Saturday, October 21, 2017

A moron, but likable. A small and pale puppy. A sheer drop.

The Host of Demon City can roll dice like a player, but, just as D&D can be a little more fun with miniatures, Demon City is a little more fun if the Host uses Tarot cards.

The exact method will be described later, but it makes keeping track of large fights a little easier and each threat has special cards associated with it (A haunted house will have The Tower associated with it for instance) used throughout the adventure in which they appear, which help the creature when they are drawn and which have a special (different) benefit awarded to the PC if they defeat that horror.

Anyway this is a section on the meanings of specific cards outside the context of any specific horror....

Interpreters of the tarot always tell you two things: (a) A clear and apparently historically-reified meaning attaches to each card and its placement in the interpretive matrix and it took me years to figure it out, but also (b) interpreting the cards is more art than science so hey whatever. These are what the cards mean in Demon City—which has its own uses for meaning.

There are many uses for the cards, including:

1. As the Host’s throws for NPCs, horrors, etc as well as rewards for PCs resulting defeating horrors (as described in the first section of the book).

2. To create fortunes or precognitive flashes (By showing a PC all the cards associated with the menace they are currently facing and, in some cases, telling them the significance of these cards.)

3. To randomly determine characteristics of Contacts or other NPCs (Each card has at least one kind of person associated with it or characteristics of a person).

4. To randomly determine buildings or locations (Each card has at least one kind of location associated with it).

In the last two cases, you can pull multiple cards to describe something in more detail—The Hierophant and the 8 of Cups together would be 
a retired priest or an abandoned church.

Additional numbers are provided in parenthesis so that, if necessary, card effects can be rolled up with dice—roll d100 and reroll anything too high.

(00) The Fool—A moron, but likable. A small and pale puppy. A sheer drop. A stranger will be kind to you, despite your mistakes.

(1) The Magician—A wizard or liar. A deceptive performance, before a large audience. Avoid a spell, or cast one unerringly.

(2) The High Priestess—A cagey and intuitive woman in a hat. A religious hospital. A nurse. A 12 to perceive unholy forces.

(3) The Empress—A blonde, imperious, dishy. Beauty. A bend in the river. Gain a point of Appeal if you roll a 10 exercising or drop a point of Cash on plastic surgery.

(4) The Emperor—A father, bearded. Entrenched authority. A public building in white marble.  Someone will assume you’re an authority figure.

(5) The Hierophant—A religious leader. A grey church. Traditions. A 15 to drive off unholy forces.

(6) The Lovers—An erotically charged relationship. Touching. A good place for hook-ups. A new Contact who finds you irresistible.

(7) The Chariot—A racer or a driver. A ride, pimped. Any vehicle. A showroom. A 10 to drive well.

(8) Strength—Someone tough. A fierce animal. A place for athletes. A boxing gym. Gain (not just regain) a point of Toughness if you roll a 9 exercising.

(9) The Hermit—Isolation and the perspective that comes from isolation. A desolate place. A brutalist parking garage. Led Zeppelin IV. A 10 on a Perception check while alone.

(10) The Wheel of Fortune—A gamble or gambler. A casino, a track or a card game. The Host is about to leave a decision entirely up to luck, but it goes in your favor.

(11) Justice—Someone inclined to fairness. Possibly blind. A police station, a protest, a courtroom, a place where activists meet. An 11 to hit someone who has hurt a friend.

(12) The Hanged Man—Reversal. Inversion. A contrarian or iconoclast. Punished but not punished. A place of execution. A 12 to hit a captor.

(13) Death—Someone who is old and knows it, or something. A graveyard, an ICU, a home for dying people. Double damage on an already damaged foe. Won’t work on what’s already dead.

(14) Temperance—A moderate or teetotaler. A bad haircut. Wherever middle-aged couples relax. A vegan restaurant. Roll an extra time if detoxing and pick the best.

(15) The Devil—Undeniably wicked. Any place of enslavement, calculated iniquity or accumulated power. A 15 to hit an enemy, but your friend is hit, too.

(16) The Tower—One who overthrows. A building that is mazelike, high-security, or haunted. A 16 to successfully trespass.

(17) The Star—A celebrity of some kind. Someone or something uncanny, distant. A celebrated place. An alien place. Acquire renown for your work.

(18) The Moon—Someone given to passions. Dark or pale. Animals. Cause a rounds of panic in an enemy that is hurt or surprised.

(19) The Sun—Very young, but wise. Skin prematurely worn. Leathery. A rooftop in daylight. A greenhouse.  Illumination. A 19 to a Research check.

(20) Judgement—Someone on a panel, or a board, or any judge. A room where great decisions are made. Someone with power will agree to help you. 

(21) The World—A foreigner. A global perspective: Little Armenia, Little Jamaica, the airport, Chinatown. Add a Contact overseas.

(22) Ace of Wands—A beginner, capable.  A redhead. A startup’s office. Work/train during downtime and gain a new skill on a 9.

(23) Two of Wands—Someone with concerns abroad. A waterfront or beach, rapidly developing. Add an extra die when executing a plan you made.

(24) Three of Wands—A brown-haired man. A room with blueprints.The Department of Regional Planning. Gain a point next time you add a new Knowledge-based skill.

(25) Four of Wands—A family member. Normality. A place unchanged for a very long time. Add a die and pick the highest when spending downtime with family.

