Category Archives: Appendix O

Excerpt from “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” the Byzantium Notebook, by Ben-Derek Hayes (Circa Age 13)

Excerpts from another of the “Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes” by Ben-Derek Hayes.  The Byzantium Notebook is particularly interesting because while the core of it was written in one school year (and, I would guess, a school year when Ben-Derek Hayes was learning some basics of Humanities, Classics, Philosophy, and/or some similar coursework), numerous expansions on its core concepts have been scribbled on scraps of notepaper, ridiculously long pharmacy receipts, and birthday cards and folded into the larger notebook. None of these are dated, so I cannot expand the age at which Ben-Derek Hayes wrote them, but pretty clearly this was a working notebook throughout years of campaign-running and worldbuilding.

Among other things, the notebook’s early focus on who the gods of various regions and species and cultures are, and what agents serve those gods, slowly expands out to be a whole (and if not unique, at the least unusual) cosmology designed to allow for all the elements Ben-Derek Hayes wants in his fantasy ttRPG campaigns. As the cosmology evolves it gets rewritten, in whole or part, over and over. Some old versions are relabeled as heresies (the Tsarnuk Hersey of One Principality being the earliest example of this). While I have only copied out sections of cosmology that seem to be the “final” take in the Byzantium Notebook, stitching together from various corrected sections as best i can, I must say I adore the idea of taking old worldbuidling ideas and reusing them as heresy and incorrect world theories. If there are people in the real world who insist the planet is flat, then surely other crackpot ideas are going to take root in something as gonzo as a multispecies, multiplanar, multideity fantasy realm.

The illustrations in this notebook were images clipped from various magazines, often collaged together, and definitely focused on being cool and interesting to a 13-15 year old, rather than appropriate for publication. I have done my best to be true to the spirit of those pasteup pictures using the art of Warmtail.

COSMOLOGY

In the beginning, there was nothingness. As that is all there was it was also, perforce, everything. The Nothingness was content to be nothing and everything, for there was no difference to the Nothingness. But much as we can be of two minds, so too was duality part of everything, and thus part of the Nothingness. The two most potent dualities were the Possible and the Impossible. Time did not exist, so there is no way to describe or even comprehend “how long” the Possible and Impossible coexisting within the Nothingness that was both all and naught.

As an aside — despite being before time, this state is sometimes referred to as the Pristine Epoch, for there was no conflict, no pain, no anger. When a lahki strives to achieve perfection through a return to the Pristine Epoch, what they are trying to do is bring total destruction, for if there was nothing, there would be Nothingness, and thus everything. Lahki are, of course, driven my mortal minds, and mortal minds cannot comprehend the Nothingness from before time. Thus, all lahki seeing to bring about the Pristine Epoch are ruled by idiots, charlatans, or madmen.

How or why the Possible and Impossible came into conflict within the Nothingness is just as unanswerable as “when” it happened, but at the moment time began, the two were already locked in a struggle that was ancient and exhausting. It is impossible to say if the Possible was stronger by nature of being Possible, or if that appellation was only granted to it because it won, but within the Nothingness the Possible came to be Everything, and the Impossible was locked away behind the Outer Brane, the thin fabric that separate the morphic and often unlikely Outer Planes from the Grand Koas beyond it. And, even as the Possible grew, developed, and evolved, the Grand Kaos did so as well, despute being Impossible and not properly existing, and it is from this came the Kaos Gods, the urges that lost the first conflict and which do not exist, but wish to exist with such strength that their incomprehensible, noisome, disquieting nature still influences the Possible reality.

Because they were the first Possible things, every elder concept became the ultimate expression of that concept. These are better known as Gods, but it is again a mistake to think of gods in terms mortal minds can grasp. The God that formed from the concept of time is only and purely time. It is in no part thought, patience, desire, concern, or action. The Ur-Time is a god, and as a god it is everything but only what makes up time, and does nothing time does not.

Gods, in short, do not want anything, or work toward anything, in any way a mortal can comprehend. They change, but on scales and in ways unknowable and unnoticeable to anything comprised even partially of flesh, blood, skin, bone, thought, breath, emotion, life, or death. Gods are distinct and different from even the mightiest of angel, oldest of devil, or reality-bending draconic sorcerer psionic ninja, in that they literally cannot be even partially perceived, affected, damaged, or influences by a creature with any of the mortal traits. This naturally leads some mortals to shrug and say Gods must not exist, because no magic, lore, ritual, relic, technology, or ability that can be accessed at any level, in any way, can interact with a God at all.

And, fair enough.

However, the Gods can interact with creatures comprise exclusively of essences such as the concept sthat make up the Gods themselves, but are each a blend of essences. Still entirely beyond the understanding of any mortal, these entites can have urges, desires, and plans, for while one may be made of the essential essence that is time, it can also have swirls of forethought, regret, age, ancestry, and dozens of other concepts adjacent to time. The God time is only time, but there are a dozen, or a billion, lesser coalescents of only essence that bring more concepts to time, so that they can do more than just those things time can do.

These are known as the Principalities, and while no mortal can directly speak with or trily understand a Principality, the most powerful of mortal endeavors — the work of ancient artifacts, archmagics, philosophical constructs of a thousand generations — can influence and be influenced by Principalities. Such interaction is as no more than the flutter of a butterfly’s wings on a charging bull, and only a tiny fraction of all mortal who shall ever exist can reach the enlightenment and empowerment needed for even the briefest of such overlaps, but it is real, tangible, measurable, and recorded. And, the Principalities can easily interact with those creatures which sit outside the laws of gross matter. Such “outsiders,” including angels, archons, demons, devils, aeons, and a few or unnumbered more, are in part the wisps of the Principalities’ essences that have leaked free of their purified state to blend with planar energies. Angels are not just creatures native to the outer planes, they are in part the tracery of Principalities’ energies themselves, and thus naturally align with and sere those Principalities from whence they came.

Disbelief in Principalities exists among mortals, but it is far less common than disbelief in gods. Indeed, most mortals skeptical of the existence of Gods ask why anyone would think to invent a level of entity entirely beyond mortal comprehension in any measure, when Principalities can be proven to exit, and anything some belief systems ascribed to gods could, instead, be the work of Principalities. Indeed, many belief systems do focus primarily on Principalities, though such systems aren’t mainstream in the Commonlands.

It is, however, to worship Principalities by name and treat them as gods, even when it is understood that the true gods are an unknowable, incomprehensible level above Principalities. Gods are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibivalent. They have no limitations, but also no driving force. Principalities, conversely, are of a power and scope literally beyond measure, but not truly infinite. Similarly, while Gods never work together, nor ever oppose one another, principalities can and do all the time. Often their limitations seem reasonable — Urgar-Mawt, the King of Crows, is a Principality of death, the underworld, rulers, horns, crowns, night, black feathers, black clouds, and storms; the fact his angels cannot be summoned into daylight except at a grave seems reasonable given his essential connections.

(The King of Crows. Art by Warmtail)

In other cases the powers, limitations, and preferences of a Principality or their outsiders and worshipers feels entirely random and arbitrary. Anath’al, the Witchwife, is the Principality of witchcraft, secrets, silence, sex, research, poison, change, finding truth, passion, pain, and patience. Why, then, will she not harm children, and randomly grants entirely common folk the service of seven of her witches as lovers and advisors for seven years, as long as they agree to neither marry nor bring forth children of their own in this time?

