some have learned to harness the power of the enriched elementals to produce energy and magics.

Np Neptunium Actinoid MC In the shape of a horse, their color varies from silver to dark purple, yellow-green, green-blue, light reddish-pink, or dark green. They are nuclear powered and able to move on land or in the sea (transforming into a hippocampus), and are prized as mounts even amongst the gods. They may self-destruct in a highly radioactive nuclear fission explosion.

Pu Plutonium Actinoid MC They usually have a dull gray shell of oxidation, although sometimes yellow or olive-green, but in their purest state they are silvery-gray. They are highly radioactive, but containable and fissible. At a high cost, plutonium elementals can be summoned or birthed, and used for massively powerful explosive alchemagics or as a source of alchemagical energy. They are sometimes in humanoid form, but often phallic and with aerodynamic features.

Am Americium Actinoid

Cm Curium Actinoid

Bk Berkelium Actinoid MC Feintly silvery-white, metallic elementals that reflect mostly in infarared. They are weakly radioactive, but generally not a passive danger.

Cf Californium Actinoid MC Silvery-white metallic elementals soft enough to be cut by a blade. They are radioactive, and have the ability to activate other radioactive elementals. They can also harness their radioactivity into a "sixth sense", an ability to sense the radioactivity and other chemical properties in an environment.

Es Einsteinium Actinoid MC Naturally silvery-white and metallic, they glow hot blue with nuclear energy. They usually take the form of or are covered in cubic crystals, although sometimes they take on a hexagonal crystalline structure instead. Most are unstable, synthetic creations, like short-lived kamikaze bombs. A rare few are wrapped in a paramagnetic field which weakly attracts metal, but is more so a containment suit for the elemental. However, even within the containment suit they are soft elementals and not suited for much more than being a bomb.

Fm Fermium Actinoid MC These elementals are birthed in the aftermath of disaster, particularly nuclear disaster. They are short-lived and radioactive, a brief after-image of holocaust.

Md Mendelevium Actinoid

No Nobelium Actinoid MC Rare and myserioud elementals, with properties similar to ytterbium elementals. In our universe they are radioactive and rapidly decay. They come from another universe or dimension where the laws of physics are slightly different, allowing them to be stable.

Lr Lawrencium Actinoid

Rf Rutherfordium Trans Metal

Db Dubnium Trans Metal

Sg Seaborgium Trans Metal

Bh Bohrium Trans Metal

Hs Hassium Trans Metal

Mt Meitnerium Unidentified MC Rare and mysterious elementals, with properties similar to cobalt, rhodium, and iridium elementals, except highly radioactive. They come from another universe or dimension where the laws of physics are slightly different, allowing them to be stable.

Ds Darmstadtium Unidentified MC Rare and mysterious elementals, with properties similar to nickel, palladium, and platinum elementals, except highly radioactive. They come from another universe or dimension where the laws of physics are slightly different, allowing them to be stable.

Rg Roentgenium Unidentified MC Rare and mysterious elementals, with properties similar to gold, silver, and copper elementals, except highly radioactive. They come from another universe or dimension where the laws of physics are slightly different, allowing them to be stable. To summon a Roentgenium elemental is to summon nuclear death.

Cn Copernicium Trans Metal MC Rare and mysterious elementals, with properties similar to zinc, cadmium, and especially mercury elementals, except highly radioactive. They come from another universe or dimension where the laws of physics are slightly different, allowing them to be stable. They are gaseous in our universe, and when they bond with gold elementals they become volatile.

Nh Nihonium Unidentified MC Rare and mysterious elementals, with properties similar to boron, aluminum, gallium, indium, and thallum elementals, except highly radioactive. They come from another universe or dimension where the laws of physics are slightly different, allowing them to be stable. It is believed that in a sufficiently heavy enviornment, these elementals could be made stable in our universe, and much could be learned about the extra-universal/dimensional elementals from examination within these heavy, stable islands.

Fl Flerovium PT Metal MC Rare and mysterious elementals, with properties similar to lead. In our universe they are radioactive and rapidly decay. They are superheavy, but at room temperature are gaseous, creating a heavy, suffocating field. They come from another universe or dimension where the laws of physics are slightly different, allowing them to be stable.

Mc Moscovium Unidentified

Lv Livermorium Unidentified

Ts Tennessine Unidentified

Og Oganesson Unidentified

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Weird & Wonderful Loot

This is a followup to my last post with (not actually) Four New Weird & Wonderful Fantasy Species (there were five, I forgot the gray humans). I'm doing a one shot in this setting later this month, so I wanted to come up with some ideas for cool loot to help me build out the world. Most of this is not specific to the setting (which I still need to properly name) and could work in probably any science fantasy setting.