(26) Five of Wands—An arguer, surrounded by chaos. A fighting ring or debate hall. Add a die in a multiparty melee.

(27) Six of Wands—Someone black-haired and proud. A parade or award ceremony. Regain a point of calm after a victory.

(28) Seven of Wands—A fugitive or desperate person.  A small business. A drug front. Gain a die when facing multiple opponents.

(29) Eight of Wands—Online a lot. A hydro-electric plant. Impersonal forces. Gain a die working with a machine.

(30) Nine of Wands—A disabled person. An exhaustive collection—archive, museum—nearly complete. Gain a die after awaking from an injury.

(31) Ten of Wands—A bureaucrat, working too hard. An overburdened business or agency. Add a die while talking to someone hard at work.

(32) Page of Wands—An apprentice or enthusiast. A grand opening. Add a die when dealing with any kind of supernatural for the first time.

(33) Knight of Wands—A genius in their field. A sentient spell. A place of unharnessed power. Gain a point of Occult. Occult: 1 if you don’t already have it.

(34) Queen of Wands—Voracious, and a total babe. A black cat. A disguised witch. An excellent restaurant. If you roll a 9 while reading, gain a point of Knowledge or Perception.

(35) King of Wands—Successful and admired. A lizard. A necromancer. A source of impeccable, if flamboyant, menswear. Uncover a work of occult knowledge.

(36) Ace of Cups—Acutely sensitive. Preternaturally aware. An impressive fountain. Gain a Contact.

(37) Two of Cups—Warm and reasonable. A mutual beneficial relationship. A kind woman’s home. Roll an extra die when spending Downtime with an ally.

(38) Three of Cups—Charismatic and not drunk yet. A friendly dive under a place where no-one eats. Succeed on an Appeal roll to meet a stranger.

(39) Four of Cups—Hungover and apathetic. Where people are sleeping off a party—or a bad clinic. Gain a die vs inebriation.

(40) Five of Cups—A gaunt soul, dark of aspect. A ruin or ruined place. Gain a die vs Calm loss at the sight of violence or death.

(41) Six of Cups—A natural victim, paying no attention. An unsuspecting and idyllic place. A carnival. Roll an extra Downtime die when with family or friends.

(42) Seven of Cups—Someone misshapen and delusional. A district of retail luxury. A theme park or retro diner. Succeed on a Deception roll.

(43) Eight of Cups—A retiree or once who has renounced the past. An abandoned place. An 18 to escape.

(44) Nine of Cups—A jerk, smug of aspect. A vast, proud venture, long in the making. A 19 to impress someone.

(45) Ten of Cups—Someone pleased to help. Generosity. A center of LGB or T life. Receive an unexpected gift.

(46) Page of Cups—A sentimental weirdo. A fondness for seafood. A pleasant wharf. 10 to locate a hidden animal.

(47) Knight of Cups—A romantic with full lips. A library without windows. A place of breaking glass. A 10 to seduce.

(48) Queen of Cups—A ginger woman with strange possessions. A psychic. An antique shop or prop house. A 10 to discover some rare object.

(49) King of Cups—A wise and wealthy man in elegant footwear. A houseboat or yacht. A 10 to persuade someone of your good intentions.

(50) Ace of Swords—A tattooed man. A decapitation strike. A busy corner in the center of the city. An 11 to a called shot.

(51) Two of Swords—Dangerously obstinate. Defensiveness. Manslaughter. Deadly ground. A 12 to defend.

(52) Three of Swords—One who complains. A bad tattoo shop. A 13 to a backstab.

(53) Four of Swords—A quiet thinker. A prepared assassin. A mausoleum. An extra die if attempting to work straight through downtime.

(54) Five of Swords—A gloating fiend. A thief and orchestrator of violence. A hub of iniquity. A 15 to commit an unjust act.

(55) Six of Swords—An exhausted traveler. A crossroads. A 15 to negotiate with hostile powers.

(56) Seven of Swords—A petty schemer. A spiteful failure. A business operated as a front. A 17 to steal from someone who likes you.

(57) Eight of Swords—The perfect victim. Kidnapped or compelled. A support group or center for the afflicted. An 18 to convince someone you are sinned against.

(58) Nine of Swords—An insomniac. Shopping from home. A guilty conscience. A bachelor pad with a hand-me-down quilt. A 9 to inflict a head wound.

(59) Ten of Swords—A soon-to-be-corpse—or a corpse. The murder card. The worst neighborhood. A 10 to afflict the already-afflicted.

(60) Page of Swords—Someone playing with fire. A gun shop with inadequate security. Learn a weapon skill when rolling a 9 to work during Downtime.

(61) Knight of Swords—Quite intentionally an absolute menace. A stabber. A themed pub. A 10 in a fight.

(62) Queen of Swords—A formidable woman. A home with a high fence. A 10 to damage.

(63) King of Swords—A very dangerous man. Closed rooms where crimelords meet. A 10 to intimidate.

(64) Ace of Pentacles—Efficient and practical. A place with a strange door. A vacant lot. Establish a new business.

(65) Two of Pentacles—A juggler or a chancer. A playground or ball field. Reroll a failed Cash check.

(66) Three of Pentacles—A team player. A cathedral or place made of stone. A 13 to a group effort, devoid of violence.

