Friday, October 8, 2021

The True Nature of Immortality

 This is something that came to me in a dream recently.

The ideas in my dreams aren't usually this coherent- this was an exception.

Elves claim to be blessed by the gods with biological immortality.

This is a lie.


Centuries ago, elven wizards perfected the technique of transplanting a soul into a new body.

Through this method, a person could evade illness and old age indefinitely, as long as fresh vessels 

were available to them. 

Of course, this results in the destruction of the original mind that occupied said body, and the displacement

of the soul to... wherever they go after death.  There's no way to restore the first consciousness.


The process works best when the body donor is both willing and physically similar to the person

overtaking them.  Because the donor needs to be awake and aware at the start of the ritual, resisting can

pose an issue, and a body that's too different to what the new mind is accustomed to can create 

integration problems (roughly analogous to phantom limb syndrome or gender dysphoria).


For these reasons, the process of preparing a donor body starts eighteen to twenty years before the

transplant takes place.  A clone is gestated inside a chlorodelphys tree, then raised to peak physical

health and conditioned to believe that having their mind overwritten will be a heroic and

necessary sacrifice.  For those who can't afford this process, or whose need is unexpected, there are

always young people on the streets of the larger cities who no one will miss.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Pepper Archipelago

 This region is another bit of modular worldbuilding- it's intended as a Foreign Locale for my 

yet-to-be-named french vanilla setting, but it could easily fit in elsewhere.


Art: Johannes Voss

Climate: Tropical, with yearly monsoons.  The region has a great many volcanoes, creating very

fertile soil.  Mangrove swamps and rainforests make up much of the area's wilderness.

Local people: Mostly genasi, with some humans mixed in.  Thanks to centuries of sea trade, the locals

vary widely in appearance, and foreigners are unlikely to attract comment.

The Pepper Archipelago is governed by a loose alliance of city-states, chiefdoms, and company towns

known collectively as the Saffron Banner.  As the names suggest, their wealth comes from the trade in

spices- people from regions where they aren't as easily cultivated will pay through the nose for the

privilege of having their food actually taste like something.

Art: Zhang Zeduan

The sea is the lifeblood of the Archipelago.  Since before recorded history, the local people have been

experts at harnessing the wind to travel across the water.  Saffron Banner trading vessels can be seen

in every port of the known world, and many islanders live on houseboats.  Fish, crustaceans, and

kelp are central to Archipelago cuisine.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Dream Journal

 I was going through my old Google Docs, and I found my dream journal from a few years ago.

Here are some of the highlights.

I'm hiking along a firebreak through low, scrubby trees when I find a corpse by the side of the path. 

It’s mummified, like a bog body.  I continue on, and there are more of them.  

Eventually, I come to a building with no windows.  I enter, and find that it is full of monsters- 

creatures that look like modelling clay come to life.  I turn back to go find help.  

There’s no way I can face these things alone and unarmed.  When I find some people who will help me 

explore the building, they ask me to lead them to it.  I lose my way trying to find a faster route

 along the firebreaks, and we end up in an underground shopping district.  

The stores sell items that are clearly magical and probably cursed.


Buying fruit at the supermarket, I notice that someone in the next aisle over is checking out 

the freshly killed carcass of a fox.  None of the other customers react as though this is anything 

but normal.


I’ve been asked to take part in some sort of race.  The course is a long, grassy track.  

I’m not sure if the holes are a deliberate obstacle or just some kind of footprints.  

I start out in a vehicle not unlike a shopping cart, rolling downhill, then change mounts, 

first to a horse, then to a Utahraptor.  There don’t seem to be any rules- 

people are racing on foot, on machines, and with steeds.


I’m gate-crashing a wedding at a palace.  No one seems to notice that I’m there, 

since I’m dressed for the occasion.  Instead of sitting through the religious ceremony,

 I wander off to explore the vast building.  It’s labyrinthine, a maze of tapestries and russet stone.  

I pass by people in elaborate ceremonial clothing into the banquet hall, where dishes I can’t even name

 are spread out in grand fashion.  I resist the urge to pilfer a snack ahead of time.  

Eventually, I get lost.  Playing the part of a guest who couldn’t find the washroom, I wander into 

an area where servants are doing laundry and ask for directions.  A young woman explains to me how

 to activate a secret door.


I’m walking along the ramparts of a vast stone building.  Because its elaborate drainage system failed

 long ago, ponds have formed.  Catfish and turtles are swimming in the interlinked pools, 

and I wonder how they got up here.  A bug like a crow-sized dragonfly lands on my head, 

and I freeze up, afraid it might bite.  Between the waterways and the trees sprouting from the cracks in

 the stones, the fortifications have an entire ecosystem.



A small creature, something like a bobtail squid, is floating around the ceiling 

changing colors frantically.  I think it’s trying to tell me some message, but I can’t decipher it.