No one knows, or if they do, they aren’t telling.

(Anath-al. Art by Warmtail)

Those Principalities are too far from mortal entities to mix or interact with them in any typical way, they can consort with the most powerful of outsiders. Whether this is truly breeding as living creatures see it, or more some kind of guided evolution, the fact remains that sometimes archangels, elemental dukes, demons princes, aeon magisters, and similar entities do sometimes produce offspring with Principalities. These creatures are often thought of as “lesser gods” (though Lesser Principalities would be a far more accurate description), and are sometimes worshiped in their own right. These Lesser Gods also can interact directly with mortals, and some seem to have been created specifically to do so. The Dragon Empress of Varghun is a good example of this, her 1,000-year reign definitely moving forward the goals of the Wyrm God that spawned her with a Demon Princess.

Should a Lesser God mate with a mortal, the end result is always extraordinary in some way, with demigods, godlings, heroes, paragons and abominations all possible.

Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes Index

As I translate and post more excerpts from these amazing analects of creativity, I’ll post the links to the end of the first Horrors & Heroes post, so serve as an Index for all the Horrors & Heroes content.

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Obviously this kind of undertaking requires resources! If you wish to support me in developing “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” please join my Patreon, or drop a cup of support in my Ko-Fi.

Excerpt from “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” the Indigo Notebook, by Ben-Derek Hayes (Ages 14-17)

Excerpts from another of the “Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes” by Ben-Derek Hayes. This one is exclusively “Worstiary” entries (“Like a Bestiary, but the monsters are even worse!”), and indeed is exclusively creatures created through “Menagermancy,” which appears to be a lost school of magic practiced by the Nightfall Empires and People From Before the First Dawn. Also unlike the majority of the Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes, there is a range of ages listed on this one. Many entries have a cruder drawing that seems to be their original illustration, and then more photo-mash-up looking examples pasted in later “for art reference” when the “publishers come knocking.”

So, adapting the original sketches and later art-references of the hybrid creatures found in the Commonlands* calls for a different art style than previously used. For this task, the art of Marinavorona has been used in this article. While there are dozens of hybrid creatures in the Indigo Book, I have selected three that I particularly enjoy for this excerpt.

*Apparently, according to a note I found with the Arktos entry, the Commonlands are “Those lands held “in common” by the original city-states of the Dwarven, Elven, Human Alliance [“Dehallia”]. While those City-states have mostly expanded into kingdoms [or collapsed], the Commonlands are not allowed to have any government bigger than a single city and what can be hit by a bowshot from its walls. This is supposed to ensure freedom of people in the Commonlands from invasion or conquest by foreign cultures, but in practice actually means the various Dehallia kingdoms are constantly fighting and maneuvering and scheming to gain more control over the various smaller governments, and their alliances and factions which try to bypass the government-size restrictions. This vicious and constant backbiting, ignoring of other more serious threats, and constant digging into older layers and accidentally unleashing things is why the vocation of “Adventurer” is considered normal within the Commonlands, despite being almost unknown elsewhere.”

Arktos

The Arktos is the Beast of the North, also known as the Ursapard, Winter Warden and King of the Midnight Sun. An Arktos has the head and antlers of a caribou, body of a polar bear, and tail of a snow leopard. They are extremely intelligent, but have utterly un-humanoid interests and concerns. They can live for centuries, some learn druidic magic, and they are extremely territorial.

(Arktos)

An Arktos thinks nothing of eating other thinking creatures, and is not offended when other creatures try to eat it. What they do mind is anything that makes major changes to what they consider their territory. However, packs of Arktos sometimes prowl over a circuit that takes 10-20 years to complete. When Commonlands settlements expand hunting, logging, or even building further north, sometimes they discover years after doing so the area is considered claimed by an Arktos pack, which is merciless in driving out what it sees as “invaders.”

Some older Arktos grow black lichen on their horns. They are shunned by others of their kind, sometimes practice necromancy, and usually end up going on killing sprees southward until put down.

The Klaken

(The Klaken)

The Klaken has the forebody of a lobster, but a series of tentacles instead of a tail. The Klaken prefer to eat seafood that comes from a hard shell, for unknown reasons, causing them to attack other shellfish, the armored WhaleGods… and ships. A Klaken can eat x5 its body weight in a day, but can also go for years in a form of torpor when food is more scarce, waking during storms to see what has been churned up by the thunder and rough seas.

Unlike most creatures that top out at Apocalypse -tier, the Klaken can grow to Kaiju and even Daikaiju tiers. Indeed, Klaken continue to grow in both size and intelligence as they age, with many Dusk Kingdoms have rules about how big a Klaken you can eat (though the Dehallia have no such restrictions), with a length of 118-157 inches being typical cutoff points.

Magnificat

The species commonly known as Magnifcats are technically “peafelines,” brightly-colored felines with the wings, talons, and tail plumage of peafowls. Magnificats come in a range of colors, and unlike peafowls feather patterns can be bland or bold regardless of gender. White, cream, and calico Magnificats are most often female, and males are much more likely to be almost exclusively red, orange, gold, black, or azure in color, with multicolor male cats rarer.

The talons of the Magnificat are deceptively long and dangerous. When “retracted” the tips remain visible (though canted upwards, allowing the peafeline to softly push with its paws without causing injury. However, the claws can still “extend” from that position, making them x3 to x4 larger than those of a typical cat of the same size. They are also of much stronger material than most animals, and Magnificats do claw damage as if they were two size categories larger than their true size.

Magnficats are on the same intelligence and power scale as pseudodragons, imps, and quasits. rather than the powers of those creatures, Magnificats can use their tail-display to dazzle, confuse, stagger, or even blind and stun. They make amazing familiar, but rather than being selected by a spellcaster, a Magnificat forges a familiar bond with whoever it wants to, weather mage or not, and with no warning. Some families host colonies of Magnificats at their homes or lands in the hopes their children will be so familiarized. When asked why they bother, most Magnificats just claim they like having someone nearby who has thumbs.

(Peafeline, aka “Magnificat”)

Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes Index

As I translate and post more excerpts from these amazing analects of creativity, I’ll post the links to the end of the first Horrors & Heroes post, so serve as an Index for all the Horrors & Heroes content.

Patreon

Obviously this kind of undertaking requires resources! If you wish to support me in developing “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” please join my Patreon, or drop a cup of support in my Ko-Fi.

Excerpt from “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” the Caput Mortuum Notebook, by Ben-Derek Hayes (Age 16)

Excerpts from another of the “Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes” by Ben-Derek Hayes. This one is from a few years later in Hayes’ career, and it’s clear from both the use of “caput mortuum” to describe a purple-brown spiral notebook color, and the periodic notes in margins about Greek architecture, the Roman Empire, the “missing Sea Peoples,” and pop quiz dates that out author wrote much of this while taking ancient history and Humanities courses in public school. As before, the art of Zdenek Sasek attempts to capture the essence of Hayes’ art sketches, which show real improvement since his earliest notebooks.

While the idea of wargates and other “typical” categories of trapped items is fascinating, I actually chose to showcase this excerpt because of the worldbuilding hinted at, with multi-species empires fighting and collapsing, apparent categories of societies based on how “new in the day” they are, and some shade thrown at classic “fantasy good guy” lands rules by dwarves, elves, and humans. I hope to find more information on these topics as I go through the notebooks, but it looks like it is scattered throughout the last few years of notebooks, and may take considerable compiling and revising before a clear picture of this fantasy world (which, if it has a name, I have not found yet) becomes clear.