(67) Four of Pentacles—An absurd miser. A roof with a fine view. Greed revealed as only greed. A 14 to grab someone or something.

(68) Five of Pentacles—A battered beggar. A terrible charity. Refusal. A 15 to a Calm check in the face of suffering.

(69) Six of Pentacles—A charity worker. A distributor of gifts. A Goodwill or Salvation Army. A 16 to persuade a skeptic of good intentions.

(70) Seven of Pentacles—Straightforward and hard working. A quality control officer. A growing business. A 17 to notice financial irregularities.

(71) Eight of Pentacles—One practiced in their craft. A place with a prominent public sign. An 18 to apply an Occupational skill.

(72) Nine of Pentacles—A prospering dork. A golden garden. A bird of prey. Leisure. Gain the trust of an ordinary animal.

(73) Ten of Pentacles—A member of a powerful family. Thin white hounds. A vast estate. Undo a Cash loss.

(74) Page of Pentacles—A neophyte schemer. A university campus. Gain a point of Cash if you roll a 9 working through Downtime.

(75) Knight of Pentacles—A hustler. A summoned thing. A sketchy lawyer. A club with a dark reputation. Bribe someone successfully.

(76) Queen of Pentacles—A woman, rich and slow-moving. A sad stone monument. Regain a point of Calm lost to the supernatural.

(77) King of Pentacles—A man of ill-gotten wealth and dubious taste. An enormous mall. Move to a better apartment downtown.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Possible Blade Runner Spoilers

Blade Runner 2049 is like someone saw Blade Runner, wrote a fucking massive amazing sandbox setting around it, then the players kept going into hexes that only had like one line of description "Rusting towers rise from the pale plain" "Like LA in Blade Runner but harder to see and now with giant holo girl ads for, like, Apple""An abandoned Jeunet and Caro set" "This is a water hex" .

"Wait you want to go to the Corporation? Fuck, it has....walls? They'"

You can feel the GM stretch out as the players finally get to the Las Vegas hex, the only one they've prepared in advance. It even has a set piece! "As Harrison Ford punches you, old Vegas acts flicker on and off the stage".

The problem is it's a solo game, the only player is so boring they think they're on an adventure path and the GM is using the worst random tables "Vegas acts? Like what?"
(Randy Newman? Joan Rivers? Don Rickles? Cirque De Soleil???)
"Like...Elvis Presley!"

"Ha Elvis lol memes. What's my girlfriend like?"

"Uh...stepford wife, plus...Amelie, plus..Friends? And also a giant sexy advertisement when she's dead and you're walking in the rain"

"Whoa poignant bro, can my car shoot missiles?"

This movies is so bored of its own future that the best parts were Luv the Replicant being bored of the other characters--scanning the police chief's head then dropping it, bored, summarily kicking Harrison Ford so he didn't have to keep pretending to care about a boring baby, shooting Sean Young because they were too bored to get her eyes right.

And god, that last fight scene, like watching hamsters try to share a dish.

Someone else's hamsters.

Anyway there's a game design or GMing lesson here, I'm pretty sure: you can have all the ideas you want--new ideas, old ideas, stolen ideas, original ideas--but they're useless unless someone at the table slows down long enough to care about one of them.

Monday, October 9, 2017

What Do These Games Have In Common?

The Strange
the Apocalypse Engine games
Delta Green
13th Age
Shadow of the Demon Lord
The One Ring
Cyberpunk 2020
Trail of Cthulhu


All of them produced charity pdf bundles for Bundle of Holding, and all of them officially did worse than the new Bundle of Lamentations--which has now officially raised more money than any other previous Bundle of Holding.

As of this writing you have 3 days, 1 hour, 24 minutes and 41 seconds to get one.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Roland Barthes: Dungeon Master

From Roland Barthes' lectures, Collège de France, 1977 (from How To Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, Tr: Kate Briggs):

Of Games

Novels RPGs are simulations that is to say fictional experimentations on a model the most classical form of which is the maquette. The structure, an outline (a maquette) through which topics, situations are let loose.

More than one language game exists because more than one desire exists.

Take note: the game is normative it wants to resist, prevail over the disorder of the given, it thinks of chance as disorder.

But our method—the one we're adopting here—involves shuffling the cards and dealing them in the order in which they appear. For me now whenever I'm working anything any thematic grouping of traits (of index cards) always makes me think of Bouvard and Peuchet’s question: Why this? Why that? Why here, why there?=An automatic distrust of associative ideology (which is the ideology of the ordered presentation genre.) The card players motto: “I cut the deck”. I react against the fixity of language.

The systematic gradually breaks down, is disappointed—the non-systemic flourishes, proliferates. Yes something direct has to be put in place in order for the indirect, an unforeseeable to emerge.

Of Fantasy

Now the first force I am able to investigate, to interpolate--the one I can see is it work within myself even through the illusions of the imaginary--the force of desire. Of, to be more precise (since it's the point of departure for our research)--the figure of the fantasy.

Let's be clear that a fantasy requires a setting (a scenario) and therefore a place.

Now fantasy=scenario but a scenario and bits and pieces always very brief=just a glimmer of the narrative of desire. What's glimpsed is very sharply contoured, very brightly lit, but all of a sudden it's gone: a body I catch sight of in a car as it goes around the bend before it plunges into the shadows.