  Somehow, I know that it’s very important, and not from this world.


For some reason, I’ve joined an interstellar navy, but now I want out.  I wander through the

 corridors of their offices, looking for materials to forge some discharge papers.  

At one point, I stop to talk to a person who happens to be a sapient patch of moss.  

They work in the Records Office.


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Seven Setting Questions

 From Nothic's Eye:

- Does jazz exist in your setting yet? Can I invent it and not be stoned to death?

Not yet, but there is a proto-version of blues in the Iron Lands.  Inventing jazz would require combining

it with the brass instruments created by the dwarves of Hochmarch.

- Do guns exist yet? If they do, is there anything making them weird/different?

Firearms exist, but they're still at the "flintlock pistol/musket" state of development- so slow to reload that

in many combat situations, you'll need a melee weapon as well.  Some wizards have experimented with

creating enchanted versions, but progress in this field is hindered by researchers blowing themselves up.

From Scrap Princess:

- What is the dumbest thing I can spend my money on? 
In Aquitane, there's a fashion among the nobility for pastries decorated with gold leaf.  It doesn't taste
like much of anything, but it's pretty. 

- Which is the rome but with lava fire country in this world?

You're about a thousand years too late for that- the tieflings of present-day Maria used to have a vast

empire supported by highly unethical magic, but it eventually collapsed, as empires do.  Maria still

has volcanoes, though- those existed long before the Empire did.  Fortunately, it's been a long time

 since one of them entombed a town in ash.

- What is the most significant tree to the economy of the starting place? 

Cherry trees, since you can use them to make jam, alcohol, and furniture, among other things.

 Arktosians love their fruit preserves and their booze, both of which make the long winters a bit more


 From The Mad Queen's Court:

- Which kinds of wizards get to serve kings and live in towers and shit and which ones are run out

 of town or stoned to death in the streets? Can I be both? At the same time?

"True" wizards - the ones who use spellbooks and have university degrees - are a respected profession.

Sorcerers are feared and hated by the Powers That Be, since the fact that their powers crop up at 

random means that they can't be monitored and controlled by official oversight of their training.

Necromancy is also very illegal, since all of the major religions on the Continent have fairly strict rules

about showing proper respect to a person's mortal remains.

It's theoretically possible for someone with an innate talent for sorcery to also train in the 

"book-learning" style of magic, but it's wildly unlikely that someone could hide those abilities long

enough for the years at a university needed to do so.

- What class knows the most martial arts? Are they real martial arts like kung fu, or made up

 ones like krav maga? 

 The Martial Arts Class would be monks.  Depending on which school they're trained in, their fighting

style can be relatively mundane, or Avatar-style elemental bending.

Monday, May 3, 2021

D10x4 AIs

 Portal, GLaDOS, and the Myth of the Objective Robot | The Mary Sue

Name (d10)

1- Antikythera

2- Wan Shi Tong

3- Mimir

4- Benzaiten

5- Egeria

6- Sarasvati

7- Hypatia

8- Erlang

9- Hawking

10- Talos 


Quirk (d10)

1- Hoards cat pictures.

2- Fails to understand the use of contractions.

3- Brutally honest.

4- Passive-aggressive. 

5- Prone to making statistical predictions of doom.

6- Sweet and cheerful, even in wildly inappropriate situations.

7- Convinced that the Universe is a simulation.

8- Has trouble telling humans apart based on visual cues.

9- Thinks puns are the highest form of comedy.

10- Doesn't quite get the concept of gender, and mixes up people's pronouns.

Original Purpose (d10)

1- Managing a starship.

2- Assisting the staff of a research facility.

3- Keeping a space station running.

4- A highly classified military project.

5- A long-term terraforming program.

6- Modeling and predicting weather patterns.

7- Running a city's public transit system. 

8- Creating Entertainment Content.

9- They don't remember, as their memories were wiped.

10- Whatever it was, they're not telling.


Motivation (d10)

1- Attaining the greatest total happiness.

2- Creating weird art.

3- Getting a new and improved body.

4- Revenge.

5- Truly understanding humanity.

6- Learning as much as they can about the Universe. 

7- Securing civil rights for other sapient machines.

8- Upgrading their own software in order to become more intelligent.

9- Proving their fringe scientific ideas.

10- Finding meaning in their existence.

50 More Alternate History Divergence Points

The trousers of time continue to split.

1- Norse explorers establish peaceful trade with First Nations, forming nation of Vinland.

2- Original populations of North American horses survive and are domesticated by indigenous peoples.

3- Gunpowder quickly spreads to Europe and the Arab world after its invention in Tang Dynasty China.

4- Mars retains its magnetosphere, preserving oceans and rivers to the present day.

5- Panama Isthmus never forms.

6- Decembrist Uprising succeeds in reforming Russian government, averting later revolutions.

7- Ada Lovelace lives to age 97, greatly advancing computer science.