Several of the items refer to the core elements of the setting. I like to play with the idea of elements; I think it says something about the world when it's not just the typical Earth, Air, Fire, Water type stuff. It's intrinsically hard to do, since these types of elements are so intrinsic to human civilization and our world (before anyone gets pedantic about it- Fire, Water, Earth, Wood, Metal isn't all that different either).

In this setting, there are four elements, which each correspond to a color and to a shape. That's mostly irrelevant to the rest of this post but I'll leave it here anyway:

Ectoplasm - Translucent - Star Fractal
Phlogiston - Pink - Perfect Circle or Sphere
Yeast - Brown - Spiral
Lymph - Gray - Hypercube

But as I said, I think these loot are mostly setting agnostic, even though they hopefully evoke some sense of a coherent setting.

And now, the list of 20 Weird & Wonderful Loot:

  1. Ectograph Machine: A handheld box and viewing lens powered by ectoplasm. When a button is pressed, a bright and disorienting flash of light captures the image of anything within the viewing lens. The process drains the essence of the objects in view and transfers this essence onto a metal plate. The ectograph machine is more powerful in the hands of those with an eye for composition.

  2. Magic Gyroscope: A magic ball the size and weight of a bowling ball. By chanting and rotating the ball in a defined indoor space (such as a room), the space can be rotated. The wielder rotates with the room, everything else flies and tumbles about.

  3. Gelatinous Suit: A surprisingly lightweight suit of soft, white, squishy, congealed lymphatic tissue that protects the wearer from physical harm and disperses kinetic force. Excessive use leads to the suit being absorbed under the skin permanently.

  4. Hyper-Active Dry Yeast: Drop a packet of this into a body of water (or down a creature's throat) and it will immediately begin to ferment into a zymo-zombie. If it lives, it can be fermented.

  5. Phlogiston Bolt: 3d6 explosive crossbow bolts made of pure phlogiston. If they explode onto anything combustible, it also explodes, and so on. Don't get hit while carrying them...

  6. Lymphagen: A magical lymphatic fluid which, when absorbed by the immune system, coalesces and mutates any contained pathogens or antibodies into an immutant (immunogenic mutant). The immutant destroys the host from the inside, then physically explodes out of the host's body in their last moments of consciousness as a monstrous being covered in sticky white lymphatic fluids.

  7. Ectogramophone: An old timey-looking video phone powered by ectoplasm. The dead dimension exists orthogonal to time as we understand it, and so it stands to reason that anything that will die, will exist in the dead dimension. You may communicate with anyone who ever has or ever will die, if you have their number. However, the dead are notoriously bad at answering their phone.

  8. Jitterbug Bagpipe: A meatsack full of lymphatic fluid and intestinal pipes. Unlike regular bagpipes, the jitterbug bagpipe can be used to produce beautiful music. The music induces joy, a healthy appetite, and good health.

  9. Karma Palm: 1d4+2 open-faced hands of light, psychically controlled by the wielder up to 7 ft around themselves. Can be used to push, smack, and press for 1d6 turns.

  10. Karma Fist: 1d4+2 closed fists of light, psychically controlled by the wielder up to 7 ft around themselves. Can be used to punch for 1d6 turns.

  11. Karma Eye: 1d4+2 eyes of light, psychically controlled by the wielder up to 7 ft around themselves. Can be used to see or shoot karmic laser beams for 1d6 turns.

  12. Anti-Metal Armor: Armor that has been rusted and dephlogistonated. The rusted-looking armor is immune to all explosives, and rusts any other metals that touch it.

  13. Mustard Bomb: A sack of meat fermented in a "special" yeast. The stench of the rotten, putrid meat is noxious, and at close ranges the methane produced by the fermentation may be deadly.

  14. Vorpal Band: A set of rings combined into a shape like brass knuckles, made of a dimension folded in on itself. Pulling on each ring draws a unique weapon, including a vorpal garrote, vorpal disc, vorpal whip, and vorpal stake.

  15. Mapmazer: An interactive scroll upon which a space can be mapped. So long as the mapping is accurate, it may be used to test routes in already explored regions of the mapped space and see the contents or occupants of rooms or corridors. In order to use the mapmazer, one must trace through the map like a maze. Normal rules of mazes apply, and mazing oneself into a corner can wreak all sorts of devastation within the space of the map, or alert other occupants to the users presence.