I engage in the exhausting strategies of desire.

Of GMing

I truly believe that for a teaching GM relationship to be effective the speaker GM should know only slightly more about the topic than the listener player--sometimes, on certain points, less--this is the process of exchange.

Of Foes

Animals=Evil. Demons figured in animal form, a vast theme.  Anthonian theme: demons entering Saint Anthony's cave: snakes, lions, bears, leopards, bulls, wolves, aspic, scorpions: all "the wild beasts." Their figurative profusion in painting. Animality=infranature: aggression, fear, greed, flesh: man without law.
Of The Party

But what's the fascination of the small group (the gang, the sanatorium)? The state of autarky (autarkadia: self-sufficiency) contentedness=plenitude. It's not the emptiness that draws us in its the fullness of or if you prefer the intuition that there's a vertiginous vacuity to the plenitude of the group.

Autarky: strong intradependence + 0 extradependence. Independence marks the boundary and so gives the definition the mode of being of the group.

Bion makes this clear “Leaders who neither fight nor run away are not easily understood”.

Of The Dungeon

Description of the protective enclosure: Robinson Crusoe meticulous almost excessive quasi obsessive set of defenses against others as soon there's a suggestion of the presence of another man on the island (footprints)--> mad defensive measures. A house that's completely buried from view, invisible whole system of fortifications, of hiding places, enclosure as craziness, as an extreme experience.

Already in Robinson Crusoe--a "healthy" "rational" "empirical" subject if ever there was one--panics at the prospect of danger (the footprints in the sand) endlessly reinforces his defenses. Absolute protection is never achieved (mirage asymptotic). Stockade enclosure camouflaged by a thicket, no door--unmistakably the theme of absolute enclosure--just a little ladder that Robinson pushes up behind him. The colonists apartment in the granite wall in the Mysterious Island--a ladder that can be pulled up then in an elevator. The symbolism of burying oneself below ground and walling oneself up is based in the empirical fact of protecting oneself (symbolically speaking, the only absolutely protected space is the mother's womb). To go outside is to be exposed, to be defenseless, it's life itself. Making it impossible for enemy to get in gets converted through access through neurotic exaggeration into the self-imposed impossibility of getting out.

Piranesi: prisons are supposed to be the anti-hut (note that they’re vast, anti-cellular structures demonic capsizing of levels)—> Space of crisis, of drama, of the sublime (Burke= “a sort of delight full of horror, a sort of tranquility tinged with Terror.”)  Piranesi: “out of fear springs pleasure."

The Labyrinth: Symbolizes the paradoxical labor whereby the subjects sets about creating difficulties for himself. Walling himself up within the impasses of a system. It is the archetypal space of the obsessive. The Labyrinth is this space of active enclosure. Endless futile efforts expended on finding the way out. In the subjects effort to find the exit he only acts exacerbates his only his own imprisonment. He walks, constantly changes direction, etc yet remains in the same place. Labyrinth: a system that's hermetically sealed by its autonomy. Example: The system of a love affair--once inside there's no way out, and yet the labor it requires is immense. Finding a way out an almost magical act: the glimpse of a thread of a different system through which you then have to pass--Ariadne's thread. The Labyrinth is a very effective symbol of that state, an inextricable system of walls, but one that's out in the open air graph paper there's no roof...To someone looking on from the outside (looking down from above at their notes) the solution is obvious, in contrast to the person inside it: a situation typical of a love affair.


Check it: Red & Pleasant Land is Reddit /RPG game of the month--and it's not even a game.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Panic Modes

Panic Modes occur when a Demon City character is at exactly 0 Calm. (Not negative calm--at that point total ineffectiveness kicks in, but since you lose 1 Calm point at a time, you will always pass this point on your way to negative calm.)

How a PC behaves when they panic depends on their role:


The curious character's panic will come in the form of fascination. In addition to this general role-playing prompt, in the round after they hit 0 Calm they must try to find out something new about the situation they're in.


When in a panic, the friend character's loyalty will override everything and they'll try to get whichever character they are most loyal to (or one of the characters they are most loyal to) out of the situation. In addition, they must spend the next round after they hit 0 Calm trying to get their friend out of the situation.


Used to relying on method, and here for practical reasons, the investigator in a panic is simply less effective. In addition, they must spend the next round after they hit 0 Calm either fleeing or acting with only 1 die.


The problem will revert to instinct when in a panic. In the round after they hit 0 Calm they must use their special abilities


The victim in a panic is energized. In the round after they hit 0 Calm they will act with 1 additional die if it is against the entity or entities they believe to have hurt them, and will keep that die for that purpose until the menace is defeated or driven off.
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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Demon City Art Notes