Even so, the deep mix of the familiar, the gonzo, and the unexpectedly reasonable in this excerpt reminds me of my earliest days as a GM, and takes my breath away.

WARDGATES

Wardgates are one of the Seven Typically Trapped Things -7TTT- along with chests, forbiddings, holdouts, panopticons, necropolises, and sarcophagi. As long as appropriate knowledge/lore checks or recon reveals something to be one of the 7TTT, characters automatically get to search for traps without the player having to say so. If something isn’t a 7TTT, and is trapped (THIS IS RARE – NO MORE THAN ONCE PER STORY ARC) you still get such automatic checks but at -5 (unless you have a power to allow you to always be trapfinding), in which case you do not. Players never need to (or get to) slow down the game by asking if things are trapped, but also never get penalized for not thinking to ask if every single thing is trapped — all trapchecking rolls are called for by the GM, though research and study of an area in advance can grant checks to know if there are 7TTT or Rare Other Traps present.

Wardgates originated with Gaub-Algen Empire, before it’s destruction at the hands of the Dwarf/Elf/Human Alliance (or Dehallia) [which created the Dehallia prejudice against all Gaub-Algen, or “goblins” including orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, ogres, giants*, trolls, knuckies (the mammalian of the two races both wrongly called “kobolds” by Dehallian sources), draugh (or “dark elves” which can be any color but have much longer ears making them “obviously” degenerate and inferior to High Elf/Wood Elf standards)], and like many things Gaub-Algenian has been adopted by most of the Dawn Kingdoms, and no small number of Noon Kingdoms and even a few Dusk Empires.

*Technically not the Fomorians — athatch, cyclops, ettins, and firbolgs, who were part of the Giganarchy which opposed and was destroyed by Gaub-Algen prior to the DEH Alliance taking down the Empire — nor the Nephilim — oni, rakshasa, titans, and other part-angelic creatures, who are still quite in power to the Far West in Muthuul-Danleib and only some of which come far enough east to hit the Commonlands and run into adventurers. But most Dehallia sources don’t bother to differentiate between types of giants.

Wardgates were used as large, impressive entrances to important places. They would often be open and safe, but could be both locked, and locked as “armed” (meaning the trap is set to go off). The function of a wardgate is multifold. First, it is a symbol of power — look, see, we have entrances that can defend themselves! Second, when locked and activated it serves as an unmanned line of defense — likely not enough to stop a rampaging beetlephant or pyrosaurus rex, but something that hurts them, may drive off less sapient monsters, and delays or slows them while the guard/army/magic missile-only brigade prepares a defense in-depth. Third it can be a crowd control deterrent — no one wants to riot in Upper Silverholt because the Royal Elven Wardgate might be closed, making it difficult for anyone to get home. Fourth, they can be tested in the name of local defense, but thus showing off how advanced your kingdom’s flaming poisoned caltrop launchers have become as a form of international saber-rattling.

Since most of those functions require people to know a wardgate is a wardgate, they tend to be big, conspicuous, and obviously something more than just a hole in their connected wall. Of course, wargates from different cultures are marked differently, so especially when dealing with Dusk or Nightfall Kingdoms, cultural/historical knowledge/lore is helpful when identifying them. Even so, if when crawling through an Nightfall Ruin, if an archway has a fanged face worked into its keystone, and that turns out to be a wardgate, it’s easy enough to treat all future portals with fanged-face-keystones as potentially trapped.

Some typical wardgate traps:

INSTANT ROCKFALL: Crude, yet effective, the instant rockfall is built so a defender inside the attached wall (or a watchtower for slightly more advanced versions) can hammer loose a brake, dropping a weighted chain down a shaft, causing the chain to pull free lynchpins within the wardgate, so it collapses. This is a one-use wardgate that literally requires it to be rebuilt after each use, so they are almost always only observer-triggered. Thus difficult to disarm. In ruins an instant rockfall is only dangerous because the lynchpins may be rusted or missing, thus a strong shock (like a fireball) can cause it to collapse more easily than surrounding ruined sections.

HELLGATE: A hellgate is a form of iron portcullis made of hollow, perforated metal with spaces at the bottom for Greek fire. Arming it requires placing the Greek fire in the slots, and then if it is dropped (rather than slowly lowered) the Greek fire vials break, the hollow grille works as a chimeny, and the whole gate and an area around it bursts into fire. More advanced hellgates may also have ways to add agents through the hollow grille from above, ranging from oil (to keep the fires going), smoking/tear gas agents, and even fire-elemental-summoning-stones.

(Hellgate)

SPIN SCYTHECLE: A spin scythecle has blades on spinning wheels mounted low that can rotate out and cut everyone off at the knee. The gearworks are generally driven by weights on chains, and thus have limited runtimes, but more advanced versions can be powered by waterwheels, or have backuphampster-wheel power to extend runtime once activated.

WALLCRUSHER: The wardgate is a short corridor, and the sides are under pressure, often from counterbalanced gears and shafts. When closed, it is armed by the door being broken. Once armed, any pressure on the center of the corridor released the spiked walls. After the walls crush, they form two new narrower hallways, allowing counterattacks to be launched. Damage, area, escape difficulty all scale with level. Setting it off when disarming tends not to damage trapwright, but it’s loud as heck.

(Wallcrusher)

Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes Index

As I translate and post more excerpts from these amazing analects of creativity, I’ll post the links to the end of the first Horrors & Heroes post, so serve as an Index for all the Horrors & Heroes content.

Patreon

Obviously this kind of undertaking requires resources! If you wish to support me in developing “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” please join my Patreon, or drop a cup of support in my Ko-Fi.

Excerpt from “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” the Brown Notebook, by Ben-Derek Hayes (Age 12)

From time to time there come into my possession works by gamers who, for whatever reason, have not previously received the level of exposure and appreciation they deserve. Such is the case in the “Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes” by Ben-Derek Hays. These notebooks were sent to me mysteriously and anonymously, with no known provenance, but clear instructions for me to make what I could of them and legal papers freeing me from my normal concern for looking at unsolicited submissions. All effort to find the original author have, as thus, failed.

Somewhat chaotic as a first draft, these notebooks of varying size and composition range over a number of years and are color-coded in a system I have yet to fully grasp. But there is no doubt that mixed in with the raw exuberance and untested systems, there are sparks of true genius in these books. As they sit in my care now I shall, as editor and chronicler tasked with compiling these disparate nuggets of raw creativity into some cogent, playable form, from time to time offer excerpts of partially-developed material taken from one or more of the notebooks. A each is color coded and marked with the age of the author (though it is unclear if this is the age when a notebook is begun, or when it is finished, or some other relevant date), I’ll include such information in these entries when I can.