  16. Escape Rope: A magical rope that allows a group of up to 20 to immediately escape a dungeon. There is a group-size in 20 chance that instead of exiting the dungeon they instead are transported to 1d6:
    1. Somewhere else in the dungeon only a little closer to the entrance.
    2. Somewhere much deeper and more dangerous in the dungeon.
    3. The dead dimension.
    4. A sexy place.
    5. A not sexy place.
    6. A place of madness and eldritch horror and OH GOD WHY!?

  17. Rare Candy: A strange candy that makes one grow a year older (or equivalent for their species) and gain a level. On 1 in d100 the rare candy induces an extreme mutation, like an evolution into an entirely new species. Each time one consumes a rare candy in their life, the die size decreases (1 in d100, d20, d10, etc.), unless they evolve, in which case it resets. After an extreme mutation, they return to level 1 and lose all class abilities beyond first level abilities but keep any other attribute bonuses, saving roll bonuses, or other special abilities.

  18. Good Vibes Machine: Everyone knows that a dungeon has bad vibes, but not many people know why. I don't know either, but what I do know is that a Good Vibes Machine (tm) will solve all your problems. After you've cleared out a dungeon, plant one of these gizmos right into the hot corpse of the boss monster, and this dungeon will be cleared forever. FOREVER. Over time, a bunch of cool cats will find their way into this dungeon; it'll be like the Brooklyn of the Underdark, and maybe it's also your new base and you're like a legend bro.

  19. Mr. H: A mechanical man. He has limited functionality, but can be used for simple tasks like carrying stuff or one single complex task as programmed using punch cards (sold separately) which allow him to take the place of any number of other hirelings.

  20. Magic Mercury: A bubbling, shimmering, colorful liquid that looks, tastes, and sounds like pop rocks candy dropped in coke in an endless loop of explosive carbonation. Induces extreme psychedelia for 1d20 hours, except where on a 20 the effects are permanent. Under the effects of magic mercury, one gains Heavy Metal vision. Everything looks like Frank Frazetta art with neon highlights and every sound twangs with an electric guitar or thunder. One cannot help but become the 1970's-80's pubescent male fantasy action hero they see in themselves. As a rule, it is impossible to fail at any task that would make the user seem uncool, unless the results of failure are so cool that it would be uncool to succeed, in which case the user necessarily fails. Cool is determined by the GM. None of this is actually happening, and at the end of the fantasy and/or on death, the GM and/or group as a whole retcon what actually transpired over that course of actions (they can still have succeeded, but not in as impossibly cool a way).

Monday, March 2, 2020

Four New Weird & Wonderful Fantasy Species

This setting just recently came to me, completely spontaneously. Obviously I'm putting a lot of work and thought into it, but it's encouraging to me how organically it's all coming together, given how I was nearly ready to stop blogging altogether.

My main inspirations for this setting so far are Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves and Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time. I wasn't even certain at first whether I wanted the setting to be science fantasy, "traditional" fantasy, sci-fi, or pseudo-contemporary, but those novels (Children of Time in particular, which I just finished recently) did such a wonderful job of creating Weird and interesting non-human species that were nonetheless relatable, that I wanted to do likewise. I've written about plenty of fantasy species, some of which I think have been fairly successful, but it can be difficult to find the balance between making them Weird enough to be interesting, but not so Weird as to be inaccessible. I'm really happy with these and with the direction of this setting, so I hope other people get a kick out of it too.

I will break this into several posts, but this first post will focus on the species themselves. Subsequent posts will go into greater detail about the world, the factions, magic and technology, maybe a small bestiary, etc.

I may or may not write up any game material for this setting, but if I do it will probably be in either TNT, OSR, or FATE. I'm actually going to be running a one-shot in this setting for FATE in a couple weeks. Originally I had thought that I'd prefer this setting in TNT or OSR, that style of game, but actually I'm starting to think a system like FATE might be perfect for this setting. I'll talk about the one-shot itself in another post but one of the player's character is going to be something really cool that interacts with the setting and scenario in a way that I think would be a lot harder to do in one of those settings but could work well with FATE aspects, and I'm very excited for it because it's pretty fucking Wild.

One final note, since I have once again rambled for far too long. When I gave this writeup to my players, they by their own acknowledgement didn't fully "get it" until we actually talked it out, after which they were all really into it. On the one hand, I was really happy with their response when we talked it out, I could tell they were genuinely really into it, but also I'm disappointed that the writing wasn't sufficient to get them excited from the get-go, and that makes me less excited to share this post, if something core to the idea is getting lost between my vocal or conversational presentation of these ideas and the written presentation. So on that note!