  • Light: Light is more important here. Not just direction of shadows (always important) but colorlight and the modelling of things, all the gradations.
  • Horror creatures are often very simple in design but the light makes this one awful and the other one a goofy piece of rubbermask.
  • Starkness, purely drawn images, high contrast: out. At least for now. These techniques put the picture in an imaginative, abstracted space (D&Dish, noir comics) where what we want here is a version of reality. An alternate reality.
  • A wash of one specific color across the whole. This adds a color light but also picks out the texture in the paint that's already there. It reveals the underpainting.
  • Is there a wash color that doesn't work? Dark green. Grey. Haven't tried orange. Eye twitches at the thought of trying orange. Probably need to try orange.
  • Is anything orange scary? 
  • Other than the president? yes, Kubrick used orange but it was never the scary part.)
  • Properly done: an orangutan. Not etymologically related to 'orange'. Poe's Murder at the Rue Morgue one of his least successful reveals. Also one of Harry Clarke's only unsuccessful drawings.
  • This is a tangent dude.
  • The Medical Suite drawing was too pin-uppy. You don't see that every day. Everything else about that picture was too real and then those tits were like "Hey, tits!". That only works if the tone is a little less serious. It was like one of those late Heavy Metal drawings where someone put a lot of effort into the tendrilly blue jungle and it just doesn't work because boobs.
  • Daytime exteriors: the Francis Bacon strangeness of a grotesque against a pale tired background that is painted in over the grotty foreground.
  • Night exteriors: you can put little lights anywhere you want. Lights don't need a reason in the modern city, they just show up like stars in reverse gravity.
  • Inexplicable bits of architecture/infrastructure that you ignore in real life because they're new and painted and boring (Awnings with like nine steel pins holding them up.) but they will look futuristic and intricate in a picture.  And when they're old.
  • Creatures should interact with them. Rip them up.
  • Anything that can be black should be.
  • After aesthetics, the next priority is not to accurately represent the monster as a tactical obstacle (D&D) but to show how it is frightening. The Host should be able to hold it up and go "Like this" and the players go "We're so fucked". Anything: a man without a gun. A penguin.
  • Also: Just gore. The varieties of gore. A bullet going into a neck and out the other side and blood fountaining symmetrically from both holes.
  • No throwaways. No "this was fun". Each more ambitious than the one before.
  • (Until I get tired then fuck it draw a skeleton)
  • (No a bat skeletons are hard)
  • This isn't a dungeon or galaxy of monsters, not a monster manual--they don't all have to seem like they exist in the same reality. These are fragments, possibles.
  • This is not worldbuilding.

Revenants and Drones

New Demon City art, with the lazy first-draft of the write-up.
Click to enlarge
Revenants (Living Dead) and Drones

Revenants are any form of living creature brought back to mindless life by witchcraft or other blasphemous agency, often en masse—they include the zombies of Haiti, ghouls (first known in the Middle East), animated skeletons and other kinds of walking corpses.

Drones are still-living creatures transformed into unthinking automata by any number of causes including exotic diseases, drugs, demonic possession or parasites.

Revenants always subsist on the flesh of living beings, drones may or may not. Depending on the method of transformation, both kinds of creature can be either torpid—moving in a trancelike haze, or frenzied—possessed with manic energy.

Their abilities vary, Hosts should build specific creatures from the options below to fit the campaign’s needs.

Human Revenant or Drone

Calm: Negative (always insane and hungry)
Agility: 1 (torpid) or  3 (frenzied)
Toughness: 3
Perception: 0
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: N/A

Calm check: 8 (or more if the creature was once a friend)

Animal Revenant or Drone

Calm: Negative (always insane)
Agility: 1 (torpid) or base creature+1 (frenzied)
Toughness: 3 or base creature+1 whichever is higher
Perception: 0
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: N/A

Calm check: 8

Special abilities

(Revenants only) Undead: Revenants don’t need to breathe or digest, don’t age, and are immune to poisons, venoms and toxins, and cannot be controlled with psionic abilities.

(Revenants and some drones) Mindless: Most of these creatures are mindless and cannot be mentally controlled. Some drones are produced via mental domination and so this domination can be countered.

(Possibly) Infectious: The bite of a revenant or drone produced by disease causes the target to become a drone in 2 rounds—Toughness is increased by 1 or becomes 3, whichever is higher.

(Possibly) Mutilated Life: The severed extremities of some forms of revenant and drone can continue to attack even when separated from the main body. These parts have -1 Agility and -3 Toughness. To keep life interesting, the Host should interpret any attack that could have reasonably severed a limb as having severed a limb.

(Possibly) Invulnerability: Some forms of revenant and drone cannot be brought below 0 Toughness unless a successful killing attack is aimed at the head or, in other cases, the heart (these attacks usually incurs a Lost Die). This form of invulnerability is mutually exclusive with the Mutilated Life ability. However, some fearful, invulnerable forms of revenant and drone with the Mutilated Life ability cannot be killed at all unless a specific action is taken, for example if a countercurse is enacted or a psionic control frequency is disrupted.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

It's Alive

End of the Demon City playtest I just did. Two 2 PCs left

"I'm getting in the elevator!"

"Uncontested, you can go ahead"

"I'm gonna try to...get out from under it?"

"Ok, so still one die. It's blinded so it'll just lash out. It's got one die. Go."


"It rolls an 8"


"It swings this thick arm and you just see Harish fly across the hall and slump to the ground.

( you're unconscious you'll miss one turn for sure and then roll to wake up each round  Toughness rounds and if you don't you're dead")"

"Ohhhhh god"

"Ok so what are you going to do?"

"Can I grab him and pull him in the elevator?"

"Yeah I guess the only thing it can do is randomly stagger after you blind"

And so the drug dealer gets the PI into the elevator. United by the sticky nectar of fear.

The door closes.

A quiet round in the elevator. The PI makes his waking up roll.