This is very much a work-in-progress, as development is going to be a lengthy process undertaken in stages. For example, for the moment I am correcting spelling and doing my best to ensure sentences are complete and can be parsed, but am otherwise not altering the content of the entries I am previewing here. Similarly, Ben-Derek Hayes (Age 12) provided many illustrations in the Brown Notebook, which are clearly intended as just sketch stages (with notes such as “draw better,” “Pay real artist to make this ozsome,” and “get gud” scrawled next to many), but at the same time I feel the general style used for each picture carries important content and tone. While the illustrations in this article are all by Zdenek Sasek, I have endeavored to ensure they capture the spirit of the original sketches as closely as possible

The material presented today is not only all from The Brown Notebook (Age 12), the selected entries are all marked as being from a theoretical “Worstiary” (which, it is noted in a few entries, is “Like a Bestiary, but the things in it are Worse”). I’m not yet sure if the Worstiary is a separate notebook, from which some data was copied, or if the intent was to someday compile the monsters from the Brown Notebook into a formal Horrors & Heroes Worstiary. Indeed, it’s not clear to me if Horrors & Heroes was intended as a stand-alone game system, a supplement for some specific game (or chimera of multiple similar game systems), or a truly audacious attempt to create a supplement that works with any ttRPG.

But those organizational concerns are by burden to bear. You may simply sit back, and bask in the unfettered imagination of Ben-Derek Hayes (Age 12).

Your humble editor and appointed Horrors & Heroes developer, Owen K.C. Stephens

Man of Arms

(Man of Arms)

A Man of Arms is a zombie thing made of nothing but people arms stitched together. It has no head, but it’s body, legs, and arms are made of lots of different arms. It can move as fast when prone as when standing by doing that creepy stop-motion-skittering thing from cable horror movies.

Other than being undead, a man of arms is just 1d4+1 humanoid monsters that only move once a round, but get to make attacks and do other things as often as that many people would. So a Man of Arms made of 3 people moves once, but has initiative and actions for 3 people. All damage goes to the people making it up one at a time, and when you kill one, you’ve hacked off that many arms (so it attacks less and stuff). With no heads they can’t hear or see things and are immune to gazes and songs, but still fight good (but maybe not any ranged attacks since that would be dumb).

Any treasure a Man of Arms has should be a cool weapon some Hero can use.

Scare Bear

(Scare Bear)

A scare bear is like a normal bear (or a Dire, Fel, or Apocalypse Bear for higher-level fights), but it has the Direful Howl. Whenever the scare bear sees things but doesn’t attack for a round, or anytime it takes damage or fails a save against an effect, it howls (not an action, just happens). All creatures within 6561.68 feet must save against fear or be more frightened than they were before. You can only be less frightened by running away from the scare bear for a round, killing it, or successfully saying something witty about fear or bears (must roll as high as the scare bear’s Direful Howl save). Which means Scare Bears can understand any language, I guess, so they’re magic too.

Scare bears are big and shaggy, and their eyes glow scary colors, which means even if they use Stealth you know there’s something with glowing eyes in their space.

Scare bears were created through Menagermancy by Udek-Kai the Unliked. One of the People From Before the First Dawn, Udek-Kai grew the Gardens of All Feeling, and made Scare Bears to scare off thieves and kids and crows and stuff. The Gardens of All Feeling also were home to the Fel Scorpionbees, who are immune to fear and make the Eternal Honey, so Scare Bears never got hungry or aged. When the Gardens were burned in the First Day War, the scare bears scattered and changed. They are still drawn to the few remaining Feeling Plants, especially Orchids of Sadness, Roses of Love, and the tiny, delicate Clover of Wondering if Someone Likes You.

Marginal Ideas

Literally ideas written in the margins of the notebook. Some of these may have longer writeups or sketches in later notebooks, which would supersede these short descriptions.

Eye Bug: An eye bug is a big round beetle that crawls into your face when you are sleeping, and eats one of your eyes without you feeling it. To make sure you don’t dig it out, it looks cool and gives you better vision so you can see ghosts and invisible hobbits and traps and stuff. When you cry, microscopic eye bug eggs flow away in your tears and grow up to eat other people’s eyes.

Hangman’s Kite: Sometimes when a kite gets stuck in a hangman’s tree and abandoned, it absorbs the mean from the dead people in the tree. It turns its string into a hangman’s noose, and goes flying looking for people to choke and pull up into the sky by their neck.

(Hangman’s Kite)

Web Kittens: The size of kittens, but with two tails and six spider legs (ending in kitten-paws) rather than normal kitten legs. Can make webs, but normally only do so to form their own balls to play with. Venomous, but their venom makes you love them and want to take care of them. Popular as pets, but illegal in many fortresses and valleys.

Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes Index

As I translate and post more excerpts from these amazing analects of creativity, I’ll post the links to future articles here, so serve as repository for all the Horrors & Heroes content.

The Caput Mortuum Notebook (Age 16) – Wardgates, explanation of the Seven Typically Trapped Things, notes on the Gaub-Algen Empire (“goblins”), the Dwarf/Elf/Human Alliance (or Dehallia), Dawn, Noon, Dusk, and Nightfall Empires, Giganarchy, the “Far West” of Muthuul-Danleiband, and the Commonlands. Namedrops beetlephant and pyrosaurus rex.

The Brown Notebook (Age 12) – This page! Monsters from the Worstiary.

The Byzantium Notebook (Age 13+) – Cosmology including Gods, principalities, Lesser Gods, and Demigods. Mentioned – Urgar-Mawt, the King of Crows; Anath’al, the Witchwife; Dragon Empress of Varghun; Wyrm God.
(Second Entry) Major Principles – Avergentis, the Heartflock, Marugal, the North Wind, Plautaurch, Uhr, Wrogan.
(Third Entry) The Seven Winds: The North Wind, the South Wind, the Rogue Wind, the East Wind, the Tea Wind, the West Wind, the Death Wind.

The Indigo Notebook (Ages 14-17) – More Worstiary entries (Arktos, the Klaken, Magnificat), and some notes on the Commonlands.

Patreon

Obviously this kind of undertaking requires resources! If you wish to support me in developing “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” please join my Patreon, or drop a cup of support in my Ko-Fi.

The Diary of Ardra Maias

“Of course, Doctor Frankenstein did not begin his work with human corpses. Not for ethical reasons, you understand, but simply because they were difficult to acquire, and until his work progressed to a stage where human trials were needed, there was no point.

“His earliest experiments on revivification were on marmots, easily bought from trappers near his family’s Swiss home. There were far more failures than successes, of course, and were it my preview I would condemn the man to perdition on the basis of what he did to those alone.

“Even so, in time he brought a marmot to life, indeed my current companion Vivo is that first, fully-revived marmot, though in Vivo’s case no surgery had been needed. The Doctor had killed him under exacting conditions, and revivified him moments later.

“I have often marveled at Vivo, for while he has all the robustness and vitality of all we mortiborn, unlike the majority of us he is a peaceful, caring creature. Well capable of defeating a predator ten times his mass, Vivo would prefer affection to affrontation. Bless him.

“But from there, the hubristic doctor did decide he must move to primates, if not yet humans, to perfect his procedure. No large primates being common in Italy or Switzerland, he had to order them bespoke. But hunting expeditions to Borneo were common enough, and he was rich.

“Indeed, I am unsure how many evils would never have been visited upon this world had the Frankenstein family not been one of vast resource and reputation. In the century-and-on of my existence, I have found more evils traced to rich, well-respected men than any other beast.

“So, vile Frankenstein had no difficulty having Indonesian and Malaysian orangutans captured and brought to him. It was thought perhaps he wanted a menagerie, such as at London’s Exeter Exchange. Many were sick and died after arrival, but that too suited his needs.