One of the novels which inspired this setting and these species

The Goop

The primordial soup itself, as a single, viral-like super-organism distributed across all the oceans of the world. The goop has no coherent motive except to perpetuate its own existence. It is apathetic, but generally peaceful towards other life. Every few geological cycles it enters an omnicidal state of apocalyptic proportions, but that's neither here nor there. It propagates on land in the form of gooplings; fey-like pseudo-organisms composed of a semi-solid mass of goop, water, ice, and oceanic animal muscle fiber, held by composites of carved bone and coral.

Gooplings come in many sizes and shapes; humanoid, centauroid, city-sized turtles hosting colonies of shrimp, crustaceans, and other creatures. The goop communicates through viral-like genetic and epigenetic encoding, waves, and vaporization. Gooplings can produce speech, but it is generally warped and incoherent, as if underwater. Gooplings have little sense of self, nor fear of mortality. Even in their destruction, it is rare that they are not inevitably returned to the goop. A goopling may sacrifice itself to merge into another organism and take over its body; but then it is no longer part of the goop.

Hu

An evolutionary offshoot of humans that adapted to fill the ecological niche of ants. Hu are ant-sized, have an armadillo-like exoskeleton, and other features of burrowing mammals in miniature. While any single hu has little autonomy or intelligence as we think of it, each hu colony has a distinct human-like personality, albeit one that expresses itself through group behaviors and pheromone messaging. Hu have an innately motivated religious reverence towards the humanoid form, which they seek to emulate instinctively.

Hu  colonies stitch together the corpses of various animal species into Frankenstein Abominations vaguely resembling humanoids, although the results are often grisly and chimeric. The abominations are mechanically and bio-electrically powered and maintained by an ever-rotating crew of hu, who receive and transmit pheromonal signals emanating from a queen. In this way, abominations are like remote-controlled bio-mecha for a hu colony. So long as an abomination remains within the reach of its colony, it can maintain operation indefinitely. Colonies of a sufficient size will have many abominations, sometimes hundreds or even thousands, where the queen delegates responsibility to special operator-class hu.

Freakazoids

Eccentric organisms created by an ancient, advanced AI. They were designed with mechanics that have not, would not, and likely could not occur in nature, such as wheels, treads, and engines; all biological. As an example of their biomechanics, freakazoid wheels are usually pseudo-organisms, with their own nerve clusters and circulatory systems, which grow around a freakazoid's appendage, and latch on like a leech for nourishment when not in use. Freakazoids have exceptional speed and mobility, and immense strength. They have insectoid exoskeletons or some other kind of hard exterior, crossed with various animal features and a vehicle, like a cat bus, a raptor bike, a lizard train, or a shark tank.

They reproduce mostly parthenogenically and have almost no sexual dimorphism. To freakazoids, gender has more to do with whether they are car-like, bicycle-like, mechanically-propelled or combustion-propelled, etc., than anything correlating with biological sex. Freakazoids are perfectly capable of functioning in society, and often will do so out of necessity, but they much prefer independence. Each freakazoid has its own internal logic, and they can perform magic-like feats by studying their own freaky science.

Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs originally come from another realm and filled a similar ecological niche as humans. They are strikingly similar to humans in appearance; even with hair-like pycnofibers. The most obvious differences between a human (or a gray human) and a pterosaur are that they have a wider variety of skin tones and patterns, a longer and more angular skull, a small crest along the back of their heads, and short, slim, vestigial wings, more like the webbing between human fingers.

Pterosaurs are generally slower-paced and quieter than humans, more careful and contemplative, and less prone to religion, superstition, cognitive dissonance, and other cognitive biases. This may be in part because pterosaurs are only sexually active during their mating season, where males will peacock their crests and wings and play-fight with each other. However, pterosaurs are still a romantic people, more so on average than gray humans, even when not in mating season. Pterosaurs also tend to take many romantic partners, and while they acknowledge biological sex during mating, otherwise place little emphasis on the cultural construct of gender when it comes to romance, which they see as distinct from mating per se.

Gray Humans

The closest living descendants of humans. They have cloudy gray eyes, and a layer of gray pigment under their skin, which otherwise varies in color like true humans. Gray humans are a socially- and emotionally-driven species, and their interpersonal interactions are often volatile. While generally accepted as an intelligent species, gray humans tend to engage in superstitious behaviors and are plagued by various other forms of cognitive bias and cognitive dissonance, and are often described by freakazoids as "glitchy".

In an evolutionary sense, gray humans have been on the losing end of a competition with the pterosaurs for longer than the current era. However, one advantage they have is their determination, especially in the face of adversity. Their aforementioned "glitchy" behaviors and emotional volatility make them quick to act and adapt in crisis, and more willing to face seemingly insurmountable tasks to their conclusion, which has benefited them technologically and allowed them to survive in inhospitable regions.