Then -runch- above somewhere.

The PI pushes all the buttons on the elevator.

Dice roll.


A hoof comes through the ceiling, the lights flicker.

I forgot to say "the lights flicker" actually.

The doors judder like open?close?open?

They roll and get out into the hall, a crash behind them as the elevator drops like...10 feet?

"You see a pair of claws reaching up out of the elevator clawing at the floor, and the head emerging"

"I'm running"

"You're still hurt, one die"

"I'm gonna shoot the elevator cable"

"Ok, you're hurt, too, your firearms sucks, even though it's a non-moving target--so still one die, but it's still blind so it's got one die and..."


(damage rolling)

"The cable snaps and you see the whole elevator guillotining down. Bones rip and just shear in half and then two hands and the goat head just spill onto the carpet."


Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Anti-Design of the OSR

Quotes from avante-garde architect and architectural theorist Rem Koohaas with one or two words replaced rewritten to be about elfgames:

1. If there is a method in the OSR, it is a method of systematic idealization -- a systematic overestimation of what exists, a bombardment of speculation that invests even the most mediocre aspects with retroactive conceptual and ideological charge. To each bastard, a genealogical tree...

2. If there is a plot, in modern game design, it is the eternal one – simple Darwinian imperative maybe – of each generation trying to incapacitate the next under the guise of educational process. Here it is very noticeable and very expensive.

3. Flexibility is not the exhaustive anticipation of all possible changes. Most changes are unpredictable. Gygax could never imagine the present use of the alignment chart. Flexibility is the creation of margin--excess capacity that enables different and even opposite interpretations and uses.

4. GMs knows what modern design will never learn: that modular coordination is at most postponed failure, a temporary rollback of the frontiers of chaos.

5. Mainstream game companies need OSR consultants to demonstrate their "modernity" but are finally unwilling to assume their radicalism, conceiving then aborting successive "could have beens" to prove first their adventurousness, then their sobriety.

6. "Incoherence seems to me preferable to a distorting order" 
                 -Jeff Rients, On Ron Edwards and GNS

7. Evil Hat is not a movement; it is a new form of professionalism, of game education, not one that creates knowledge or culture, but a technical training that creates a new unquestioning, a new efficacy in applying new, streamlined dogma.

8. The construction of situations begins on the ruins of the modern module. It is easy to see the extent to which the very principle of the module--noninvention--is linked to the alienation of the old school.

9. Finally, we insist that at no time have we presumed to have produced a designed hexmap. We have confined ourselves to devising a framework capable of absorbing an endless series of further meanings, extensions, or intentions, without entailing compromises, redundancies or contradictions. Our strategy is to confer on the simple the dimension of adventure.

10. A complex like Rappan Athuk consists exclusively of mediocre, if not ugly, if not completely failed and flawed rooms, but has, nevertheless, a certain grandeur, and when seen in a certain way on certain days, appears absolutely positively beautiful. The only (most drastic) explanation is that almost all dungeons beyond a certain scale possess a kind of beauty in their sheer overwhelming presence.

11. "Most of the visual maps that are being made in the world are slaves to text."
                            -Luka Rejec 

12. If there is to be a 'new rpg design' it will not be based on the twin fantasies of order and omnipotence; it will be the staging of uncertainty; it will no longer be concerned with the arrangement of more or less permanent objects but with the irrigation of territories with potential; it will no longer aim for stable configurations but for the creation of enabling fields that accommodate processes that refuse to be crystallized into definitive form; it will no longer be about meticulous definition, the imposition of limits, but about expanding notions, denying boundaries, not about separating and identifying entities, but about discovering unnameable hybrids; it will no longer be obsessed with the story but with the manipulation of infra-structure for endless intensifications and diversifications, shortcuts and redistributions - the reinvention of psychological space.

1. the osr-->this work
2. modern game design-->any school
3. gygax-->(utilitarian prison designer), alignment chart-->koepel (prison)
4. GMs-->Typical Plan, modern design-->European architecture
5. mainstream game companies-->local regimes, osr comsultants-->special projects
6. jeff rients-->roland barthes, ron edwards-->gide,  gns-->his journals
7. evil hat-->postmodernism, game-->architectural
8. spectacle-->module, invention-->intervention world-->school
9. hexmap-->landscape
10. rappan athuk-->la defense, rooms-->buildings, dungeons-->buildings
11. maps-->images, luka rejec-->peter greenaway
12. rpg design-->urbanism, story-->city

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sarah Schulman On Communities And Conflict


Oh hey guys. if you're here from Tenkar's Tavern remember Greg C is mad because he's the guy who freaked out about sex in games and wrote FURRIES UNDERMINE LEGITIMATE COSPLAY!!! So if you trust his opinion....ok?

Anyway, the grown up way to have a problem with someone is, y'know, contact them about it, not call them names online ( zakzsmith AT hawy mayle, or anonymously: ).

On to the article:

Some excerpts on community, intervention, conflict, etc that gamer communities might benefit from Sarah Schulman's book about internet-era fight escalation Conflict Is Not Abuse.