“I am uncertain how many of my distant cousins, living or dead, he constructed me from. Close examination of my form and logic dictates no less than seven, but without taking my internal organs apart — an act I have always objected to — an exact accounting is impossible.

“I have been told, repeatedly, by anatomists that my brain, at least, must be human, rather than native to my orangutan skull. This is argued that because I can talk, and reason, I cannot be a mere ape. Of my speech, I will grant, the doctor most likely used some human parts.

“But my reason? No, I am not convinced my reason is any less orangutan than my limbs. For, did his homo sapiens subjects not show vast, cold intellect beyond that of their flesh-donors? Is it so hard to believe that the gap from apes’ reason to mans’ is at best a short distance?

“I would propose the question cannot be truly settled until men show the ability to see themselves as something other than the divinely-appointed lords of all matter in the world, animal, mineral, gas, fluid, and plant alike, to use and despoil as they see fit.

“I remember nothing of my time before mortibirth, though instincts still exist from my firstflesh lives, and some smells and sounds strike me as familiar in the extreme. But having gone to Borneo once, I can safely say I am no native of it. I am no native of any land.

“I remember my first weeks. I thought the doctor wise and kind, something between a father and a god. He taught me to walk, talk, eat–ensured that I was fine in form and function. Then he drowned me in an arsenic solution of his own devising, and took notes as I screamed.

“I do presume he believed my consciousness fully destroyed. I think this not out of some trust in his character, but from the fact when I stopped moving, he stopped taking notes and never consulted my glass sarcophagus again. I sat, silent and unmoving, and thought. For years.

“Should I not have been found in the investigation that ensued after the publication of an account of Doctor Frankenstein’s insensate experiments, I believe I would be trapped, paralyzed, and thinking still, looking through the arsenic water and glass at some stone wall.

“But found I was and, in time, released. As I could speak, and was witness to the foul knowledge and process the doctor had created, I was not destroyed. In time, decades, truly, I earned my freedom by turning the lie of a human origin for my brain back on the government.

“So, here exists I. Corpses pretending to be one flesh. Abyssal chemical reactions pretending to be life. An ape’s mind pretending to be human.

“But I am also cunning, robust, and potent in the way of all my kind, and though I carry no love for Monsieur Dupin, he taught me well.

“By the aegis of his brusque acceptance of me, I am established. I have legal papers that sometimes grant me rights, and monies that do so more often.

“How did I come to know Dupin? What is my vocation now? Those shall be future articles, for which I’ll receive a nickel a word.”

–From the Diary of Ardra Maias, the Empire Coast Journal, Jan 17th, 1934.

#DiaryofArdraMaias

(Want to support more short fiction and Diary of Ardra Maias entries?! Back my Patreon or leave a drop of support in my Ko-Fi!”)

Original Character: The Lantern

(No part of the article is Open Game Content)

I’m going to be playing in a Mutants & Masterminds game sometime in the not-too-distant future, online, about once a month. The GM describes it as “1938 Postmodern Golden Age Superhero,” which is to say, using tropes and aesthetics and the setting of a heroic 1938 world, but not accepting those tropes or the prejudices of that era without examination.

I adore Golden Age supers.

So, I decided I want to play someone in the Mystery Men category, what I often call a “Fedora Hero.” The basics of that are easy to nail down — a 1930s suit and hat with some kind of face covering, detective/investigative skills, fisticuffs, and a schtick. Famous examples obvious include the Crimson Avenger, Green Hornet, Sandman, the Shadow, the Spider: Master of Men, and the Spirit.

I ran through a LOT of ideas (Azure Crusader. Good Citizen. Father Pentacroft. The Griffon. Hodag. Mr. Nevermore. Punchline. Red Wasp.), but they were all either too derivative for my current desires, too generic, or too far from what I see as the core of the Fedora Hero concept.

So, I decided to go a different direction, and pick a legacy, which would lead to a concept, which would lead to a schtick, which would form the core of my hero.

So I began thinking about history and folklore that predated 1938. I considered going with a character named Argent, or Argent Agent, or Revere, and having them be a silver-wielding inheritor of Paul Revere’s heroic role. But, I have long been a bit annoyed that Paul Revere is treated as though he underwent the Midnight Ride by himself, so I didn’t really want to base a character on that as a hook.

Then, it clicked. Not Revere… but the *Lanterns*!

Now my Fedora Hero had a lapel badge of two lanterns in a church tower (“Two If By Sea”) that could shine bright light into his foe’s face. No true superpowers, but inheritor of a long line of special operatives since the days of the Midnight Ride, trained from birth by the secretive Order of William Dawes to find hidden threats to the US, oppose them, and call them out. Mostly stealth-investigator-skills based, but with guns and fisticuffs as needed.

That idea went to Jacob Blackmon, who asked some crucial questions about costume design, and The Lantern’s concept and look were set!

If you’re a fan of M&M as I am, I heartily recommend you join the official M&M Patreon, which has lots of cool content from the creators and developers of the game line!

(The Lantern, art by Jacob Blackmon)

Eldritch Chess, ver 1.1, Expansion Alpha

These rules have already been added to the Eldritch Chess ver 1.1 page, but if you just want to see what’s new, it’s all written out below.

Victory Conditions

Normal victory conditions are to checkmate your opponent’s liege. If a liege is in check, its player must take it out of check. A liege cannot choose to enter check. In some cases, destroying your opponent’s liege may occur without it ever being in check, such as if it is destroyed by a Fireball. This is considered checkmate for victory conditions.

If neither side has pieces remaining capable to checking the opposing liege, the game is a draw. For example, if both players are down to an archmage and some oozes, the game is a draw.

New Eldritch Pieces

Miasma
Miasma can move one space orthogonally, but cannot capture. As an invoke, it can destroy all non-royal pieces in squares adjacent to it, including you own. It is a spell. You can replace one or both knights with miasmas.

Pendulum
The pendulum can move and capture one vertical space forward or backwards. You can replace two pawns with three pendulums, but you cannot have pendulums that bring you over 24 total pieces.

Sphinx
The sphinx moves, jumps, and captures as a knight or a pawn. If it does not currently have one, as an invoke it can create a riddle in any empty adjacent sqaure. A riddle does not move or capture, but otherwise acts as a piece for purposes of other pieces’ movement (stopping the movement of any piece that cannot jump, and being captured when another piece ands in its square). Your own priests can capture your riddle, but not other pieces of yours. A sphinx is a priest and a royal. A riddle is a spell. You can replace one knight and one bishop with one sphinx, or both knights, both bishops, and two pawns with two sphinxes.

Supporting This Blog
I’m absolutely not immune to the money crunch in the game industry, so if you want to help ensure blog posts like this keep getting produced, please consider supporting my efforts through my Patreon campaign, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

Eldritch Chess, ver 1.1

I love Chess variants. The origin of this love is twofold. First, I adored the idea of “Martian Chess,” or Jetan, that Edgar Rice Burroughs in The Chessmen of Mars, complete with full rules of the game. Second, my father loved classic boardgames, including chess and chess variants. As a child he taught me Go, Checkers, Chess, and then Shogi and Xiangqi. When I fell in love with Jetan we played it for months (using tape to temporarily turn a Go board into a Jetan board), and he introduced me to Chancellor Chess, Checker-Chess, and a tone of other variants.

When Dragon Magazine published Dragon Chess, he and I used out multiple chess sets and many of my lead miniatures to make a set, and played. I don’t think we ever got through a whole game, but we made multiple runs at it.