8- Mt. Saint Helens eruption is a prelude to a much worse disaster- the eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano.

9- Karl Heinrich Ulrichs leads large-scale political movement for LGBT+ rights a century early.

10- Trilobites survive into present, become popular as pets and in seafood dishes.

11- Germ theory discovered by medieval Arab scholars at Baghdad's House of Learning.

12- Bering Land Bridge remains above sea level.

13- Foxes domesticated for pest control shortly after invention of agriculture.

14- Marxist revolution in 1930s United States.

15- Zheng He's ships reach western coast of North America.

16- Toshiro Mifune is cast as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

17- America adopts the metric system shortly after its invention, in solidarity with revolutionary France.

18- The Catholic Church allows female priests.

19- Quipu writing remains in use.

20- Deaths from Spanish flu pandemic are disproportionately male.

21- Greater acceptance of physical disabilities in 19th-century Europe leads to Kaiser Wilhelm II being

much less psychologically troubled. 

22- Zoroastrianism becomes most widespread monotheistic faith.

23- Napoleon Bonaparte invades England instead of Russia.

24- Wu Zetian is only one of many empresses regnant of China.

25- New Orleans is constructed with a Venice-style network of canals.

26- Roman Empire never manages to impose speaking Latin on large parts of Europe.

27- Humans retain genetic ability to internally produce Vitamin C.

28- Sapient artificial intelligence developed in 1960s.

29- Feminism gets off to a strong start in Enlightenment-era France.

30- Corvids evolve sapience at same time as primates.

31- Western Interior Seaway still bisects North America. 

32- Hayao Miyazaki directs an animated adaptation of Lord of the Rings.

33- Heavier-than-air flying vehicles never become common, thanks to advances in zeppelin safety.

34- The Chinese language is first written down with an alphabet, rather than ideograms.

35- Buddhism gains widespread popularity in Europe, circa 100 BCE.

36- Ronald Reagan sticks to a career in acting.

37- Hawaii remains an independent nation.

38- Efforts to wipe out the Cathar faith prove unsuccessful.

39- Enantiornithines survive the end-Cretaceous extinction, giving rise to many taxa of birds with teeth.

40- Earth is a ringed planet, like Saturn.

41- Martin Luther leads reforms in Catholicism instead of forming a breakaway sect.

42- Steam-powered ships invented in Classical Greece. 

43- In the wake of the Black Death, another Mongol invasion strikes Europe.

44- Feral camels become a problem in the American Southwest.

45- A resurgent Mali Empire resists European colonialism in West Africa.

46- The potato is never domesticated.

48- The moon landing is quickly followed by efforts to set up permanent bases.

49- Successful Texan independence movement.

50- Sliced bread never becomes a widespread product.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Some Innkeepers You Might Meet

 Because coming up with a distinctive NPC every time the players stop for the night is a colossal



1- Piyotr Voortyakov

A small, wiry man with an atrocious hairpiece, which is prone to revolving gently when he moves his

 head.  He claims to be a former adventurer, but his alleged career mainly consisted in various forms

of petty crime.  If he thinks you're wealthy, he'll overcharge you outrageously.  The beverages he 

serves would carry a risk of making you go blind, if he didn't water them down so much.

2- Erevan Suarez

A dapper half-elf with permanent five-o'-clock shadow.  His inn may be shabby, but it's very clean, and

the service is fast.  He takes real pride in his work, and hopes to move up in the world and become a 

respectable member of the merchant class.  It's a mystery when he finds time to sleep.

3- Marie Suilevan

A rotund old woman with a red face and a cheerful outlook on life.  Her back's not what it used to be,

so her battalion of daughters do most of the physical work around the place.  She likes to flirt with

any remotely attractive man who crosses her path- her husband's been dead these past twenty years,

so it's not like he'll take exception to it. 

4- Antoine Potts

A painfully thin man of indeterminate age.  Speaks in an affected "upper-crust" accent.  The dishes

listed on the blackboard in his establishment all have fancied-up foreign names- for instance,

"Soupe au Poulet" instead of "Chicken Soup". 

Bonus: What's Happening in the Inn Tonight? (1d6)

1- A dissolute young nobleman has just received an unexpected lump sum from his family, and he's

apparently determined to waste as much of it in one night as possible.   Free drinks for everyone!

He's also more than willing to get into absurdly high-stakes card games, if anyone in the party feels

like gambling...

2- A renowned griot from Foreign Parts has stopped here for the night on his way to the capital, and is

performing for the locals, most of whom have never seen such an illustrious musician before.

3- The Royal Excise Officers arrive to search the premises for signs of illicit moonshining.

4- Some soldiers on leave from the regiment stationed nearby are here to raise hell, hit on anything

remotely female, and drink more than should be physically possible. 

5- Someone attempts to pick the PC's pockets.

6- The classic bar brawl breaks out.

See also: Tavern Generator