One problem here is how to intervene with a person who is overstating harm, hiding behind technology, shunning or otherwise escalating. In some cultures we are trained not to assist directly, saying we are “non-confrontational,” that indifference is polite. Instead we can learn to be accountable, to ask, “How can I help you and X to sit down and talk?” Perhaps the person invested in maintaining victimology in order to avoid their own issues will say, “No, I will “never talk to X again. In fact, I am terrified for my life. You should have nothing to do with her.” In other words, now that they are facing community responsibility, they escalate even further, their claims are even more inflated, and the cloak of self-righteousness is drawn even tighter. Unfortunately, at this point, most interveners will back off. Hey, I tried, they can tell themselves. In the end, it’s not their life being harmed by this escalating person. And if they engage any further, they could become a target too. So they call it quits. Almost nothing could be more painful to the person being projected onto. The only thing worse than not getting help is asking for it and still being denied. Now the stakes are even higher, the falsely accused is even more isolated, and the interveners feel self-satisfied while being entirely ineffective. The next step is to come as a group. “Hey, now there are five of us here together, with you. We want to help you and X sit down and talk. We find what you’re doing to be very disturbing. We won’t shun you, we won’t punish you, but we also “we won’t punish you, but we also won’t be co-opted into silence. How can we find an alternative?” This is the structure behind every successful piece of non-violent progressive political action:

1. Scapegoated people cannot be made to stand alone.
2. Community needs to move towards negotiation.
3. More and more people have to join in together to create change.
4. The conversation is not over just because an escalator insists that it is.


Those seeking justice often have to organize allies in order to force contact and conversation, negotiation. Trying to create communication is almost always the uphill struggle of the falsely blamed. And entire movements are structured around the goal of forcing one party to face the reality of the other, and thereby face themselves. And of course this power struggle over whether or not opposing parties will speak is an enormous smokescreen covering up the real issue, the substance of what they need to speak about: namely, the nature of and resolution to the conflict.

“She yelled at me; she’s abusive.”

Is that an originating action? Or is that a response? Were you sitting innocently eating your breakfast and she yelled at you because there was no milk, and you are responsible for serving her at every turn, which would be Abuse? Or did she yell at you because you stole her milk money in order to buy drugs? Which would mean that you created the originating action and the yelling was a consequence of that action. So there is Conflict about your addiction, and the Abuse accusation is a smokescreen to avoid facing it. Or were you so traumatized from being demeaned constantly as a child that as an adult you can’t tolerate difference, and any normative challenge is perceived of as an assault or threat? Is it that, in fact, nothing really happened, and yet you feel terrible? And maybe, rather than face the betrayal of your parents, it’s a lot easier to put the whole thing on your partner?

Only by examining the details, asking interactive questions in person (and not by email), and understanding the order of events can we differentiate between these three possible interpretations of the same complaint “The most destructive answer, of course, is “She yelled at you? I will hurt her,” which is a shallow relationship manifested as bullying. The best answer is, “If you two can’t communicate right now, let me talk to her in person and see how she understands what is happening.” Or, “How can I help you sit down and talk this through with her?”

Monday, September 25, 2017

Demon Week, Day 1 Notes


*If you missed it, here I am being interviewed about a new unannounced project for LotFP as well as Demon City.

If you go "What's the new LotFP thing?" and you didn't watch it I'll just shake my head like mmmm

*Do you not have Vornheim yet? Really? It got reviewed again--this time by someone who went out and made their own city book right after.

*There's a kick-ass Lamentations Bundle and it goes to support the civil liberties organization that protected Steve Jackson Games from illegal search and seizure.

*D&DWPS rogue Satine Phoenix is playing D&D with D&D head honcho Mike Mearls for a kids' charity.

*Red & Pleasant Land is still up for game of the month

*Green Ronin still sucks and only pays lip service to LGBT rights.

Anyway, it's Demon Week
Doing open playtests for Demon City.

1. Real worldy Demon City names ("Alex Walsh") are harder to remember than D&D names. When playing with scads of new wonderful generous playtest volunteers all in one week, maybe ask if you can just use their actual names as their character names to keep it simple...

2. The official rule for Demon City action is "Everybody rolls, highest roller gets to do what they want then Any Action Not Interrupted By The Winning Actions And Which Doesn't Involve Anyone Else In A Clash Happens".

Q: Does running away from somebody "Involve someone else"?

3. How long does contact take to get back to you? This is pure luck but formalize it. 

4. Character gen needs a chart, there's jusssst enough information that people can get confused about the math

5. Waiting for someone to come through the door counts as a round of aiming (extra die next round)

6. The best way to roll bad guy stuff is to roll the bad guy's dice then say "Anybody beat a...." 7, 8 whatever

7. There needs to be a mook rule, rolling 2-3 dice for 4-5 bad guys is dumb. Mooks always roll twice their skill, etc.

8. If you have 2 skills that could apply to a situation that should count for an extra die maybe? Need examples.

9. Rewrite character classes so that all of them have something that matters in character gen or in downtime, maybe? People are so panicked they forget to use class skills, and they tend to be the least important thing about a PC in play

10. What happens to Local Knowledge if you are in a multi-city campaign? Find a way this isn't a stupid choice.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

It's Demon Week

All day open Demon City playtests.

Monday: 6pm-4am Pacific Time
Tuesday: TBA
Wednesday: TBA
Thursday: TBA
Friday: TBA

If you are interested, email: zakzsmith AT hawtmayle with your available days and times in Pacific Time

Bring a PC with you:

Character Gen rules here.