(Somewhere in here I also found the video game Archon, which was also a big influence).

So, I’ve adored the idea of chesslike games for a long time, and have played Knightmare Chess, and various 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-player chess variants. Eldritch Chess is an outgrowth of that old passion, and while this version is highly experimental, it’s grown enough I want to have all the current rules in one place.

Also, a BIG shoutout to Mike Myler, who first collated a lot of my social media posts into a pdf, and codified some rules I had hinted at but not written down. Thanks, Mike!

(Art by Martin Bech)

Basic Rules
Eldritch Chess uses the rules of regular chess, with the possible addition of new special pieces called “eldritch pieces.” Each player begins before play with a typical chess army of eight pawns, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, a queen, and a king, but may substitute a number of pieces for eldritch pieces.

Setup and Substitution

All eldritch piece substitutions are decided on prior to pieces being placed on the board. Then, after both sides have decided and noted down what pieces they are using, each side places all their non-eldritch pieces on the board, each in one of its legal starting places, alternating with White placing the first piece. If one side has more non-eldritch pieces, they place all their remaining non-eldritch pieces after the two sides stop alternating.

Then, the two sides take turns placing their eldritch pieces using the same rules as for non-eldritch pieces, above. When placing an eldritch pieces, a player must put in on the beginning square of one of the pieces it replaces, if possible. If not possible, the player chooses any open starting square on the first 2 rows of their side of the board. If there are no such open squares, the eldritch pieces is placed on their third row, as close to the side of the board as possible.

Each time an eldritch piece is placed, which piece it is and what piece(s) it is replacing is revealed to the opposing player.

First Game

It’s recommended that when first playing Eldritch Chess that each player be limited to a single
eldritch piece, increasing the number of allowed eldritch pieces by one for every three matches played.

Matched Sides

To ensure balanced sides, it is possible for eldritch chess to be played with both sideshaving the same eldritch pieces. The players decide on how many substitutions they will have, limiting themselves to an even number (2 eldritch pieces, or 4, 6, or 8). Black then selects one eldritch piece both sides will begin with, and which piece(s) it replaces. White then selects the next eldritch piece and what it replaces, and the players continuing taking alternating turns until all eldritch pieces are selected. Players then set up their pieces, as described in Setup and Selection, above.

Invoke

Some pieces have an invoke. this is something the piece does when you invoke it, which can only be done on your turn and counts as your move, but does not move the piece using its normal movement.

Promotion

Pawns retain the ability to promote if they reach the far row, but can only promote to standard chess pieces (even if you did not being with any of that piece on the board), and eldritch pieces you began the game having on the board. Other pieces only promote if they say so, and may have special rules. A peice can never promote to a liege.

Piece Types

An Eldritch Chess, some pieces are defined as spells, priests, royals, or lieges. Of the standard chess pieces bishops are priests, kings and queens are royals, and the king is a liege. Some eldritch pieces have special rules that interact with these types. Each player must have one and only one liege, which can castle as a king (unless it states otherwise), and is subject to the rules of check and checkmate as a king.

Victory Conditions

Normal victory conditions are to checkmate your opponent’s liege. If a liege is in check, its player must take it out of check. A liege cannot choose to enter check. In some cases, destroying your opponent’s liege may occur without it ever being in check, such as if it is destroyed by a Fireball. This is considered checkmate for victory conditions.

If neither side has pieces remaining capable to checking the opposing liege, the game is a draw. For example, if both players are down to an archmage and some oozes, the game is a draw.

Eldritch Piece Rules

Abjurer
An Abjurer can move and capture 1 space in any direction. An Abjurer cannot be captured except by royal pieces, and cannot be jumped over (even by pieces that normally can jump). Substitution: You can replace one or both rooks with abjurers.

Archmage
The Archmage can move up to 2 spaces in any direction, jumping. It cannot capture. It cannot castle. It is a liege. Substitution: The Archmage replaces your king.

Barricade
The Barricade moves/captures 1, 2, or 3 spaces orthogonally or vertically. It can invoke to Block, preventing the opponent on their next move from capturing it, moving pieces adjacent to it, or jumping over it. It is a spell. You can replace one or both rooks with Barricades.

Berserker
A Berserker moves and captures as a pawn. It can move and capture as a knight or queen, but after doing so it is removed from play. The Berserker cannot check a liege. It can promote on the back row as a pawn. Substitution: You can replace one or both rooks, and/or one or both knights, with bersekers.

Celestial
A Celestial moves and captures up to 4 diagonal spaces. It can jump pieces. It is a priest. When the Celestial is captured, you can immediately promote one pawn that is not in a position to capture or check if it becomes a knight into a knight. Substitution: You can replace your queen, and/or both bishops, with one Celestial.

Conjurer
A Conjurer moves and captures like a pawn. If you have fewer than 8 pawns, as an invoke the Conjurer can create a pawn you control as a move, placing it in a clear adjacent square. Substitution: You can replace your queen, and/or both rooks, with one Conjurer. You cannot have more than one Conjurer.

Court Magician
A Court Magician moves as a king or knight, and promotes as a pawn. It is royal, and remains royal after promoting. You can replace one or both rooks, or both knights, or your queen with one Court Magician.

Diviner
A Diviner moves and captures as a king. You can discard a Diviner without taking a move to force your opponent to undo the move they just took. It’s still their move, but they cannot repeat the same move.
Substitution: You replace your queen, and/or both bishops, with one diviner.

Geomancer
The geomancer moves and captures as the king, but is not a liege. As an invoke, the geomancer can add a strip of four squares to a side of the gameboard. All the edges of one long 4-square side must be adjacent to the original board, and black and white squares alternate with the original board. The added squares can be moved on as normal, but don’t change where pieces promote. Substitution: You replace one or both knights with geomancers.

Ghost
The Ghost can move 2 spaces in any direction. It does not capture pieces, but instead suborns them,
sharing their space and moving with them and preventing your opponent from moving them. It
cannot suborn priests. While suborning, the Ghost moves as itself or the suborned piece, whichever you select for each move. If captured while suborning a piece, the Ghost is destroyed and you place the suborned piece in an adjacent open square where it is returned to your opponent’s control. Substitution: You can replace your queen, and/or both bishops, with one Ghost.

Doppelganger
A Doppelganger moves, captures, castles, and follows the rules of check and checkmate as your king. It is not a liege or royal. However, both your king and Doppleganger must be checkmated for you to lose the game. Substitution: You can replace your queen, or both knights, with a Doppleganger, but may only have
one Doppelganger.

Dragon
A Dragon can move 2 spaces diagonally or orthogonally, and can jump over a piece. It can capture a piece it lands on, or one in any square adjacent to where it lands. Substitution: You can replace both knights with Dragons (but not just one).

Druid
The Druid moves and captures as a pawn. If it doesn’t already have one, it can create a beast as a move. A
beast appears in an unoccupied adjacent space, and moves and captures as a knight. A beast can only move twice, then disappears. If a beast is captured, so is its Druid. The Druid is a priest, but its beast is not. Substitution: You can replace your queen, or both bishops, or one bishop and four pawns, with druids.

Enchanter
An Enchanter can move 2 (and only 2) spaces diagonally or orthogonally. It can capture only by moving into an adjacent enemy piece. An enemy piece adjacent to an Enchanter can’t move. Substitution: You can replace a queen, or a pawn plus one bishop, knight, or rook, with an enchanter.