If you make a "Problem" class PC, be sure to also make a 2nd PC in case the game already has a Problem PC.

If you have already made a PC for this game and used it in a playtest, make a new one now for Demon Week

Oh, and here I am being interviewed about Demon City plus some new stuff in the pipeline.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Attention Midwesterners, Contessa Needs You

Contessa, the con-within-a-con dedicated to promoting diversity n games is looking for folks to run games at U-Con in Ann Arbor NOVEMBER 17- NOVEMBER 19, 2017 and Acadecon in Dayton, November 10th – 12th, 2017.

Visit for details and help out with a great cause. Tell 'em D&DWPS sent you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Notes Taken While Starting to Write My Next RPG Book

Room When she is there, Room when she is not there.

Johannes Vermeer

100 Octopuses


“A terrible worm in an iron cocoon,” 


Sexual cannibalism is rare in the animal kingdom. Although cannibalism is not uncommon in cephalopods, here we report the first documented case of sexual cannibalism. A large female Octopus cyanea was observed continuously for 2.5 days in Palau, Micronesia, when she was out of her den. On the second day, a small male followed and mated her 13 times during 3.5 h while she continued to forage over 70 m distance. After the 12th mating, she aggressively chased a different small octopus that barely escaped by jetting, inking and swimming upwards. Shortly thereafter, the original small male mated her a 13th time, but subsequently she attacked and suffocated him and spent 2 days cannibalizing him in her den. This sort of intraspecific aggression helps to explain several reports of octopuses mating out in the open, a behaviour that may serve to allow the smaller mate to escape cannibalism.

Kang the Conqueror

Christianity from Judaism from Canaanism 


Nimue, Viviane, Vivien, Elaine, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne

T.H. White's 1958 Arthurian retelling, The Once and Future King, in which "Merlyn", as White calls him, has the curious affliction of living backwards in time to everyone else. This affliction also appears in Dan Simmons' Hyperion as the "Merlin sickness." A related novel is The Book of Merlyn.


Abbas II of Persia

Kamāl ud-Dīn Behzād


Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba

This unfortunate time for Ibrahim was unfortunate for all monarchs. The
Holy Roman Empire was unsettled by the famous Thirty Years War. Civil war
devastated France and forced the mother of Louis XIV to flee with her children
from her capital. In London, Charles I was condemned to death by his own
subjects. Philip IV, king of Spain, having lost almost all his possessions in Asia, also
lost Portugal.
Voltaire went on to consider the careers of Cromwell in England, Li Zicheng in
China, Aurangzeb in India, and others who had seized power by force, concluding
that the mid-­seventeenth century had been ‘a period of usurpations almost from one
end of the world to the other’.1

The Loe
Llyn y Fan Fach
Llyn Ogwen
Ribbon lake
Llyn Llydaw
Dozmary Pool
Witch's ladder
Martin Mere

dolls and doll carriages harnessed to mice

Lady of the Lake

One Thousand and One Nights

the Seclusium of not Orphone


Islamic Golden Age
William Adams (sailor)

sorceress / witch


Valmont (film)

Thessaly rebellion (1600)
Giordano Bruno
Haunted Lake
Elizabeth Báthory

wfrp career list



History of Spain

Les Liaisons dangereuses

Clathrus archeri

A Coconut Octopus Uses Tools to Snatch a Crab - YouTube

Octopus leaps out of water, grabs crab - YouTube

octopus wraps around the Wildlife Man`s head - YouTube

Tortuosa willow

Ich Dien


 a piece of John the Baptist’s head. (relics)


Paimpont forest
Pergusa Lake

Beeswing, Dumfries and Galloway


The Decameron

The War Hound and the World's Pain

Battle of the Planets


G-Force: Guardians of Space

All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku


Eustache Deschamps

Eleanor de Montfort

a rainwater fishpond on the roof.

chinese painting

Rime dictionary

Ancient Canaanite religion

Origins of Judaism




Jean Le Maingre

a mere Wrecca

Grimoires—17th c


1674  A Hindu conqueror, Shivaji, is crowned king at Rajgarh. Maratha power is established. Shivaji gives assurance to Hindus across India.

1675  The Mugal emperor, Alamgir, has escecuted Tegh Bahadur for refusing to accept Islam. Tegh Bahadur's son and successor, Guru Gobind Rai, vows to combat Alamgir's oppression. He adopts the surname Singh (lion) and gives his closest followers the same surname.

1686  Isaac Newton presents his Principia, Book I, to the Royal Society. 



Ranulf Higden

Cephalopod Attack

Octopus Wrestling





Salix babylonica

Weeping Willow

La Maupin

“List of Women In the Old Testament”

Joanna of Flanders

Imagine an umbrella. Or a willow. Salix babylonica (Babylon willow or weeping willow; Chinese: 垂柳) is a species of willow. This is the situation. 



I'm sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea
I've got to be free free to face the life that's ahead of me
On board I'm the captain so climb aboard
We'll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I'll try oh Lord I'll try to carry on

I look to the sea reflections in the waves spark my memory
Some happy some sad
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had
We live happily forever so the story goes
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold
But we'll try best that we can to carry on

A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said
They said come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing, come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

Hourglass Heads

“We risk all, we win everything”

Randall, Time Bandits