Evoker
The Evoker moves and captures as a pawn. It can also invoke to capture a piece that is 1 vertical and 2 orthogonal spaces away, or 2 vertical and 1 orthogonal spaces away without moving. The Evoker can capture your own pieces. Substitution: You may replace one or both rooks with Evokers, and/or your queen, and/or one or both knights, but cannot have more than three total Evokers.

Familiar
The Familiar moves/captures 1 in any direction. As an invoke, it can hop onto an adjacent piece of yours. It thereafter moves and is captured with that piece, until it uses it invokes again to leave the shared space and land in an adjacent, unoccupied square. You can replace one or both bishops with Familiars.

Fiend
The Fiend moves up to 3 spaces in any direction, can jump pieces, can turn once during its movement, and can capture friendly pieces. The fiend can capture but not land adjacent to a priest, and the fiend captures a friendly pawn when landing next to it. Substitution: You can replace one or both knights
with fiends.

Fireball
The Fireball moves/captures 1, 2, or 3 spaces diagonally. When it captures a piece that piece, the Fireball, and every adjacent piece, is destroyed. If a liege is destroyed, this is treated as checkmate. It is a spell. You can replace one or both rooks with Fireballs.

Gargoyle
The Gargoyle moves as a knight, but cannot jump pieces. It cannot be captured, removed from the board, or suborned by spells. You can replace one or both knights and/or one (but not both) rook and/or one (but not both) bishop with Gargoyles.

Giant
The Giant moves and captures 1 or 2 spaces orthogonally. As an invoke, it can throw any adjacent non-royal piece of yours 2 or 3 spaces in any direction, jumping pieces, to an unoccupied space. You can replace one or both rooks with Giants.

Gremlin
A Gremlin moves and captures as a pawn, but does not get a double move on it first turn, and does not promote. If it reaches the far row, it turns around (moving and capturing toward you, rather than away from you). You can replace one or both knights or bishops with three gremlins each, or a rook for 5 gremlins, or a queen for 9 Gremlins. However, you cannot have more than 24 total pieces at start of the game when using Gremlins.

Highlander
The Highlander moves and captures as a queen. When captured, it returns as a bishop or rook (your
choice) on your next turn, on any unoccupied square on your back row, without requiring a move to do so. (If you do not have an unoccupied square on your back row, it can appear on any unoccupied square on the first row closest to you that does have one.) If captured again, it returns as a knight, and if again as a pawn. Substitution: You can replace your queen and one knight and one pawn, with one Highlander.

Illusionist
The Illusionist moves as a bishop, rook, knight, or pawn, but only captures as a pawn. Substitution: You can replace your queen, or one rook, with an illusionist. You do this by noting which piece you swapped one of those pieces for an illusionist, but don’t have to reveal to your opponent which it is until the Illusionist is first moved. When placing pieces, you don’t place any queen or rook until you place your illusionist, at which point you place the Illusionist and all remaining rooks and queens.

Initiate
The Initiate can move 1 forward or 1 to either side, but can only capture when moving 1 forward. It can
be promoted to any priest if it reaches the back row. The initiate is a priest. Substitution: You can replace up to two pawns with initiates, or as many as you like if you also sacrifice a knight.

Lightning Bolt
The Lightning Bolt moves as a pawn (with all associated rules), but can take two moves (including capturing twice) as your turn. It is a spell. If it promotes to a knight, it retains double moves and is still a spell. You can replace your queen and/or a single rook for a Lightning Bolt.

Miasma
Miasma can move one space orthogonally, but cannot capture. As an invoke, it can destroy all non-royal pieces in squares adjacent to it, including you own. It is a spell. You can replace one or both knights with miasmas.

Mystic
The Mystic moves and captures as a pawn. If captured, the Mystic can be immediately return to its starting space without taking a turn. It captures any piece in that space. Substitution: You can replace one or both knights, and/or one of both rooks, with Mystics.

Necromancer
The Necromancer moves as the bishop. As an invoke, a piece captured by the necromancer can be used to replace your identical missing piece, placing it in the starting position of the piece being
replaced. The Necromancer does not block the movement of enemy pieces. Substitution: You may
replace one bishop and a rook, and/or one knight and a rook, and/or your queen, with one Necromancer.

Ooze
An Ooze moves 1 in any direction. It cannot capture or be captured. Your own pieces can always jump
over your ooze. Substitution: You can replace both rooks, or both knights, or four pawns, with two oozes. You can have up to 6 oozes.

Pendulum
The pendulum can move and capture one vertical space forward or backwards. You can replace two pawns with three pendulums, but you cannot have pendulums that bring you over 24 total pieces.

Pontiff
The Pontiff can move and capture 2 spaces along any diagonal. It is a noble, priest, and liege. If you have a pontiff, pawns that reach either of the far 2 rows can be promoted to bishops, but never queens.
Substitution: The pontiff replaces your king.

Portalkeeper
The Portalkeeper has no move and it cannot capture. It can invoke to Portal, switching places with any other piece of yours. A king cannot portal out of check. A piece that is Portaled to a place where it would normally promote does not promote (but can later promote if it takes a normal move that would promote it). You can replace one or both knights with Portalkeepers.

Shadowmancer
The Shadowmancer moves and captures as the king. Your king cannot be put in check as long as your Shadowmancer is in play. You can replace you queen, and one bishop, knight, or rook with a single Shadowmancer.

Shapeshiffter
A Shapeshifter can invoke to become a pawn, rook, bishop, or knight without changing squares. Substitution: You can replace your queen, or any two pieces made up from bishops, rooks, and
knights, with shapeshifters.

Shieldmaiden
A Shieldmaiden moves and captures as a queen. When your liege is in check, you can invoke your Shieldmaiden to swap its position with your liege, if this gets your liege out of check. You can replace your queen and a rook, or a rook, knight, bishop, and pawn, with one shieldmaiden.

Sphinx
The sphinx moves, jumps, and captures as a knight or a pawn. If it does not currently have one, as an invoke it can create a riddle in any empty adjacent sqaure. A riddle does not move or capture, but otherwise acts as a piece for purposes of other pieces’ movement (stopping the movement of any piece that cannot jump, and being captured when another piece ands in its square). Your own priests can capture your riddle, but not other pieces of yours. A sphinx is a priest and a royal. A riddle is a spell. You can replace one knight and one bishop with one sphinx, or both knights, both bishops, and two pawns with two sphinxes.

Valkyrie
The Valkyrie moves and captures as the knight. As an invoke, the Valkyrie can take a pawn of yours (or any piece you have that can be substituted for a single pawn) and return it to play in an unoccupied square adjacent to the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie is a royal and priest. You can substitute your queen, or both knights and one bishop, for a Valkyrie.

Vampire
The Vampire moves and captures as a knight. Each time it captures, it gains the ability to alternatively
move 1 in a single direction of your choice (such as 1 forward, or 1 diagonally back left). If it captures 8
times, it can also move as a queen. It is a royal and liege. Substitution: The Vampire replaces your king, and queen, and any one of your bishops, rooks, or knights.

Supporting This Blog
I’m absolutely not immune to the money crunch in the game industry, so if you want to help ensure blog posts like this keep getting produced, please consider supporting my efforts through my Patreon campaign, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

Themed Fantasy Tavern Week: The Pixie Ring

The Pixie Ring is a cozy cottage, part-time tavern, small inn, and herbalism shop sitting in a beatific glade just out of site of a major trade road. There’s a small town just another hour or so down the road, but the Pixie Ring stands on its own near the mouth of an extensive, wild valley. With a living thatched roof, multiple ovens often baking sweetbreads and hearty soups, herb trying racks, and a small brewery in back, it’s often said that when the wid is just right, the smell of the place bringing in more customers than any sign or visibility could. It’s also said that despite being isolated and apparently undefended, the Pixie Ring is the last place anyone would want to attack, because it’s protected by the forces of nature itself. It’s proprietor, an ageless-looking woman named Vassilya Darghrace (who seems both matronly and filled with the bloom of spring) just smiles when asked, and says it’s true, without ever going into details if she can help it.

(Art by Artlier Sommerland)

And, indeed, the Pixie Ring is so protected, because Vassilya Darghrave is renowned in the fairy realms as a “Fey Chirurgeon,” a mortal who can solve ailments of the Fair Folk. This reputation stems from her saving a winged pixie from an (iron) bear trap when she was a child, right on the location where the Pixie Ring now stands. The pixie was a favorite of the a major Fey Court noble, who swore to protect Vassilya whenever she was in the field where she saved the pixie. No fool, Vassilya built a small cottage there as a teen, so she had a place to go if ill, moody, or in danger where the fey realm itself would defend her.

What Vassilya did not count on was other fairy creatures bringing her their problems. She has no special powers as a Fey Chirurgeon, just an expectation from sylvan beings that, given her reputation, she can fix any problem they bring her. Over the decades she has soothed a unicorn’s broken heart, stitched a shadow back onto its grig, made peace between warring lilac fields, split 1 keg of honey into 7 equally-large kegs promised to 7 fairy nobles by turning into mead, and nursed a whole host of sprites through winter cold by feeding them herbal soup.

Each fairy problem she has been brought has forced Vassilya to find a solution, which has often meant picking up a new skill. She’s become a master cook, herbalist, brewer, seamstress, woodworker, and painter. While she learned the basics of each skill through hard work and dedication, often travelling for months to reach a master able to teach her what she needed to know, once she used a craft to aid a fey creature, other fey creatures often paid her for her services in secret knacks. Spiderfolk taught her to weave secret eaves. Brownies shared their secrets of brewing morning dew. Tommyknockers showed her their woodworking techniques. As she practiced these arts, her humble shack grew bigger, and grander, and more beautiful.

(Art by Artlier Sommerland)

In time, non-fey began to drop by as well, and being a hospitable person, she tended to feed and house them. In appreciation, most paid her… though she was just as likely to ask them to chop wood, or bring her hard-to-get seasoning on their next time through. Locals tried to keep her presence secret, but once a few traders found her, word of the off-the-path reststop spread. Vassslya slowly expanded her home, trading seasonable contracts with caravans for ceramic stoves in her fireplaces (no iron!), construction materials, labor, and unfinished furnishing she could refine herself.

Vassilya turns no one away. Those with problems are offered solutions if Vassilya can think of one, and given advice on where to get some if she can’t. The hungry are fed, the sick tended to, the tired allowed to rest. Payment is asked only of those who seem likely to afford it. Money is accepted (and tossed carelessly into a drawer, where fey friends carry it off to a more secure location, bringing her coins when she needs them), but trade and service are just as good. If someone just has one spare wagon wheel to trade, Vassilya takes it with the same gravitas as gold or a hand-painted doll. And, in her experience, someone will eventually come along who really needs a wagon wheel.

And, of course, as a crafter, she often turns broken barrels into tables for her garden. Indeed, she often repurposes something just before she or someone else unexpectedly find need for it. Even Vassilya doesn’t know if this is some effect of fairy influence, or is the fates just spun the thread of her life to overlap others’ at useful moments.

(Art by Obsidian Fantasy)

The Pixie Ring is now a “common secret,” a place lots of travelers and traders know of, but most people don’t share knowledge of without good reason. Most people never see the fey who come for help, or the ones who have become friends and tend to live in her building. Their presence is sometimes hinted at, when birds help set the table, scuttering occurs in shadows, wolves and bears appear to growl at the unruly, or things get fixed or cleaned when left unattended. Those few people Vassilya consider close friends or family are more likely to be trusted with seeing the fair folk, as are druids, bards, and similar visitors, but only when “outsiders” are not present.

Vassilya does her best to not have to leave the Pixie Ring anymore, and often pays others to find materials or bring crafting manuals to her so she can fins the problems mortals and fey bring to her. In a more extreme case, if she must leave for a short jaunt, she finds someone she trusts (she’s an excellent judge of character) and leaves them “in charge” for a few days or weeks. When this happens, some shy minor fey almost always shows up with a problem they considered too minor to brother the “great fey chirurgeon” with, which may be as simple as needing advice on what to wear to a fairy dance, or as complex as being exiled from their home court under pain of death. Anyone who can successfully deal with such issues is generally rewarded, and often becomes part of Vassilya’s trusted inner circle.

PATREON
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Themed Fantasy Tavern Week: The Wandering Monster

The Wandering Monster is an unusual tavern, in that it literally wanders. A sturdy 2-story wagon (or very small enclosed civilian siege tower, depending on how you look at it), The Wandering Monster is a combination mobile bar, potion and elixir shop, and residence for its owner, the retired gnomish alchemist and conjurer Kykin Dinferthort.

(Art by Obisidan Fantasy)

Dinferthort trained to be a guild potion-maker, or possibly a court sage, but found the idea of living in a single location much too restraining to accept any of the standard positions upon ending his apprenticeship. Instead, he allowed himself to be hired by a band of adventurers delving into an ancient cistern complex (or, as Dinferthort refered to it, an “adventure hole”) to guard their basecamp and brew potions for them. This proved lucrative enough Dinferthort was able to buy a merchant wagon, and create a roving elixir business. He began traveling an “Adventure Hole Circuit,” hitting locations where adventurers were trying to clear out ancient labyrinths, long-lost sewers, chaotic caverns, buried cities, and other large-scale site-based sources of danger and wealth. Over time he discovered he could make more money on booze and cleaning or mending spells than potions, and upgraded his wagon to a full-fledged (if compact) mobile tavern.

(Art by Obsidian Fantasy)

The lower floor of the Wandering Monster has a single bar with a few casks and stools, though Dinferthort also has a number of leather cushions and tarps to make drinking outside nearby a comfortable option. The gnomish proprietor has focused on items popular with adventurers, including a few simple comfort foods, money-exchange spells (turning copper pieces into platinum pieces or even gems, for just a small cut), communication magic and, of course, healing and curse-removal potions and weapon oils. The upper floor is Dinferthort’s loft, bunk, and personal storage (which is tight, even for gnomish scale, but adequate for his needs… especially since he can conjure extradimensional space if he needs it).

Dinferthort is friendly, but not stupid. He normally only uses his conjuring to provide a few assistants as needed to run his business and creatures to pull the Wandering Monster itself, but always has a fair number of combat and escape-related magics and conjurations ready, just in case. Usually, however, his services are just too useful to adventurers in the field for anyone to dare attack him, or cause trouble for the Wandering Monster.

PATREON
If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).